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Denton Community
Historical Society

Tales & Trails


January 2007

By Ray Giles

Preface: Ray Giles was born August 12, 1910. His parents were Fred Giles, Sr. and Lottie Abbott. Ray passed away on Nov 2, 2004. Ray told us that he was born on the home place, section 22, southwest corner. He lived there for six years and then moved into the big house in Denton. This was the big home built by Martin Gilbert across from the Methodist church. Fred Giles had purchased it from Timothy F. Sullivan. Fred Sr. died in 1918 and Mrs. Giles, Fred, Jr. and Raymond moved back to the farm. Ray was a gentle man, and we are indebted to him for the following story, taped on May 25, 1999. 

My mother was married twice. She married Charles LeMay, and they lived out on West Van Dorn and they had two children, Josephine and Myrtle. That was back in the 1890’s and one year he decided he would follow the wheat harvest and make some money. So he took a team of mules and a wagon and started following the harvest. He would send his money home and my mother would write to him. He got clear up into South Dakota and then suddenly my mother didn’t hear from him anymore. After awhile there was a piece in the paper from the sheriff in Lincoln and he said he had a notice from the sheriff in South Dakota that they had found a dead man under a bridge. Some children found him. They went home, told their folks and of course they called the sheriff. 

They found a letter on the body that my mother had written to him and she said, “Yesterday I took the girls to the circus.” The name and address was torn off but the date was still there. So this fellow, the sheriff up there, he wrote to the circus and wanted to know where they had showed that day and they wrote back and said they had showed in Lincoln, Nebraska. So the sheriff up there, he wrote to the sheriff in Lincoln about it and he said, “We have reason to believe that someone in Lincoln area might know something about it.” And the sheriff in Lincoln put it in the paper and my grandfather he read it and he said that is right where Charles LeMay was at and about the time. So to find out for sure he went to the sheriff in Lincoln and got some more information and he said, “Yes, that sure sounds like it could be your son-in-law.” So he gets on the train and he goes up there and he talked to the sheriff up there and, of course, he had some personal items that they found and he was identified. 

He had had a team of mules and a wagon, so they got to scouting around in the country up there and they found the mules on a farm. “Where’d you get em?” “Well, I bought them from a guy”. He gave him a good description of the guy and they looked some more and found the wagon in another place. He had bought the wagon from some fella and they had a good description. And they eventually found the fella---down in Missouri. They brought him back to South Dakota for trial and mother took the two girls and went up there and the guy said he admitted he had killed him for the money. He thought he was a long way from home and nobody would know it. But it was just that date, that one little clue that he found out where the circus was on that date. One thing led to another and he spent time up there in South Dakota. And, of course, in those days a young woman, a young widow with any small children—well there were two things you could do. You could be somebody’s housekeeper or you could get married again. Well she met my father. It was about 1897 or 1898.

(change of subject)

The next spring we moved into Denton and lived in the big house. We used to have boarders. People would come out on the train, salesmen, and stay there overnight and the next day they would go around to businesses in the area and then catch another train to go on to Crete.

When we lived in Denton, there was a big barn there. We used to play in the barn and the hayloft door was up there on the north side. We used to get up there with our coaster wagons when there was no hay up there and go around on this hayloft floor. One time it had rained up there and we were there with our coaster wagons, and we took turns going around, one sitting in the wagon and the other one pushing. When we got to the wet spot we’d cramp the wheels and spin around and have fun. Ross Jennings and I were up there, but about the time we were having fun, Ross’s mother would come. “Ross, Ross” she’d always have something for Ross to do. One time she came for Ross, “Ross, Ross’ “Yeah, I’ll be down in a minute.” He was in the wagon, and we went around and I gave him a push. Course, I went down on my hand and knees and when I got up, Ross, the wagon and all were gone. He had gone out the hayloft door. Ross was sitting down by the wagon right beside his mother. We were 10 or 12, I suppose.

When we started out we didn’t have horses. I was still in high school, farming with my brother and my mother was going to keep house for us. There was a sales barn at College View and we bought 4 head of horses there and then we bought a team of Frank Ketterer’s when he was living there, and we got started with 6 horses. Well we farmed for a couple of years and my brother, he didn’t like farming too good, and he got a job on the railroad. We would plant several acres of oats every year. That was horse feed. Instead of buying gasoline we raised our own horse feed. That one team we bought from Ketterer was $250. There was a fellow in Omaha that used to sell harness. His name was Harness Bill and he would advertise on the radio. So when I was still in school, my mother and brother went to Omaha in the Model T car and bought 2 sets of harness from Harness Bill. He was quite a guy.

I had $550 in the Denton Bank when it went broke. After they settled up, we got 25 cents on the dollar and then later we got another 5 cents and we thought that was it and several years later, harvest time was coming up and I needed to buy some twine and I didn’t have but a few dollars. I didn’t have enough to buy all the twine I needed and you couldn’t buy it on credit, they wouldn’t sell to you and I was getting pretty worried. I didn’t know what I was going to do and about 10 days before harvest I got a letter from the State Banking Examiner. They had got some more money for the bank---1%, I cent on the dollar. Well that was $5.50 and with the few dollars I had it was enough to buy the twine. It was that close…

I married Ethel (Hocking) in 1934. Lived on the farm there year after year. Times were kinda hard. The depression years and the dry years---very, very hard times. I know the year after we were married in September, Grace Wilson asked Ethel if she could come to Ladies Aide that day and Ethel hadn’t joined, but she just asked her to come. So that morning, I asked her is she was going to Aide that day and she said, “No, I don’t have the 10 cents to buy the lunch”. And I said, “Gee Whiz” and I felt pretty bad about it, and so I went down to the granary and looked around. I saw a little wheat scattered around in the corners and thought maybe I could get a bushel of wheat so I got a broom and a bushel basket and I swept up a bushel of wheat. I took it to the elevator and Frank Daniels was manager then, and I sold that bushel of wheat for 40 cents. 

I took the money to Gerbig’s store and got 2 gallons of gas for a quarter, it was 12 ½ cents per gallon, and I took the 15 cents home to Ethel and said, “You can go to Ladies Aide”. That’s the way things were. We lived years and years that way.

Fortunately we had a cow or two for milk and had chickens and we sold eggs. About every week I’d have 12 dozen eggs. They were 12 cents per dozen, $1.44 and that’s what we lived on.

In my family, my mother’s first husband was murdered and my oldest sister, Vera, when she was 4 years old her clothing caught fire on the stove, and she burned to death. That was in 1905. Then 1918 my father died. He was helping John Hocking with some carpentry work. He got a sliver and some infection. Couldn’t stop it and he died, and then my youngest half-sister, Myrtle (Mrs. Charley Miller) she died in 1923 from appendicitis because there was a blizzard and they couldn’t get her to the doctor. So my mother had a real bad time. I say that is more than one person should have to bear.

Editors note:
Sunnyside Cemetery Burials, Denton Nebraska
Frederick J. Giles 2/4/1863 --- 5/31/1918
Charlotte M. (Lottie) Giles 1875 ---12/21/1952
Vera Giles 4 year, 9 months, 10 days ---11/6/1905
Myrtle Miller 26 years 3 months and 21 days. 3/20/1923

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Denton Community Historical Society of Nebraska