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...

Thursday, November 16, 2017

A Pioneer of South Dakota part two

We lived in this lovely valley about five years.  When we arrived there was only a cook-house, a bunk-house, and a big barn.  we lived in our tents until our little company could build houses to live in.  This meant three small houses.  Later on three more were built by private families who worked at the mill.  Most of these families were temporary until they pre-empted or homesteaded. This made a little village.  We did not have a post office but we had a telephone.  People who owned this saw mill in an earlier time had a post office called "Bluevale" but it was discontinued.

In February 1885, my sister Ida gave birth to a baby boy, John Theron.  Later in the spring the Singletons moved to their pre-emption located on a park.  A park, in those days, was an open place on a ridge between two streams.

In the fall of 1885 my father married Mary Chilcote, who came from Bedford, Iowa to Chadron, Nebraska by railroad and then to Rapid City by stage coach, where my father met her.  She had known our family for sometime and knew my mother.  We had some good times together going fishing up the canyon on the creek where there were deep holes.  Trout were not planted at that time but we caught bullheads. My father often made trips to Rapid City selling lumber and buying supplies for the cook-house and for the families living there and working at the mill.  We would sometimes go with him as far as South Canyon and stay there and pick wild raspberries, gooseberries, chokecherries and sometimes plums, when each was in season, until he came from town; we took our lunch and we knew the location of a spring where we could get water.

We made a trip to Sturgis and Fort Mead that took a whole day's travel by wagon and horse.  We knew people from Iowa that lived in Sturgis.

There was not much for amusement and entertainment for anyone.  On Sundays the young fellows would get out on an open place and practice cracking the big bull whip to see who could crack it the loudest and handle it the best.

There were some girls my age at the mill camp and we played in the creek and explored the scenery around the mill site.  We were not allowed near the mill or lumber yard when they were running but when closed on Sundays we would go through the mill sight-seeing and slide down the skids where they slid the lumber down to the ground level to the lumber yard.  One time they let us ride on the carrier that run the logs to the big saw.  This was not a safe place for us.

They had two or three yoke of oxen at the mill to haul logs and skid logs in the timber to the platform where they loaded the logs on the wagons.  They claimed a yoke of oxen was better for this than horses; they used them also to haul logs to the log yard.  A middle-aged man handled the oxen, everyone could not do it.  I remember the names of some the oxen: Dodge, Logan, Bill, Red, and Lep.

I did not go to school the first year we were in the Hills.  The next year, 1885, my father made arrangements for me to go to school in Rapid City.  I was curious about a large new lonesome looking building set off by itself about one mile east of Rapid City, and learned it was the first building of the S.D. School of Mines.  Two sons of mine were to graduate from this school; Donald, in 1930, and Dean, in 1934.

The boom days of Rapid City were over by this time.

That fall a log school house was built about one-half mile from the mill on a ranch, at that time called the Julia Heath Ranch.  The desks, tables and benches were made by some carpenters that worked at the saw mill.  The blackboard was made of surfaced boards and painted black.

My father was married now and we had a school near the saw mill, so I went back to the mill to school.  I went to school here the next three years.  At that time we had only six months of school during the year.  My last term there was taught by Orpha (Le Graw) Haxby who is still living in Rapid City and is in her nineties.  She was one of the first settlers there.

to be continued...

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

A Pioneer of South Dakota part one

Box Elder Creek

My dad's maternal grandmother, my great grandmother, wrote her history as a pioneer woman of South Dakota. (I have fond memories of her at family gatherings, especially as a small child at the cabin in the high Sierras. She had been wheelchair bound by crippling arthritis for some years by the time I was born, yet I never heard her complain. She was always cheerful and interesting to be around.) 

I'm copying her story here just as it was written.

A Pioneer of South Dakota
 Jessie McCracken Elshere

 At the request of the South Dakota Federation of Womens' Clubs asking for histories of the pioneer women of South Dakota, I am writing of my experiences of those early days as I remember them.

I was born in Taylor County, Iowa, February 23, 1876, to James McCracken and Sara Ann (Fleming) McCracken.

James McCracken's ancestors as far back as he knew, were born in America and were probably Scottish or Irish descent. His grandfather and brothers fought in the War of 1812. 

Sara Ann (Fleming) McCracken was descendant of Sir Thomas Fleming, a Scott, who in England married a Miss Tarleton before sailing for America. They were one of the first permanent settlers of Jamestown, VA in 1616, about nine years after it's founding.

In 1883 when I was seven, my Mother died, and the following year in June 1884, my Father with three other men left for the Black Hills, Dakota Territory.  September of that same year I followed my Father to the Black Hills in the company of Lox Singleton, his wife, who was my sister, their little girl, Hallie, and another sister, Emma, aged 18.

We traveled in a covered wagon drawn by a big team of mules.  Two other couples and a small child came in another wagon drawn by a team of horses.  We carried nothing but our bedding, clothing and camping equipment.  When camping, one couple slept in each of the wagons, and the other couple and my sister Emma and I slept on the ground in a tent.  It took us about three weeks to make the trip from Bedford, Iowa to Pierre, South Dakota.  Pierre at that time was the end of the railroad.

We shipped our household goods by railroad to Pierre. My father met us there to haul the goods the rest of the way to the Black Hills.  He took us to see a big elk someone had captured and kept in a pen.

After loading on our wagons as many supplies as we could haul, we crossed the Missouri River by ferry to Ft Pierre.  After arriving in Ft Pierre we began to see Indians.  What interested me very much was the travois the Indians used when traveling.  They took two long poles and fastened one end of each pole to the sides of a pony or dog, and the other end rested on the ground; they connected the poles with wood or leather and piled their belongings on this slanting platform and the the pony or dog drug the pack.  Later years the government issued lightweight wagons to the Indians.

Another interesting sight was the long ox trains that pulled the huge wagons of freight to the Black Hills.  This road to the Hills was called the Deadwood Trail.  Most of the supplies to the Black Hills were carried in this manner until a railroad was built up from the south.  Some freight was hauled by horses. The horses were faster but grain had to be hauled for feed for the horses and this added to the load, while with oxen they could be turned loose to feed on the native grass to keep up their strength.

We then took the trail to Rapid City passing through a part of the Great Sioux Reservation until we crossed the south fork of the Cheyenne River which formed part of the boundary between the Black Hills region and the reservation.  The Belle Fourche River or the north fork of the Cheyenne formed the north boundary of this region including the Black Hills that was opened to white settlers in 1876.

We did not see many Indians as they built their huts and villages along the streams where there was a supply of wood and water.  These streams ran into either Bad River or the Big Cheyenne.  This old Deadwood Trail crossed rather than followed them.

It was a mystery to me, and still is, how the drivers of the oxen could manage those cattle.  There would be a number of yokes of cattle.  I don't remember how many, pulling two huge big wagons hooked together.  The front yoke or the front pair of oxen were called the "leaders" that led the way and the others followed; the yoke or pair fastened to the tongue of the front wagon were called the "wheelers".  these two yokes were very important.  By the use of a big long whip and language the drivers used, which was not a very beautiful language, they were able to understand "gee" and "haw".  The drivers were expert with their whips, it was an art with them.  If a steer began to shirk that whip would be cracked over his back and he would dig his hooves into the dirt, throw his weight against the yoke and with his nose almost to the ground pull with all his might.

Along the trail it was a sad sight to see the bones of the cattle that perished during the terrible winter of 1880-81. This was a heavy loss to the big cattlemen of the range days.

On September 28, 1884, we reached Rapid City.  We passed through the town and on into the Hills through South Canyon and over a ridge into a little valley on Box Elder Creek, about nine miles northwest of Rapid City.  This is a very pretty little valley.  Here was situated the saw mill that my father and John McGee bought when they first arrived in the Hills. The following Christmas, my sister Emma was married to John McGee. 
 to be continued...

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Veterans Day 2017...

A sincere and heartfelt Thank You for your service to all our Veterans. 

that corpsman on the far L is my grandson

and a Special Thank You for your service to my favorite veteran, my grandson, Cody. 
You know I could do the usual grandma with forty thousand photos but will just show you a few.

break from corpsman school Pensacola

mtn warfare training with the 3/7 Marines

first deployment Afghanistan

end of second deployment down range


He's now a civilian college student studying to be a PA.

Monday, November 6, 2017


Some days are better than others, been sicker than a wormy ol cow for the past week. A side effect of the high powered antibiotics that where making sure I didn't get an infection from the Angel debacle's deep cuts.  
When Doc put me on the antibiotics, his nurse kept asking me what meds I was on. I told Doc's nurse I don't take any medications, and seldom even aspirin.  "Oh wait, I do take vitamins, does that count"... got me a heavy sigh. I guess when you reach this age you are supposed to be on a bunch of stuff for assorted age related maladies. No thanks.
Early this morning, via phone Doc sent me to the lab to pickup a test kit. His nurse said, "what lab do you want the orders sent to?" 
"I don't have a lab, can you suggest one?" 
"Aah, When was the last time you had any labs done?"  
"Can you look on my chart, because I'm not sure?"  Which earned me a "OMG, it's been four years and that was just a wellness checkup". "You should be having yearly labs."
"Why, if I'm not sick!"  earned me another heavy sigh.

Usually I try to be presentable when going into town, wasn't happening early this morning. Decided to throw on what ever came to hand and get down to the lab and back home as quick as possible. Who was going to see me at that early hour on a Monday morning anyway.
Out the door I headed in a black & white stripped Tee shirt under a red & black buffalo plaid flannel shirt, leggings and tall black Uggs. Hair was combed, sorta, and a dash of lipstick added to blend with the rosey glow of a low grade fever. Picked up the test kit, and decide since I was in town to pickup another case of Pedialyte and more yogurt. Feeling crapper by the minute, but who was going to see me.  
No sooner got in the door of the grocery store and I ran into one of my neighbors. She usually hugs me, not today, can't say as I blame her.  Escaped after the report on her family's doings, and got some of the stuff I wanted.  Ok, one sighting by one neighbor isn't too bad!
 Turned down an isle and saw a friend at the other end of the isle, but before she could spot me I about faced and headed in another direction. Hah, close but no cigar! 
Wheeled around another corner and ran smack dab into my next door neighbor, well hell! She looked me up and down and I know she was about to say "You look like hell, " but thought better of it.  She said it had been so quiet at my house, she had thought I was gone somewhere. "Nope just trying to survive a little sickness from the antibiotics", I said. She noticed the survival rations in my cart and said she was making home made chicken soup and would bring me some. Bless her heart. Then, told me I needed to be home in bed sucking on a bottle of fluids because I looked a sight.