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...



14 comments:

  1. Traveling through that country, armed with your history/story, would be an interesting thing.

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    1. LL, What a good idea, thanks. I did get to see some of it when I drove Dad back to South Dakota for the Elshere cousins reunion. But that was a couple years ago, and I didn't get much time to explore. On the bucket list now!

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  2. You can tell that I have been out of touch. I must start with the first post and catch up on your great grandmother's wonderful story. How blessed you are to have it.

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    1. Granny Annie,
      Thanks, glad to have you following along.

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  3. Amazing story, and agree with LL... Just might have to do that!

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    1. Old NFO,
      Thanks for commenting. There is a lot of family still ranching in South Dakota and I would love to spend time with them, again. As I told LL, it's on the bucket list.

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  4. Really interesting. I thought it was strange that my ancestors switched between Hill City and the region back to Nebraska but maybe that wasn't unusual. I have the places their 12 children were born and it bounced from Nebraska to Rapid City and Hill City. In Nebraska it was Burt and Sheridan county. They didn't have much of a permanent home and even when my grandparents moved their family to Oregon, they still moved around some from out here where I live to Fall City, to Portland and then to Salem.

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    1. When we came here though, we didn't realize how much connection and that a second cousin of my father's still lived here. Serendipity

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    2. Rain Trueax,
      Thanks for telling a bit of your history. Wonder if our families crossed paths either there or in Oregon (where the Cowman's family is from).

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    3. Rain,
      Serendipity indeed.

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  5. Lum seemed like a really enterprising young man and a great provider. As they would have said in the day--they were a great match. The running water would have won me over. This is such an interesting journey.
    The massacre at Wounded Knee was so dreadful.

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    1. Arkansas Patti,
      He was it seems. I had forgotten that he spoke the language of the local tribes.
      Running water would have been a wonderful thing. We spent one summer in cowcamp without running water, or water to the house. Packed drinking water, and took baths in a spring fed horse trough. It was an adventure at the time!

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  6. I've lost track of where this is. Maybe between the reservation and Rapid City?

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    1. Woodsterman,
      If you go due N of Milesville to the Cheyenne River you'll be in the area of the ranch.

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