corner header home search engine what's new
sidebar USGenWeb Project photos tools histories databases archives about us WIGenWeb Project
Histories:  Trempealeau Co. Historical Accounts:

"History of Trempealeau County Wisconsin, 1917":

Chapter 10:

A Wisconsin Pioneer

-As transcribed from pages 184 - 194


Albert Rouse Rathbone was one of the remarkable figures of early days in Trempealeau County.  In many ways, the experiences of himself and his family were typical of hundreds of pioneers who found their way to this region and assisted in its development.  His story, written with loving sympathy and understanding by his daughter, Mrs. Jennie Rathbone Webb.

My father, Albert Rouse Rathbone (properly bun but changed by mistake in the war records) was born Jun 28, 1838, at the old Rathbun homestead on Amity Hill near Wattsburg, Penn.  His father was an itinerant doctor carrying among his pills and liniments, kerosene oil, a great new cure for colds and throat trouble.  When Lincoln called for men my father enlisted in the 145th Pennsylvania Volunteers, and being soon ordered to the front, he married Adeline White, and left her with his widowed mother upon the homestead where mother tended her flock of sheep and did tailoring.  Father saw most of the Wilderness Campaign, was taken prisoner at Chancellorsville, held in Libby prison eleven days, after which he was exchanged.  Wounded in the arm by a minnie ball at Spottsylvania Courthouse as he raised his sword in sign for his men to charge the breastworks, he returned home after hospital treatment at Annapolis with a wound that prevented further army service.

Grandfather had procured his kerosene medicine from the surface of pools, but now they were deriving it from wells.  Father bought a partnership in the Titusville Wells, but having little faith in the business, sold mother's sheep, a goodly flock, packed up their few belongings, took mother and the four-months-old baby, waved goodby to a tall form at the homestead bars, and was off to try his fortunes among the pioneers of Western Wisconsin.

Their baggage was light.  Clothing cost much in "Wartimes," muslin, coarse, unbleached stuff, sold at seventy-five cents per yard.  People had no machines by means of which they could turn off two or three garments a day.  I imagine most of the space in that leathern trunk which bore the misuse of travel right up to and including father last move, was taken up with keepsakes.

Time, prodded by boat, stage, and a hired ox team on the last lap, landed them, in the spring of 1866, the new cook stove, the precious baggage intact, upon their possessions at the mouth of Black River some fifteen miles from La Crosse near the old McGilvray ferry.  The little log cabin but recently vacated containing its rough hand-made furniture was clean.  The new stove in position, mother stored the provisions, conspicuously at the front a jar of Pennsylvania blackberry jam blatantly labeled, hung the dimity curtains, wound and set the clock, while father at a near neighbor's filled the tick with bright oat straw, brought home the cow which had been included in the purchase, a rangy, long-haired creature jangling a bell but a trifle smaller and every bit as badly cracked as that one of 1776 fame, and another home venture was launched.

In this settlement were some thrifty farmers.  Though father still carried his arm in a sling, he earned enough that summer driving teams for the farmers to pay for three good milch cows.   Mother, by holding boards up to be nailed, and down to be sawed, helped put a small milk house over the spring.  Mother made prime butter bringing war prices.  On a Sunday might have been seen an odd couple - a tall, soldiery young man, his baby bundled at his back in a scarlet shawl, true Indian fashion, and a puffy short woman trudging along the lovely river paths, off to spend the day with a congenial neighbor.  This during the cool days of May, then it turned warm, and oh, the mosquitoes!  And oh dear, for the resultant smudges!  There was a smudge under the table while they ate, one under the baby's cradle all the time, another for the cow when milked, and yet the mosquitoes nearly ate them alive.  Mother ran slapping to right and left with a switch from house to milk room.  Father, his one arm useless, defenseless against their onslaughts, tied down his coat sleeves, wore a veil and a heavy coat for protection.  The creatures followed one in a black cloud.  Up out of the bottoms the cattle rushed, tearing like mad through the brush.

Father was surprised one morning to find a stray ox at the barn.  Inquiry among the neighbors established father's title thereto.  It was Jim, the ox that had been included in the trade.  He had a bad lump on his jaw, but it didn't hinder his working.  He was shy but gentle and took quite philosophically to the most outlandish harness beast ever wore in man's remembrance.  How father chuckled as he attempted to fit the contraption, trying it fore and aft, right side and wrong side before getting it properly adjusted to those particular parts of Jim's anatomy for which it had been intended.  It had the merit of strength, and it resembled hustling to see father hauling great cart loads of wood behind Jim instead of lugging it up on his own back. 

The summer passed, and, best of all, the mosquitoes went with it.  Fall on Black River.  Did you ever gather plums there?  Burbank may keep his hybrids, the flavor of those wild goose plums can never be improved.  did you ever struggle in a thicket for black haws, high bush cranberries or fox grapes after Jack Frost had performed his magic?  Yet over all the glory hung the memory of those mosquitoes.

So, when, during the winter father had an opportunity to sell, they concluded one summer there was enough, bought a mate for Jim, packed a few belongings into the sled and drove over the ridge into Trempealeau Valley.  It took two days, but mother and the baby were cozy in the sled box, and father kept his blood up gee-hawing the oxen through the drifts.  They located a few miles from Arcadia in the lower part of American Valley on the Harmon Tracey place.  Here the third child was born, a fragile babe, and, only sixteen months later ere this one had vacated the maternal arms, hardly able to sit alone, I was born.  You mothers with every convenience, steam-heated rooms, hot and cold water on tap, and perhaps one child, consider this pioneer woman's part.  A child of three years, a weakling of sixteen months (whom I over a year later helped learn to walk), and here a lively lusty youngster demanding her share of attention, a fireplace for warmth, melted snow to wash in.

As I read the few notes my mother, now a woman of nearly four score, pioneering in the wilds of Washington, has furnished me, for this sketch, it seems their married life was a series of broken advances and retreats, halting in their migrations for one or two or both reasons, to-wit:  to trade horses, or receive the stork.  That we left Trempealeau County only to hop the more gingerly back in again.  And so if at the time my tale is a trifle overcharged with baby, horse, or vagabondage, - oh well, if you love the three as I do, nothing I may write will prejudice you against the book containing other articles most charmingly handled by experience pens.

We advanced a step in civilization here - had horses to drive.  Mother did most of the marketing.  She tied me into the seat beside her, put the two older girls on the floor of the hack (I believe they called it the democrat wagon) with a foot upon each one's skirts, father stepped from the heads of the wild young team and away we flew.  Mother declares if it hadn't been up-grade after each down hill plunge she never could have brought them to a halt in front of Storm's store in East Arcadia.  Long years after I saw her drive our vicious coach stallion in South Dakota and I am fully persuaded she gloried in those wild pioneer dashes.  Father didn't enjoy renting.  The next year he bought a place and in March, 1868, moved over into Travis Valley where our regular feathered guest got in two paying visits before we could pack and resume the broken march over Wisconsin, which, in spite of a very rapidly increasing family calling for an extra board seat across the wagon box every halt, ceased only when the thirteen child was born the thirteenth day of June, the birthday of the first babe, had broken the charm.

That father was a financier goes unchallenged.  He shot and provided books for a family where it was not unusual to meet nine at a time plodding a mile and a half to school, sister Kate, that most to be pitied being, the oldest, bringing up the rear with the peck basket of lunch.  That he was a true blue farmer is proved by the fact that the twelve grew up strong healthy men and women (though Kate in making her first dress declared in a flood of tears that she was one-sided from carrying that basket, to find later that she had left out an under arm piece) ere one of the number dropped out, and he grew the food that fed them, and most of the clothing to keep them warm.  Recent dietitians would probably exclaim at the rich diet so generously larded with pink and white ham, and great prints of butter.  How many fleeces from his flocks were exchanged with the Bangor Woolen Mill wagon (maybe you remember that curly horse) for bolts of flannel that so stimulated the circulation of blood and gave us a bran new epidermis daily if scratching counted.  What tear blurred scenes each fall to get brother Virgil properly clothed for a cold Wisconsin winter.  How, after he had been coaxed and shoved into those home-made domestic flannels he'd watch his chance to hide them in the haymow only to be betrayed by shivering and obliged to go all through the coercing again and again until the tender, outraged hide had thickened itself against its aggravator.  Consider, too, the excruciating sensation from wearing one of father's heaviest red flannel shirts in a hot summer all afternoon, next your thin summer skin, in punishment for risking a pleasant suicide wading the freshet up to your chin.

But to our sidetracked story.  The last of October, 1871, as soon as these last little ones could sit, one between father and mother on the spring seat, the other in mother's arms, we packed the leather trunk in the back of the wagon, emptied the ticks, rolled up the bedding and clothing, and with us three girls down in the wagon bed on a pile of hay, for three days bumped and lurched across the hills, to a farm father bought, as so many did in those days of slow transit, with no real estate man to whirl you out in a super six, without first seeing the place.  Lunch on the first day was eaten at Ettrick, a small Scandinavian settlement, and early that afternoon we reached Melrose, spending two nights with Aunt Nan, to rest mother's arms a bit.  With a dawn start and steady driving, we made the Wisconsin River at dark, where we camped out, the baby crying, it seemed, all night. I was divided between the fear of wolves devouring us, and hunters shooting us for panthers on account of it, but the baby, unmindful of these dangers, gave vent to its troubles in its own noisy way.  We crossed on a small ferry near where Germantown now stands just as the sun rose, and hurried on again as nearly due east as the roads permitted.  Those moves must have been keenest torture to mother, but I never heard her complain.  The nearest to it being when late that day as the sun plunged into his cloudy bed, we looked down upon our eighty acres of sand, unfenced, un almost everything, she turned her tired face to father, asking pleadingly, "Isn't there some mistake, Albert?"  "Yes," father returned in his characteristic, quiet way, taking the blame upon his own shoulders, "I have made the mistake of trusting one man too many."

Indeed, it would have taken a Chinese wall to keep realty in bounds there.  The wailing fall wind seemed never to weary of carrying sand from one spot to another, piling it against the scant clumps of grass, leveling it, and shaping a mound farther on.  Over and over again it piled and leveled monotonously.  We drove through the creek bounding one side, where, as the horses drank, we sat in wearied silence, up to the tiny house standing on a knoll in a small grove of oaks.  It was banked to the window sills.  From a broken pane of the attic window a bit of white rag waved and beckoned.  "The peace signal, Adeline," father said, smiling whimsically.  We had traded even up everything except the team, wagon and what it held.  Here we found rude furniture not unlike wee had left behind.  Mother, it is true, complained that the milk crocks were seamed and cracked, and what a boiling and scrubbing in home-made soft soap suds they did get.  She found bedbugs, too, but they were soon routed through her persistent deluge of boiling brine.  A peculiar hardness of atmosphere foretold snow.  Mother made up a good hot supper, we girls ransacked our future room, the attic, and father, after stabling the jaded team, brought in the rest of the load, filled, as usual, the bed ticks, and we were again ready to receive.  However, we missed the periodic visit of our most constant guest.  Either it didn't look for orphanages in this outlandish country or had mercy because of its barrenness.  In a few days the snow had covered the bleak prairie.

It puzzles me how it was managed, but we never lacked comfort.  Our homes, though plain, were always clean, our table provided with wholesome food, and our beds neat and inviting.  I love to remember that snow-bound winter.  Up in the attic you could hear the moan in the flue, and rattle the dead oak leaves.  Then there were the lovely cracks of gold in the floor telling of father up hours before chore time, reading and studying by lamplight those precious books that never were left behind.  Hugh Miller's "Old Red Sandstone" seems a part of him.  It was the first book I notice - from it I learned my letters.  It gave one a fine intellectual feeling to read the A B C's from father's book, standing straight beside is chair, enunciating each letter with bravado.  As far back as my memory reaches, he was taking the Atlantic Monthly.  The first "piece" I spoke was a prelude to some lengthy article in it, taught me by father, and so like his own sayings - "It is not all in bringing up, Let folks say what they will, To silver scour a pewter cup, It will be pewter still."  Housekeeping wasn't so complicated those days, and, in spite of its lack of conveniences, mother found many hours in which to help father teach us.  She was an early Montessori.

The only real rushing business of this locality was horse stealing among the outlaws.  And although a moral consciousness precluded father's adoption of the profession, he did quite innocently become possessed of one of their thefts, a black Morgan mare, balky to such a degree I doubt not her owner considered himself well rid of her - of which more later.  Occasionally scraps of talk about these raids reached us, furnishing a little healthy excitement.

As the last snow was vanishing, father took the sack of cloverseed down from the rafters and sowed it upon the most favorable ground along the creek bank.  Then the waiting and the watching through unseasonable heat, freezes and snow flurries.  I am reminded of Old Goody Blake down on her knees blowing up the faint embers of the poor little fire she obtained by filching handfuls of Harry Gill's brushwood.  During a dry spell, assisted by mother and every toddler that could carry a bucket, however small, I distinctly remember my part in it, and of sounding the depths of the creek coming up with the tip top of my new shaker plastered with mud - father kept the patch moist.  He said the Sahara might be reclaimed if clover could be started upon it.  It was his creed and he spread its gospel wherever he farmed.  Nature couldn't turn a deaf ear to such prayers, it grew and flourished.  That fall it was a great temptation to cut it for Bossie, but father had mowed some fine-bladed marsh grass while it was young and tender, dried it beneath the bleaching sheets, salted it down in the mow, and she performed as well or better than most cows of those days; that is, she didn't give milk during the five winter months, but kept it in good condition and brought us twin heifer calves early the next spring.

Father was gone off and on most of the summer at work for the more prosperous farmers in the adjoining valleys.  Once when mother was there with only us children, a band of Indians trailed by, the men sitting erect and dignified on their shaggy ponies, the squaws so humble and browbeaten, trudging afoot, loaded nearly double with great bundles at their backs, carried by means of broad leathern straps across the chest and forehead, little girls and boys innocent of clothes scampered along in the cloud of dust.  Papooses dangled from every budget.  Cur dogs with red lolling tongues darted out and in among them.  As we stood at the gate one big fellow stopped, and thrusting his dirty fingers in our cat's fat sides, asked tersely, "How much?"  And for a minute we children held our breath, certain our lives were to be spared at the sacrifice of pussy's.  Then, seeing the fowls, they wanted chickens, "You so much, me, one," they pleaded.  But mother, knowing their tricks, was firm; one meant that many for every Indian able to beg.  The long line of perhaps two or three hundred ended at last.  They forded the creek and camped less than a half-mile distant in a grove of oaks.  toward evening one of the neighbors riding by cautioned mother to be on the lookout, the Indian had liquor.  While she was not abashed at the nearness of Indians pure and simple, she knew there were good reasons to be afraid of the best of them, no matter how civilized, when mixed with firewater.  So with all of us children hanging to her, her face to the foe, she set out to find the chief, who assured her most solemnly that she had nothing to fear, and pointed out a number of yelling braves tied to trees while they sobered off.  We visited the camp several times and were unmolested except that they begged for everything in sight.

As before mentioned, it was here that father bought, unwittingly, the stolen mare, Doll.  She was jet black with a blazing white star in her forehead, an exact match for the colt obtained during our stay at Travis Valley.  As father led Doll behind him in the barn, the very day of her purchase, she kicked out in play, hitting father a terrific blow in the side that laid him up for a long time.  During the two and a half years of our sojourn here father had used all the barn fertilizer he could get from the horse dealers (?) and our own stable to enrich his ground.  The patch of clover was now several acres, the corn and grain in splendid trim, when Mr. Mattison, of spirit rapping fame in Arcadia, passed by and fell in love with the place.  Before he left he owned it and father received in exchange an eighty in (of course) Trempealeau County.  In his anxiety to get back, the start was made before father was at all fit for even a short journey, mother driving the stallion and his mate on the wagon holding a few household article and four little ones, father following in the buggy drawn by Doll, with the oldest, a child of eight, to watch over and care for him.  All went well until we reached the foot of Waushara Hill, a hard, sandy climb enough to discourage any horse.  Doll was completely overcome.  She stopped short, letting one hip drop in a resting posture, her delicate ear radiating toward the rear to catch the verbal abuse her former owners had subjected her to.  Except to chirrup a time or two, father said nothing.  He was so sick nothing really mattered.  He sat and waited, placing all the responsibility of action on Doll.  Somehow, somewhere, while yet young he learned the value of patience, that attribute needed first and usually gained last.  He was not a hustler; violence of any kind was foreign to his nature, but his tender, watchful endurance was godlike.  It was his winning card in every game.  Through his own remarkable self control, he governed others without visible effort.  It seemed so cheerfully right to do anything father suggested.  He never antagonized one.  His influence was always soothing.  It soothed and conquered Doll. With an indescribable gesture of exasperated patience that melted into puzzled incomprehension and crystallized into life lasting confidence, she gave father a long, studied look, then with a soft, blubbery sigh, pushed out gently on the bit, starting up the first of many, many long hills that in her life of over twenty years in our service she climbed with never an untrue move.

For years father was associated in business with that most canny Scotch horse dealer, James Low, of Baraboo, buying and selling largely and constantly, but never to find Doll's equal in intelligence or trustworthiness.  To my knowledge no one outside the immediate family was ever allowed to driver her but once.  It was threshing time with its accompanying hustle.  In those days people did not grow enough grain to pay them to invest in high-priced threshers.  They engaged a tramp horsepower machine that passed from one setting of stacks to another.  At our place one horse took sick and father, driven to it, put in Doll.  The noise excited her, yet she did fairly well until the driver became loud and profane in his exhortations.  Doll stopped and appeared to be recalling similar scenes.  The driver let out a half-rod of whip lash that shot in sinuous, snakelike coils and cracked immediately over her sensitive ears.  She not only hesitated now, she balked stiff with ears pinched flat, her distended nostrils blood red, a perfect fury.  Had mother been struck it could not have incensed us children more.  We popped up and down like mad Dervishes, and the yell of bloody murder passed down the line like water in a bucket brigade.  Father was there before anything worse happened, and Doll was quickly and quietly led out of the traces and inside the barn.  How the crew managed, I do not remember, we were too busy loving our outraged old bonnie to notice small matters.  Once father drove he and a mate into Humbird, traded the mate for a great white Durham cow, Lily White, an imported animal that, refusing to breed, had been worked in the lumber camps with oxen, and came driving back with horse and cow hitched together.  It must have been humiliating to Doll, but father required it of her, that was enough.

The Mattison home, to which we moved in 1872, adjoined the south side of the Arcadia burying ground, the house so near the line you could toss a pebble from the back door to the nearest graves.  You could look through the window on the other side and occasionally see deer among the oak thickets of the barn yard.  Once we shot a bear in the crotch of a tree over the path leading to the pasture, when we had discovered why the cows kept turning back at that point.  At another time we  saw Mrs. Bruin and two cubs taking their constitutional across a field, headed for the Barn Bluff, upon whose sandy summit grew the earliest sweetest wind flowers.  It was at this place we had a fearful siege of typhoid, every one being stricken except father and sister Kate, who maintains she underwent worse suffering than the fever victims.  No professional nurses on tap then.  Dr. Lewis spent all his spare time assisting, but upon father fell the hardship of nursing night and day, napping occasionally in his chair between the rows of sufferers.  Worn out at last he was persuaded to lie down while Mr. and Mrs. Conant watched.  To his horror upon awakening he discovered that through a mistake in the bottles I, who lay at death's door, had been given a spoonful of turpentine.  I established my reputation then and there for being contrary by mending at once.  Father brought us all through, bald-headed skeletons, but alive, thanks to his untiring care.

Several families from the old Pennsylvania district came out and settled near.  One woman brought a peck of peach pits.  Father carefully cracked and planted his handful in boxes.  Several sprouted and grew amazingly.  he kept them in wooden tubs, moving them into the cellar the first two winters, when they became pot bound and were placed int he open ground.  In the fall father dug up one side of the roots, weighted the trees to the ground, covering them with dirt, coarse litter and rails.  After danger of frost in the spring they were straightened.  In their fourth year they bore fruit.  true, it had a decidedly  vegetable flavor, but none the less home grown peaches.  In much the same manner he grew our first grapes.  He planted a small orchard of hardy apples, which thrived and bore when others thought it useless to try.  His pear tree seemed always beckoning to succor.  Like homesick women in a foreign land, it refused to bear.  Its influence was so saddening that it was replaced by a more cheerful pioneer.  We popped corn over its burning twigs, the only real, spirited, happy time of its existence.

Two new names for the census taker were added here.

We were moving less often now.  We remained on the three hundred and sixty-acre Humbird farm, which now became our home, from 1877 to 1881, nearly five years, perhaps because it took that much longer to overcome the desecrations of man.  Nature had been lavish in her bestowal of beauty, but man apparently had worked with extraordinary ingenuity to upset her plans.  What a place!  Dead cattle lying unburied in the barnyard upon which great, gaunt, hairy hogs were eating, dead fowls under the perches, a new bar erected above the carcasses of several sheep, half the pickets fallen from the front fence, buildings unpainted, the windows of the big house stuffed with rags, worn out fields.  Father put the full force of men and teams to clearing the premises.  The dead were buried in a pit after covering them with lime.  Tons and tons of fertilizer were hauled from the yards and stables to a worked-out forty, as level as the floor, but too poor to raise a row.  He bought at a dollar a load all the manure at the Humbird livery stable, and how the neighbors laughed to see a man pay, actually pay, for manure.  He grew a crop of clover knee deep on it and turned that back to the land. The neighbors shook their heads and called him crazy.  You should have seen the crop of corn following!  Its like was never seen there before.  On other depleted fields similarly treated the heavy-headed oats stood shoulder high.  A lover of good stock he paid one hundred and fifty dollars for a Short-horn bull, an unheard of price in those days when cows and chickens were a much slighted side issue.

Fences were straightened, buildings painted, a great barn built with old-fashioned driveway between two immense mows.  He flailed some grain with the jointed rod of long ago on that barn floor.  And winter evenings, the horses and cattle watching from their stanchions, the sheep from their pens, we husked long ears of yellow corn there.  Had I been gifted with the pen of a Whittier my snow bound might read as pregnant with life as his, I senses it all in a dumb ecstasy.

Our land extending into two districts entitled us to entrance at both the town school at Humbird and the rural school at Houghtenberg.  We took the full year of the former and the summer term of the latter, for father placed great faith in schooling.  He helped us evenings.  I cannot remember a home without its blackboard and night sessions.  Father wished us to be teachers and ten of us fulfilled his desires.

The instant you crossed the long puncheon bridge to the east you were in a forest of pines, and upon a carpet of pigeon vines and winter green.  If it were spring the vines were full of puffy red berries, and you could hear the drumming partridge from every direction.  Once at the bridge's approach a neighbor came face to face with a great shambling bear, as large as a two-year-old heifer. We often saw them in the slashings, where we gathered blueberries with wooden box rakes, and buckets of juicy blackberries.  At dusk from the open country to the west came the prairie chickens' boom, "Man's a fool!" with its peculiar up and down inflection.  Such winters of snow!  How the sleighbells jingled to and from school!  Fences completely hidden!  Doll and Dido, their breasts frost white, would come racing into the back yard from the clearing, the sled piled high with alder pole wood, icicles hanging to father's mustache, his nose white.  Then mother would rush out with a pan of steaming doughnuts to regale father while he rubbed the blood back into his nose and ears, and she stroked Doll's soft muzzle.

Often he engaged strolling bands of Indians to cut wood and clear land.  When they came to the house to engage hay for their ponies, an armful at a time, if invited in, as they usually were, at the risk of our catching undesireable things, they squatted about the stove in stolid silence except to answer a direct question in short guttural notes; so unlike the musical tones used in their own language, when their high-pitched voices rose and fell like the wailing wind in the pine tops.  And of course they begged.  One old half-frozen squaw, so wrinkled she looked less than human, asked for milk.  She held her mouth full for a moment, then fumbling int he front of her dirty blouse drew out a very young puppy that placed to her lips avidly sucked out the warmed milk.  A young squaw, evidently the belle, had ear lobes stretched nearly to her shoulder from the weight of ear ornaments made up of dimes, half dimes, and quarters, amounting to at least five dollars, connected by silver rings.  Avery tall straight young buck, when asked his name, replied promptly,  "Paul, P-A-U-L," proud of his schooling, and stalking across the room to the organ drummed out with one hand, "Home, sweet home," a strange tune for a wandering Red man.  At another time an old chief and his squaw  arrived just as we had finished dinner.  When asked they readily went to the table.  Before seating himself the chief reached the table's length to get a large dish of boiled Irish potatoes.  he divided them with great exactness between his and the squaw's plates, adding first to one then to the other, then satisfied they were evenly filled, gave grunt of contentment and finished the pile in no time.  They seemed always like happy, irresponsible children.  We destroyed an ideal existence when we took their lands.

A rather perplexing thing happened once.  It was during an exceedingly cold spell, boards snapping, snow squeaking under foot, the pump thick with frost, when just at dark an Indian and a young squaw nearly overcome with cold stopped for the night.  They were exceptionally clean.  We had a bed in the wood house attic kept purposely to accommodate the many looking for work who passed up and down the railroad track that cut our farm and lay a few rods from the house.  Instead of sending them to the barn we let them sleep in this attic, which was warmer.  In the morning something the Indian  said about his squaw that didn't seem to apply to the one with him caused father to ask, motioning to the two, "You married?"  "By 'n bye," was the laconic answer, which left us to wonder about their ideas of white man morality.

Our next move in 1881 to the George Dewey place, across the road from his shrewd Yankee brother, Uncle Dan Dewey, at Arcadia, was father's last investment in Wisconsin land.  The house of three stories was not too large, for, during those years at Humbird, we had prospered in more than wealth.  The stork had blessed our home with four visits, two of them a half hour apart.  One room on the third floor held long rows of rich yellow home made cheese, the rest were play rooms, where paper men and women and every description of animal, with some even beyond describing, were manufactured as fast as the limited supply of scissors allowed.  While we lived here farm institutes were held yearly in the old Mineral Springs Hotel.  Father always attended, eager to get new ideas, admiring Governor Hoard, whether he talked dairying or broke the monotony of farm discussions by singing "Finnegan's Wake," or reciting the pathetic "Johnnie Kunkerpod."  Most of the farmers took to dairying.  Father did, and sold cream at so much an inch - a little more than enough to pay for the cows' salt now.  You all remember how George Kelley used to fly around in the mud with his wild team gathering up cream for the creamery, and spilling it occasionally, too.  Our place was rich and grew wonderful crops of corn and clover.  We were near good schools.  It was a pity to sell.

The thirteenth baby was born here, the thirteenth day of June, 1884.  Counting cribbage style the figures in the year make two more thirteens - an awful assemblage of that most unlucky number.  Whether that was responsible for father's ankle being broken twice that year, each time by stumbling mules, I can't say, but it did look as if bad luck had us by the collar to see father hobbling about on crutches the next March in a cold, drizzly rain, and Tom Barry pegging around on his wooden leg, using all his Irish wit to auction off the personal property.  Mother, as usual doing her share, kept pots of boiling coffee and trays of ham sandwiches on hand to cheer the crowd.  Yet every one felt it was a sad move.  What wasn't sold was given away or packed in the freight car with the bees, Virgil's pup, the Shorthorn stock, the stallion Frank, old Doll's last grandchild and Doll, too, would have been there had not mother, misunderstanding father, caused her to be shot.  Faithful old creature, it hurts yet to remember coming form school and rushing out to learn why she lay so still beside the fence, discover the bullet wound in the blood-stained star in her forehead.  I ought to think now, after all these yeas, that perhaps it was best, that it may have saved her a lingering, suffering death.  I can't do it.  I can't forgive the lack of gratitude for a dumb animal living for our comfort and profit, nor an unkindness to a child for whose being it is not responsible and more than my father could.

Leaving the two married girls in April of 1885, we made that most unfortunate move into the Ozarks, mother and the ten children by passenger train.

Space is too limited to tell you of the wild life there in the woods filled with flowers, nuts and fruits; the raids of the Bald Knobbers and our constant fear, father being a northern man, he should suffer the resentment of these ignorant people, still bitter over the Civil War; of a winter not as open as the natives vouched for, we with stock and no hay, how father kept some of the cattle alive by feeding them great lengths of  pickled side pork; of little Frank traded for land, starved to death by his owner, and father unable to save him.  No space left to picture the lives of these mountain children, often four generations living in a single miserable hovel, of the little log schoolhouse with its broken windows, dropped chinking, backless puncheon benches, ruled over by an asthmatic old teacher, who spent the noon hour smoking his pipe and his asthma over a fire in a hole in the ground; of the precipitate move, amounting almost to flight, away from these degrading social conditions to the open prairies of South Dakota, wit its droughts, hail storms, cyclones - every force of nature turned against success, just at the outbreak of the Rosebud Indian Agency in 1891.

Nor shall I offend my father's memory by dwelling with unnecessary words upon his last sad illness, the result of that Waushara injury, so patiently borne throughout the intense heat of the summer of 1901; the misunderstandings, apparently wrong medical treatments; his life needlessly lost at the age of sixty-six.  the big bays, the team he loved, carried him on the first relay back to the little cemetery at Arcadia in the beautiful Trempealeau Valley that had ever beckoned his return.  In the lonely days that followed, how, by loving those creatures he had made his tender care, we tried to feel him near; not forgetting the King birds, that having build in the tool box of a cultivator, rather than cause them grief through the destruction of their home, he worked longer hours with one machine that the other might stand idle until the little birds could fly.  Some comfort came at last, and I could feel, as he would wish, that he was but a little way ahead, beyond a turn in the road, at the summit of a hard climb, with dear faithful old Doll treking on.




f-trempealeau
The WIGenWeb Project logo was designed and provided by Debbie Barrett.

DISCLAIMER:   No claim is made to the copyrights of the individual submitters.   The contents of this website may be used for personal use only by individuals researching their own ancestry.   Commercial use of this information for profit is strictly prohibited without prior permission of the owners.  Other genealogical websites may link to this website; however, permission is not granted to duplicate any of the contents.  Anyone contributing material for posting does so in recognition of its free, non-commercial distribution, as well as the responsibility  to assure that no copyright is violated by the submission.  This website and its coordinator are not responsible for donations of copyrighted material where explicit written permission has not been granted for use.
____________________________________________________________
Copyright © 2000 - 2012
All Rights Reserved
wigenwebcc
This website was established on 31 Oct 2000