A Memoir of Rural Pennsylvania
Ephraim’s Farm is a story of a family descending from Stephan Romesberg, born in Germany in 1711. He came to this country as a young boy, and as an adult he settled in Frederick, Maryland, where he became a well-to-do land owner. Several of his descendants moved to the hilly woodlands of Western Pennsylvania, east of Pittsburgh.
The land which was to become our family farm was originally owned by the Pritts family. Polly Pritts married Solomon Romesberg. Polly had inherited the farm. Polly and Solomon were the grandparents of my father, Ephraim.
Ephraim married Mayme Swearman and they had 11 children, 5 boys and 6 girls. One daughter died when she was 5 years old. I was the 10th child, born in 1927, grew up during the Great Depression and World War II. Our lives centered around life on the farm and our Christian up-bringing.
Each member of the family had specific chores they were responsible for each day. These included taking care of the animals, the barns, fields, woods and including household chores. Farming with horses and our old worn-out equipment was hard work, as much of it was done by hoe, shovel and rake.
Our house had no electricity or indoor plumbing for many years. There was no money for new clothes and we all wore hand-me-downs. We bartered at my uncle Milt’s store for items we couldn’t produce on our farm, with fresh eggs, butter and milk. Strong work ethics were developed in all of us which we have carried into our adult lives. I have many fond memories of "Mom" and "Pop" and my brothers and sisters as we worked together as a family. All in all, we were a happy family with the usual squabbles and "ups" and "downs," but we had many happy times together.
My older brothers did not go to High School, as they were needed on the farm. My sisters all graduated from High School, however. One became a nurse and another became a dental hygienist. I was the first son to graduate from High School. Ephraim Jay, my youngest brother was also able to graduate from High School and after a stint in the Navy, went on to earn degrees in Mechanical Engineering, with a minor in Nuclear Engineering.
"Ephraim’s Farm is a historical sketch of a western Pennsylvania working farm family of the early 1900s. Although this family may be ordinary in every detail, the totality of the lives so factually described, is extraordinary. The Romesbergs represent a single but strong thread in the fabric that was rural America. This American story of family, God, self-reliance and hard, physical work is now a memory and will not be repeated, but should never be forgotten. It should be required reading for our children so that they would have the opportunity to absorb even the smallest morsels of the abundant integrity that this family unknowingly and innocently displayed." Irvin Pritts, Ph.D.
"Although monetarily poor, the large family that the author was born into and writes about, was truly blessed with family values and a caring concern for each other. The author shares many seemingly insignificant stories that help portray the underlying love that existed between the members of the family. The book preserves many daily farming activities and styles of country living in southwestern Pennsylvania from a time period that has completely changed. As you proceed through the book, the stories have a way of building one’s desire to visit the farming and coal mining community where the Romesberg farm was located. Ephraim’s Farm keeps your interest with stories about Henry Pritts’ trial, eventually being hung, and then buried in a lone grave near the border of the Romesberg farm. The ghost stories associated with Pritts’ grave add extra suspense." David R. Hay
"What an intriguing history of the Romesberg family! Once you begin to read this history you will want to continue reading on to the very end." Betty Arnold
"This true account of the Romesberg family is so factual it transported me back to my childhood - which was about a mile away - in Wison Creek." Avis Engleka, cousin
"I am a friend of Floyd Romesberg from his days living in Midland, Michigan. We hunted deer together, attended the same church, are both engineers, past members of Toastmaster’s International, and I am living on my first farm. This book was intensely interesting to me. I read it carefully to absorb details and add understanding to stories from my own family as I grew up. Organization of the book is excellent with chronological information starting with immigration, through today’s life. There are many fine stories, a message from the sky, description of farm living and then memoirs added by family members with yet new stories and different info on previous ones. Many of the stories could have been describing my own family. I would like to have a book like this written for my family. I suppose I will have to write and edit that book. My grandmother’s family were Quakers from Plymouth Colony in 1635 and from Pennsylvania Colony in 1683. My grandfather’s family are descendents of German immigrants who homesteaded near Tiffin, Ohio in 1830. We still attend reunions there every year. Ephriam’s Farm renewed many memories and helped me to understand my roots." Dennis Carey Zeiss
Table of Contents
Coat of Armsi
Prayer, 2006 Ephraim Romesberg Family Reunion
Chapter 1: Escape to America
Chapter 2: Stephen and Elias Lead the Way
Chapter 3: The Pritts Family
Chapter 4: Solomon and Polly Move to the Farm
Chapter 5: A Barrel of Flour
Chapter 6: The Spoke Factory and the Grey Squirrels
Chapter 7: Wilsoncreek and Blackfield
Chapter 8: Then There Were Eleven
Chapter 9: Red and Black Boots with Love
Chapter 10: A Blind Man and a Black Man and Ghosts
Chapter 11: A Message from the Sky
f) Oats and Wheat
j) Apples and Cherries
k) Hard Jobs
Chapter 13: School Days and WW II
Chapter 14: College
Chapter 15: Where Did They Go?
Chapter 16: Memoirs
Chapter 17: My Second Farm
Chapter 18: The Periodic Table
About the Author
Immigrants came to America from many countries. They played a key roll in the growth of this great country. The promise of free land and a better life filled them with hope.
They brought many skills and a broad band of knowledge from each of their mother countries. These early settlers all faced similar problems. The land was covered with huge trees, which would need to be cut down and their stumps removed before homes could be built and crops planted. The forest held an abundance of wild game. Many became hunters to supply meat for the table. Many became trappers and sold the furs to buy needed items. Lumbermen supplied lumber and carpenters built houses.
Stone masons built both homes and foundations using the many stones that were scattered over the land. Many types of stump pullers were developed to clear the land for homes and planting of crops. Wagons, tools and other machinery were needed and the blacksmith, wheelwrights and welding trades were developed.
Many small towns appeared, surrounded by rural communities. Some of these once small towns grew into large cities and many rural people moved to urban areas in search of work as time went on. As many moved away from the farms, families became smaller. The days of big family gatherings on Sunday for dinner and maybe a ball game in the afternoon became a thing of the past.
As we look a little closer at our American culture, we can see people scurrying about, everyone going in different directions, doing different things, everyone with a different agenda. For many, family life as we had known it began to disappear. With the invention of TV we have seen many changes in our society. TV has provided entertainment in the homes, which was enjoyable for the most part, but with the increasing display of violence such as robberies, murders, drugs and sexually explicit information, many of our values have changed. Sadly, our children have been exposed to all this ugliness.
What can we do about all this?
Perhaps you will find some answers in the pages of Ephraim’s Farm as you read the story of this family. The word “love” is not mentioned, yet “acts of love” were shown continuously throughout the story.
“If a young boy plays baseball every Sunday afternoon with his brothers, you will not find him on the street with drugs in one pocket and a gun in the other.”
It is clear that we need to bring back “family,” strong parenting and training of youth, starting at a young age.
Blue Dolphin Publishing, 2010
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