Centennial History Book
Every community has cherished REMINISCENCES
ORAFINO POST OFFICE
Named by Father of Mrs. Wilmeth
Taken from The Farnam Echo, 1936
By Mrs. Mae Griffith Wilmeth
I am one of the very early settlers of Nebraska, having left my birthplace, Johnstown, Pennsylvania, October 1868; along with my parents whose names were Benjamin Franklin Griffith and Rebecca Elizabeth (Snyder) Griffith; they too, were born at Johnstown, Pennsylvania. Locating in Nebraska City, Nebraska, after coming down the Ohio River from some distance; then on to the eastern part of the state in covered wagons, drawn by yokes of oxen, traveling many weary miles.
In the spring of 1872 we came farther west to where Beaver City now stands; that was where I saw my first buffalo, but from there on we saw great herds of them coming within a few yards of the house to their old watering place. Lots of wild turkeys would roost in the trees close to our home, and father would go after nightfall and get a wild turkey. We thought that was a swell feed. There were also small herds of antelope, from 25 to 50, around there and were there even when we lived on the Mitchell Creek in 1879. There were also some deer and elk.
While at Beaver City the Sioux Indians traveled along the Beaver Valley, a short distance from our house - some would always come to the house to beg something to eat - sometimes they would refuse to take what my mother offered them; we always had plenty of buffalo meat but sometimes they were not the choicest cuts; they would also refuse to take corn and want Mother to give them wheat bread, of which we ourselves did not always have, as we had to eat corn bread the greater part of the time.
The nearest trading posts were Plum Creek, Lowel and Kearney, my Father would start out for one of the trading places with his ox team and lumber wagon and would not return for two or three days, as oxen travel was very slow. Mother and we small children were left alone in that wild country until Father would return.
The spring of 1873 we moved a little farther west to the farm that joins up to the south of the Hendley cemetery ; we lived on this farm at the time the grasshoppers swooped down and devoured our entire cornfield, in just a few hours; on Sunday afternoon Father and Mother and we children walked down through the cornfield, which looked very promising indeed; my Father stood me upon his shoulder to see if I could reach the top of the cornstock, and I could just reach to the top; the next morning the "hoppers" came and the corn disappeared in short order. We struggled along until the fall of 1876, when my Father sold out and we started for Deadwood City, South Dakota, staying the winter in Sidney, Nebraska, resuming our journey the first of April in company with a couple of freighters who freighted from Sidney to Deadwood City, arriving there about June first. We were in terror of the Indians all the time we were in South Dakota as there were Indian scares reported every day, so we did not tarry but a few months, returning that fall, wintering near our old home between Wilsonville and Hendley.
While we lived in Spearfish, South Dakota, the Indians massacred five surveyors about twelve miles west of Spearfish and attacked a large wagon train of people who were on their way to the Big Horn Basin. When Spearfish received word that the Indians were on the war path the troops were ordered out from Deadwood City, some twelve miles distant and when the soldiers finally arrived at the scene of depredation, the men of the wagon train had dug a large pit and put all the women and children in it, inside a corral made by placing the wagons in a circle around the pit. J. W. Pickles was one of the families in the wagon train, the man that had the first store in Pickleville, where Cambridge now stands.
The first of March, 1878, we located 16 miles northwest of Cambridge (Pickleville at that time). In the fall of 1878 a diptheria epidemic struck Nebraska that took a mammoth toll among the children and young people. Some families in Frontier County lost all of their children, as the result of the epidemic, and a family close to us lost five children out of seven children with diptheria. I also had the diptheria at that time, having come in contact with it during an Indian scare over at Beaver City. All the people from around Wilsonville and Hendley had left their homes and gone to Beaver City, as they expected the Indians to come through at any time. As my Father had not heard of the Indian scare, he and I passed over the strip of country over which the Indians were supposed to come through; we were driving a yoke of cows to a lumber wagon, (some rapid transit) never dreaming of any danger, but when we struck the Beaver Valley about half way between Wilsonville and Hendley, just one man had stayed with his home; several Indian scouts came in during the evening. Later it was learned that the Indians had passed over into Kansas, and had tortured and killed every one in the strip of country they passed through, those people had not received word that the Indians were coming, so were taken unawares. How sad it all seems, as I look back. My mother was at home with four of her little children with no near neighbors at that time.
We stayed there that night, going on to Beaver City the next day, staying the night in Beaver City. There being only one building of any size, all the women and children slept there; a bed was made the length of the building; I slept with the rest of the children and in a short time I had diptheria in the worst form. I was so weak and so near gone they did not see how I could live. When I was gasping for my breath, I would jump up and stand straight up in bed and fight for my breath, but my dear Mother nursed me back to health. At the same time I had the diptheria, Father was bedfast and helpless with inflammatory rheumatism. It was in this home that my father established the Orafino post office in 1881, naming it for a small mining town in California; he, having gone to California in 1854, returning the winter of 1861-62. We got but little schooling during those years out in the wilds, while living at Orafino, the first years we would walk to the home of Sam Gammill, where the school was held in one room of their home, and we walked two and a half miles every morning and evening; this was the years of 1879-80; the year of 1878 the school was near the same place in a vacant house, and children came from far and near to that school; Will Lynch and two Indian boys came on horseback from Stockville, and George, Tena and Nellie Sutherland, just east of Stockville also came on horseback, and Will White and Johnny Goodwin came about ten miles; while the children from Stockville had about fifteen miles. John Gammill’s children, Jimmie, Lottie and Lib only had about a mile to walk, while Jessie, Olla and Mae Griffith had two and one half miles. Then there were two Indian boys who also came from Stockville, William Nelson, a full blooded Indian and Jonnie Peno, a half breed, who was a favorite in the school, but Jonnie just had two favorites, Will White and myself. He called Will his brother and myself, his sister, and would he fight for us? He looked after us as though his life depended upon it. Those Indian boys lived in the home of Monte Clifford, a white man, who had married an Indian squaw; his mother-in-law also lived in the home of Monte and his family; he had a daughter, Lili, who was very handsome, and I was very fond of her.
The winter of 1880-81 was a very severe winter, such a great loss of stock, so much stock drifted from the Platte Valley into the brakes of the Mitchell Creek, and the heavy snows and high winds drifted the snow over them, smothering them, there were thousands of cattle perished in that part of the country during the winter and spring. The few that withstood the severe winter were so weak on account of the deep snow they could not get to the ground to get anything to eat, and then they came down to the creek to drink they were sure to get stuck in the mud. For weeks my Father kept his team harnessed ready to pull them out of the mud, for it seemed it was many times a day. When, after pulling them out of the mud, he helped them on their feet, they would try to fight him, often falling down again. A great many of them were Longhorn Texas cattle and liked to use their horns. The cattle would crowd around the house and against the doors; it kept the dog busy to keep them from busting in the doors.
Everything was free range in those days, and the cattle roamed the hills at their pleasure all during the year, then in the spring, the ranchers would hold their roundup, collecting all the cattle from all over the country, then they were all taken to a large level tract of land where they would do the cut-out stunt, and "Oh, Boy" could the cowboys ride? Each man’s cattle with a certain brand on were cut out and each rancher and his cowboys would drive their cattle to their ranch. The last roundup they had in Frontier County, I was an eye witness to the separating cutting-out as they always termed it; they had selected a large tract of level land about five miles west of Stockville; those times people would go quite a distance to witness the wonderful riding of the cowboys, as they would cut-out each rancher’s cattle from the monstrous herd.
One time the roundup bunch was camped about a mile from our house on the Mitchell Creek; there were two of the cowboys, it seemed, who held an old grudge, so as they were riding out of camp one morning Jesse Reeves took the drop on Isaac Lowe, shooting him through the abdomen. He was brought to our home, where my father did all for him that he could do. He lived only three days; Father, along wi(h some neighbors made a rough box and laid him to rest on our land, the roundup went on as if nothing had happened.
My father, B. F. Griffith sold the farm on Mitchell Creek in 1882 to J. B. and Sam Rice, for a sheep ranch. We lived in Cambridge that winter and then Father bought a farm ten miles northeast of Cambridge where George Minnick now lives. We lost our dear mother there in June, 1887. Then in 1890 Father and family came to the place where Homer Propeck lives, 10 miles northwest of Farnam and I put homestead papers on the place where Ray Mackeys now live, better known as the J. 0. Wilmeth home, as we lived there for twenty years. My father, B. F. Griffith passed away February, 1897 and my husband, J. 0. Wilmeth passed away November, 1912.
I have lived almost my entire life in the State of Nebraska. I have spent sometime in several other states, but always came back to Nebraska. I heard that people from Nebraska, who go to "Heaven" have to be chained to a tree to keep them there, so 1 suppose it would be the same way with me, if I were fortunate enough to go there.
I am perfectly satisfied to spend my last days in Farnam, as it is one of the best towns in Dawson County, and Dawson County is one of the best counties in Nebraska, and Nebraska is the best state in the United States, and the United States is the best country in the world.