Note by Phyllis Brown: This is a story handed down in the Ritchey family. The copy I have is written in a beautiful penmanship. Zillah is my husband’s great-great-grandmother. The sheepshower leaves that are mentioned in the story are probably sheep sorrel. Evidently they have a lemony taste – perhaps that is why they were used in a pie!
One of the beautiful quilts still in our family is the “Ocean Wave” quilt pieced by Zillah. Friends and neighbors kept her supplied with small scraps of material;
therefore her patterns were small and very beautiful. Zillah piece quilts as though it was a salaried position. She would get up early and work until late on her quilts.
Dark-eyed Zillah was born in Indiana in 1823; her father was Aaron Ward who was born in New Hampshire. On October 7, 1846, Zillah was married to Thomas W. Jewell. Their nine children were born in Illinois. In 1881 they moved to Corydon, Iowa. A year later they traveled on to Fillmore County, Nebraska. The trip was made in a covered wagon. Horses and cattle were driven by the men. (It was on this trip that grandson James Eben Ritchey learned to swear, having been encouraged by the men to do so.).
Zillah was a very busy mother and grandmother. One beautiful June day, Zillah called her children from play and asked if they would like to have a pie for dinner. When they replied, “Yes,” Zillah tied sunbonnets on Julie and Lucinda; all wore long sleeved dresses and shirts; the boys wore straw hats because no one wanted to be tanned. Soon they were off to the meadow to gather sheepshower leaves to make a pie. In fact, they often made pies of sheepshower leaves.
Zillah and her family also picked ground cherries in the fall to use for jam. The ground cherries grew mainly in the cornfields.
One day the children were playing outside; Zillah was busy inside. Suddenly the stillness in the house was completely broken by the rush of the children into the house. Eagerly, Tom, the oldest, exclaimed, “Ayma ewa evoka a ookyca?” (Pig Latin for “May we have a cookie?” Of course Zillah couldn’t understand their
strange chatter, but the children thought it was great fun.
Her grandchildren, too, liked to gather around to talk and play with her. Her small grandsons liked to play tricks on her. One trick was to hide her pipe, which they might keep for some time before giving it back to her. She could become quite disgusted with them when they teased her, but she was a wonderfully kind and loving grandmother.
Many women smoked pipes at that time and Zillah and daughter Lucinda, too, had become “addicted”. One day their supply of tobacco was completely gone and they waited at home for the men to return from town. The men were
extremely late returning; the women had been without tobacco all day. By evening, Lucinda decided to quit smoking. She said, “If I can go without
tobacco for one day, then I can continue to do without.”
Zillah was a devoted reader of the Bible. In her later years she would arise early on a Sunday, get all dressed up, and then sit by the window reading her Bible.
In her later years, Zillah suffered from cancer of the eye. It is recorded that the cancer was caused by ill-fitting glasses. She died at the home of her daughter, Lucinda Ritchey, in Stanton Township, Fillmore County, Nebraska. She is buried in the Geneva, Nebraska, cemetery by her husband who had died twelve years earlier.
(Oral history as told by Zillah’s grandson, James Eben Ritchey, and recorded by her granddaughter, Mildred Beryl Ritchey, Talkington, Nebraska.)