Updated: Jul 27
Last year, I went through some old boxes of my grandparents' which my parents inherited, and I hit the motherlode. I found two composition notebooks which belonged to my Great Grandmother Jennie (Smith) Stoddard. Jennie died in the Great Flu Epidemic of 1918. Over the years, I have found bite size morsels that provide a little more about her short lived life. I am so grateful for this recent find. On the top of the notebook she wrote, " Miss Jennie Smith."
The first entry in her Utah State University Composition handbook is a beautiful poem which Jennie copied. It was penned by William Featherston at age 16. This poem poem provides a beautiful window into Jennie's heart.
My Jesus I love thee
My Jesus, I love thee, I know
thou art mine, for thee all
The follies of sin I resign!
My gracious redeemer my
Savior art thou,
If ever I lov’d thee my Jesus ‘tis now.
I love thee because thou
Hast first loved me,
And purchased my pardon
on calvary’s tree,
I love thee for wearing
The thorns on thy brow,
If ever I loved thee,
My Jesus ‘tis now.
In missions of glory
And endless delight,
I’ll ever adore thee
The Answer so bright,
I’ll sing with the glittering
Crown on my brow,
If ever I loved thee,
My Jesus is ‘tis now.
Her next entry is a creative piece. I wish there was a date. Her handwriting is beautiful. Some words are spelled incorrectly, so I took the liberty of correcting them.
"Though the day had been a very warm one, the evening was very cool. The sun had just sunkin the gold west to rest. A maiden young and full of beauty came singing through the field after the day's work. She was a girl of fourteen summers with golden hair and blue eyes. She was the prettiest girl in the village. Every person around her loved her, even the very sound of her voice cheered them. Through the field there there ran a beautiful stream. There she would spend most of her time when her day's work was done. Now when going home she heard a cry for help, looking she saw her best friend on the brink of death. There was no on around except her , and she knew he would die if she did not try to save his life.. So without even thinking of her own life and knowing she could not swim, she plunged in . She tried to swim and soon succeeded and got to him but her strength was nearly gone."
Under the title themes, Jennie wrote the following: "Midnight without darkness without stars midnight and the unwearied sun stand yet visible in the heavens like a victorious king thronged on a bias of blue bordered with gold."
Jennie skipped a few pages and then wrote the following: " The rain pattered against the window, the thunder rolled across the sky making a sound of a thousand chariots cross the heavens. The lightening flashed. all the early seemed in a perfect uproar. but to all the noise and storm a boy heeded it not he walked on little knowing where he was going and caring less. He was a boy about 16 and was driven away from home because of the mother's complainings and the father's whipping. The boy had felt unhappy and was now trying to find a place where he thought he could be treated better and not be chased from place to place and nook to corner."
"Along the rivers in wondering attitude strolled a woman half care worn and looking rather sad. every once in a while she would look into the water with a great longing to bury herself within its slumbering currents. Then after looking for some light of time at it she would turn away and shive of pain would pass through her frame.
The water though looking very on surface smooth had a very swift undercurrent and were anybody to go in they would be carried away before they really knew what they were doing. this particular woman felt that death would be very welcome after the great touble she had passed through. And that by throwing herself into the stream she would be through with her troubles forever but then the would come to her that were she to take her life in this way that though she passed away from earthly troubles, heavenly troubles would be great as this was what made a shiver creep through her frame."
Jennie, then copied a verse from Sir Launfal by James Russell Lowell
" Better to me is the poor man's bread
Better the blessing of the poor
Though he turned me empty from his door
That is no true alms which the hand cradled
He who gives but worthless gold
Gives but a sense of duty
But he who gives but a slender mite
and gives to that which out of site
The hand cannot clasp the whole of his alms
And the heart out stretches its eager palms
For a God goes without it and makes it store
Is the sole that is starving in darkness before."
The next piece is a story penned by Jennie's own hand
"It was on a midsummer's night and cool breeze was in the air. The moon shone down in all its beauty upon the earth, and the trees waved in the breeze. Every thing seemed full of life. a boy was walking up a narrow path which lead to a small house on the hill. He was poor his mother had died when he was but a babe, and he was left to his aunt Nora. She was king and loving and loved her with all his heart. When he got to the door of the hut, he stood still at the garden , he stood still two look at the garden he had worked so hard with. Nora worked hard to earn enough money to support them. so he could go to school and get and education when he got inside the hut, Nora sat at her work. She would have gone to bed but she was waiting for him to come home. Roy sat down put his hand to his head and looked into the fire as through he was thinking earnestly about something. At last he looked up and asked in a low tone, "Aunt Nora you have often told me of my mothers but you never tell me about my father, won't you tell me about him." There seemed like a dark shadow came over her face and she answered, "Roy, don't ask me to night let us go out and get some vegetables for our breakfast after they gathered a great quantity of things, Nora still stood for a while, for she had thought that she had heard a moan. " Rory did you hear that moan." she asked. "Aunt Nora, I thought I heard a noise but perhaps I was mistaken. for in the grass near the house there lay a figure stretched out on the ground. Roy went up to him and saw that he was wounded and very faint. She he asked the man what was the matter he just moaned. Roy soon go him to the door with the help of Nora. Nora dressed his wound and made a bed for him. In the morning he was much better. Roy had sat up and watched him all night and gave him water two drink when he wanted it. He eat a hearty breakfast and then he went away. But before he went he promised that some day he would repay the kindness they had shone him. Three years past since this strange person had come to there house when one day when Roy came home he found his Aunt Nora was ill. He tried to get something to help her but he could not. She soon died. Roy was nearly frantic for he did not have no other person in the world. Near the hut there lived a rich man who was very kind to Roy . he promised to give him work. After his aunt was buried he went for the fist time to his new employment. how his heart ached within him as he walked up the path. When he got to the door, there lay a large black dog. As he was going up the steps, the dog begun to howl. Roy was always frightened of dogs and he begun to turn just as the dog was beginning to run their master came out and made them stop. When he said that it was Roy he shouted out a cry of welcome. He saw how frightened Roy was and he spoke very kind to him telling him that the dog would soon get used to him. Mr. Mason was very kind to him, also his wife and daughter were attacked to Roy for he had such a sweet loveable nature. Roy also loved Mrs. Mason and daughter for they were very kind to him. on days when Roy's head was aching very bad and he seemed as if he was burning up Maud would put her hand up to his his and the pain would all leave him. He was very sick for two weeks and was confined to his room. Every day Maud would read some story to him till he would fall off to sleep and then she would go quitely out of the room. Roy soon gained his strength again and was able to be about his work as usual. But it took a long time to gain all his strength for he had been very sick. Roy was walking out in the woods just after his illness when he got to the end of the walk he became very faint. Every thing become dark and he fell to the ground. on on side of the walk there was a large precipice and over side of stream bound. The water leaped over the rocks and the foam looked like a landscape in winter. The tree rustled in the breeze while he was laying in this state of beautiful lady with a kind face came up and seeing Roy lay there she walked up to see what was the matter. She saw that he had fainted so she got some water and bathed his temples and took him in her arms. Roys soon revived and when he woke up and saw he beautiful woman he stared at her in bewilderment. Then everything came to him."
Jennie again skipped a few pages and wrote the following piece.
To Proud to beg and to honest to Steal.
"In a little city not many miles from the large city of Chicago lived a happy family of four, In one of the poorest homes in the place. Though they were not as wealthy as the other children people they were just as happy. The father was a middle aged man and very sickly. The mother on the other hand was healthy and many times when the father was not able to go to work the mother would go out herself. In a very hard way she managed to give both of her children a common education. The son Edwin was 17 years of age while the daughter was 12. When hard things came then Edwin would give up his education which he was very anxious to receive and work hard to relieve his mother. Edwin was very fond of his sister Edna and declared if he should live long enough she should have a real education. But things will not go always as we would like them to. In a short time the father was taken from this world of care. Edwin had completed him common schooling so there just remained Edna to be educated. On her 15th birthday she received her diploma also giving the valedictory address. But just as luck was at the door, death interfered and took away Edwin the provider of the family. The mother nearly wild with grief soon followed him. O! ouch fate why can't you make things turn different. Edna having not other living relatives was now solely depending upon the mercies of the world. After a great deal of trouble she secured some work but she as the rest of the family was very sickly after some time she went to Chicago while there she fell sick and was taken to a hospital ward and gently cared for. After her health returned she tried to again receive some work but any thing but late luck was in store for her. It was a cold winter night when Edna was cast out upon the streets. She was thinly clad and very hungry no place to go. Thus two days past. When one day she came to a beautiful home she asked for employment but none was needed. But just when she was ready to leave leave the place her eyes rested upon a table of delicious foo. O! how her heart jumped when she saw it. How she would have liked to have eaten some. She might have asked for some but he pride would no let her. Edna was reared always to become an honest and good women. So where the thoughts of stealing entered her head she turned and left the house. Out again in the cold streets she wandered until she came to a poor looking house. She rapt on the door and was answered by a poor looking woman. Edna asked if she could remain there all night and told that she could. But before morning Edna's soul had followed the rest of the family because she was "to proud to bed and to hungry to steal."