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1943: Edward Byrne remembers traveling to Iowa at age 17

The following article is part of the Diamond Club Member group that began in the January 7, 1943, issue of the Rock County Star Herald. Members of this group consist of persons of age 75 and older.
This article appeared in the March 25, 1943, edition of The Rock County Star Herald.
         When Edward Byrne, Luverne, came west from Iowa to settle, South Dakota was still a part of Dakota Territory. A lot of people, who had heard of the rich prairie land open to homesteaders in the territory, moved out of Iowa in immigrant trains at that time, and joining the throng was Mr. Byrne and his brother. He was then only 17 years old.
         Mr. Byrne was born March 18, 1865, in a log house in Alamakee county, in the northeast corner of Iowa. His parents, Lawrence and Bridget Hart Byrne, were natives of Ireland who came first to Quebec, Canada, and then to Iowa to live.
         They settled not far from the Mississippi river, and at that time, the land in that area was covered with timber. Unusually fine trees were cleared by the settlers so they could begin raising crops, Mr. Byrne states. Now comparatively rare, the walnut tree, butter nut trees, three kinds of oak and basswood trees would be cut down just to get them out of the road.
         Mr. Byrne was a boy of 10 when he began earning his own money. He received 25 cents a day for planting corn by hand. The fields were marked out in squares, and wherever lines crossed, the person or persons doing the planting had to drop two or three kernels of corn. After some practice, Mr. Byrne reports, it was no trick at all to pick out the exact number of seeds out of the bag and drop them exactly where they were supposed to be. Men, and often times the women folks, would follow after the person doing the planting and would cover up the seed with hoes.
         In 1881, Mr. Byrne’s older brother Frank went to Dakota Territory, and the following year, Mr. Byrne and his brother Will moved there, going to the vicinity of Marion.
         In 1884, they decided to go to Faulk county where there was a lot of prairie sod to be broken for settlers who had homesteaded there. Mr. Byrne, using four head of oxen on an 18 inch sulky plow, and his brother, using three horses on a 16 inch sulky plow, together broke five acres a day. They received $4 per acre for the work—a good salary, Mr. Byrne says, but every dollar was well earned.
         So new was Faulk county, when they went there, Mr. Byrne said, that section lines in some places hadn’t even been surveyed. He was present to see the surveyors running the first section lines in Arcade township, Faulk county.
         Although he was not out in the storm, he remembers the blizzard of 1888 well. His brother had driven to Faulkton with a team and sled and was about two or three miles out of town on his way home when the storm struck. He decided to turn around and go back, but his team would not face the wind. He managed to keep his bearings by driving parallel to the railroad grade. He drove 10 miles through the blinding snow and finally arrived in the town of Miranda where he remained until the weather conditions improved.
         But Mr. Byrne never entered politics himself, with the exception of the time he served as treasurer of Hillsdale township in Faulk county. His brother Frank, however, served as governor of South Dakota for two terms, 1913 to 1917.
         Mr. Byrne was married at Waukon, Ia. Sept. 30, 1908. He and his wife farmed in South Dakota until 1919, and then moved to Luverne which has since been their home. They decided to move here after they had visited in Luverne several times and had grown to like the town. After coming here, Mr. Byrne operated a dray and bus line for two years, and retired after he suffered a leg injury.
         Mr. and Mrs. Byrne have two children, Mrs. Nick Forrette of Adrian, and Sgt. Robert Byrne, who is attending a radio school in Montreal, Canada. They have two grandchildren.
         Of a family of 10, Mr. Byrne, and two other brothers, Joe Byrne of Clairmont, Fla., and Tom Byrne of Clairmont, Fla., and Tom Byrne of Seattle, Wash. are still living.
         He is a member of St. Catherine’s church of Luverne.
         Donations to the Rock County Historical Society can be sent to the Rock County Historical Society, 312 E. Main Street, Luverne, MN 56156.
Mann welcomes correspondence sent to

1943: Diamond Club features Ben Slieter

The following article is part of the Diamond Club Member group that began in the January 7, 1943, issue of the Rock County Star Herald. Members of this group consist of persons of age 75 and older.
This article appeared in the March 18, 1943 edition of The Rock County Star Herald.
One of Clinton township’s well-known retired farmers is Bernard Slieter, Steen. Known more familiarly to his close friends and neighbors as “Ben,” he now lives in Steen where he moved upon retirement from actual farming operations in 1931.
The village of Steen was but 10 years old when Mr. Slieter came to Rock county, and many changes have taken place in that community since that time.
Mr. Slieter was a native of Germany. He was born in that country Jan. 25, 1865, and it was there that he grew to manhood. On July 6, 1889, he married Ida Dohlman, and two years later, they set out together to make their home in the United States. They arrived in Applington, Ia. May 10, 1891, and Mr. Slieter immediately went to work on a farm as a farm hand. Wages were not high—only $1 for a 12 or 14 hour day, but compared to what farm hands were being paid in Germany, he thought he was getting excellent wages and was well satisfied.
After working on farms for three years, he had saved a little money and he used it to set himself up in farming in Grundy county, Ia. It was in 1898 that he decided to come to Rock county with his family. He farmed several places in the Steen vicinity, and in 1908, he bought a farm east of Steen which was the Slieter home for 21 years.
Although Steen was a comparatively new place on the map of Rock county when the Slieters moved here, it was already quite a business town. It had enjoyed a period of growth during the few years before and two general stores had been built; there was a pool hall, a harness shop, blacksmith shop, livery and feed barn, elevator, lumber yard and hardware store in addition to the railroad station and postoffice. Two years after Mr. Slieter’s arrival, Steen was visited by a fire that destroyed two elevators containing some 20,000 bushels of grain.
In 1908 Mr. Slieter bought a farm east of Steen and resided there 21 years. In May, 1929, he and his family were attending church when their farm home burned to the ground. Not a thing was saved. Although some of the furnishings could be replaced, the loss that was perhaps felt most were the main keepsakes, pictures and mementos that had been collected and saved during the years which had passed. A new house was built to replace the one that was destroyed, and while it was under construction, the family lived in a small bunk house.
In 1931 he retired and moved to the village of Steen and has lived alone in his home there since the death of his wife on Aug. 21, 1939. He is still very active and is able to do his own work. He enjoys spending a day or two, now and then, with his children who live on farms, and in the spring helps put in different gardens.
Of nine children born to Mr. and Mrs. Slieter, eight are still living. They are John Slieter, Pipestone; Mrs. Mareka Loger, North Redwood Falls; George Slieter, Lester, Ia.; Mrs. Nick Stravenger, Luverne; Mrs. Arnold Schneekloth, Hills; Bernard Slieter Jr., Steen; Mrs. LaVerne Davis, Boise, Ida., and Emil Slieter, Hills. One daughter, Grace (Mrs. Gerrit Smith), died in 1937. Other direct descendants of Mr. Slieter are 39 grandchildren and three great grandchildren.
As far as he knows, all his brothers and sisters with the exception of one are still living. There were seven children in the family, and one of the boys was killed during World War I. Two sisters and one brother are still living in Germany. A brother, John, resides at Watertown, S.D. and a sister, Mrs. Albert  Bussman, lives at Applington, Ia.
Mr. Slieter is a member of the Evangelical church at Steen.
He attributes his long life to the grace of God and hard work.
         Donations to the Rock County Historical Society can be sent to the Rock County Historical Society, 312 E. Main Street, Luverne, MN 56156.
Mann welcomes correspondence sent to

1943: Covered wagons are real mode of transportation for club member Marie Schaefer

The following article is part of the Diamond Club Member group that began in the January 7, 1943, issue of the Rock County Star Herald. Members of this group consist of persons of age 75 and older.
This article appeared in the February 18, 1943 edition of The Rock County Star Herald.
To the average reader of this article, a covered wagon is a kind of wagon described in stories about the Old Wild West. To Mrs. Marie Schaefer, Luverne, however, a covered wagon is something real, for she has not only seen them, but has traveled in them. As a matter of fact, she came to Rock county in one. The trip here across the prairie from Miller, S.D., was slow and tedious, but it had its adventure, too. And it had its reward, for to Mrs. Schaefer, Rock county has since been “home.”
Mrs. Schaefer was born in Mecklenberg, Germany, Jan. 5, 1865, the daughter of Jochim and Marie Schultz Meier. She spent the first 17 years of her life in the land of her birth, and ever since she was 10, she has been busy doing something. She attended school in Germany until she was 14 years old. At the age of 10, she attended knitting school; at the age of 12 she learned to spin flax and at 14, she was weaving linen. She still has a piece of linen cloth which she wove while still a girl in Germany.
At the age of 15, she obtained employment as a maid on a farm, there earning the first money she could call her own. Her wages were $18 for the whole year, an average of $1.50 per month. Inasmuch as housekeeping for others did not prove to be too profitable, Mrs. Schaefer quit her job, and the next year she learned dressmaking.
When she was 17, she was given the opportunity to come to America. So she packed her personal belongings and began the voyage across the Atlantic to her new home. She arrived at New Hall, Ia., in 1882, and there she obtained employment on a farm at a salary of $1 a week. To a young lady who had earned only little more than that in a month while in Germany, a dollar a week was a big salary.
She found a big difference between life in Germany and life in the United States, and the longer she lived in this country the better she liked it.
Two years after her arrival here, on Sept. 18, 1884, she married William Schaefer at Vinton, in Benton county, Ia. After two years, they moved to a farm near Miller, S.D., where they lived for four years before coming to Rock county.
They were still living near Miller in 1888 when the famous blizzard struck. Caught in the storm’s fury with but little fuel in the house, Mrs. Schaefer recalls that the family may have suffered some ill effects had it not been for the fact that they had some corn in a shed next to the house. They shelled all the corn from the cobs by hand and burned the cobs. They lasted until the storm abated and until they obtained other fuel.
In 1890 Mr. and Mrs. Schaefer decided to move to Rock county so they packed their belongings and family into a covered wagon and made the trip to Rock county. They lived on a farm in Magnolia township for 10 years, and then moved to a farm in Mound township where they lived for seven years before retiring and moving to Luverne. In 1911 she spent about three months visiting in various parts of Germany. In 1918 she spent the winter in California.
Mr. and Mrs. Schaefer were the parents of three children, all of whom are living. They are A.W. Schaefer of Mound township; Mrs. George Kiebach of Luverne and Miss Ida Schaefer of Luverne. Mrs. Schaefer also has 10 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.
Mrs. Schaefer has been active in the work of St. John’s Evangelical Lutheran Church in Luverne, of which she is a member. She has been a member of the Ladies Aid for years and served for 14 years as treasurer of that organization.
She is still very active, and the practical education she received when she was a girl of 10 is still being used by her to good advantage for she now spends most of her spare time knitting. During the past 10 years, she has knit many dresses, sweaters, fancy gloves and mittens and has made a considerable amount of fine lace. In all, she states, she has made at least 100 pairs of gloves and mittens.
She attributes her long life to hard work and living a quiet life.
Of a family of eight, she is one of four still living. A sister, Mrs. Anna Wilprecht, lives at Lidgerwood, N.D.; a brother, August Meier, lives at Fulda  and another brother, Gust Meier, lives at Waterloo, Ia.
Mrs. Schaefer died about 12 years ago.
(Editor’s note: Since its inception almost two years ago, the “Diamond Club” has been one of the most popular features of this newspaper. The Star-Herald is interested in obtaining more members and urges all who are 75 years of age or over to join. There is no charge or obligation. All that is necessary to fill out a simple application blank which may be obtained either by calling at the office or by writing for it. Star-Herald correspondents also have application blanks which they would be glad to give you. If you are a reader and know of someone whose biography you would like to see in print, tell us about it. This is a column published primarily for the interest of all our readers throughout Rock and adjoining counties and to pay tribute in a small manner to the pioneer settlers whose trials and hardships have made possible the many every day conveniences that now are ours.
         Donations to the Rock County Historical Society can be sent to the Rock County Historical Society, 312 E. Main Street, Luverne, MN 56156.
Mann welcomes correspondence sent to

1943: Everett recalls first imported Holstein, homesteading in Montana, growing long beard

The following article is part of the Diamond Club Member group that began in the January 7, 1943, issue of the Rock County Star Herald. Members of this group consist of persons of age 75 and older.
This article is continued from last week about William Everett.
Lived on Milk
Five Days
From there he went back to LeMars where he worked for Dr. Foster, the man who, according to Everett, imported the first Holstein cow. The animal cost $5000 and died within six weeks after she arrived in LeMars. He was working for Dr. Foster in 1888 when the blizzard of that year struck. He was in the barn, three blocks from the house when the storm descended, and was forced to remain there for five days and nights until it subsided. He kept warm by lying down between two cows when they lay down. He lived on milk, and the milk that he and the calves did not drink, he fed back to the cows to help quench their thirst.
He left LeMars and went back to Sioux City where he trained as a cook in the old Washington House, owned by Henry Carrigan. He had to give it up after three years, and then he and a half brother began farming five miles northeast of Beresford. From there he went to Onawa, Ia., and worked on a ranch for Judge Adson Oliver. After five years, he bought a farm of his own, and just when he had it paid for and a crop in, he “lost it in the river.”
In 1907 he worked on a freight boat, the “Expansion” that traveled from Washburn to Ft. Berthold on the Missouri river in North Dakota. It was owned by I. P. Baker, and captained by John Marsh. Mr. Everett did all the baking and cooking for 25 to 60 people. Although he had his hands full, he earned a salary of $225 a month. Each round trip would require three weeks.
Cooking, however, was not his only trade. He also was a horseshoer (he has the second shoe he ever turned as a souvenir) and later learned the barber’s trade.
Homestead in Montana
Hearing of land that could be homesteaded in Montana, Mr. Everett went west and filed a claim about 45 miles north of Billings. He had a fine ranch, and good stock, but he became ill, and was forced to spend all his savings and even sell his property to pay for doctor and hospital bills. For a while, he worked in a silver mine in Idaho, but a mine accident delayed operations for 90 days so he and a companion “just drifted out.”
Speaking of doctors and hospitals, Mr. Everett claims he has been treated in 36 different hospitals at different times for a number of different ailments. He has survived nine operations, although surgeons gave him up as “a goner” time and again. He went to Rochester in 1916, and there the famed“Doctor Will” Mayo told him that he didn’t “have a chance.” Mr. Everett said he wanted to go through with it, and Dr. Mayo, after looking at him a while, declared, “If you don’t become scared, well—”
“I don’t fear anything,” Mr. Everett replied, and a few minutes later, he was taken to the operating table.
Nearly Killed in Well
That, however, was not the only time he came close to death. One time in Montana he was lining a well with rock. He had a helper who was “lazy” and instead of carrying rocks, to the well, he rolled them, despite Mr. Everett’s protests. One rolled down into the well, hitting Everett on the shoulder, and crushing it. The helper, thinking that the rock had surely killed the man, left the scene, and was never seen after that, although the man for whom he was working owed him $2,000, Mr. Everett declared.
It was after his trip to Rochester that Mr. Everett landed in Luverne and this has since been his home. At the present time, he has his own little apartment, does his own cooking and his own housework.
When he was called on and asked for an interview, he was busily engaged mending a pair of overalls, and was wearing his everyday clothes. Although he was informed that he would not have to dress up to have a photograph taken, he insisted that he put on his Sunday best.
Wore Long Beard
This winter he has let his beard and mustache grow, but he says that they’re nothing like they were back in his younger days. Then, he wore long hair, General Custer style, and his beard was so long that he would have to tuck it under his belt on a windy day.
Mr. Everett married in Alcester, S.D. and has three children, Abner Reed Everett, Sioux Falls; Mrs. Nora Huisman of near Canistota, S.D. and Mrs. Nellie West of Rapid City, S. D. He also has nine grandchildren and six great grandchildren. He is not certain if he has more than a brother and a sister living now or not. One brother, Paul Caster Everett, however, lives someplace in Iowa and a sister, Mrs. Ada Adams, lives in Spokane, Wash.
Despite the fact that he has suffered much illness during his life, and had a stroke about two years ago, Mr. Everett is still active and still able to do a little work. When asked to what he attributed his long life, he made this simple reply:
“I guess the Lord just ain’t been ready for me yet.”
         Donations to the Rock County Historical Society can be sent to the Rock County Historical Society, 312 E. Main Street, Luverne, MN 56156.
Mann welcomes correspondence sent to

1943: Feature continues with William Everett

The following article is part of the Diamond Club Member group that began in the January 7, 1943, issue of the Rock County Star Herald. Members of this group consist of persons of age 75 and older.
This article is continued from last week about William Everett.
Survives “La Grippe” Siege
It was in about 1878 when there was a siege of “la grippe,” then a very rare disease. He recalls that he was helping to haul some corn from a farm when he became ill. The day was warm, and the men with whom he was working were not wearing their coats. About 2:30 p.m. they hitched their teams, and started for their destination. It seemed that her disease struck all of them all of a sudden, for all put on row. When his father and mother finished their garden they had two wagon loads of dead hoppers but they still didn’t save the garden.
Movement of the settlers was a pitiful sight after that. The farmers, who had nothing to begin with lost all their crops, and began moving to other places. Sometimes a settler would come along with one cow and one horse teamed together pulling a wagon. Others would have a cow hitched to the cart, a mother, her baby and a few personal belongings on the cart, and the other members of the family walking behind. They traveled at the rate of about six or eight miles a day.
At that time, his father was helping build the Sioux City hotel, and was paid 75 cents a day. He walked 22 miles every Saturday night and Sunday.
He was working on a farm in South Dakota when the blizzard of 1880 struck in October of that year. He was herding over 180 head of cattle, and because the day was unusually warm, he was wearing only a straw hat, a “hicory” shirt, a pair of overalls and a pair of “holey” shoes. Although he tried to guide the cattle toward the barns, they would not go against the wind but kept drifting away from the farm. The wind kept getting colder and the snow deeper, and he became lost.
“God Guiding Me”
“I knew God was guiding me then, because I managed to drift to a road between two springs.” Mr. Everett reminisced, “then I could go no farther. Then above the roar of the wind, I heard a sound, one of the sweetest I’d ever heard, before or since. It was rattling of the overland stage which was headed for Elk Point.
“Both the stage driver and I owe our lives to his lead team. Those horses sensed that I was ahead of them in the road, virtually covered with snow, and they stopped. I couldn’t talk, but I still had my sense of hearing, and I could hear the driver urge the horses to go on, but they wouldn’t move. He then got out of the stage and walked ahead of them, and there much to his surprise he found me up to my chest in snow. He lifted me into the stage, and although it was impossible to see the road or know which direction we were going, the horses had sense enough to lead us to our destination. He knew who I was and managed to find my father’s home in town. My face, ears, and the lower half of my body were badly frozen. A couple of days later, after the skin had blistered, I was unable to wear any clothing except a big baggy nightgown my mother had made for me. It was four months before I was well enough to get out of doors.
80 Cattle Frozen
“Meanwhile, the man for whom I was herding cattle thought surely I had been lost in the storm. It was two weeks before he knew that I was safe at home. Of the 180 head of cattle that I was herding, 80 four year old steers froze to death. The others made it to the wooded area near the river and were saved.”
The ice break-up in the Missouri river in 1881, the spring following the blizzard is one that Mr. Everett will never forget. Their home was on the lowland, and they were evacuated to the courthouse of higher ground. He recalls that his father and a couple of others swam three blocks from the courthouse to the lumber yard to get lumber to build a boat. They floated the lumber back, brought it up on the second floor of the courthouse and built it there. By the time it was finished, the water was so high that it more than half filled the first story. “We had to bend down to avoid hitting our heads when we shoved off and out the front door,” Everett declared.
Church Bell Tolls
“There was an ice gorge a short distance above town, and I’ve never seen such a lot of different things come down a river as I did that spring. There was a team of mules hitched to a wagon which floated down atop a hay stack. Chickens came floating down the river on buildings and straw stacks, and you could hear roosters crowing out in the middle of the stream, one of the funniest sounds I’ve heard. I’ll never forget, though, the church from Mecklin that came floating down. You could hear that bell ringing long before you could see the church. When it finally did come into view, we could see two people inside the tower. It seemed funny, but in some way, the church floated around toward the edge and the people managed to get off. Then it floated back into the fast water and just seemed to be swallowed up in the gorge.”
The next two or three years, Mr. Everett just “knocked” around, doing any kind of work he could find to do. He went to LeMars, and there he learned that they were hiring men to help build the combination bridge at Sioux City. He had a lot of fun while was there, and earned good money — $7.50 a day, helping sink the piers. Although he had trouble getting a job because of his size and age, he persuaded a foreman to try him out and he got the job, one that he kept until the bridge was entirely completed.
This article will continue in next week’s edition of the Star Herald.
         Donations to the Rock County Historical Society can be sent to the Rock County Historical Society, 312 E. Main Street, Luverne, MN 56156.
Mann welcomes correspondence sent to

1943: Diamond Club talks with William Everett

The following article is part of the Diamond Club Member group that began in the January 7, 1943, issue of the Rock County Star Herald. Members of this group consist of persons of age 75 and older.
March 11, 1943
“Can’t agree with you that Luverne’s as good a place as any,” declared William Everett, when someone commented that this part of Minnesota was a pretty fine spot for a home. “I’ll take the west any day. You’ll make two dollars for every one here if you just go about it right.”
That led to the question, “Bill, how did you happen to make Luverne your home, then?”
“Well,” said the old timer, “it was this way. I came here from Doon, Ia. I didn’t know where I was going, but I knew I was going. I went to the hotel to wait between trains and I guess it never came. Some fellow came into the hotel and wanted a man to go to work on a farm. I went to work, and Luverne has been my home ever since. That was in August, 1917.”
Born in Dakota Territory
Mr. Everett isn’t certain just how old he is, but thinks he’ll be 77 on April 21. He was born at Elk Point Union county, Dakota territory either in 1863 or ’64. Records of his birth have since been lost.
There were still Indians and gun-totin’ whites at that time and Hell’s Bend,” the wooded area where the Big Sioux empties into the Missouri, was still a hot spot. “I knew of four fellows who died with their boots on there. Two of them came to Johnny St. Pierre’s cabin one night and he got them both. Johnny St. Pierre was a violinist who played for dances all through the country. He had just come back from a trip to Sioux City, Omaha and Missouri Valley, and two fellows came to get his money. He pulled his .44 before they did. One of them dropped right outside a window — the other was found the next morning at the edge of a wheat field, five or six rods away. As far as I know, that cleaned up Hell’s Bend.”
Saved by an Indian
In those days, there were Indians in that area, but most of them were civilized. He recalls that one time when he was a child of two or three years, two Indians came and asked his mother for something to eat. She refused for some reason or other, and one of the Indians picked him up by the heels and was about to smash his head against the side of the building when his father’s friend, also an Indian, came to his rescue. Several days later Mr. Everett’s father was walking along the river and there came across the body of the Indian with four arrows in his body.
Elk Point was the Gretna Green of the northwest when Mr. Everett was a boy. Being in Dakota territory where there was no marriage license law and where couples would come in droves from Iowa and Nebraksa to tie the nuptial knot.
Father Had Three Trades
Mr. Everett’s father was Abner Everett, a man who had served as an apprentice for 15 years and had learned three different trades. He spent five years learning to be a cabinet maker, earning only 25 cents a month for that period. His first job as an apprentice was making his own tools. After his cabinet apprenticeship, he learned to be a wheelwright, and spent five years as an apprentice in this trade as well. His wages at that time was increased to 50 cents a month. After that, he served as a carpenter’s and joiners apprentice, and then went into business for himself at Elk Point.
The Luverne man did not remain at home after he was nine years of age. He went to work for J. H. Brace, a cattle drover, and for three years, he virtually lived in the saddle, traveling with Mr. Brace wherever he bought cattle. His wages were 25 cents a day, plus board, room and clothing. Within six months after he had entered Mr. Brace’s employ, he knew the name of every man who lived in Union, Spink, Clay and Yankton counties, and on the darkest night could drive to the ranch of any person one could name. In those days there weren’t roads — only Indian trails, Mr. Everett said, and it was not a matter of not being able to find a visible trail of any kind, but to pick the right one. When not riding, he would drive a livery, and on many occasions, it was his lot to take people to other ranches from the Brace ranch. For the average boy of nine or 1o to be out in the dark with only the stars to guide him, the job would have been frightening indeed, but to him, it was a thrill and a pleasure to hold the reins on a steady team and figure out the shortest way home.
Visited This Area
It was when he was thus employed that he made his first trip to this section of the country. His employer had bought cattle in the Garretson, Sherman and Jasper areas, and he was driving them toward Elk Point. He had a herd of 180 head when he stopped to spend the night at a farm place east of Sioux Falls. It was then he learned that the famous James brothers had been there the night before him.
This article will continue in next week’s edition of the Star Herald.
         Donations to the Rock County Historical Society can be sent to the Rock County Historical Society, 312 E. Main Street, Luverne, MN 56156.
Mann welcomes correspondence sent to

1943: Diamond Club spotlight turns to Luverne's William Tomlinson

The following article is part of the Diamond Club Member group that began in the January 7, 1943, issue of the Rock County Star Herald. Members of this group consist of persons of age 75 and older.
March 4, 1943
To have seen a real prince and princess as a boy was one of the many interesting experiences of William C. Tomlinson, Luverne. Mr. Tomlinson was the son of Joseph and Mary Tomlinson. He was born in Nottingham, England, April 5, 1866, and recalls that Prince Albert of England and his wife had come to Nottingham to dedicate a museum which had been remodeled from a royal castle which had been damaged by fire. At first the instructor of his class at school had decided to permit his pupils to take the day off for the occasion, but later changed his mind.
Intent of seeing the royalty, Mr. Tomlinson and about five or six friends left the school without permission and went to see the royal procession. They would wait on the street corner until they passed, and then would run as fast as they could to the one beyond and wait until they had passed again. This kept up until the boys were almost eight miles from home, but they had the satisfaction of having seen the prince and princess, although they went without a thing to eat from morning until 10 o’clock that night.
Nottingham, which by the way, was the city made famous by Robin Hood, was one of England’s big manufacturing towns. Its factories provided work for men, women and children of all ages. When Mr. Tomlinson was seven, he worked in a hosiery factory, daily turning 100 dozen pairs of stocking inside out for 16 cents. He was so small, he had to stand on a stool beside his work table.
Later he worked in a lace curtain factory and became quite expert at his duties. When he was 19, a number of young men were being selected from the various factories to go to Australia to work, but Mr. Tomlinson followed his mother’s request. She had told him that if he wanted to leave England, he should go to America.
Having an uncle and aunt living in Illinois, Mr. Tomlinson decided he would leave home, and on St. Patrick’s day, 68 years ago this month, he boarded a boat for the United States. The boat was not a luxury liner, he recalls, for on the trip to England, it had been loaded with cattle. After they were unloaded, it was remodeled somewhat into a passenger vessel. It was seaworthy, however, and that was the main thing. He landed in Delaware Bay on the last day of March, and on April 2 arrived at Bloomington, Ill. From there he went to Arrowsmith the following day.
The trip to Arrowsmith he recalls vividly. The ground had thawed and the mud was so deep and sticky that the road was almost impassable. In those days, nearly everyone traveled on horseback. If they went to town to make a few purchases, they would put them in a grain sack, climb on the horse and ride back home.
Mr. Tomlinson hired out at $18 a month that first spring, and although he found the work considerably harder than it was in the factory, he never became discouraged.
“I guess I was born about 30 or 40 years too soon,” he states, “as at that time, the only machines that had seats were mowers and binders. It was all walk from sun up until sun down and at first, I became so footsore I could hardly walk. When I would go to bed at night, my feet were almost raw from blisters, but the next morning, they would feel pretty good, and I’d start all over again.
“Finally, I found an old timber man who made me some moccasins. They really helped, and later, I was able to buy a certain kind of shoe they had on the market, for about $1.15. After that time, I didn’t have any trouble.
Many farm implements which are now being used had not yet become common. All corn stalk ground was cultivated before the small grain was planted. There were no grain elevators, and when the corn was sold, it was shoveled directly from the wagon box into the box car.
He worked as a hired hand for three years, and then married May Coss at Bloomington in 1889. They began farming for themselves and it was not all sunshine, according to Mr. Tomlinson. “In those days, a farmer was on his own. He had no help from Uncle Sam and often, the going was pretty hard. We sold oats for 10 cents a bushel, corn for 15 cents, and hogs for $2.50 a hundred. We managed to live, and after the Spanish-American war, things became somewhat better. I sold corn the year of the Spanish-American war at three bushels for a dollar. After that, prices continued to get better,” he declares.
There was a great deal of timber in the vicinity where Mr. Tomlinson lived in Illinois, and he recalls that he bought an acre of woodland for $12.50. This strip furnished them with fuel for three years, and it still had many trees on it when they left Illinois to come to Rock county.
They came here in 1903, after Mrs. Tomlinson’s uncle had told them of the inexpensive and productive land. Mr. Tomlinson never regretted making a move as he states, “Here, I was able to make two dollars to every one I made in Illinois.” They farmed one year south of town, then moved to the Bierkamp farm in Springwater township which was their home for six years before they moved to Luverne.
Mr. and Mrs. Tomlinson became the parents of six children, five of whom are living. They are Albert I., Emery and Lee Tomlinson, all of Luverne, Dewey Tomlinson of Sioux City, and Mrs. Vera Eckert of Imola, Cal.
Since Mrs. Tomlinson’s death last month, Mr. Tomlinson has lived alone in his home. He does his own cooking and housework, and other work about the place and is in good health.
         Donations to the Rock County Historical Society can be sent to the Rock County Historical Society, 312 E. Main Street, Luverne, MN 56156.
Mann welcomes correspondence sent to

1943: Diamond Club Member Peschon recalls Drake Station

The following article is part of the Diamond Club Member group that began in the January 7, 1943, issue of the Rock County Star Herald. Members of this group consist of persons of age 75 and older.
February 11, 1943
The name “Drake Station,” unfamiliar to the majority of Rock countyians born after the turn of the century, was a place of significant importance to the early day residents of eastern Rock county and western Nobles county.
According to Mrs. Frank Peschon, Luverne, who lived in Westside township, Nobles county, in the 1870’s and 1880’s, the little store at the station saved her father and his neighbors many trips by ox team to Luverne for provisions for their families.
There, too, was the postoffice for the settlers of the community. Before the railroad was built in 1876, a postoffice known as the Westside postoffice, located on the Worthington-Sioux Falls overland route, served the community.  After the railroad was built, however, it was replaced by the present village of Magnolia. Mrs. Peschon remembers how a neighbor would go to Drake Station to get the mail for the residents living in the vicinity of her father’s home, and how the settlers would go to this man’s farm to get letters and news from the “outside world.”
Mrs. Peschon was born Dec. 2, 1867, at Waterloo, Ia., the daughter of George S. and Sophia Meyers Barclay. She was one of a family of nine children. She doesn’t remember how they came to Rock county in 1874, she states, as she was then only a girl. Inasmuch as most of the pioneer settlers came by covered wagon, she assumes she, too, made the trip here from Iowa in that type of convenience.
The Barclay family settled on a farm near Luverne, and had lived there only a short time when fire destroyed one of the buildings in which they kept many of their belongings such as trunks, some furniture, etc. These belongings were lost in the fire as were family records.
From Luverne, the family moved east of Magnolia into Magnolia county where Mr. Barclay filed a homestead claim. This was Mrs. Peschon’s home until she was married and moved to Luverne.
Because they lived so far from town, the children, girls especially, very seldom made the trip. Mrs. Peschon believes that she was almost a grown girl before she saw Luverne again, after the family had moved to the homestead.
She attended school in the rural district a mile away from her home. Because she was the oldest of the girls, it became her duty to help with the work at home, so her education opportunities were limited. During that era, work generally came before education and she recalls that she earned the first money she could call her own by caring for a sick child of a neighbor family.
Upon reaching young womanhood, she married Frank Peschon of Luverne on Dec. 8, 1882. She and Mr. Peschon took up their residence here and since that time Luverne has been her home.
She states in looking back over the years she has lived in and near Luverne, she can see nothing that would make her want to live her life over again in a different way. She has been contented with what life has given her, and it is her philosophy that one’s life can be a happy one if a person seeks happiness and enjoys giving happiness to others.
Of the nine brothers and sisters in the Barclay family, Mrs. Peschon and three others are living. They include herself, a brother, G. M. Barclay of Sioux Falls and two sisters, Mrs. E. L. Grapes of Minneapolis and Theresa Barclay of Luverne.
Mr. and Mrs. Peschon quietly observed their golden anniversary here last Dec. 8.
         Donations to the Rock County Historical Society can be sent to the Rock County Historical Society, 312 E. Main Street, Luverne, MN 56156.
Mann welcomes correspondence sent to

1943: Heckt is featured Diamond Club member

The following article is part of the Diamond Club Member group that began in the January 7, 1943, issue of the Rock County Star Herald. Members of this group consist of persons of age 75 and older.
February 4, 1943
When prairie chickens were so numerous in this section of the country that one could ride along in a wagon and shoot them was recalled this week by William Heckt, Luverne. The birds found the unbroken prairie an ideal place for nesting and raising their young, but as the county became more densely populated, and more and more land was placed under cultivation, the number of prairie chickens gradually decreased until now there are only a few scattered flocks that spend the winters in corn fields here.
Mr. Heckt has been a resident of the United States since 1880, when he came here from Germany. He was born Aug. 5, 1865 in Holstein, the son of Mr. and Mrs. Joachim Heckt. His father was a ship’s carpenter, and the town in which they lived was located on the sea. There was fog where he lived which was much the same as in England, he states.
He attended the school in his home town and was confirmed there before his family left for the United States in January, 1880. Making the trip here were his father and mother and five brothers and sisters in addition to himself. He recalls but little about the trip here except that the weather was bad and the sea was so rough that they were confined to their cabin for several days.
His father deciding to come to America was due, perhaps, to the fact that Germany was undergoing an economic recon-struction following the Franco – Prussian war, and times were difficult, especially for a man with a large family. Another factor which no doubt had some bearing on his father’s decision was Mr. Heckt’s older brother, who was already living in this country. He told of America’s wealth and agricultural future, and this, Mr. Heckt believes, had its influence on his father.
They settled in Tama county, Ia. near the village of Dysart, where the elder Mr. Heckt bought an 80 acre farm. Although thought of as a comparatively small acreage in this country, this was a big farm for the Heckt family, who came from a country where land was farmed only in very small tracts. Farming was different here too, than it was in Holstein, Mr. Heckt recalls. There all the farmers lived in villages, and tilled the land adjoining the village.
Mr. Heckt lived at home until he was 21, and he then went to Lyon county to obtain employment. He worked as a hired hand for several years for a salary of $20 a month. He came to Rock county in 1889 and worked on a farm that summer. On Dec. 24 of that year, he married Mollie Hemme at Luverne. In 1891, the couple began farming in Springwater township. From there, they moved to Rose Dell township which was their home for nine years. In 1905, they moved to the village of Hardwick where Mr. Hemme was engaged in the retail mercantile business. Three years of business life was as much as he wanted, however, and he moved back to a farm in Denver township. Here the Heckt family lived until retiring and moving to Luverne in 1919. Farming today in many ways is different from what it was when he came to Rock county, Mr. Hemme states, but in one way, it’s just the same. You still have to plant the seed and harvest your crops, he philosophizes, no matter how mechanized your farming has become.
Threshing from stacks rather than from shocks was the common rather than the uncommon thing when he first came to Rock county. One year, he set up over 100 stacks, 80 of which stood through the winter because he was unable to get a threshing crew to finish them in the fall. Although the butts were wet, the grain in the upper five sixths of the stacks were dry and in excellent condition. The driest years he experienced was during 1894 and 1911. In 1894, he recalls, there was a killing frost in May, and no rain fell after that time. Wheat sown on corn stalk ground produced some grain, but that sown on plowing was worthless. He harvested his biggest crop the year following, in 1895.
Mr. and Mrs. Heckt became the parents of two children, the late Mrs. Gus Schlapkohl and Louis Heckt of Hardwick. Mrs. Heckt died about two years ago.
Mr. Heckt has three brothers and three sisters living. They are E. P. Heckt, Dysart, Ia., R. O. Heckt, Mason City, Ia.; E. C.  Heckt, Hardwick; Mrs. Emma Hemme, Hardwick and Mrs. Meta Rohlk, Luverne. He has six grandchildren and three great grandchildren. Two of his grandsons, Orville Schlapkohl and Alvin Hemme, are in the Army.
Mr. Heckt is a member of the of the Woodmen lodge. He states he has held no offices except that of treasurer manager of the Rock County Burial association several years ago.
         Donations to the Rock County Historical Society can be sent to the Rock County Historical Society, 312 E. Main Street, Luverne, MN 56156.
Mann welcomes correspondence sent to

1943: Diamond Club continued

The following article is part of the Diamond Club Member group that began in the January 7, 1943, issue of the Rock County Star Herald. Members of this group consist of persons of age 75 and older. This is continued from last week’s edition of the Star Herald.
January 14, 1943
The distinction of being a distant relative of one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence belongs to Mrs. Addie Clark, 84, who resides with her daughter, Mrs. Vernon Goembel, near Luverne. Although most people at her age would not undertake it, Mrs. Clark recently wrote a brief family biography, tracing the history of her family since early in the 18th century.
Her father David McKean was of Scotch descent, his forefathers having come to this country in 1720. An old family history, which was later destroyed by fire, stated that the first McKeans came to Boston in that year. There were five boatloads of Scots that came at one time, but Mrs. Clark is not certain that all were north to Nova Scotia, others settled in Connecticut and New York and many probably settled in Massachusetts.
One of her father’s forbears was Thomas McKean, who was one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence in 1776.
Mrs. Clark’s father was a boy of 17 when he came west to settle in Clinton county, Ia. His father bought a half section of land at $2.50 per acre, which land was owned by the McKean family until 1867. Mrs. Clark’s father cared for his parents as long as they lived. He was married in 1855 to Sarah E. Banks and they reared a family of five girls­—“three school teachers and two milliners” according to Mrs. Clark. Mrs. Clark, who was one of the school teachers, was born on the home farm Sept. 14, 1858.
“My mother,” says Mrs. Clark, “married at 18 as most of the girls of that age did. They moved to father’s farm, part of the original farm, and lived there until after the Civil War. My mother did not like farm life.
“We had a good school there and she was anxious for us girls to have every advantage.
“Those were hard times after the war,” recalls Mrs. Clark, and predicts, “they’re such as we’ll have when this war is over.
“We lived on the old farm until 1867, then moved to Wheatland in the same county. Later, in 1873, we moved to Calhoun county, Ia. where I stayed with my grandfather and went to high school that year. Then I went to Missouri to school and lived with my great-uncle 1½ years. The next summer, I taught a country school, and that fall on Oct. 11, 1876, I was married to Ellis I. Clark, at Lake City, Ia.”
Mrs. Clark taught school the next year, and then she and her husband moved on a rented farm. In two years, Mr. Clark bought an 80-acre tract, and built a small house, 14x20 feet, with one room on the second floor. They lived there until 1881 when they sold the farm and bought another. There they built a large house and barn, and as Mrs. Clark describes it, “we were very comfortable.”
In 1896, they sold their Iowa farm and moved to Nebraska, living there 12 years before moving to Clear Lake, S.D. This was their home for five years, and they then moved to Luverne, coming to this community Feb. 24, 1914. They bought a farm near Luverne and operated it until moving to Luverne on Decoration day, 1917.
Mr. and Mrs. Clark were the parents of 10 children, nine of whom are living. They include Edmond L. Clark, Dickson, Ill.; Mrs. J. H. Pinkley, Pender, Neb.; Guy E. Clark, Cedar Rapids, Ia.; David W. Clark, Detroit, Mich.; Neil C. Clark, Walker, Ia.; Mrs. Vernon Goembel, Luverne; Floyd M. Clark, East Moline, Ill.; and Leslie L. Clark, Tallahassee, Fla. She also has 24 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
Mrs. Clark has two sisters living, Mrs. Clara M. Alt, Evanston, Ill. and Mrs. Bird Davey, Des Moines, Ia.
“As to my own life,” Mrs. Clark writes in her biographical sketch, “it is hardly worth talking about. It was quiet and uneventful as you may suppose, cooking and doing my own work the better part of the time. I never knew what it meant not to have plenty for my big family of seven boys and two girls. I lost one girl, eleven years old, in 1896. This was a great grief.
“I am 84 years old now, and as happy as one can be out of her own home. My husband died in 1926.
“As to the reason for my long life, perhaps that can be found in Exodus 20, in the fourth commandment, “Honor thy father and thy mother and that days may be long in the land thy God giveth thee’.”
Mrs. Clark is a member of the Presbyterian church, serving many years as superintendent and teacher in the Sunday school.
She has made her home with Mrs. Goembel since her husband’s death in 1926.
         Donations to the Rock County Historical Society can be sent to the Rock County Historical Society, 312 E. Main Street, Luverne, MN 56156.
Mann welcomes correspondence sent to