Vol. VIII, No. 1, 1995

Birthing by Granny Women

by Thelma Keithley Bilyeu

I was born to Elmer Keithley and Mabel Cupp Keithley on December 10, 1915. I was their first baby and they loved me then and so on to the end.

I was born in a rude log cabin in Clausen Hollow, Taney County, Missouri. The chinking was poor and the cracks let in the winter air. But they built the fire hot and wrapped me in many quilts and blankets until they almost smothered me to death.

The house consisted of one big room and when I first remember there was a side room attached. Later the side room was in such bad repair it was torn down leaving the floor as a porch. So we lived, slept, cooked and ate in the same room. It was not ceiled but mother kept it clean and nice, covering the ceiling and walls with building paper. Sometimes the paper would get torn and money would be scarce so mother would paper the walls with newspapers.

I was brought into the world by experienced Granny Women. My Grandma Cupp was counted to be one of the best but my mother felt it was not quite proper to have her deliver a grandchild (although she had already delivered many grandchildren). So mother asked a neighbor, Mrs. Lum Davis, to attend. However, when she was in labor, my dad decided that Grandmother Cupp should be there so he slipped away and went on horseback to bring my grandmother. The two Granny ladies were quite compatible so the birth took place uneventfully. In addition, my grandmother Keithley lived just across the field and she too was soon on hand to see everything was done right. I was her first grandchild and she planned to see that everything was done that should be done. She later told me that if it had not been for her they would have had me smothered to death more than once.

Excerpted from Thelma Keithley Bilyeu's life reminiscence, to be published in a forthcoming issue of Ozarks Watch.


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Syrup of Figs is for sale by all druggists in 50' and $1 bottles, but it is manufactured by the California Fig Syrup Co. only, whose name is printed on every package, also the name, Syrup of Figs, and being well informed, you will not accept any substitution if offered.


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