Under the title: COVER PAGE – CHAPTER 12 – D: Margaret Ann McCutcheon, I have completely rewritten her story.
In the 21st century there is a trend to convert wasted tracts of land in larger cities that is owned by the cities, into communal gardens. Many of these wasted tracts of land in cities sit covered in weeds, ensnaring garbage that blows around on windy days. In the inner city, these unused pieces of land quite often house homeless people sleeping in sleeping bags or under yesterday’s newspaper.
I found a very interesting newspaper article dated the 25th August 1968 about Margaret Ann McCutcheon’s son-in-law, Robert Jessemon Add WYKE.
Fortunately, WYKE just happened to live to be 94 years old, bringing his story from the 19th century into the 20th.
WYKE in his twilight years devoted 12 years of his life to doing exactly that – gardening on unused land that would have otherwise sat unattended. He was perhaps a man ahead of his time.
This newspaper article also contained some inconspicuous information that led me to find historical information that helped piece this family’s story together. The only annoying bit of information still missing is why Margaret and John died at such a young age, leaving four young children orphaned.
PERSONALITY PROFILE – Walla Walla Union Bulletin, Washington Sunday 25th August 1968:
UNIQUE GARDEN IS WYKE PROJECT:
One of the more unusual gardens of Walla Walla is relatively unknown because of its location. It is situated at the rear of the Odd Fellows Home on Boyer Avenue. It has been developed over the last 12 years by Rolland A. J. Wyke, long time gardener, who has lived in the Wall Walla valley some 21 years.
Both flowers and vegetables are grown by Wyke in his garden on land by the Odd Fellows Home but which he is permitted to use. He had begun developing the garden before Wade Bergevin erected the Millbrook Park apartments at 30 S. Clinton. Wyke’s garden adjoins the apartment complex at its rear with entrances both through the apartment grounds and the Odd Fellows Home.
In fact the gardens can be viewed by motorists without getting out of their vehicles by driving in at 29 S. Division and emerging at 30 S. Division or vice versa. Those who would like a closer look may park their vehicles on S. Clinton Street near the apartment house and walk through it grounds to entrances to the garden.
Born In A Dugout:
Wyke is a man of many talents. Born in a dugout on his father’s homestead in Southern Nebraska, he has followed agricultural pursuits most of his life. He is an amateur camera fan and worked several periods both in Chicago and Bridgeport Connecticut in photographic shops.
Married in Milton-Freewater in 1910, his wife’s brother-in-law and sister, Mr. and Mrs. Clifford Moss, operated a store there. When the Wykes came west to make their home in 1946, a death in the Moss family resulted in Wyke running the store until it was decided it should be sold.
Wyke and his late wife came west because their daughter, Mrs, Robert Kibler, Route 1, Dixie, and Mrs. Wyke’s brother, the late Will McLean, resided here. Since his wife’s death, Wyke has resided at 916 ½ E. Alder. “I batched before our marriage” he advises “and do all my own housework now. I enjoy that type of activity and when the weather is against my working in the gardens I keep busy in my apartment.”
He has a written contract from the Odd Fellows Home officials that he can continue to use the ¼ acre space his gardens occupy until the Home needs the land. Several tenants of the apartments have small tracts in the rear of Wyke’s in which they grow both vegetables and flowers. These include Mr. and Mrs. Howard Whitbeck; Mrs. F. L. Ralston; Mr. and Mrs. Fred H. Treganowan; Tom Rice and Don Ellis; Paul H. Wineman, manager of the apartment house also has a garden tract there.
The Odd Fellows Home has a large area bordering the channel of Mill Creek it devotes to a vegetable garden, growing some of its own needs. A good sized area is in alfalfa apparently planted as a dust prevention measure.
Wyke has worked as a gardener for numerous Walla Wallans before starting his Odd Fellows Home garden and has continued this type of supplemental activity. He has helped out both the Brown’s Sunny Hill Gardens, East Sumach, and at Schmelzer’s Gardens, 731 Edgewood, in return for his labors having been given choice plants by both operators which he has planted in his garden.
Some years ago Wyke won “the best flower in show” at an annual show of the Wall Walla Iris Society. Most of his Iris plants are named varieties. He has some 20 named daylilies. He has hybridized some daylilies too. A number of choice Touchdown Chrysanthemum plants were given him by the city park department some years ago. Keith Collins has given him choice Chrysanthemum plants and some Olympic hybrid lily plants also.
He has extended an invitation to interested persons to visit his gardens and secure surplus Iris and Chrysanthemum plants. For those interested he would trade plants for ribbons which he uses for tying up plants and for broom stalks too.
A 40×50 foot area at the back of his garden that sloped towards Mill Creek was filled in with material excavated from the nearby apartment house and swimming pool. It is in that area that Wyke has his vegetable garden in which he grows sweet corn, squash, cucumbers, parsnips, carrots and tomatoes.
A number of peach plum, peach, cherry and apricot fruit trees and white lilac shrubs have been planted along the Mill Creek channel side of the property he uses. He has found that seedling fruit trees are hardier than nursery stock in this area. He utilizes the peaches from his trees having kept his own personal larder well supplied with the fruit he cans himself.
Visitors to his garden will find that numerous garden markers have been utilized to identify flowers. These are helpful for identification.
Among floral oddities Wyke has some Chrysanthemum flowered sunflowers and blue flax that attracted this interviewer’s interest. Wyke saves his tomato, bean and sweet corn seeds for future use. Some flower seeds are given him by friends. He has grown an English Walnut tree from seed also.
Wyke has an interesting financial philosophy. With the returns from the 80 acre family farm in Nebraska he still owns and other investments he has made through the years he has refused to accept the $30 per month payment to which the Social Security Administration says he is entitled to.
“Our government is too far in debt now” he said “to ever pay out its debts. I don’t need the money so I have refused to accept anything from Social Security.”