(This is my great-grandmother's story told in the first person in her words embelished by mine)
My name is Mathilda Price Reed. I was born in Ohio but have lived most of my life in this small town of Becker, Minnesota. It is 1929 and it has been a sad year for many. No one has money, but we get along helping each other. From time to time men worn down by life's trouble will come by and we always give what food we can spare. I sense I am coming to the end of my time here on earth. I have been sick these two years, confined to my bed. I have told the bishop I have two for confirmation this year and that I will try to hold out until he makes his Easter visit. I have left strict instructions for my funeral. My casket must be purple to be symbolic of the robe of scorn of our dear Lord, as well as of the royalty of His Kingship. I have had a full life and as I gaze upon the cross at the foot of my bed and feel the comfort of my prayer book at my side, I take up my pencil and leave for posterity some of my story. I have always been devout. I was the youngest in my confirmation class and very much in earnest. The very day I was confirmed I looked up at my dear old pastor and pleaded, Now, Dr. Baker, may I be a missionary? Little did I know how soon that opportunity would present itself. I was born in 1856 and grew up in Buffalo, New York. We were a very close knit family so one could imagine how horrified we were to learn that our dear sister Margaret was to move with her husband to the wild western town of Stillwater, Minnesota. Her husband Samuel Thorne had been a blacksmith, and then tried his hand at being a butcher and still not completely satisfied decided to head out west where many young families were going to find adventure and opportunities. Soon after, I was stricken with typhoid fever. I was very low for some time; but under my mother's good care I rallied. After a certain time my strength began to come back and it seemed I would have full recovery. But while in all ways I was getting better, I could not speak above a whisper. It was determined that I suffered from paralysis of the vocal chords as a result of the fever. Calling in several of the leading physicians of Buffalo, they declared that they had done all that they could, but it was an uncommon case and they feared the worst, I would never talk as others did again. And then upon consultation they stated that all had been done that was in their power. Meanwhile, Margaret wrote many letters of her life on the frontier. She wrote of her husband's job at a prison in a neighboring town and how he had to drive through bitter cold and enormous drifts of snow to get to work by 6:00 AM or he would loose a day's wages. She wrote of her joy at the birth of their daughter Lillian and the loneliness of the many hours without her husband or anyone to talk with. And then weeks went by without word from Margaret. Mother and I became very worried and then at last it was Samuel who wrote. Margaret was overcome with homesickness and he feared her health was beginning to fail. Momma sat me down and told me how it had to be. The doctors had told her that they did hold out a small chance of regaining my voice if I had a change of climate. At the time she had thought it impossible and anyway how could she think of losing another dear daughter. But now with Margaret ailing and a baby to care for, it was up to me to go to Minnesota to help out. I was still not feeling my old self and did not want to leave home and dear mother. I cried and cried silent tears, first for myself and then for my poor sister out in the wilderness without a friend to help. Mother reminded me of my spiritual ambitions and presented this as a precious opportunity. So my desire to do missionary work drove my fears away, and my bag was packed. I stood at the threshold of my journey bidding a soundless good bye, my friends and family waving and shouting their blessings. When I finally arrived what joy it was to see my sister and meet my cherished niece. She was a robust cheerful child. In contrast poor sister looked tired and pale and my brother-in law seemed restless and distracted. God had directed me to where I was needed. Much to my dismay I soon found out that church was three miles away and there was simply not enough time to make the journey each Sunday. It would up take an entire day and the time was too dear. There were always too many things to be done. I soon noticed the children had little direction. They would sit on fence posts and argue and push each other around not unlike those rascally boys Samuel Clemens described so delightfully. I knew I had to start a Sunday school right here in Stillwater. It would be good for the children and it would be good for sister Maggie. I called the children in and they came. I could not sing, but I could whistle and soon we were all making a joyful noise unto the Lord. It wasn't long before we had 48 young souls who came to us each Sunday. Soon the older ones came in and helped, and the Sundays were no longer lonesome. Books and papers must be had and soon the minister from Oak Park called on us, he having heard about the little Sunday school. The ladies of his church sent books, cards, and papers. Then came the season of Christmas and I sent a note to the Sunday school at Oak Park "Please join our Sunday school at Stillwater. A big sleigh was soon found and the little ones were on their way to spend the day with us. We exchanged little bags of fruit and hard candy. The children enjoyed every minute until they were bundled up and sent home sleepy and content. Many happy days were thus spent in Stillwater, but I still prayed for the return of my voice. One of my greatest joys in life has been raising my voice in song. I so longed to speak and sing normally. And then I became ill again. Poor sister Maggie, now she had to care for her own household and me. I felt a terrible burden. The doctors were sent for once again and once again they had no answers. For weeks I lay in bed but then slowly I began to feel stronger. It was spring and sister would let me sit outside in the sun with the lovely quilt Mother had sent wrapped around me. And then one morning I awoke and found my voice restored. It was god's greatest blessing. Soon after our little family moved to Pleasant Valley (now Becker) and eventually my dear mother joined us there.