Cousins’ Corner: Grace’s Memories on her 96th Birthday

Grace TeSelle
[with references by Larry Pearce]

This pendant belonged to my Great-Aunt Katura “Turie” Moon (1877-1943). It was purchased after her death by my sister Irene Hill Coss. The metal appears to be something like pewter, and silver polish will not brighten it. I have enjoyed wearing it often and that  always results in kind comments. Aunt Turie wore it in the 1920s, over a century ago, but left no indication when or where it was acquired. The stones are blue.My daughter Ginny photographed this close-up. Aunt Turie always seemed to be a classily dressed lady. She worked in an insurance office and brother Chester “Chet” (1882-1940), who sold cars, were family favorites. They were so helpful when my dad was living through his heart problems. Mother especially appreciated their help and counsel at that tough time.

Katura “Turie” Moon

Aunt Turie was our culture connection. One time she took the three of us to Pittsburgh on a Sunday afternoon to enlarge our music appreciation of one of the U.S. Service Band concerts. There were other times she helped expand our limited horizons with jaunts here and there. I am not aware of whether that was the experience of my other cousins, but she surely helped me  enjoy life so much.

[For more on Turie Moon, read her 1922 letters to two doctors: Seymour & Alvin and their replies regarding common ancestry. Another letter to her Cousin Susan Moon, my GGgrandmother, is also enlightening. The story of Cousin J. D. Moon, Allegheny County Coroner, and encounters with the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918 is fascinating. The full Tables of Contents: Moon is worthwhile, if I must say so myself.]

My sister Irene also bought a four-door Dodge sedan at the sale, which was badly needed by our family. It replaced the 1928 Buick I referenced in my 90th birthday story of 2018, entitled “Down the Road we Go”. The Buick belonged to Grandpap Joseph “Joe” Hill who no longer drove it. The Buick had its own garage building across the road from Alice and Joe’s house. The garage was also the site of vegetable sales in the summertime. I have been in sales, seemingly, all my life, starting at age four with my sisters and then on my own when I got a little older. The corn field was adjacent to the garage, and we would sometimes pick as the customer waited. Talk about FRESH! Another year the garage was near the site of the tomato crop and probably strawberries another time. But I digress as one thing always leads to another. Oh yes, the garage was the site of a brooder (heater) to keep baby chicks peeping after they arrived at the Post Office in nearby  Gibsonia. The car was temporarily moved out. They were moved to chicken pens to do what chickens do – provide eggs and chicken meat for delicious food. We sold  eggs at the house to a few people and, as mentioned elsewhere, Daddy had an egg route in Northside Pittsburgh for awhile.

So, I have made it to 96! How did that happen? [ These are just some of the things that have happened recently. ] My story about walking in bed, has been approved for post-surgery patients as information for when they leave the hospital for home. (At least by one, a now retired surgeon who no longer has patients.)


I had injections in both eyes, the last Monday in  January. The result is much less gray covering now over the left eye. And I’ve just started with treatment of just the right eye. I had thought I needed stronger lenses, but the injection in the right eye  made vision better. They use lots of numbing drops so injections have not been too bad, except in January. I usually protest with a mild “Ugh” when the needle goes in. This time I protested loudly, “Ugh” “Uuggghh.” I needed more numbing I guess.

I had lunch on Saturday with friend Linda Bryant. She is young enough to be my daughter; she was my roommate on our trip to Israel; She’s been a member of our church’s Art Committee with me for several years; and the two of us published Trinity’s 50th Anniversary Yearbook. She is a retired graphic designer who had great input on the yearbook. I was the one who organized the photographers, the photos, and some of the stories. Our motto was, “SIGN UP, SHOW UP, and SMILE!” She had her own business in Gainesville but now works in a daycare for two-year olds.

I mentioned that as a kid, ice cream was such a treat, and that is what I wanted for my birthday this year. I explained to the folks in my Sunday School class that ice cream was such a treat because many people in 1928 did not have refrigerators, but we did have three bedrooms and a PATH. So that’s another story for below. My daughter Luanne made my dinner: Lasagna, broccoli, salad, and ice cream – twice in one day. A happy time was had by all, as you can imagine.

Please allow me to return to my memories of growing up during the Great Depression. My Dad was Harold Alton Hill, known as Harry. He was a dairy/produce farmer in Gibsonia, as I said before. His dad and Mother were Joe and Alice Virginia Moon Hill. Joe was one of four sons of John Dixon Hill, a Captain in the U.S. Army during the Civil War. Each of his sons was given a farm north of Pittsburgh. It seems the farm properties were his bonus for serving in the Civil War. Joe’s was located on Babcock Blvd., Allegheny County, the main route to Northside, Pittsburgh, just 15 miles to the South. The other three farms were in Butler County.

Joseph M. Hill Family:
Harry, Bessie, Irene, Myra, & Mayme
(c. 1915)

Daddy had four sisters: Bessie Pearce [ my grandmother ], Mayme Crummy, Myra Miller and Hazel Nicely; and two brothers, Charles and Carl Hill. They had all married by the time I arrived on the scene. There were many first cousins  in the Hill families, including  Mary Virginia Hill Wilson (1922-1964) and Irene Claire Hill Coss (1924-2006), my older sisters.

Daddy had been in the Army for a short time when the war ended in 1918. He was stationed in France and later in a new camp in Georgia, where he caught the Spanish Flu. [ See a letter from him to Sister Bessie. ]He received some kind of shot, was ill for a week or more, and served until the Armistice in November, and then returned home to Pennsylvania.

When he left for the Army, he left behind Hulda Fisher, a teacher in the local Cross Roads Presbyterian Church one-room School. A cousin of Hulda was the minister of the church. She roomed with that family in the parsonage which was directly across the unpaved drive from the school and church building. While Harry was in the Army, Hulda moved to a school south of Pittsburgh in Castle Shannon area. Harry did not forget about her, the were reunited after the war, and they married in August, 1920. They lived in a house owned by the Wittenbaugh family at first and that was the house where my sister Mary was born.

A house was later built for Harry and Hulda at Joe Hill’s and they called it Maple Shade Farm. My parents’ house, where I was born, was a two-bedroom dwelling with a basement and attic and a path to the outdoor toilet. I remember gas lights installed on the living room and kitchen/dining room walls. They always flickered. We had a very efficient gas stove with oven for cooking and baking. We also had a Hoosier cabinet for flour storage with drawers and shelves in the kitchen. My daughter Luanne has one – probably a slightly newer version in her kitchen. There was a small room between the bedrooms where we had a potty and shelves to hold washing bowls. Also, there was a very large wooden cabinet with combination drawers and shelves for towels and bed supplies in what we called “the bathroom.” There was not yet electricity in our house – thus no way to get a water supply. We had rain barrels to collect rain water for washing clothes and dishes. That water was heated on the gas stove.

Daddy would fill milk cans with water at his parents’ house and bring it over using his truck. Eventually, we got electricity by running a line from the grandparents’ house to ours. It served for several years as a means of providing lights and eventually a refrigerator, but the one line was not sufficient to powering a well and electric pump for an adequate water supply. I do not remember when our own electricity supply was installed, but when it was we finally had enough well water to be lifted for our entire family’s use.

I do remember Uncle Alex Nicely and his brother, plumbers by trade, who installed a toilet, sink, and bathtub in that small room between the two bedrooms. The large wooden cabinet was moved to the attic for the storage of things the growing family began to accumulate. NO MORE PATH and no smelly spot (no matter how much lime was applied)!

Behind all the years I have noted, were hard times for everyone, not just farmers who had to feed the horses, cows, kids, and dogs, and purchase seed for their gardens; but for so many others. Hobos who traveled about by hopping on trains or hiking on foot would appear at our door asking for food or money.  Mother always made a meal for them with whatever she had. One thing we had that many did not were fruit trees that Joe had planted in earlier years. He planted every kind of fruit that would grow in Western Pennsylvania: peaches (which froze out some years), three kinds of cherries, pears, plums, grapes, and apples. Mother and we girls worked every year to can as much of the fruit as we could. She had a vegetable garden which contained asparagus, beans of all kinds,   sweet peas, potatoes, etc. We canned everything.  We girls, not knowing anything, would watch Grandpap Hill as he pruned the fruit trees, thinking he was killing the trees.

My memories of Grace,
a real peach [LP}

Well that’s enough memories for one session. I’m already thinking about another, with  field crops, including hay, wheat, oats, and one-year buckwheat. How about livestock, including horses, cows, chickens, and oh yes, more stories on cousins? Where DID we find ourselves? The barn, the woods, the creek at the bottom of all those hillsides? So much to say, and I remember it all as if it were last month!

Last revised 2/25/24