My childhood memories of the Eastern Shore of Virginia center around my Grandmother's House on Chesconessex Creek and the neighboring town of Onancock. Although it will always be Grandma's House it was owned by my grandfather Lewis Howard Marsh who had gotten it from his father Walter Hicks Marsh.
Walter Hicks Marsh's father John W. Marsh was from Smiths Island and at one time owned most of the land on the south side of Chesconessex Creek. John had married Margaret Evans, the daughter of Peter Evans who was also from Smiths Island. This land came to Walter Hicks Marsh through his mother Margaret. Some of the other lands John W. Marsh bought from the Wise family.
The house was an old Victorian Farm House built about 1890 with two rooms downstairs separated by a large hall. Attached to an even older one room up, one room down house built about 1854 by Peter Evans. On this farm stood the tombstones of Peter and Triphinia Crockett Evans and about eight unmarked graves of the slaves Peter owned at the time and another Twiford plot closer to the water.
The smaller one room up, one room down part of the house had a very small staircase from the kitchen to the upstairs bedroom with a banister that my grandmother used to store her hand made quilts on. There were at least two chimneys in the house. One was to the wood stove that grandma cooked. on. Some time about 1959 the old wood stove was replaced by a gas heater and a modern stove was installed in the kitchen.
Years ago chicken feed used to come in colorful feed bags and my grandmother sewed quilts, made braided rugs and even made underwear for her three daughters from the feed bags. The quilts were in different colored prints but they were always done in the same simple basket pattern. When my sister and I arrived for a visit we would almost always sleep in the old bedroom with the banister. We would setup the room and decorate it with all the quilts, table scarves and braided rugs we could find. On the mantle was a Timex mantle clock. I still have the clock today.
My vacation on the farm is full of memories. I would feed the chickens and ducks and sometimes my grandmother would have turkeys and geese to feed too. I collected eggs and in my "spare time" I would chase the cow. I spent my time chasing geese until they would turn around an fly at me and sitting at the water's edge watching the tide come it. I never watched it go out though.
Going into Onancock was a treat. Every Saturday my grandmother would dress up and "go to town." We met all sorts of people she knew. They would stop and chat and when they would move on I'd ask "How do you know them?" Her answer would always be the same. "Some how related." She never could tell me how though, which I thought was strange, for in New York I even knew my second and third cousins.
We ate off of dishes that had been bought from Sears and Roebuck and drank iced tea out of tall striped ice tea glasses. The ice tea was brewed in a pan from tea leaves, not bags. The dishes were hand painted with pink and blue flowers which I later found out came from Southern Potteries and were of a pattern called Cumberland. These plates were the feature item in the 1948 catalog. Grandma seem to be the best cook around, although she had no recipes, just a pinch of this or that, from fried chicken to blueberry pies, all the things she made were just great! There were probably many secrets to her cooking but I have uncovered one mystery, she used canned milk in everything that called for milk.
I especially remember after supper. My grandmother and I would sit on the pouch and rock together and she would share with me her memories of the past. Now I have my own memories that I share with my grandchildren and anyone else that will listen to me. It was through my grandmother's eyes that I learned to love all thing shore.© Gail M. Walczyk - Peter's Row Publishing 2006-2009