Glass Valley Cemetery Walk Script
NOTE: Historical research for this script was completed by town residents, Elizabeth Terlinden and Maureen Ash in conjunction with the Town of River Falls Cemetery Committee. The script was written by Maureen Ash and performed by Town & Country 4-H members and their parents at the Glass Valley Cemetery walk which took place on Sunday, September 7, 2014.
Hello! Welcome to Greenwood! Oh, that's right, they changed the name to River Falls. There was another town in Wisconsin called Greenwood and they had dibs on the name. That's fine. Greenwood, River Falls, I don't care. We didn't come here for the name of the place anyway.
See, we came here in 1857 from Hanover, back in New York state. We moved there from Vermont, which I can tell you was a pretty tough place to farm. Lots of trees—the earliest industry in our town, Shaftsbury, was burning trees to make salts out of the ash. Yes, salts! And they sold those to soap manufacturers. That has to give you an idea of how forested that place was. Now it's part of a national forest, in fact. Well, anyway, as I was saying, it was tough going to make a living there. So once I married my Sally, we moved west to Hanover and made a life there.
You know, Hanover is near Lake Erie. And back in the first half of the 1800s, the biggest project going on in that part of the country, maybe the whole country, was the Erie Canal! It was a huge project to make it possible to bring supplies into the interior of the country, and raw materials out of the country. Grain, for example. They were growing it in Ohio and Wisconsin but it took forever to haul it to the east, where the market was. So they built the Erie Canal. It took eight years to do it.
And people just wanted to travel. By then, Sally and I had grown children and they were curious and ambitious and interested and they wanted to see what was going on in this big country of ours. Our Jimmy, James as you will probably know him from this stone here, was first to leave Hanover.
James Glass: I just had to see what was going on in the rest of the country! All the papers werefull of how beautiful and rich the land was out west. It seemed as if I'd be a chump if I didn't get out and make my fortune away from New York. I can't remember exactly how I got here but by the time I was ready to leave, they'd built the Ohio and Erie Canal, which made it possible for a fellow to travel from Lake Erie to the Ohio River to the Mississippi River. There was a lot of traffic on the Mississippi River, of course, and it's a pretty good bet that I got to Prescott that way.
Well, then I had a look around and it was nice here. Some forest, some open land, and the town was already up and running. It was 1855. I bought land on a land patent granted by President Franklin Pierce! And then I settled in Pierce County. I liked it so much here that I wrote home and told the folks to come on out.
Sarah Glass Rollins: I always looked up to Jimmy, and he and my husband David were friends, so we followed the next year. It was a long trip on the river boats. We were so glad to get here and see Jimmy's friendly face! For a while I barely noticed how there were hardly any roads—just paths back and forth, really, and everything was so rough. It was only ten years since Joel Foster founded the town –things were just getting started.
Sally Glass: I'd been sick, it seemed like, forever. They called it hereditary consumption—whatever it was, I always had a hard time breathing. Cyrus and I thought that maybe the western country would be good for me. We prayed about it a good deal. Then in 1857 we set off for River Falls, Wisconsin! We took our son Truman Tuttle Glass with us, though he would have gone anyway. He was always wanting to see what was over the next hill!
Truman Glass: Well, I do agree with that. I was curious. I had been to Kentucky to teach school for a year, and then I went to California! Then I came back to New York. When the folks decided to move here, I thought, well, why not? I came here and pretty soon I bought some land, just right over here, up on top of that hill. I started farming.
Cyrus Glass: We bought this farm over here from Doc Davis. You can see why—the land is flat and rich, and it isn't far from town. Many of our neighbors were Irish—this part of the town got to be called Donegal, in fact. They'd come from Ireland to New England and then here. They liked the roughest land they could find because it reminded them of Ireland. Well, we were glad of that because they left this fine, wide valley open for us to settle.
Sarah Glass Rollins: The men worked to get crops in the fields. We were lucky—our farms weren't completely covered in forest so we didn't have to cut down the trees and pull out the stumps before we could plow. Some of our land was clear. In springtime, David hitched the team early in the morning and went out to plow. Wheat was the main crop. Pierce County was getting to be a big wheat producer in the country, and in 1854 Mr. Cox had built the Prairie Flour Mill in town. What with the Mississippi and the Ohio and Erie Canal, and then the Erie Canal, our wheat could be shipped to New York City and the whole eastern seaboard! We earned a dollar a bushel on it!
Truman Tuttle Glass: That's right. I had tried mining in California, but the real gold was in this good soil. My wife and I worked hard, and my brother Jimmy, my brother-in-law David, and my dad and I shared work and equipment. Before long we had five farms right here in this valley.
David Rollins: Sarah and I came out here in 1856, after Jimmy and before Cyrus and Sally—they're Sarah's parents. We were so happy when they got here. The town was growing—it seemed like there was a new building every time we went to trade there. New people were arriving every week. We were active in the Methodist Episcopal church. Not that there was a building—we met in each others' homes. For several years we met at my parents' house for services and classes.
Cyrus Glass: Church was always important to my wife—we were founders of the River Falls Baptist church. Sick as Sally was a lot of the time, she was never afraid of dying. She was ready to meet the Lord.
Sally Glass: Yes, that is true. Back in Vermont I accepted Jesus as my savior when I was twelve years old. My faith was such a comfort to me, and Cyrus always tells people that I saved his soul. But I couldn't spend all my time in church, what with all the work there was to do in this new country!
Truman Tuttle Glass: I met a wonderful woman in River Falls-- Miss Sarah Lee Strahl! She was related to Mary Todd Lincoln—Abraham Lincoln was just a lawyer in Springfield, Illinois, at the time, of course. Well anyway, I married Miss Sarah Lee and we settled down to farm. At one time I owned
three hundred acres of land right around here. Sarah and I had four sons, and they all got their education at the local school and went on to the Normal School in River Falls. Our family believed in getting an education.
Cyrus Glass: I was proud of how our family came together and worked. I see how things have changed since we arrived. We were the start of that. We had some land that was clear, as Sarah and the boys have told you, but we did have to take a lot of trees out so we could plant our crops. The mud was terrible in spring—we couldn't get to town because it was so muddy on the paths. Winter was better for traveling with the sleds, of course, but oh, it was cold! Summer—well, we worked from before the sun was up until after it set. We hoed the crops by hand at first, until horse-drawn cultivators started to come up the river on the steam boats and we could scrape up the money to buy them.
David Rollins: My brother Sam and his wife Abbie came out and bought a farm next to ours. And my parents moved out here, too. The population of St. Croix and Pierce counties went from a few hundred to more than 15,000 in the ten years between 1850 and 1860!
Sam and I helped each other out. I was always going over there to help him butcher hogs or build a shed, or he was over at my place to help me put up hay or do some such thing. We'd go get Mother and bring her over for dinner. She loved to see the grandchildren.
Sam Rollins: Right around the time our family started arriving here, the folks who were here already were planning for a school for the children in the community. Our democracy depends on a well-educated population and they knew that. Every hand was needed in the work of building their own farms, but people wanted their kids to go to school. So Old Doc Bourn, who was sort of a veterinarian in these parts, donated part of his farm, just over there, for a school site.
Sarah Rollins: Everybody worked to get the school built and up and running. We just used rough boards for the desks and seats. The kids had to crowd together—sometimes there were between sixty and seventy students crammed into that building! There was no well on the property so Cyrus and the boys hauled water over for the kids to drink and wash their hands and keep the place clean. There were outhouses for toilets, of course. That's all any of us had.
“Miss Glass”--Clarissa?--the teacher: I was about sixteen when the school building was completed, and I'd gone to school back in Hanover, of course, so I guess it made sense to have me be the first teacher at Glass Valley school. I got there early every morning to light the stove to warm the place as best I could. There were no chalk boards, no chalk, not much paper, and very few books. But the parents of my students wanted their children to learn to read, do arithmetic, and know the history of America, so that's what we worked on. Where there's a will there's a way, and that could have been the motto of our school back then!
The Episcopalians used our schoolhouse every other Sunday from 1865 until 1870. And it was used for a lot of funeral services when the burial was going to take place across the road, right here in this cemetery.
John H. Webster: I donated the land for this cemetery. It's the only thing folks remember about me. I don't mind. My neighbors needed a place to bury their loved ones when the time came and this was as good a spot as any, especially with the schoolhouse across the road where you could use it for the funeral. I hated to see how much it got used, sometimes. Oh, there was a lot of grief for some of the folks around here. But I took heart from how peaceful it was for them later, when they'd come out to visit the graves and leave flowers.
Sarah Rollins: It was a new country, very rough. And there was just about nothing you could do for your children if they got hurt or sick. I thought I was broken when we lost our little Mary Alice in 1864. She wasn't even two months old. I thought I'd never get over that, but of course I wasn't the only one to lose a child. It happened to most of the couples we knew. I was just starting to think I could come back to life because we had twin daughters, just six months old, just starting to think about crawling. They were so jolly. And then they got sick. As I said, there was just about nothing a person could do. Abbey died on November 9, 1867. And Annie died six days later. And I almost died, too, I can tell you. I wanted to!
David Rollins: I thought I would never get over it, either. Sam and Abbie lost a child, too, so they were in sympathy with us. Well, as Sarah said, we weren't the only ones to lose a child. Just look around! Life was hard. All we could do was work, pray, and take pleasure in the good things.
Truman Tuttle Glass: My wife and I were so lucky. Our four boys grew up healthy and well. My son Cyrus was appointed postmaster of River Falls by President McKinley in 1899. He served as an alderman, too, and as city treasurer. His wife was a teacher at the school. And my son Charles was sheriff of this county for two years! Sarah and I were proud that our boys saw their duty to serve the community.
Sally Glass: We were out here in Wisconsin during the Civil War. You might think we didn't pay much attention to it, but you would be wrong. Cyrus will tell you why.
Cyrus Glass: Well, this is not well known, and you should keep it under your hat, this bit I'm going to tell you. But though I was considered to be an honest man, I didn't always tell the truth.
Truman Tuttle Glass: Dad! This is our family secret!
Cyrus Glass: Yes, but I think it's time to let it out. You see, my uncle Philetus Glass was an agent on a railroad. The UNDERGROUND railroad. And I did what I could to support him.
Back East, after the Fugitive Slave Act was passed in 1850, if a person was caught helping an escaped slave, that person was considered to be a criminal. So we had to be very quiet about it. Uncle Philetus lived near Lake Erie. If he could help those scared, brave people to get to Canada, they'd be free. And he and his friend Truman Tuttle did what they could.
Truman Tuttle Glass: You notice, I'm named Truman Tuttle Glass, after my great-uncle Philetus's friend Truman Tuttle. Dad admired Truman and hoped I'd grow up to be like him. When I turned eighteen, I went to Kentucky to teach school. And I'm not saying I did or I didn't do what I could to help direct people toward the Underground Railroad, but I CAN tell you I got an eyeful of what slavery is like and I wanted no part of it.
Sally Glass: This part of what we're telling you now isn't exactly written down. You can only figure it out by looking at the names and dates, and then trying to put the puzzle together. It's kind of an educated guess. Did our families leave New York because our activities in the anti-slavery movement were becoming known, and under the Fugitive Slave Act some of us might have gone to prison? That is a family secret only we here under the ground know for sure!
Cyrus Glass: This cemetery is named for our family because we owned so much land around here, it was called the Glass Valley. Well, some of us stayed in the area and are buried here, so we're here forever. Others moved on to other parts of the country.
Truman Tuttle Glass: I stayed till I died. I was buried in River Falls, in Greenwood Cemetery. And the grass grew over my wife and me, and my parents and our old neighbors. People just forgot about us. The grass out here in this old cemetery grew to weeds and some stones tilted and even broke. It wasn't till about fifty years ago, some outfit called the Town and Country 4-H came along, a bunch of good kids and their parents, and they cleaned the place up. Every year a new crew comes around—we've even seen how some of those kids grew up and now they bring out their own kids—even grandkids!-- to mow and straighten things up around here! We all like to see that, I'll tell you. Makes us feel as if some of the good we tried to do in the world has lasted through the years.
Cyrus Glass: We want you to know, you people of the future, that we were alive and cared about our country and our families. We wanted to make things better. Just about everything we did was aimed at making this a better place to live. Now you live here and you probably have the same hopes and dreams. We're really not so far apart after all!
All actors in unison: Thank you!