A History of the Burns Family
Home About Contents Biographies Photo Galleries Memoirs

PART FOUR: Cuyahoga Falls, 1918-1925  

Chapter One: The Great War

Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio
August, 1917

1 -WWI
2 - Love Letter
3 - Fever
4 - Hollyhock House
5 - Robert M
6 - Madeover Man
7 - The Accident
8 - Dolce Domum

More Information
On this sultry August Saturday morning, it’s hard to imagine that over in Europe soldiers are dying by the thousands. Cuyahoga Falls hasn’t sent many of its young men off to war, and few have even been registered yet. But the town is showing its patriotic fervor in other ways. 

Through the window in the parlor, where Ada has set her basket of mending, she can see Guy and his father tending the family’s thriving victory garden [1] alongside the house. Don is helping too, wielding a hoe among the lush green carpet of potato plants. Even Davy is pulling up weeds in the cabbage patch with his chubby little hands, watched over by his grandmother. Her mother-in-law looks her usualy severe self, but as is often the case when she's tending Davy, a smile threatens to break through, Along the garden edge three small trees are laden with the apples that the women will soon be making into applebutter and pies. [2] Although there is no talk of government rationing yet, it seems a little enough sacrifice to raise a few fruits and vegetables on their own plot.

In the front hall, twelve-year-old Evelyn inspects the well-worn leather grip she's been packing for her trip to Cleveland. While Ada takes the boys to visit the Mason relatives in Freedom and Windham, her daughter will be spending a few days with the Ingrahams.[3] Ada’s gaze lingers on the bowed head, dark braids dangling, as Evelyn weighs the pros and cons of each addition. She’s grown so this year– almost as tall as Ada herself. 

Guy’s diagram of their summer 1917 garden

Her scholarship is exemplary, and she’s progressing admirably with her music studies under the tutelage of Veronica Brown. Ada is tremendously proud of her. But Evelyn also has steadfast friends in Dollie, June, Dolly, and the other members of the Loyal Friends group [4], and emembering her own cramped life with Zoe in Buffalo, Ada thinks these friendships may be the most important thing of all. The girls have planned to spend the afternoon at the high school. There they’ll don their white aprons and caps with red crosses on them, and join the other womenfolk of Cuyahoga Falls preparing bandages for the wounded soldiers fighting abroad. Ada goes often, but not this day.

Ebba and June Haynes

Loyal Friends social group (Ebba in the middle in front of tree, June Haynes to the left)

Dolly Hayes (left arrow), Ebba (right arrow) flanked by June Haynes and Dollie Crawford
(click to enlarge)

It’s just a small gesture in the grand scheme of things, but Ada is proud of her daughter’s earnest efforts. In the evenings, Evelyn’s been taking knitting lessons from her grandmother, and has already advanced from simple mufflers to stockings and caps. Her next goal is to knit a sweater. [5]

Ada’s not quite sure where this zeal originated, but thinks it might have to do with book Guy had brought home from the library. When President Wilson had declared war on Germany back in April, Evelyn had been worried sick that her own father would be called to service. She had heard the grownups talking one night about great-grandfather Liberty, lost at the Battle of Wilderness. Even Ada herself had chimed in, telling them about Grandfather Stowe, whose health never really recovered after the Civil War. 

Guy felt that the story of Florence Nightingale would be an inspiration and a comfort to Evelyn. And it was. She devoured the book, and told Ada in endless detail of the heroism of this famous descendant of British nobility who forsook a life of leisure to lead a delegation of volunteer nurses to Turkey in 1854, where they spent two years in primitive conditions tending sick and wounded British soldiers fighting in the Crimean War. [6] When the Red Cross put up posters seeking volunteers, Evelyn jumped at the chance.  They’ve been going to the high school all summer long.

She hears a shout outside, and turns to see her husband land father-in-law doubled up laughing. Don's got a wicked smile on his face, so who knows what he's been up to. What would she do if Guy were called up and she had to manage all three alone? He keeps telling her the Army will not want him, beacuse his hearing's so bad. She still remembers the mastoidectomy, when doctors removed a portion of the temporal part of the skull that had become inflamed following an ear infection. The procedure had been performed without anaesthesia, [7] and she winces just thinking about it. Still, a small price to pay if it keeps him out of this war.

All at once then there’s a knock at the front door, and Evelyn dashes in to give her mother a kiss before bounding out to join June Haynes. It’s off to roll bandages for the soldiers abroad!

A rare smile as Mary Rebecca holds David, Jr.

The hoeing and weeding are finished, Ada sees, and the Burns men are contentedly surveying their handiwork. Mary Rebecca comes up the walk from the outhouse to collect little Davy, who is tuckered out after hours of crawling about the potato patch. Ada heard her promising him a swing after lunch. This is a recent obsession. He loves nothing more than to dangle from the bamboo pole Father Burns has slung between two trees in at the side of the house, and he keeps them all busy hoisting him up to the bar after he drops off and giggles himself silly.

Don meanwhile has scampered off somewhere, for even as she bends to look out the window, she sees no sign of him now. He's off to the vacant lot across the street, no doubt, where the boys are digging trenches and playing at being soldiers. He is very good at these battles, she's proud to learn, although she knows she shouldn't be. He’s fast and strong, and is possessed of a razor-sharp sense of fair play. [8]  Whether he came by this naturally, with a second-born’s alertness to inequities of opportunity, or has learned it at church or school or on the playfield, is open to question. He'll return at dusk in the usual way, face and hands caked with dirt, clothes filthy.

Which reminds her: there's a great deal of mending to do. She picks up the shirt at the top of the pile and sits on the crimson couch to repair the tear along the pocket. Don ripped it on Troop 8's last adventure, although he couldn't say how. He's taken to scouting, although it was by no means a sure thing. Nothing is with Don. But he loves it -- especially the camping and hiking and boating and first aid parts – even if his father is the District Commander and Patrol Leader. Guy’s position is the only reason Don is allowed to participate at all, for he won’t be officially old enough for two more years. [9]  

All his outdoor experiences with his father and grandfather – the bass fishing and hiking in the High Glen woods, the boating and camping trips on the river – have given him a fund of knowledge about nature. And it must be said he is also smarter than most of the boys,. After all, wasn't it he who discovered that the flags shown on the cover of the scouting manual are Morse code, not semaphore as claimed in the tex? [10] And when his Great-Aunt Lida told him the Stowe family is descended from Samuel F. B. Morse, hadn't he taken it upon himself to learn the Morse Code.?[11

Guy's Boy Scout Troop No. 8 (arrows point to Guy and Don)
(click to enlarge)

1915 Boy Scout Handbook & Guy as Scoutmaster

Tying off the last stitch, she inpects her work, and finds it satisfactory. Good as new. And then she picks up the next casualty -- the cuffs of Father Burns's pants, which are sorely in need of hemming. Davy has started wailing, and she hears her mother-in-law's gentle shushing. The kitchen door opens and the men come in, hungry after their morning's work. There'll be cribbage after they eat the soup Mother Burns has made, no doubt. [12]

They are biding their time until tomorrow, she knows well, bending to the frayed twill of her father-in-law's trousers. For after the Ingrahams have collected Evelyn, and she herself has departed for parts east with the boys, father and son will head to the river and fish to their hearts’ content. She doesn't begrudge this, for there's been precious little opportunity for their favorite pastime this summer, with Guy working such long hours. They’ve been talking about taking the handmade boat and tent up the river. [13]

Davy's resumed his wailing, and Mother Burns starts in again with her shushing, this time not quite so gentle.

Father and son are counting the minutes until tomorrow, but so is Mother Burns.

Lo's homemade cribbage board, probably made at Falls Machine and Rivet


[1] Many American families planted gardens during WWI and WWII in support of the troops.

[2] Garden contents diagrammed in Guy’s August 21, 1917 letter to Ada (visiting Ravenna at the time).

[3] A series of letters from late August, 1917 indicates Ebba did stay with Ingrahams that month, and Ada was in Windham with the boys.

[4] Identifications of the girls are from names Ebba wrote on back of photo. Census records show that Haynes, Hayes, and Crawford families (all with girls of the right age and name) lived very near the Burns house in 1920.

[5] Details of the family war efforts – from the white aprons and Red Cross caps to the knitting of socks and sweaters – come from Ebba’s memoir.

[6] Among Evelyn’s most precious possessions was an American first-edition copy of Florence Nightingale’s Notes on Nursing, published in 1860, which was one of the best-selling books of the 19th century. Details of Florence’s service and the little print of her are from the title pages and preface of the book.  Florence Nightingale was unarguably an iconic figure for Ebba. In 1940, she describes the impressive Florence Nightingale service at nursing school, and talks about her admiration for “Flo” – “her sense of humor, her fighting spirit and independence.” Florence’s symbol was the owl – Ebba’s own sign for the last several decades of her life. In fact, Bob Burns called his sister “Owl.”

[7] Mastoiditis can follow ear infection, and in those days was sometimes even fatal. The story of the unanaesthetized surgery is from Bob Burns.

[8] Ebba’s memoir references the neighborhood boys’ war games and trench-digging (World War I was fought chiefly in trenches). He would likely have been good at these games, since he was very athletic (he went on to become a two-sport athlete at college). 

[9] Guy helped organize the Boy Scouts in Cuyahoga Falls, according to his memoir. BSA was founded in 1910, so Guy got an early start. Don does not look 12 in the troop photo – the official entry age.

[10] Speculation, but this was an error in the cover that persisted until the 20’s, and Don was sharp.

[11] Lida’s (Addy’s younger sister) handwritten genealogy, while mostly accurate, claims that Joseph Stowe’s mother was Matilda Morse, daughter of Samuel Morse. Morse did not have a daughter Matilda, but the family was convinced of the connection. 

[12] Lorenzo, Guy, and Ada all loved to play pinochle and cribbage.

[13] Lorenzo and Guy did make a tent, and Guy and Leo made a boat.