February 3, 2011

Elizabeth Delph Ordway - My Great-Grandmother

Lemuel and Lizzie Ordway

Known most often as “Lizzie” or “Bess,” my great-grandmother, Elizabeth Margaret Caroline Delph was born 18 November 1878.  Lizzie was the fourth child of Phillip and Elizabeth (Witzgall) Delph.  My mother told me that her grandma always said that her father Phillip had named her after all his sisters, and he did, indeed, have three sisters named Elizabeth, Margaret and Caroline.

In the 1880 Federal Census, Monroe Township, Henry County, Ohio, Lizzie, age 1, was living with her parents, Phillip, 34, and Elizabeth, 31.  Her siblings listed at that time were Cora, 8; Julia, 6; Ottas, 4 and with them lived George Delp, 30, Phillip’s younger brother.

My great-grandma Ordway is not seen much in any record books.  Occasionally, her name appeared in the newspaper as she was active in some women’s church groups and I did find a large group photo taken in 1913 showing her at a Sunday School picnic.  After her marriage to Lemuel in 1898, she became a homemaker and mother to four children and that was her life. 

Up until her death in the 1960’s, she lived in a home with no running water, no indoor bathroom, no phone, and I don't think they ever did get electricity.  She kept a garden in her back yard and grapevines.  She cooked and baked using a large green and silver cast iron stove fueled by coal, as I remember.  She pumped her water from a well in the back yard.  When you wanted a drink at her house, you got it using a tin dipper from a pail of water that sat in the kitchen. 

Behind the house at a distance sat a little outhouse.  Grandma had its walls decorated with pictures from old calendars and catalogs. It was a very, very cold place in the winter time!  And dark.  And…fragrant.

Her kitchen had no kitchen cupboards along the walls, but just one sideboard cupboard to hold foods.  The big stove and a wooden table and chairs finished off the kitchen furnishings.  I can remember that Grandpa Lem loved Ritz crackers and would have them in the cupboard as a treat for the kids.

My great-grandparents’ living room was a room of mysteries for children.  I was always fascinated by the sofa covered in real horse hair.  In one corner stood an upright player piano with many rolls of old-fashioned songs that could be played.  Oh, how we would annoy our parents when we pumped those piano pedals and got the music going loud and fast!  The last treasure I especially remember in that room was a stereoptic viewer or stereoscope and a pile of double imaged photos.  One would place a photo in the metal holder on the viewer and then look through the lenses and the photo would blend into one, 3-D picture. 

Another favorite place to be at my great-grandmother’s was on her front porch where there was a wonderful, wooden porch swing.  It was a screened-in porch, a cool place in the summer.  I remember the giant size Christmas cactus on a stand and the bookcase with Betty Boop, Mutt and Jeff, Felix the Cat, and the old style Mickey Mouse big little books.

It was a simple life for Lemuel and Lizzie Ordway in their little house in Malinta, Ohio.  After Lem died in 1959, Grandma Ordway continued to live in the house until dementia threatened her safety.  She was in the nursing home for awhile and died on 7 July 1965.  She is buried beside her husband in Hoy Cemetery.


  1. What a great story! I've never really heard anything about her. She seemed like a strong woman, especially to live her whole life without indoor plumbing! Thanks for sharing!

  2. Just received your blog from my sister Deb Larson
    We I was young I remember going to Aunt Bess's house when we would make visits to Ohio. Nice to read the history.
    david Wood