Franklin County, Nebraska
For Another Day
Franklin County Chronicle, March 2, 1999
The snow often blows in February with a strong north wind, covering all the history sites of Franklin County. This month has been the exception. There have been many warm and sunny days and dry pastures to explore.
I am appreciative for the personal guidance I have received from those people I have called on the spur of the moment in the past two weeks and wanting them to take me on expeditions. I've gained enough knowledge from them to research and write for three years. It is just wonderful stuff: sited of old farms, tales they heard, old pictures and letters written at the turn of the century. We even found a sod school, undisturbed where it just quietly collapsed to a three-sided heap. This school was used in 1976. It might well be one of the oldest remaining schools that we can pinpoint in our county. These are all stories for another day. I thank all those people for their time and help. I can't learn the history of our area if no one tells me. If there were any one who has something they would like to share with me. Please give me a call (308) 775-2023. I would like to map all houses of Franklin County for our future researchers.
Now, I will continue with a letter I received from the now deceased Robert Bixby who, as a child, lived across the Cottonwood Creek from us. The parentheses () within the letter are my interjected thoughts.
He wrote: "The George McFarland's house was across the road from the Luke School House and close. We got water to drink for the school there part of the time. They were older folks at that time.
"There was a boy my age, Henry Eggleston, who lived south of the school. I remember the Haussermann family. Mother had a sister and family who lived not too far (Walter Brown)." (They must have lived on a rented farm as I can't find their place. They had four kids, Margaret, Lester, Nellie and Emma. I wonder if any of you know where they lived?)
"In dry summer we kids had to herd cattle on what is now Highway 136. We had a good field of alfalfa north of our house. We had two good springs (one east of the house with a big cypress tank always full, and one west of the house with a well house that housed a tank and milk separator). Mom used to keep butter, cream, and milk in the tank of cold water." (I wonder if he didn't mean the springs were north and south instead of east and west? That's the way I see them today.) "The springs ran the year round."
"Two of my brothers and one sister were born here. When one was born, the folks knew the doctor wouldn't get there in time, so dad hitched old Fannie to the buggy and told me to go get Mrs. Cochran to help." (She later married John Taylor and they lived on west from our house on Highway 136 on top of the next hill. They lived in a two-story stone blockhouse.) "Fannie had a baby colt and she didn't want to leave. I could get her to go to about to where highway 136 is now and she would turn back. After about three or four times of this dad told me to use the whip. I did and got Mrs. Cochran there in time. I was a 'big shot' for some time, being only eight or nine years old.
"North of our house there was a chokecherry grove. We made jelly out of these. When bees got in the walls of the house they later removed some boards, and with the aid of a smoker got a tub full of honey out.
"Peddlers (horse and enclosed buggy) came by selling pots, pans, taking pictures, selling kitchen ranges, Coleman type lanterns and lamps. Sometimes they ate with us and occasionally they stayed all night. That's the way we got news. People had no refrigerator or iceboxes. When we butchered, they passed the meat around to the neighbors, who later did the same. We had an earth cellar and raised a lot of potatoes, cabbage, and could store apples in season."
(That cellar is still there ready for storage.)
"Mom set hens and raised chicks. She had trouble with rats, crows, blue jays, hawks and coons stealing the baby chickens.
"Social life was family get togethers on Sunday. All families had lots of kids, so for the noon meal the adults eat at the first table. Us kids ate later." (Sure a turn around now in 1999). "In 1918 the folks sold out, and dad rented a railroad boxcar and hauled two horses, one cow, some chickens, some machinery and our furniture to Holden, MO, so us kids could get a high school education. Seven of us and one cousin all made it through high school. Better close; wish I could visit with all of you again. I am 82 years old and been married for 62 and ½ years.
"May God bless you and yours," Robert Bixby.
I wonder if Alva ever saw his mother again? That must have been a sad day when Alva and Katherine and children left on the train. From the way I feel, I expect it was hard for Sara Johnson to go near the house across the creek with out feeling remorse that her son and family was gone.
Robert's grandmother was Sara Johnson who married Andrew Johnson. Sara's mother was Mary Sigman, who married Hugh Butterfield. Hugh fought in the Civil War. Mary wrote wonderful tales about the Civil War time period. She was born in Guernsey County, Ohio in 1835 and was raised in the backwoods (as she puts it). A life span stretching from 1835 to 1917 saw much of this country's history being made. Sometime soon I would like you to read what she has written.
Robert Bixby, oldest son of Alva and Katherine Bixby passed away two years ago without us ever visiting again and I am sorry for that. He could have told me where that house sat on the stilts, and so much more if I would have just asked. It takes experience for a researcher to learn to ask the right questions. Now my favorite questions or statements to my clients are, "How do you know that?" and "Show me."
Two hands upon the breast,
And labor's done;
Two pale feet crossed in rest;
The race is won. Dinah Maria Craik
Rena Donovan, For Another Day.
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