My paternal grandmother, Ora Norcutt, was born on December 10, 1896 in Sleepy Eye, Brown County, Minnesota to Ada “Addie” May Kelly and Gilbert McEwen Norcutt. She was the second born of ten children: Lucy Olive (1895-1955), Ora (1896-1994), Ella (1899-1900), Lottie (1900-1970), Noble Elias (1901-1927), Forrest Silas (1904-1980), Rachel Lillie (1906-1933), Mamie (1908-1997), Myrl Earl (1912-1977), and Naomi Glenice (1914-1993). Her mother, Addie, was born in Sleepy Eye and many Kelly family members remained in the area. By the time her sister Ella was born, the family had moved to Pleasant Hope, Polk County, Missouri. Her father was a farmer and the family would remain in Pleasant Hope for several years. In 1908, sister Mamie was born in Exeter, Barry County, Missouri which is about 85 miles southwest of Pleasant Hope.
The 1910 Federal Census shows that the family was living in Goshen, Lane County, Oregon. The family crossed the Rocky Mountains a second time and returned to Missouri. Her brother, Myrl Earl, was born on January 18, 1912 in Cabool, Texas County, Missouri. Per her personal papers, the family settled in the Clear Lake area in Chouteau County, Montana when she was 15 years old. Likely the family were in Montana in 1913. The northern Montana grasslands were being developed to grow wheat via the dry farming method. The transformation of virgin prairie into wheat fields was challenging. It was a hard life for the entire family.
A young man from New Hampshire, Arthur Elbridge Wentworth, homesteaded 331.26 acres northeast of Geraldine, Montana in 1914. His land was located east of the Norcutts. On November 16, 1916, my grandparents wed in Lewistown, Fergus County, Montana. They lived on the land Grandpa homesteaded. In 1917, her father, Gilbert, homesteaded land that was only a mile west of the newlyweds. Her sister, Lucy Olive, homesteaded 40 acres adjacent to Arthur and Ora’s land.
Three children were born in Montana; Melvin Arthur (1917-1976), Glennis Addie (1919-2002), Deloris Eleanor (1923-2016). After several years of crop failure, they decided to leave Montana in 1923. They joined a group travelling west in wagons. Their original destination was Oregon but Ora was pregnant with their fourth child so they decided to spend the winter in Princeton, Idaho. My father, Ronald Daniel, was born on September 5, 1923. In the spring of 1924, they joined a group headed to western Washington.
They settled in the Chehalis River valley between the towns of Oakville and Elma in Grays Harbor County. Grandpa returned to his roots of dairy farming. They rented land for a few years before purchasing a farm on South Bank Road. Two more children were born, Thelma Lavell (1924-1977) and Velma Loretta (1926).
Grandma raised chickens and sold eggs to families in town. She always had a large vegetable garden with dahlias lining the edge along the lawn. She harvested the produce, fruits and vegetables, and preserved them. She worked from early morning until after dinner. She never took much time for leisure activities, she always had a list of chores to complete.
She was not shy about putting others to work. I fondly remember sitting under her dining table with ornately carved legs, Murphy’s oil soaked rag in hand, happily polishing the table legs. I would help her with the chickens, gathering eggs, working in the garden, and just being with her. She believed in keeping hands busy, especially the grandchildren’s.
My brother, Art, and I had a name for her which was unique to us. Our maternal grandmother was Nora so as small children, it was confusing to have grandmothers with such similar names. We solved our problem by calling Ora ‘Grandma Up The Road’. We called her that for a long time before we dropped the geographic reference, then she was simply Grandma.
They were members of the Sharon Grange and always took us kids to the annual Christmas party. We got dressed up and tried to behave ourselves! I remember singing Christmas carols in the main hall and how pretty the hall looked with the Christmas décor. Of course, the punch, cookies, and Santa Claus were big hits with all the kids. The Grange was very important to my grandparents.
After a series of strokes, she moved to a nearby care facility. It was a small facility with only 39 residents and she received excellent care The staff would purposely set her place setting wrong and she would correct them every time. Her mind would be clear one time and less clear at other times but she always knew where the fork and knife were suppose to be placed at her place setting.
She passed on July 13, 1994 at age 97 years. She shares a grave site with Grandpa at the Masonic Cemetery in Elma, Washington.