Chapter 5: Enjoying the Golden Years 1910 - 1954


photo shows about 20 men standing or squatting in an open field.  They are all elderly, most with full beards, some are holding swords. In this last chapter in the lives of Thomas and his family, Thomas [seen in the bottom right of the photo with fellow veterans of the Civil War] seems to finally be able to relax and enjoy life. He says, "Only those that experience can know with what pleasure and pride the old can look about them and see those that are as dear to them as the apple of their eye growing up around them good and useful citizens, and so after all life is worth living." Although he laments that his children have grown up and scattered away from the old home, Emma, Anna, Thomas and Charles live within 30 miles of him for all their lives. His daughters Millie and Libby and their families are still in Pennsylvania, Lulu's family is in Vermont, and Lucy's is in Oklahoma.

Thomas is now 74 years old and seems to consider himself at the end of his journey. He looks back over his past with a "good degree of joy and satisfaction," thinking that "my time here is only a few years more at best, but I am oh so thankful that I can look forward with such a blessed assurance of a home, beyond where pain and parting and disappointments can not enter.". However Thomas has another 15 years to live, and they seem to be robust years filled with pleasure and a loving family. He keeps himself busy, finding it hard to remain idle for long ("it occurred to me that I would go down on the street and loaf a bit, but a half-hour or so was all I could stand so I came back home and spent the afternoon tidying up around the yard and in reading" and writing a letter).

He marries again, this time to a vivacious widow, Victoria Hammond Fouts, a fellow pioneer who is "full of energy and vitality" with a love of gaiety that made her welcome to every gathering. He takes many trips, including an extended honeymoon in California, and visits his daughters in Oklahoma and Pennsylvania, his brothers' and sisters' families in Iowa, and others. At the age of 87, in a touching exchange with the Bureau of Pensions just two years before his death, Thomas disavows any crippling health problems, saying that if his age alone doesn't qualify him for a raise in his pension, he is not entitled to it because "[I have a] good wholesome appetite and enjoying my meal ... I can go to the post office twice a day by taking my time and not [hurry], a distance of a half mile round trip..."

As this chapter opens, Thomas has just visited his daughter Lucy's family in Oklahoma, and he and his son Tom have moved into a new home in the outskirts of Central City. His other son Charles, who remains a bachelor all his life, also lives with them but rarely gets home because he is confined to his livery business (pictured on page 364). Charles also loves to travel, and he takes many trips to visit his sisters. Thomas's son Tom gets married in 1912, but Thomas is alone for only a few months before he himself is married and off to California. Ten years later, after he is widowed for the third time, Thomas lives with his daughter Emma and her husband in nearby Fullerton, Nebraska.

Thomas's children, meanwhile are doing well. The children of his daughters Libby and Millie are about grown -- Millie's son William goes to Nebraska to work with Charles, but when World War I comes he is inducted into the armed services and shipped off to France. After the war, he accepts Charles's offer of work in Nebraska, but then returns to Rice's Landing, Pennsylvania where he gets married and lives out the rest of his days on the farm next door to his mother Millie and his brothers and sister. Thomas's daughter Emma and her husband Charles retire from their farm when they are in their 50's and move into a lovely Victorian home in Fullerton, where Emma takes in boarders. A few years later (1918) Thomas's daughter Lucy and her husband Will take Emma and Anna on their first road trip in a "Tin Lizzie," which Emma describes in her usual exuberant style in this chapter. The trip must have whet Emma's appetite -- she and her husband consequently enjoy traveling together many places.

Two of Thomas's daughters lose their husbands -- Lulu's husband Willet Atherton dies in 1916, leaving her with four young children, and Millie's husband John Bayard dies in November 1921, when Millie is 61. Three of Thomas's children -- Libby, Emma, and Charles -- become deaf as they get older, as does Emma's daughter Per. When Millie is 67, she almost dies from a serious illness -- she lives another 22 years but is bedridden.

Thomas lives to be almost 90, and is survived by all his children. Anna dies the following year at the age of 57, and her brother Tom was only 58 when he and his wife were hit by a train and killed. Two of the other children lived into their 60's, two into their 70's, and two lived well into their 80's. Among them, they had more than 30 children, some of whom helped with this book.

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