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The Odebolt Chronicle

Pioneer Days

THIS WEEK Jacob Anderson Tells of the early days on the "Cook Ranch" 
and big blizzard of 1880.

EDITOR'S NOTE: This is the first of a series of stories by pioneer settlers in this community, one appearing in the Chronicle each week.  An invitation is extended to all pioneers to tell of their experiences…..

Jacob Anderson

Everything has a starting point, and Mr. Anderson's starting for the west happened one day at Geneva, Illinois, where he resided before coming to Sac county.

C. W. Cook, the original owner of the "Cook Ranch" also lived at Geneva, and one day Mr. Cook said to Mr. Anderson, "Jake I could use a man of your calibre [sic] out on my ranch in Sac county if you only had a wife". The next time Mr. Anderson called on the young lady that was soon to become his wife, they talked over what Mr. Cook had said and they then made up their minds to take Horace Greeley's advice and go west, which they did. After coming here they worked on the ranch for six months, and then Mr. Anderson was given the job of superintending the big farm, and in this capacity served for five years.

During the time this young couple worked for Mr. Cook, and in the year 1878 they bought an eighty in section 28, Cook township, joining Mr. Cook's land on the North. For this eighty they paid $480 or $6 per acre, and about one year later bought an additional forty joining his eighty, paying $8 per acre. In another three years he bought a forty from Mr. Cook, paying $30 per acre, and this last purchase made the farm of 160 acres about what Mr. Anderson wanted, and none has been bought or sold since then. Mr. Anderson was like most of the early settlers in regard to money matters, did not have very much, and as it takes money to operate a farm, the couple continued to work for Mr. Cook, saving all they could as they were anxious to begin farming for themselves, so after the first tract was bought it was not improved until two years later, and then a man was hired to break up 100 acres. The breaking cost Mr. Anderson $1.75 per acre. The year following this, the farm was rented to David Carr, a single man, who boarded with a family by the name of Alderson. Mr. Carr sowed the 100 acres to flax which proved to be a light crop that year, and Mr. Anderson received only enough for his share to about pay him for the breaking of the land. Mr. Cook had 800 acres broke the same year Mr. Anderson did, but it cost him only $1.50 an acre. In 1880 Mr. Anderson set out his grove, and a little later built a house, and a barn 16x24 with a lean-to. No fences were in the country at this time, cows (if anyone was lucky enough to own one) were staked out. There were practically no roads, mighty few bridges, a culvert over some of the worst places with a few sod thrown against it afforded what was called a crossing. The country was very wet in places, all draws on the farm were at various times impossible to cross, and farmers would construct a bridge that they could haul from one crossing to another.

In 188[?] [illegible] this young couple who had determined to make a home for themselves in the west, moved on their own farm. John had four [?] [illegible] horses, and a few pieces of machinery, no hogs and no cows until one day a family went by his farm bound for Dakota, and they had two cows that they were leading. The cows looked good to Mr. Anderson and he and the owner struck up a bargain. This fellow was moving off the farm now owned by George Ahrenholtz. One of the cows proved to be a good one and the other almost worthless, but the family got milk enough to use, and butter for the table and now and then sold a little butter to neighbors that could not scrape enough money together to buy a cow. The first year on the farm they owned, the 100 acres were planted mostly to corn only 10 acres of oats being planted. This young couple continued to farm this same farm until about 11 years ago when Mr. Anderson bought a home in Odebolt and now he and his wife are living a retired life except to mingle amongst his neighbors and old time friends.

Mr. Anderson has gone through some hardships and has had his share of pleasures since coming to Sac county. At one time when working for Mr. Cook, he was sent to Vail for corn to feed on the ranch. It was in March, and he had to walk most of the way home to keep from freezing to death. Corn was worth from 25 to 30 cents a bushel then--if you could find any for sale.

Another time Mr. Cook shipped a carload of horses here to use on the ranch. They were bought as "Street Car Horses". They had become worthless in Chicago on account of blemishes of one kind or another, mainly feet troubles, and these were often bought by horse buyers and shipped to the West, where, when their shoes were off for a while, and walking on soft ground they would get better of their ailments of city life and do as much work as any.

These were the kind that Mr. Cook was shipping out in this carload. The weather was fine when the horses left Chicago, but one of the old-time blizzards came along blocking this branch of the Northwestern [rail]road, and the horses were sent to Arcadia on the main line and there Mr. Anderson had to go and get them. When he arrived at Arcadia the horses had been there 12 hours, and were still in the car. He and his helper unloaded them, fed and watered them and started for the [Cook Ranch] 35 miles away. [Next several lines illegible--something about "four abreast", and "in a blizzard".]

[illegible]….that helped set out the trees around each section of the ranch. The young cottonwoods were pulled out of the sand on the Missouri bottoms, baled up and hauled across country to the ranch, and set out two rows around each section. Among the cottonwoods were set black walnut trees, these Mr. Anderson does not remember where Mr. Cook bought. Until late years when some of the cottonwoods have been cut down, for wood, or lumber for buildings, the walnut trees did not make much of a growth. These miles of trees, when small and for two or three years were taken care of like corn, plowed to keep the weeds from growing. Cottonwoods were planted for several reasons. Their rapid growth made groves a little sooner than other varieties, they made fair wood, and they were easily gotten. I am thinking that these were not the only reasons; there was a tax exemption then to encourage the planting of timber, on every so many acres planted to trees, on a quarter, a half or a section, that tract would be exempt to the amount of half the taxes for a term of ten years [and so you see] there was more than one reason for the planting of the ugly old cottonwood. Since some of these have been cut down, the walnut trees have made a fine growth. While working for Mr. Cook the self-binder came into use. Mr. Cook bought four the first year, they bound the grain with wire, and the first year the four machines cut and bound 800 acres. One day that harvest Mr. Anderson was running one of the binders and a family in a covered wagon passing by stopped and watched with much interest the working of the then most wonderful piece of machinery, they said ever built. These machines were built by Wm. Deering, and sold then for $325 to the trade. Mr. Cook bought them direct and got them considerably cheaper. Along in these times there were five sets of buildings on the ranch.

It was on the Cook ranch that the first popcorn was raised. The seed being sent to the ranch by Mr. Cook, about a peck. This was not all planted that year, very likely the boys popped some of it, but a few rows were planted in the garden, but the next year about an acre was planted, and the next 8 acres, the next 20 acres and a year or two later 800 acres were harvested. This was all picked by hand, and a part of it sold to the Albert Dickinson Seed Co. of Chicago, and some of it was shipped direct to New York City by Mr. Cook. So these are facts from Mr. Anderson in regard to who was the first to raise popcorn in quantities in Sac county.

When asked if he remembered the blizzard of October 16, 1880 Mr. Anderson said that, very little corn was husked that fall as the storm broke really before the farmers had begun to pick corn.

On the ranch it caught 800 acres of wheat in the stack, and 600 acres of flax. Weather conditions did not permit the threshing of this grain until the following June, but the grain came through the stormy winter and late spring in good condition. When the blizzard struck this country, the ranch had about 200 head of hogs in a lot some ways from the buildings. Thinking the storm would be of short duration they did not pay very much attention to it until it kept on storming with such fury that several men went to drive the hogs where they would be better sheltered. A hog is a contrary animal to drive even in good weather, and in this storm they succeeded in getting all but fourteen, which they discovered later, to the buildings. Two weeks after the storm Mr. Anderson had occasion to go to the spot where they had driven the hogs from. Here was an old stack of straw nearly all rotted away, but these fourteen head of hogs had gotten under the litter and the big storm with lots of snow and ice had covered them up completely and they would not have been found if he had not happened to walk over the spot and break through the crust to where the hogs were. They were dug out and driven to the buildings after being in confinement two weeks, none the worse off except a loss in weight.

The following spring in April, 1881, Mr. Anderson with five of the ranch men drove three carloads of hogs to Odebolt. The roads were something fierce as the snow from the winter had not all melted away, in fact there were places that hogs would break through and down they would go into the slush and water. These hogs topped the Chicago market when they arrived and sold for $2.80 per hundred weight.

The nearest neighbors to the Anderson farm was the Tredway farm, two and one half miles west and a half mile north, and the I. S. Bailey farm two miles away and Chris Paper living on what is now the Scott Rhule farm. The Tredway home was noted for the good times all had there in the early days. There were several boys and just as many girls, and their home was always open to their neighbors.

At the Bailey home three girls and four boys and especially the girls were drawing cards at both of these places. Frank Bailey and family still continue to live on the old homestead that his father settled on in the seventies. The Tredway family scattered to four winds, except one of the grandsons, now in business in Odebolt, under the firm name of Herrig and Tredway.

In early days the Stage road from Ft. Dodge to old Ida Grove, passed one corner of the Anderson farm. Possibly, if one looked close there are still traces of the road if one knew just where to look. Where this trail forded the Boyer river the traces are yet plain, and it was ford then on all creeks and rivers or stay at home.

Mr. Anderson tells that prairie chickens were more than plentiful, and from late August on one could see them anywhere. He said at one time when meat was getting low in their home, he took down the trusty old shotgun and going out on the porch, saw an old cock on the hay stack, he knew this old fellow was on guard and after he had shot him, the balance [illegible]…..killing three. The settlers did not have much fresh meat in those days, as the butchers did not run a meat wagon as they did later, on account of the thinly settled territory.

They of course would buy some fresh meat when in town, but in hot weather they depended on salt pork or corn beef, and what chickens they could shoot. Once in a while a stray deer would be shot, and this was a feast.

This date finds Mr. Anderson 73 years old. He would easily pass for a man of 55 or 60, walks erect, and appears to those who know him free from worry and cares, and he can be truly classed as one of the pioneers of this territory. He has helped to make the country what it is, seen the prairies covered with bluestem, broke his share of the prairies, dug out the redroots and clipped off the shoestrings, and cold-hammered many a dull plow lay.

A man of this caliber cannot help but be a good citizen.

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