|My Life History
- by Jacob
My father John FOUTZ was born August 24, 1822, in Montgomery [county] Ohio. He moved to Pyrmont, Carroll Co., Indiana, when he was eight years old. That was a far western county at that time. His father was Joel FOUTZ. He located on land purchased from the government for sixty cents per acre. The land was located on the noted creek called Wild Cat. Because of the available water power, Joel Foutz built one of the first lumber mills which turned out to be a great success. He built a rude house and barn. When Father was twenty-one , he was permitted to run the mill for one year and have the proceeds for a start in life. He cleared five hundred dollars. He bought eight acres of heavily wooded land and built a small house and began to clear the land. Only the most valuable timber was used for lumber. Walnut, poplar, white oak, and blue ash principally.
In 1851, my father married Esther ULERY, but she died with her first born. Father married again in the fall of 1853; Hannah WAGONER was his bride. Hannah was born in Carroll county, Indiana, on the fourth of August 1835. I [Jacob] was born August fourteen 1854, the oldest child except for my half-sister Katherine. Our home was located near Rossville, Clinton County, Indiana. In 1856 Father sold out for two thousand dollars and we moved to Macon County, Illinois, eight miles east of Decatur. We lived near the Sangamon river, our post office was Oakley. We lived there about eleven years [until 1867]. This was very fertile prairie country; all we had to do was fence and break sod. Crops grew richly without much tilling for the first years. The [civil] war brought heavy burdens to us, much sickness, but it kept father from serving in the army. He was confined to his bed during the draft; by the time he was recovered, the war was over.
In the fall of 1860 I started to school. I remember my father going with me the first day. I could not talk in English as Pennsylvania Dutch was my language; I soon learned to use English. Our school house was a frame building with a wood stove in the middle of the room. Our seats were boards laid across trestles except those doing writing had long desks with a sloping top. Seating to those were boards laid on crosspieces fastened to the legs. We could occupy these desks while in penmanship class; otherwise we had to sit on seats too high for our feet to reach the floor. Not a very good place to be good for long. In cold weather the big boys and girls would crowd the smaller ones away from the stove which did not warm the whole room. Our first
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teacher was a stern man, especially with the younger children. That is my impression to this day. After this term he went down south to be a slave master. After two years he came back and meeting father in town rode out with him. He ate supper with us, and I will never forget the things he told us about the slaves. Some of the slave masters were so brutal they would whip the Blacks for the most trivial offense. He said their cries could be heard for a mile. He told his overseer [that] if he couldnt control his slaves without the whip, he would give up his job. He fed well and provided some recreation and was kind to the aged and weak, and he got more work out of his men than any boss in that part of the country. At wars end the slaves were set free, so he returned north. Those horrid stories linger in my memory until this day. Many things during the Civil War are still fresh in my mind.
During the war we had both north and south factions in school which caused many battles, especially when there was snow. We would form battle lines and use snow for weapons. One day the rebels drove us out of our fort and away from our supply of snow so we got ears of corn from a field and threw corn till we gained our grounds again. We always had a big fight the last day of school. If there were any grudges, they had to be fought out and settled then and there.
When the war ended in April 1865, we sold our good farm for $2,500 and moved to Cedar county Missouri (a bad move). Everything was torn up by the war; hatred and confusion reigned supreme. Feuds were numerous; every man packed from one to three guns. Many houses had been burnt; the stone chimneys still stood where the house had been. The towns were in ruins, and the farms were overgrown with oak, ash, and persimmon brush. There were many widows struggling to make a living, their husbands having been killed by bushwhackers -- called to the door at night and shot on their doorstep. After peace was declared, many honest soldiers were killed returning to their families.
In the summer of 1867, I was twelve years old. I was sent over to Turkey Creek [Cedar Co., MO] to plow corn for a doctor to settle an account. While seated at breakfast, the doctor was called out to take care of a man who had been waylaid by his neighbor. This was an old war feud, but it created a lot of excitement as things were becoming more settled. While at Turkey Creek, I saw a small log cabin, supposed to be one of the Boones hunting places. The third day, a little before sundown, I finished my work; after a hasty dinner, I started for home about dark. I had to go through a dense forest for five miles. By the time I had passed the last house, I had entered this forest which I had only been in once before.
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There were several dim forks in the road, but I was not afraid of getting lost; my old yellow horse would take me home. The night was very dark. Suddenly my horse stopped and snorted. This scared me as I could hear some creature walking in the leaves. I urged the horse on, but every little bit the horse would snort and slow up. I was riding on a sheep skin tanned with the wool on, but I was so scared I let the skin slide from under me. I did not miss it till my horse made a square turn; I knew I was just one mile from home. Next day my father went to look for the sheep skin. He found it about two-and-a-half miles from home all torn in little pieces. In those days there were lynx, bobcat, and mountain lion in these woods and hills. The only settlements were along the rivers, creeks, and lowlands. The rest of the country was rocky and hilly covered with large trees and an impenetrable undergrowth of young timber.
We lived several years at Stockton, Cedar County, Missouri. Law and order was out of the game; it took quite a while to restore things to normal. Here I was in school again. No public money was available, so the teacher would go around to the families and got parents to sign contracts for a certain amount for their children to attend school. Payment to be in wheat, corn, meat, deer hides, or coonskins. No money had to be paid. I went to school parts of two winters. Discipline was poor, and we learned little that was good. There was a creek nearby, and in the early fall we would take a swim or have a fight. Some times later on we would gather nuts and eat dried grapes from the vines, persimmons after frost. Once in a while we would play with the girls. The teacher would give very long noons so he could spoon with the big girls. Our school house was a large log building about twenty-four by thirty, built with large hewed logs which left large cracks in the wall. They had once been chinked up and plastered with clay, but many open cracks let in the cold in the winter. With a chimney at each end, this house could have been made comfortable but [there were] too many cracks large enough for a rabbit to jump through. We stuffed our caps and coats in the largest to keep out the cold. The boys would gather wood and brush at noon and recess so we could keep half warm. We would use just one chimney depending on the direction of the wind.
On Christmas 1869 father hauled a load of coal to Stockton, county seat of Cedar county, Missouri. While there, two men had a fight, an old grudge. A small man hit a tall man with a pair of brass knuckles. The tall man picked up a brick to hit the little man. A man standing by the little man drew a gun and said, If you hit him, I will shoot you, then a man beside the tall man said, If you shoot him, I will shoot you. This went on until about a dozen guns were drawn.
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A druggist, a large man, got between them and talked them out of having a shootout. They were pretty drunk so they agreed to settle it some other time. In less than two weeks, the little man waylaid the tall man and killed him. The little man left the country, probably for his own safety. For a twelve-year-old boy, every thing was different than where we came from. A wild rugged country, lots of wildlife, deer, turkey, coons and possum, wild cats and foxes. Birds of all kinds, lots of fish, snakes and varmints a plenty made life very interesting. Occasionally a cougar would go through our woods.
The people began to settle down to more normal life. They began to farm with one-horse plows. When we began to use two horses, they thought we were just showing off. We told them that was the way it was done in the north. It was not long till other northerners came with implements, and we began to get along.
[NOTE: In 1869, Jacob was 15 years old.]
Our closest railroad was eighty miles and no roads or bridges. We hauled freight from Sedalia Mo. to Stockton Mo., usually in the fall of the year. One ton was a load, and we used two teams so we could help each other out of bad places. We got one dollar per hundred. Some times a trip would take two weeks. This was great fun for me. Mother would bake us a large sweet rusk made with wheat flour and sorghum. She would send butter, coffee, meat if we had any, and with what wild game we could get, we lived quite well. My life to enjoy as only a twelve-year-old boy can had just begun. Fishing, hunting, and exploring was great fun for me. We lived about one mile from the Sac River which headed in the Ozarks. It was a good-sized stream about fifteen miles above where it emptied into the Osage. Exploring caves, one on our land. A few of us boys went in and got lost, but we finally got out. It was only a small hole going in; inside we could walk upright. Sometimes we would have to go up; other rooms would lead us down. After being lost, we always marked our way. Cougars once lived in this cave. I was bringing the cows home one night; a large animal of some kind jumped at the cows. I always thought it was a cougar. It fought with my dog Fritz. It would chase the dog to me, then move away [and] make my dog howl at times. I climbed a tree, but I could hear them fight, so I got down and ran home across the fields. The cows came home, and Fritz came home some time during the night nearly dead. I felt like Fritz had saved my life, and I feel so yet. I found Fritz in a patch of persimmon trees as a pup. I took him home and raised him, and he was my best friend I ever had. He would do anything for me that he understood. He would protect me from the boys and other dogs. He would stay with me if I got lost in the woods and lead me home.
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The best coon dog I ever saw and would detect snakes before I did and at my signal would attack and kill most of them. I would not allow him to fight large rattlers. Coons and possums he would catch on the ground as he was a fast and silent trailer and did not talk on their trail. He often ran them up small trees, some times large trees. Mostly he caught them on the ground. I never saw the one dog he could not whip. I had no brothers, just six sisters. Fritz was my constant companion.
Deer hunting was great sport for my father; he often took me with him. Some times we would get so far from home we would camp for the night. We would take a chunk of cornbread and some salt and some greasy bacon; we might get some wild meat and roast it and live fine. Father would make a deer lick nearer to home and make a scaffold 10 to 15 feet up in a clump of trees nearby. He would go there and wait for the deer to come, and he would shoot a young buck. I often would go with him and lay up there and fall asleep and not wake up till he would shoot. This was fun, and these thrills were life to me.
Fishing was another pastime for me. I have gone by myself and caught all the fish I could carry home, mostly catfish and bass. We did a lot of hunting and fishing, but we also did a lot of hard work to bring the farm back to its normal condition. We left some of the higher ground lay idle and cleared the lower better corn and wheat land. The cotton and tobacco land we did not need in our business. In the fall of 1869 we moved from Stockton to Osceola [St. Clair County], Mo., about twenty miles north. While living here, I had a change of associates but I did not get amongst them much. We moved onto Crow Island (a mistake). The land was not very productive; it lay too low and was full of malaria, and we had to abandon it later. While there we had great hunting and fishing. Great flocks of turkeys would winter on the island. The river was full of large fish, ducks and geese, and deer occasionally. We caught catfish from 3 to 40 lbs. Lots of freshwater salmon and buffalo [buffalo fish] up to 25 lbs. One day I went out to catch some fish; I caught a bucket of perch about 1 lb. each as fast as I could take off fish and rebate my hook. After we moved back up on high ground, we built a log house on our own land and farmed up on the prairie three miles away. While we lived on the river, my mother took sick and told me [that ] if I did not go after the doctor who lived 10 miles out on the prairie, she would die. Father was not home, so I got on the old dun horse and started. I had not been through that way at night, and it was very dark. I was scared, and the limbs would strike me on the head, and I was forced to hold my hat in my hand. After I got in the open, I got along better.
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I did not know the road there. Here on this trip I said my first prayer. I prayed nearly all the way going and coming. The doctor went ahead of me with a fast team. When I got home, mother was better; even before the doctor got there she had improved. None of our neighbors would go after the doctor so I had to go.
After we moved on our own land, Father was poorly all spring and the first of May took sick with pneumonia and died on the 7th 1872. [May 1872; Jacob was 17 years old.] Here my life work began. During May and fore part of June I cultivated the corn. I came down with malaria and was sick for two weeks. After I was able to work again, I had to make a living for my mother and four sisters. The death of a loving father and the responsibility of making a living was a great burden on me. My life, while not wild, was for a good time and perhaps overstepped my good judgment., but I was deeply converted to God. I consecrated my life to the good Lord and Church of Christ and was baptized in the Brethren Church about July first 1872. This is an act I never regretted, and it has been my staff and stay these many years. I only regret I never made more of the opportunity I had in doing good. I saw the effect it had on my childrens lives.
My mother married again, much against my will. In the fall of 1872 [she] moved to Nevada Co., Mo., not far from Carthage. Knowing I could not get along with my step father, I stayed with an uncle. That winter near holidays I received a check for twenty dollars from my fathers sister, wanting me to come north and help with the chores. [Jacob was then 18 years old, legally a minor in that time.] I wanted to see my mother and sisters before going so far. I hired a horse, agreeing to give the man three days work for the use of his horse. I road forty miles and got there about 8 p.m. I found one of my sisters sick in bed so I stayed three days. She was getting better as I had gotten her food and medicine she needed. I gave mother every cent I had. The fourth day I started back early in the morning. I had not been on the road very long when it began to snow, a soft wet snow. I got up to the prairie by noon. In the afternoon the snow got so deep it balled under the horses feet, and I couldnt make headway. I tried to walk and lead the horse, but he wouldnt lead. I fooled along until I struck timber again. I was cold and hungry. I stopped at the first house after I got to the timber country again. It seems like the prairie was sparsely settled. I asked to warm. The fire felt so good I thought I couldnt leave it. I told the woman that I would like to stay all night but I had given all my money to my sick sister. She called one of her boys and told him to water and feed my horse and [she] would not let me go out of the house away from the fire. At supper the old man sat down at the
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table and began to eat; so did two children. They did not ask me to the table until the old woman came in. She scolded the others for not having me at the table. I was sure glad when she told me to go to that table, but they never passed me any thing, but I finally picked up enough courage to help myself. The little boys came in and sat down, prayed a little and began to eat. A young man and his wife and two-year-old child did the same, at last the old woman came in and had her prayer. Then they all chattered in German and talked about me. They did not realize I could make out what they said. It was nothing bad, only that they thought that I was running away from home. Later I told them what I was doing. I slept between two boys in their tobacco barn. They slept late next morning and had a good breakfast; then I told the old woman I could understand German but not talk it as good as my language was Pennsylvania Dutch. She made me stay in the hour after I wanted to get on the road. She barely got her children off to school. I finally got away with her prayer and blessing. I got back to my uncles at noon and returned the horse I had borrowed that afternoon. The next morning I started my three days to pay for the ride. I never worked so hard in my life, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. On Sunday I rested all day and the next visited a few friends. The week end was Christmas. I attended services at the Baptist church on Christmas eve. The next few days I got ready to leave for the East.
I started on the morning of the 30th and walked across the Osage river on the ice. I had stayed the night before with a dear old widow who lived in Osceola. She gave me all the lunch I could carry. I walked thirty miles that day to Clinton to take the train for St. Louis. At noon it started to rain, and by night it rained hard, and I had to run for the depot before I got soaking wet. I only had twenty dollars, but I got through on half fare so I had enough for other expenses. I was almost taken in by the police as I entered town as they took me for a runaway. I told them I had an uncle in Clinton [and] they let me go. At 6 p.m. the train left for Sedalia, where we had to change trains for St. Louis. After delay we got on the belated train and got as far as Washington and got in a blocked track, by snow on our end and a wrecked train on the other. We stayed at a switch station for about eight hours, but I had plenty of lunch and could get coffee at my choice. It was very tiresome sitting in our seat all those hours in a crowded car, but we finally got started, got to St. Louis that night. Crossed the Mississippi River on a ferry and took a train for Green Castle, Ind. We had been behind at every station where we had to change; our train was
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gone so we had to lay over all New Years day 1873. At 5 p.m. I took the train to Lafayette, Ind. Landed in the middle of the city of twenty thousand at 10 p.m. A stranger, inexperienced, I did not know my way around. A man came along and caught my arm and was dragging me along until I saw a light in a hotel. I tore loose and ran into the hotel, scared. The hotel man told me not to go out after dark. I stayed in the hotel until morning. By the description my uncle gave me, I found the County pike [highway] and followed it seven miles. At the end of the Pike, I met a man who had come to the mill and I rode out with him.
from Alice Beard: Whoever typed this manuscript added
this note at this point in the manuscript:
In the spring of 1879 I started West the 13th day of May with a light team and spring wagon. [Jacob was 24 years old.] First night only a few miles from the home place. Camped at a beautiful stream. I could not sleep, but my pal (as I will call him for short) slept good. The horses were young and fresh and this was strange; they were restless. They snorted and stamped all night. We did not attempt to do much cooking as we had been supplied with all our needs by the mother of my pard. Next day we traveled about thirty miles. We camped on the bank of the Wabash river. I could not reconcile myself to our new mode of living as our fare had been the very best. It was good yet but not so handy. The next day we came to Montecello, Ind. The next to Sheldon, Ill. On the morning of the third day we had a runaway and broke the axle of the wagon. We had to borrow a rig to haul the broken axle to Sheldon to get it welded as it was an iron axle. We did not get the tongue fixed as we did not have enough money to pay for it for fear we would run out of funds, so we drove west to the Illinois river which we crossed at Peoria, then on to the Mississippi, crossing at Burlington on a steam ferry. From there to Mount Pleasant, then on to Rome, then Dubuque was next where we had to shoot our dog because he would bite our horses legs when they got nervous. [NOTE from Alice Beard: Transcriber wrote, I think there is an error in this as Dubuque is over a hundred miles almost due north.] Adair is the next town, then straight west to the devils washboard up one hill and down another for thirty miles, and it rained all the time. We could not get in out of the rain as the farmers did not trust us. Could not buy any thing to eat. We were so wet and hungry. In about thirty miles we came to a town where we bought a supply of food and the rain let up. It took us three days to make those miles and all we had to eat was dry oatmeal. We lost all our salt in the rain also. We didnt know how to cook it [the oatmeal]. After we got supplies, we camped and washed our bedding,
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also our clothes. From here to Boyd City. Here we got our wagon fixed up in good shape for the last $10 we had, but my Pard had a friend who had moved here a few years before. I want to say that home cooking never tasted better than it did here, for we were real hungry. We stayed here a few days then left for Missouri Valley Junction on the Missouri River. We camped one night under the Bluffs about 20 miles from Council Bluffs. Much rain crossing the river to Omaha, then on to the Platte River. Crossed on an old ferry. Our team ran away again, but no damage. On to Lincoln where we received more funds but could not get the check cashed so we went on to Crete [Saline Co., Nebraska] where my pard had relatives. We had a fine time hunting and fishing. We took on another Pard, and we three traveled west to Hastings. Arrived at Hastings July 4th 1879. Went to a friend of my pard about four miles north of Hastings. Stayed over night and till afternoon, then drove south to the Little Blue River six or seven miles. Caught a good mess of catfish and had a feast.
A little history of Hastings [Adams Co., Nebraska]: The town is in the midst of a fine rich level prairie country. At that time, it supplied a large amount of merchandise and building material although the railroad had already been built south to Red Cloud. Hastings probably had eight hundred to a thousand population, all small houses, not a brick structure in the village.
But let us go back to our camp on the Little Blue river. On the morning of the seventh we traveled south to Silver Lake just east of the present site of the town of Bladen [Webster Co., Nebraska]. This post office took its name from a lake in that vicinity, almost dry now and the land nearly all farmed. Here we met another friend of ours and remained with him Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Here we met one of the old pioneer ministers, Allen B. Ives of the Burr Oak Church of The Brethren. Attended services at a farm home where another Brother Ives preached morning and evening. On Monday we drove on to Red Cloud [Webster Co., Nebraska]. A cyclone had hit the town about two months before. A number of houses were wrecked and we could plainly see its path through town. We did not intend to stop here but were anxious to go up the Republican river. We went south about a mile and crossed to the south side as the north had no grass for our team. There were nice trees for shade. We unhitched our team and went to put them out on long ropes to eat grass, but cautiously to prevent a runaway as we had that experience twice. I tied one to a tree so I could put the other one on a grassy spot. The first one thought she was loose, ran to the end of her rope and was thrown back and broke her right leg. What could we do but shoot this fine young mare and bury her. We ate our evening lunch with lots of blues. The next day we decided we could put our funds together and buy a cheap pony to go on. We found it out
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of the question to keep trying
to find a horse we could buy. We were eating our meals
mostly in silence, but I kept thinking that an uncle once
told me that he had a half-brother living at Red Cloud,
but I was not sure of this. This uncle once tried to
visit his brother and got as far as Fremont as this was
the end of the railroad. He decided his brother was too
far out in the wilderness as it looked at Fremont then.
He returned to Lafayette, Indiana, and told me that if I
ever got out in that country I would not get back. This
was almost true as I never went back for thirty-eight
years. So remembering or having a faint recollection of
this man living at Red Cloud, also that his wife was a
first cousin of my father. We made some inquiry and found
them to be prominent homesteaders but lived about eight
miles southeast of Red Cloud. With the horse we had left,
we hauled our wagon up town by taking turns pushing an
offset hitch to equalize our strength with the horse. It
was decided that I was to hunt up my relatives, so I
jumped on that lonesome horse as he was continually
calling his mate and went along the only road I saw about
four miles. Out here on the bleak prairie the road
forked, and I was warned that if I took the wrong road it
would be hard to get right. I took the left road and
after a long ride I came to a frame house made of
cottonwood lumber. This was the proof that I was on the
right road. I road near the house and saw one of the boys
just down the hill where a few native trees stood. He was
nailing feed boxes to the trees to feed grain to their
horses. Their sod barn had fallen in from too much rain.
When I saw this young man, I told him I was sure I had
found the place I started out to find. I told him his
name was Wagoner; he said how did you know that. I said
you look so much like your uncles back in Indiana. I told
him my name [Foutz], and he said his mothers name
was the same. We went to the house and such a reception
was never more gladly given or received from kings or
nobles. The father and mother had known my father and
mother from their youth. There were three girls in the
house; two came in the room, but the third was shy. Then
in comes John, David, and Noah; I had met Joe nailing the boxes. The father
laughed and said there were two more boys one on a
homestead, Daniel, and Stephen out west that I
never met. Let me state here that all this family has
passed on except two boys and one girl Noah,
David, and Katy.
Now how should we get our horse and wagon? I asked to borrow a horse, but, no, they would take a team and bring us in. Now who would go? They all wanted to help, even the two oldest girls. David prevailed and took
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his team off of the cultivator and hauled us in safe and sound. We were royally entertained. Since it was harvest time, my two pards and I joined in and helped them harvest. We had to bind by hand on a harvester. We stayed ten days then went to Kirwin [Phillips Co.], Kansas, where David was proving up a claim. On returning we purchased a young mare. About the last of August we started west again. We had almost forgotten our misfortune of less than a month. We traveled three-and-one-half days and found plenty of land for homesteading. We began looking in earnest. I located north of Indianola, then the county seat of Red Willow county. The other boys located south of the Republican river. Kind providence guiding the agent in charge never sent my filing fee and papers in but kept my money. I finally located joining my friends claim and only a mile from my pard No. 1. Holding down my claim from fall 1880, during the summer I worked building my dugout and breaking sod. The ground was so dry it was impossible to do much plowing. By the first of October I did some plowing and setting back and sowing some rye. Early in October I left to work for a Mr. Hunter at Indianola. This was one of the most exciting experiences of my life. The railroad was built to this point, and much equipment and men with families were here. Much supplies and immigration. As winter set in there were idle men and women, a very tough class too. Drinking and carousing all night long, fighting and shooting. Many were killed in night brawls. Home at night was a safe place to be. Cowboys almost ruled the place. In October and November the cattle were brought in from the range to be shipped east and brought in the worst element of humanity. The cowboys were here for a good time. They made a raid on the city, tore down flag poles, shot the windows out of the hotel, stores and saloons. [They] rolled barrels of beer and whiskey out in the street and let it flow down the street. They rode their ponies on the sidewalk and into the saloons and shot at people passing by. They should shoot holes in their hat. shoot off their boot heels. They made a colored person dance in the street, [and] when he got stubborn shot him in the ear. They made him sing Dutch songs then marched him to the hotel and ordered every good thing and made him eat it while they pointed their pistols at him. The same day they cornered me, about twenty-five of them. They began to make me out a tenderfoot. As it happened I recognized several of them that had been at my dugout overnight. I did not let them know how scared I was. I said, Hello, pard. Out for a good time?
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Their leader said, Are you acquainted with this fellow? I said, I surely have seen him. He spoke up and said, That fellow about saved my life once. They all cheered me and rode off. Here was bread cast upon the water returned before many days. During this winter I fared well until March 1st when I went home to batch. I only made eleven dollars per month, but I had a fine social time. I attended Sunday School at the Congregational Church.
NOTE INSERTED HERE BY PERSON
WHO TYPED MANUSCRIPT:
The night being very dark and fearing we would get into rough country and the oxen were tired, we decided to camp till the moon came up. It stayed cloudy all night and cold as it is with a north wind. Having had no lunch or supper, [and] no matches to make fire, we were miserable. We had no blankets to lay down to sleep so we tried to lay next to the oxen but they wanted to eat. We had plenty of wood but no way to make a fire. What a predicament. We scuffed, ran around a circle that could be seen all next summer. When daylight came at last which seemed the longest night of any up to that time, we realized we were on the northeast corner of my claim. We drove up to my dugout and unloaded and went on to my neighbors. When we got back dont you forget every thing tasted good and best of all after wading the river till I was wet above the waist and being out in a cold March wind all night gave me no inconvenience. I expected to be laid up with a cold, but after a nights rest I felt as well as usual. From then on we improved our homestead. We built our dugouts, hauled some wood and made some furniture. We had to haul our water about four miles. We laid out our plans and provided ourselves with floors and made a drag harrow and waited for rain so we could break sod. No rain came so we started to dig wells. We dug a good well one mile from my claim. Then we started to dig on D. E. Cripes homestead. We worked on it off and on for forty-one days and got abundant water at two hundred and four feet. Before we completed this well, we got our first good rain about the middle of June. Everybody was breaking sod night and day as much as the oxen could stand. We three each got twenty acres broken and planted corn and millet.
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I failed to state that the spring of 81 I sowed 10 acres of wheat and harvested ten bushels to the acre. I sold it for a dollar per bushel next spring for seed. I raised thirty bushels of rye from three bushel of seek. I raised my corn and feed on ground broken out that spring. In the spring of 81 I sold my half interest in our ox team and bought an old span of mules and harness and commenced to farm in earnest. I got forty acres broke and twenty acres of corn planted. I raised fifteen to the acre which I sold for eighty cents per bushel. That spring it rained on Easter Sunday then rained the next six Sundays in succession. On the seventh Sunday there was a severe electric storm but no rain fell. This brought us up to June first and it got very dry. The grass would have burned and I was discouraged. We worked at something every day. I raised the finest melons I ever saw before or since, a wagon load but there was no market for them. That fall I had nothing to do so hired out to a Mr. Hunter. We ran a sorghum mill till winter froze us in. The Interior Dept. ruled that we must return to the homestead every six weeks so I went [to] the home place and sowed some rye. Later I cut up some corn and hauled my cane to the mill and had twenty gallons of sorghum made. I dug my potatoes then during Sept. Oct. Nov. and Dec. I worked for Mr. Hunter at fifteen dollars per month. Worked for Mr. Hunter Jan. and Feb. 82. March I went home and sowed fifteen acres of wheat and plowed my corn ground. Hired out to Mr. Hunter to work for the summer for 20 dollars per month. I hired my corn planted and cultivated and had my wheat and rye harvested on the shares. My wheat made fifteen and the rye twenty. On the 3rd of July my two cousins from Indiana and Illinois made me a visit. We went [to] my claim for the night. The next morning we went to McCook. This town had just started up that spring but was quite a town by this time. Many good buildings were already up such as hotels and very large stores. A celebration was going on and a dance at night. We were all night at the dance and saloon and any where there was any excitement. The next my cousins went on to Wyoming. This town was started here on the raw prairie in the fall of 79. I was here to look for a homestead and had a plot and the place was vacant. I could have filed on it but I thought it was too high and dry so discounted it.
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We got a fine lot of feed. This experience was out of the ordinary as we did all with one team of oxen and oh how slow. Day and night helped us out.
I worked for Mr. Hunter during
the winter of eighty-eightyone [1880-1881] also during
the fall and winter of eightyone-eightytwo (1881-1882]. I
went home several times each year to homestead. In fact I
did not intend to be away more than six weeks at a time.
During the winter I would be there several months at a
time and keep my cattle on the abundance of feed I had.
In the fall of eighty two , I helped make prairie
hay where Bartley now stands [Bartley, Red Willow Co.,
Nebraska]. I only did the raking and some times did the
cooking. We had a camp south of Bartley near the river.
We ran one mower all the time and put up hundreds of tons
of hay. In the winter I hauled a big part of this hay
about five miles and fed to cattle, the rest was fed near
where we made it. During the winter of
eightytwo-eightythree [1882-1883] I worked for Mr.
Hunter, but in the spring he sold out and went to
California. I went home to do some farming and worked at
breaking sod, do some building and working for my
neighbors. In the fall of eightythree  just after
the election November seven [Nov. 7, 1883], T. W. Weaver
and I went to Hastings to husk corn. We landed at Ayr
[Ayr, Adams Co., Nebraska] and got a job at three cents
per bushel. I sprained both wrists and was forced to lay
off a month. I went to Red Cloud and then Burr Oak where
I worked by the day at other jobs. I was staying with Mr.
Oxley and helping him gather corn to get myself in shape
for hard work. I went to work for Rev. Allen Ives till
March first. I attended revival meetings at the Skyles
school house and met there a young widow, a Mrs. Wagoner,
her maiden name had been Van Dyke. I had been at her
wedding but had not the least thought that I would become
infatuated with her. I walked wither to her stopping
place and carried her son born after her husbands
death. I saw her several times that winter but never said
any thing to her. During the later part of Feb. of first
part of March, Mr. Weaver met me at Grandmother
Wagoners, and we started back to our homes near
Danbury. It was very cold but we bought some wool
blankets. We would put our team up at livery barns.
Republican City was our first stop, about forth miles.
The second night we were north of Orleans and stayed with
a Mr. Tolman who became our neighbor that spring. We
remained there four or five days until the weather
moderated. It was about fifteen degrees below zero when
we left Red Cloud. After it warmed up, Mr. Tolman hitched
a team ahead of ours and we started for the homesteads.
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By this time the snow was
melting and the roads were sloppy. The second day we
thought we could get through but night caught us nine
miles from our goal and it was raining. I for one was
glad to stop as soon as we could find a place to stay. A
Mr. Murphy tood us in and gave us supper and breakfast.
Next we landed at our homestead and were anxious to go to
work. During this summer I boarded with John Tolman or
rather his mother as I had out a nice crop of wheat and
corn. I had a lot of work to do. I did some stacking for
others so got help to get my grain cut and stacked. All
this time I was thinking about the charming widow I left
at Red Cloud. There is where her home is. I wrote her a
letter asking to correspond to further our acquaintance.
She agreed I might write some letters so I told her I was
coming that way and would stop and see her. I really made
the trip to Red Cloud to see the woman that became my
wife. We were not engaged but I went home agreeing that I
would be back some time in the winter. In Dec. eighteen
eightyfour [December 1884] I made another trip to Red
Cloud. My wife to be had two children, a girl three and a
boy eighteen months. While she was visiting her parents,
her son wandered away and was never found. The bones of a
child were found in a hole that contained water at the
time he was lost. People for miles around searched for
days and drug all the holes and creeks for miles, but the
bones were found three-fourths of a mile from where he
was last seen. His mother would not accept that they were
Dannies remains. This sad affair almost broke up
our friendship. It was rumored that I had stolen the
child and hidden him to get her to marry me. They came to
see me and asked if we were engaged but I could not tell
them. They even had the sheriff come out and question me;
they made nothing out of it.
On my second trip I was not sure what would happen. I was not certain that she was not entirely out of the notion of marrying me. Her letters seemed more distant. I would either get a cook or quit batching as I could make final proof on my claim that fall and could leave for California if she refused. I waited until Jan. 1st, 1885, and put the question [to] her squarely and told her my plans. We decided to get married the next Sunday, Jan. 4th. So we got married and went to my homestead. I had fixed a rude place to live with a cellar filled with all kinds of vegetables, meat, sorghum, plenty of every thing to eat. The night we arrived we were disgusted to find no light in the house as I had told the man that cared for the place and stock to have a good fire going. When the door was opened and the light turned on, it looked like you could not get one more in the room. Every one for
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miles around was there. A table the length of the house was loaded with good things to eat. It seemed like a dream. What a surprise, but how we appreciated it. We got acquainted with all [of] our neighbors. There are only a few living now that were at that homecoming feast. We fixed up the house, put in a floor, plastered the walls and lived very comfortably the rest of the winter. We continued living there till fall and on the 2nd of Nov. just two days short of ten months, Howard, our first child, was born. Here was great joy, a boy born out on the wild prairie ten miles from a doctor but mother and child did fine. This child was not only very much esteemed by us but by the whole neighborhood. He was a fine good-natured healthy child. We labored hard and made final proof on our claim, then made a preemption claim on another quarter-section that joined this one. In the spring of eightysix  we moved to another place. Here we lived during eightysix, eightyseven and eightyeight. In the spring of eightynine  we moved to Webster County on my wifes farm south of Guide Rock. In eightyseven we had another boy and in ninety [1890, but actually it was 1891] we had a girl born to us. We seemed to prosper in a financial way but we suffered the loss of our second boy also our daughter. She was eighteen months old. (These were Lilia and Johnnie.) Then we had no more children until ninetyfour  when another son was born. Orin Van Dyke was born Feb. 26 eighteen ninetyfour. Here we struggled to make a home. Life was great except for the loss of our precious loved ones. We had used all our resources we had to move in 89 so we had to live very close and economically. Eggs were seven cents per dozen and butter was eight cents per pound. Hogs brought two seventy five to three dollars per hundred. Cattle two dollars, and calves were given away. We were happy in our new home. I superintended Sunday School in our neighborhood. Commencing again in 94, a very poor crop year. We sold all our stock and passed the winter quietly. The next spring was very promising and we raised a crop of corn and hogs. I bought more cattle and was soon stocked up again. In eighteen ninety, six crops were very good. In June another son (Homer) was born making three boys. We sold fat cattle for four fifty and hogs for three dollars. We sold about twenty four hundred dollars worth by March 97. I bought the one hundred twenty acres adjoining my wifes one hundred sixty acres. Previously we had lost nine head of young cattle to hydrophobia (rabies). After those losses we still prospered. I bought twelve hundred bushels of corn for twelve cents per bushel. We did not get possession of the purchased land till March 98. Then we moved the house from the wifes to the new place.
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In the fall of this year a
daughter was born to us. We named her Zeta. This was a
very poor crop year and a backward one for me. Having
plenty of old corn, I continued feeding hogs and cattle.
Here my health was poor but the next year I managed to
raise a large number of hogs. They got the cholera but I
managed to sell most of the older ones about fattened but
some sixty or seventy pigs died.
Jacob's life story as told
by Jacob ends with daughter Zeta's birth. Zeta was born
August 1898. Jacob and his wife had another son, Jacob,
born November 1901. By 1900, Jacob and his family were
living in Guide Rock, Webster Co., Nebraska; Jacob was
farming and he owned his farm free of a mortgage. He
employed one 19-year-old male who lived with Jacob's
family and worked as a farm laborer. In 1910 and 1920
Jacob also was farming in Guide Rock. By 1930, Jacob had
retired from farming; he was living in Guide Rock with
his youngest son, Jacob, who was a farmer, married and
with a young child. Jacob likely wrote his life story in
about 1930, when he was about 76 years old.