The Dechert Sisters Legacy – Part 1 – Sallie & David Dechert

As noted in last month’s post, I will be dedicating my upcoming posts to my Mother and her amazing sisters.

With the passing of my sweet Aunt Mickey, my Mom’s last living sister, I realized the era of the Dechert Sisters had come to an end. This ushered in a floodgate of cherished memories. Memories of days gone by when life was simpler, and family always came first.

As these memories meandered through my thoughts, I began to ponder what an extraordinary group of ladies these Dechert Girls were, and how blessed my siblings, and cousins were to be able to call them Mom and Aunt. It was at that point I knew, in my heart, it was time to honor their legacy.

So, with the help of my siblings and cousins I set out to pull together history, stories and life lessons learned from these amazing ladies.

Their legacy however would not be complete without including a little backstory on their parents, Sallie Markey Dechert and David Daniel Dechert.

So, the first in the series will be dedicated to them.

Sallie Markey (Merkey) was born February 13th, 1884. She was the first born of Jonathan Markey and Catherine Hunsicker’s six children.

Note – The original spelling of their last name was Merkey, but Jonathan had it changed because there were so many people with similar last names that their mail often went to the wrong household and that made him angry.

Sallie was a petite and feisty lady with strawberry blonde hair, who “Drove the horse buggies like a man.”  as she was quoted saying.

Jonathan, her father ran a bike repair shop in Myerstown, PA and was fascinated by motor vehicles. My Mother Helen, Sallie & David’s 3rd child, was very fond of him and spoke often of her time spent hanging out with him at his bike shop. He sounded like a very kind and gentle man.

Jonathan was born July 15, 1858 and passed on March 28, 1928.

Catherine, her mother, was a homemaker, teaching her 5 girls the skills necessary to run a household: cooking, baking, sewing and housekeeping.

She was born July 11, 1863 and passed on December 21, 1944.

After Jonathan passed, Catherine moved in with Sallie and David, and their children in Myerstown.

The Markey’s were simple folk rooted in their faith, Dunkard Bretheren, which is similar to the Mennonite and Amish, and classified as Anabaptist. They don’t believe in baptism at birth, but when the individual is old enough to understand the teachings of the Bible and accept them. If a child was baptized at birth, they would be baptized again. Their baptisms took place in a body of water, not in the church.

Following the rules of the faith, Sallie was not baptized till she was 13, and as the story goes, the water still had ice on it and had to be cracked in order to perform the service.

Sallie’s Birth Certificate, minus the Baptism Date
Sallie’s Baptism Certificate

Sallie carried her strong faith with her through out her life. Converting David Daniel after their marriage and raising their children within the faith.

Simple clothes and head coverings for the women were part of the tradition, and Sallie dressed just this way till the day she died on October 6, 1972.

She was senile by the time I was old enough to remember her, but I do remember her simple clothes and head covering. Her beautiful grey hair pulled tightly back and tucked up into her covering.

As a young woman, Sallie was prone to headaches and it was believed the tightness of her hair was the cause, but we know now she had migraines, an ailment that has run its course within the offspring of the Dechert family.

Sallie’s father would often farm out the children to help on other farms for extra money, and it is because of this that she met David Daniel Dechert. He was a travelling salesman at the time, selling cigars and saffron, and he spotted Sallie when he came knocking at the farm where she was working.

Sallie and David Dechert were married on December 22, 1910.

This was a second marriage for David, who’s first wife Agnes, had passed at the age of 34, in September of 1909. They had a son Ralph, who was just shy of his 9th birthday when Agnes passed.

A man raising a child on his own was far from the norm at the time, so I’m sure that helped spur David on to find a new suitor to help him raise Ralph.

That didn’t mean David didn’t love Sallie though. As my Mom Helen always told me, he called her his “Little Valentine” because she was born around Valentines Day.

It was widely known though that Sallie was the disciplinarian and she was very strict to include spanking the girls with a “switch” when they misbehaved. David was not fond of this and would often ask “Why do you want to spank these pretty little girls.”

I have no idea what the response to that question was, but I’m sure Sallie had quite the comeback based on her feisty character.

David, born on March 1, 1872, was 12 years older than Sallie, and based on the handful of stories that have survived over the years, was a gentle soul, who liked to hang out with the chickens in the chicken coup and smoke a cigar.

Apparently he found solace with the chickens when there were too many people visiting in the house. As the story goes, Sallie would keep a pot of coffee going on the stove all day for whoever might stop by, and she was known to drink up to 8 cups a day. As one of my Sisters noted, “this must have been her secret to accomplishing so much.”

David passed on November 17, 1955 from lung cancer, so even my oldest siblings and cousins were very young when he passed. Any memories they have are very limited.

David Daniel Dechert’s Pocket Watch

One of the main stories that has survived over the years though was David’s fondness for gin, which was not approved by the Brethren, who were teetotalers. Add to that, Sallie was a member of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union, so if he wanted to take a nip or two, he had to be secretive.

As the story goes, he kept his gin bottle hidden in the basement and would take a nip with the premise he was getting coal from the coal bin. One of my Sisters also noted that Sallie kept her mincemeat pies in the basement and he often would slip a little whiskey in them. I’m sure those pies were a hit.

In David’s later years, he would walk into town with my cousin David (Mable’s oldest child), who would have been maybe around 5, in tow in a wagon. The purpose of the adventure was generally some sort of errand, but some how he would end up at the Bahney House, a local bar and restaurant on Main Street, and just had to have a spot to wet his whistle.

The Bahney House

Conveniently, Mickey, his youngest daughter just so happened to work there, so it was easy to say he stopped to see her while in town.

You have to admit; he was good at covering his tracks; although I’m quite sure Sallie knew what he was up to.

The wagon David used on his excursions, is also the one used by Kassie and Mable, and later my Mom Helen, to deliver pies baked by Sallie, which she sold for .50¢ for a large and .25¢ for a small.

Turns out Sallie was a bit of an entrepreneur, not only baking for people in town, but also making noodles to sell at the farmers market, and taking in laundry, which in those days was done with a ringer washer, air dried and pressed.

It’s obvious Sallie’s unyielding spirit, determination and willingness to work hard to achieve her goals, rubbed off on the girls, because each one them lead their lives in the same way. Never wavering in the face of challenges and setbacks, AND, teaching all of us, my siblings and cousins, the importance of a good work ethic.

Baking was an art form for Sallie and a skill passed down to all her girls. Baking and cooking were at the epicenter of this family. Family, faith and food are what held them together, something that the girls would carry with them to their own families.

Sallie was also quite the seamstress and quilter, sitting with the other PA German woman quilting and chatting in PA German. Even darning socks was a chore she enjoyed doing, and would continue to do well into her senior years.

This was also a task my Mom Helen enjoyed, which made me extremely grateful. She kept a little sewing kit by her side when visiting, just in case something needed darning.

Another little habit Sallie had was keeping money stuffed in a hanker chief which she would then tuck up into her blouse. I mention this because Mable would continue this habit, although I recall she would tuck it under her bra strap. Mable very much had the same spunk too.

The Dechert’s most certainly fell into the poor category, never owning a home or car, but that didn’t stop them from living the best life possible.

Downtown Myerstown, PA

The home they lived in was a classic old German style red brick house that only had heat in the basement. It would seep up through the grates in the floor to the main floor of the house, leaving the second floor quite cold, especially in the winter. It would take multiple quilts just to keep warm. Good thing quilt making was one of Sallie’s specialties.

One of my older Sisters has fond memories of coming downstairs from the cold bedroom into the warm farmhouse style kitchen with the smell of coffee and fresh baked goods in the oven. She noted our Mom Helen’s kitchen always having that same welcoming feeling.

Another Sister also remembers a breakfast treat called “eggs with a hat” which was toasted bread with a whole cut out in the middle where the egg would be dropped into and fried, then the cut out piece put on top of the egg.

The house had a second floor porch on the side that was used to hang laundry on rainy days. I’m guessing considering Sallie did laundry for people that this was often used.

They also had no bathroom, they had a chamber bucket that would have to be emptied into the outhouse. This was a chore none of the girls enjoyed. My Mom Helen noted it was embarrassing because their home was close to the State Troopers Barracks, and on some days when she was doing this task they’d be out doing their morning drill. She did her best to get the task done without being noticed.

Incidentally, turns out the State Trooper Barracks just happened to be on the grounds of what was formerly Albright College, which is now located in Reading, PA and the college my Son attends. It wasn’t until I started writing this post that I realized this. Kind of makes me think my Mom, who passed 3 years before my Son graduated from high school, helped to steer our decision toward Albright

State Police Barracks
Albright College

After David passed, Sallie moved in with her daughter Mickey, her husband Forrest and their oldest Son Jimmy, who David had endearingly called “Jimmily.”

Speaking of “Jimmily”, there is on last thing to note about David.

One of my Sisters recalls David bouncing her and Jimmy on his knee and singing an old PA German rhyme called “Hubber-de-bubber-de”

The song went like this: (PA German)
Hubber-de-bubber-de, unnichem bank,
Hubber-de-bubber-de, owwichem bank,
siss keen mann im ganse land
Das hubber-de-bubber-de fange kann. (En fatz.)

Translated it is:
Hubber-de-bubber-de, under the bench,
Hubber-de-bubber-de, over the bench;
There is no man in all the land
Can catch hubber-de-bubber-de again.

Can you guess what the song was about? I’m guessing not. It’s about a fart.

Who would have know?

The PA German were noted for silly little rhymes, some of which made no sense, but they sounded great in PA German. In her later years Sallie would often rock in her seat and rattle off rhymes. I’m sure it brought her comfort.

In her prime though, Sallie was full of wisdom and some of her quotes still hold true today like:

“Don’t let the sun set on your anger.”

My Mom Helen often used this all though she would say “Don’t go to bed angry.” Something my siblings and I remember when a conflict arises.

AND

“Stop it off when it gets ugly.”

I’m thinking these words of wisdom are very crucial now considering the state of the world.

AND

“If the good Lord wanted you to know it, you would know it.”

This one sounds like a classic for all Parents. Wish I had known this one when my Son was younger.

Sallie would live with Mickey and Forrest and their family until her passing in 1972. As I noted earlier, she was senile by the time I was old enough to know her, but she had the sweetest smile and the most gracious heart.

She loved spending time with us younger grandchildren, and it was comforting for us to have her nearby.

Sallie’s senility kept her stuck in the old days and would cause some confusion at times, but it was never anything serious. One of my favorite stories goes back to a time when she and Mickey’s family and Kassie were visiting our house.

Sallie was sitting with my Mom, Mickey, her husband Forrest and Kassie on our carport in the early evening and noticed a light shining on a statue near our goldfish pond next to our shed. When she inquired as to who the lady by the chicken coupe was, my Mom told her it was Mary.

Her response “Mary Who?”

My Mom responded, “Jesus’ Mother.”

Sallie then responded, “Well that’s alright then.”

This transaction was repeated multiple times throughout the evening, which is why the “Mary Who?” story has become part of the family legacy.

Family legacy is a funny thing. As we’re growing up, we generally don’t think about it. We hear stories told by the elders of the family, but don’t think much about them until we too are becoming the elders.

As I’ve spoke with my siblings and cousins, we all noted we wished we had written some of the stories down because now, when we want to remember, we only recall fragments.

Fortunately, there are enough of us that we can piece together the details we each remember to make a fluid story of the Dechert Girls and their parents Sallie and David.

A key thing that has fallen by the way side though is the impact the Markey and Dechert families have left on history. If not for my Sister Georgene’s interest in our family heritage and ancestry, we would not be aware of these facts because they were never mentioned.

The Dechert Girls all thought they came from nothing, but in reality their family is rich with history.

Turns out, Issac Meier/Myer/Meyer, the founder of Myerstown, the town they all grew up, was our 5th Great Grandfather.

AND

There are many relatives on the Dechert side that fought in the American Revolution. The girls could have belonged to the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR), an organization considered important to most historians and ancestry buffs.

PLUS

The family history is rich with important figures involved in the Protestant religious movement that left Europe because of religious persecution.

SO

As it turns out these Dechert Girls most certainly did not come from nothing.

Not just because they actually have a past rooted deeply in the history of this country, but because at the roots of their family was a deep and profound love for each other, their community and God. They would never turn their back on someone in need, and regardless of their financial standing were always willing to help.

Their kind and generous nature just came naturally. They knew no other way; it was part of their soul.

And, when you think about it, is the very reason why they thought they came from nothing. Because as my Aunt Mickey often said when she went out of her way to help someone “It was a nothing.”

Many thanks to my siblings and cousins who helped me flush out the story of Sallie and David, and the roots of the Dechert Girls history.

Please check back next month when I will feature my Mom Helen, who would be celebrating her 100th birthday on the 13th if she was still with us.

© Mariann E. Danko and Waking the Woman, 2020. All rights reserved.

Goddess Masthead © Pamela Danko-Stout and Waking the Woman, 2020. All rights reserved.

#WakingtheWoman

#MomMemoir

#DechertSisters

#FamilyLegacy

#EndOfEra

All photos are from our family collection, except for Jonathan Markey’s bike shop and the Markey family which are from “The Merkey Family of Bethel and Tulpehocken Townships” by Sandra Kauffman

THE END OF AN ERA

THE END OF AN ERA

It’s not often I’m half way through a month and lost for a theme for my post, but this month I can say I was beyond writer’s block.

I could blame it on a couple things: getting busier and busier at work, and still working an odd schedule, family crisis regarding one of my sisters which created excess stress, or even just the fact that since the Pandemic hit daily life is very limited. A lot of the same old same old, nothing new or intriguing going on, which is the case for everyone I suppose.

And the last thing I wanted to do was write about the same old same old thing like; quarantine, social distancing, or wearing masks in public and at work.

Although a post about life wearing a mask in public could very well be in the future. You have to admit; only seeing someone’s eyes is an interesting thing, especially if the eyes are truly the windows of the soul.

I have noticed that the eyes can be very telling as to the mood of the person behind the mask. We’re so use to basing mood on other facial expressions, but now we only have the eyes to go by. And surprisingly they can reveal a lot.

This observation however will take a bit more research to see if it’s worthy of an entire post.

So as the month ticked away, with nothing sparking my writing soul, I began to think for the first time since I started blogging six years ago I just might have to concede to writer’s block.

Then, the weekend the crisis with my sister hit it’s peak, my family also experienced the unexpected passing of my dear Aunt Mickey.

Mildred (Mickey) Dechert Bortz

Although we were concerned about the situation with my sister, we had traveled this road more than once, and were just grateful she was finally in the hospital.

The passing of my Aunt however was very upsetting, not just for my Cousins, but also for the entire extended family. My Aunt Mickey was a sweetheart of a woman, who treated her nieces and nephews as if they were her own. Her home was your home too.

Some of my greatest childhood memories are about time spent hanging at her house for a week during the Summer. Our annual trips to Hershey Park with my Mom, my Brother, my Aunt and my Cousins were epic.

My Aunt Mickey was also the last of my Mom’s living Sisters and her passing became the end of era.

Dechert Sisters 1990 – Mickey, Mable, Betty, Kassie, & Helen

An era steeped with amazing family gatherings, with five sisters who stood by each other’s side through every life experience possible; marriages, births, divorces, deaths, etc. and with their Pennsylvania German heritage, from religious beliefs to the food. Oh so much amazing food.

My mind was flooded with memories the days leading up to my Aunt’s funeral.

AND, I couldn’t help but ponder about my Mom and each one her Sisters and how they impacted my life.

To say my Mom and her Sisters were unique is an understatement.

They came from very humble roots, and through out their lives never forgot that. They were all selfless, caring and giving women, who looked at everyone as equals.

Family came first. They were always there for each other, regardless of what was going on in their personal lives.

The Sisters were a tight group of ladies who cherished each other and encouraged each other’s individuality.

Helen, Mable, Betty & Mickey – Mid-Nineties

Looking at today’s standard this may seem normal, but you have to remember these ladies were born in the early 1900’s. Encouraging individuality was not a common thing.

Especially growing up in a strict religious household.

They were raised Dunkard Brethren which is an offshoot of the Brethren, very similar to Protestant, but closer to Mennonite because they had to wear head coverings, and drinking, smoking and gambling were prohibited.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dunkard_Brethren

Now, by the time these ladies hit high school, like normal teens, they started to rebel, but not in a wild way. They wanted to wear more stylish clothes, high heals, and make up. Plus be involved in things at school, like sports and clubs.

BUT, they never forgot the roots of their faith.

The oldest two, Kassie (Katherine) and Mabel, paved the way for the younger three, Helen (my Mom), Betty (Elizabeth) and Mickey (Mildred).

Helen & Mable Kicking Up Their Heels at Their Niece’s Wedding

In addition to the restrictions put upon them by the church, they also had a very strict Mother. She was the disciplinarian, not the Father. Which in itself speaks light years as to why these five ladies grew up to be five very uniquely different women.

The more I pondered all of this, the more I realized these amazing women needed to be honored, by documenting their story and individuality.

Not just for their uniqueness, but also for the lessons we all learned from them. My Siblings, my Cousins and all of our extended families are who we are because these five special ladies touched our lives, and forever made a mark.

Mickey, Mable & Helen at Mable’s Granddaughter’s Wedding

Each one of them imparted upon us little bits of wisdom that have guided us through good times and bad. AND, by example, showed us that family, faith and food, are all one needs to be truly happy.

So, It brings me great joy to say for the next couple months I will be dedicating my posts to the Dechert Sisters. I have reached out to my Siblings, Cousins and extended family to aid me in this quest.

After all, part of rediscovery is looking to the past, and what better time to do so.

I haven’t quite decided if I will dedicate a month to each Sister, or mix it up. This idea is a work in progress and to a point a labor of love. A way to carry on the legacy that is “THE DECHERT SISTERS – KASSIE, MABEL, HELEN, BETTY AND MICKEY.

The Dechert Sisters – Mickey, Betty, Helen, Mable & Kassie with their parents, David & Sallie

I hope you enjoy reading about the Dechert Sisters legacy as much as I do sharing it.

And, maybe you too will start to ponder those within your family who have also left a legacy. Because, it’s those legacies that have molded each of our families and lead us to where we are now.

© Mariann E. Danko and Waking the Woman, 2020. All rights reserved.

Goddess Masthead © Pamela Danko-Stout and Waking the Woman, 2020. All rights reserved.

#WakingtheWoman

#MomMemoir

#DechertSisters

#FamilyLegacy

#EndOfEra

Eyes Soul – 123rf – Sergey Nivens

Photos from personal collection

2020 VISION

As the month of June was beginning I couldn’t help but ponder how fast the halfway mark of the year was upon me?

AND, I wondered how could it creep up on me so quickly when I felt like I’d been standing still since the end of March?

OR, was that precisely why it crept up on me?

When stay-at-home orders were enacted, for all intensive purposes, time stopped. What was, was no more, at least temporary, and what would be was still up in the air.

At first this was all a bit unnerving, but once I settled into the notion of being forced to stay home, and knew my work from home would be limited, I embraced this time as time to focus on my dreams and aspirations for retirement.

I was actually a bit happy to finally have the time I needed to focus on my writing and this blog.

AND, I actually welcomed this time after the hiccup I hit in January that set me back as far as my goals for 2020 were concerned.

https://wakingthewoman.com/2020/01/31/the-best-laid-plans/#more-267

With this newfound, unexpected time, I once again had 2020 vision for 2020.

AND, not knowing how much time I would actually have, I knew I had to act fast.

Continue reading “2020 VISION”