The Swindler and Rains Families

It was the year 1840 and Margaret, a twelve year-old girl, sat at her desk in the little one room school house. Her heart was pounding as she waited for the spelling bee to start. It was the last day of school, and the last chance she would ever have to win a spelling bee. Margaret had tried so hard the year before to win. She lost, but came in second place. All of the parents were at the school for the big dinner, always held on the last day of school. Now lunch was over, and Margaret said a little prayer under her breath as the teacher called the class to order. As the afternoon wore on and one after another of the children were spelled down, only Margaret and another pupil were left standing. The teacher called out the next word, civilization, Margaret closed her eyes and spelled the word, then she pronounced it afterward as she had been taught. She had spelled it right> Now if that boy would just misspell his word, she would win! Margaret held her breath, she could hardly hear as the boy tried to spell. He misspelled his word. She heard her teacher say, “Margaret has won the spelling bee for this year.” Oh! as long as she lived Margaret would remember that wonderful day.

Margaret was born on February 22, 1828 and she told this story to her grandchildren a few days before she died, at the age of eighty-eight. None of the grandchildren could spell civilization, so she taught them how that day. She had many grandchildren, as she and her husband raised four children in their many long years together. Her husband’s name was Joseah Rains, and he was born in Warren County, Indiana on April 9, 1830. He was just a baby when his parents moved to the Ozark hills, in southern Missouri. The Rains family was one of the first families to settle around Humansville, and many of them still live around there. This is where Joseah and Margaret lived all of their lives. Joseah died first, on April 5, 1906. Margaret died ten years later, on January 16, 1916. They were buried side by side in the old Tinker Cemetery, near Humansville, Missouri.

Liza Rains was one of their daughters. She was Lessie Swindler’s mother. Liza had two sisters, Jane and Margaret (Maggie) and one brother, Oliver. Liza was born on April 28, 1861. She was eighteen years old when she married Marion Francis Swindler, in 1880. Frank Swindler (as he was called) was brought to Cedar County, Missouri when he was six years old. It is thought he was born in Chicago, Illinois, on March 6, 1861. It is not known who brought him or anything about the rest of his family. If any of the old folks were asked about him, they said, “We don’t know much about his family, but he made the best darn sorghum molasses in this part of the state.” Frank was a large man with dark skin and coal black eyes and hair. He wore a mustache all of his adult life.

Frank and Liza set up house-keeping, in Fudge Hollow, near the little town of Arnica, near Liz’s parents. Frank farmed, and worked in a shingle mill close by. Arnica was a prosperous small town then. It had two stores and two churches, a feed store, and a general store, besides the shingle mill. Liza had a hard life, and didn’t know anything but hard work and farm living. She and Frank had fourteen children and raised twelve of them. They both had to work hard to feed and clothe all those children. Sometimes, the children had to stay home from school when it was cold because they did not have shoes warm enough to wear. They lived like all the other families in the Ozarks, picking and canning blackberries and huckleberries in the summer, as well as all of the garden produce. The boys trapped and killed wild game to sell and to eat. Frank and Liza moved many times over the years as they raised their family.

Lessie Mae was the third from the youngest in the family when she was born, February 21, 1903. She was sixteen when her parents moved into the small box house north of Ed and Rhoda Routh. The house had one main room with a lean-to kitchen. A ladder was nailed to the wall leading to the loft that Bessie shared with her three sisters. They slept on straw mattresses, which were made at threshing time, simply by going out to the straw stacks and stuffing fresh straw in the ticks. The girls hung their clothes on nails pounded in the wall. In winter when it snowed, they often woke up to see a sprinkling of snow on their covers. Lessie must have inherited her blue eyes from her mother. It was from her father she got her jet black hair. She wore it long, and it waved down her back almost to her waist.

Luther Routh did not have a chance to get away when Lessie decided he was the man she would marry. After a short courtship, they were married on March 22, 1919, in the county court house in the middle of the town square in Stockton, Missouri. They moved into a small log house near Luther’s parents. Ed gave the young couple a team of horses, and Lessie’s parents gave her a new feather tick for the bed. Luther bought a few other things they would need. They were happy that first year in their new home. There was one other thing Lessie wanted for the house. She knew she may never have it, but she had a secret wish for an organ of her own. She knew she could learn to play it, if her dream ever came true.


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