Monday, December 5, 2011

New Mules in Pennsylvania

Nearly one hundred years ago, a young boy boarded a train on a bitter cold day in February. He was leaving his home in Iowa for a new home several states away. With him was his father, mother and younger brother.

Earlier in that day, an auction had been held at their farm. All the animals and most of the farm machinery had been sold. The boy's dad was well known for his well trained mules and horses. Photographs were rare in their home, but a friend who owned a camera, took some photos at the auction of the horses and mules with their owner and his two small sons.

All my life, I've heard this story of this six year old boy who grew up to be my grandfather. The photos were family treasures. In his later years, my grandfather wrote down the story of his family's move from Iowa to Pennsylvania in 1915.

I'm not sure what prompted it, but last winter, Ed challenged me to turn my grandfather's story into a children's story book. He knows I love family history, and his skills as a printer could turn the project into a reality.

For a children's story, I needed far more photos than the few old ones we treasured. My two boys are six and four, the exact ages of my grandfather and his brother at the time of the move.

I photographed my boys in settings similar to the story. We visited a steam train, a mule barn, and the old train station, but unfortunately, didn't make it to Iowa.

With the help of some friends with editing skills, the book was finished in time for my Dad's birthday in November. It was such fun seeing him read the story to his grandchildren saying, "This is a story about my dad."

If you have ever considered writing down your family stories, I would highly recommend it. My only regret is that I didn't do this years earlier when my grandfather was alive to answer my questions.  With the ease of scanning photos and making photo books, you can have a treasure for your family. I chose to have my book printed by a local print shop but many online companies will also make photo books for you for about $12.00 for a book the size of mine. Use a coupon or order several and your cost will decrease per book. But the memories treasured in a photo book are priceless.

My goal in writing the book was to record memories for my family but I was asked if I would sell copies to others. For this week, I'm opening it up for orders. If you'd like a story from one hundred years ago about a boy's move to a new state, send me an email. (walkingbymyside @ The book is softcover, 9x6 inches, and 40 pages. It costs $8.00 plus $2.00 shipping in the US. I will accept Paypal or check.

If you want a copy, please let me know within a week. That will give me to time to mail it to you before Christmas. I don't know if these books will ever be available again, so get it while you can!

And if you recognize these photos because you share the same grandfather, I'll be bringing some books to our Christmas family gathering. Hope you enjoy it as much as our family has!


  1. How wonderful! Congratulations! I've linked.

  2. How wonderful, what a special book! I'd like 2 please. It will be extra special for my 2 Iowa girls. Uncle Kenny told us the same stories when we visited him.

    Thanks so much Gina! You're first published exciting!!!

    See you soon!

  3. That is a great idea! Being an Iowa girl, I'm curious where in Iowa did your grandpa come from? Totally off the subject, I made the recipe for grahm crackers and they turned out wonderful. My 2 year old loves them! Thanks.

  4. As much as we love to read your blog, we can't wait to read your first book. We would like to order two please!

    Janice Martin

  5. How nice! Am interested in a copy! My husbands grandparents had connections in Iowa. Thank you very much.

  6. Oh, how sweet is that?! I think I want one in MY stocking : )

    Well done, Gina!

  7. This is such a great idea. Thank you so much for sharing. God bless.

  8. I am overwhelmed by your response. Thank you for your encouragement. I hope to respond to everyone who emailed later today.

    Thanks, Gina

  9. Hannah -
    My grandfather was from Dallas Center, Iowa.

  10. I want one!!! I think you know why!! And, by the way, now that you have written the book doesn't mean you are getting off the hook from coming to IOWA!!! I tend to your loved ones during meeting, making sure they find the page in the hymn book and things like that. Quite interesting to hear qhat the old timers have to say. I love it!

  11. I could not believe my eyes when I saw the picture of your dad reading your book! They say everyone has a twin, and my dad looks SO much like him! In fact, I forwarded the picture to him and mom, and to my daughter who is in college, asking who they think he looks like. They all responded that he looks just like my dad. So interesting!

  12. How exciting Gina!!! Congratulations! :) It sounds like an absolutely charming book! Put us down for one... I can only imagine how excited the children would be to have such a lovely book with photos of your children in it.

  13. Gina please order me one. I am cannot wait to read it! Thanks! I can get and pay at the Frey Christmas gathering

  14. I would like to have one please.

  15. Can't wait to read this special book!! I want one, if I don't make it, just give it to Dad.

    Thanks for documenting our heritage!!


  16. Smithgang -
    Email me at walkingbymyside and I'll give you details!

  17. Gina, that is simply a wonderful idea and such a neat way to preserve family history!


  18. Cool! I grew up in Pennsylvania. What they called Amish Country. Their way of living pemeated the way of living of the folks all around them. The Mennonite's would make the pretzels, the wood crafts, the farmers markets with their fresh baked goods. Reading your blog reminds me of home!

  19. Gina, The book is WONDERFUL! We didn't get home until mid-night, but I had to read the book before going to bed (just like a little kid). Thank you for this labor of love!!! I only regret not getting your signature. What a special reminder of our heritage!

    Blessing for your New Year!

    Love & Hugs, Carolyn


I'm still learning how to be a joyful homemaker and I'd love to hear from you!


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