From Ben Gross
"From Ben Gross." Logan County Historical Society Newsletter,
My brother John reminded me that another year has passed and “News
Letter Time” is here again so I will try to write a brief description
or history of my parent’s house on the farm.
Although I am writing about my parents (John and Magdalena Gross),
farm house, and most people in Logan County and surrounding area,
especially those born before about 1949 can relate to what I am
writing and had the same or very similar experience in and with
their farm house.
My parents were married in 1922 and the original house that my
parents lived in was also built in 1922. It was just a two room
house with an attic (upstairs) and a small dirt cellar. It is located
just 18 miles southwest of Napoleon. (In the southwest corner of
Logan County near the Emmons and McIntosh County lines). Although
the house was later enlarged, it was just a hole in the ground underneath
the house. From a hole in the kitchen floor, which was covered with
a small flat door, we could crawl down into the dirt cellar. The
cellar was used to store jars of canned food as well as potatoes,
onions, and other food.
The two rooms in the original house were the kitchen and living
room and there were no closets. The living room also served as a
bedroom. Work clothes were hung on nails on the wall and Sunday
clothes (what little there was) were kept in a kind of home made
wardrobe (Kleiderschrank). In our German we called it “the
Also, we had shelves on the wall near the entry in the kitchen
to hold hats, caps and mittens. Usually because all the nails and
shelves were full, some clothes were on the floor. Winter sheepskin
coats were usually against the wall, on the floor, or under the
shelves. Even though we tried to sweep our overshoes clean, they
usually still had cow manure on them and were lined up in the kitchen
against the wall or on a pile like the coats.
The living room in the original house was 15’ 3” x
15’ 5” and the kitchen was 15’ 3” x 13’
2”. The stair steps from the kitchen to the attic (upstairs)
went almost straight up. (You could say they are almost vertical).
Under the stair steps was a very small pantry. That is why the kitchen
was a little smaller than the living room. The upstairs was not
heated. Only in the center area of the upstairs (attic) was the
ceiling high enough for a grown person to stand up because the north
and south walls were the inside of the slanted roof. As the number
of the children increased, some of the older ones started to sleep
upstairs. My parents and all others slept in the living room. The
east end of the upstairs was petitioned off to be used as a bedroom.
It was just large enough to hold three beds. My dad cut a 12 x 12
inch hole in the ceiling of the living room and installed a metal
grill or grid so some heat could seep to the upstairs room from
the pot belly stove in the living room. The upstairs room also had
no closets and the rickety beds were so close together we could
not walk between them, which meant we crawled over each other to
our bed. At first, only the older boys slept upstairs, but each
year as more children came along, more of us had to sleep upstairs.
I was born in 1930, and was the sixth living child from the top.
For a few years, seven of us slept upstairs (five boys and two girls).
Fourteen of sixteen children were born in that house. Only the two
youngest (Isadore and Leo), who were born in the 1940’s were
not born in that house. They were born in the Linton Hospital.
In the 1940’s after the crops started producing grain, my
dad (with help from neighbors) added three small bedrooms to the
north side of the house. To this day, those bedrooms also have no
closets. Those three bedrooms were not heated for about two years
until central heat was installed after the full basement was added.
The first central heating system consisted of a coal burning furnace.
Before central heat was installed, the house had just one coal burning
space heater in the living room and one coal cooking stove in the
kitchen. Both of these stoves also burned dried manure. (Maybe next
year I can write how we dried manure so it could be used as fuel).
Manure was also placed around the outside base of the house to help
keep the house warm in the winter. Later in the 1940’s, another
small addition was added to the kitchen to cover a new water well
that was drilled by Joe Gross so that running water could be added
to the house. About the year 1947, a few years before REA (Rural
Electrification Administration-Rural Electricity) came, my dad bought
an electric generator which was powered with a small gas engine
and so we became modern and had electric lights and running water.
As mentioned in the beginning of this writing, most all families
were large and had similar experiences. It is good to keep these
memories alive and pass them on to the younger generations who someday
will have their own stories to tell.
Reprinted with permission of the Logan County Historical