Biography - Margaret Maie Pike

by

Kelvin Keena

 

Not all senior citizens in North Dakota were born hereand although they may have been raised elsewhere they shared the same kindsof experience as the North Dakota pioneers. My great grandmother, who nowresides in Cavalier, began her life in Iowa. A lot of things have happenedin her life and she remembers them well.

Margaret Maie Elder was born in 1888 on an 80 acre farmabout eight or ten miles from a small town called Alerton in Clay County,Iowa, near the Missouri state line. Maie was the second youngest and was85 years old in August, 1973. She and her youngest sister, Edna, who was83 in December, are the only two left in their family of eight childrenof four boys and four girls.

As children, they walked to a country school built on topof a hill. The school terms were split and summer terms were attended byyounger children who didn't have to help with the farm work or hire outas help. The winter term was for all; some big boys as old as twenty-oneyears old attended. She has school group pictures and in one of them, herfour older brothers and another sister are shown. One brother in the picturewas the oldest.

The old school house Maie attended in Iowa burned downone cold winter night. It was heated with a wood burning stove. In the backwas a crack where ashes would sift out. There was a wooden box with sawdustin it where the older boys kept their ink bottles from freezing. One nightthey assumed a spark from the fire in the stove fell through that crackand started the fire. When they went to school the next morning, they foundno schoolhouse. One of her brothers found Maie's long slate pencil whereher seat had been and she kept it four years but lost it in moving. A newschoolhouse rebuilt in the very same place.

Maie remembers what fun they had at noon time and recessesat the school on top of the hill. Of course, there was sledding down thehill in winter, but the most fun was one dry summer when they all slid downthat hill on a long board with eighteen or twenty big and little boys andgirls on it. The hill became so slick they could not hardly walk up it wherethey had already slid.

When Maie was twelve years old, her father sold their 80acres in Iowa and they moved to South Dakota. That summer, he had boughtfour quarters of land near Cavalier. Her older brother, Orma, had marriedand was farming in Iowa. In July or August, 1900, two brothers, Fred andJim, and a friend started for their new home with a covered wagon and drivingeighteen or twenty head of horses. They got through fine and had thingsready for the rest of the family when they arrived in October. Her father,William, mother, Sarah, and an older sister, Rosa; brother, Willis, andherself and younger sister, Edna, traveled in a covered wagon and a surreydriven with a pair of ponies. As night came on, they tried to camp in afarmer's yard where they could get hay and water for the horses. They carriedtheir own oats for the horses. Some nights it was quite late before theywould find a camping spot but as a rule the people were quite friendly.Maie's job was to help Willis water the horses and pony.

The trip took two weeks to make to Cavour in Beadly County,South Dakota. One Sabbath Day was spent on the road and early that Saturdayher father started trying to find a place where they could get hay for theweekend. Towards evening he found a place and the farmer told them the nextday he knew it was safe to let them in his yard when they said they didn'twant to travel on the Sabbath Day. While Willis and Maie took care of thehorses, the rest put up the tent and got supper. Her mother and sister,Rosa, cooked on a two burner oil stove. The mother and the girls slept inthe covered wagon on feather beds. They never had a surrey until they gotready to leave Iowa. They had had a lumber wagon with a spring seat andthe children sat on a quilt spread over hay in the back. At night, the childrencould lie down and sleep because horses didn't travel fast and althoughher father would sometimes trot them, he was pretty easy with his horses.

Perhaps you wondered why her brothers drove so many horsesto South Dakota. Her father ran a threshing machine - a big Avery and hadto have horses for the bundle wagons at the times when they couldn't thresh.He had a steam engine for the threshing rig. He and his threshing crew oftwenty-five men went around the county harvesting for any farmer that neededthem. Her father boarded the men who worked for him free in his home andthis meant that her mother and sister, Rosa, cooked for the men with Ednaand herself getting on with the dishwashing. Maie remembers an old Swedethat always especially enjoyed her mother's doughnuts. She would ratherhave doughnuts for breakfast as a special treat, and one was never for him.During the harvest season, Maie drove a team to the header-box wagon andraked flax by the acre for the threshing crew. This was hard work for agirl but after the land was paid for, her father gave up threshing and lifebecame easier for all of them.

Their food was mostly home grown produce, wild fruits,home baked breads, and pastries. Their canning was done in stone jars wrappedwith brown paper and then sealed with wax. They also used some tin and dida lot of preserving by salting. They dried their own corn and then soakedit before using. They made different kinds of pickles, jellies, and jams.They also raised their own chickens and had their own eggs. Eggs were worthabout three cents a dozen she remembers and they used eggs rather than moneyto trade with when peddlers came to the farm with other goods.

There was quite a bit of timber around the farm in Iowaand in the fall they picked nuts: walnuts, hickory and hazel nuts. As arule, the walnut husks weren't dry enough to shuck until they had stooda long time and then that husk had to be cracked off. The hazel and hickorynuts came out clean and were picked up from the ground. The walnuts werekept in a big mound out north of the house and there were rocks and hammersthere to use. If anybody wanted a walnut, they went out and cracked theirown.

The roads then usually started at some farm door and angledacross the country to a town and she remembers that one went between theirbarn and house. Her father kept a herd of cattle somewhere between seventyand eighty-five head and there was always herding to do because there wereno fences. They were dead tired when night came but there was still milkingto do. The family milked about twenty cows. Boys and girls milked cows althoughthe girls got the easier ones. One time the men folk went fishing overnightsomeplace and that left the milking to her morning and night. Her motherhelped carry pails of milk which they put in ten gallon cans. Those canswere mighty heavy when they were filled with milk. The milk was taken tothe creamery where they separated it and washed out the cans. One time herfather had taken the milk to the creamery and as he drove up onto a shortlanding platform that was graded quite high to the door, something scaredthe ponies and they jumped and ran. Her father was thrown out of the wagon,and his head stuck a rock. They brought him home awake, but still dazed,and he didn't get over it for a couple of days.

They also had chickens and Maie had a knack of some kindwith those hens. She could tell when a hen was on the wrong nest. She'dtell her mother they were wrong and her mother could go out to the chickencoop and set the right chicken on the nest.

Birthdays and holidays mostly just came and went withoutmuch fuss as she remembers. Birthdays never rated a special cake and ifthey got anything near a present, it would be perhaps a homemade calicodress or apron. The girls wore little pinafores with ruffles around it overtheir dresses. Their dresses were worn somewhere between the knee and theankle. The boys might get a new pair of bib overalls. After her oldest brother,Orma, was married to Susy, the daughter of a German merchant who ran a countrystore, they would spend an occasional weekend at home and Susy would bringboxes and sackfuls of stuff from the store. Maie remembers little cakesfrosted up with colored marshmallows stuff. She and Edna gloried in thatbecause they had never had anything like it before. Susy could play theorgan and sing. They had an old fashioned organ in there and Susy sang asong called "The Cat Came Back" which became their favorite. Thissong has been sung to each grandchild and great-grandchild many times.

Christmas was never celebrated in the way we know it today.It was a religious holiday; but not a holiday in our sense of the word.They never had presents nor a lot of special foods.

When Maie was an eighth grader in school in South Dakota,the music store in Huron ran a contest in the paper. They were giving awayto anyone who could find and make the most words out of the word Hamilton.Maie's mother said she could try and that winter in school, she went througha great many Webster Dictionary. She started with "AY" and tookeach letter and went down every row of that dictionary. She won second prizewhich was one hundred and fifty dollars toward a piano. Maie doesn't rememberwho got first prize nor how many more words they had, but her prize moneywas about half the cost of the piano. She doesn't know how her mother didit, but she got a piano for Maie. She and Edna took lessons and learnedto play hymns and pieces. In the winter time, the school Literary Societypout on programs and had box lunches afterwards for social events. She remembersthat she and Edna sang at almost every one of those meetings.

Maie spent two summers, in 1907 and 1910, at Stafford,Kansas, with her sister, Edith, after Edith was married. There was a groupof young men and women her age in the church there and they did a lot ofhorseback riding together in their spare time. Maie especially remembersa slumber party she attended while there. They went to the party where theyplayed games in the yard. The girls laid feather ticks throughout the frontand dining rooms and covered up with quilts. The girls started telling ghoststories and there was much giggling and laughing going on to the point whereno one could sleep if they wanted to. After helping tidy the house the nextmorning, they all got to go horseback riding until noon. After lunch, theyleft for home stiff and sore. As she remembers it, all ate from the pantryshelf for a week afterwards.

In 1913, Maie Elder married Glen Pike, a young man fromIowa who farmed in South Dakota. One summer they had a lot of trouble withlightning. During one storm, their house was struck in the night with thelightning traveling down through the gable and down the three stories intothe bedroom. It blew out all the stops in the chimney upstairs and down.There was about six inches of soot all over the front room on her rug andit took six gallons of salt to clean it up. The salt was dampened, spreadon the rug, swept around with the broom and picked up and carried out. Thelightning hadn't started a fire but everywhere the lightning had traveledin the lumber, it was splintered and blackened. Soon after, two yearlingswere killed in a pasture down the road. The wind and rain had driven themto the fence and as they stood touching the fence, they were struck. Theyearlings were both black and a perfect match. They would have made a dandydriving team. A few weeks later a shock of grain across the road from theirhouse was hit and burned, and the next storm hit a post in the garden fenceand splintered it to pieces. Later, that same fall, a mare in the pasturewith a few weeks old colt was acting strangely one forenoon and when theyinvestigated, the colt was dead. They hadn't seen lightning but they hadheard a rumble of thunder that morning and they suspected lightning. Itwas difficult to persuade the insurance man it was lightning until a neighborcut the skin down by the colt's leg and they found it all blackened on theinside.

The Pike's bought their first car in 1918 and it was aFord. The first time she remembers seeing a car was at church. A fellowhad a Sears and Roebuck car with great big round wheels with narrow rubbertires on it. The wheels had spokes in them and the seat was up high. Theman sat at the steering wheel on the right hand of the car. The lady withhim had a great big hat on tied with a scarf. The car had no top on it andwhen he began to speed away, the wind took her hat right off. The Pike'smoved to Backoo, North Dakota, the first part of March, 1920 and they livedand farmed there until her husband passed away in August, 1940.

The move to North Dakota involved two boxcars of furnitureand livestock which were shipped to Backoo on a coal and wood fired trainand supervised by her brother, Willis. Her family, husband Glen and fiveyear old daughter, Evelyn came ahead on the passenger train to her cousin'sBen Moore, who lived north of Cavalier. They stayed with him until the freightcame. The morning came after Willis had called and announced his arrival,the men took sleighs and teams and struck off cross country to Backoo. Thesnow was so deep that winter they simply rode over the tops of fences. Neighborsfound out they were there and came to help haul their belongings to thefarm. She recalls it was bitterly cold the morning they were unloading anda Mr. Simpkins, who ran the general store right across the depot, invitedthem over for breakfast. Glen had just bought a nice new overcoat beforeleaving South Dakota and he took it off, threw it over a crate and wentto eat. When he came back, his coat was torn in shreds and most of it wasinside the crate which had a hog inside.

The next day they took their personal belongings with themand moved into their house to stay. Glen and Willis went to work puttingup a hard-coal stove and range in the kitchen. It was 30 below zero thatmorning and she thought they'd freeze their feet before the men got thosestoves started. They bundled Evelyn up in blankets to keep her warm. Thenext thing they needed to do was fumigate the house and it took them oneweek to get settled.

They had a herd of registered Holstein cows which theykept built up so they could sell purebred cattle. At that time, $100.00was a very good price for each head and this was the way they got moneyto make improvements and buy machinery. When Evelyn started school, shebecame involved with 4-H and her project became sheep after Ben Moore hadgiven her a lamb one spring as a pet. She named this lamb Bo-Peep and itsfavorite resting place was the step in front of the kitchen door. In coldweather, they put Bo-Peep in a shed for the night and the sheep wasn't fondof this routine. Bo-Peep wore a leather strap around her neck and it tookmany turns around the house, over the tops of snow drifts, and much coaxingbefore they could catch her. One year, they kept the wool from that sheepand made it into mats for comforters which they still have. Evelyn and herwent to Canada and got some registered sheep and started a joint projectof raising sheep. Evelyn was to get part of the proceeds if they sold anyand from then on and this money, along with a $25.00 bond they had givenher, put her through college at Mayville, North Dakota.

A contest was sponsored by the farm paper in Minneapolisfor many years and some of these lambs won first prize in certain weightgroups for several years. One prize was a silver wrist watch which was givento Maie's oldest grandson when he graduated from high school and the othersilver pocket watch was given to another grandson for a keepsake.

A few years after the death of her husband, my great grandmothermoved into Cavalier where she lived alone until January, 1973. She thenwent to live with her daughter, Evelyn Pike Becker, at Cavalier. She is85, still bakes, quilts and embroiders, and corresponds with friends andrelatives in Canada and various parts of the United States. She has fivegrandchildren and ten great-grandchildren and is happiest when they areall together.

 

Bibliography

Pike, Mrs. Maie; Cavalier, North Dakota; Interviewed, December,1973egrandchildren and ten great-grandchildren and is happiest when they areall together.

 

Bibliography

Pike, Mrs. Maie; Cavalier, North Dakota; Interviewed, December,1973