Brady House Tour
A series of articles written by Betty Bruns for the MRVSEA Monthly Newsletter
Since most of our members are too busy during our show to tour the Brady House, it seemed a good idea to do a tour in the Newsletter. It may encourage you to try to tour it this year. We talk about each room as we guide a tour through. We could use more people to help as tour guides. The house is the oldest exhibit on our grounds. -Betty Bruns
History of the Brady House
Before we begin the tour, we will give you a little history of the Brady Farm and how we acquired it.
In the 1990s the Missouri River Valley Steam Engine Association was looking for ground to buy for our organization. We talked with Arnold Brady about buying his land so that the association could have a permanent home. We discussed our vision for grounds which is to let the younger generations experience how it was to live and farm in the late 1800s and early 1900s and to show how the method of agriculture progressed from man, horse, steam, gas and oil tractor.
Arnold offered to leave the property to the association in exchange for a monthly stipend for the remaining years of his life - and the promise not to let it become commercial or residential.
The land is dedicated to Arnold Brady, however, since Arnold lived alone and mainly in one room, the house is dedicated to Arnold's parents, especially his mother Martha Elizabeth Brady.
The house was originally built in 1870. In certain areas you can tell where changes and additions were made. Atlas and Liz, as she was known, bought this farm and house in 1917 when Arnold was only 2 1/2 years old. A sister, Otho Mae was born here a month after they moved in. Arnold and Otho worked alongside of their parents but Liz made sure they received a good education. After Otho received her education, she worked away from home until her marriage. Arnold stayed with his mother and father after he married. His marriage lasted only two years. He remained on the farm.
Atlas' and Liz's bedroom
This is the bedroom of Atlas and Liz. Arnold told us that after his mother died, he closed the door and never went in the room again. The furniture is the original furniture except for the bed. The one that went with the dresser and chiffarobe (a furniture piece with both drawers and clothes hanging capabilities) was missing when we moved in the house. When Atlas' and Liz's health began to fail, they moved to Boonville, and we suppose they took the bed with them. This bed was from a bedroom upstairs. Closets were not typically built in at the time this house was built. You can see how it was added to the room. This is the original stove that heated the bedroom with wood. Notice the bucket near the bed. It was used at night to save a trip out in the dark or cold to go to the outhouse. The bowl and pitcher on the washstand was used to freshen up every morning. There is a bar of homemade soap on the wash stand as the farm-woman made her own soap. The rug was on the floor when we moved in.
The collars on the chiffarobe were loaned to us but Atlas or his dad probably had some like them. The shirts were made without collars and you added a collar to them. All ladies wore hats, very fancy ones, and they kept them in hatboxes for storage and protection. The hatboxes were as pretty as the hats.
The stairway is very interesting because as old as this beautiful stairway is, you can't hear a squeak or noise when ascending it. How many newer homes can make that claim? The woodwork on the stairs is as we found it. Nothing has been done except to clean and wax the stairs. The light fixture is original. Notice the transoms about the front door and the door to the parlor. The transoms allowed air to circulate when the doors were closed. There are two build-in closets in the hall, one under the stairs and another across from it.
This desk was in the house and the picture of President Franklin D. Roosevelt was found upstairs in one of the bedrooms. The Brady's were Democratic. President Harry S Truman was a friend to Atlas and Liz and visited them when he travels through Missouri. The hall-tree, fro hats and coats is obviously homemade but we have no idea by whom.
The parlor, as it was called in the early days, was used sparingly by the family. This room was for guests and Liz's committee meetings as she was very active in church and community. She was a charter member of the Women's Progressive Farm Club in which she served as president, vice president, secretary, treasurer, board member and Junior Farm Captain for two years. She won ribbons in canning and sewing in contests at Prairie Home Fair and Daniel Boone Days. She held quilting bees in this room. Liz taught Sunday school and played the organ and piano. We have many pieces of her sheet music and music books.
This room was empty of furnishings when we acquired the house except for the Secretary, wardrobe and cabinet. The wardrobe was used to store their clothing as closets weren't typically built in at the time this house was built. The clothes were washed, starched, ironed, folded and put on the shelves in the wardrobe. Some of the fancy clothes were hung in this space. The piano, sewing machine and the chair were donated to the house. Many accessories are loaned such as the wood stove. The light fixture is original. The electricity was installed in 1941. This house and farm were one of the only three that survived the depression. Also a tornado came through and destroyed many around here. There was a fire on the farm that destroyed two barns that the Brady's built after they bought the farm. A lot of machinery and feed was lost.
You had to be self-sufficient to survive in the early times. Liz raised chickens, turkeys, geese and ducks. She sold cream and eggs and made butter. She had a garden that provided vegetables and fruits that she canned. She was known to be very frugal but also gave to those who were in need. Atlas raised and butchered hogs and beef. Atlas had shingles in 1952 that affected his eyes. Later he developed high blood pressure and a heart ailment. Atlas and Liz moved to Boonville in 1961 where they lived until their deaths - Atlas in 1963 and Liz in 1967.
There wasn't much in the kitchen that we could save. Arnold lived in this one room with his many dogs. He raised Dingoes.
The only things original are the worktable, pie safe, tables and chairs. The light fixture was donated from a 1920s farmhouse and the phone was also donated to the house. The association purchased the wood stove as that would have been the source of heat for comfort and cooking.
In the 1920s and 30s the laundry was washed, most of it was starched, hung out to dry, taken off the line, dampened, rolled up, put aside in a basket and ironed the next day. These irons are "Sad Irons" and they were heated on the wood stove and clothes were ironed on a wooden board which was padded and covered with a sturdy cloth. Usually more than one iron was used. One would be getting hot while the other was being used. Everything was folded and put on shelves or hung in the wardrobe. The lace curtains were washed, starched and put on curtain stretchers. That way, they didn't have to be ironed.
One day a week was baking day. Here is one of the bread machines of that time. You put all the ingredients into the bucket. The lid was put on and you turned the handle until everything was mixed. It had to rise until double in bulk, and then shaped into a loaf. You would let it rise again and then bake it. Those who didn't have a bread making machine used a bowl or dishpan.
This worktable was used for everything. There was always a bucket of water and dipper on it, which had to be refilled often. The water was carried in from the cistern by the back porch. The water came from the roof when it rained. It came down the gutters and downspouts into the cistern. Later a well was dug and a windmill erected. Having a source of water close to the kitchen was important as, it was needed for drinking, cooking, canning, cleaning, washing dishes and bathing just as it is today. However, it is handy for us to turn on faucet and get water.
These churns are used to make butter from the whole fresh milk. These were also turned by hand. Since there were no refrigerators, the butter, milk and cheese were hung in the well or cistern. Items as eggs, potatoes, apples, etc. were kept in the cellar.
When crews of workers or neighbors were helping with threshing, haying or butchering, they were fed three meals and two lunches every day. Usually the days would begin around 4:00 in the morning and end at dark for the women.
Upstairs Sewing Room
Originally this was a bedroom but we decided to make it into a sewing room because Liz Brady was an expert seamstress. She also quilted, knitted, crocheted, embroidered and did needle work. She taught these arts, along with sewing and cooking to young girls. Liz Brady held offices in the Junior Farmers Association, Women's Progressive Farmers Association and the Missouri Farmers Association. We found patterns in all sizes for boys and girls, women and men. There are many ribbons that she won entering her projects in fairs. The sewing machine and one dress form were donated. The other dress form and the ironing board were found in the house.
As you can see there is no closet in this room, so most likely, the clothes were hung on the hooks on the board on the wall or pressed and folded and put in a dresser or wardrobe.
We found a set of books on each window where a laundry line was probably stretched. It was common to hang the laundry upstairs to dry in winter and when it rained in summer. The chimney attests there was a stove in this room for heat. This may have been Otho Mae's room as the wood trim was painted pink. Arnold probably had the other room. Or this may have been Arnold's wife's bedroom. His marriage was very brief.
Our next restoration project will be an upstairs bedroom and the back porch.
The Back Porch
The back porch was more than an entrance to the kitchen. It was an extension of the house as it had many uses. A bucket of water with a dipper was on the porch to quench the thirst of the farm hands as they came out of the field for lunch and supper. Nearby was a bench with wash basins to wash their hands and faces. Usually a board with nails or hooks was near the door to hang their hats as men never left their hats on in the house and especially at the table. The porch held a table and chairs so the farm woman could sit and string or snap the green beans, empty the peas out of their pods, pare the apples, pears and peaches or stem cherries and berries for pies or preserves. The well or cistern pump was near the back porch to have water handy.
Some back porches had a wood stove to heat a boiler of water for washing clothes. Canning and preserving and some cooking could be done on the stove to keep some of the heat of the kitchen. The young boys of the family had the job to keep the wood box always full, summer and winter.
The porch could be used as the laundry room with wash tubs and a wringer near the stove. When electricity made it possible to have an electric wash-machine it, too, could be used on the porch. This farm had dairy cows, therefore the cream separator and the butter churn could be used on the porch.
After sundown, the back porch was a good place for everyone to sit and enjoy the cool evening air with a glass of cool water or lemonade. Often someone would have a mouth harp, fiddle, or guitar to end the day with a little music.
This house, as many other farm houses had an outside entrance to the upstairs where the field hands slept. When the time came for everyone to retire for the night, the farm woman would go to the kitchen to set bread dough to be baked the next morning.