Ode to my mother, Agnes

Agnes and Tut

Born on January 3rd in the year of our Lord, 1909 in the middle of a snowstorm at home, on a farm in Bradshaw, Baltimore County, in Maryland. Agnes was the ninth of twelve children born to Herman and Anna. She spent many happy days growing up on that farm in Bradshaw.  Being near the end of the children chain, she was almost the baby sister and that gave her and her sister a lot of carefree years that the other girls didn’t have.  She lived the entire 43 years of her life within 2 miles of the place of her birth.  The first calamity she had to survive was the Flu Pandemic that swept over the world during WW I and took two of her siblings.

Lizzie, the oldest sister and first born, was just 22 and had met a young man named Michael from Baltimore who was visiting relatives that lived in the area.  They fell in love but Michael was caught up in the madness that had gripped the world at the time and was drafted to serve in the American Expeditionary Forces that went to Europe to save the world from the Keiser.  Lizzie was the first to succumb to that plague and Madeline was next.

Agnes’ companion during her growing-up years was Tut.  He was named after the Egyptian Pharaoh and looked like a cross between a Border Collie and a Mutt.  She taught him just about every trick you could think of for a dog, including how to sit up and smoke a pipe. She had a great love for all animals and had a special connection to Tut that amazed the family. She and Tut were inseparable.

Her schooling began in a nearby one-room schoolhouse, the Upper Falls School.  The building still stands today and is in constant use.  We know it now as The Odd Fellows Meeting Hall on the corner of Bradshaw and Raphel Roads.

After completing elementary school, Agnes was anxious to take the next step in her education.  The nearest High School was Bel Air High in Harford County and she enrolled for the next semester with great enthusiasm.  She was an excellent student in Grammar School and this carried over into High School, at least in the beginning.

It was then that she began having problems with her hearing and found it more difficult keeping up with her class. Herman and Anna took her to a doctor in Baltimore and after an examination, he told them that there was nothing that could be done and their choices were a special school for the deaf or she would have to learn to live with it.  They couldn’t afford a special school so Agnes did just that, learned to live with it. She was determined to be the best lip-reader of all time and she did so in short order.  If she could see your lips, she could almost carry on a normal conversation.  She often told me that having to drop out of High School was one of the great disappointments of her life.  Her handicap made her somewhat introverted and she remained that way the rest of her life.

Agnes spent much of her early life exploring the fields and woods around the farm.  She knew about farming and planting from her father and about being a good wife and mother from her mother, Anna. Determined not to stop learning just because High School was now denied her due to a quirk of nature, she borrowed books to fill in the gaps.  She learned names of all the trees that filled the nearby woods and could identify them by the shapes of their leaves.  She knew what animals roamed the fields and woodlands and she tried to pass this information on to all her children later in life.  She was no Rachel Carson but she did think about the environment even though the word probably had not been invented yet.

The Big Gunpowder Falls (river) bordered their property at one point and she told me she would spend whole days in the Summer and Fall wandering along its banks. The farm adjoining theirs was owned by an uncle, Len Miller,and this gave her lots of riverbank to explore.  She kept finding Indian artifacts in her wanderings so she got some books to learn more about the people who lived in Bradshaw long before the Millers came on the scene.

Michael had been sent to France to help in the final push against the German Army, still trying to destroy Paris and was exposed to the Mustard Gas the Huns used toward the end of WWI. He was sent home by hospital ship and knew nothing of the death of his Lizzie.  He was devastated by the news but had to spend many months in the hospital before he could get back to the country.  When he did return to Bradshaw, he decided that it might be a good idea to move there anyway in order to recover from his travels to Europe.

There was a ten-acre farm for sale across the valley from the Miller’s place so he took the few dollars he had saved and became a property owner.  It was a typical two-story frame, 5 room house.  There were two bedrooms on the second floor and a bedroom and sitting room on the first.  On the back was a large one story combination kitchen-dining and living area that had a large wood-fired range that cooked the food and heated the place.  The front of the house faced the Millers and it bordered Old Landing Road which once led to a area on the Gunpowder River.  There, tobacco, grain and other farm products were loaded on small boats that transported them to large sailing ships anchored at Old Baltimore, now known as the thriving community of Joppatowne.

Michael had become close to the Miller Family and after a few years passed, he began to court young Agnes.  There was considerable difference in their ages, 18 years to be exact, but they fell in love and in early 1929 they were married at St. Stephen church in Bradshaw.  A year later the first of four little Langrehrs came to the ten-acre spread on Old Landing Road.  The house being just across the valley from Agnes’ family, she received plenty of help and advice from “Grandma” Anna and the sisters that were still living at home.  Agnes went to Baltimore to have the baby and stayed with Michael’s father, Henry, and sister, Elizabeth.  One year and a few days later, another little Langrehr came a-knockin’ in Bradshaw and another Henry was added to the roster. Yes, another Henry!

Agnes with Don (left) & Henry (right)

There have always  been Henrys in the Langrehr family, going back to Heinrich, the first to come to America looking for gold back around 1900.  Lord only knows how many there are in the old country!  And while we are on names,  I’m sure you realize by now that Michael was my father and Agnes was my mother.

It was the Depression, money was scarce so it seemed like a great place to stop. For the next six years, they struggled through the lean times.  My father was unable to hold an outside job even if there had been one available, being in and out of the hospital due to his lingering disabilities.  But when you live on a farm, with your own cow and chickens, a little money to buy seed and a lot of hard work you can get by.

My mother was a good seamstress and made most of her own clothes and a lot of ours. After all, what did we know, we seldom left our ten acres and to us, clothes were something to keep us from getting too scratched up when we headed for the river to fish or just explore. When school started for us, we got a couple of things from Sears Catalog and Uncle John and Aunt Mary would bring bags of clothes that their kids had outgrown and my mother would alter them to fit.  To us it was like Christmas in August.  Uncle John was a carpenter, didn’t get hurt in WWI and had a good job, lucky for us.

Then came 1937 and my Mom had a surprise for Dad!  “I think I might be expecting again” she said one evening at the supper table. I was six, going on seven and had seen many animal pregnancies come and go but I didn’t connect anything at the time.   I do remember a lot of commotion among my aunts on my father’s side.  I found out years later that they thought the pregnancy should be stopped and there was a falling out for a short while over it but Dad and Mom remained steadfast and the time for the birth was coming fast… (to be continued)

Don Langrehr

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3 Responses to Ode to my mother, Agnes

  1. Brett says:

    Great story! I had no idea your Mom’s family was so large, but farmer’s usually had large families back then. Interesting how people made out even with their disabilities hindering them. Got me hooked for next week.

  2. Keith says:

    I agree, so interesting to hear all of the details. You can envision the farm and woods and imagine what it might have been like to live then. It was a much simpler time, harder in many ways but maybe nicer in others. Can’t wait to hear the rest of the story!

  3. Pingback: Ode to my mother, Agnes (Part two) | The Zone Magazine

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