Friday, December 8, 2017

Day work...

Friends say it's cold and wet up at the Fort.  Ah, I remember cold mornings on a snorty horse gathering cattle.  Those shipping home for the winter are back in RB now where the weather has been pretty darn nice.  We have lots of grass due to the early rains, and it has some strength to it from mild sunny days.

Here's a photo of two of my friends, ranch wives, after their last load out of the Fort.  You couldn't ask for more than to have them on your crew.

Showed the house again today. An older couple, lol... my age,  they loved it.  I baked cookies just before they came so the house smelled good.  Didn't have time to make bread, but the cookies were a hit.

I miscalculated when I thought I wouldn't be here for Christmas.  Late this summer I cleaned out all the boxes and boxes of Christmas stuff that mother had, loaded it up in Hank and took it to the Hope Chest. Thankfully, I did hold on to the tree that I got for Dad.  Now I've had to scramble to find Christmas decorations to put up.  Gotter done, though it's more than a bit minimal.

Got the gutters cleaned today, yay!  New window goes in garage entry door on Sat. Next big project is cleaning up and arranging all the stuff in the garage.

just because...

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Thankful in Cowcamp...

My little pine is doing well though it lives between a rock and a hard place. 

Willie and I went to my granddaughter (Ali) and her husband's, they have a big ol farm house in Marymine's compound, for Thanksgiving.  Tyler deep fried the turkey, and Ali made all the rest of the food goodness, with a little help from me.  Marymine flew back home from a short vacation trip to New Or-lins just in time to sit down with Ali, Tyler, Cody, Lauren, Colt, and I.  It was a good day full of good food, great love, hugs, dogs, pistol shoot'n, & much laughter.   

Ali disking rice stubble

My arm is mostly healed up, with all the appropriate ugly scars from the Angel debacle. Strength & range of motion are daily getting better.  The horrible side effects of the high powered antibiotics have been treated and are mostly gone. I still get tired easily, and naps have been more frequent than I would wish.

looking East from the deck

A young local couple toured the house the other day, and they liked it, so their current house goes on the market today.  They have an old Victorian the husband did a beautiful complete remodel on.  While he was here he kept saying, "I love your house, it's open, airy, has big rooms, big skylights, lots of storage & a shop!" His wife, little girl, and (possibly more importantly) his mother-in-law loved it, too. Keeping my fingers crossed.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

A Pioneer of South Dakota part five

We bought our food supply in Ft. Pierre.  During early fall we would buy groceries and vegetables to last all winter in case we became snowbound; in  spring we would buy food to last through summer and haying. People would put up what native grass they could for the calves and horses they used.  We kept a milk cow so had milk and butter and had our own beef during the winter;  for summer meat we bought cured meat such as bacon and ham.

There was quite a variety of wild fruit, some very nice plums, wild grapes, chokeberries, buffalo berries and a scarce amount of others.  When our apple trees began to bear we had a very nice summer apple that I mixed with this wild fruit that made delicious jams, butter and jells.  Sometimes a late frost would kill this fruit supply.

During the period between the opening of the territory and about 1904-05 the country was very sparsely settled.  There were more single men and fewer married men and families who had small herds of cattle or horses and sheep.  They did no farming, sometimes a little gardening.  Hogs were a curiosity as they did not raise feed for them.  One neighbor about eight miles from us was given a pig.  Mrs. Haxby fed it with scraps from the table and milk and bought a little grain to fatten it for good meat.  At the right age for good meat they butchered it;  Mrs. Haxby cooked it for other people but she could not eat the flesh of her pet, Johnny.

The big cattle companies of free range days were coming to a close.  

In the first week of May, 1905, came a very unusual blizzard for that time of year and caught cattle, horses and sheep that were put out on the open prairie.  This caused a very heavy loss.  My husband lost nearly all of his cattle and horses.  This left us heavily in debt with only the homestead and a few head of stock.  But when my husband first came there he leased a very good school section and fenced it and when the additional homestead act was passed he added two more homesteads that joined the original.  He could not get the third because the land was taken up that joined his land.  With this additional land we were pretty well established and with hard work and close living after a good many years, we were able to pay out in spite of the dry years, grasshoppers and depression.

Our house with the dirt roof began to leak pretty badly so we thought by putting boards over the dirt it would keep the rain from washing the dirt away.  One day there came a very hard wind that lifted this part of the roof right off the house.  We were needing more room so we put on another addition of logs and put on a shingle roof.  Now we had five rooms of cedar logs and a dry roof.

About this time, all the worthwhile land was taken up.  People came from cities, towns and country from other states;  people from all occupations.  Some came with intentions of making homes, some came for speculation and adventure.  It was learned that with the uncertainty of rainfall, one could not make a living on 160 acres of land and the greatest number of homesteaders left.  Some did not make final proof, some sold their land after final proof, some relinquished their right and some just left and the land went for taxes.

Free range days were gone.  People, mostly farmers with a little money to buy or rent land and keep a few cows, could tide over a dry year and make a go of it and eventually make a success.

I was glad to have people stay so we could have schools, Sunday schools for our children and eventually churches.

This development has been going on for the past 50 years through wars, dry years and depressions.

During the 30 years Lum and I lived at the ranch in northern Haakon County, nine children were born, 5 girls and 4 boys.  Of these nine children, one son Clifford, who was born in 1900, passed away in 1943; one son, Paul still lives on the old ranch; a daughter, Helen Parsons, still lives in Haakon County; one daughter lives in St. Louis and the others live in California.  I now have 31 grandchildren and 50 great grandchildren.

Lum and I moved to central California with the three youngest daughters in 1929 where I continue to make my home.

Numerous visits have been made back to the  South Dakota ranch and while we were there in the spring of 1942, Lum passed away in Phillip at the age of 83.

I think it is of interest that Lum came to South Dakota in 1885 by driving an ox team from Chadron to Buffalo Gap and the next spring, rode the first train into Rapid City.  Then, for contrast, when he returned for the last time in 1942, he flew in by plane.


My great grandmother Jessie Elshere, passed away in Jan 1969, one month shy of her 93rd birthday.

The legacy lives on... 

Elshere's South Dakota 2017

Monday, November 20, 2017

A Pioneer of South Dakota part four

 Cheyenne River brakes

In 1898 my Father became discouraged and thought he would move and find a better place to live.  He sold what he had and we were gone for a year.  That was when I taught in Nebraska.  But they were used to the ways of South Dakota and were happy to come back;  I was married that same year, 1899, to Lemuel Elshere.

At the time we returned from Niobrara, Nebraska, Theron, who was 14 years old, and I drove a herd of cows that my Father and Lox Singleton had bought from Niobrara to old Manila, which is on the east fork of Plum Creek.  My Father and Lox Singleton then filed on the homesteads which are part of the Singleton Ranch today.

I do not remember the exact time of year, but it was in May or June and took about one month.  It was a fairly pleasant trip and good weather except for one rain storm with high winds.

We had to cross the Missouri River at Niobrara and at Chamberlain and the crossings were on ferries.

Now to go back to the year 1890.  Lemuel Elshere is the man I mentioned earlier who came to Rapid City on the first train from Chadron.  He worked for some time on the range of South Dakota and hauled freight from Ft. Pierre to Smithville, which was a general store and post office run by Frank Cottle.  This was in the region where the Messiah war and ghost dance trouble took place in 1889-90.  He was in close contact with the Indians and the soldiers sent there to keep order.  He could talk to the Indians in their own language.  He sympathized with the Indians because they did not know or understand what was going on.  One young Indian even asked him when the soldiers were going to kill the Indians!  This was about two days before the Wounded Knee Massacre.

While hauling freight for Frank Cottle he crossed the Cheyenne River Reservation which had been part of the Big Sioux  Reservation and where most of the Indian trouble was occurring.  He saw articles the band of Indians lost while trying to escape from the army.  They were so scared they were going to be killed and thought if they made it to the Pine Ridge Agency they would be safe.   The soldiers overtook them at Wounded Knee Creek where that terrible massacre took place, caused by fright, misunderstanding and blundering.

While this Indian trouble was occurring my Father moved out of the hills on Box Elder Valley.  We were not close enough to be uneasy about the Indian trouble but some white people nearer to them were afraid that they might get into a frenzy and do harm.  At this time (1889) the territory was divided into two states and in 1891 that part of the Cheyenne River Reservation south of the Big Cheyenne River to White River on the south was opened to white settlement and the boundary of the Cheyenne River Reservation was fixed.  This region was under the administration of Ft. Bennet until 1897.

 Lemuel Elshere, when riding over this prairie, discovered an ideal location for a homestead about four miles from the river, where there were springs of unlimited good water and open all winter and in good shelter of the brakes.  In 1895 he filed a homestead and moved there with a herd of cattle.  This homestead is still in the family.

This homestead was in the southern part of Sterling County south of the Cheyenne River as this county was called at that time and is in the northern part of Haakon County now.  In 1897 this territory, opened to whites, was made a part of Stanley County and remained that way until 1914 when Haakon and Jackson Counties were formed from it.

Before we were married Mr. Elshere built a cabin of all cedar logs on his homestead.  Ft. Pierre, eighty miles away, was the nearest place where he could buy lumber.  He bought 1"x12" boards, I don't know the length, for the roof and floor.  He soaked the boards for the roof in water and then bent them over a big ridge log through the center of the cabin, in this way forming a slightly arched ceiling.  He covered this with dirt which made it warm in winter and cool in summer.  The floor was of 12" boards also.  There was a window at each end and a door on one side and another on the other side against the hill where he dug a cave for storage.  This made a comfortable, convenient cabin with little expense besides the labor.

At this time he had another man, Charlie Birch, living with him that had a herd of cattle.  They were not partners but it was convenient to live together.  After another year in 1896, they decided they wanted a housekeeper and got a man and wife, Mr. and Mrs. Mattice; they also had a few cows.  Mrs. Mattice was a sister to my step-mother and this is how I became acquainted with Lum Elshere.

This made it necessary to have more room, so he built another cedar room about the size of the first one and they partitioned a bedroom off of each one.  He now had four rooms and a storage cellar in the bank.

There was still free range and during the summer many of the watering places dried up and the cattle would gather around where there was a water supply and the feed for grazing and hay became scarce.  Charlie Birch and Mattices moved to a location about 18 miles from there where the range was better but water supply not so good, only in holes.

Soon after I returned to South Dakota with my Father and step-mother, Lum Elshere, as everyone called him, and I were married.  We went to live in this house I described.  Lum put in a hydraulic-ram so we had running water in the house which at that time was a very marvelous thing.  The same system was still in use in 1961; however, it wasn't the hydraulic-ram that wore out--but the storage tank that sprung a leak!  Lum also planted some apple trees and in a few years we had an abundance of large summer apples and crab apples.

to be continued...

Saturday, November 18, 2017

A Pioneer of South Dakota part three

Box Elder trail

In 1886 the first railroad train came to Rapid City and everyone went to town to celebrate.  My future husband came in on the train but I didn't know that until several years later.  He had come to the Black Hills from Nebraska in 1885 with a man from Chadron, Nebr., who was hauling freight by ox team into the Hills and needed a helper.  He had never driven oxen but gave what help he could for his transportation to Buffalo Gap.  He spent his first winter at Hot Springs.

With the arrival of the railroad some entertainment was imported which we had never seen before.  I went with my stepmother to see "Uncle Tom's Cabin" played.  This was a wonderful treat for me which I have never forgotten.

Since the boom days at Rapid City were over the lumber business began to slacken so my Father sold his interest in the saw mill to his partner.  He then ran a boarding house at a mining camp near old Greenwood which at that time was running a stamp mill; the company was also putting down a shaft, but I guess it didn't pay as it was soon abandoned and Greenwood was forgotten.  This was the only contact we had with the mining industry of the Hills.

On one of his regular trips to Greenwood one day, Father ran across some big bear tracks which made him uneasy because of the supply of fresh meat he was carrying.  The miners, when off shift, went bear hunting, but they didn't find him.

Father went back to the saw mill and bought some cattle and moved to his pre-emption on the prairie, northeast of Rapid City on Box Elder Valley in 1889.  My sister Emma McGee died in 1889.

After moving here I was a long distance from school.  During the school term I lived with my sister Ida Singleton and went with her daughter who was too young to go so far alone to school.  It was quite a distance and during the short winter day it would be dark when we got home.  We had to come along a ridge between the heads of two canyons where there was heavy timber.  We had heard the cry of the wild cats in that vicinity and we were afraid.  In bad weather we would miss school.

Later on my brother-in-law, Lox Singleton, rented a room in a home near the school house where we could keep house.  He would take us down Monday morning and come for us Friday evening.  My sister would bake bread, cookies and cake for us to eat during the week.

When their little boy, John Theron Singleton, was old enough to start to school, they rented rooms in Rapid City where we could keep house and go to school.  One day my nephew warned me he was going home.  He got out of school a little earlier than his sister and myself and that evening when we got home from school he was gone.  I found a place for my niece to stay and borrowed a horse and buggy and started after him, for it was about six miles.  I caught up with him just as he went in the door at home.  It was the last month of school so they kept him home the rest of the term.

My sister Ida died in 1893.  Her husband, Lox Singleton, and the two children, age 12 and 8 years, moved to my father's home on Box Elder.  They lived and worked together part of the time trying to farm and care for a little herd of cattle.  Most of the years of the 1890's were very dry causing poor crops which made it difficult to have pasture and feed.

When we lived on Box Elder there was not much entertainment or social life but sometimes we would gather at the home of a neighbor who had an organ.  There was a girl who could play, and we would gather around the organ and sing -- probably not very good singing but we did enjoy it.

Once I was telling a neighbor about some nice gooseberries we had and he said jokingly he would come down and get them some night.  Theron, who was about 10 years old said he had better not because we had a gun.  When the neighbor asked to see it, Theron brought it out and just as he entered the room it went off and shot about a 3" hole in the floor.  Theron's father, Lox, heard the shot and when he came in and found what had happened, he took the gun out and threw it in the creek.

I liked school very much and tried to make the most of the opportunities I had.  I passed the written examination for teacher's certificate in 1893. 

I taught four terms in South Dakota and one short term in Nebraska; one term in Mead County, three terms in Pennington County and one in Nebraska.  My brother-in-law, Lox Singleton, rented a place to farm near these schools where I taught so his children could go to school.

In 1896 Hallie was old enough to keep house alone.  I wanted to go to school for more education and training to teach.  I started to school at Spearfish Normal.  Spearfish had an epidemic of typhoid fever.  I took the fever which brought an end to my schooling and my savings, so I went back to teaching the next year.

to be continued...