Riggs, Hazel

Interviewed By Russell and Marlene Patterson, March 24, 2008

MP: Hazel, will you please state your name and birth date.

HR: My name is Hazel Ruth Saul Riggs. I was born on Fifteen Road, Napoleon, Ohio on November 15, 1903. I am now 104 years old and on November 15, 2008 I will be 105.

MP: Hazel, you are remarkably young looking. You appear to be quite spry and so very sweet. Time has been very kind to you. Hazel, can you give us some information on your childhood days, in particular tell us about your school life.

HR:  I started school when I was five years old. I went to Sheats School. This was the first school that I attended. My teacher was Mr. Basil Hartman. The second school I attended was the Spangler School. It was located near Shunk. My sister Mae and I would walk to school. She walked so slow and pokey, so I would get behind her and kind of step on her heels and make her go faster.

MP: Did it work?

HR: Yeah it worked. She speeded up.

MP: It’s a wonder she didn’t turn around and smack you.

HR:  Mr. Vernon Brillhart was my teacher there and I liked him very much. I liked school and enjoyed going to school.

MP: Did you have what was known as a blab school? How did you learn your basics like spelling and arithmetic.

HR: We did a lot of reading and the teacher drilled us. I liked spelling. We had lots of spelldowns. I got an achievement award for spelling. I was real good at spelling.

MP: Did your teachers have problems with discipline when you were attending school? Did any teacher ever have to whip any boys. Usually the boys are the trouble makers.

HR: I don’t think so. Most kids behaved years ago. I can tell you about one thing I did when I was in school. My teacher was Burl Bauman at that time. I took a hairpin from my hair and bent it to make glasses. I used a hairpin you know those straight ones, not a bobby pin, just regular hair pins. I straightened it and bent it so I could put it on my nose. The kids were laughing so hard and Burl said, “Hazel, you come up here.” So I had to go up there and face everybody. I remember that. I was raised by the Baumans. Before I went to school I had to wash the breakfast dishes and sweep the kitchen floor. I used to feed the chickens before I went to school. I used to clean out the chicken coops. We had two chicken coops.

MP: Were they all laying hens?

HR: No, They were mixed. Some of them were roosters. In the fall I would help husk corn before I went to school. The corn was still standing at school startup time.

MP: Did your hands get all chapped and rough with the dried corn husks? We used to use Corn Huskers Lotion to help soften the skin. I think you can still buy it.

RP:  We used to sell lots of Corn Husker s Lotion in the fall to farmers.

MP: Basil Hartman was your first teacher. Am I correct?

HR: Yes. Burl Bauman, the teacher was the son of Will Bauman. He lived right next ot us. We had a big garden and I canned a lot of vegetables. We had very sandy soil.

MP: Did the boys have to bring in wood to fire the stove in the winter time?

HR: Oh, yes.

JK: When I went to the Glass School the two Slagle boys would start the fire before school started. They would crawl in through a vent in the back of the school, because they didn’t have a key to get in. They would start the fire and then when the kids got to school, it would be warm. They wouldn’t let it burn over night because of the fire hazard. They were some of the older kids, maybe the eighth graders.

MP: Did you have a picnic on the last day of school? We always had a picnic at the end of the school year.

HR: Yes we did. We had box socials.

MP: Were any of them your boyfriends? Maybe you were too smart to have a boyfriend. Did you decorate your box?

HR: Oh yes. They don’t have box socials anymore do they.

MP: No, they don’t. Did you pick out somebody special to get your box so the two of you could eat together.

HR: I would fix food for two people and then we would place a bid on the box. I would have to eat with whoever won the bid on my box.

GC:  We had picnics like that when I went to school. It was usually the Home Economic girls and the Industrial Arts boys.

MP: When you had recess, what games did you play? Did you every play ball with the boys?

HR: No, I never did. We played jump the rope, London Bridge is falling down, Andy I Over, and Ring around the Rosie. These are a few of the games I can remember.

MP: What kind of subjects were you taught? Did you have books for each subject? Did you learn any foreign language like German?

HR: No. We just had the usual school books.

MP: When my older sisters and brothers went to school the German language was required at St. Johns. By the time I started school it became optional. My father said we are in America and you will learn English and not German. I never learned the German language like my older sisters and brothers did. I could read the German language from the Bible and sing from the hymn book, but I didn’t know the meaning of the words.

MP: How did you fix your hair when you were in school? My mother would tear up sheets into strips and you would put a strip over your head on one side and my mother would wind your hair around these strips and you would let it dry and you would have these nice ringlets.

HR: I had my hair in braids many times.

MP: We had hitching rails in front of our school and we girls would pull our bodies up and with our stomach on the rail and we would twirl around and around. I can’t do that anymore. This was some of our fun times during recess. How long were your recesses?

HR: Not very long, maybe a half hour or so. After I went to live with the Baumans on Rd. 15, Charley Bauman and I went to Sheats School. We were told there at that school that we were in the wrong district. We were then sent to River School on Routes 109 & 110. That school is no longer there. Veda Conway was my first teacher and then Burl Bauman. Burl was a nephew to Caleb Bauman. One time Burl made me stand in front of the class for punishment because I had taken a hairpin from my hair and bent it to fit over my nose, like a pair of reading glasses. Edna Myers was another teacher at either Sheats or River School. Sometime Cal Bauman would take us to school on the old horse drawn sleigh. While I was walking to school I and the Lawrence girl would stop by and wait for Myrtle Zook on Route 109 on the way to River School. Myrtle Zook had to finish milking the cows before she could go to school. So we would wait for her.

MP: What did you do for food when you went to those one room schools?

HR: We packed our lunch and put it in a little metal dinner pail. I have the dinner pail here somewhere.

MP: Did you exchange Valentines?

HR: Yes we did and most of them we made ourselves.

MP: Hazel, did you go on to high school after your years in these one room schools?

HR: No, I didn’t get to go to high school. I wanted to go, but Charlie didn’t. I don’t know how we would have ever gotten there. I couldn’t walk that far. I have a picture of my classmates here. I would like to show it to you.

End of interview

The following was recorded by Geri Riggs Cline, a daughter of Hazel.

My mother told me this in 1985 and again in 1991, and then again on April 27, 2004 while I was staying with her while she was recuperating.

Her parents were William Alton Saul who was born in Damascus Township, in Henry County on May 14, 1871, and Lilly Mae Gunter, born November 24, 1881 near Malinta, Ohio. She, Hazel Ruth Saul was born November 15, 1903 on Fifteen Road, Napoleon, Ohio on the later owned Bennett farm. This is a little east of Route 109. It is also the road that I was born and raised on. Her father owned twenty acres of the farm that he had bought in 1902 and sold it to G. Wheeler in 1904. Her father’s mother Christine (Kline) Saul, owned the other twenty acres. This last twenty acres is where Laura Babcock lived and her son Earl, lives there now.

The second place they lived was the Reed farm which runs parallel to the new Route 6, between Fifteen Road and old Route 6. It is south of Merl Bauman’s home and farm, on 9-B Road. Their hired girl, Esther Murphy, lived in the now Bauman home with her parents. She later became Mom’s stepmother in December 1906 when they lived on this Reed farm. Esther Murphy’s mother was a Sheats from Seneca County, Ohio and the Sheats School, where we went as kids was named after that family. Mom remembers some people coming from Tiffin, Ohio to a picnic at the Sheats farm house. This Reed farm house is now remodeled. Aunt Mae was born here on April 27, 1906 and their mother died eleven days later. Also, she thinks her Grandmother Saul died in this house on December 17, 1906. Mom can barely remember the death and many people being at the house. She was only two years and five months old at the time her mother died.

This farm had ten or eleven acres. Mom remembers getting eggs at the neighbor house from the little, outside chicken-coops. Her Dad saw her and yelled at her to put them back. And another time she and Luella Smith, who was a half-sister to Maisie Hefflinger, broke a lot of eggs to make some mud pies. I remember Jean and I doing the same
thing when we were young once when Grandma Riggs was taking care of us. Also, her Dad had her and her cousin, Tillie Saul, fight and Mom would end up crying. Her father was a cut-up and liked to joke with them. Whenever they rode into Richfield Township in their horse-drawn buggy, he would tell Mom and sister Mae that they grew ‘candy-corn’ there. He could make pictures on the wall at night with his hand casting shadows from the light of an old oil lamp.

After Mom’s mother died they moved to the now-owned Rafferty farm. It is across from Sharon Church and the Grange Hall at the intersection of Route 109 and McClure Road. This farm was fifty to fifty-five acres and her father and perhaps Grandmother Saul owned it, if she was still living. Mom remembers her step-mother being at this house. She went to school at the Sheats one-room school where we four oldest attended for a few years.

The fourth place they lived was in Shunk, on Route 109, towards Malinta. Her father owned or was a partner with Frank M. Gensel in a tile mill here, across the road and south of their house. Mom would sometimes go outside near the road to wait for her father to walk home, even when they lived on the Reed farm. She also remembers sitting at the tile mill with him late at night and sometimes sleeping on a cot there overnight, while he was watching the kilns.

Orley Sturdevant lived next door to them.

When Mom and her sister walked to the Spangler School (near Huddles) from Shunk, she would get behind Aunt Mae and step on her heels to speed her up a little. She was so slow and easy going.

Her father raised guinea pigs when they lived at this place which consisted of seventeen or eighteen acres.

Her father died here on March 5, 1913. Mom found him dead in the morning. She was nine years old at the time and Mae was almost seven. On William Alton’s death certificate it says he died of apoplexy and that the death was sudden and there was no known contributory. She and Mae stayed on a while with the step-mother and a half-sister, Edna Alice, and Zona Luella who was born a little later. Edna married an Ovall, and Zona married a Robinette. She and Mae later went to the Gunter Grandparents to live, near Malinta. Her Uncle Am and her Aunt Maude still lived at home, being quite young.

This Gunter home is now gone and a cousin of Mom’s, Zelma (Gunter) Scheaffer, built a new home very close to where it had stood. At one time Mom’s Great Grandmother (Gunter) Hill, (second marriage) had lived back of this house near the Turkeyfoot Creek. A mound of earth back there is near the spot where her house stood, so this land has been in the family for many years. Great Grandma Hill had come up to Henry County from Richland County in ca. 1850 after her husband, Martin Gunter, was drowned in a river working as a logger.

Mom and sister Mae, stayed there a few months until their Grandma Gunter died later that year in 1913. Aunt Mae went to the Fred Cheney home, then to the home of a ball-player, then to Strolls and then to live with the Charley Yawbergs, near Whitehouse. When she lived with the Strolls on the Southside of Napoleon, they sent her to a religious college in Kentucky. Mrs. Stroll was a very religious person. Her husband ran a butcher shop at the main intersection on Southside, near the river.

Caleb Bauman and wife Dora and sometimes Dora Bauman and sister-in-law, Martha Bauman, would make trips to the Gunter home to ask Mom to come live with them. That is where she did go, eventually, on January 8, 1914, on Caleb Bauman’s birthday. Cal had a bull-dog named Toots and also had lots of cats. They had one son, Charley, who was six months younger than Mom. She and Charley went to River School on the corner of Routes 109 and 110. The teacher at that time was Veda Conway and she lived with the Baumans for a while. She was from Napoleon.

Once, on their way home from Napoleon on a Saturday night, Mom saw that there was a light on in Bauman’s house. When they got very close to their home the light went out and when they got inside and touched the glass chimney it was still hot. They believed it was a neighbor man, as it was known that he wandered around in people’s barns, buildings, and homes.

Mom stayed with the Baumans until she married my Dad, Leroy Riggs, in 1923. He lived west of Baumans on the same road and on the farm where we were raised. My Dad first saw my Mom there in 1916 when he went with his parents to look over the farm in anticipation of buying it, which my Grandfather did. She was there playing with her friend, Mary Renneckar, whose father owned the farm. Then after they were married they lived on the Crawford farm, on the McClure Road, and Norma Lee was born there. Then they moved to a nice, new bungalow on Grandpa Riggs farm and Jean was born there. Then they moved to the large brick house on the same farm and I was born there. Also, my brother and three younger sisters made their entrance into the world from there; namely, Norman, Arlene, Rita and Mary.

When Grandma and Grandpa Riggs died my parents bought a farm near Liberty Center in 1953. My Father passed away in 1986 and my Mother still lives there.


After Mom’s mother died and they moved to the ‘Rafferty’ farm she started to school at Sheats and her teacher was Basil Hartman. She and Mae went to the Sharon Methodist Church which was right across the road. They had probably been baptized there. Jean, Norman, and I were and maybe Norma Lee when she was a baby. Norma Lee told us that to get baptized we had to run down to the front and jump into a tub of water.

Her second school was the Spangler School, near Huddles, and her teacher was Vernon Brillhart, whom Mom liked very much.

After her father passed away and they lived with her Gunter grandparents, Mom went to a country school near by for a short period of time. Mae didn’t live with the Grandparents very long. Fred Cheney had become their (or just Mom’s) guardian. George E. Rafferty and Caleb Bauman were Sureties for Mom.

While she lived at Cal Bauman’s she went to Sheats School again, with Charley. They were told that they were in the wrong district so they started to River School with Veda Conway as their first teacher and then Burl Bauman, a nephew to Cal, taught later. One day Burl made Mom stand in front of the class for punishment, because she took a hair-pin out of her hair and bent it so it fit over her nose, like a pair of glasses. Another time a young neighbor man who lived on the river road, came walking into the school room and sat down and didn’t say anything. It scared the kids because he had recently been in a mental institution. Eventually, he walked back out. An Edna Myers taught at either Sheats or River School. When it was snowy and icy sometimes Cal would hitch up the team of horses to the mud boat and haul Mom and Charley to school. And sometimes on Mom’s walk to River School she would stop in to Zooks on Route 109, and wait for Myrtle to finish milking her cow. She couldn’t go to school until she finished.


Hazel R. Riggs passed away peacefully at the Lutheran Home in Napoleon, Ohio on July 13, 2008.

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