Charlie was only 12 when his life changed dramatically. He recalled years later the somber train ride from the city he had called home, leaving the bustling business his family owned in Pittsburgh for a farm in the middle of no where in Ohio with an uncle who was a taskmaster.
Before boarding the train to leave Pittsburgh, Charlie walked several miles to visit the graves of his sister and his father. He made a promise to become the man who would hold this cherished family together. He worked and learned as much as he could about farming when he arrived in Ohio without his mother, Laura.
On a dreary May day, 1897, Charlie recalled vividly his mother and brothers arriving in Ohio. The caskets of little Addie Caroline and their father had been lifted from their Pennsylvania graves, carried on the same train. It was a somber second funeral in McKay, Ohio, that laid the bodies to rest.
Charlie would stand in that cemetery with my father, his grandson, many years later and say that he knew then it was up to him to keep the family from further despair.
In July of that year, Charlie turned 13. He would later say this is the same year that he “quit-u-ated” school, becoming the father figure for his four younger brothers. That fall, his brothers attended McKay School, with Frank now 6 and starting first grade. Harry was 11, and expected to pitch in to help Charlie with the work horses and the labor of farming when school let out for the day.
Another train ride to Pittsburgh was in store in 1899, for the family to attend Laura’s mother’s funeral. Charlie’s brother Harry remained in Pittsburgh for the winter and spring, living with his wealthy uncle and aunt in their home on Woods Run and attending the local school. This left all the hard work to Charlie and his mother.
Though Harry would return to the farm in June of 1900 to help with the summer work, life was about to take an enormous turn for this second son.
Charlie began working on the bigger farms nearby, giving all of his pay to help his mother. The summer of 1900, Charlie was 16 and living away as a full-time farm hand. It was this summer when a jeweler,
John Stump, came to visit from Pittsburgh. He had been raised by Laura’s parents and knew the life of a farmer was a hard one, and he likely knew Laura was struggling.
He proposed that Harry, the oldest son on the farm that day, return to the city with him to learn the jewelry craft and business. Since there was so much work to be accomplished on the farm, the decision was put off for a couple of years. Laura would eventually and reluctantly give her consent, and in 1902, 16-year-old Harry left home forever, becoming an apprentice jeweler while living with the Stump family in their Pittsburgh home.
Charlie continued to work every job he could land, providing for his mother and brothers. He was 18 at this time and worked for his cousin, Uncle Gust’s son Frank, on the original Myers homestead. Charlie’s younger brothers, Frank, 11; Floyd, 9; and Herb, 6 were old enough to help their mother on the farm.
Charlie’s ornery side began to bloom. The social life in this farming community was decidedly limited, but Charlie created his own fun. He told of going with some buddies to the Brimstone Corners Church, sitting in the back eating chestnuts during the service, just to scout out eligible young ladies.
Church was the only social event in that day, and Charlie made sure he attended each one in horse-and-buggy riding distance. He often told of the Holy Roller Church where his buddy Truman Cross “got carried away with the rollin’.”
Charlie’s blue eyes would twinkle with glee as he told of Truman falling to his knees, arms to the heavens, shouting, “Oh Lord, come down through the roof and I’ll pay for the shingles!”
Charlie was at that time living with the Leidigh family, working the farm with their son Ralph. Charlie enjoyed this time, speaking highly of the family. Charlie and Ralph had to share a bed, which may have caused complaint in others, but Charlie would tell of coming in late on winter nights and making Ralph move over and he would take the warm spot, chuckling over his resourcefulness.
Back on the home place, Laura had been suffering various physical complaints. In the fall of 1905, it was determined that she must have surgery to spare her life.