Centennial History Book
Every community has cherished REMINISCENCES
MRS. LAURA STEBBINS GIVES GLIMPSES OF LIFE HERE IN ’80S
Taken from The Farnam Echo, 1936
How this country looked to me when we arrived in Nebraska and some of our experiences of 1886. The vastness of the prairie was almost appalling to me having lived among the hills 238 and valleys of Pennsylvania. There was very little broken land, not a tree in sight. The trees grew in the large canyons. A few scattered windmills and about four or five frame houses stood out against the sky. Most of the sod houses were mostly one or two rooms and many lived in dugouts, which were like a cave in the sides of the canyons, very warm in winter and cool in summer. All newcomers were called tenderfoot. Water and fuel were very scarce. The men drove to the large canyons for wood, the Jeffery, Conroy and Snell. They would sometimes be gone two days often coming home late in the night. The women would worry for fear they would get lost or hurt. After we had corn crops, cobs were the principal fuel. I remember my mother baking bread and having to use sunflower stalks for fuel. My work was to get her the stalks, no easy task, I thought. I also recall a terrible blizzard in ’86 when some of the men of the community were hauling piling for the railroad to Maywood and Curtis which was only completed to Moorefield at that time. We were snowed in for two days and had to be dug out of the drift, as our one-room sod house was almost buried in the snow.
As our arrival was in the spring the crops had to be planted first of all. Our water supply was quite a problem as we hauled two or three barrels for several miles, if the wind had not blown to pump the water, we could only have a few pails and if the slough holes or buffalo wallows were not dried up we would sometimes have to use water from them. There were times when the cattle were driven to the Platte for a drink.
The young folks had to make their own amusements. During the melon season they would gather at some home in the evening and have what we called a melon feed. The melons were delicious. We would often gather in a house where they were fortunate in having a piano or organ, spending the evening singing. We would often get lost going home at night as there were no laid out roads, only trails which were usually so dim they could not easily be seen at night, and we would often find ourselves in a cornfield, as there were no fences, or it might be the horses would stop and when the driver investigated we would be near the edge of a canyon. When the stars were shining we always got our bearings from the North Star.
On cloudy nights the men often hung a lantern on the end of the neck yoke. I have known some folks getting lost and find in the morning they had driven all night in a circle.
Herding cattle was the work often given over to the younger ones of the family. I thought it was a lonesome and very monotonous task. The young folks were quite expert at horseback riding as they were on their ponies day after day when they were herding.
The fathers and mothers who settled in this part of the country and endured the inconveniences, privations and the hardships of pioneer life did not realize that in fifty years their grandchildren would be enjoying the comfortable homes and modern conveniences that are found on many prairie farms today. The majority of those settlers have passed on. Many are lying over on the hillside. They have all had a great part in the making of this part of the state of Nebraska.