My Great Grandmother, Maude Amsden Lynch Volle passed decades before I was born on my mother’s 16th birthday, leaving behind a life her great-grandchildren would one day admire. Born on November 3rd 1907, in the deep hills near Flat River in Leadwood Missouri, Maude, in her typical characteristic, never talked much about her life before she moved to Rosiclare Illinois with her family. She merely said she was homesick, and longed to be back in Missouri for her entire life. Her laconic characteristic was shared with her children, grandchildren, and even great- grandchildren, besides myself obviously. Research and sparse questioning throughout a several generations would help to paint a realistic picture of her life.
Her only beloved daughter, Margie Lou, once said, “Grandad loved to hunt. He even skinned skunks for their fur! Talk about stinkin’!” Maude’s Dad was an excellent hunter and fur gatherer, for his gritty generation, skinning and curing animals hides was commonplace. Did it stink? Sure, but your feet did without any new shoes too. Although I’m sure rarely worn, in the back of Margie’s immaculately clean home, a perfectly positioned Mink collared coat hangs in the closet. Her doting husband, Hubert, likely bought it for her for fashionable reasons as well as sentimental ones.
13 year old Maude Amsden did not grow up worrying about what would become of her father’s fur hides. She didn’t stay awake at night worrying about what her high school classmates thought of her makeup because she never went. However, she did worry about what was for dinner, but not in the same way you are accustomed to now. She did not ask her children, “what do you want for dinner?”, and obediently ate whatever her mother prepared from scratch. There were no options. Far removed from social media, she likely didn’t see a film picture of herself until she was married to her second husband at only 24, but also similar to mothers now, did not enjoy her picture taken.
A thin woman, with poor eyesight, and cat-eye style glasses, a naturally beautiful Maude would have sat beside her sisters and mother sat along the limestone rocks of the Flat river, scrubbing laundry with her callused hands; thanking the Lord for the clean crisp waters that cleansed her and her family’s clothes. She certainly helped her mother make soap, and mended ripped undergarments. She was gifted a semiautomatic electric washing machine in her later life, but thought it was too complicated and used too much water. Like with any innovations in technology; the “old ways” are viewed as more practical and the new unnecessary.
I’d like to speak directly to my family and readers, my aim is not to romanticize Maude’s life or paint her in a carefree way, as that would not be useful or truthful to our next generations. Maude’s life was full of tragedies a sister, wife, and mother could only imagine in their worse nightmares. Most of these tragedies are now preventable with modern medicine, but even hindsights follow the inevitable current of life.
Margie recalls in vivid memory, “as though it was just yesterday”— Joe, Maude’s child brother, was at his much older sister’s house playing with his cousins in Rosiclare that day as he had done so many days before. For ordinary reasons, his mother told him to go home feeling he had outstayed his welcome. Joe, in his typical young boy fearlessness, instead went to the Ohio river to swim with his friends and brother, Cecil. Joe found himself caught in a whirlpool and his brother tried almost fatally to save him before a friend was able to pull him to shore. Margie remembers the shouting in the street. The wails of grief from her mother and grandmother they were sentenced at the moment to carry in their minds for the rest of their lives. Joseph D Amsden is buried with his loving mother and father in Waltersburg Cemetery, in Pope County Illinois.
Maude was no stranger to grief by that point, she also lost her first husband, James Lynch, while heavily pregnant with her first child, James Walter Lynch “Dub” in a mining accident she rarely spoke of.
Ralph Volle, a fellow Fluorspar miner— through only speculation and assumptions made given Ralph’s sweet and caring nature, he helped her through what was likely the hardest time of her life. Eventually they would marry, Ralph raised Dub as his own, and they persevered many challenges through the years.
Despite her familiar acquaintance with loss, Maude was fortunate in a way only her generation could’ve built. She breathed in the same musty, mossy dented summer air, and left her heart in the deep Missouri forests as the Natives did only a lifetime before.