Submitted photo Mary Schneider, of Ashley, will turn 106 years old on Nov. 20.

Ashley Woman to Celebrate 106th Birthday

Ecktoh, LeAnn. "Ashley Woman to Celebrate 106th Birthday." Bismarck Tribune, 11 November 2010.

An Ashley woman has viewed life in rural North Dakota in both the early 20th and 21st centuries.

A marble cake with “106” baked on it will usher in Mary Schneider’s Nov. 20 birthday. Family, friends and residents will celebrate with her at the Ashley Nursing Home. Court documents show her to be the oldest resident of McIntosh County.

The self-reliant great-grandmother lived in her own apartment in town until January, before coming to the nursing home. Her hearing has waned, her eyes have failed, but she has kept most of her memories.

“Until January, she’d helped me can 75 quarts of pickles,” said daughter Shirley Fleming, also of Ashley.

Schneider was born about 35 miles away, to German-from-Russia immigrants, who were homesteaders near Forbes.

She and her dozen siblings walked to the one-room school house “unless there was a bad snowstorm, and then my father would give us a ride in the sleigh with horses. ... All eight grades were taught under one roof. ... The teacher heated the school with coal stove,” Schneider said.

Her education ended after her eighth year so she could help with the younger children and chores.

Yet, farming agreed with her and she worked alongside husband John at their rural Ashley wheat and cattle farm.

“She’d be out on top of the hay loft helping him stack hay. She milked the cows by hand,” said Fleming.

Schneider said domestic duties proved a lot more difficult.

“I used a washboard to wash clothes. They’d freeze in the winter so we’d string them up inside the house to dry. I made my own lye soap,” Schneider said.

The family kept a nice stash of food.

“She canned everything — pickles, sausage and chicken and they kept it all in a dirt cellar,” Fleming said. “They had to. We didn’t have any refrigerator.”

Life wasn’t all work.

“We’d go to barn dances. Whoever could play an instrument would come,” said Schneider. “They played old-time music like waltzes.”

Electricity didn’t come to the farm until 1951, through a rural electric cooperative. A fridge and modern stove soon followed.

“We didn’t have to go out and get coal and wood for the stove,” Schneider said.

After her husband died in 1979, Schneider moved to town the next year. Her son, Earl, took over the farm. Another son, Edwin, died a few years ago.

Until her eyesight gave way to macular degeneration nine years ago, Schneider was fond of quilting, crocheting and embroidering. She was a regular at the senior center’s card table at the Methodist church in Ashley.

She credits her longevity simply to “lots of hard work.”

Schneider is the mother of three grown children, and has three grandchildren and three great grandchildren.

Reprinted with permission of the Bismarck Tribune.

Permission to use any images from the GRHC website may be requested by contacting Michael M. Miller