Merrick County, Nebraska
REMINISCIENCES OF "AULD LANG SYNE"
By Mrs. Mary L. Barnes
Santa Barbara, Calif.
I do not recall the name of the first publisher of the Messenger, our first newspaper, but I remember that Mr. Arthur T. Brown, son-in-law of Mr. Wetherill, the undertaker, was its editor in the early eighties, and Mr. James W. Steever took it over later sometime. Then its name was changed to the Clarks Chronicle, and in still later years it became the Clarks Enterprise with Mr. G. L. Jordan, its present publisher, occupying the old swivel chair in the "sanctum sanctorium".
I had written an occasional California letter to the paper, under each of its several names, after coming to California, but not since removing to Santa Barbara over twenty years ago, nor had I seen a copy of the paper in a this time so the sight of it now brought back so many remembrances of old friends and neighbors, of incidents and happenings..both sad and sorrowful, gay and joyful, that I could not keep them to myself any longer.
This is the only excuse I have to offer for my long-drawn-out tale of early days; amd I haven't quite finished yet, however tired of it you may have become by this time.
By this time many more people had gathered in to make new homes for themselves, both in and out of town. I can recall quite a list of names though I am afraid not all, for I can dimly see several faces whose names escape me; There were the Robinsons, Fosters, Vanduzers, Kimberlys, Considines, Stearnes, Higgins', Thomas', Fishers & then among the bachelors, Messeurs Graves, Skeets, Sinnots, and Mr. Kirk Whited, one of our later school teachers, and Misses Ella Clark, and Durrhea [Durk? (hard to read)], also a teacher. The out-of-towners I recall include the W.H.Austins, Castles, Kellogs, Philbrooks, Lanes, Roses, Nobles, Stevens, Allens, Bairds, Battys, Teagues, Beardsleys, and Lambs.
The two Lamb brothers, Tom, I believe was the name of one, the other I know was Paddy, worked on the railroad, and sometimes held differences of opinion about their work as well as of just things in general.
One day Tom became so exasperated with Paddy's faultfinding that he drew back and aimed a mighty kick at his pesky brother, but when the Tom's foot reached its aim---Paddy wasn't there; so the wasted force of the kick threw Tom heavily across the rails, breaking his leg.
A sled was soon procured and he was taken to the doctor.
In those days there was no such thing as plaster casts for broken bones, only the old style wooden splints, and during his confinement in bed he was so enraged at the waste of time and anger at his brother that he could not lie still, consequently, in his turning and twisting about the bandages became loosened and the bone-setting disturbed, so that when he was able to sit up his leg was found to be so crooked that he could not walk, and it had to be broken over again and reset anew.
Up to this time there ha been but few deaths, the first one being our own dear baby, Jesse Everett. The first one born in Clarks, and the first to die. Later there followed the first child of the Morse's, little Willie, Mrs. Carter, Mrs. George Sr., Mr. Kimberly, Mr. Bross, Fanny Kimberly, Mrs. Martin, Mr. Noble, Mr. Legg, and little Harlan Walkie.
There had also been a few marriages during the years, Mr. Carter's second marriage to Miss Rose Hartwell, Dr. Martin's second to Miss George, Mr. Graves to a Central City girl, One of the McClintock boys to an out-of-town girl, Mr. Hans Kokjer to Miss Lisa [Lina?] Hartwell, Miss May Wetherill, daughter of the undertaker, to Arthur T. Brown, Mr. Frank Ramsburg to a young lady whose name I cannot call to mind, Davis Richardson to Miss Anie George, and Miss Durkee to the new druggist.
In the middle seventies a union Church had built on the west side of town to accommodate the different demoninations in worshipping together, since there were not enough members of any one of them to maintain a church of its own. It was a one room building with a bell, and lighted by coal oil bracket lamps fastened to the walls, and it was my duty as a voluntary janitor, to sweep and dust, ring the bell, and light up for evening services. I also "officiated" in the same capacity for our few club and society meetings.
About this time there came a young stranger to town and opened up a licenced saloon, before any number of us were aware of any such thing being contemplated, and it met with our indignant disapproval.
People gathered together in small groups and discussed the pro and con, of getting rid of the unwelcome innovation. At last it was agreed that a committee should be appointed to wait upon the saloon-keeper and propose to him, in a friendly way, to buy out his licence, if he would promise to close it out at once and forever as far as our clean and pretty little town was concerned. The committee called on him and quietly and kindly told him of the people's objections, and of their offer to buy him out. He seemed greatly surprised at their opposition, saying that he was brought up in a saloon, and supposed from his observation and experiences, that everybody wanted them, and he had understood that no town could do business and prosper without a saloon, but after a little reasoning at last agreed to accept their proposition.
He sold out his interests and went away for awhile but returned later and lived among us, an upright and respected citizen.
Then an oldtime temperance society, called Sons of Temperance was organized and the greater part of our population signed the pledge, and the society flourished, holding their bi-monthly meetings in the union Church. One day when Mr. Wetherill was driving home from a burial service with his wife, daughter May, my two little girls and I in his democrat wagon, we noticed a hen turkey with some little turks following her hop up on the railroad track from the other side, and the little ones kept coming, more and more, so we began counting the big flock, and went on counting after we had passed them, turning our heads backward so as to see the last one. We had counted up to seventeen, when, without a moments warning we found ourselves, and the wagon, upside down in the deep, but happily, dry railroad ditch, among weeds, grass, sandburs, and rubbish. The horses bolted, breaking the doubletrees at the first jump and dragged Mr. Wetherill for some distance before he could get them under control. There were no bones broken among us, nor serious injuries but Mr. Wetherill had to walk back a distance to the nearest farmhouse to get a piece of timber and a rope to repair damages so as to continue our way homeward. We were ever afterward slyly cautioning each other not to count turkeys while driving alongside a railroad ditch.
Our town had her jolly little gatherings occasionally, with music, charades, recitations, guessing games, and so on, by of entertainment.
In one of these parties I was chosen to act the charade "Music hath charm to soothe the savage breast" my straight black hair suiting the role of Indian better than others, so they took down my hair, tangling it up beautifully, tied a red bandanna hankerchief around my forehead, stuck a turkey wing in it, wrapped a real Indian blanket round me with an ugly-looking hatchet tucked into my folded arms, and told me to "play Injun". In the other room Mrs. Robinson began playing softly on the organ and I stalked in among the crowd with all the savage dignity that I was capable of achieving. Soon the strange, sweet sounds attracted my attention and I cautiously looked about to discover where they came from. The nearer I approached the farthest corner of the room the sweeter it seemed, so with a satisfied "ugh" I sank to the floor crosslegged, and listened to the end. With one voice the assembled company shouted out the answer, but Mrs. Robinson was trembling, my foolish "Injun" was too much for her; she had almost "actually" felt my improvised tommyhawk crashing through her skull as I stood behind her.
During all these years out town water supply was from family pumps, drive wells they were called, a section of iron pipe with a perforated point being driven into the ground with a wooden maul, just anywhere for convenience, another length of pipe screwed on and driven down to the ground; this operation repeated until water was reached, a hand pump screwed on and a full supply assured. Many times the pumps froze up solid and had to be thawed out with boiling water, so we had to always keep a supply in the house over night to thaw out the pump with.
Often our house supplly would fail to loosen it and we had to build a fire in the hole in the ground round the pipe, kept for that purpose.
Usually there were barley sacks wrapped round the pipe and filled in with straw all winter to protect it from freezing, but when the thermometer went down to thirty or thirtyfive below zero, and the ground froze from three to three and a half feet deep our water pipes suffered, and our night supply, even when placed in the living room with a redhot coal stove it would be frozen solid and bulged up in the morning.
Our full pans of milk would freeze solid too and we would scrape off the cream for our morning coffee and cornmeal mush. The milk was melted and fed to the cal and pigs. The regular winter fuel was soft coal with discarded railroad ties and building waste for kindling, but throughout the famine years there was no money for coal, so we discovered that field corn was a splendid substitute.
Our fresh virgin soil raised bumper crops of big solid ears, but the price was only twenty cents and no takers, so we burned it by the ton.
It was cheaper than coal and made more heat but burned out the stoves badly unless watched and tempered down to moderate heat.
From the pen of my 2G-Grandmother, Mary Louisa Sackett Barnes,
born 18 Jan 1848 in Oquawka, Illinois and died in 1941 in Santa Barbara, California.
Submitted by John Wolfe <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Return to Merrick County On-Line Resources
© 2001 for NEGenWeb Project by John Wolfe, T&C Miller