“Biography by Susan E. Coleman (Sharpe)”
Moore Irwin Sharpe was born in Northern Ireland. His ancestors moved there from Scotland, all were Presbyterians. He was the oldest child, in a family of nine children. Sisters were Susan, Elizabeth, Margaret jane and Emma, the brothers were Samuel, Joseph, William and one who died as infant. He was educated in a school that taught arithmetic and reading, based on the Bible. So he was an exceptional Bible student.
He had 2 maiden Aunts, one of them Auntie Sharpe gave him and his brother will the necessary funds, to purchase 2 steerage tickets on a boat sailing for American. After 6 long weeks in crowed quarters below deck, they found themselves in U.S.A. They were soon on their way to Waynesboro, Pennsylvania, were Moore became a 3 year apprentice in The Frick Machine Shops, where he learned the trade of machinist.
Catherine Rebecca Johnson, eldest of a family of nine, six boys, 2 girls and one who died as infant. James, John, Leonard, Leslie, Alfred, and the sister Lucretia. The father was a tailor by trade ,he was a cripple having had one leg amputated above the knee because of a condition known as “white swelling.”
At the age of 13, Catherine had dropped out of school to work in the tailor shop. She and her father were very expert tailors.
During this time, the Civil War was taking place. The mother would bake half moon snit pies, and they were sold to the soldiers of the North. Gettysburg was 20 miles away, and the half starved troops welcome them. Once the Rebels invaded St. Thomas taking everything they could find. One stray soldier captured Catherine and ordered her to get an axe, so he could chop down the town flag pole. She refused, but the Rebel did secured one and did chop the pole down. She was a small red haired girl, but was strong and healthy always. She had a busy life.
Six weeks after a whirlwind courtship to the dashing young Irishman from Waynesboro, who was 10 years her senior (she was 23, he 33) they were married. Catherine said it was the nine dollar boots that took her eye and also she thought if she married him, she would never have to put her hands in cold water, again. Dreamer!
After the marriage of Catherine Rebecca Johnson and Moore Irwin Sharpe, they lived in Waynesboro, Franklin Co. Pennsylvania. Thy lived in a large 2 story house that Moore had bought. Children came: James, Anna, William, Lucy, Emma, Stewart, then Susan Ella. (Susan for father’s wealthy sister and Ella for mother’s dear friend Ella Lutz).
Catherine was a deeply religious person and to her, a minister was “ A Man of God”. She taught her children to live in fear of doing wrong as God was always watching. Many times after an accident to one of her children, and they had recovered, she would cry and hug the child and say, “The Guardian Angel from Heaven above was watching over her children.”
After the birth of their 7th child, they sold their home and furnishings, took all and moved West to the prairies of Iowa Moore’s sister had written such glowing stories of “Go West Young Man and Seek your Fortune”, money was practically growing on trees in Iowa. Went by train when Susan was 3 weeks old, this was March 1885. First they stayed with sister Elizabeth and her 8 children. They soon bought a farm with a small house. After a series of farm disasters, animals dying, no crops, it was decided that Moore was not a farmer. The children had all helped, 12 year old james had learned to milk a cow and drive horses. But just not enough.
They sold the farm and bought 2 lots in Iowa Falls, Iowa, and built a home on North Stevens Street. 2 more sons were born there, Alfred and then John. The oldest child was almost 17 years old when the youngest was born.
Moore was employed by BCR & N R.R. In the Roundhouse as an engine repair man. He was always pounding red hot iron and shaping it, then plunging them into cold water. He was often called out at night to repair an engine, when the workmen came after him, swinging a lantern in the air, he would always ask the number of the engine before taking off in the darkness.
Catherine was always hearing night noises, and imagined burglars. She would cream in the middle of the night “Moore” get the gun. That would always scare off invaders even if the family had never owned a gun! The family did have plenty of children and beds, but generally burglars didn’t want them.
Nearly every summer, Catherine would take the children to the Eldora County Fair, on the excursion train from Alden to Eldora, which stopped at Iowa Falls. They carried lunch baskets for the Sharpe children were always hungry. Each child was allowed a Merry Go Round ride, and they looked at the concessions and side shows...fat women...wild man...snakes..etc. The children were always eating for as well as the picnic lunch they brought each child had a nickel or dime to spend for treats. The highlight of the day was walking out to the Reform School (now training school for boys).
Throughout the year, the parents would admonish the children with “If you boys don’t behave, you’ll have to go to the Reform School,” a place of very rigid discipline and torture. But on this visitor’s day, the kids would watch the boys onparade, tour the building and grounds and generally feel sorry for those boys. The trolley tour (cost money) generally would pass the walking Sharpe’s, carrying shoes and stockings on this long, hot, dusty walk. There was always someone on the trolley who would yell out “there goes Mrs. Sharpe and all those kids.”
The daughter were enrolled in Mrs. Simplots Sewing School for Girls and Home Sewing. Fee was .25 cents a week, girls going every morning, and learning how to do simple hand sewing, made buttonholes, all embroidery stitches, made dolls sheets and cases, shoe bags, etc. Catherine, this mother, had been trained to tailor clothes, she would sew all stitches by hand, using a back stitch, even on mens and boys suits, having been trained in her father’s tailoring shop as a girl. She would make buttonholes for people, on heavy coats and suits.
The cellar was used to store vegetables and other foods as there were no ice boxes in those days. It was also used whenever a storm threatened. Emma sued to say that the reason she was so small and thin, was because she was always the first one down to cellar stairs, and all the other came down as a row of dominos on top of her. Mother would look out the cellar window and always cry out, “I know Jimmy has been blown away or hurt.” The storm clouds were always in the direction of Iowa City where Jim was attending University of Iowa there. Catherine was from Pennsylvania and had lived among the mountains and valleys there, and she was not used to the storms that hit Iowa, and she was desperately afraid. The children were raised in this fear, but the Good Lord never let anything happen. Another thing that the children were told, that if they put their hands on the Good Book (as Moore called the Bible), nothing would happen to them. The family Bible had some pretty rough treatment, as each child wanted to git his grimy hands on first. Each time a child learned a Bible verse, a penny would be given. “Jesus Wept” was a favorite verse.
Lucy was the prettiest of the four Sharpe girls, most talented and popular. She sang, won many speaking and drama contests. She did not live at home too much, as she stayed during her upper class school years with wealthy Aunt Susan in Hampton, Iowa. She graduated from High School there.