Illinois Recollections

— The Hathaway Family in the Early 20th Century —

by Esther Hathaway

As the 19th century turned into the 20th, an itinerant Christian minister, Henry Ebert, with his wife Hannah, started out from Chicago and moved from place to place, serving as pastor in various churches. They had a family along the way and their eldest daughter was Esther, who, in 1964, wrote down these recollections.

Her experience included the tent meetings and revivals that were common to the evangelical church at that time. Even when she was elderly, she could vividly tell the story of how, as a young girl, she had willingly stood up at the pastor's call and walked to the front of the tent meeting, to be "born again."

Esther later married Clifford M. Hathaway of Springfield, Illinois. Their children were:

  – Clifford Murray, Jr., who married Margaret Stiles;

  – Elizabeth Ann, who married Robert Dwyer;

  – Constance Ruth, who married Roger Humphrey.

Esther Hathaway, 1964

Esther Hathaway, 1964

Untitled photo

My grandson, Clifford M. Hathaway III, interviewed me for a school project and the following is from notes made at that time.

• • • • • • • •

I, Esther Dorothea Ebert Hathaway, was born in Sterling, Illinois on April 7, 1900 – one year after my parents’ marriage and during my father’s first pastorate. He was the Rev. Henry Frank Ebert and my mother’s name was Hannah Lutz Ebert.

I had one sister, Ruth Violetta – 19 months younger than I.

Hannah Lutz Ebert, 1890s

When I was 2 years old my very young preacher father was transferred to the Evangelical Church at Washington, Illinois and my most vivid memory of that new home was the Hyle Pony Farm. The Hyle family were members of our church and in those days any girl or boy in Washington who could properly care for a pony during the summer months was loaned one free of charge – just for it’s keep. I remember how I wished I were old enough to have a pony.

Our next home was in Highland Park, Ill., where I started school in first grade (no kindergarten then). I remember that our home was just across the street from a huge Forest Preserve, which was frightening to Ruth and me; also I had a railroad underpass to walk thru on my way to school. I can remember my fear of it. But I also remember the fun of visiting Ft. Sheridan with my father who visited regularly on ministerial duty.

Untitled photo

Ruth and Esther Ebert, about 1903

Untitled photo

The family was next transferred to Oak Park, Ill. One big memory stands out there. It was nearing Christmas and our parents played a big trick on my sister and me. They explained that it had been a difficult year financially and that we were not to expect much in the way of gifts. So on Christmas morning when we came down the stairs into our dining room and saw two filled stockings on the sliding doors that closed off the living room – we thought that was the extent of our Christmas. We tried very hard to act pleased and happy – and our parents let us suffer awhile – and then opened the doors to the living room and there stood the biggest tree we had ever had and the most gifts, too. I received my precious doll, which I named Alice Doris and which I have to this day. All her clothes were made by my dear mother. She has a china head and kid body. Her hair is a wig made from my own hair clippings.

Esther Ebert at the beach, about 1905

Our next church was in Dwight, Illinois – home of the famous Keeley Cure. Folks came from great distances to be cured of various drug habits – mostly alcohol. It took my sister and me many months to walk by that huge building in comfort – and walk by it we had to for it was about the only route to the shopping area. My father, who was an inveterate coffee drinker, took the cure for that habit but the cure didn’t last for him!

It was here in Dwight that my father was urged to give lessons in the German language and many prominent residents were his pupils. He also had several pupils in neighboring Pontiac, one of whom was an outstanding voice teacher and he suggested to Gladys Sims that she accept me as a voice student in exchange for his German lessons. This was arranged and for some time I boarded the interurban car every Saturday morning for Pontiac and a voice lesson. I always loved to sing – I was 4 years old when I first sang alone for a Christmas program at our church and was so frightened when I saw all the people that I ducked behind the Christmas tree and sang from there. I outgrew that shyness and often sang for church services and other events. In my late teens two throat operations put an end to my singing career.

Untitled photo

Esther Ebert and "Alice Doris," about 1908

Untitled photo

My father served two churches in Dwight – one in town where he was responsible for the building of a new church and one five miles north of Dwight in a country area called Good Farm – and it was that – good productive farm land. So the city young preacher from Chicago had to buy a horse and buggy. The horse was a white bronco and we called him Joe. What great fun we had with that horse and buggy. Five happy years of it. The country church had the larger congregation and always an evening service and I often kept my father company on those evening rides. I can still feel how sleepy I’d become on the return ride after services and I wished so much to be in my bed but I had to stay awake to hold the lantern while my father bedded Joe down for the night.

Dwight was a new world to us city folks and we loved it and spent as much time in the country as possible. The preacher’s kids were always in demand for waiting tables during threshing time. In fact, my sister and I soon got the idea to carry our P.J.’s with us in case we were invited to spend the night. Most [of] our country people had large families – 2 more added made little difference and we were coaxed to stay. When “chores” were done we played games, put on shows – played Handy I Over using hedge apples for balls, gathered around [the] piano or organ for a songfest, went sliding on the haystacks, etc.

I saw my first picture show in Dwight. It was a silent film (no talkies then). It cost 5 cents and we called it the “Nickelodeon.” We were not permitted to go on Sunday nor could we make a purchase of any kind on Sunday. We also were not permitted to dance. But in fall and winter we always had a barrel of wonderful apples in the cellar.

Hannah and Henry Ebert, 1925

Across the backyard and beyond the alley was the Congregational parsonage. One summer the minister’s wife asked me if I would like to take care of her 2-year-old son (the words “baby sitter” had not been coined then) for the summer week days for $2 a week. I jumped at the opportunity because I wanted a bicycle. It didn’t prove to be a very happy arrangement because before long I was asked to wash dishes, set table, prepare vegetables, dust and even scrub the huge front porch. My mother insisted I give up the work but I stuck with it for six weeks and until I had enough money for a second hand bike and two new tires. Then I quit!

I finished 8th grade in Dwight. We were required to take our final examinations at the county seat in Pontiac. Before I had been notified of the results of [the] exam my father was transferred to Ottawa, Ill. It was late April, but our mother enrolled us in the Ottawa school. I remember how I rebelled. I had finished 8th grade and taken my exam. That was not the point, said mother – we were to go to school to get acquainted so that we would know our classmates when school resumed in the Fall. Consequently, I received two diplomas. At Ottawa, with a grade average of 85 in a subject one was exempted from examination. I had that and so was given a diploma along with [the] rest of [the] class. [The] Dwight diploma was mailed to me.

Ottawa, on the Fox and Illinois Rivers, was a wonderful place to finish growing up – places for hiking, swimming, skating, tobogganing, [and] Starved Rock close by. I learned to swim in a favorite swimming hole of the old lock in the canal there. Later when our new high school was completed it contained a swimming pool and swimming was a requirement for graduation. That test was easy to pass.

Untitled photo

Esther Ebert, 1918 (high school graduation)

Untitled photo

I graduated from Ottawa High School in 1918 during the First World War, and took a secretarial position that had never before been filled by a woman. In fact, I was the first woman ever employed by King and Hamilton Farm Machine Mfgrs in Ottawa. The former secretary was called into service in [the] Navy. I was such a novelty at first that there was always an apple or treat of some kind on my desk from various employees of the factory.

I must tell you about our copy press procedure. In addition to making a carbon of all correspondence, the secretary was required to use an indelible ribbon for all typing. [The] first letter was placed face down on a tissue paper sheet in [a] file book – a wet cloth put over [the] sheet and then placed in a heavy iron press, making a copy on [the] tissue page. This method prevented any lost copy and altho a big nuisance and messy we had a bound copy of all correspondence.

Clifford M. Hathaway, senior and junior, 1914

In 1920 my minister father was sent to Hope Evangelical Church in Springfield, Ill. Altho Ruth and I were employed in Ottawa we soon joined our parents and took the State Civil Service exam and were employed in the State of Illinois Highway Department – Ruth in [the] maintenance office and I in [the] construction office, where later I met and married Clifford M. Hathaway, Engineer of Construction.

[Esther and C.M. Hathaway were married in 1925. This was C.M.’s second marriage; his first had been to Henriette Doris Stadler, who died in 1923. Clifford Jr. was their son. Elizabeth Ann and Constance Ruth were the daughters of C.M. and Esther.]

It was a great joy being married to a man who was so content with his chosen profession. We were the parents of Clifford Jr., Elizabeth Ann and Constance Ruth, who all attended Hay Edwards school where I was president of the PTA for 2 years and had the great privilege of working with Principal Ray Graham, who I regard as one of the best educators Springfield ever had.

Untitled photo

Clifford and Esther Hathaway, 1925 (wedding)

The PTA had a very unusual project during my term of office, that was trying to save our kindergarten. Hay Edwards was threatened with the loss of kindergarten at opening of school in September.  At that time, the mid-year school classes were in operation and a kindergarten teacher came to our school for half a day – afternoons.  Miss Frances Bone (now Mrs. John Kimble) had been the half day teacher at Hay Edwards and we didn’t want to lose her or our kindergarten but there were not enough children enrolled to justify a kindergarten class.

Untitled photo

The same situation existed at Douglas School. With permission of the School Board, arrangements were made to collect the children at their homes in the Douglas District and drive them to Hay Edwards. Enough mothers volunteered to do this for a semester. (My day was Thursdays.)

Untitled photo

Elizabeth and Constance Hathaway, about 1934

Elizabeth and Constance Hathaway, about 1934

It helped in two ways – gave kindergarten to the Douglas School children who would have been denied it and gave [kindergarten] for that semester to Hay Edwards children and best of all, retained our fine teacher for years to come. That situation never occurs today with our overcrowded schools.

The interior of the English basement in the Edwards building was finished and equipped for use as a kindergarten room the following year – another project encouraged by the PTA. I joined the Women’s Club in 1925, and later served as Membership Chairman, Vice President and Board Member. I have been a member of Chapter E.G. of PEO since 1936, and a member of Christ Episcopal Church since 1925.

Untitled photo

I told Clifford III that I have had many positions, offices, jobs, responsibilities and titles but the one that’s most fun is Grandmother and it all started with him because he is the eldest of my grandchildren.

• • • • • • • • • •

Preacher’s Kid, “Secretary,” Highway Engineer’s wife, Mother, Widow, Grandmother and now Sec’y again for the Boy Scouts of America -

Your Grandmother

Esther Hathaway, about 1938

Powered by SmugMug Owner Log In