I was born, Olive Margaret Harrington, on May 31, 1902 on the Harrington Homestead in what later became LeMay Township in Aitkin County, up in northern Minnesota.

I started school when I was nine years old when they finished building the schoolhouse in the spring of 1911. I started school in the third grade.

Pearl Young was my first teacher. My father, my brother Newlon Harrington and a black man from Aitkin built the school. It was called the Harrington School. My brother Newlon and my sister Irene started school with me in the fall. We were all in the fifth grade. They were ten and twelve years older than me and had not gone to school since they left Iowa in 1900.

I went to the Harrington School until I was thirteen. By that time I had finished the eighth grade and one year of high school. After I finished all of the school available, I stayed home and worked on the farm. I drove the team, cut and hauled firewood, mowed and raked hay and took care of the vegetable garden with my father. All the crops gathered in for the winter plus hay for the cattle and wood to heat the house by the middle of October had to last the winter when the snows came and the lakes froze over.

My dad, George Harrington, cut ties during the winter and sold them to the railroad. He worked on the roads and put up telephone poles when there was work.

In 1919, when I was seventeen, I went to my former teacher, Rose Kelly and asked her to help me get caught up to date on high school subjects so I could go to Normal and become a teacher myself.

I knew I wanted to be a teacher but money was very scarce. In order to get money for Normal my mother drove the team into Swatara and mortgaged two of our cows and handed me the money and said, "Take that and go buy your ticket." Art Heath, the man who loaned her the money said, "I even forgot to make out the mortgage." So they made out the papers after I left in the spring of 1919.

I was seventeen the day I took the train to Duluth to attend Marquette Normal in Duluth on Lake Superior. For seventy dollars I lived in the dormitory and took the three month condensed teachers course during the summer.

In the fall of 1919, I began my first teaching job at a small primary school called the Baker School just over the line in Cass County west of Shovel Lake. Walker was the county seat. I taught there all winter. On Friday evening I would walk the seven miles back to the homestead to spend the weekend and help the family. I gave all of my money to my family. It was a long hard winter for me that year.

The summer of 1920,I returned to Duluth and took the second part of the teaching course and received my credential. But this year one thing had changed. The school was now called "Duluth Teacher's College." Now that it was a college, I had to pay tuition. The tuition was $5. When I finished the two summer courses I had a "Second Grade" Teaching Certificate. There were only boys at the Baker School and they were hard to handle and I liked to have a variety of boys and girls so I decided not to return to the Baker School. Also, I had to walk seven miles on Friday evening if I wanted to spend my weekends at home in LeMay Township with my family.

Instead of going back to the Baker School that fall I took a job at Esquagamah Lake. Esquagamah School was located closer to Aitkin in Aitkin County. I was nineteen years old that year. I stayed with the Murphy family and taught their children and the others that attended the school from the neighborhood.

When the Murphy's house burned in 1920 I stayed with their in-laws the Crabtree's and taught at that school for two years, until 1921.

When I finished my second term at Esquagamah, Mr. Yoeman asked me if I would come and finish out the year at the Waldeck School for the teacher who had recently quit. It was nearby so I finished up at the Yoemans' School that year. (1922)

They didn't pay me at the Yoemans School and I had to take Mr. Yoemans to court twice to get the money that was owed to me.

{Court records: St.Paul, MN, Common School District No. 97}
Presented for this 13th day of June 1922, payment but not paid for want of funds S.H. Yoemans, Treasurer.

She filed on Dec. 15, 1922, for $75.00 she did not receive the money January 21, 1923. She had him back in court to pay the:
  • Principal: $150.00
  • Interest: $6.38
  • Affidavits: $1.00
  • Sheriff's Fees: $7.00
  • Clerk's Fees: $3.00
  • Total: $172.38

It appears she had to sue twice to get her money.

(No.5359) District Court, County of Aitkin, filed on the 15th day of December 1922.

Her attorney, Louis Hallum, in a written statement attested "That more than 20 days have expired since the service of the summons with no answer."

(This action is brought for the purpose of recovering a money judgment upon two school orders . . filed . .)

(This is exactly as it was written.
At this time I think she got her money.
This was January 24, 1923 ~ Stacy)

In 1924, the year I was twenty I didn't get a school so I went to work in the Brainerd Hospital as a nurse's aid.

In January 1925, my Aunt Jenny, Mrs. George Clark, of Chicago, my mother's sister became ill and asked me to come to Chicago and stay with her. I stayed until April when my mother also became very ill and I was called home. I returned home to Swatara to take care of her. My mother died July 4, 1925 from leakage of the heart. Aunt Jenny had died in June about three weeks earlier.

In the fall of 1925, I was twenty-three. I went to work teaching out at Brower, (or Brauer) east of Hill City. I took the Hill City train, the old Rabey Line, a logging train, which rattled and shook. It shook so bad it seemed to be almost falling apart as it roared down the tracks to take me to Brauer.

The first time I saw my future husband, James Vellas was when he came out to my father's farm during the summer of 1925. He wanted to buy anything we had a surplus of, such as cattle, calves, potatoes or anything else we had to sell. The first time he came to see my father.

The next time he came back with some other men to go fishing in Third Guide Lake near our farm. My sister, Elsie, and I had got up early before they arrived and put mud on our faces to make us beautiful. We didn't want him to see us like that so we hid in the willow trees near the house and peeked out as he went by. I said, "Boy, is he good looking!"

After he went by we slipped up to the house and cleaned the mud off of our faces. Later on he came up to house and we got acquainted. I didn't see him for quite awhile after that and I thought no more about him.

Some time later, my sister told me Jim had been hit by a car and he was hurt badly and was in the hospital in Hibbing with a broken leg. I began thinking seriously about him again.

After a month or so, I saw him driving around in his truck. He was on crutches and he had a big bandage on his head. I knew then that I cared about him. I guess he did, too. (1926)

Before he began coming to see me, he sent word by another girl that he had bought a new truck and he was putting a big rack on it. He was going to paint it red and when he got it all painted and fixed up he was coming out to see me. It stayed on my mind but I never mentioned it to anyone. "Maybe he will," I thought.

He finally did come to see me in July 1926. Whenever he wasn't driving around selling merchandise, he would stop by our house and we would talk. We didn't go out very much. Sometimes he took me for a drive in his truck to the places he had to go in his work. Once he took me to church and another time we went to show.

He was better off than any other man I knew at that time. The other people in Minnesota were so poor. He was rich by comparison. But it wasn't riches that I was after.

He was a Greek peddler. It really upset my dad that he was a Greek. He said, "Nothin' but a ___!" He didn't like it because Jim was a peddler who bought hides, hogs, batteries and calves. He bought and peddled anything that would sell. I thought he was so pretty!

We went together for six weeks.

When we decided to get married my dad didn't like it. Dad said, "My daughter, ___ no ___ for my daughter!" But I was a grown woman. I was my own boss. He couldn't tell me not to.

Olive Harrington Vellas, James Vellas and Stacy Vellas

My first child was born in Pete Roebuck's house near Fred Berg's place in Macville Township on November 25, 1927. Jim named her Anastasia after himself. 'Anastasios' was his Greek name.

When she was three months old we moved to Hibbing where a lot of Greeks lived. I stayed home and took care of our livestock when we lived in Hibbing. I had to be there to take care of the place and be able to sell our wares when people came around to buy. I had to show them the merchandise Jim had and how much money he wanted for it.

The Greek people in Hibbing treated me very nice, though I couldn't understand much of what they were saying. But when you have a baby it doesn't matter what language you speak, they all want to see your baby and hold your baby and pet your baby. You know how it is. So, there was a common bond.

Jim didn't take me along after I had the baby. His trips were too long and hard. He would travel as far away as Minneapolis and St. Paul then he'd come back. His truck had an open cab with a shingled roof and no doors. They used to make them that way. It was shingled on the top like a house. In the winter it was very cold riding in the open truck.

We lived in Swatara for a while, too, after we were married. Jim bought a carload (railroad car) of grain and had it shipped into Swatara. We kept it in a warehouse. I stayed home and sold the grain to the farmers. We cut prices on Art Heath and the other storekeepers. They were mad, but we didn't care. They called Jim, "Jessie James" because they resented us selling the grain for less than they were selling theirs.

I sold it, anyway. When people came for grain, I went out and opened the warehouse. They paid me the money and I stayed there until they loaded the prescribed amount of grain and then I locked up. The farmers bought the grain to feed to their livestock.

In 1928, Jim bought a new Model T Ford Truck.

In 1929, the stock market crashed. Jim had a new truck but the people in Northern Minnesota had no money to buy anything. He had 80 acres in the Haypoint area so we moved out there. We didn't have a house on the land so we asked if we could live in the Weber's house. We lived there rent-free as we had no money. Jim raised rutabagas on his farm and hunted deer for meat.

Connie, Constantine James, our son was born on the Weber place. The doctor came out to Haypoint from Hill City to deliver him at the house. The doctors in that day were not as aware of germs. In a few days I came down with Jaundice and Jim took me to the Grand Rapids hospital. He took Stacy and left her with Mrs. Schindele until I came home. No one made out the birth record for Connie.

We moved to the homestead when Connie was two years old in 1933. Times were still very hard for everyone during the depression. The taxes were $160.00 a year for the 160-acre homestead but we didn't pay any taxes.

Jim got a group of men together and they built the log house on the farm. My dad helped. He built the upstairs floor and the downstairs floor. The men Jim hired just put up the outside of the house.

After my mother died in 1925, my Dad took Elsie and they went to Fort Madison to find work. Elsie worked in the pen factory and stayed with Aunt Ella Jones. Dad worked for a man with a second-hand shop. Aunt Ella also worked at the pen factory.

My dad decided to come home in 1932. When he got home he stopped at his son Newlon's who lived on the adjoining property in Cass County. He started to leave for his own homestead when Newlon said, "Don't go, the place has burned to ground. There is nothing left. At first he stayed with my brother Newlon. Then Newlon turned him out and we found him walking along the road and we took him home with us. He stayed at our house until he died on January 31, 1937.

copyright 1979 Olive Harrington
Transcribed by Stacy Vellas