The Shawnee News- Herald posed the question to the public on July 13, 1919: “What do you think you will be doing at age 83?” In propounding the question to various ones, an overwhelming majority, not only expressed the thought, but the hope that they would have still be breathing by that age. It was referenced to an 83-year-old resident of the city, named only as “Grandma Hudson.” She resided about two miles west of town, southwest of the OBU.

The Shawnee News- Herald posed the question to the public on July 13, 1919: “What do you think you will be doing at age 83?” In propounding the question to various ones, an overwhelming majority, not only expressed the thought, but the hope that they would have still be breathing by that age. It was referenced to an 83-year-old resident of the city, named only as “Grandma Hudson.” She resided about two miles west of town, southwest of the OBU.

“Grandma” was a familiar figure on the streets of Shawnee. She was always dressed in black, even her close-fitting sun bonnet. She weighed less than 100 pounds, but she was as active and spry as the proverbial cricket. She lived all alone, her only companions being her chickens, and a cat named.

Those who had garden spots in their back yards occupied normally the space of a single lot. They were aware of how much work went into caring for such a garden. With Grandma, her garden occupied four lots, with every square inch planted with something. She had several fruit trees and one space, perhaps 50 by 20, planted with various grains to feed her hogs. She also had every imaginable vegetable in season.

The remarkable part of Grandma’s garden was that with the single exception of having the ground plowed in the spring, she did every bit of the work herself. It seemed almost impossible, for Grandma was so tiny and frail looking, despite her sprightliness, but she did every bit of planting, hoeing, and cultivating. The lots were free from weeds, and many of the plants had to be covered during the day from the heat of the sun and uncovered for the evening.

The News-Herald reporter said that when he visited her, she had planted sweet potatoes. They were very well along in their growth. She was watering them and had been working for over an hour watering various other plants about the garden. There was no hydrant or hose making the task easy, she drew all the water from a well and used a bucket and dipper.

When Grandma first bought her place, it did not have a stick on it. She had one room built and a well dug. The numerous fences, chicken coops, pig pens, and other buildings about the place, she built herself. About three years earlier, she had an addition built to her house, so that she had three rooms and was much more comfortable.

Until about a year earlier, Grandma sold goods of various kinds, including flavoring extracts which brought her the bulk of her income. Every spring she bought a few pigs and fattened them for market. With pork being so high in 1919, she found that investment to be even more profitable for her.

Living two miles from town, for months, every day she went to town with a little wagon, the kind children use for play, and hauled home scraps of feed that her friends saved for her hogs.

Grandma had a fine face and splendid eyes, and a voice that was low and sweet. Described as perfect signs of gentle breeding. Grandma had five sons, two of whom were in the infantry.

When she was paying for her place, she lived for months at a time on 50 cents a week. Of course. this was before war prices prevailed. Asked what she bought with the 50 cents, Grandma said she bought 10 cents worth of bread, 10 cents worth of salt park, 10 cents worth of coffee, and the remaining 20 cents went for “luxuries.” Asked what the luxuries were, she said that sometimes she would get so hungry for something different from her set diet, that she would buy a whole dime’s worth of bananas and sit down and eat all of them.

During the recent Mordecai Ham-William Ramsey revival, Grandma not only came to town during the day and got her scraps for the pigs, but made the four miles again in the evening, sitting night after night on the front seat at the hall and going home by herself after the meetings were over. She often made the trip when it was raining hard and with the mud up to her shoe tops.

By July of 1919, Grandma was not doing so well. The last hog was sold several weeks earlier, and as it was not necessary to go to town for scraps, she was confined to the caring of her garden and had not walked to town for some time. Among her friends were many who cared for her and drove out for their vegetables and sometimes took her to town, or for a ride.

Grandma gave away as many vegetables as she sold. She said it was the only thing she could do for the friends who in various ways do so much for her. She was also fond of reading, and for years she was a familiar figure at the News-Herald office when she was in town to get her paper. Now that she was not coming to town, she had several friends who would make a point of taking her the daily paper and other reading material every day.

GRANDMA HUDSON LOSES HER FIGHT WITH PENUMONIA

Mary Hudson, better known to Shawnee citizens as “Grandma Hudson,” died on the night of November 17, 1920, at the home of her daughter, Libbie Oldham, on south Park Street. Grandma was 85 years old and one of Shawnee’s most picturesque and interesting characters.

For the past year, Grandma had been failing in health and the trips to town became more and more infrequent during the past few months. A few days earlier, Grandma contracted pneumonia and was brought to the home of her daughter.

Mary Hudson was born in Dayton, Ohio, August 22, 1863. She was educated in the Columbus, Ohio schools, and taught for some time in Springfield, MO. She married in May of 1880, to Elijah Hudson at Springfield. They had five sons, two of whom died in infancy, and the other three, although they grew to manhood, had been dead for some time. Mr. Hudson died in 1903 at Jones, OK, where the family lived before coming to Shawnee.

Many people from all walks of life attended her funeral. Rev. Chris Matheson officiated the service.

(These stories and hundreds more appear in the first volume of Shawnee history, entitled: “REDBUD CITY: SHAWNEE, THE EARLY YEARS, 1830-1929.” It can be purchased by calling Clyde Wooldridge at (918) 470-3728, or by visiting the Pottawatomie County Historical Society at the old Santa Fe Depot. It can be purchased for $35. Volume two, “1930-1949,” is also available for $30. They may be obtained as a package for $60. Volume three, “REDBUD CITY: SHAWNEE, THE MIDDLE YEARS, 1950-1969,” is coming during the late summer or early fall. All three volumes are slightly over 400 pages with hundreds of photos and illustrations. They are fully-indexed, making it easy to look up individuals or places of business. Volumes four and five are scheduled in the next two to three years, bring the history up to the current time of publication.)

Clyde Wooldridge is a local historian.