The Diary of Lizzie Dopps





Chapter III



After I recovered from typhoid fever I returned to my father's home near Rossville, Illinois, but in a short time the family moved to Walkerton, Indiana.

I was now about sixteen and was anxious to finish school and become, a teacher, but the family needed me at home, so that ambition had to be postponed. I made myself useful at home, as it was here in Walkerton that my little baby half-sister, Stella, was born. She was a dear, chubby little mite, with blue eyes, light, curly hair, and best of all, a sweet disposition.

When Stella was a pretty, plump, little girl (or rather young lady) of sixteen she fell in love and married a handsome, dashing "Beau Brummel" by the name of Joe Smith. She was a mother at seventeen.

Thirteen children were born to them, Zula, Claud, Vern, Harry, Josie, Hazel, Lloyd, Sarah, Joedy, Albert, Zora, Bessie, and Warren.  They are all living and married at this writing.  They are all very dear to me, and my sweet sister writes often and comes to see me when she can.  So much for my dear and only sister and her family.

Now to go back to the story of my young girl-hood. After living in Walkerton for a short time we returned to Illinois--Vermillion County--and made our home out on the prairie, the nearest town, Rossville, about ten or twelve miles distant.

Here I went back to school, a country school, walking two miles over the prairie every morning and evening. I was so anxious to receive an education and be able to teach and help out my father.

As I walked to school and back over the prairie, I often thought of my own dear mother, and of when I was a little girl, hearing her singing in her clear sweet voice, "Rosalie the Prairie Flower." It was an old, old song about a prairie child so beautiful and sweet, bringing, happiness to others, and I, as a little child, wondered why I couldn't be like her, and I determined to try to do so.  I think that old song, sung by my mother in her clear, sweet voice had much to do with the forming of my character and instilled in me the desire to do for others. These memories came as I walked to school.

Along about this time my little half-brother, Bertrum was born. Bertie grew to manhood, was married to Gertrude Waldron.  They had one daughter, Beatrice. Bertie was never very strong, and when his daughter Beatrice was about twelve years old, he died, after suffering from asthma for many years.

By studying industriously, I won the approval of my teacher, and after passing my examinations, he helped me obtain my first school--a summer school. My dream had come true!

I did help my father some financially, paid my doctor bill for the time I had typhoid fever, and made our home a little more comfortable.

One incident I shall always remember.  It is rather amusing now, but at the time it was near tragic, to me, at least.

Our home was neat but poorly furnished.  I did not feel like inviting friends there, although I was becoming a young lady of seventeen.  I determined to save my money, after having given some to my father, and buy a new rag carpet for the bare floor.

The day came when my father and step-mother were going to town for supplies and I had the money for the precious rag carpet, and commissioned them to get it and bring it home.  Imagine my disappointment when upon their return, instead of a rag carpet they had purchased a new bureau for their room.  They had looked for the carpet but could not find what they thought I would like, so decided to get the long desired bureau.  It would dress up the home--but not for my company.  Well, here was a chance for me to play "Rosalie the Prairie Flower."

I do not mean to infer my father and step-mother were selfish or unjust.  They were not.  In fact, there was only one other time I ever felt any criticism toward my step-mother.  It was the only time I remember of my father ever punishing me.  This incident happened before the rag carpet affair.  I was about fifteen years old, at the self-conscious age where men were concerned.

There was a bachelor whom the folks tried to tease me about.  I cared absolutely nothing for him.  However, one day we were going some place and he was going with us.  Ma ran and jumped in the wagon ahead of me, leaving me to sit with the bachelor friend.  I was rather indignant about it, and to make matters worse, when we returned home, they began to tease me about him.

This was too much.  I flared up and burst out with, "Well, I don't think that was very nice of Ma!

My father, said, "Don't you say that again."

I exclaimed, "Well, that is just what I think."

Without saying another word he went out of the house and returned with a peach tree switch and gave me a whipping--the only one I over received and me fifteen years old.  It didn't hurt me much physically, but my dignity was terrible wounded.

After my first term of teaching summer school, I again went to school that winter.  The next summer I taught a school near Rossville, and that winter I taught another country school.  It was here that I met The Man.  I was eighteen now.

I had never cared much for boys--had had one affair that didn't amount to much.  But here at the Dopps home where I came to board while teaching school, was a whole houseful of boys, Eli, Milton, Simon, David*, Jacob (or Jake) Charles, and Elsworth.  The oldest son, Peter, had died in the late Civil War.  There had also been a son, Owen, who had died in infancy, nine boys in all.

Then there was a daughter, Ellen, just two years older than I, who had recently married Dave Close and lived nearby.  The father was always quite witty.  He used to say, "We have had nine boys and each has a sister."  Invariably the one to whom he would be speaking would exclaim, "What!  Eighteen children in the family?"  Then he would laugh and reply, "Oh, no.  I said, 'Each boy has a sister--just one sister, though.'"  Ten not being enough, they adopted a girl!

This was a good Dutch-American family.  The father, John P. Dopps* was born April 20, 1821, in Pickaway County, Ohio and seemed to be quite proud that he could, trace his lineage to the F. F. V.'s--First Families of Virginia.  He was a great reader, loved fishing, and later on became Probate Judge of Norton County, Kansas. 

The mother of this family was born Susannah Starr, March 20, 1820, and her twin sister was named Maryanna.  They were of a good Pennsylvania Dutch family.  Susannah Starr* was married to John P. Dopps August 16, 1842.  She had a very strong character, but very quiet, lovable and practical and orderly.

I have digressed from my story to describe this family for they had much to do with my later life.

These were nice jolly boys, but I had not any particular interest in any of them until one certain evening.  We had been having a jolly time together.  I was fixing a pocket in my dress and had not quite finished it when the others decided to retire. 

I went out to the kitchen to get a drink of water and realized some one had followed me out there.  It was Eli, the eldest brother.  He was a boy of few words, talking very little, unless he really had something to say.  To my surprise he came up to me and said, "I wonder if you would take me for your companion through life."

I guess it was love at first sight alright, but although I had admired this clean looking, clear brown-eyed, black haired young man of twenty-five, I was, indeed, surprised at this turn of events. 

My answer was that I would have to have time to think about it.

He replied, "I did not expect you to give me your decision tonight."

Nothing more was said for several days and although he was always courteous, there was no love making.  As a matter of fact, that art would have been rather difficult to practice there being so many around.  There really was no place to go, though we did have some amusements such as singing school, etc., but they usually met at this home*

Several times he asked me if I could give him an answer, but I could not make up my mind on such a serious question. I liked him--yes, very much--but I knew so little about him.  I had known him only such a short time.

Finally one Sunday as we walked home from church together, just before we got to the door, he asked me if I had made up my mind.  I told him I had not.  But I felt that it would be the last time he would ask me, so I went to my room and knelt in prayer, asking my God to advise me.  My answer seemed to come to me clearly and I started down the stairs and met him there. 

I said, "I have made up my mind and it is, 'Yes.'"

"I am so glad," said he, but just at that romantic moment, Mother Dopps cried out, "Dinner's ready!"  So that was that, and we proceeded to take our places at the table just as though the most momentous moment in our lives had not just taken place. 

I finished that winter term of school.  Nothing of much importance happened. 

There was one funny incident, though, that I'd like to relate.  It was a bright, sunshiny, day nearing spring, and because of the beautiful weather, windows were up and it was hard for the pupils not to glance out-of-doors.

Finally a tittering began and then the whole room gradually growing into suppressed laughter.  I did not know at the time what had happened, but learned later that a team of horses had been climbing a hill, hauling a load of lumber on which a man was seated.  The lumber slid off with the man, and the horses and wagon went on. 

It was just too much for these children, and the more they suppressed their laughter, the funnier it seemed to them, so I advised them to just lay aside their books for a minute and have a good laugh at whatever amused them and then settle down to their studies again.  This they did. 

All quieted down but Jake Dopps--one of my future brother-in-laws.  I didn't want to "get in bad," but I became stern and said all must return to their studies or I should have to use the whip.  It was a rather foolish threat for me to make, as I am small and Jake was a big husky lad of sixteen.  However, he too finally subsided without the switch.

In later years we often laughed about it and he said he was sorry he had not made me try to whip him. 

*David Dopps is buried in the Norton Cemetery.  His tombstone gives his dates as 7 December 1853 - 14 July 1947

*John P. Dopps is buried in the Norton Cemetery. His tombstone gives his date of death as 11 January 1909.

* Susannah Dopps is buried in the Norton Cemetery. Her tombstone gives her date of deah as 16 August 1899.


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  2006 Laurie Arnold.  All material presented herein was transcribed or otherwise provided by Laurie Arnold from the unpublished text of the diary, family photos and personal genealogy.  She and her family have graciously given permission for the diary to be posted to the Norton County Kansas GenWeb website, for the benefit of others who had pioneer families in Norton County, Kansas. This diary, photos and personal genealogy may not be reproduced, published or re-published for any reason, in any format, without prior written consent of the contributors or copyright holders.  web design 2006 Ardie Grimes