My Life
by Ethel John Downs Watkins

"Born in Battle Ground, Tippecanoe Co., Indiana, July 17, 1889, the third child of Harry M. and Minnie [Hayward] Muter Downs.  My life was very placid.  My two brothers that preceded me, were taken back to heaven in their infancy.  I was four years old when my next brother come into this life on July 7, 1893.  Mother named him rather an unusual name, Clair Landis, but he was soon just Jake to us, and sorry to say, the name always clung to him through school, and life.  Very few have known his real name.  He married a lovely girl, Alice McKay, who has always called him Clair.  They are blessed with a boy and girl. On this date of writing, April 1954, Alice has since departed from this world.

On October 31, 1895, another brother, Avy Tuttle, was born (one of my dear friends today) he was a special charge of mine, as I was entrusted with his daily care while Mother went about her many household duties.

Since this was in horse and buggy days, there were semi-annual journeys made from our home in Warren County, back to Battle Ground, once in the fall of the year, and once in the spring.  These were outstanding events in the lives of us children.  It was a good half day of traveling.  Father always had beautiful driving horses, and were all riding in state on a little board seat at our parents' feet, just behind the dash board.  We never minded such little things as the dust and swishing of the horses tails.  There were too many strange views and other things to see.  Once we saw an overturned grain separator that had slipped over on a narrow strip of road and fell into a ditch.  Such things were thrilling to us.

In the spring of 1896, we moved from Warren County to Tippecanoe County and in 1899 we again changed farms and moved to Perry Township.  My sister, Dora Agnes, was born on April 5, 1900, and that year Father's brother, Wittean, came home from the camp in Cuba, an American soldier, a great event in my life.

Wherever my parents happened to be living, they were always welcome into the life of the community, and were quite popular as host and hostess.  Mother retained interest in the friends she made and endeavored to keep a personal touch through correspondence with a few.  I have sweet memories of many who I knew that loved my mother and many today come to see me with praise for her kindness, and neighborliness.

My father was raised a farmer, but in his early married life he left the farm and entered the meat market business, learning the trade from Mother's foster father.  The art of killing and dressing a beef, quartering it, and cutting it to suit the fancy of the public.  He followed this business for four years.  The life of a farmer was calling Father, so he, with Mother and myself, were taken to Warren County.  This was Mother's first acquaintance with farm life.  We were on the farm for ten years.

In 1900, Mother had a severe illness, and the doctor said she would have to do less work for a time.  They gave up farming and we moved to Battle Ground again, back now to the place that always has been home to me.  Father entered the butcher trade again.  Because of the death of his mother, it was necessary for him to resume some of the responsibility of the "home farm," which he did.

In the year 1902, my third brother was born.  Father called him Theodore Thomas, but he was just "Tom" to me, and"T. T. Downs" to strangers.  He was born with curls and wore them until he started school.  Curls were not his only feminine characteristic.  He is very understanding, generous to a fault, and ready to take more than his share of the personal care of their three daughters.  Avy and Tom are married to sisters, Birdie and Mildred Kennedy.

Mother and Father were in partnership with a Mr. John Pearson in the farming business, and they were induced to move to Fulton County, Indiana.  Living four miles from Rochester northwest.  There my sister Shirley was born, July 19, 1913, but soon after, they moved back to Tippecanoe County, and lived near Otterbein, Indiana, on the same farm that they had began farming.  Farming was not proving to be a very profitable business to my people, so it seemed.  By the time that most of us had left home, Mother was weary of farm chores, so they decided to go to Gary, Indiana.  Tom was a young man then, and married, so he and his wife went with the folks to the city.  Shirley attended the Gary schools, met and married a young Polish boy, and they have a family of four children.

Mother, never a robust person, was afflicted with bronchial asthma and she had several hard spells of illness in her later life.  She died at the age of 67 years.  Father died at the age of 71 years.

I attended school in several different districts, but attended the longest at one time at Battle Ground.  Graduating from the grades in 1904.  I had two years of high school.  I enjoyed school, music, English, and mathematics were my best subjects.  In 1905, I met my husband, Lewis N. Watkins, a young farmer and accomplished woodsman.  With his axe he could fell a tree, hew the log, and start the framework of any building.  Make rails for a fence.  He knew all manner of wood lore. The various trees, and the birds that fill the air with their songs.  Plant life, also animals.  We were married December 24, 1906, and are the parents of seven boys, and five girls.

One boy died at the age of three years and nine months, and one girl three years and seven months.  Our oldest son, Homer Earl, June 28, 1907, married and has three boys.

        Thelma Louise, June 18, 1909.  Married, has five girls, three boys (six children living, two dead).
        Elwood Avy, May 11, 1911.  Deceased.
        Henry Morton, December 26, 1913.  Married, has one son. (Wife dead).
        Norwood Ray, January 7, 1915.  Married, had one girl.
        Agnes Rachel, May 31, 1917.  Unmarried.
        Marie Donna, February 10, 1920.  Married, two girls, one boy.
        Glyda Moore, July 23, 1922.  Married, one girl, two boys.
        Neva Laverne, September 9, 1925.  Deceased.
        Joseph Lewis, August 25, 1927.  Married, one girl, two boys.
        Minnie Jane, October 29, 1931.  Married, two girls.
        Myrtle Eileen, July 7, 1933.  Married, two girls, one boy.

Through  my mother, I inherited from my Grandfather Hayward, the best parts of my nature.  The simple philosophy of looking for and expecting no more than I am able to give was taught to me by him, along with a desire for spiritual things.  I have made a point of doing the best I could in any phase of living.  To be a good wife, mother, and neighbor, is my only aim in this life, and to be found ready to go with Jesus when He calls.  I have tried to keep young in my thinking, and seeing the best things of each day as far as its interest will allow for a righteous living.  Decency is a slogan in our household.  Christ is the Head of my house.  Faith, Hope, and Charity our motto, and by His Grace we will keep it so."

Ethel John Downs Watkins died January 3, 1962, in Tippecanoe County, Indiana.  Lewis died January 19, 1968.  Three daughters are also deceased, Thelma Louise who died April 17, 1961 and Agnes Rachel who died February 24, 1991.  They are all buried in Battle Ground Cemetery, Battle Ground, Indiana.     Submitted by: Adina Watkins Dyer, granddaughter

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