Mrs. Mattison Recalls Long Life in Community

Mrs. Mattison Recalls Long Life In Community by Alice Leffler

Mrs. Frances Mattison has prepared a sketch of the lives of herself and of her parents, the late Mr. and Mrs. Joseph K. Pracher, who were natives of romantic Czechoslovakia, coming to this country about 1870, both of them being in their teens, her father 18 and her mother 16, both leaving their parents in the homeland.  They spent about five weeks crossing the Atlantic ocean, being overtaken by a severe storm, which was when they first met, although they did not live far distant.

Mrs. Mattison’s father was the son of an extensive land owner, while her mother was a
daughter of a prominent business man of Prague, and was going to Chicago where she had relatives.Mrs. Mattison’s father first located in Chicago, Ill., later leaving for the west where he settled near Crete, purchasing a ranch on the Blue river and where he and his bride set up housekeeping.  Upon leaving of the opportunity which Madison county offered, he loaded his family in a covered wagon and in three days arrived at Madison, locating one mile west on 160 acres for which he paid $10 per acre. This was about 1886. In 1909 the land sold for $100 per acre and in 1915, $200, while in 1920 it brought $243. On this farm Mrs. Mattison spent her childhood days.

Mrs. Mattison’s favorite country school teacher was the late Mrs. Minnie Coope Burnham, who, among other things taught her needlework which became her hobby until it was displaced with the love of reading.  Mrs. Mattison’s sister, Mary (Mrs. Michael Ambroz) was an ardent admirer of horses and became a fine horsewoman. She did not hesitate to mount any horse that could be bridled and became the proud possessor of a side saddle and bridle, also a riding habit which included a long skirt and flowing veil.

Although Mrs. Mattison feared horses and, in fact, any farm livestock, she has a good word for the intelligence of a horse, which she had a chance to test during a flood. While driving a single horse to visit a friend 10 miles west of Madison a cloud burst descended before she could reach home, About four miles west, the low ground was flooded to such an extent that for about 40 rods the road, including a small bridge with low railing could not be seen. Mrs. Mattison undertook to guide the horse to where she thought the bridge was located but the horse refused to respond, so she released the lines and the horse, after a moment’s hesitation, changed the course and crossed the bridge. After reaching unflooded ground, Mrs. Mattison was met by Frank Scheer who marveled at the feat of crossing that stretch of undulated ground.

Mrs. Mattison graduated from the Madison High School with the class of 1898 at which time each graduate was called upon to write, memorize and deliver an oration.  She taught her first school in what was known as the Wehenkel school. One of her pupils was
Otto Scheer, the present mayor of Madison and with whose parents, Mr. and Mrs. Valentine Scheer, she boarded.  Teaching programs were different than now as pupils took the subjects they wished, to a more or less extent. Salaries were different, also, as one received $30 per month salary and paid $10 per month for board.  However, the country school days were not as dull as one may think. Literary societies were organized and programs consisted of debates, dialogues, recitations, community singing and spelling

Mrs. Mattison recalls her first auto ride, which was in a Brush, with open sides and high
pressure tires. As there were no smooth roads, passengers were obliged to hand on tight. Worse than the jolting was the noise it made, causing people to open doors for inspection as the car went careening past.  Fourth of July was an outstanding yearly event. Later, the county fair became popular.  Christmas was a quiet, family affair. Mrs. Mattison has in her possession an ABC plate which was her first Christmas gift. It took less to please and satisfy children in early times, she says, than it does now. Most toys were homemade and sweets consisted of stick candy.

Finally Mrs. Mattison realized the ambition of her life, that is, to travel. With her late husband, J. J. Mattison, all of the states in the union were visited, and several trips were made to Canada as well as to Old Mexico, the Atlantic and Pacific oceans and the Gulf of Mexico.  While in Atlantic City, N. J., they decided to walk the Board Walk, which is about 20 feet wide and five miles long, but gave it up as too big a job.
Source: ‘Madison Star-Mail”, February 26, 1942, page 4.