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Elmer, Missouri - Early History
Paul Bailey, youngest child and son of James and Honor (Milbourn) Bailey, grew to be a handsome man, spending his childhood on the family farm in Walnut Creek township, about four miles west of Elmer. Paul went to school in Elmer, but never graduated from the high school. He was recognized to be an intelligent, well-read man, nonetheless. Nearing the midpoint of his third decade of life he was smitten by a charming beauty and schoolmate from Elmer. Ethel Smith was her name and they made a handsome couple. She ultimately agreed to be his bride and, in 1913, they were wed right there in Elmer.
They remained in this vicinity for a number of years and bore four children. The children were Lodena Fern, Gladys, Paul Fred, and Stella Marge, His occupation during the early years of this marriage is unknown, but their bills were paid and children fed. Cornbread and creamed potatoes was the standard fare during these difficult times. The food was plain but quite tasty by all accounts. The family later moved to Ethel, Missouri, also in Macon County and about eight miles southwest of Elmer, where the children went to school and where Paul opened a cobbler and harness repair shop. Paul was always skilled at tasks utilizing his hands. He was widely known for his work in this field, making masterful harnesses, saddles, shoes, and even chaps. He also played the fiddle, which he did often to entertain the family. Paul Fred also learned to play fiddle and Fern played piano. Evenings at home were filled with homemade music. The family also played cards often, using this as a means of determining who would do the dishes after supper. The family attended church services at the Presbyterian Church there in Ethel.
In March of 1930, Paul decided to buy a farm west of Ethel. Had he known then that the great depression was about to hit in full force, he would probably have had second thoughts about such a change. He sold the shoe/harness business and the family moved to the farm (except his daughter Fern who lived with her Aunt Stella in Ethel in order to finish high school). During the time on the farm, Paul never failed to go to Ethel on Friday to fetch Fern so she could spend the weekends with the family. If weather was wet and roads were impassable, he would walk the six miles into town, get Fern and they would walk back to the farm together. The other children continued their education at the People Schoolhouse, a single room school with about forty students, near the farm.
Times were difficult. The family was totally self-sufficient and proud. Accepting charity during this time would never have been considered. About this self-sufficiency, their daughter Gladys remarked: “Mom canned a lot. We picked wild blackberries and strawberries, and we always had a garden. We picked wild greens too. At that time, I didn’t know they had tame ones. I still know dandelion, lambs quarter and carpenter square when I see it. Pop made elderberry wine one year. It was such a pretty color. We didn’t eat much meat. When we did, it was usually pork, as that was what you could cure so it would keep. Pop put pork down in brine in a big stone jar. Mom put stuffed peppers down in the stone jars too. They were stuffed with cabbage. In the summer time, Pop made root beer in the big stone jar. We kept it in a little basement or cellar under the house. We made ice cream lots of nights in the summer. Mom would put a gallon bucket filled with ice cream mixture inside a three gallon bucket, pack ice and salt around it, and turn it back and forth. It was good.”
The farm business turned out to be an untimely venture and the family left the farm after about a year. The family moved back to Elmer where the children were entered in the school and he opened another harness and shoe repair shop. This time, at the height of the depression, his shop failed. He accepted the job of town marshal during this time. His wife Ethel took a job as a telephone operator at the Elmer exchange. She also hung wallpaper and provided sewing services to earn extra money. She was an excellent seamstress. Members of her family would simply send her a picture out of a catalog of a dress and she would make it and send it to them. It was always beautifully done and would miraculously fit perfectly.
Paul later followed his daughter Fern to South Bend, Indiana, where he took a job working in a cleaning establishment. He proved to have exceptional abilities in greeting people. He later went to work with the city park department, a line of work he truly enjoyed. He died in South Bend on July 4, 1969, and is buried there. Ethel died six years later on June 10, 1975. She, too, is buried in South Bend.