MOOERS — Charles Drown was a farm boy living in rural Ellenburg Depot when he was invited to attend a birthday party, something he didn’t do very often.
Eva Nephew thought her sister’s birthday party would be just cake and family time. When Charles arrived, he saw Eva, asked who she was and said “I’m going to marry her.” So began a friendship, courtship and eventual marriage that has lasted nearly 72 years.
“We lived just five miles from each other but never knew the other existed,” said Eva. “We didn’t go many places back then.”
Eva is the 12th of 18 children born to Albert and Emma Rock Nephew. Fourteen children survived.
“My mother worked so hard,” she remembers. “We all helped. I had to bake a cake every day when I got home from school. We didn’t buy much. It was all homemade.”
Eva started school at the one-room Bush schoolhouse. She spoke only French. The teacher spoke only English. She learned quickly by listening to every lesson and moved up two years at a time. She started higher-learning classes at 11 because she was so advanced.
She and her siblings walked seven miles to the church in Mooers Forks, barefoot in the summer because their hand-me-down shoes left blisters.
“When we’d see the church, we’d put our shoes on and take them off again on the walk home,” she added.
She wanted to be a school teacher but quit school at 16 and worked for the Harnett family in Altona to help with expenses at home. The Hartnetts had boarders, and Eva did huge loads of laundry and ironing.
Charles lived through his own hardships. His mother died when he was 9. He didn’t have a good relationship with his stepmother. He attended Fernwood, a one-room schoolhouse near Cannon’s Corners, but went to high school for just one day.