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...

15 comments:

  1. When you look at what we take for granted (space travel, cell phones, the Internet, microwave ovens, birth control, modern medical care and the food distribution network), it would be difficult to step back into those shoes. It would likewise be difficult to push them into Internet dating and the computer age.

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    1. Larry,
      Great grandmother is going to disprove your last line in her last lines, but we have a ways to go before then...
      Their generation, and possibly my grandmother's generation, had as some of their greatest strengths, the ability to improvise and adapt.

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    2. I don't know that they'd want to adapt to a world where 80+% of the people out there have STD's and you communicate at dinner with the person across the table by texting. (present generation of millennials) I don't know that they'd be comfortable in the present world of politically correct BS. You think that they would be? Really? I don't think that they'd adapt to the world. They would want the world (corrupt, nasty and vicious) to change -- to be the world they left where men tipped their hats to ladies, opened doors, and where there were not 31 gender options, and the woman of the year had a penis.

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    3. Well I'm glad you got that off your chest... all you say about today's world is certainly true. My response was to the first sentence of your comment, and I think "adapt" works there.

      Granted the evils of today are not the same as the ones they had in their day, but I don't doubt for a second they had evils.

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    4. Each generation has troubles. I don't think that I'd want to swap mine for theirs. I'm sure that they would feel the same.

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  2. I am becoming fonder and fonder of oxen. Really enjoying this trip to another, less complicated time.

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    1. Patti,
      They are not as beautiful as horses, but very useful none the less.
      I'm glad you are enjoying it.

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  3. I think I have the general spot where the mill was. A satellite view shows the creek dry. I should probably do this with a couple of letters that my grandfather and grandmother wrote. But not until you're done.

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    1. Odie,
      I hope you will hang on to that, and can email it to me.
      You should do this with those letters, it would be something special I'm sure.

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  4. Continuing fascinating story. Reminds me of when after my mother re-wed we ended up living in rural areas — a rougher life than I had known. We went to the creek — bigger than many rivers I saw years later in the West — and would fish for hours. Caught lots of bullheads and other catfish which we cleaned, cooked and ate during a time when people turned up their nose at them, before catfish became the current specialty items. We visited the local sawmill, sorted through the seconds collecting certain pieces from which Pop later constructed fashionable furniture as he was a very capable carpenter with artistic skills, though very much a man of the earth.

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    1. joared,
      Thanks for taking the time to relate some of your history. I hope some of your dad's handiwork remains with you.

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  5. Fascinating story! You know the times had to be hard, but no complaints from her!

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    1. Jim,
      Thanks. I feel very blessed that she made the effort to record her life.

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