Eight Van matre Cousins
Eight of John Johnson Van Matre‘s granddaughters, all about the same age, decided back in 1928, to get together once a year. They continued the practice for twenty-five or more years.
The poems and write-ups that follow are proof that they had a most enjoyable time whenever they were together. These poems and write ups were published in A Story of A Van Matre Family by Joseph M. Van Matre.1
The Eight Van Matre Cousins:
- Clara (Baker) Le Baron (1855-1947), of Blanchardville, daughter of John Goodridge and Mary Jane (Van Matre) Baker.
- Mary Ellen “Ella” (Van Matre Calvert (1858-1940) of Whitewater, daughter of Joseph M. and Jane (Martin) Van Matre.
- Frances “Fan” Marion (Van Matre) Baker (1859-1957), of Blanchardville,daughter of Joseph M. and Jane (Martin) Van Matre.
- Minnie H. (Van Matre) Collicutt (1862-1958), of Mineral Point, daughter of Thomas Jefferson and Elizabeth “Betsy” Hallock (Cox) Van Matre.
- Clara Marilda (Van Matre) Allen (1870-1960), of Janesville, daughter of Nathan Kelly and Marilda A. (Wiley) Van Matre.
- Mary (Van Matre) Carter (1873-1959), of Jonesdale, daughter of Thomas Jefferson and Elizabeth “Betsy” Hallock (Cox) Van Matre.
- Myra Jannette (Baker) Paulson (1874-1952), of Evansville, daughter of John Goodridge and Mary Jane (Van Matre) Baker.
- Mary Anette “Mame” Thomas (1874-1958), of Dousman, daughter of John Goodrdge and Mary Jane (Van Matre) Baker.
The Van Matre Cousins
Clara Allen full of pep
Has to live up to her rep
She plays and sings and cooks and sews
And her grandson sings for Major Bowles
Aunt Jane’s Mame who has position
A well filled purse, fair disposition
But she loses things, what a pity
Mary, Jonesdale’s chief advisor
Excellent cook and an early riser
Her well spent life deserves attention
The guiding star of the cousin’s convention
Minnie, sweet and true
As good as good a friend clear through
If Min does not go to Heaven
Then good Lord pity the other seven
Clara, poised, aristocratic
Perfect lady democratic
Inspires praise, deserves attention
Her fine deportment always mention
Ella Calvert, Eastern Star
Kind, tolerant has traveled far
She is always ready for a spin
But that’s an asset not a sin
Myra’s sweet, unsophisticated
One yard wide and all gold plated
She lives a sweet and quiet life
A perfect Mother model wife
I needs must say a word for Fan
Second daughter of Old Jo Van
She’s lived an exemplary life
But lost one tit by the surgeon’s knife
The Van Matre Clan
Twas a few days after Easter in the year 1928.
That Mary Baker Thomas surveyed her large estate.
As she surveyed, a tho’t was born, and so this tale I’ll tell
Of the coming of the cousins from the plain, the hill, and dell.
Old John J. Van begot four kids long before ’49.
And they in turn begot eight girls, the finest of the fine.
These girls were pals from babies up, and grew up together.
Not time, not change, not age, nor creed could this long acquaintance sever.
Each married and had the joys and tears, as average humans do.
Four buried husbands, some their girls and some their sons, ’tis true.
But each has had some sunshine to keep their faces young –
And they’ll all have more, these cousins eight before the end is sung.
Now Mary Annette, the fat coquette, the most prosperous of the clan.
Invited the eight to visit her place and she wrote “Come if you can.”
Five cousins came, the missing ones were Clara, and Mary and Min.
They never missed another one, to do so would be a sin.
Fan and Ella came by rail. Myra came by car.
Cal motored out by bus, it wasn’t very far.
The girls embraced and viewed each face, reminisced in true cousin style.
Mame fed them well and told her tales, and they rode for many a mile.
They all agreed they’d meet each year, as long as they were able.
So the chronicling of this yearly event is the object of this fable
The cousins met in Blanchardville in 1929.
The twins (Mary and Myra) arrived at 5:00 a.m., they handed the same old line.
The prairie Folks all came this time, brought lots of good things to eat.
Fan had good chicken gravy, as a cook she’s hard to beat.
The eight in true Van Matre style threw chicken, cake and pie.
They hollered, yelled, told anecdotes, and laughed ’til some had to cry.
They seemed to have a dandy time, but they left that very nite.
Just why they did I never knew, but it didn’t seem quite right.
In 1930 we all went to Cal’s at Aunt Jane Baker’s place.
Mame tried to beautify the bunch, curled hair, massaged each face.
(But just to appease the rest of them, I’d like to say right now.
That Mame had as many wrinkles as the others on her brow.)
Cal prepared the fatted calf – I guess it was two or three chickens.
Anyhow the stove went wrong and did Cal ever give it the dickens.
The second day all went to ride. No. Clara and Fan did not go.
And what they did to that kerosene stove, no one will ever know.
After dinner they talked some more then noted to adjourn.
And Mary Carter announced the fact that next it would be her turn.
So, in 1931 the girls all met at Mary Carter’s place.
Some came decked out in gowns of silk and others came in lace.
Fan and Ella came by car from Fannie’s Wednesday morn.
Ella was hot but had a smile; Fan suffered with a corn.
Mame and Myra, their sister Cal drove up all dust and sweat.
As far as weather was concerned, it was the hottest party yet.
Clara Allen was chauffeured out in style by the Texas son-in-law.
As soon as she drove in, you bet, peppiest one you saw.
Altho’ the bunch met at Mary’s place, don’t forget this party was joint –
That Minnie was one of the hostesses, Minnie from Mineral Point
The group was hot but roamed the hills, viewed all the Jonesdale sights.
But the fun began that night, my dears, when the twins took off their tights.
Such antics the girls went through that nite. I can hear them laughing yet.
Fan and Ella doubled up: Mame and Myra slept on the floor.
The lady-like Cal and the wild wooly Clara slept in bed next door.
Minnie and Mary slept downstairs, also Mary Carter’s man.
Just how they doubled up down there, just find out if you can.
Next day Blanche (Mary Carter’s daughter) came and made them pose and how they quirted and smiled.
Mame advised how to fix the hair and the rest of them got riled.
The pictures were good, yes, very good of every single member.
The party adjourned with plans to meet with Ella next September
In 1882, my dears, just fifty years ago.
We all attended when Ella married ber best beau.
The fact that we’re all alive and well and able to be about.
Is something most unusual, yes, let’s continue as long as we can.
These parties are a big event; let’s continue as long as we can.
To meet each year, keep memory green of the old VAN MATRE CLAN.
‘Twas a nice pleasant evening in summer
The moon was intending to shine.
The bugs, grasshoppers and crickets had settled themselves down to dine
And we schoolmarms were invited to take tea at Aunt Jane’s.
There were Ella, and Francie, Mina and Tessie and then Clara came.
We laughed and chatted and giggled and giggled and chatted and laughed.
Uncle Joe insisted on our going to shock
But we told him we were afraid of being chaffed!
We were not so timid at the tea table so bountifully spread
That we were delicate schoolmarms could never again be said.
As soon as the tea had been ended; we started the fun to decide
And not knowing on what to settle
Francie proposed us a ride.
The horses were down in the pasture;
The saddles were up in the barn
So Frankie was coaxed to get them with a kiss and many a yarn.
Now Mina so bold and so fearless
Soon mounted on White Oak’s back.
While I came along on Pancake and Ella behind of Old jack.
And just as we got to the corner and the best we were trying to ride
For Joe May was there helping Uncle
Will Cork was along by his side.
We brought all the horses together
And started off on a bound
We looked back and saw White Oak coming
but Mina was flat on the ground.
Joe May sprang over the fence and soon had her safe in his arms.
While Will was trembling and white for fear she had come to any harm.
And Mina between laughing and crying said
“Oh, Clara don’t tell Uncle Joe for the saddle I’m afraid I have broken and White Oak has smashed my big toe.”
But you all know I’m good natured
So back to the house then I went to get her another sirsingle
Not giving her time to relent.
And now alas, my misfortune,
For my conceit had so rapidly grown; I did not exercise my consciousness bump
And soon I was sitting alone.
My dress, oh you should have seen it;
I’m sure it will never come clean!
We have used all the soap Aunt Marilda had
All the water the new windmill has seen.
But I was not discouraged so back to the crowd then I came
And we al laughing together rode off again up the lane.
Uncle Tom gave us a kind welcome
Aunt Betsy soon echoed the same.
We stayed a very few moments then back to Uncle Joe’s we came
And Now I’ll tell you the reason I’ve told the tale to you.
It has a very fine moral I’m sure you’d like to know –
‘Tis this while young and good looking: don’t get puffed up to the skies
By such horseback riding as to attract all the harvester’s eyes.
But be humble like Ella in riding high or low just the same
And do not forget like the game Seven Up the one who had Jack got the game
Or soon like I who am telling you this very sad, sad tale of woe
Four White Oak may turn to a crabapple bush and your Pancake is nothing but dough!
The meeting of 1935 was held at the Thomas estate at Dousman. The hostesses, Cal and Mame, pronounced it the most satisfactory we have ever held except the first one. The meals were par excellent, and the entertainment proved that neither time, intellect, or expense had been spared to make the meeting most successful. Cal attired in her silk and Mame in her beautiful gown of white printed silk with accessories of black ebony, patent leather shoes, outshone her guests by leaps and bounds.
The hostesses with their extraordinary intellect, memory, charm, and grace at the end of the day supplied a man for a ride in the moonlight with the widows and surpassed anything they had hoped for in entertainment.
The minutes of the previous meeting were read and after many corrections were approved, the Treasurer made a very incomplete explanation of the expenditure of the money in trust and there was much discussion as to electing someone more efficient – but owing to her protestation we decided to let her remain in office one more year to vindicate herself. The meeting same suddenly to a close when Mary remembered she had a box of peaches to can and as those were the only peaches in the market and the only time to do it she broke up the party. Clara went with Mary as she felt Mary should not take as extended a trip as to Janesville alone. Ella being afraid she would miss the delicious sandwiches prepared for Mary went too. Francie and Myra stuck around until the hostel had to inform them the party was over.
"The 25th Year"
Listen, dear cousins, and you shall hear.
Of the cousins party in the 25th year.
It all started out in twenty-eight.
When Mame thought the cousins should celebrate.
So Ella Calvert and Cal and Fran
And Minnie and Mary, all part of the clan.
With Clara Allen and Myra and Mame
Met to talk of old times, every year do the same.
Twas Mame Baker Thomas who started us out.
She knows how to run things, both inside and out.
So the cousins all gathered dressed up fit to kill
And they talked and they laughed.
Mame footed the bill.
The first get-to-gether was such a success
They voted to meet every year and no less. They appointed a treasurer to look after the dough
Though most of the times, their funds were quite low.
Since the year ’28 these cousins have met.
Each one took her turn on the day that was set.
They’ve lived over the days of their youth on the prairie,
They’ve lived over the days of their youth on the prairie,
They’ve discussed their old loves and the ones they did marry.
They’ve saddled Old White Oak again in their dreams.
They’ve confessed secret sins; they were devils it seems!
They’ve chased their offspring off; their meetings are closed.
Just what transpired, nobody knows.
So who can write poems about meetings like these?
No report can we get through we beg and we tease.
This 25th year of their meetings so fine
Brings thoughts to write down in a few jarbled rhymes.
To Mame – who started these happy occasions.
We all join to give you a hearty ovation.
To Clara, the hostess, much praise for her time.
Our love for this cousin we can’t put in rhyme.
Dear Mary whose birthday falls close to this date.
She knows how high in our affections she rates.
And Minnie, so proper and pretty and sweet.
As good Christian example she can’t be beat.
And Fan, dear old Fan, though she’s now old in years,
She gets twenty years younger as party time nears.
To Ella and Cal and Myra who are gone.
We’ll see them again some bright happy dawn,
When we’ll all be together and laugh through our tears,
Then time will be endless, no more lonely years.
For in spite of our sorrows and partings so sad.
We thank thee, dear Lord, for the good lives we’ve had,
Let’s try to repeat her
Nothing’s impossible to Cousins Van Matre!