Estella May Burt was born November 21, 1894. Called Stella, she was born in Third Creek, Gasconade County, Missouri. She was the first girl, and third child, born to Joseph Burt and Virginia Williams Burt. She had eleven brothers and sisters.
By 1910 the Burt family had moved to Crawford Township in Osage County, not far from Third Creek. Her father was a watchmaker. It’s hard to believe that he could have supported that many children by making and repairing watches.
When my grandmother was twenty or twenty-one, and unmarried, a daughter Golden was born to her. The 1920 census showed Goldie as the daughter of Joseph Burt. Back then many children born out-of-wedlock were listed as children of their grandparents.
On Saturday, May 5, 1923 my grandmother married Harrison Wright Schwegler in Vienna, Maries County, Missouri. Grandpa Schwegler’s first wife had died leaving him to raise six children under the age of nine. I’m sure this marriage was one of convenience since my grandfather had children who needed a mother and my grandmother needed a father for Aunt Goldie.
From this union came eight children. Their first child lived only six hours before it died. One child, Billy, died when he was two years old. The remaining children were most likely born in the city of St. Louis or St. Louis County. By 1936, living on Manola Avenue in Pine Lawn, most of the older children had moved away from home.
It is this house that I remember the most. It was a large house with an enclosed front porch. Three bedrooms and bathroom were on one side of the house and the living room, dining room, and kitchen were on the other side of the house. The driveway ran along the left of the house and sloped down to the back yard where a huge Osage Orange tree grew. Fascinated by Hedge Apples, the fruit of this tree, I remember my parents bringing some home in hopes they would discourage crickets and water bugs from entering our basement. I don’t think that worked.
Granny came to babysit my brother and me several times when we were young. She loved to tell us ghost stories and to this day I love a good ghost story. Sometime in the nineteen-fifties she became a Jehovah’s Witness. Jehovah’s Witnesses do not celebrate any holidays. I’m not sure if it was my brother and me waking up from bad dreams or Granny telling us that there was no Santa Claus, but her babysitting days for us were over. I do believe sometime later she began celebrating holidays again because we always took her a box of Brach’s Chocolate Covered Cherries for her birthday and Christmas.
I honestly don’t remember my grandfather being at the house on Manola except for a few times. He had a clubhouse on the Gasconade River, in Osage County, Missouri and spent most weekends there. Since my dad worked during the week, the weekends were the only time we visited granny.
One of my favorite memories of my grandmother comes from an experience when I was twelve. Many weekends my family would go to my grandfather’s clubhouse. We would leave on Friday and come home late on Sunday. This particular weekend my grandmother went with us along with our dog and parakeet. It had rained a great deal during the week leading up to our trip. Rivers were running high and the Gasconade was no exception. The clubhouse sat next to the river surrounded by corn fields. As a precaution we parked our cars some distance away in case the river rose further blocking our exit. Saturday came and the river was high but nothing to worry about. Sunday came and the clubhouse, which was on stilts,was surrounded by water. Fortunately my grandfather had the foresight to tie two jon boats to trees close to the house. I’ll never forget the two boats riding on high water through six-foot high corn stalks loaded with my grandfather, grandmother, father, mother, brother, dog, parakeet, and luggage. It was quite an adventure.
When I think of an old-fashioned grandmother, with their granny shoes and loose-fitting house dresses, I think of my grandmother. She was a tall, large woman and I loved being enclosed in her warm hug each time we left her house. Eventually her dark hair became silver white. This is my lasting picture of her. As I have aged I realize my legacy from her is my silver white hair.
Estella May Burt Schwegler passed away on February 21, 1987 at the age of 92. If I’m lucky, not only will I have inherited her silver white hair but will have many more years on this earth making memories.