Great Aunt Ruth, Lucretia’s 4th child, wrote her memories from her childhood and gave it to family. Most of the following comes from her document. She also supplied many of the old photos. Ruth was a quiltmaker herself, not starting the craft until later in her life. She passed away in 2005 from lung cancer, mesothelioma.
After arriving in Orlando in 1920, Clayton bought 20 acres of land on the east side of Lake Holden, about 3 miles outside the then city limits. The family lived in a small house in Orlando and Clayton worked in town as an electrician and elevator repair man. At nights and on weekends he rode his motorcycle out to the property to build their house. When the family moved to the house there was no electricity or running water. There was a well. For light and cooking they used kerosene. After 1924, electric service came out to the lake. More homes were built around the lake and there were other families for company.
Clayton planted an orange grove on the property. The family had a vegetable garden, milk from several cows, and chickens. In the early days they used a horse and buggy for transportation. The first car Clayton purchased was a Scripps-Booth, later followed by a Dodge touring car.
After that car died and was buried next to the lake, Clayton bought a Jewett Sedan.
In February 1923 Clayton’s father died and in May 1923 Lucretia’s mother passed away.
Oldest daughter Beatrice married Herbert Benjamin Pettes on June 12, 1924 in Orlando. Bea and Herb had 3 girls from 1925-1930 (that 3rd girl being my mom). They lived in Longwood, an unincorporated community where Herb had his own dairy farm. Herb was a veteran of WWI and likely stayed in Florida after his service and stay at the military base in Florida.
In order to support his family at the start of the Great Depression, Clayton returned to New York City to work. A year later, the lake house was closed and the rest of the family hopped into the Jewett and Billie (age 21) drove them all to Mount Vernon, NY (outside NYC). In 1930, Clayton was an electrician for an elevator company, Billie was a stenographer for an insurance company, and Everett was an assistant in a laboratory in NYC. The 2 youngest children were in school. Bea and Herb stayed in Florida. The Lerch’s rented their home for $80 a month and they had a radio. The family moved to Hershey, PA later in 1930 and Clayton found work at the Hershey factory.
In 1932, Bea and Herb moved their family with 4 girls now to New Hampshire near his family where they would have a dairy farm.
After Ruth graduated from Hershey High School in 1933, Clayton decided to return to Orlando. It was the worst of the Depression. Clayton used his children’s summer job money to ship their belongings to Florida. Lucretia’s health was failing. She had very high blood pressure and her doctor warned that she could have a stroke. Billie stayed in Hershey where she had her job. They drove the still-running Jewett car south.
Lucretia, Clayton, Ruth (18), and the youngest, Norman (15), moved back in to the lake house. There was a big hurricane several years earlier and there was a lot to clean up. There was no full time work for Clayton in Orlando but at least they did not have to pay rent. Ruth was the wage earner with her job in a 5 and 10 cent store.
In 1934, the worst dust storm of the Great Dust Bowl (Oklahoma) occured driving sand all the way to Washington D.C. Also at this time, the Nazis rose to power in Germany.
On November 13, 1934, Lucretia woke up with a very bad headache. She died the next morning from a cerebral hemorrhage at age 50.
Clayton could not care for the family himself so they split up. Ruth went to live in town with a friend. Norman went to live with Bea in NH. Clayton rented the lake house except for a bedroom he kept for himself. He eventually built a smaller house on the property for himself and then sold the lake house and orange grove.
Clayton moved his belongings and a box of Lucretia’s things into the new house on Lake Holden Terrace.
During the 1940’s Clayton went back to NYC to work and save money for his retirement. In 1942 he was required to register for the WWII draft. His address was 170 West 73 St. NY, NY and he was 64 years old. WWII ended in 1945.
In 1940, Lucretia’s children were spread far and wide.
- Bea was living in Canterbury, NH with Herb and they had 7 girls.
- Billie has married Edwin (Ted) and was in Stoneham, MA living with her in-laws.
- Everett has married Myrtle and they were living in Winter Park, FL. They have 3 daughters and he is a minister.
- Ruth has married Arnold and they are living in Orange, FL.
- Norman had been living with his brother in Florida in 1935 but I can’t find him in 1940 (he may have been in divinity school). He also became a minister and married Doris.
In 1956 Clayton published a novel he wrote that took place in central Florida. The title is “The Last Hope”. He lived in the house on Lake Holden until he died in 1963 of cancer at age 85.
Bea inherited the lake house when Clayton died so Bea and Herb moved back to Orlando and lived there. That’s when Bea found Lucretia’s box. Bea gave the box to her youngest daughter Nancy (#7) around 1966 when Nancy and her husband Alan were living in Florida and Nancy was expecting her first child. Nancy found the five christening dresses in the box and used them as her children were baptized. They were handmade of organdy and lace.
The box also contained old dresses, perhaps one was a wedding dress, baby clothes, a woven wool coverlet or bedspread, a boy’s blue velvet coat, and the silk pineapple block quilt.
(This family tree can be found on Ancestry.com.)