Memoirs of John W Bartleson
Editor's note: The text has been rendered as near to the original as possible. Minor text errors have been retained, inasmuch as they do not create significant syntax issues, but, in many cases, add to the story. In some cases additional information is provided with brackets and some unreadable words followed by a "sic" notation. In addition, some infolinks are provided to sites with additional information about specific locations.
Chapter Two: Part One - Youth
Chapter Two: Part Two - Battle!
Chapter Two: Part Three - Freedom and Home!
Chapter Three, Part One: Farming, Mules and Loss
Chapter Three, Part Two: Kansas!
My wife took with her Brother Gus’s note for $600 and Brother Robert’s note for $300, and about $400 in other notes. I had $350 in money. Robert had a fine span of four-year old mules and a new wagon. We went by St Louis and St Charles, Missouri, crossing on a ferry boat. I did the cooking: the mules were good walkers, covered about 35 or 40 miles a day. We would camped [sic] early and had a pleasant trip. At Abilene we ran into a hard rain and thunder storm and snow next forenoon, the 29th of October. We traveled in snow the 29th and 30th, and arrived at Levi Mangold’s, October 31, 1872.
Levi had a good comfortable dugout and my brother Aratus and family were settled near Indian Creek [There is an Indian Creek Cemetery in Mitchell County – SE Quarter of Section 13-7-8. Is this the same Indian Creek?]. They were near Jack Simpson’s and his sons Will and Pres Simpson’s also near Col J F Cooper, all old Illinois friends who had been in Kansas several years.
My first concern was to find some vacant land and locate my homestead, which I did with the assistance of Jack Simpson. I then went to the land office in Concordia and put a soldier’s filing on the Southwest quarter of Section 2, township 8, range 8 of Mitchell county, Kansas. This quarter is now [at the time this was written, 1930] occupied as his home by my son, Silas Bartleson.
My brother Robert had left a fine home in Illinois with all the comforts, so that living in a dugout with the fierce winds of a Kansas December howling without was too much for him. He proposed that I buy him out. I agreed, and paid him $425 for his team, harness, wagon and a small amount of corn. I took him to Solomon City [Currently Solomon Rapids or what’s left of it.]. and he returned to Illinois. After coming back to Mitchell county I found very little to do. I had a good team and wagon and a friend of mine, Oliver Leslie and I decided to go west on the Buffalo range. After laying in a supply of provisions, and camp equipment, we and six others started out, going up the Solomon River to Osborne, then southwest to Russell and Hays, following the old government trail to Dodge City.
The town was then the end of the Santa Fe R R and was a tough place. We stopped on the river and burned green cottonwood brush to keep at all warm. Shooting went on all night at the dance halls in the town, and two men were killed during our stay there. We pulled out for Saw Log Creek, fifteen miles from Dodge. The next morning we were snowed out of our camp and went on to another. We nearly lost our lives. Many did freeze on the plains during that storm.
We found some pretty fair sized buffalo herds. I had the good fortune to kill two buffalo. Most of the buffalo were south of the Arkansas River, but Indians and rough neck hunters were thick there too. Buffalo were being killed and slaughtered for their hides.
The first two weeks we were out it snowed or stormed every day. It was tough on the plains, without shelter or fire except when you could find a creek with a little timber on its banks. After we were ready to start home the weather turned warm and thawed the snow. There were ample provisions for my partner and myself but our six hungry friends ate as if it were their own and we ran out of everything but tobacco and parched corn.
We had some fun as well as misery, and arrived back in Mitchell county, all well. I spent the remainder of the winter hauling wood and posts from the state land on Salt Creek which had been stripped of saw log timber to build Timothy F Hersey’s mill at Beloit.
Mangold also hauled logs from Salt Creek to Beloit and had them sawed to put up the stone basement he was building. I also hauled a good many rock from Indian Creek to put in my basement building. I also spent much time digging for water on my claim. On the west side of my farm I dug four wells from 50 to 60 feet deep, --found little water and it very poor. I afterwards dug three more wells and got only a fair amount of water. In April I began breaking prairie. I had not been idle. I saw there was much to do and only I to do it all.
My neighbor, John Leslie, a splendid man and ex-soldier, proposed to me that we buy a sod corn planter. I said “All right.” I had never seen one. It was a regular corn planter with sod knives attached to cut the sod and wheels to cover the corn. We rented it out for $1 a day for 10 cents per acre. It was busy the whole season and brought us in some money. I broke about 35 acres of sod and also blocked out my farm and plowed out the hedge rows, all being completed on the 2nd day of June. I hitched up Kit and Jennie to the covered wagon and pulled for Illinois. I had got so used to cooking and camping I made my own biscuits and was alone every night but one on the return. The mules walked easily 35 miles a day. I would have my wood and water and camp where I found good grass for the mules.
There were no exciting incidents on the return trip to Illinois. The last day the rain fell and I pushed the mules hard to get home. – do you blame me? I got to Captain Anderson’s at ten o’clock at night; had been on the road 23 days. I was glad to see my dear girl. All were glad to greet me. I had been gone eight or nine months. My wife was pretty thin, had probably been working too hard. After visiting a few days with family and friends and with Dr Bristow’s family, who were still managing the Mineral Springs Hotel, I helped Mr Anderson to harvest. After leaving Kansas and the fresh Kansas breezes, I thought I never realized that weather could be so sultry and oppressive. I had no pep. We put in July visiting all the relatives and friends making collections on my sale notes. The old Woolfolk who formerly lived on my farm was the first to pay me. He and his old wife, Aunt Cherry, gave me hearty greeting. Many times Aunt Cherry had helped us during Melissa’s sickness. She took care of the cows and performed many acts of kindness. Many of these ex-slaves had big hearts.
On the last day of July every thing was comfortably packed in the wagon for the journey to our new home. I have always thanked the Lord that I was moved to pull out of my old home. I had the love and blessing of James P Anderson and Nancy Anderson, his wife; better-hearted, good couple never lived. Wife’s sisters, Jane and Laura, were sorry to see us go. Also her brothers, Lum, John, Jim and Marshall. But my wife was brave and trusted implicitly in my judgment. We hitched up the three mules and a fine team they were and off we went. At parting, Mr Anderson gave me an old shotgun so we could shoot quail along the way. We went the same road I had gone over twice. I had become so well acquainted with camping places from my former trips that many on the road were glad to see me.
Our journey was very pleasant. Near Lawrence, Kansas I took a fancy to some Berkshire pigs, purchased two, made a box on the rear of the wagon and brought them along with us. We reached Beloit the 24th day out. Our new home friends were glad to see us, particularly John Leslie and Dan Igo and their families. Also Levi Mangold and my niece, Amanda Mangold. Their claim adjourned mine. On Robert Bartleson’s claim cornering my claim and very near my place was a sod house, board roof, window and door openings but no doors nor windows. Here we stopped.
My first work was to prepare a stable for the mules and a cow. Jack Simpson helped me select a cow, part Cherokee, but a good rich milker, always made yellow butter. I bought it was [from] Mrs LaFevre over the River. I bought poles and forks for the stable from Pres Simpson on Indian Creek. I then built in and around a frame or forks with sod covered with hay and had comfortable stable, 14 x 20 feet inside, large enough for the four animals. I then began another well, hoping for good water. I was disappointed. I was hauling rock to build a stone basement, some hoping sometime to erect a fame house over it.
About the last of September the grasshoppers swarmed down in millions, they stayed only a few days but ate most of the sod corn. Taking flight all at once one afternoon, the grasshoppers shielded the sun.
I went to Indian Creek and made some hay on Wm H Walker’s place. They were formerly of Illinois and his wife was a cousin of my first wife. In November, blown on a north wind, we smelled grass smoke, all day. We thought little of it, as it was from the north. The Solomon River was to the north, too, so little danger was anticipated. At dark we could see a light, as a camp fire, far in the north. We had gone to bed when, at ten o’clock, I wakened and could see a light through cracks in the roof of the house. I went out doors. To my surprise, a great fire was passing about two miles west of the place. I looked north and could see then that the fire had jumped the river and was fast moving south. It was only a quarter of a mile down south of my barn with the mules and cow and there was only a little broken ground north of the barn. The grass was short around the sod house where we lived. I told my wife to stay in the house, -that it would not burn,- and that I was going to save the mules. I jumped out in the road and saw the fire rolling, 10 or 15 feet high, filled with flying, burning tumble weeds. I ran, when about half way to the barn I looked back and saw that fire was surrounding the house. My wife, with cool judgment, I knew, would protect herself. She stood at the door entrance and as the fire embers from the burning tumble weeds rolled in at the door, fortunately in the east wall, she swept them out with a broom. Our chickens and hogs were burned. The break in the north of my barn checked the fire as against the barn but soon worked around, breaking and went on south at a terrific speed. No horse could have escaped from in front of it. The fire was 100 yards on a line before it could spend itself. It was like a rolling ocean of fire.
Levi Mangold and his family were living a stone basement, halfway between our sod house and my barn south. I took three mules and cow and led them back as far as Mangold’s house. There was my wife, thank the Lord. The prairie fire had passed over and gone on south. Mangold’s Barn was a rock wall, some poles covered with straw. He and his children had got out his horses but the straw roof had burned and scattered fire over the barn, burning the poles and harneses. I turned my stock over to my wife and Mangold’s children. We had raised a little spring wheat, 75 bushels, and had a small bin near with straw roof. The fire got to this and burned off the roof. Just across the road from Mangold’s claim and my own I had dug a well 50 feet deep, partly walled with rock—better water. We got a bucket and rope and pulled water from this well, carrying it 50 yards and put out the fire in the granary, saving most of the wheat. It was a wild night. This fire is known as The Great Prairie Fire of Mitchell County.
My stone basement was being built by two Parrot boys, Mat and Henry. I had been to Clay Center for a load of pine boards, 75 miles, with the intention of covering the basement with a double board roof, cottonwood first, and a layer of pine on top, as the pine would not warp. I bought the joists and cottonwood boards from Tom Shanks at Simpson. I would put on a tight floor on joists above with a door in the gable end of the roof; use the upper floor for storage and sleeping quarters as the family grew larger. We would live in the cellar, have only one outside cellar door, four small cellar windows, none going up stairs. To get upstairs, one would go outside and climb up through the gable door, buttoned. It was rather cool in winter, but healthy.
Now on the 3rd day of December, 1873, there was a fierce blizzard from the northwest, the ground was frozen hard and snow was falling and drifting. The cellar was completed all except it had in no doors or windows or floor. The ground was frozen inside, as I had just completed the roof. Moving was a small item, one cookstove, one bedstead, slats, two chairs, one goods box used as a combination to hold left over food, below, and a table above. We were young. We moved in that 3rd day of December, 1873. The day has remained a memorable one with me. We built a good fire, nailed cloths over the door and windows to keep out the wind. The mules and cow were in a warm stable and we were in our own Kansas home.
I was handy with tools and did my own carpentering. I made a door out of flooring, bought sash for the cellar windows. I took some cottonwood scantling and sawed them as legs for a table, covering them with two 12-inch pine boards, the table was 2½ x 4 feet. We used it for several years, in fact for five years, until 1878, when I built a frame house. I should have preserved the old relic, did for a long time. We were very happy and had splendid neighbors.
I spent the winter freighting to Clay Center and digging wells. In the spring I put out some Spring wheat on some breaking that Chas. Wynkoop gave me. In March or April James and Tom Buchanan came out and bought the Wynkoop claim one half mile west of us. I gave them part of the breaking to put to wheat, and put my own land to corn and owns [oats]. Mart Smith and his wife Kate and family came in the spring and settled one & half mile south of us. He and I bought a self-rake wheat harvester and mower combined. We cut wheat for others. We would both go with the machine and our teams, one making a hand as a binder at $1.50 a day and getting 75 cents an acre for cutting. We had to bind the wheat by hand. We cut from 10 to 12 acres per day. It took three or four binders to keep up. We would start cutting at 6 a m.
The wheat was pretty good, corn was looking fine. John and Oliver Leslie and Joel Wright, neighbors, prevailed on me to go in with them and take a one-third interest in a threshing machine. I had some experience with threshing machines, when I ran Brother Gus’s, soon after I came from the war. I made a mistake and went in. I would to leave home Monday morning before daylight and return Saturday night about dark, leaving my wife all alone to haul water for the cow and extra mule.
Sometimes business caused me to stay at home and then I would hire Will Hall to go with the machine. Poor fellow! The dust from the machine hastened his consumption and he died young.
For two weeks during August I was on the jury in the district court. In those days the jury men were kept locked in a small heated room for three days at a time, in the old stone court house in case they would not agree on a verdict.
What had good deal of trouble with the machine and made no money. The next summer we set up the machine to test it out. I was driving. It was a horse power machine. George Rankin was there and I asked him if he would buy my interest. I told him that what money we had made the past season was paid on the machine, we took nothing over, and that if he would finish paying for the machine and do my small job of threshing, he could have my interest. He said he would accept the proposition. I said, “Here’s the whip.” I had lost a summer’s work and the sale was one of the best deals I ever made. It nearly ruined Rankin for several years.
On July 25, 1874, we were threshing barley, one Saturday, for Jack Simpson. The grasshoppers came down in clouds. I went home that night, the next morning the corn was covered and the blades were being chewed up. On Monday morning I went to the machine and was away all week. The next Sunday I went to look at the corn field---nothing remained but stubs. The grasshoppers had done their work and gone. This was known as the Grasshopper Year.
In April that year my wife was confined and a sweet little baby girl was born. It was sad time for us as well as many others and we seemed to be making no progress at all. So, after our wheat was threshed in September, we decided that my wife should go back to her father’s and I would batch. So I took her to Clay Center and she boarded the train, bound for her old home and her father and mother. I made arrangements with Sam Duzen, a single man holding down a claim, to bring his pony and live with me. I had little stock, a few pigs and chickens, nothing to feed them on and they came through the winter badly. The cow did well and we sold butter. I freighted some for the merchants from Clay Center. This was the winter in which Kansas sufferers received Aid from Eastern States.
All the churches, lodges and societies sent delegates over the country for aid. It was disgusting to a great extent. And by the time that freight hauling and other expenses were paid, and the county commissioners had distributed and divided the donations, little benefit was derived. Besides, it lowered the manhood of those participating in it. It was amusing to visit Beloit the day of the distributions and watch the fellows with their worst clothes on, hair sticking out through holes in their hats, begging for clothing and corn meal.
The Grange was in full blast and worked to help the plan along. It is one of the proud reflections of my life that I would not accept any aid.
Well, spring was coming on. We had a good time. The young folks of the neighborhood, including myself, were handed for socials and dancing parties, and the church members joined us. I would take my team and wagon, put hay in the box, then drive around and collect enough young people for a dance at some one’s house. Time did not drag with me, nor has time ever been a drug on my hands.
I had letters often from my wife. She was always busy, if at nothing else, then at her mother’s loom. She spun the yarn and wove enough cloth to make me a new suit of jeans clothes after she came home. She cut and sewed them and they were good and warm.
I received a letter in March from Mr Anderson that my wife had borne a son, March 16, 1875. He was named Clarence P and is now casher at the Beloit State Bank. We thought him a fine a baby. When the baby was four weeks old my wife started for Kansas. She drove in a lumber wagon fifteen miles to Vienna, then by train 15 miles to Grand Chain. My brother Gus had not paid the $600 and interest owing me on the farm and had written my wife that he would meet her in Cairo and settle.
You see, I was badly busted, notwithstanding that Mr Anderson has sent my wife the September before a draft for $173. It was gone. So Wife took the train at Grand Chain for Cairo. Gus met her there and pain all in full with interest. Wife then went on train to St Louis and on to Solomon City. There she got on a stage and drove to Beloit arriving about nine o’clock. I had the wagon and team to meet her, the road was very muddy, but we drove out home, about nine miles, that night.
In looking back I do not see how one could stand it. At that time Wife was very healthy, but I suppose that heavy work, exposure and rearing a large family brought on all the trouble later in life. She passed this life on December 31, 1902, at the age of 51 years, at a time it seemed we were just in a position to enjoy the fruits of our toil.
We were surely glad to be reunited and now had more to live for than ever before. My wife brought back a goodly amount of money, seed corn and presents. I went to Minneapolis, Kansas, and spent $75 for a new Bain wagon, which I stood in need of. Hauling so much rock had crippled the old wagon badly. I drove down into Ottawa county on Pipe Creek and bought a load of spring wheat for seed. Out wheat and corn were good in the year 1875. I increased my cattle and hog holdings. I shipped from Iowa a pair of Poland China hogs; was not satisfied with my Berkshires. For many years thereafter I shipped in more hogs, made a specialty of Poland China hogs and Plymouth Rock chickens. I advertised and had a good trade, gaining some notoriety on the hogs. That year my corn made 60 or 70 bushels per acre. Ed Leslie husked for me and he could husk 75 bushels per day.
That fall I sowed some fall wheat. It did very well and we soon discontinued sowing spring wheat. In 1875 the grasshoppers were flying in the air, but did little damage. That year I set out a good apple orchard and planted quite extensive groves of box elder and cottonwood sprouts. As long as they were young and were cultivated they did well, but after they had grown to 12 or 15 feet, and dry seasons came on, they perished.
I freighted and teamed a great deal during the fall and winter of 1875-76. I did not wear an overcoat that winter, having the new jeans suit my wife had given me.
The trip to Clay Center, 75 miles, loaded each way, would take 5 days. In wet weather or high water, it would be longer. I would take feed, grub and blankets from home to last the trip. At night I would sleep in a barn, under the wagon, or on the kitchen floor of a farm house. Always if possible we put our teams in a stable,-it cost 25 cents for hay each night,-or $1 for the trip. I chewed and smoked and always kept plenty of tobacco. Whiskey was plenty and I liked it but had no money to spend for it. I had to have a young man to help with the work and at times may have been a little hard on them. The days were hardly long enough to get through all the work. I had been hiring John and Link Van Pelt; about this time Nate Van Pelt came from Iowa. He was fine; a little fellow, but a good, honest boy, and like one of the family. He worked for me two years. Finally he married our hired girl, Sarah Brumage, a splendid girl, daughter of a neighbor. Nate died after raising seven or eight fine children. His wife is still living.
The year 1876 was a very good year for crops. That year I planted a good deal of hedge fence and had turned much of the sod on my farm,[and] had it all broke out except 60 acres for pasture, fenced and cross fenced with hedge.
I was raising millet and sorghum for feed. Mrs Anderson had sent me some German millet and it was great for producing a crop. During September the grasshoppers again visited us. The corn was very well matured and they could eat only a little on the end of the ears and they also ate some strips on the outside of the field, doing little damage, but they deposited their eggs. It seemed each hopper would bore his read end in the ground and in time pull himself loose and leave 40 or 50 eggs in a poke in the ground. We dreaded they would come in the spring of 1877 that they were hatching out rapidly, devouring gardens and every green thing, when, fortunately, a cold rainy spell came in the last of April and when it ended, all the grasshoppers had disappeared, never more to come in great numbers.
On October 10, 1876, my wife presented me with another boy, Maurice Bartleson. This gave us a pair of healthy boys. So there was much to do a larger family and my increased farm operations. My wife kept a girl to help her a good share of the time. The cost was $1.00 to $1.50 a week, and hired hands were $15 to $16.
In the fall or winter of 1876, I was keeping a few hogs over, feeding them out on cheap corn. Took a small load to Ellsworth and sold it for $150. It brought more than 12 loads of rye.
On the whole, 1877 was a good crop year. I planted my corn on the 16th of April, check-rowed and then plowed it both ways. The corn lay in the ground three weeks before coming up. I had a good stand and believe it was the best corn I ever raised. In every third row I had planted pumpkin seed. Such pumpkins you never saw! I fed them to cattle and hogs and covered them with straw so I could feed them all winter.
Before this I had brought lumber from Clay Center and built good granaries and a large fence board hog lot. I was now handling hogs quite extensively for this country. They always did well with me and I made all my first good money from hogs. I always shelled and soaked the corn for them and gave them plenty of fresh water. My medicine for them was salt and ashes with plenty of soft coal—never over fed them.
During the fall of 1877, hog prices were very low, about 1-1/2 cents or 2 cents on foot. I had a fine lot of something like 30 fat hogs, besides brood sows and younger ones. Ellsworth had been a good market as the country south of here raised fewer hogs. I killed a few small ones and took them to Ellsworth. I sold them to a grocer for $5.25 dressed and engaged him to five loads of 2000 lbs each; one for John Leslie and one Dan Igo, [A]ll hogs should dress 250 lbs or more: all to be stuck, none shot, all to be cleaned to the toes and in first class condition and to be delivered to him in the next cold spell. This was Thanksgiving time. I was in a storm all the way from Lincoln Center to Ellsworth.
Well in December, about two weeks later, the weather turned cold. I told all to get busy and kill. I had plenty of the best help. We butchered all the 6000 pounds and cleaned before sundown. Say, it was a greasy mess, but I had butchered hogs since I was a boy and had help that thoroughly understood the job. We split the hogs down the back to cool and before daylight loaded them in three wagons and started early, driving the first day to Lincoln and the next to Ellsworth. We drove up to the rear of the store and started to unload, having first eaten supper. The merchant wanted to put us off until the next morning. I told him we had been up guarding hogs for two nights. He wanted to know if we hadn’t tried to sell them to other parties. I said, No, we had driven straight to his store. He hesitated. I insisted that every hog would come up to specifications of contract and for him to put a man at the scales to test the weight of every hog. He consented. We carried the hogs, one by one, until they were weighed, then carried them 100 feet the length of the store, then down a stairway and to the other end of the cellar. We stacked them over 10,000 pounds, Some Job!
By this time it was one o’clock in the morning. We went to a barn to sleep. The next morning after breakfast we went to the merchant with weights to settle. The merchant settled fine and remarked: “Bartleson, you seemed to be on your best behaviour [sic].” I told him I had given him the finest lot of pork and the best dressed I had ever seen. He dug up all the cash and check he could find in the safe. I took the checks to a bank and the cashier said the merchant should not have signed the checks as he did. I went to the merchant and he went back to the banker and said “Bartleson didn’t steal those checks but he beat me out of them.”
The fact was that pork had dropped in price. He had too much meat for sale but he was an honest man and made his contract good with me. I had made a good sale for myself and the two neighbors; $330 was a big lot of money for me. The corn was only 15 cents a bushel. We all returned home feeling fine.
My wheat for 1877 was mostly Michigan White variety, very soft and easy to sprout. The year being wet, the plants grew tall and rusted. It thrashed only 7 bushels per acre, was shrunken and almost worthless, but I seeded with it and produced a good crop in 1878, and sold at 55 cents a bushel.
The Missouri Pacific [was] built in this county in the summer of 1878. I was trading considerably in stock and was increasing my stock and farming operations. A few years before this, my brother-in-law, Billy Plymore had moved from Illinois to Texas. He kept writing such glowing letters to Mr Anderson that Anderson sold out in Illinois and move to Texas. It was a bad move but they made the best of it. They settled in the woods in Washington county, Texas, on the Brazos River. I was never there but in September, 1877, my wife took the two boys and made them a good visit. Afterwards Mrs Anderson and her sister, Laura, visited us, and Laura lived with us part of one year. 1878 was a good crop year and I have always believed that 1875-78 was the best four year period for crops during my 57 year experience in Kansas.
By now I had passed from young manhood and was regarded as one of the older settlers and was looked up on as rather prosperous. So I thought it was time to build a house and crawl out of the cellar. My family was increasing. On February 10, 1878, another boy was born, Silas L Bartleson. This gave us three boys. Three was always considered a good hand in a game of cards. So, as I hauled my wheat to market in Beloit, during August, I would haul a load of timber out home, being my own architect and doing my own planning. I hired nothing that I could do myself.
I was doing a good deal of work that year. A steady man, Newt Van Pelt, had married as his brother Nate had done, and these boys had been like members of the family. I was now at a lost for a steady hand, one to fill the bill. The boys used to say that John worked them hard but his wife fed them well. About the first of September a stranger came into the field where I was shocking sorghum, -said he heard I wanted a hand. I said Yes and asked him how much he wanted per month. He said, “Anything.” I gave him a fork and told him to go to work and I would give him his answer. My wife was away at this time and I had to drive to Clay Center. I told him about the chores and work and told him to keep busy until I returned in about a week. My neighbor, James Buchanan, thought it strange that I would trust a stranger in this manner. I thought there was little to steal and as long as I was feeding him he would stay.
John Newell was his name. He was a peculiar fellow, but with a big heart. For more than a year he was at my place, and he was always ready to do anything for me or the family—perfectly dependable. One day he asked where I was going to build my house, and who was to build it. I told him I had no one employed. He said he could do it. I asked: “Are you a carpenter?” He said he was a car builder and could build my house. He sent for his tools and built a first class house, making all the mouldings. I paid him $15 a month for a good six-room, one and one-half story house, built over the cellar I had lived in for five years. I plastered two rooms below, had three brick chimneys, I did the painting and moved in.
I had all this time mixed with the people, helped to put over the railroad bond election—an exciting time—had worked some in township and county politics, had been elected in 1876 and 77 trustee and assessor for Center township, served on the school board. Some times were exciting. One time we hired teachers for as little as $20 a month.
Miss Eve Bourbon taught for that figure. She was a splendid teacher, boarded with us for $5 a month. There has always been something new and exciting in life. In the winter I did not get up very early and after breakfast on the stormy days I would go out and work with chores until about 3 p m than have dinner and go on with work until night. I had no stock barn but made large straw stacks for shelter.
In the summer time after the corn was planted and we had our suppers at five p m and then would work until sundown. This was my rule as long as I remained on the farm. In the fall I would change. The summer of 1877 [penciled in “9”] was too dry with dust storms and this continued for three or four years, reaching a climax in 1881. On May 26, 1879, my wife became mother of a sweet little baby girl. We named her Elsie Lenore Bartleson. We now had in the family three boys and one girl, all healthy. More work. We had some exciting political times, some on the liquor question: Prohibition. I was not a teetotaler but I voted for the Prohibition law. In those times we had delegate conventions, plenty to drink, a wide open time, long the custom.
I was increasing my stock by some trading, raising some hogs and more farming. Times grew worse. In 1881 I planted much corn and raised none at all. One day I was in Beloit and W H Caldwell of the Public Record said I was complaining too much. He wanted to know what I would take for my corn crop. I told him he could have it all for one year’s subscription to his paper. He took me up and I made him pay—he gave me one year’s subscription for free.
I had one piece [possibly an acre] of corn, a large piece, which was very thrifty. When the hot winds struck it, it was six feet or more tall, had bunched for tassel and never made a tassel—-that wind was so withering. In the spring I had four two-year old steers. I sold them and bought nine one-year olds. When pasture gave out in July I sold them and bought small calves, paying $5 to $8 for the best. Good early fall rains came on, my calves were doing fine. I had about 30 head. They were good. A man from Missouri drove in one day and wanted to buy the calves. I asked him what they were worth, and he looked them over carefully and said he would give me $12 all ‘round. I thought a few minutes as to how I could use the money to best advantage and decided that if the calves were worth $12 each I could raise calves. I sold them. I went at once and cut up most of my corn, and corn had to be cut with a hand knife then. I put the fodder in good shocks, took what money I had and borrowed some from the county sheriff, John Hatchut and Jim Buchanan signing the note with me.
I invested all the money in young cows at $30 each and past yearling heifers at $18 each—all would bring calves in the spring. I bought up some corn stalks and drove my cattle sometimes four or five miles to feed. I had lots of work but the cattle came through in good shape and I was pretty well paid for the loss of my crops by my crop of calves in the spring. This dry year was 1881. On April 26 my wife presented me with another daughter, Kate, name for our friend, Kate Smith, and was within two days of the age of friend, Kate Graham. My wife and Mrs John Graham were very great friends and at this time lived very near each other. 1882 and 1883 were rather dry years. In the spring, 1883, I had a man hired for the year. My family sickened in May and June, four of the children with catarrhal pneumonia fever. I had to hire another young fellow for a week or so. My wife had a new hired girl. Everything was going wrong—the boys sparking the girl through the day and idling. One day I went across the field where the boys should have been plowing. They were not working. I said to the temporary man: “Wes, I don’t want you any longer.” The regular hand, Joe, said, “I will quit too.” I said, “Tie up the team. I can plow enough for both teams.” When I came in that night my wife asked what was the matter. I told her I was all alone and said that if she would take care of the sick, I would attend to the outside. We also let the girl go and our good neighbor, Mrs Blackford, let her daughter, Bea, come over. She was a fine girl and is now a fine woman, Mrs Bea Lukens. During this period of sickness Maude Ethel Bartleson, who was born Dec 19, 1882, and was at the time four or five month[s] old, was so ill it seemed as if she could not live. Kate, two year old, was one of the sick children, but did not seem so bad as the others. To our surprise she died very suddenly one morning. It was a sorry time for our family, but the neighbors—Mrs Blackford, Mrs Leslie, Mrs Igo, Mrs Smith, Mrs Buchanan and others—were unusually kind. I had a struggle with hired hands but after [a]while the other children got well and farm interests adjusted themselves until we were going along as usual.
During the summer of 1882 I kept a nice lot of pigs over on weeds and fattened them out on cheap corn. Late in the fall I took five wagon loads to Solomon Rapids and sold them to Ora Douglass for $5.25 per 100. Atwood, the banker at Beloit, becoming payor, said Douglass had paid too much. I made a good sale, but they were a nice bunch of hogs. $525.00 was the most money, up to the time, I had made on stock in Kansas.
In the fall of 1883 I traded for a bunch of sheep from the Beeson boys. I put them in a lot to fatten. I knew nothing of feeding sheep. There were some good wethers and some old ewes. I fed them until February when I thought they were in fair condition to market. Now I don’t believe they were fat. I had sold A T Rodgers lots of hogs and some cattle, so I had him come out and see the sheep. I sold the sheep for $300 to be delivered in a few days. I went to the house and told wife I was going on a visit to Illinois. About all my folks still lived there and I had seen none of them for over ten years. In fact, I had been no place except hauling with my team since coming to Kansas in August 1873.
I had lots of stock to tend to. I went to see my friend, Lee Rankin, who had worked for me a good deal in years before this. H said he could not get away. I told him he would have to get some one to do his work as no one but he could do my work and I just had to take this trip. I over-persuaded him and he came. Some didn’t like Lee but I liked him and he liked me. He died [years later] in Oklahoma.
I went to my old home. None knew me. It was a great visit. I brought my nephew, A W Tarr, back with me to work on the farm. I had been home only a few days when John H Bartleson was born, March 22, 1884. Our family had grown to four boys and two girls, living. The oldest, Clarence, being ten years old, could help with the chores. The year 1884 was a splendid year for crops. Some of my wheat made 50 bushels an acre. Corn and feed were good. I had raised quite a few cattle, still had plenty of hogs; we were milking 15 cows and heifers. I suppose three or four really good cows would have produced more butter than all fifteen did, but I was taking to Beloit on Saturdays two buckets of butter, getting 15 cents a pound. Some above market price was selling at the hotel. Wheat was bringing 30 and 32 cents but everybody seemed to getting along all right.
People were not so much in debt in those days. We old settlers and Grand Army men used to meet in Beloit and we surely had a good time. That was the year Cleveland and Harrison were running for president. We had the Cleveland-Harrison club—used to meet in the basement of the New York store. On those occasions it made no difference if we were Republicans or Democrats. Herman Beer would be there—Hasgall, myself, Paul Casley, Silwells, Perry Tanquary, Tom Morris and many other boys—all having a good time. In September there was a national encampment at Denver, Colorado, with White Hicks, Jim Duff, Sam Ewing, E Dilworth and many other G A R members in attendance.
It was my first visit to the mountains and I was carried away with the sights.
I am writing this from memory and consequently overlook many things of interest to me. But I have records of investments and business transactions. In the fall of 1879 I made a trip in the wagon with John Graham, his brother in law and Jim and Lew Hadley. We were bound for Rawlings county to take timber filings (http://www.ksrods.org/UCC.html). The country was vacant and wild, but beautiful, with rolling prairie. They all took filings but me. I decided it was too far for me to give it the care that was needed. I came home and traded a fine bunch of coming yearlings calves for 80 acres that adjoined mine and I was now farming the Mangold farm. Altogether I had 400 acres to look after and I was kept very busy.
About this time, in the fall of 1885, I bought the equity in the farm of Isaac White, the S W of Sec 22, T 8, R 8, bought very cheap. Soon after I traded a bunch of sheep to John Graham for the N W quarter of Sec 22-8-8. This gave me a farm of 320 acres, 3 miles southwest of home. Spring work opened up all right. One day, the last of April, while I was painting my house, Paul Jordan drove up with a stranger and asked if I wanted to sell the farm. I told him that I was not thinking much about it. He said he would give me $3000 for the farm and $1000 for the timber filing, 80 acres cornering the farm. I went into the house and talked with my wife, I told her that we had thought many times of selling the farm and leaving the country, or buying a stock farm with plenty of water and grass, and maybe now was the time. We concluded to sell: my wife always agreed with me on business propositions. I was to have the crop for that year, 1885. Chapman was to pay me $500 cash and on the first of January, 1886, he was to have possession and pay me $1000. Then I was to relinquish my right of timber filling and he would place his filing on the 80 acres. Well, this was a new deal for me and would necessarily change my ways.
I put in my crop and in May I went to visit and counsel with my friend, James Buchanan. Buchanan was quite a politician. He had held the office of county commissioner and county treasurer. I had worked some in county politics but had never thought of coming out for office. At this time there were two men candidates for the office of Register of Deeds— Jim Floyd who formerly held the office and Duncan McKechnie, who had once before received the nomination and been defeated at the election. Floyd and McKechnie both were old residents, and were fighting each other with all their might, and prior to this had both been rejected.
I asked Buchanan’s advice. He told me to get [in] and he would help me. So, as the saying went, “the people called me”. I made my announcement in the papers, bought a pair of ponies, a new buggy, and started on the canvass for delegates. I had some mighty good friends but was green politically. Floyd and McKechnie had good friends. Floyd was wide open and a one-arm soldier. McKechnie was dry and had but one eye. Both were poor. I could drink with any of them and had voted for Prohibition and had voted for St John the third time for Governor. Excitement ran high—Prohibition talk everywhere. I was satisfied that Floyd’s and McKechnie’s delegates could never come together in a convention and that I would fall heir to their delegates on second choice. I canvassed all the time. I had mighty fine friends. Sil Wells of Solomon Rapids, an ex-soldier, was true to the core. He said: “John, don’t spend any time in Solomon Rapids,-the delegation is yours.” Hank Hamilton spoke the same way for Plum Creek. My friend, L D Cunningham, climbed down off the straw stack and said: “John, half of Lulu is yours”, and so on. In some townships the fight was altogether on county clerk, Moon and Smith were running; in other townships, on county treasurer, in other on sheriff. Frank McGrath was running for sheriff and Frank always made a fight whenever he got in. It was the hottest fight I had ever been in. It was well published in the papers and came back with hot blasts. While my record had been wide open, my friends had confidence in my ability to serve well the office to which aspired, both with credit to myself and honor to my friends. The convention came off and I was nominated on the fourth ballot. I had more than either of the others to start with and as the break came, their delegates came up to me. Some deep sores and disappointments resulted from the convention and were to appear at the fall election.
My wheat was fair this year and I had good prospect for corn. The boys, Clarence and Maurice, 10 and 11 years old, had done most of the corn plowing and tended the chores—the old mules were safe, they were the same mules I had bought from Brother Robert and were 17 years old. In August there came a great hail storm over Center township, the storm must have been six by twelve miles in extent, and it ruined my corn, only had a partial crop. I help neighbors with their threshing—-ask my good friend Alan Adamson about the way he and I stacked oats straw at Hiram Van Pelt’s. I went on withy [sic] my canvassing for votes. The two boys gathered corn for the hogs and plowed the land for wheat, as Chapman had asked to have done.
When I was away my good wife managed things about as well as when I was home. The man running against me for Register of Deeds was J H Calderhead, a Missouri Pacific railroad agent. He was well qualified for the office—a good penman and some claimed that my writing was illegible. Well, he was better, but I was making a fair name on the hotel registers throughout the county. I had friends in Beloit, but at the election he proved to have more, for in Second and Third wards, where I considered myself particularly strong, he received two votes to my one! I was truly raw in politics,--taking everything for granted, while such politicians as A D Moore and Frank McGrath were willing to leave me in ignorance, taking ever[y] advantage presented to allow on trades against me. At that time we voted the vest pocket ballot and almost any name could printed and vote any man’s ticket. After the voting I came to Beloit for returns. They came in slowly. I got disappointments from the beginning. Though Lule [unknown location] gave me a fine vote, Glen Elder gave me a black eye, 75 votes behind the ticket. My eyes were being opened, indeed, I had not known I had an enemy in Glen Elder. It seemed there was a labor organization in Glen Elder and Simpson and other parts of the county—they all voted for my opponent. He was not a laborer as I was, but he slipped in to the order. Cawker gave me a fine vote. While the G O P had a large majority in the county, the party did not always win. W T G (Y)ates was then holding the Register of Deeds office. He was a Greenback Democrat, not very well qualified, either, but he had beaten in the past two of our good men and Yates was an enemy of mine and took all the Greenback votes away from me.
Well, we were up all night receiving returns, that were brought in from townships by horseback, and the next morning I felt sure I was defeated. In the southwestern part of the county, Carr Creek, Pittsburg and Custer townships, were many Germans. I had visited there several times and have some very warm friends, besides, two of my friends in Beloit, Mike Grotz and James Finnigan, had gone over in that country and had drunk beer with Chas Faas, Matt Arnoldy and Dr Borst—some of the leaders. I did not know at the time all they had done and said, but the returns, coming in 24 hours after the election, gave me a lead in those townships that won the election with a majority for me of 60 votes.
Of course, there was rejoicing and mourning, as is always the case resulting from a political election. I had been in an unsettled mind all summer. Now I could make plans for the future. I had during the fall disposed at private sale of most of my stock and machinery. I was cleaning up everything to move to Beloit. In December 1885 I decided I was foot loose enough to make another visit to my old home. I found all well and most of my relatives, all brothers and sisters still there. I then had six brothers and two sisters living, and many nieces and nephews. We could have had 100 relatives together in reunion.
I had a splendid visit. I had been away a little more than 12 years since I moved to Kansas. Nearly all my old friends and relatives were living and there was little change in the country. After my return from Illinois, I disposed of the balance of my stock and machinery. On the 31st of December, 1885, after a beautiful forenoon came on what is known as the great blizzard of January, 1886. A blizzard and snow storm, it was the most severe we had known. Railroads were blocked with drifts. There were no trains operating until the 9th of January. On the 8th, Sunday, I managed to drive to Beloit, but the drifts were so bad the buggy springs broke. I put up at the Pennsylvania House, George Myers was proprietor. On Monday morning I took possession of the Register of Deeds office. I did not receive courteous treatment from the outgoing Register. I had not familiarized myself to the routine of the office. I took in Donald McIntyre to assist me as he was somewhat acquainted with the work. I had brought a nephew, John Bristown, from Illinois, expecting him to help, but he did not continue long with me.
A little later I went to board with Frank Boyles. He was not very well but assisted me in the office. During the summer I had my niece, Miss Ida Bartleson, come from Illinois. She was a splendid girl, a good penman and very pleasant to the patrons. She remained in the office until the end of my second term.
In January, 1886, my wife gave me another daughter, (Nina) a beautiful babe. She passed this life in August of that year. My wife and children remained on the farm until April 1886. At that time Mr Chapman arrived and I gave him possession. I had bought a house at the corner and Mill and Fifthstreets [sic]—the present location of R D Simpson’s home—put it in shape and my wife and children were again united, the children attending Beloit schools. The boys got some pretty hard knocks, just coming from the country. Business was good in Beloit at the time, a good deal of land and city property was changing hands. The loan companies were doing a big business on Eastern capital which made fine business for the Register of Deeds. Quite a boom in transfers and new railroad projects created activity in 1887. Additions were laid out and plotted, lots changed ownership, railroad surveys, charters, and many other evidences of real boom prevailed. Prices were from three to five times what they should have been. I bought lots at that time, and after holding them 17 years sold for one third to one half the first cost.
Probably only a few remember when we had a street railway line chartered up through Mill street and other points of the city, and the survey of railroad from northwest to Beloit and the Santa Fe from Barnard, Kansas to Beloit and right of way bought and paid for additions away beyond West Beloit and half a mile east of Sturgis addition by the Topeka-Solomon Valley Lot and Development Company.
I was making money and had taken stock in all these projects, subscribing liberally to the expense of railroad surveys. Banks were booming. The Beloit State Bank was organized in 1887. Henry Casey was president, W C Ingram, vice president (3);
W S Search, cashier. I took a liberal amount of stock. Those closely connected with this bank were the three mentioned, with S M Ewing, A H Ellis, A D Moon, G Bolon, James Finnigan and John Bockman. There may have been others. These men all have passed to the Great Beyond. That is the sad part of it—nearly all those who were my associates when I moved in to Beloit, 44 years ago have passed away.
That Bank at times had made good money as investment but during the hard years of 1893 to 1895 all banks were hurt and bank stock depreciated. Then again for several years the banks prospered and stocks sold for more than they were worth. In the past few years, following the World War, banks have lost a great deal of money and many failures have resulted.
Farmers could not keep pace with the great expense and liquidated, the heavy indebtedness cause by the shrinkage of prices after the war, with the result that much paper had to be charge off. But times will be better in banking. With my experience I would advise a young man to adopt a less responsible position. The banking position is far different and much more expensive to operate than it was 40 or 50 years ago.
In 1887, with W H Lockwood, John Hoffman and A G mead, I took stock in a state bank in St Francis, Kansas, Cheyenne county. For a few years it seemed to prosper but during the hard times of 1893-94 the crops failed in that county. Lockwood would send to me for money. I lent it willingly, feeling that all was well, [B]ut when my money was out, he had me endorse for borrowed money at our bank here. Then he had me endorse and guarantee the commissioners of his county for money his bank was using. In July, 1894, I became uneasy, thinking all was not safe. I was already putting up monthly, here in Beloit, on several bad propositions. On July 4 I started for St Francis and after a long round about way, drove into the town. Will was glad to see me. John Hoffman first had quit the bank and gone to Springfield, Missouri, to his tailoring trade. I looked over the bank, found he had only a little money, most of his assets were in tax deeds, mortgages that he could not collect on. We drove through the county, no crops, no water, only a little stock, land all mortgaged, interest back on mortgages, taxes unpaid and a bad outlook. Will hitched his horse and buggy and we started for Goodland. Will asked what I thought of the bank. I told him it was busted. He was surprised. Then I explained—told him all the assets of the county were used up, even the land given to people had been mortgaged, money all gone, even the mortgage companies could not pay taxes. I told him I wanted to give my stock to him, that I was the only stockholder who was solvent and the paper I was on, with the double liability would hurt me, and my Mitchell county obligations were all I could meet. I told him he would pay me what he owed me from the bank, release me from all other securities as well as the security to the county commissioners, I would deliver all my stock to him. He said he would accept it all; all he could pay down was $600 equity in a farm in Turkey Creek township. About this time Ellis appointed Lockwood postmaster. Mrs Lockwood did the work of the post office and Will looked after the bank. At that time, there were three banks in St Francis. Our bank had three or four empty buildings all on the south side of the street. Fortunately for Lockwood, fire broke out and burned all the north side of the street, including the other two banks. Lockwood rented his vacant buildings at once and had no competition in banking, and he prospered until he sold out. Since my experience, crops have been generally fair in Cheyenne county and I could have made oceans of money if I had bought up those tax deeds. I have no regrets, though, even to this day.
After my family moved from the farm to Beloit, I was very busy in my office. I was there early and late. At that time the population of Mitchell county was 18,000, one-third more than at this present time . The Register of Deeds received all the fees, no losses. I made some money on the side,ß making reports to banks and other concerns of mortgages recorded. I worked all the time myself. I wanted the second term and made friends all the time.
The office paid well and I wanted the money. I also made chattel loans and some abstracts and my income was increasing, yet my obligations became more heavy. I invested again in real estate, especially during 1893 to 1895. I was then the owner of 2160 acres of fine level upland farms. During the dull days of early 90s, upland was selling at $8 to $10 an acre, with good improvements. No one seemed to want to buy. This was during the Populist craze. After the campaign of 1896 land advanced rapidly. Crops were better. The years 1892 and 92 brought fine wheat but the price was 50 cents. The 1896 corn sold for 10 cents per bushel. I attended the Republic national convention in St Louis in 1896, when McKinley was nominated. I then went on to visit the old home in Grand Chain, Illinois. My brother Robert, a long sufferer, had passed away. I met friends and relatives, including my brother Warren from Florida.
Times continued good all through 1887, crops were not exceptional but money was plentiful. In the summer or fall of 1887 I attended the G A R encampment at St Louis. There I met many of the boys I had not seen since July 1865 when we were discharged from service. I had not attended a G A R reunion since 1884, at Denver. Here at Denver we had a good delegation from Beloit, White Hicks, Jim Duff and wife, Sam Ewing and many others. This was my first sight of the mountains. I made every hour count. I saw Colorado Springs, Garden of the Gods, over the Loop, Ruxton Creek, walked up Pike’s Peak, and ate breakfast there, July 4, 1884. There was only a trail up the mountain then. I started up in the evening and had to camp at timber line that night without blankets. It was a great trip and I shall always remember it. I have been over the same circuit many times since but the first time was the most interesting.
The year 1887 passed very pleasantly. I was nominated for second term by acclamation. N L Wilson was my Democratic opponent and Carry Byrd on another ticket. I had many more votes than the other two combined.
During the year 1888 nothing of special importance occurred. I gave my time closely to the office, invested in some tax certificates which netted 18 percent on investment and if not taken up within three years a deed would issue from county clerk to holder of the tax certificate. I secured deeds to quite a number of pieces of land. If the owner offered to redeem the land, I usually charged him all I have been out on interest and principal and $25 which offer always was gladly accepted. Interest during this time was at the rate of 15 to 18% and was more easily collected than at the present time when the rate is 8%. The year 1889 gave us a record production of corn, price 25 cents per bushel.
On January 1, 1890, Mr Chapman defaulted in payments for the old homestead I had sold him. The payments due me were $3000 principal and $660 interest. He had previously given me a quit claim deed to the farm and a chattel mortgage on his corn. Even then I would not have been repaid, except that I cribbed the corn and when the 1890 crop failed, I sold it for a good profit.
The year 1890 was probably the poorest corn year we have ever had. I owned at this time one of the best quarter-sections of land near Beloit, now known as the David Porter farm. I sold all my interest (one-third) to Dr Swigart for $100. On the upland most the stalks fell down while they were very immature. This was a hard year for the farmers, but luckily was followed by two fine wheat years, 1891 and 1892, with yield of 30 to 50 bushels, price 50 cents. I had continued making my visits to my old home at least every two years, always making headquarters at the home of my brother Gus. We usually held family reunions, with about 100 present.
My term of office expired in January 1890. I was succeeded by F M Applegate from Glen Elder. My niece and assistant, Miss Ida Bartleson continued to help in the office for a few months, then she went to San Frisco, Calif married Frank Heacock, a fine Beloit boy. They were a fine couple. There were married at the home of my good friend, the former county treasurer of Mitchell county, R W Lundy. Ida now has two children, - a boy and a girl, both married and both with children. How Time flies!
In the fall of 1888, Sam Ewings’s coal office was just south of the old frame office of the Register of Deeds, now Youngs law office. The boys at Ewing’s yard had been eating some of Dan Koch’s water melons. As I looked out at them, they began throwing rinds at me.
I ran across and tackled one of them, J H Middaugh. We got into a wrestle. He threw me. I tried to protect myself in the fall by putting out my left hand. He was too strong and both of us, landing our weight on my left arm, it gave way and doubled back at the elbow, not breaking bones but tearing ligaments loose. I was badly crippled for several years. My arm is crooked, although it does not hurt me. How foolish can one be!
On June 16, 1888, my wife gave me another daughter, Mary Beatrice. We now had four boys and three girls living. They were all growing, the house was too small and I had an addition built and that for the present was sufficient.
My wife and had her dear friends but cared nothing for societies, clubs or parties. She was a member of the Christian church, belonged to the Woman’s Relief Corps and to Naomi chapter, Order of Eastern Star. After the hard year of 1890, as I have said, came the Populist party. After its start, it came with a rush. It took all but a few stand patters.
The great John J Ingalls [Republican Senator from Kansas 1873-1891] made a fine address in an auditorium we had build at great expense. We hoisted a flag nearly to the moon—a parade with our stand up blue Badges. Ingalls, the great orator, spoke to thousands in Beloit, and he said he did not win a smile from one of them. Those were trying times—friend against friend. Time solves all things and after the Populists had had their innings throughout the whole state, from county officers, legislature, governor, Congressmen, Senators, the party at last was ousted—I hope never to return in the same rapid fashion.
After retiring from the Register of Deeds office in 1890, I owned quite a number of farms occupied by tenants. For a year I looked after my farms and investments, having a good mare and buggy. I spent some of my time driving to the country and improving the farms. I soon tired of too much leisure time and formed a partnership with Woodward.
Our firm was known as Bartleson & Woodward, Abstractors, Insurance and Loans. I had bought a set of abstract books from Barns and Calderhead, and they gave me a clear title. I spent a good deal of time and money bringing them up to date, then the former owners presented the courts a property note and took the books from me. At that time it was not the custom to record property notes. Their action relieved me from further abstracting, which I afterwards regarded as a blessing. Woodward soon moved west and I was left along with the insurance business, which I have continued to this time.
I was then located in the front office of what is now the Bunch building—then the Bank of Beloit. I W Gaylord and I were in the same office for several years. He, too, was in the insurance business. After Gaylord retired, F J Knight and I occupied the same office. We afterward moved to the Dilworth building, now the location of Raleigh & Bracken furniture store. Knight surely was one of most honorable men I have ever known. Our associations were most pleasant. I continued my office in the Dilworth building until about 1917 when I moved to my present office over the Beloit State Bank. I had been a lover of fraternal societies since coming to Beloit. I joined the I O O F in 1886, all the Masonic bodies in 1887, serving in all the chairs. I was also a Shriner. In the spring of 1892 the Knight Templar Conclave was held in Denver, Colorado. Wife and I decided we would attend together. Heretofore we had made our visits separately. Mary was then four years old. Our good neighbors in the country, Mr and Mrs John Hall and Mr and Mrs Blackford, said they would keep the small children. Better people never lived. I was under much obligation to them for many favors. All have passed this life.
Our older boys were working out at farms. Chan Perdue, W C Hoffmeister and I were put on a committee for transportation. We had a low rate for the round trip. We more than filled our Pullman. The committee received free tickets for themselves and wives. It was a great meeting. Times were good. All the states kept open house with their state products on exhibition, free. California with her Black Horse commendary [reference unknown], fruits, wines and good things on display; Kentucky with all kinds of drinks from lemonade, on—and to hear those Noble Knights greet the Kansans, “Would you like a drink, Sir Knight?” How could one resist?
After visiting everything of interest in Denver, Colorado Springs, Pike’s Peak, Wife and I decided we would visit Salt Lake. We bought round trip tickets, $50 each, to Salt Lake and return to Denver. We went by way of the Colorado Midland, over Hagerman Pass, which at that time was over the top of the mountain by Leadville, 11,000 feet elevation, since the road ran through a tunnel. It was much too high for my wife,-did not affect me. The scenery was beautiful. I have been over the mountains several times since, over all the passes, but never enjoyed the trip so much as that time. Only the Canadian Pacific through the Canadian Rockies offers as majestic scenery. Also, the Grand Canyon is greater. Our stay in Salt Lake was enjoyable. We returned to Denver on the D & R G narrow gauge, over Marshall Pass, where four inches of snow fell as we were going through. One mishap of the trip was the illness that befell John Rummel, small son of Mr and Mrs Joe (Al) Rummel, who were with us at Salt Lake City. He recovered and we started home. This visit will always be remembered as one of the most satisfactory in my life. My wife enjoyed it to the limit, despite her discomfort at the high elevation. We felt the money had been well spent as we reached home and found children all well and happy.
In 1893 I attended the World’s Fair in Chicago. This was a Great Fair, with nearly all foreign countries represented in their separate buildings. Each had its individual display. It would be impossible to mention the many different interesting features. The Great Midway with its fun and frolic. A great attraction to me were the groups of different nationalities, colors, dress and music. One of my old friends from Mitchell country—Mose Mitchell—lived in Chicago, and he helped me very much by guiding me to points of interest. This was my first visit to Chicago and the city on the broad lake was a sight in itself. I visited the Chicago Commandery of Knights Templar in the Masonic Temple—since then the building has been far surpassed by other great sky scrapers. I returned by way of Grand Chain, Illinois, my old home. Had another splendid visit with relatives and friends. We were now in the time of Cleveland’s administration. The times were very panicky. Many failures occurred, not like the panic of 1873 when failures were confined principally to the east, but, because of tariff revision or other cause, strikes were occurring all over the country, and depression was general. Free Silver swept the country and continued until after the election of 1896 and the inauguration of McKinley the following March. Then came a quick recovery.
On April 4, 1894, we moved to the corner of 4th and Pine streets where Mrs William Kettler is now living. We had lived at the corner of 5th and Mill streets, the Blood lots, for eight years. During that time the children had grown. Mary was 6 years old and Clarence 19 years. We needed more room. I traded with J M Hamilton, giving him $1100 difference in the two homes. I lived there with other good neighbors, J F Soper, John W McCall and families, for four or five years. Again our family out grew the house, I either had to re-build or buy a large house. I never liked remodeling, so looked around for a house for sale. Through a friend of mine I heard that Mrs Hart would sell the large stone house between Main and Court streets, on Campbell avenue. (insert photo) Mrs Hart was rather a peculiar woman and had to be approached quietly. I visited her a number of times and talked house. She was very anxious to sell, but I never asked her for a price. She finally told me what she was going to do after she sold. I told her I would not be able to buy all her fine furniture, so decided to ship it to Iowa. Finally she asked me to make her a price. After some hesitancy I told her if she would throw in the carpets and two very large mirrors I would give her $3000. She went up in the air but came down again. We traded and after quite a while she shipped all furniture and fittings to Iowa. I had to buy the property cheap as there was a great deal to do to put all in shape, beside, taxes and a large house to maintain is a large expense.
I afterwards sold to C P Bartleson and he remodeled the interior and put in hot water heating system. I had kept up the property for thirteen years, putting in a good water system. My old property at the corner of 5th and Pine I sold to William Kettler for $1700 / very cheap, but I did not want to rent it.
So, in September 1898, we moved to the stone mansion, my wife and I and our seven children. Afterwards—within four years, only myself and two girls, Maude and Mary, were left at home. My good wife, my dear companion of more than thirty years, after a long, lingering ailment, passed this life December 31, 1902. She was a good mother and a loving wife. She had shared the hardships of a homestead pioneer life. All loved her that knew her. Most of our old farm neighbors have passed away. How I look back with pleasure to the good neighborly visits we used to have when we would hitch the mules to the farm wagon, load in the family, visit all day and talk over our plans. All that now is in the past.
Next: The Turn of a New Century