Contact: Dianne (Zimmerman) Stevens
The following is a letter from Dianne Z. Stevens to her Grandchildren concerning their Stevens & Zimmerman Heritage in Clark Co., Wis.
Dear Sarah, Hannah, and Tim,
Have you ever heard of a story called "Little Women?" Ask your Mommy or Daddy to rent the movie for you because I think you're old enough to see it. It is a very famous story written by a woman named Louisa May Alcott about 150 years ago.
She wrote about what life was like growing up in her family of four little girls. They did a lot of play-acting and had wonderful adventures. And they loved each other very much even though they were sort of poor. If you can see the movie of that famous story you will understand better the story I am about to tell you of one of your great-great-grandmothers. She was my grandmother, Elzora Maud Pierce. But I never knew her because she died long before I was born.
Elzora Maud was always called Zoey by her family. Zoey was born on a farm in central Wisconsin in Clark County. They called it "Pioneer Farm" because it had been hacked out of the wilderness by her grandfather, Warren Pierce, and his sons, one of whom was her father Frank Orlando Pierce. Her father's ancestors had come to the United States way back in the 1600's when we were still colonies. They were related to President Franklin Pierce and also President George W. Bush, but that's another story. Her mother's name was Sarah Jane Todhunter. Sarah's family had come to Wisconsin from England, possibly Liverpool, shortly before Sarah was born.
So here are Frank and Sarah up in the wilds of Wisconsin in the 1870's. First they had a daughter, Mabel Ethel (1878), and then Zoey was born in 1880. In 1882 they had another daughter, Jessie Irene. But two years later in 1884 something very sad happened. Sarah was due to have another baby, but things were not going right and there was no doctor nearby to help, so Sarah died and the baby died too, leaving Frank with three tiny girls and a farm to care for all by himself. Frank soon married again, a woman named Martha Greeley. Martha had been married before and had a daughter named Gladys. So now there were four little girls growing up together: Mable, Zoey, Jessie, and Gladys, and they were very happy together.
And,my! How they could play! On cold Wisconsin winter evenings Martha would read to them and their favorite story was - Guess What? Little Women! Their favorite game to play was to pretend they were the four sisters in the story. Each of them chose one of the characters and they always took that part in their playing and even when they weren't playing they still thought of themselves as that character. I'm not 100% sure of this, but I believe that Zoey played the part of Jo. I think this because Zoey always loved books and reading and when she had her own children she taught them to love books too.
One very sad part of the story: in the book "Little Women" the character Beth catches Sarlet Fever and dies. In the Pierce family little Jessie played Beth and she died when she was only 16 years old.
When Zoey grew up she fell in love with a handsome young man who had just returned from the Spanish American War, named Samuel DeMouth. He had been married before and that may be why Zoey's family did not want her to marry him., but they finally gave in and on November 27, 1902 they were married at the Pioneer Farm. I still have one of their wedding invitations.
It is a very good thing they did get married because otherwise you and I wouldn't be here today (or your Mommy either.) But Zoey did have a hard life after she married Sam. In 1906 or 07 Sam and Zoe and 3 yr old Musa moved to Hood River Oregon where Zoey cooked for a logging camp while Sam "looked" for work. She would tie Musa to a tree in the kitchen yard to keep her from wandering off while she cooked.
After a year when Sam still had not found work the young family returned to the farm in Christie (Weston Township) where their second child, Thelma was born in 1911. Shortly thereafter the farm was completely bankrupt, so the family left Wisconsin to try homesteading in North Dakota. Their third child, Lester, was born there in 1913 at a place called Quinion that no longer exists.
The next time I write I will tell you about my mother's girlhood and I don't want to spoil it by telling you all the details of Zoey's life after she married Sam. But I will tell you this: Zoey was a WONDERFUL cook and for a good part of her life she helped earn the money to support her family by her cooking. She cooked for the logging camp and another time she cooked for a hotel in Montana. Your mommy probably inherited being such a good cook from her great grandmother, Zoey.
Zoey earned the family's living other ways too. When they lived in North Dakota she was the post mistress of the Quinion post office for two years, 1916 to 1918, before they moved on to Montana. Zoey was still helping to support the family when she died at the age of 54 in Portland, Oregon of a heart attack. At that time she was working at the Libby canning factory. I'm not sure about this, but I think I remember Aunt Musa telling that her mother dropped dead of the heart attack while she was at work. Ask your Mommy to buy a can of Libby peaches someday and you will know what your great great grandmother helped to produce while working at the canning factory.
So that is the story of your great-great-grandmother who loved reading and cooking and grew up playing "Little Women" with her sisters. Zoey and Sam had a daughter named Thelma, Thelma married Forrest Zimmerman and had a daughter named Dianne. Dianne married Paul Stevens and had a daughter named Dawne. Dawne married Jason Pamplin and had guess who? You guys! Sarah, Hannah, Timothy, and now, pretty soon, Rebecca. I hope you will save this story so you can tell it to Becky some day.
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