LIFE IN THE MINNESOTA WILDERNESS, 1881
by Della Martha Marmon Grubb
Transcribed verbatim by Jim Marmon
"This history is typed from Della Martha Marmon Grubb's notes.
I have tried to type the story just as she wrote it."
Jim Marmon ~ 1961
Della Marmon Grubb
September 12, 1876 ~ February 3, 1950
I Della Martha (Marmon) Grubb was born at Ponca, Nebraska on Sept. 12, 1876, the daughter of Robert Marmon and Lydia (Mattison) Marmon. Father moved from Elk Heart (Indiana) to Elk Point, South Dakota in a covered wagon drawn by oxen. His first wife died there. He married Lydia Mattison, my mother, and three children were born there. Then they moved to Ponca, Nebraska where I was born. I had 15 brothers and two sisters, and a .wonderful I father and mother. When I was a small child, Father moved to Smithland, Iowa, and when I was 5, he moved with covered wagon to Mud Lake, Minn., six miles south of Aitkin. We lived in a hay tent. (about 1881) Where the Mud Lake cemetary is now, mother and father are buried. We lived there about one winter and summer, then moved to the big lake, Mille Lacs Lake, and took a homestead. (about 1882) There was a sugar camp on our place, where father tapped the maple trees. Us children carried the sap to camp. Father tended to the boiling of the sap and made a barrel of maple syrup, lots of Maple sugar and at the last made a barrel: of vinegar. We were right in the wilderness, lots of wild animals, & Indians. We never saw a white woman or child for over two years. One christmas nite two Indian girls came to the door and as I opened the door one girl kissed me and the other girl kissed one of my brothers. We were so scared and mother gave them some doughnuts and cookies.
My brother Maywood shot and killed a Indian for a deer. The Indian had a deer hide over his back and head. My brother ran all the way home, five miles or so. My father walked ten miles to a white man's house that had an Indian woman for a wife, He could talk good Indian, so he came with father and they went to the Indian camp the very next morning. They had the dead Indian there. This squaw man acted as an interpter. My brother told just how it happened, and the squaw man told the Chief and they took it as an accident. They brought the corpse to our house and stayed all night. There was the dead Indian's wife, his brother, and his wife and a sister of the dead Indian. They all slept on the floor with their heads against the coffin. My father made a coffin out of rough lumber and my mother and sister papered it inside with paper. They put dried venison inside the coffin for him to eat. on the way to the Happy Hunting Ground and a pipe to smoke there in the morning. The brother took a big hunting knife and took 8 slashes across the head of the coffin. Then my sister Minnetta's husbond and another man, Bert Brownell, took the corpse and all these Indians to the burning ground acrosst the big lake.
There was no law on fishing and hunting. We had all the venison and fish we wanted. There was lots of wild berries; raspberries, blueberries, cranberries, goosberries.& strawberries. Mother dried flower sacks full of berries. The Indians (Chippawa) were very friendly with us. They would camp on our land. We lived in a one room log house that father and the boys built. Two years later, father moved in a Swedish settlement in and around us, with his ox team. It would take him 5 days to go to the nearest town, twenty two miles away. They would stay with us till he could move them on farther in the wilderness on their homesteads. Where ever nite over took father, he just un yoked the oxen and tie them to the wagon. Then he would roll up in a blanket under the wagon. After those Swedish people got settled, they came and built father a big log house. They hewed the logs on both sides tell the walls were straight down on both sides and smooth. They put the logs together by rounding the top log and making groves and put them together with wooden pins. It was a warm house and it had a winding stairs.
My father was a Civil War Veteran and was wounded in his right arm. He said the doctor was a drunk and let his arm freeze and burst in the elbow. So he had no use of his arm.
We had some cows later and kept all the young stock. The boys and I made hay by hand, mowed it with a cythe, shocked it, and poled in the shocks with two poles run under the shock. One go ahead and one go behind and carry it to the stack.
We use to get an old Indian to help us find our cows, in the woods. This Indian's name was Pedett and he would put his ear to the ground and listen. We could not hear anything but old Pedett would go straight to the cows. One cow named Lade had a bell on her.
The Indians would have their dances and we could hear them singing and hear their drums. One day father took us kids to a little medow to schock hay, tied the oxen to the wagon, and he walked through the woods to Mr Peterson's house at his homestead. While he was gone we were shocking hay, we heard an aufle noise in the woods. We all ran to the wagon, got in it, and had our pitchforks and ready for battle. Just then a big buck deer came into the meadow not far from us. He was running with his tung hanging out, acted so tierd and behind him a big timber wolf and behind a second big timber wolf. They never looked at us and after they crossed the meadow and in the timber, we hears the deer bawling and an awfle racket. Father had his gun or we would of worried about him. The Indians left their canoes with us in our hay mough. One of my little brothers died there with croup, while we lived there. Lots of mornings we would get up and the floor would be covered with Indians a sleep. They had came in the night and spread down blankets and slept on them. Father and mother never locked the doors and everybody was welcome and father always said "there is room for one more" and always said, "I manage to have bread with it" (that was bread and what ever he could get to go with it ) and always said, "The more the merrier".
After the Swedish people moved in, they built a log house for a school house in the thick woods a mile from our place. Irene Dinwiddie was the first teacher. She boarded with father and mother. She was a great hunter and a great shot with a rifle. Her and I hunted lots together for deer in a little lake not far from our house. A moose came to the lake to drink one evening while we were there in our canoe. We did not shoot at the moose, but just watched it. The same evening we saw a deer come down in the rushes and nibbling at the tall grass that grew out of the water. I was paddling and steering the boat, so I ran the boat quite close to the deer till she put up her hand, I stopped and she shot and broke its neck. I had to get out in the mud and water to lift it into the boat. Then row the boat one mile to where we could land the boat.
Us children learned to talk Indian and the Swedish language. We were the only American children in that school and we numbered over half the school. Irene Dinwiddie got only 30 dollars a month. Father sold his homestead when I was only sixteen (1892) and moved to Lane Lake, 10 miles south of Aitkin, the nearest town. Father bought 52 acres of land there of Charlie Northrop my brother in law, who married my sister 4 years older than I (Minnetta). He had a bee ( bee means- that all neighbors come and built a house in one day) and they built the big log house on the 52 acres. That was in the summer of 1893. In 1897 I was married there in that log house to Milton Joel Grubb. He owned 40 acres of land by Lake and we moved on the place the first of May 1897. The evening we were married, we had a big dinner. Some of them drank coffee, my brother Maywood sat on the floor with an old fashioned coffee mill and had it between his knees grinding coffee and singing. Thirteen months after that, our daughter Madge was born on the 16 April 1898 and eighteen months after that our son Robert Willard was born, 10 Oct 1899. We desided to move again. We sold our farm and moved to White Earth, North Dakota and took a homestead on the big Missouri River. We lived there for a year and got homesick for our old home state Minn. With a horse team and covered wagon we roved back to Aitkin, Minn. and bought 40 acres of land on Mud River and built a house in the spring of 1903. The next spring, 1904, our third child was born 12 March 1904 (Marion Lee). When he was three years old, we sold our forty acres and started to Oklahoma with horseteam and covered wagon. There was three covered wagons and two single rigs. We were five weeks in a covered wagon. We came back acrost Neb and South Dakota into North Dakota.
I and three children took the train from there for Aitkin, Minn. to my mothers. My husbond worked in North Dakota through Harvesting and thrashing, and came on to Aitkin with horses and covered wagon. We bought a 80 acres of land there and built a nice farm house (log cabin) 1905. He cleared the land around the house of tall pine trees. Our house was small with one window and door. It had an attic in it which served as a spare bed room when company came.
The Indians come and got food of us when on their trapping trips at the small lakes near us. We lived in this small house until my husbond built our big frame house. We all worked very hard clearing the land and plowing, raising crops for food for our family.
I was called many times by neighbors to go and care for the sick either night or day. One time I had to go in the winter in deep snow miles to a house of a Swedish family. The mother was in labor with her child and I had to take my youngest son Merle, 3 years, along with me. I stayed two days until mother and child were doing ok.
We were happy to move into our new house and lived there until 1929 when we moved to North Dakota near White Earth. We leased a large ranch and stayed there only two years. We decided to go farther west. We made two trips to Idaho before we decided it was the place for us to settle and stay.
We bought lots on Whitney bench on Hervey Art (sp?) . My husbond built a modern house by himself for us. By this time all our children were married. In the meantime I found the right and true church and was baptized Oct 11, 1942 into the Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and was very happy to do my part making quilts and my husbond going to cannery to help. We belonged to the third ward. My husbond died in 1950 so I sold my home and lived in different apts and with my daughter Madge
Submitted by Michalene whose grandmother, Blanche Whitford, was Della's first cousin.
You may contact Michalene to share family information.