Adah was a tiny woman, standing less than 5′ tall, but with a big spirit. She was my great-grandmother and I remember her as always smiling. So happy to see us when we would drive across the rickety wooden bridge in her driveway and pull up to the little white cottage where her and her son Jimmy lived.
Great-Grandma’s house was on the outskirts of Milton-Freewater, Oregon, up against a large grass covered dike. Her husband, Frank, had been gone for many years before I was born so I only knew the place as great-grandma’s house. She had an orchard, or at least quite a few apple tree’s that I remember and a large chicken coop with what seemed like to me as hundreds of white birds. I always liked when she would get a basket and go out to the chicken coop with us kids to gather eggs.
Grandma had a little dog named Clementine. I don’t know what breed she was but she was a little white dog with some black on her ears and face. That little dog was old and blind but I loved her. I remember being heartbroken when she died and was no longer there to greet us when we came.
There was an irrigation ditch that ran behind grandma’s house. It was fun to play around the ditch in the summertime, betting each other to hop over it and try not to splash in. It always smelled wonderful out there because wild mint grew all over the place. We always picked some to chew on while we played.
Uncle Jimmy, James Orval Sannar, always lived with great grandma. Like I mentioned, she was a tiny lady and had a hard time giving birth. When Jimmy was born, forceps had to be used and the procedure caused brain damage. Jimmy was simple but I sure loved him. He helped grandma around the place and raised his own flock of chickens. When I think of Uncle Jimmy, I always picture him in his favorite old rocking chair. It was a wooden Mission-style chair with a leather seat. In my mind, Jimmy is sitting there rocking with that wonderful grin on his face that he always wore.
Great-grandma baked quite often and would freeze the pies that she made from the fruit on her tree’s. She always had a freezer full of pies and when we would come to visit, each of us kids would take turns picking the kind of pie that we wanted for dessert. What a treat that was! Another thing I always remember from grandma’s kitchen was her green beans. I call that kind “cooked-to-death green beans” now and still love them. They are cooked in a saucepan on top of the stove with bacon or even just bacon grease in them and boiled almost to death. So good!
My mom didn’t really like eating at great-grandma’s house because Uncle Jimmy was in charge of washing the dishes so they were never very clean. Jimmy also didn’t have very good table manners and would burp and fart whenever the urge took him. I was a kid and didn’t mind at all. Of course in my eyes, Uncle Jimmy couldn’t do much wrong.
Great-Grandma’s full name was Adah Gertrude Hescock. She was born on September 16th, 1895 in Nelson Township, Ohio to Ward Beacher Hescock and Ida June (Goodsell) Hescock. Adah was the third of four children born to the couple, though her oldest brother had died at birth. Her sister, Anna May was two years older. In 1899, the girls welcomed another little sister, Mildred.
In the 1900 census, the Hescock family was living with Irad Goodsell, Adah’s grandfather, on the family farm in Nelson, Ohio. Ward, Adah’s father was farming the land with his father-in-law. There were two hired hands at the time, one 19 year old girl who was helping in the house and one 19 year old boy who was a farm laborer.
Very soon, the Hescock family pulled up stakes and moved West. Sadly in 1902, Adah’s mother passed away. She is buried in Dixie, Washington.
My oldest sister, Susan, went to stay with our great-grandmother for a couple of months in the spring of 1981. Grandma was 86 years old, had suffered a heart attack and needed help remembering when to take her medications. Susan had graduated from high school and was waiting for the job that she had taken in Wyoming to start, so she was able to go and help grandma out. During this time, great-grandma shared a few stories with Susan. One of them is about the time that her mother had passed away. Grandma was six years old and sent back to Ohio to stay with relatives. We’re not sure if her sisters were sent with her or if she went alone, or who she actually stayed with.
She talked about her aunts making picalilli, which is a relish of pickled vegetables and spices. Susan remembers that great-grandma thought it was tart and didn’t care for it very much.
When Adah’s dad remarried about a year later, he sent for her to join them in Oregon. She was seven years old and rode a train out, then her dad picked her up in a surrey from the station in La Grande. They drove over Minam/Smith Mountain and on into Promise. She remembered there being fringe on the top of the buggy.
Adah’s father had married a widow by the name of Maryanne Swearingen Griffith. Maryanne had three children of her own, so it would have been a large blended family of six kids right from the beginning. When the couple had met, Maryanne told Ward that she would marry him if he would build a house big enough for all of their children and big enough for more kids to come. He did, building it by hand and presenting it to her as a wedding gift. Adah would welcome three half brothers as the years went by – Wilbur, Verne, and Glenn. She was 13 years old when the oldest, Wilbur was born. 9 siblings in all!
On November 28th, 1912 Adah married James Franklin Sannar, “Frank”, in Wallowa, Oregon. Just seven short months later — yikes! —- the couple welcomed their first daughter, Ida Ann, on the 30th of June 1913 in Promise, Oregon where they lived.
Several children were to follow – some dying in childbirth and one little boy, Woodrow, passed away from pneumonia when he was only 3-1/2 years old. You can read more about the children and Adah’s husband, Frank, here.
I have mentioned that Adah was a tiny lady. She said that each of her babies was bigger than the last. When Jimmy was born the doctor advised them to not have any more children as it might possibly kill her. She shared with Susan that there was one more baby after Jimmy but she wasn’t able to deliver it and the baby died in childbirth. The doctor had to remove the baby after it died. I can’t imagine what a terrible and heartbreaking experience that must have been.
Great-grandma also told Susan a story about a day that the dogs were chasing a grouse. The grouse flew through the open door right into the house to get away from the dogs. Grandma caught it and wrung it’s neck, then cooked it up for dinner. It was a blessing, because she wasn’t sure what they were going to eat that particular day.
The years passed and the children grew. In 1944, Frank and Adah sold their home on Diamond Prairie Road in Wallowa and moved to Milton in Umatilla. This is the place that I remember and loved.
On the 16th of December, 1950 Adah became a widow at the age of 55. Her father, Ward Hescock, lived in a small house on the same property, so Adah had help around the place.
My own personal stories of Adah take place in the 1970’s, when I was a child. I remember at one point, when she was 80 years old, saying how she just wasn’t any good for anything anymore because she could no longer get clear up on the top rung of her old rickety wooden orchard ladders to pick fruit. No one should have ever been on top of those ladders, especially an eighty year old woman!
Adah and Jimmy were both admitted to a long-term care center sometime in 1981. Adah passed away on the 27th of December, 1982 at the age of 87. She is buried in the Milton-Freewater IOOF Cemetery next to Jimmy and Frank.
Please please share your memories and picture of Adah with us! Either leave them in the comments here or send me a private message or an email. I would love to add your memories to this story!
“Great Grandma Sannar would probably be the oldest relative that I remember. She lived in Milton-Freewater, Oregon. She lived on a small farm. Her and Uncle Jimmy. He raised Banty chickens and they had a fruit orchard with apricots and little fruit tree’s with an irrigation ditch running through the property with little bridges over it. It was fun to go play on the farm. ” ~ Stacey Sannar Roth
(Adah is my great-grandmother. She is the mother of Charles Alvin Sannar.)