Elizabeth Compton knows a thing or two about raising kids, but “you never get done learning,” she said, with tomorrow being set aside to recognize her and other mothers.
Compton is 95, gave birth to 16 children and raised 15. One son, William Irl, died when he was less than three days old.
The first of her children, Finley Lee, arrived in 1941, a year after she married Finley Compton and they took up residence on a farm near Neosho Falls. She missed few years giving birth to a child over the next two decades.
“When the last was born, my oldest was in college,” Compton recalled.
Education was important to Compton, who graduated from Iola Junior College and taught school for a year before marrying.
“All my children have a college education, or the equivalent,” she said.
COMPTON wasn’t a stranger to a large family when she married. She was one of 12 children born to the Rev. Irving and Bethany Neuenswander.
He was an Methodist minister who served churches in a number of small towns before settling in Colony.
Finley Compton entered her world in a round-about way.
When her father was serving a church in Willis, a hamlet in northeast Kansas west of St. Joseph, Mo., the Neuenswanders became acquainted with a Compton family. After moving to Colony, the Willis-area Comptons stopped for a visit on the way to see relatives at Eureka.
Young Finley, of the Eureka Comptons and traveling with his relatives, noticed Elizabeth.
“Finley said he liked me,” and it went from there, Compton said.
They were married Aug. 4, 1940, at her parents’ home in Colony — fine with her, she was eager to hitch up with the love of her life. The wedding had few frills, but was followed by a splendid fried chicken dinner prepared by her mother.
Finley had been farming with his father at Eureka, an enterprise wrecked by the Great Depression. Eventually the newly weds sought a new start on a farm near Neosho Falls, with a rent-free house in exchange for farming on shares.
The bottom ground produced well, except when the Neosho River flooded, a common occurrence before John Redmond Dam was built north of Burlington in the 1950s.
With a knack for fixing things, Finley opened a car repair garage in Neosho Falls to supplement income for the growing family.
COMPTON had good training for taking on the chores of being a wife and mother, coming from a family of 12 kids.
“Mom gave us different jobs to do, mostly what we liked to do,” she said. “I liked to cook.”
She put the skill to work in marriage, daily fixing meals for a houseful of children and a hard-working husband.
“He was a good husband,” Compton said of Finley, and she never fretted about having to arise early and head for the kitchen. “He liked a good breakfast before he went to work in the fields or the garage at 6 a.m.”
Her early morning regimen also included preparing lunches for the kids to take to school and for her husband to carry with him to the field. His daily schedule was dawn-to-dusk work.
A deeply religious woman, Compton credits her success as a mother and wife to the “Lord taking care of you — and the older you get the better you know it.”
If there is a secret she possesses in the raising of her brood, it is “loving your children and taking care of them. Dad would spank us sometimes, but Mom always talked to us whenever we did something we shouldn’t. I did that with my children. I think that’s better than spanking.”
Having a large family wasn’t necessarily planned, just came naturally, Compton said.
“I really never thought about it and my husband never objected,” she said with a chuckle. “He was always working and I was raising our children.”
Taking a cue from their mother’s upbringing, Compton’s children pitched to help with daily tasks about the home and, as they grew up, in the fields.
If she could start over, Compton said she wouldn’t do anything differently. “It’s been rewarding. And, when you think you know it all,” about child rearing, “the next one is different.”