Items of Genealogical Interest
Volume 13 Number 6
LaVonne I. Bennett
LaVonne has received permission from Grayden Slowins to edit and submit Sebewa Recollector items of genealogical interest, from the beginning year of 1965 through current editions.
THE SEBEWA RECOLLECTOR,
June 1978, Volume 13, Number 6; submitted with written permission of current
Editor Grayden D. Slowins:
BIOGRAPHY: HOMESTEADING IN NEBRASKA (continued) By Pearl (Lyon) REED – The other
dog we had was just shortly before we came back to Michigan. We never had any
sheep. Papa sort of made pets of all of his cows. I never saw an ox team until
after I came back to Michigan. When I was teaching the Grubtown school, a man
delivered a load of wood with an ox team. It was a Mr. Pryor.
After Jessie began teaching school she bought an organ. I think the Crabtrees
had an organ but we did not have one at school. There we used to sing a few
songs but that was the extent of our music. Jessie’s first teacher came from
quite a musical family. She learned the song TWENTY FROGGIES WENT TO SCHOOL.
Mama did not approve of that kind of music; it was too much like nonsense.
Our threshing machine was one of these where you put eight horses on a sweep to
get the power to run the separator. After 1900 a man came in with a steam
engine. He wanted everybody to be on hand ready to start threshing at five
o’clock in the morning. He had to make money enough to pay for his machine. He
was really a hustler.
It was the 22nd of April 1899 when Jessie and I went to school as usual. Papa
had left the cattle in the corral. We had been watching the light of a prairie
fire in the southeastern sky every night for a week. After breakfast Papa went
out to plow more furrows to make our fire guard wider. Just before noon the head
fire came through between our house and the Valley Grove schoolhouse. The folks
at home did not know for a few minutes whether the schoolhouse was burned or
not. And we, standing outside the schoolhouse watching, could not tell if our
home was burned or not.
Then Papa went again to plow beside the head fire to keep the side fires from
burning. When he brought the horses back he called to Mama to get a pail of
bread and butter ready to take to the men who were fighting on the line. She had
the milk pail half full when he came back. The men were fighting the side fires
with wet gunny sacks and shovels to throw sand on the fires. At one time Papa
and our neighbor, Mr. Crabtree, were fighting side by side and suddenly a blaze
went through and neither of them knew if the other was safe or not. About a mile
and a half farther north the head fire turned east by the extra wide fire guard.
When the fire was only two miles from Bassett all the town joined in the fire
fighting and put it out.
The next day, April 23rd, I was very surprised to find when I came home from
school that I had a new baby sister. She had arrived at our house and we named
her Eva Grace. She died November 19, 1975. The next day a bad sandstorm hit us
and its fury was greatly enhanced by the ashes from the prairie fire. Mama had
put an extra tablecloth over our food in other sandstorms and that is what
happened this time.
Clarissa was born August 12, 1894. That was one of the years of the drought.
Papa had planted some watermelons. When Clarissa was a few days old, our
neighbor, Mr. Johnson, brought us a large watermelon that he had raised on the
field across the road from our house. How those watermelons ever grew in that
dry soil we never could tell.
The chatauqua was a wonderful thing, bringing nationally known speakers and
music to our community. It would have meant little to us had it not been for our
Sunday School Superintendent, Jim Davenport, who found out that any Sunday
School in a group could go past the gatekeeper free. So our Valley Grove Sunday
School planned to meet before we drove down the big hill so as to come in our
wagons, one behind the other. The Ben Morris family, Crabtrees and our family
and maybe a few others enjoyed this for several years. Of course we took our
picnic dinner and stayed all day. We were all riding in wagons at that time. I
remember a Mr. Sisson and Frances E. Willard who were on the program. There was
a phonograph with earphones. Florence Crabtree paid the dime and let Jessie and
me listen. Mrs. Willard was a temperance leader. The site of the chatauqua was
in a spacious, well kept place with a pavilion and many cottages where people
from all over the state came for a two week’s vacation. It was on Long Pine
Creek at the foot of a large canyon. Some boys climbed nearly to the top of the
canyon and fell from a high cliff. I do not remember if the boy was hurt or not.
The chatauqua was a short distance from Long Pine. There was a wonderful spring
where we had good water to drink.
About 1900 things began to get better. We had more rain and better crops. The
first time the Corbetts came they were dressed in their best. Afterward they
came in more common clothes. Mr. Corbett bought two colts that Papa had. The
Corbetts lived in Ainsworth, Nebraska. They were our cousins.
When times were better, Papa bought a steel windmill and a double buggy. When
Jessie was sixteen years old she began teaching school and bought a carpet for
the living room, a sewing machine, an organ, a photograph album for Mama and an
autograph album for me.
Jessie went northeast of Bassett to teach at Moriahville and she boarded at
Spragues. One week end when she came home, she was bringing a buckskin Indian
pony with black mane and tail with a black stripe an inch wide down its back. It
was named Pet. I enjoyed riding the pony, too. Florence Crabtree bought a bay,
long legged bucking bronco. The two girls, Jessie on her little Indian pony and
Florence on her big bronco made quite a picture. Papa told Jessie he did not
like to have her ride to bronco for fear she might get hurt; but she did ride it
once in a while.
Our wells were about 20 feet deep with very good water that never went dry. The
well was boarded up to keep it from caving in. We had a well at the house and a
well at the barn. One spring Papa offered Walter and me a penny apiece for
milking cows. We would help him milk cows so he could get out to the field
earlier. So we took over the milking night and morning. When we finished milking
we would go to the house and write down the number of cows we had milked. Each
of us would try hard to see who would get the last cow. Mama would carry the
full pails of milk to the house for us. We shipped 25# kegs of butter to Omaha
One morning as the fourteen cows were leaving the corral I saw a rattle snake
coming out of the tall grass under the fence into the corral. I called Mama and
she came with the hoe to kill it. I ran back and forth between the snake and the
fence, kicking sand at it, to keep it from getting back into the grass again. Of
course, I was bare footed at the time. Another rattler was under the shanty
doorstep. I went out the other door to see what the chicken was looking at under
the step and saw the snake. Mama came and killed that one too. Papa cut off the
rattles so that I could keep them. I kept them for a good many years but finally
they got lost.
In 1903, just after I started for high school, Mildred was born on October 1.
Jessie was teaching a school near home at that time and she took a week off from
school to stay home to take care of Mama and the baby. Mildred was just one year
old when we returned to Michigan.
There never had been a graduating class in Bassett until the year of 1904 when
we graduated from the ninth grade. There were eleven in the class. They decided
to have commencement exercises. Each graduate wrote up an essay to read and that
was the program for the evening. We had the stage decorated with gold and purple
bunting and each girl carried a fan. I still have mine. My chum and I had our
dresses made just alike. Our mothers made our dresses. I went back to Nebraska
in 1964 to the sixtieth anniversary of that graduation. I had my picture taken
with one other graduate. There were some others in the town but they did not
attend the banquet so they did not get in the picture. One girl that I visited
was just not able to come.
Visitors to Nebraska would say they would not live there for anything. To stay
there for two or three nights was enough for them considering the likelihood of
prairie fires. The railroad engines threw out sparks. A wide plowed and burned
strip was kept along the tracks as a fire guard.
We saw one tornado that was headed right for our house about 1900. It looked as
if it were coming right for us but it lifted before it got to the Long Pine
canyon. After the tornado there was a hailstorm with stones about the size of
hen’s eggs. They pounded right through the wood shingle roofs. It pounded out
all the glass on two sides of the house and in all the buildings around there so
everybody was waiting for the railroad to bring in class and shingles for
repair. Our barn was struck by lightning once. There were eight fence posts
around the pasture that were struck the same afternoon. Papa came in from the
field when the storm was coming and put the horses in the barn. His thought was
to not take the harnesses off the horses for there might something happen. When
the barn was struck by lightning he took the horses clear to the far side of the
garden and hitched them to a couple of fence posts. He came back and got out a
little calf and a few other things. Papa rebuilt the barn. Mr. Crabtree came to
help put the rafters on.
The same summer the barn burned, the Crabtrees had gone to Elgin, Illinois to
sell some horses and to let Florence go to High School in Elgin. She had loaned
Jessie her side saddle and it was in the barn. Jessie and Florence were both
very glad to think the saddle had burned so that they could get the kind of
saddle they wanted. The side saddle had stirrups on one side. They each got a
Our years of drought were really terrible. There were three years in succession
that we lost all our crops. In some other years we would lose one or more crops.
We never went to the place where there was relief sent in but one time somebody
was going to the relief store and Mama said if they had a sack of corn meal she
would be awfully glad to have one. They brought her a sack of corn meal and it
happened to have a ball of butter in it and a name was on the sack. Mama never
wrote to the person because she thought she just couldn’t afford the postal
card. Our relatives in Rhode Island sent a box of drygoods and dresses and
things and, of course, our relatives in Michigan sent things from time to time.
It really was a hard time.
Grandma Brooks came out to see us before we moved down to the homestead. She
came again in 1900. She was the only relative who came to Nebraska to see us
while we were there. Mama and Papa came back to Michigan in 1892 when Walter was
a baby to see Grandpa Lyon because he was not expected to live very long and
later they came to Michigan with Grandma Brooks. Walter, Clarissa, Jessie and I
stayed in Nebraska. The younger children could ride without tickets but we could
I went to a high school party and that night Mama told me she thought they had
sold the farm. It didn’t enter my mind again until I saw Papa coming up to the
schoolhouse on Monday morning at first recess. He came walking toward the
schoolhouse. I thought “Oh, they’ve sold the farm!” And, sure enough, they had.
I picked up my books and went to my boarding house and went home. That was in
1904. We had 400 acres to sell at $10 an acre and we had some horses and cattle
besides. Papa figured he would have enough money to buy a farm in Michigan and
he did have.
On this train ride back to Michigan Papa woke us up to see the Missouri River.
When we got into Chicago we had a four hour wait. We stayed, all of us, right
together without anybody getting out to see the town at all while we waited
those four hours for another train. We brought our own food to eat on the train
even though there was a dining car on the train. We sort of enjoyed the train
ride but we kept thinking about the folks we had left behind.
When we arrived at Mulliken, Rollin Brooks was there with a horse and buggy and
Uncle William was there with a wagon. The people of Mulliken always turned out
with their lanterns to meet the train. Everybody wondered where that large
family went to. We had gone up there in Sebewa to Uncle William Brooks’. After a
while they found out it was our family coming from Nebraska.
Papa would not even consider a farm that was more than a half mile from a
schoolhouse. We found the Stockwell farm on Frost Road south of Frost’s Corners,
fifty acres that had not been heavily farmed and of very good soil. Papa went
right to work clearing up the fence rows and took the shrubbery and flowers out
of the front yard and planted grass there to make a start for a lawn. He rebuilt
the barn and improved the house some after we got there.
Later he bought the big brick Triphagen house that was on Potter Street in
Mulliken. There were two brick houses and it was the large one that he bought.
He had an acre and a few rods besides. The house is still there. He wanted to
locate his retirement home in Mulliken because Clarissa and Eva were in college
in Ypsilanti and he thought it would be easier to get to Mulliken than Portland
on the train.
The rail fences to me looked like something out of this world. All the brush
along the roads seemed just terrible. I was used to an open prairie.
Nevertheless, Michigan was beautiful.
Once I went back to visit in Nebraska in 1951 with my husband, Fred Reed, so
that he could see the West and we went again in 1956 to Pearl and Oscar
Peterson’s for their golden wedding. It seemed to me that the country was ruined
by the shelter belts. They had planted shelter belts here and there along the
roadsides and they were doing strip farming. Instead of planting a big field
they were following the contours in strips. They were doing some irrigating and
they seemed quite prosperous with lots of cattle. They had had more rain. Our
farm sold for double what Papa got for it in only two years afterward. The man
who bought our farm looked at the garden and saw the popcorn that Walter had
hoed and said that if it would raise as good corn as that, he thought he would
buy it. The popcorn helped to sell the farm. End.
November 16, 2013