Anniversary of the founding of White, SD
give readers information on many of the individuals mentioned. Internal
evidence indicates the letter was written in 1959, prior to June, on the
75th Anniversary of the founding of White, South Dakota, then Dakota
Territory. What follows is a typed transcription of a handwritten
transcription of the original letter. It has been checked against
passages quoted in printed sources and found accurate.
Dear Mrs. Jensen,
I visited White and vicinity last August and cannot return at this time.
My visit and your invitation have brought to mind most vividly the early
days. My father, P. J. Hegeman, was one of the earliest settlers in "the
valley" east of White. There was no "White" the spring of 1877. The
nearest market was Canby Minnesota.
Soon after my father arrived, came my grandparents P. J. Hegeman Sr.,
wife, daughter and son: John A. Hegeman, who later was one of the early
surveyors of Brookings County. The other grandfather, Denton Dolson, and
his brother M. Dolson, with their families all settled in "the Valley." A great uncle Washington Warren, bought "Warren's Woods," now I believe
"Gilley's Grove." My sister and I regretted the change from the long
used earlier name.
I was born the December following the family's arrival.
Distant relatives, the Palmers, settled in Sherman Township. All had
originally moved from Gloversville, New York, to Sparta Wisconsin, then
to Brookings County.
The Palmers contributed much to the social life of those early days. They were all gifted with beautiful voices and several of that large
family had married wives who also had lovely voices, tenors, basses,
sopranos and contraltos -- they knew all our folk songs, negro
spirituals, patriotic songs.
The pioneers met in the first Sherman school house for spelling bees,
song fests and necktie basket socials. The children would be bedded down
on the school benches -- while the fun went on 'til midnight.
Parties were held at the homes and one I especially recall, after my
father had built his good house on the hill (our first was a log house
in the valley). The friends assembled one winter night all bringing food
for the midnight supper. The robes were brought in and the children put
down like sardines on the floor of a bedroom -- the women took turns
resting on the beds. The Palmers sang the night through -- their
repertoire was inexhaustible.
The Boydens took land in what was known as Oaklake Township, I think. During the most terrible blizzard (I think in 1880) the father was
away. Frank and his mother burned hay, the furniture, the floor, and
finally were forced to seek a neighbor, Mr. Andrews. Mrs. Boyden could
not reach their house, sinking down in the snow with her tiny son, Lon.
Frank followed a furrow and reached the house. He and Mr. Andrews found
Mrs. Boyden. All might have been lost, as many were, in that record
storm. A school was established in "The Valley" and the winter of '79
Frank stayed with my people and went to school. He was nine and a half,
I was not two years old.
My mother was the most competent woman I've ever known. She made cheese,
processed pigs and beef, cleaned the wool, spun it, knitted all our
stockings, made all our clothes. I recall the visits of Sioux Indians. They'd bring bright calicos to trade for vegetables from the wonderful
garden my father always had, for butter, bread, etc. when winter came
there'd be barrels of salted green beans, salted cucumbers,
crocks of sour kraut corned beef, salt pork, smoked hams. Always there
was ice packed in straw for the hot summers; and always lovely great
milk pans with cream rising in our cool milk room.
I recall, too, the fear of the prairie fires. My father had planted his
"tree claim" as required, and several times the clan gathered to fight
the raging grass fires that leaped over the land. My grandmother Dolson,
living on the route from Canby to Marshall, Minnesota, furnished dinners
and lodgings for those seeking homes farther inland. All are gone who
ate at her table but I recall statements from many who acclaimed her
home as a haven of rest after their difficult trek to that
The Hegemans were not farmers, and soon my father was making gloves,
mittens, robes and coats of buffalo and sheep skins for men. That art
they knew well for it was the family's business originally in
Gloversville, New York. He established a little shop in White.
I graduated from High School under Mr. Norman in 1893 and that fall the
family moved to Brookings -- a better place for my father's business,
and for the children, a chance for a college education. Beginning with
my thirteenth year, I played the organ in the Presbyterian church under
the direction of the Palmers. For a time Mr. Haurer was our beloved
pastor. And in 1893, a graduate of the High School, Mr. C. E. West,
inveighed me into securing a certificate and placed me in the Minier
School. I boarded with the Pete Bentsens, whose sons, I understand , are
prominent citizens of Texas. I walked to school through that winter --
most of the road unraveled -- deep with snow and built the fire in the
pot-bellied stove. I was not yet sixteen but the life was not as
difficult as it might have been. Mr. John Allison or some of the Palmers
came for me Friday nights so that I might play for services Sundays. There were many loved friends in White.
The Palmers, Allisons, Whites,
Duggers, some of whom I have known in the West. Last summer I was happy
to visit with Kitte White Henry and Mr. Minier in the Post Office. On
trips to California we visited Whites family, Flora Meyer Doughty,
Horton, Palmer and his wife Hattie Meyer -- also during earlier year
many White families located in Santa Ana.
Brookings meant college, my marriage to Frank Boyden, our years in
Chicago while he studied Medicine, and I studied music -- his internship
at the Mayos -- a few years back in Brookings, and then the move to
Oregon with our two little boys. Because of disability Frank retired in
1945. He needed the sun so we would close our lovely home at Mt. Hood,
going for nine winters to Mexico. He died in January of 1957. Soon he
would have been eighty-seven.
During our Oregon days Frank visited clinics in Europe and in 1938 I had
eight months in that storied land. After Frank's death I went abroad
again for a full year of travel with a car. On my return last August my
sister Mable Hegeman Allison traveled with me from New York to the west
visiting Brookings en route. I found none I knew in White -- Ralph
Holden was not home. But we had a fine visit with the Dignes in
Hendricks. There were many heartaches -- the Habers were gone and so
many in Brookings that we had known and loved. Ten of my family lie in the
Brookings cemetery -- five are buried in Portland, including our older
son, Dr. Horace Boyden. Last year Dr. Guy Boyden, Frank's youngest
Life has been kind to us in many ways -- our son Dr. Allen Boyden, wife
and their three sons are near me -- so I'm not alone. But approaching
82, most of my friends are gone.
I have written at length for I suspect there are few surviving who
arrived as early as my father's group and who recall those early days
seven years before White was established. I could recount many of the
humorous incidents told through the years -- one that Frank often told
will have to suffice. When supplies had to be bought, the fathers would
travel to Canby Minnesota until Brookings was established. One day
grandfather Boyden left for Brookings with his ox team. Grandmother
warned again and again that he should not forget lamp chimneys. Grandfather remembered and was fascinated by the new "unbreakable glass"
chimneys. The merchant threw one on the counter to demonstrate. Grandfather bought two.
When he returned, the first question was -- "Did
you remember the chimneys?" In reply grandfather tossed them to her --
they fell to the floor and shattered. No explanation about "non-shatterable glass" made any sense to this angry woman.
meant to her no light in the house for perhaps another two months.
The present generation has no conception of the privations and hardships
of the earliest days. The wives were doctors, religious instructors,
teachers, conservers of every tiny ounce that could contribute to the
well-being of the family. Soon the men had gardens, chickens, cows,
sheep, pigs. Hospitality was general and I recall no time after those
first most difficult months that the tables were not bountifully spread
for any wayfarers who traveled the trail which passed our doors.
Am sorry this communication is so long but I'm afraid you asked for it. Greet any old friends who visit White in June -- for the Hegemans and
the Boydens. Only my sister and I are left who recall the early days.
There are no Boydens of that generation. However the later generations
are happy to know of their heritage. Kindly send me any publications
relative to those early days. I would like to know if there are any
survivors who come to White region as early as my arrival in 1877.
Mrs. F. E. Boyden [Maude Eva Hegeman m. Frank Edson Boyden]