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Centennial History Book

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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 leftmy birthplace, Johnstown, Pennsylvania, October 1868; alongwith my parents whose names were Benjamin Franklin Griffithand Rebecca Elizabeth (Snyder) Griffith; they too, were bornat Johnstown, Pennsylvania. Locating in Nebraska City,Nebraska, after coming down the Ohio River from somedistance; then on to the eastern part of the state in coveredwagons, drawn by yokes of oxen, traveling many weary miles.

In the spring of 1872 we came farther west to where BeaverCity now stands; that was where I saw my first buffalo, butfrom there on we saw great herds of them coming within a fewyards of the house to their old watering place. Lots of wild turkeyswould roost in the trees close to our home, and fatherwould go after nightfall and get a wild turkey. We thought thatwas a swell feed. There were also small herds of antelope, from25 to 50, around there and were there even when we lived onthe Mitchell Creek in 1879. There were also some deer and elk.

While at Beaver City the Sioux Indians traveled along theBeaver Valley, a short distance from our house - some wouldalways come to the house to beg something to eat - sometimesthey would refuse to take what my mother offered them; wealways had plenty of buffalo meat but sometimes they were notthe choicest cuts; they would also refuse to take corn and wantMother to give them wheat bread, of which we ourselves didnot always have, as we had to eat corn bread the greater partof the time.

The nearest trading posts were Plum Creek, Lowel andKearney, my Father would start out for one of the tradingplaces with his ox team and lumber wagon and would notreturn for two or three days, as oxen travel was very slow.Mother and we small children were left alone in that wildcountry until Father would return.

The spring of 1873 we moved a little farther west to the farmthat joins up to the south of the Hendley cemetery ; we lived onthis farm at the time the grasshoppers swooped down and devouredour entire cornfield, in just a few hours; on Sundayafternoon Father and Mother and we children walked downthrough the cornfield, which looked very promising indeed; myFather stood me upon his shoulder to see if I could reach thetop of the cornstock, and I could just reach to the top; the nextmorning the "hoppers" came and the corn disappeared in shortorder. We struggled along until the fall of 1876, when myFather sold out and we started for Deadwood City, SouthDakota, staying the winter in Sidney, Nebraska, resuming ourjourney the first of April in company with a couple of freighterswho freighted from Sidney to Deadwood City, arriving thereabout June first. We were in terror of the Indians all the timewe were in South Dakota as there were Indian scares reportedevery day, so we did not tarry but a few months, returningthat fall, wintering near our old home between Wilsonville andHendley.

While we lived in Spearfish, South Dakota, the Indiansmassacred five surveyors about twelve miles west of Spearfishand attacked a large wagon train of people who were on theirway to the Big Horn Basin. When Spearfish received word thatthe Indians were on the war path the troops were ordered outfrom Deadwood City, some twelve miles distant and when thesoldiers finally arrived at the scene of depredation, the men ofthe wagon train had dug a large pit and put all the women andchildren in it, inside a corral made by placing the wagons in acircle around the pit. J. W. Pickles was one of the families inthe 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 ofCambridge (Pickleville at that time). In the fall of 1878 adiptheria epidemic struck Nebraska that took a mammoth tollamong the children and young people. Some families inFrontier County lost all of their children, as the result of theepidemic, and a family close to us lost five children out of sevenchildren with diptheria. I also had the diptheria at that time,having come in contact with it during an Indian scare over atBeaver City. All the people from around Wilsonville andHendley had left their homes and gone to Beaver City, as theyexpected the Indians to come through at any time. As myFather had not heard of the Indian scare, he and I passed overthe strip of country over which the Indians were supposed tocome through; we were driving a yoke of cows to a lumberwagon, (some rapid transit) never dreaming of any danger, butwhen we struck the Beaver Valley about half way betweenWilsonville and Hendley, just one man had stayed with hishome; several Indian scouts came in during the evening. Laterit was learned that the Indians had passed over into Kansas,and had tortured and killed every one in the strip of countrythey passed through, those people had not received word thatthe Indians were coming, so were taken unawares. How sad itall seems, as I look back. My mother was at home with four ofher little children with no near neighbors at that time.

We stayed there that night, going on to Beaver City the nextday, staying the night in Beaver City. There being only onebuilding of any size, all the women and children slept there; abed was made the length of the building; I slept with the rest ofthe children and in a short time I had diptheria in the worstform. I was so weak and so near gone they did not see how Icould live. When I was gasping for my breath, I would jump upand stand straight up in bed and fight for my breath, but mydear Mother nursed me back to health. At the same time I hadthe diptheria, Father was bedfast and helpless with inflammatoryrheumatism. It was in this home that my fatherestablished the Orafino post office in 1881, naming it for a smallmining town in California; he, having gone to California in1854, returning the winter of 1861-62. We got but little schoolingduring 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 wewalked two and a half miles every morning and evening; thiswas the years of 1879-80; the year of 1878 the school was nearthe same place in a vacant house, and children came from farand near to that school; Will Lynch and two Indian boys cameon horseback from Stockville, and George, Tena and NellieSutherland, just east of Stockville also came on horseback, andWill White and Johnny Goodwin came about ten miles; whilethe children from Stockville had about fifteen miles. John Gammill’schildren, Jimmie, Lottie and Lib only had about a mile towalk, while Jessie, Olla and Mae Griffith had two and one halfmiles. Then there were two Indian boys who also came fromStockville, William Nelson, a full blooded Indian and JonniePeno, a half breed, who was a favorite in the school, but Jonniejust had two favorites, Will White and myself. He called Willhis brother and myself, his sister, and would he fight for us? Helooked after us as though his life depended upon it. ThoseIndian boys lived in the home of Monte Clifford, a white man,who had married an Indian squaw; his mother-in-law also livedin 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 greatloss of stock, so much stock drifted from the Platte Valley intothe brakes of the Mitchell Creek, and the heavy snows and highwinds drifted the snow over them, smothering them, therewere thousands of cattle perished in that part of the countryduring the winter and spring. The few that withstood thesevere winter were so weak on account of the deep snow theycould not get to the ground to get anything to eat, and thenthey came down to the creek to drink they were sure to getstuck in the mud. For weeks my Father kept his team harnessedready to pull them out of the mud, for it seemed it was manytimes a day. When, after pulling them out of the mud, he helpedthem on their feet, they would try to fight him, often fallingdown again. A great many of them were Longhorn Texas cattleand liked to use their horns. The cattle would crowd around thehouse and against the doors; it kept the dog busy to keep themfrom busting in the doors.

Everything was free range in those days, and the cattleroamed the hills at their pleasure all during the year, then inthe spring, the ranchers would hold their roundup, collectingall the cattle from all over the country, then they were alltaken to a large level tract of land where they would do thecut-out stunt, and "Oh, Boy" could the cowboys ride? Eachman’s cattle with a certain brand on were cut out and eachrancher and his cowboys would drive their cattle to theirranch. The last roundup they had in Frontier County, I was aneye witness to the separating cutting-out as they alwaystermed it; they had selected a large tract of level land aboutfive miles west of Stockville; those times people would go quitea distance to witness the wonderful riding of the cowboys, asthey would cut-out each rancher’s cattle from the monstrousherd.

One time the roundup bunch was camped about a mile fromour house on the Mitchell Creek; there were two of the cowboys,it seemed, who held an old grudge, so as they were ridingout of camp one morning Jesse Reeves took the drop on IsaacLowe, shooting him through the abdomen. He was brought toour home, where my father did all for him that he could do. Helived only three days; Father, along wi(h some neighbors madea rough box and laid him to rest on our land, the roundup wenton as if nothing had happened.

My father, B. F. Griffith sold the farm on Mitchell Creek in1882 to J. B. and Sam Rice, for a sheep ranch. We lived in Cambridgethat winter and then Father bought a farm ten milesnortheast of Cambridge where George Minnick now lives. Welost our dear mother there in June, 1887. Then in 1890 Fatherand family came to the place where Homer Propeck lives, 10miles northwest of Farnam and I put homestead papers on theplace 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. Ihave spent sometime in several other states, but always cameback to Nebraska. I heard that people from Nebraska, who goto "Heaven" have to be chained to a tree to keep them there, so1 suppose it would be the same way with me, if I werefortunate enough to go there.

I am perfectly satisfied to spend my last days in Farnam, asit is one of the best towns in Dawson County, and DawsonCounty is one of the best counties in Nebraska, and Nebraskais the best state in the United States, and the United States isthe best country in the world.

Published: 9/25/2023 -
Hosted and Published by Weldon Hoppe