Memories and History of Lucy Vashti Inman Hoffman Robinson Shelton
as remembered by Doris Ruth Moore Birdsong Artrip
Grandma first endeared herself to me in her early 60s. She was a small woman, about five feet tall with blue eyes. She had very long gray hair and always wore it in a bun on the back of her head. Every morning it took her a long time to brush it all out and arrange it. She always wore a long-sleeved high-neck cotton dress. Some were made from flower sack material, which she made herself. Summer or winter her style never changed. When she went to the garden she always put on her cotton bonnet to protect her hair and face from the hot sun.
Her mother died when she was only two years old. She was the youngest of four girls. Her father Shadrick married Jane Meadors only months after her mother died in order to have a wife and a caretaker for his children.
While her father farmed the fields, her stepmother didn't treat her or her sisters the same as her own children. When Vashti was older she had to do housework and gardening while her stepsisters went to school. (The Cinderella Story!)
Her life as an adult was not easy either. In 1896 she married William Hoffman. Her first child died. Then she had another girl, Beatrice Marva. Her husband William Hoffman then died. She married again to E. J. Robinson, and then he died (no children).
In 1911 she married James Thomas Shelton. On November 30, 1915, with three daughters (and pregnant again), she lost her father Shadrick. She recalled to me, "What a sad day it was when I buried my father." The wagons carried his coffin from his home, around Rombauer, to the Hamtown Church grave yard. The leaves had fallen from the oaks and were deep in the narrow dusty road. As the wagon carrying her drove through the leaves they cracked and broke - as did her heart. She never liked the Fall of the year again.
Grandma's house was a wonderful place to go. She had a huge wood cooking stove with a water reservoir and warming oven over it. The kitchen always smelled so good with her cooking. It was so big - twice as big as our city kitchen (looking through a little girl's eyes). She made biscuits all the time it seemed, always letting us girls help. The flour bin was wonderful. Filled with flour on one side and corn meal on the other. It had a tray on the top of it where she mixed and cut the biscuit dough.
She had no running water, no bathroom, only electric the last five or six years of her life. She kept her milk in the cistern to keep it cool. She let us help her draw water from her well and carry it up the hill to the house. How cold and refreshing it tasted at the well! She raised chickens. She sold some of her eggs and butter to the neighbors. Vashti's butter was known as the best anywhere around.
The wonderful Grandmother she was showed in the fact she let us gather eggs (so, so carefully) and play with the little chicks on her porch. We had a few accidents and smashed a few chicks, but Grandma never yelled at us.
She did all the farm-wife chores. She always cooked a big breakfast and lunch which was served at noon with plenty of leftovers for supper. Grandpa and his twin brother Joe who always lived with them, would be coming from the field at noon for lunch. Sometimes she would take their lunch to them if the work load was great. She canned hundreds of jars of vegetables and fruit, did her laundry on a wash board, cleaned her house, sewed her clothes, made her quilts and always, always was sweeping her porch. Never-ending work for her! She lived to be 79.
She passed away at my parents' home in St. Louis County, MO from heart failure. She loved her Lord, her family and her church. The last church she attended was A.G. Methodist across the Black River bridge from Hillard.
Everyone loved "Aunt Vash." She was a lovable lady.
Memories and History of Lucy Vashti Inman Hoffman Robinson Shelton
as remembered by June Lorene Moore Ettinger
I didn't see my grandma very much - perhaps only once a year in the summertime, but her kindness and love shown me during those visits developed a deep love for her that lasts to this day. My first remembrances date back to about age five. Occasionally my mother and Doris and Ron made a train trip to Poplar Bluff. The train passed within 500 feet of her home and she would stand out in her yard and as the train past by she would wave her apron up and down (while the apron was still on her). Of course we were frantically waving our hands in the window alongside our seat but she couldn't see us. She just knew we were on that train! I remember one time playing with the cats there when Ron (18 mos.) nearly choked one to death as he carried a kitten by the neck around the yard. I was so worried - but it did survive!
Grandma always let us make mud pies out in the yard. Water had to be carried from the well down the hill if the cistern near the porch (that contained rain water off the roof) was low. We laid the pies out on the big rocks in the yard so that the sun would bake them. Knowing how kids never clean up their messes, they were there after we left. Grandma told mom one time that when she took the pies off the rocks that she would cry and cry because she knew "the little sweet things" wouldn't be back to Grandma's house until the next summer.
I remember playing with Doris on the feather beds, especially when it was bed time. She also had a corn shuck bed that rustled when you moved on it. Sometimes we got in trouble for bouncing too much on the fluffy bed but I can hear Grandma now, "Oh, they can't hurt it." She always quietly took our side and don't think we didn't notice it (and think she was number one)!
I can remember taking "Saturday night" baths in a big wash tub placed in the kitchen. Mom would heat water on the wood stove and pour it in the tub and then add cold water to just the right temperature. Believe it or not, this body fit the tub!
There was no electricity, only coal oil lamps and her house was "so dark" at night. They didn't seem to mind it, but though I was young I was definitely a city girl and was used to well-lit rooms. But worse than that, I didn't like outdoor toilets! Grandma always found her white enamel pot (with lid) and placed it by our bed so we wouldn't have to go outside at night.
Her "outhouse" as it was called, was always as clean as you could make one. She often put lye down the holes (2 of them) so it wouldn't smell. Instead of using the old Sears catalog and corn cobs that were available in the house, she put a roll of nice soft toilet paper there for her visiting family. My trips to use the outhouse were as brief as I could make them because I was afraid something might come out of that darkness and bite my behind. However, Doris, Ron and I LOVED to play house in it. We'd get the broom and sweep and sweep. We'd gather up some of grandma's flowers from her yard and put them in a vase to put in "our house." It was so much fun!
We help spread corn on the ground at night when she fed the chickens. I can still see her reaching in the bucket and spreading it oh-so-evenly out across the ground in front of her. I still hear her call, "Chickoo, come along." And they came from every direction!
We always wanted to go to the garden with her to pick vegetables and berries. She used her apron as her basket and brought it back to the porch to prepare. We always wanted to help. I'm sure she could have done it much faster and with less effort herself. Mom was always involved in helping "Mother," as she called her. There was so much work to do preparing meals and farm chores.
I remember the "excitement" and the "drag" of the long trip to my grandma's house from St. Louis where we lived. We kids were excited to go but not too many miles down the road we were saying, "Daddy, how much farther is it?" Mom always fixed a lunch to eat in the car and we kids made our own little house in the back seat by stringing a sheet or cloth of sorts between the front and back seats so we could eat our lunch in private! It was a LONG trip - 168 miles! Of course there were no interstates, all two-lane roads that ran through every little town between St. Louis and Poplar Bluff. I don't remember the speed limit but we obviously were "sailing along" at 40 miles an hour in our little two-door Chevy.
Leaving Grandma and Grandpa's was always a tearful time for everyone. I remember one "especially" tearful departure when Doris and I were begging our parents to let us take home one of Grandma's darling fluffy baby chicks. All the promises of how we would take care of it was to no avail. Grandma had already said it was okay with her if it was okay with our Mommy and Daddy, but of course they just couldn't be persuaded. "The chick will die without its mother." "The chick will grow up to be a rooster and we'll get arrested for having farm animals in our backyard," were some of the reasons given by our Dad why we couldn't take it home.
Her life wasn't an easy one, as Doris has related. Her first child died in early infancy. She had one daughter (Beatrice) when her husband "Lonzo" Hoffman died. Her second marriage also ended in the death of Edwin J. Robinson, Born April 22, 1864, Died August 18, 1910. Then she married Grandpa and they had three children: Dorothy, Bunia and Marvin.
Grandma was special and one of the many I look forward to seeing in heaven some day!