Centennial History Book
Every community has cherished REMINISCENCES
MRS. HOWARD GARDNER TELLS STORY OF
EARLY DAYS AT FARNAM
The Farnam Echo, 1936
The Barnhart family arrived in Plum Creek March 5, 1885, and stopped at the Johnson Hotel until a home could be secured for us. Father filed on the homestead and built (dug) a dugout 14 ft. by 18 ft. and moved us out. In crossing the Platte River a joint of stove pipe fell from a load and went down the river, when we arrived at the claim our loss was noticed. No hopes of getting another joint for two or three months, so the stove was set on a large packing box and mother stood on another one to cook our meals. This put the stove dangerously near the roof, but the box made a handy pantry.
Mother ran a sort of bakery, baking bread for Henderson and Kerr, the George Laucomer family, Norman McDonald and John Bradford.
My business was to pick up the fuel from the prairie and take out the ashes, a steady job. Our dugout that winter was a gathering place for the young people as we had a dandy lighting system, two No. 1 kerosene lamps. (We lit them both when we had company) and a deck of "Authors". Chester Kerr, George and Charlie Laucomer, my sister and I were about all the young people at that time in the "Pennsylvania Colony". A. Garven, Norman McDonald, A. B. Barnhart, George Laucomer, Friend Henderson and Kerr, coming from about the same place in Pennsylvania.
The worst thing about this time were the prairie fires and I was in constant dread of them. One caught from our short stove pipe and run clear to the Platte river, then we were safe in one direction. There were seven deer and a herd of antelope that winter in the "brakes" north of us and we ate antelope once in a great while.
Then came the joyful certainty that the railroad was coming our way. The town lots were staked out, and my sister and I rode up to see our "promised city". We childishly picked out our future building sites. Mine was where the A. B. Thrasher home now is. My brother, Harvey, worked "skinned mules" on the railroad, boarding at the "Murphy camp". My sister and I got a lot of "kick" out of driving up for him on Saturday night.
Then came the great day when the first train pulled into Farnam and the joy of getting our mail whenever we went for it. E. B. Dunham had built a drug store. Keystone moved to Farnam. School houses dotted the prairie. Sod houses were built on the divides and the dugouts were abandoned.
We were an old settled community. About this time we took to referring "to them good old days". I think our worst hardships were the lack of fuel and schools. Summer fuel was easily procured from the prairie, but we drove to the Longbottom ranch on the Muddy Creek for wood, for winter. The dugouts and adobies were warm and did not need much heat. In April 1886 mother and I were completely snowed under in the dugout. Father had gone to Plum Creek, and as our door opened out to save space inside, we couldn’t get it opened. We stayed that way until Friend Henderson thought about us, and came and dug us out. Father didn’t get home for over a week. But after all the hardship and other grief, pioneering was rather fun.
When we came here they had free range. The ranchmen just branded their cattle and horses and let them run where they pleased. On July 6, 1885 they voted herd law, which was a sad day for the ranchmen, so they soon began to move out and farmers came in their places. There were no churches or Sunday school and had been no school in that part of the country. The fall of 1885, they built a sod school house with a brush roof and made long benches to sit on. We had to use our laps for desks. In 1886 a preacher came and preached for us and they started Sunday School and everybody went, father, mother and all the children. The only other places we had to go was to the Christmas program; the Fourth of July and in the fail to a gathering to eat watermelons. Everything we planted grew until the year of 1890 when we had our first drouth we had ever seen.