Cinderella Elizabeth Kinnaird

The turn of the century 1900 brought a new round of migration to the Ozarks, primarily driven by the railroad's arrival and cheap land. The Kinnaird family was one of the thousands arriving from Kentucky and Tennessee, where available good farmland was becoming scarce, and farming opportunities in the Ozarks were more plentiful. They frequently came with little or nothing and made a way here.
 
In January 1939, schoolteacher/author Ella Horak, as a part of a series featuring the life stories of older women in Howell County, entitled “These Pioneer Mothers,” featured the story of Cinderella Elizabeth Kinnaird, who arrived in Howell County with her husband and children in 1895. Her story is a testament to the resilience and adaptability of the women who came here, and not just survived, but thrived. Under the title, “Master of Old Arts Approaches 85th Birthday,” Ella wrote:
 
“Perhaps our best-known and most interesting pioneer mother is Mrs. Cinderella Kinnaird. We are indebted to Kentucky for this marvelous old mother. The story of her life would fill a large volume, and it is here that we relate only a few of the most interesting episodes of her life.”
 
“Mother Kinnaird spent her pioneer days in Kentucky. She said, ‘I was born on Sunday morning, March 12, 1854, at Goshen, near Bowling Green, Kentucky. I was named for two of my aunts. One aunt was named in honor of Queen Elizabeth, and the other one for the fairy story girl, Cinderella.’” 
 
“Mother Kinnaird will be 85 on the 12 of March (1939), and she is as spry as a cricket and as gay as a lamb. When we called to interview her, we found her sitting by the open fireside, mending clothes. Her soft white hair was held in place by a little cheesecloth cap edged with pink, a design of her own making. ‘Now, don’t you dare put anything in the paper about this,’ she remarked, but the writer cannot resist the temptation to pass the mirth of this incident on to others. Patching away, she continued, ‘You have heard the old saying that if a hole is in the front of a garment your troubles are all ahead of you; if the hole is in the side of the garment you are right in the midst of your troubles, but if the hold is in the back of a garment, your troubles are all past and gone.’ We are happy to relate that, according to this adage, Mother Kinnaird’s troubles are a thing of the past.” 
 
In the article, Ella formally addresses her as Mother, but people in the community knew her as “Cinda.” Somehow, in life, I missed the fact that “Cinderella” is a very old name and was used centuries before Walt Disney made it a brand worldwide. The Cinderella story is, however, ancient and embedded in many cultures. 
 
Ella continued: “Mrs. Kinnaird is a descendant of the first settlers in Kentucky prior to 1812. Her grandfather, Tommy Howell, lived in a little log cabin with no shutter on the door. Many times, her grandmother and little ones were alone in that cabin, frightened by the grunt of a bear and the howl of the wolves with a quilt hanging over the door for protection. Mrs. Kinnaird’s great-grandfather sailed under the ‘Rattlesnake’ bearing the motto, ‘Don’t Tread on Me.’ Mother Kinnaird’s parents, Mr. and Mrs. Tommy Howell, lived on a large plantation in Kentucky.” I should note here that this is a different Tommy Howell than our former State Representative during the Civil War and a different Howell family.
 
Cinda told Ella, “I was the seventh child. I was the doctor.’ To a great extent, this old adage came true, for she served as a midwife, nurse, and undertaker. In those days, undertakers were unknown, and Mother Kinnaird was called upon, when a girl of fifteen, to prepare the dead for burial.”
 
“The Howell family made all their clothes and produced all their food supplies. Mrs. Kinnaird said, ‘We raised the cotton and flax and made it ready for carding, spinning, and weaving. We tended sheep to get our wool and raised geese to make our fluffy feather beds.’ Four spinning wheels were kept busy on the Howell plantation and after the slaves were freed, one of the cabins was used as a loom house. Mr. Howell made all the machinery, wheels, and looms. On the Howell plantation was a busy hum equal to a small factory.”
 
“When Mother Kinnaird was a girl of fifteen summers, she raised a patch of tobacco. She did practically all the work herself. She harvested and cured her tobacco, sold it, and bought a beautiful side saddle which she has to this day. Mrs. Kinnaird became a master in the saddle. Last fall (1938, age 84) at the Howell County Fair, she donned her riding habit, which reaches nearly to the ground, mounted a three-year-old pony, and rode with the best of the horsemen. We dare say that Mother Kinnaird can make the best of us blush at our awkwardness in attempting to mount a horse in the contest with her.”
 
“Free school had not been established in the South when Mrs. Kinnaird was a girl, but subscription schools were taught if teachers could be found. Mrs. Kinnaird said, ‘I had a little raid-haired Catholic teacher from Ireland. I couldn’t understand a thing he said.’ Anyway, Cinderella made rapid advancement, for she afterward became a teacher herself. She said, ‘I taught my last term when (daughter) Verda was about one year old. I went out on my pony to find pupils for school.”
 
“When Cinderella Howell was twenty-four years of age, she was married to Seeburn Kinnaird on September 17, 1878. The marriage vows were read in the big house on the plantation. ‘Seeburn was a Kentucky ‘dude’ with a blackened mustache and goatee,’ Cinda said. Mr. and Mrs. Kinnaird lived on a beautiful bluegrass farm in Kentucky and reared their four children. Two died in infancy.” 
 
“They came to Missouri in 1895. They first came to Houston, Texas County, but decided it was too far from the railroad. They moved to Howell County with thirty-five cents and four children. Rented one year, then bought forty acres, cleared it up and paid for it. Mr. and Mrs. Kinnaird lived on the farm until his death on July 11, 1930.”
 
“While living on the farm, she used to drive a little Indian pony to West Plains and sell her produce and made lots of money. She had large flocks of poultry, raised many cows, and always kept a flock of sheep.
 
“She had two sons in the (First) World War. Felix served in both the World War and the Spanish-American War.” 
 
“Mother Kinnaird is a master artist with her spinning wheel and loom. Her wheel and loom are not stored behind a plate of glass as antiques. She can and does use them, though not as extensively as she once did. During the last twenty years, she has carded the rolls of cotton and wool, spun the thread, and woven twenty of the wonderful coverlets. She makes her own designs. Her work is immaculately clean, neat, and exact. (A coverlet is a small bedspread designed to cover the top of the bed and hang just past the box springs.)”
 
“She has demonstrated these arts in Kansas City, Chicago, and at the Texas Centennial. She declined invitations to Washington, D.C., and to Chattanooga, Tennessee, so she could be with her daughter-in-law and grandchildren before they went to England to make their home. Mother Kinnaird has made each of her children and most of her grandchildren one of those lovely bedspreads. She filled a number of orders for spreads that brought in a well-earned sum of money. She has taught two of her granddaughters and one grandson the arts of weaving. We can think of no greater gift she could bestow upon these children than that they are able to carry on her skillful and most beloved work after she no longer turns the wheel nor treads the loom.”
 
“Mother Kinnaird, with all her fun and gaiety, has a deep feeling of patriotism and loyalty to our country. A few years ago, she was inspired to make two large flags. She has the ‘Betsy Ross’ flag and the “Stars and Stripes” of today. These flags are specimens of perfect art. The most scrutinizing eye cannot find a flaw. These flags are beautiful beyond censure.”
 
“Ella obviously admired Cinda Kinnaird and concluded her profile thusly, “This dear old mother is a dramatic artist. In conversation, lecture, or demonstration, she impersonates, mimics, and dramatizes to such a degree of perfection that she retains a whole assembly spellbound with interest or in an uproar of laughter. She can play the part of Santa Claus, a jester, or a lawyer, and with her cleverness, she might impersonate a society bell, making her debut. How she has missed Hollywood is more than we can tell. If I were an artist, it would be my desire to paint a picture of this dear old mother, and underneath that portrait, in lines of gold, I would inscribe PERFECTION” (Ella’s emphasis) 
 
Indeed, I’m impressed and would have loved to have known the lady!
 
Cinderella Elizabeth Kinnaird died in West Plains on January 20, 1945, at the age of ninety, and was buried alongside her husband in the Howell Valley Cemetery. The couple celebrated their fiftieth anniversary at their home in 1928.  
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