THE HISTORY OF THE PRAIRIE TOWNS OF IVANHOE AND FOLLETT
|Written in 1967|
"The Panhandle of Texas with its broad, sweeping, fertile prairies, its numerous streams and springs of pure running water, magnificent groves of ash, elm, and cottonwood, is now opened for the settler and the farmer. Already the cabin of the squatter along the creek bank half hidden among the trees and the sod houses of the settler loom up as a castle upon the broad limitless prairie. But they stand lonely and are but the forerunners of the farm houses, the villages and the cities, that will soon ornament every slope, and crown every hill. Millions of acres are yet awaiting the coming of the home seeker. Millions of acres of rich alluvial soil that needs but to be turned to the sunlight, and the seeds dropped upon it, to return a bountiful harvest of golden grain."
Two miles west of Follett, Texas on Highway 15
This poetry of the Panhandle is a description of Lipscomb County in 1886, which appeared in "The Panhandle Nester", a newspaper published by J. M. McDonald. The writer's vision and enthusiasm for the future of Lipscomb County was probably shared by all the prairie pioneers.
Settlers first came into Lipscomb County about 1880, and the immigration movement was really gathering momentum by 1886. Before this settlement started, the Texas Panhandle, No Man's Land and Kansas were inhabited by cowboys herding cows and a few Indians still roaming the plains. There were five ranches in Beaver and Ellis counties in Oklahoma and Lipscomb and Hemphill counties in Texas, according to Tom Haines. Two of the largest ranches were the Box T and the X-T. The census taken in 1880 shows a total population of 60 for Lipscomb County - 46 Anglo-Saxon, 11 Spanish, and 3 colored. No doubt, this population was mostly cowboys who rode the range for the big ranches.
Though the first Lipscomb County settlers maintained that the rainfall was sufficient, a drought in 1885 and 1886 over the Texas Panhandle area hit the cattlemen hard.
This dry spell was such a rough one that an early settler wrote on a board nailed across the door of his cabin:
250 miles to nearest post office.
100 miles to wood.
20 miles to water.
6 inches to hell.
God bless our home.
Gone to live with the wife's folks.
"The tragedy of cattle dying, people moving and crops withering didn't keep some from joking about the situation. 'The weather has been so dry here for the last three weeks, noted the Taylor County News, "that the wells are empty and the fish in the creeks are carrying toadstools for parasols . . ."
One observer of the 1885-1890 dry period noted that the resulting losses of the syndicate ranches converted ranching from an adventure into a business which is today carried on with as much system as farming and manufacturing.
The George Wilkerson Walton family with their sons, George and Frank, came to Lipscomb County about 1880 and settled near Mammoth Creek thirteen miles south of the future town of Follett. They were probably the first white settlers in the county and were so favorably impressed with the country, they urged their daughter and son-in-law, Semantha and Tom Haines, to Join them.
The Tom Haines' family headed for Texas from Iowa, driving in a covered wagon from Wellington, Kansas. Tom recalls that there was quite an immigration movement to western Kansas in those days and the road was white with covered wagons. He said that they saw no one after they got to No Man's Land. They followed the Tuttle Trail and arrived at Mammoth Creek April 7, 1885. The Haines' son, Albert, was born July 2, 1885, and was the first white child born in Lipscomb County.
The Walton and Haines families, like all the pioneer families in this area, lived in dugouts until sod houses could be constructed. Although the dugout was an extremely crude dwelling, it had two advantages over other housing - the cost was practically non-existent and the dugout afforded the best protection of any early dwelling from the severe winter weather.
The sod houses were constructed of sod strips 36 inches long and ten or twelve inches wide. They were cut with a sod cutter which resembled a sled with a sharp knife on each side. The thick buffalo grass held the strips together. The floor was usually dirt or a buffalo grass carpet. The soddy had a large center pole, usually a cottonwood which supported the roof of willow branches, straw and dirt. Some of the soddies had a bowed lumber roof, topped with huge rocks to keep it in place. (Using nails on sod bricks was out of the question.) Gyp from the hills mixed with water was used to give the walls a white paint job.
A typical prairie home & mode of transportation.
The next problem confronting the settlers was that of fuel. Miss Emma Moyer says, "we burned cane heads, immature corn nubbins, broom corn seed, or anything that promised to give us heat, but the greatest source of supply was "prairie coal" or cow chips. We burned real coal when it was available, and if we had money to pay for it. As the country became more thickly settled, we had to range farther and farther to get our needed supply of cow chips."
The story was told that when a lady first came from the East, she wore a glove and carefully put each cow chip in the stove. Six months later she was putting cow chips in with one hand and stirring gravy with the other.
The settlers began pouring into this area, bringing their seeds and plows to turn the sod and raise crops for food and market. The area was a part of Wheeler County and Mobeetie was the county seat. One pioneer recalls that they went to Mobeetie for their mail and to Dodge City, Kansas, for their groceries. Lipscomb County was organized in 1887, and that year four towns were platted - Dominion, Lipscomb, Higgins, and Timms City. Today only Lipscomb, the county seat, and Higgins still exist. Of special importance is the County Commissioner's decision to order seed wheat for farmers of the county. A car load of bearded wheat to be distributed to the citizens for fall sowing was ordered on August 16, 1890. This was not a gift, the farmers either paid for the seed wheat immediately or after they had raised a crop.
The range land was gradually disappearing and the big ranches found it more difficult year after year to find open range grazing. If the "Nester" had a water supply needed for these herds, he had "rights" and the rancher had to pay to water his cattle. The ranchers and nesters of this area evidently avoided the famous fence wars and conflicts over range land. Tom Haines gives us a picture of neighborly relations with the cowboys - the cowboys kept the Haines' family in fresh beef in return for fresh vegetables from Mrs. Haines' garden and a home cooked meal when they were passing by. Actually, most of the cowboys settled on places of their own and helped the county develop.
North of Lipscomb County was No Man's Land - the Oklahoma Panhandle. Until this became part of the Oklahoma Territory in 1890, it was a haven for fugitives and gunmen for there was no law there. In fact, they "got away with murder!"
Four Kansas men were shot and killed when they crossed over into No Man's Land in 1888, and the killers were identified by a fifth man who was wounded. The suspects were all found guilty and sentenced to hang by a federal court in Paris, Texas, in 1890. The case was appealed and the higher court set the convicted murderers free. The court ruled that since the murders took place in 1888 when No Man's Land was a legal "orphan", there was no law there and the court had no jurisdiction in the case.
At the turn of the century, homesteaders came in a steady stream to Beaver County in what is now the Oklahoma panhandle. This was the third settling of the area. Grayes Hayes Jones gives us a vivid picture of the country then:
"It was in the summer of 1901 that my father, Grant L. Hayes, filed on a homestead in southeastern Beaver County, but we did not move onto the place until early the next year. At that time, one could scarcely see any thing except rolling prairies covered with lush Buffalo grass. The cattlemen all lived along the streams and merely pastured the uplands which had been free grass range. The few new settlers that had arrived lived in dugouts, so as one viewed the landscape, it seemed devoid of any habitation with no fences or trees and scarcely any roads, only an occasional trail angled across the broad countryside."
In 1892, the land was opened for homesteading. The cost was $15 to file, and the terms were that you had to make improvements within six months and maintain residence on the land for five years. Only a quarter of a section could be claimed by any one adult.
In comparison, the land in Lipscomb County had three classifications: state school land, dry and watered, and railroad land. The Houston and Texas Central Railroad owned each alternate section of land over most of the county and only a five-mile strip of this land across the north line of the county was for sale, at $2.50 per acre. The dry lands were available at $2.00 per acre with terms of one-thirtieth down and five per cent interest yearly. At the end of three years, the land could be paid for or payment could be deferred for thirty years by paying the five percent interest annually. (Many of the settlers preferred to pay the five per cent interest annually rather than make full payment.
The people of Lipscomb County in Texas and of Beaver County in the No Man's Land of present day Oklahoma, were very hospitable and extended a warm welcome to anyone passing their way. One pioneer who lived on the trail west of Ivanhoe ( Beaver County Oklahoma) remembered many covered wagons coming by, westward bound. The family offered those stopping overnight a place to sleep and his mother offered the facilities of her kitchen to prepare the evening meal. One night sixteen people slept in their half-dugout, half-sod home.
The people were often times lonely in this sparsely settled land. Get-togethers for square dancing (which was enjoyed by old and young alike) or visiting and enjoying a bountiful meal together was a source of recreation. These occasions usually lasted into the late hours before participants returned home.,
Ronald Parker says, "It is impossible to realize, with our present roads and present communication, what the term "neighbor" meant at the time Ivanhoe was built. The Gard place wasn't too far for Harry Parker and pals to ride for a Saturday night dance which lasted from sunset to sunrise." That is to say, they considered the Gards their neighbors even though they were twenty five miles apart.
The Gard family, which settled in Lipscomb County in 1886, was musically inclined, and the Gard Ranch drew people for thirty miles around for their ocassional evenings of fun and music.
Mrs. Mabel Trenfield writes: "Picnics and fish-frys provided summertime recreation for the pioneer families. Occasionally a picnic lasting several days would be held in a grove and people would bring tents and bedrolls, and cook their food on campfires. There would be baseball games, races, shooting matches, and platform dances. Older people spent the time visiting with friends they had not seen for many months while the children and dogs enjoyed every minute of the respite from hard work which was common to all the early settlers. Life was simple and elemental - only the worthwhile things counted.
" . . . Brandings and days of cattle work were social occasions. The owners of the various ranches brought their "best hand" and each helped the other in turn until all the herds had been worked. Many of the wives and children came in order to help the hostess housewife prepare the quantities of food necessary to feed a large group of hungry men. Beef, of course, was the mainstay of life. When a rancher butchered, he traded a quarter to a neighbor who in turn brought it back when he killed a beef. That was the only way for the people to have fresh meat in warm weather. In the winter many a windmill tower was adorned with quarters of beef hanging in nature's outdoor refrigerator."
"Coyote hunting was a source of sport and recreation for the men and boys. Many ranchers kept a number of wolf dogs and greyhounds in order to kill off coyotes. Traps were set for coon, skunk, badger, and 'possum. Many a boy made his spending money by his trap line in winter."
"The pioneer had far to go to buy the necessities of life. In the very early days, wagons were sent to Liberal, Kansas, or Dodge City, Kansas. After the Santa Fe was built through the southern part of Lipscomb County, Higgins was an important trading place. Settlers from Beaver County made the drive of several days with wagons to Higgins, crossing Wolf Creek at the Moreland crossing. There are still traces of these well traveled roads across many grassy sections."
The Kroekers came with a group of Mennonites to America from Russia in 1872 and settled in Kansas. In 1888, Peter and Katharina Kroeker moved to No Man's Land and settled one and one-half miles southwest of North Ivanhoe. Peter Kroeker planted a grove of mulberry trees which would later be the site of numerous pioneer picnics and outings. The first Ivanhoe Post Office was established in the Kroeker home in 1892. Peter was the post master from March 21, 1892, until 1894 when his wife was appointed post master. She served until April 30, 1895, when Mary Lee was appointed. The Ivanhoe Post Office moved from the Lee home to that of Amy Cox in 1899. Mrs. Cox was a widow who owned and operated a sheep ranch (located one-half mile south of South Ivanhoe). Legend has it that she had read Sir Walter Scott's "Ivanhoe", and suggested that name for the post office.
By the turn of the century, several sod towns, namely "Sodtown", near Logan, and "Soddy Town", just southwest of North Ivanhoe, had disappeared, but tales of these saloon towns were told and retold. During the dust storms of the 1930's, the skeleton of Soddy Town emerged revealing the foundations, numerous whiskey bottles, and a rusty pistol.
These colorful towns were replaced by more stable ones - towns designed to build and develop the prairie. The founder of the town of Ivanhoe was Willis E. Mitchell who came with his wife, Emily, from Mt. Vernon, Illinois, in 1901. Mr. Mitchell liked to tell how he arrived in Beaver County with an old pair of mules, a covered wagon, his wife, and a few groceries. He staked a claim to a quarter section of land and headed for Woodward where he mortgaged the mules and wagon for $25.00. He used this money to buy a supply of groceries, brought them to his claim and started selling; using a tent for his store and home. Later he combined the tent with a half-sod, half-dugout dwelling. The Post Office was moved from the Cox Ranch house to the Mitchell store in 1901, and with it came the name "Ivanhoe". North Ivanhoe Postmasters were Willis Mitchell, Ella Treat, and Allen H. Fox.
The Mitchell General Store sold mostly food, tobacco, calico, shoes, overalls, barrels of molasses and some tools. The old timers say that when Mr. Mitchell saw someone coming, he began sacking beans and weighing salt pork! Molasses was another big item in the pioneer diet. Mr. G. E. Legg who later had a store in South Ivanhoe, said he had sold enough syrup in Beaver County to float a battleship.
Mr. Mitchell's son, Jesse, brought his family to Ivanhoe and homesteaded near his father's claim. The Jesse Mitchell family lived in a tent and their son, Royce, remembers that wild cattle would come and push against the tent.
A spring near the Mitchell's was the water supply for many settlers in the area. When the stream near the store froze in winter, Mr. Mitchell cut the ice in squares and stored it in a straw-lined dugout in the side of a hill. In the summer time, the Ivanhoe families could buy ice for ice cream or cold drinks.
With an eye to developing a town, Willis Mitchell had the town of Ivanhoe platted on the section lines west of this first location in 1906. The Mitchell General Store was housed in a new frame building and other businesses began to appear ... Bill Courder owned another general store. Jack Marshall had a blacksmith shop. Roy Jenkins had a livery barn and Jap Adams had a hotel. The North Ivanhoe School was just north of the town and a Methodist Church was erected.
A nook in the Mitchell's store was given to a Mr. Shadel who repaired watches, clocks, musical instruments and sold some items of jewelry. When Leon Courtney and Earl Bixler organized the Ivanhoe Band, Mr. Shadel, a musician, was chosen as director. The fourteen members were: Harry Davidson, snare drum; Burlen Holland, clarinet; Charlie Brown, bass; Earl Bixler, cornet; Mr. Shadel, cornet; Willie Moyer, bass drum; Clarence Nickel, piccolo; Stark Moyer, tenor horn- Ham Overstreet, alto horn; Leon Courtney, slide trombone; Roy Hagen, tenor horn; Burdett Crossman, baritone. The band played for many celebrations and made quite a showing at neighboring towns. Other bands preceding them generally played arrangements with a slow tempo. The Ivanhoe Band, thanks to their competent director, whipped into a snappy march that drew audiences in a hurry.
An account of the neighboring town of Logan, Oklahoma, is given by Mrs. Bob Howard:
"The early residents of the Logan vicinity did their trading in Old (North) Ivanhoe. Later there were business establishments made in the Logan vicinity. The first Logan Post Office was established on December 10, 1888, by a Mr. Reynolds. He had served under a General Logan during the Civil War, and since he was very fond of his general, named the post office Logan."
"On February 1, 1890, Althea P. Gilbert, grandmother of Ruth McClurg, took over the Post Office. It has since been operated by several different individuals. The Logan School was established in 1896 and operated until 1944. Some of the other places of business which operated in the little city of Logan, Oklahoma in the early 1900's were: a general store operated by Frank Wentworth; a variety store operated by a Mr. Mitchell; a blacksmith shop operated by Jim Woods; a livery barn built by E. E. Harlan; a private home hotel operated by Mr. and Mrs. Burke Daily; a filling station; a garage and a cream station."
"The little city began deteriorating and in 1955, the last grocery store owned by Emery Bell and operated by Irvin Howard was closed. Today the Logan Post Office, operated by Rita Black and carriers Elmer Hughes and Clyde Kearns, is the only remaining business of the city of Logan, Oklahoma."
The railroads were extending farther and farther out on the prairies, and when the Beaver Valley and Northwestern Railway survey crossed Beaver County two miles south of Ivanhoe, some of the residents wanted to move to a location on the proposed line. Joe and Jennie Hanna and Dr. and Mrs. Charles White had the town of South Ivanhoe surveyed and platted in 1909. This new location was two miles south and one mile west of "Old" or North Ivanhoe and lay on the proposed railway line.
With the Ivanhoe Band starting off the festivities, Joe Hanna and Dr. White held an auction to sell the lots in South Ivanhoe. Mr. Campbell, from Shattuck, Oklahoma, was the auctioneer. After the band finished playing a few numbers, the auction started and the lots sold so successfully that an intermission was never taken for more band numbers. (They did play a few numbers at the close.)
Ivanhoe, Oklahoma 1917
The town moved except for the Methodist Church and Mr. Mitchell sold his merchandise and bought a farm in Arkansas. By 1911, the town was well located and the first big summer celebration was held. Activities included a baseball tournament, bronc riding, races, and square dancing. It lasted for two days.
Dr. Charles White had bought some land just across the line in Texas and when he came out to develop it, he decided to keep his medical background a secret. However, the fact that he was a doctor soon became common knowledge and he was besieged with patients. He advertised in the Medical journal for a doctor to replace him, and Dr. William F. Markley answered the ad and arrived in South Ivanhoe in 1910. Dr. Markley set up an office in the hotel and began seeing patients. He was an excellent example of the country doctor who answered the call at any time of day or night, sometimes driving at great speeds to save a life or beat the stork.
The winter of 1911 and 1912 stands out as being one of the worst in the history for the area. The weather turned bad in November and began to snow. Snows and frigid winds beat down on the Ivanhoe area all winter and lasted well into April. The snows made it impossible to gather more "prairie coal" and the pioneers were hard pressed for fuel. One family had just brought in a load of corn for their stock, and used all of it for fuel before they could get out to gather or purchase alternative fuels.
Word reached Higgins (Texas) that many of the people of Beaver County were freezing and starving. So, the people of Higgins met in Mugg's Drug Store to organize an expedition. Kelo Mugg gave medicine. W. F. Peugh gave food from his grocery store as did the Winsett Brothers' Grocery. Many other Higgins residents gave food or coal. The supplies were loaded on eight or ten sleds and the fathers of the town headed north, stopping at each sod house and dugout to ask if help was needed. The expedition went as far as the Logan area.
Ever able to joke about their difficulties, the pioneers declared that the country was open range once again. . . The fences were hidden beneath the deep snow and the countryside was level.
Though the days of the gunmen were gone, violence occasionally resulted in disputes over land, cattle, women, or maybe who was the toughest! Possibly the two things that "stirred up" the most trouble were contesting someone's claim to a quarter section of land or a neighbor "borrowing" a few calves. Even as late as 1916, South Ivanhoe witnessed a gun battle between one of their merchants and a customer from Texas.
The fight started inside and developed into a gun battle when each man stationed himself outside and around a corner of the building. They emptied their guns before peace was restored.
One of South Ivanhoe's Fourth of July Celebrations was close to the spectacular. The stock tanks, filled with water and ice, kept strawberry, grape, lemon and orange pop cool. The baseball teams were competing for the tournament championship, and there was horseshoe pitching, foot races, and bronc riding. For the main event, the crowd gathered to see a fire built under a balloon. The smoke filled the balloon and when turned loose, soared upward carrying a young lady dressed in red tights and jacket. The balloon carried her up to about 1,200 feet and she jumped from the basket, coming down in a parachute. The night event was a fireworks display. After a few bursts of color, the remaining fireworks caught fire and sent rockets, flares and explosions in every direction. Some of the men shooting off the display were burned or injured.
Ivanhoe Baseball Team around 1917
Leaders of the town secured a telephone line for Ivanhoe and Mr. and Mrs. Melvin Hicks were the first operators. Mrs. Fannie Markley was the next operator and she had the switchboard in her home. Later a larger switchboard was installed, and she was furnished a larger house.
The growth of South Ivanhoe was encouraging and the citizens felt that the railroad was all they needed to become a town of note. They watched apprehensively as yet another railroad survey was made in 1913, south of them, in Texas. The South Ivanhoe citizens took a "Wait and see" attitude. When the graders and trucks moved in and began building a branch line out of Shattuck, Oklahoma to Spearman, Texas, there was no doubt left that the railroad had bypassed them. On August 2, 1917, Thomas C. Spearman of Cook County, Illinois, had the town of Follett platted and on December 10, 1917, had out-lots to the town platted. The town was named for Horace Follett, a locating engineer for the Sante Fe Railroad.
John Reid & Harry Kamp, South Ivanhoe Blacksmiths (about 1917)
A railroad official met with the South Ivanhoe town fathers and asked them to move their town six miles south to what would become Follett, Texas. Many of the men were reluctant to move, contending that one move was enough. Meanwhile, a celebration for the Follett town site and new railroad line drew crowds from the entire area. One old timer said, "Everybody was there." They drove in their cars along the railroad survey.
Lots in the new town were sold and many of the South Ivanhoe businessmen bought them while the debate dragged on about moving to Texas. Finally the majority of the merchants agreed that they were ready to move and engaged Mr. Willingham of Amarillo to move them. The buildings, loaded onto large trucks by horses, were pulled into Texas by a steam driven tractor.
"Moving Day" for the Montgomery Hardware Company building, first structure to be moved from Ivanhoe to Follett, is clearly remembered by Rev. Alvin L. Moyer, now of Sutherlin, Oregon. He had come to Ivanhoe in mid-December, 1917, to visit his sister, Addie, who was Mrs. A. H. Montgomery.
Moving to Texas - 1918
"Arriving at Ivanhoe, I found the Montgomery Hardware Building being raised off its foundation," he writes. "Rolling equipment consisted of cast iron wheels two feet or more in diameter, with 12-inch wide faces, and spaced far enough apart to admit heavy square timbers. These wheels were arranged in pairs under each corner of the building."
"Late one afternoon, after the necessary preparations were completed, a stream threshing engine was hitched to a heavy chain attached to the rolling equipment and the building began to move down the street. Many of the Ivanhoe residents assembled to watch the departure."
"The weather was sunny and bright that day and the ground was dry and firm, so the rolling gear functioned very well. I rode on the front end of the building behind the engine as far as the east-west Texas line road where I dropped off to return home. The engine and building continued on the now historic six-mile journey across the fields to the new town-site."
One merchant, 0. A. Crump, simply board up the shelves of his grocery store. The store was loaded one day, left early the next morning, and Mr. Crump was selling merchandise by four o'clock that afternoon. The other merchants followed Mr. Crump's example and the businesses lost little operating time in the process of moving. The White House Lumber Company hurriedly erected a frame building before the first business from Ivanhoe arrived, thereby laying claim to being the first business in Follett.
For a few months after the move to Texas, the town got its mail at one of the stores, though still addressed, "Ivanhoe, Oklahoma." In 1918, a post office was established, and the mail came directly out of Shattuck on the train.
An upstairs room of the Birdsall Garage (later King Garage) served as school, church, community room, and movie theater. The busy town had an air of excitement and high hopes. Many new businesses were added, and a 1918 edition of the "Follett Times" mentions two banks, the First State Bank and the Farmers' National Bank, three lumber yards, City Lumber and Coal Company, Panhandle Lumber Company, and the Whitehouse Lumber Company. Mr. J. H. Holland was editor of the paper of South Ivanhoe, and moved with the town where he published "The Follett Times" until June of 1919. It was bought then by the C. A. Skaggs family who combined the "Lipscomb Limelight" they were already publishing with this paper.
Drug Store / Soda Fountain - Follett, Texas (about 1920)
During the 1920's, the town of Follett wanted to incorporate, but one of the requirements was that the town be assessed by the City Marshall. Leon Courtney volunteered to be sworn in as marshal and made the assessment. After the city was incorporated, he thought his Job as city Marshall was completed, but people started asking him to make arrests and take care of disturbances.
The Leon Courtneys, who operated the Follett Hotel, organized a Follett city band. The band, twenty-four in number, played for all celebrations and school affairs. They also gave a concert in front of the movie theatre every Saturday night.
The town fathers turned their attention to the main streets, which were impassable after rains. They had put cross-walks at the intersections to accommodate the pedestrians - though they made bumpy riding down Main Street for the cars and wagons.
In 1929, a bond issue was passed by the City of Follett to pave the main streets and install sidewalks and curbing. The work got underway in 1930.
The young town prospered with wheat and cattle developing as the main industries. Grain elevators were built along the railroad to store and market the crops of the area. These were privately owned until 1920 when one hundred grain farmers organized a cooperative. Towering concrete elevators were built in 1944 and 1952, enlarging the co-op's grain storage capacity to 900,000 bushels.
The "Dust Bowl" days of the 1930's recalls to mind most vividly the billowing black duster which struck on an Easter Sunday. Oscar Borth remembers:
The Dust Bowl Days in Follett
"Sunday, April 14, 1935, was a nice, quiet warm day. It was almost a hot summer day. The sky was clear and it seemed as though summer might be here. About 4:30 p.m. what looked like a low line of heavy clouds all along the north was visible. Before long this "cloudiness" was much closer and was moving in quickly. It looked as though heavy clouds, smoke, or water was rolling in on the ground from the north. The most frightening thing about it was that long lines of birds were flying ahead of this storm at a high rate of speed.
"There wasn't much talking going on. Things were shaping up too fast in a big way. It looked as though this could be the end of everything, or at its best could be the worst thing that people had ever experienced. Then the wind hit and with it came total darkness, darker than any night. Light would not penetrate this darkness because the dust was so intense. Many people were stalled on the road and many were in storm cellars. People that had awakened from a nap during this storm, thought they had slept far into the night. After about an hour's time, it became light enough to see to some extent . . .
"This particular storm had a bad effect on people's faith and confidence in this area so far as farming and ranching were concerned . . ."
During the dirty thirties, many farmers were ruined. They were told to "cheer up", because it could get a lot worse . . . they cheered up and sure enough it got worse.
One day during the "dirty thirties" a man was knocked down by a drop of rain hitting him on the head. Two buckets full of dirt were thrown in his face to get him back to normal.
Wheat would occasionally soar to new highs in the "dirty thirties". Dust storms would carry the wheat, roots and all, high above the ground.
W.P.A. projects were started to help people during these hard times. Anyone caught with an orange in his dinner pail was terminated for being too well-off.
Though none equaled the "black duster", the dust storms were frequent and damaging during the "dirty thirties". The people watched helplessly as the wind took the precious top soil from their fields and one after another of their family developed dust pneumonia. By the spring of 1936, the hospitals were filled with dust pneumonia patients. After putting out a crop in the fall, many families moved to a healthier climate for the winter. Times were made more difficult when the depression caused wheat and cattle prices to hit rock bottom. It took a bit of thrift, a bit of ingenuity, and a whole lot of faith to survive. Of this period, Rosa Becker writes:
"Most of the farmers milked cows, raised chickens, a few hogs, grain for the cattle and put out a garden each year. The standard of living depended greatly upon whether the cows were fresh, hens laid, and gardens produced. By the end of any week, the family would have, maybe, a full five gallon can of cream and several dozen eggs which were hauled to one of the produce houses in Follett. At one time, cream was as cheap as 8-cents per pound for butterfat and eggs at 6-cents per dozen. Groceries and gasoline were bought with the produce check - or as far as it would go. Once in a while there was enough money left from the produce check to buy a pair of hose.
Flour was bought in one-hundred pound sacks. Many times the flour would have weevils by spring. Bread was usually homemade. It was quite a treat to have 'bought'n' bread. There was no running water unless you were in a hurry with a bucket.
There was a bumper wheat crop in 1931. The price of wheat that summer was from 30 to 35-cents per bushel. Some farmers dumped their wheat on the ground hoping for a better price. After several rains, the wheat molded and resulted in quite a loss to the farmers. The moldy smelling wheat was hauled by wagons to the A. C. Teter elevator and the farmers received only 24-cents per bushel.
On the day before Easter, the drugstore in Follett would give an ice cream cone for an egg. The children of the community were quite delighted.
In 1934 and 1935, due to the great drought, many cattle were starving, so the government paid $12 to $15 per head for young cows. Old cows were bought for $8 to $10 per head and then killed at local stockyards.
One farmer southwest of Follett offered his farm of one-quarter section of land and an eighty acre tract to T. R. Laubhan for a new Chevrolet truck, but T. R. refused to trade even-up. This was 1935."
Soaking rains finally came in 1938, and some of the most prosperous farm years for the Follett area followed.
When the United States entered World War II in 1941, practically every family in Follett saw one or more of their members going off to war. The farmers and businessmen were hard pressed to find sufficient help to operate. Many of the women had to assume jobs that had been strictly men's work until the men came home from the service in 1945 and 1946.
There was no electricity in the rural areas though a few farmers had carbide lamps or delco plants. R.E.A. lines were built throughout the Follett area in 1950. Many people left a light burning that first night just to see if it would still be burning by morning!
The area suffered its most severe drought from 1950 to 1957. This time, farmers and ranchers used improved equipment and conservation practices to curtail the wind erosions of their land. In the last decade (1957-1967), the farmers and ranchers of the area have employed an increasing number of conservation practices, placing this area in the top ten conservation districts of the nation. In 1964, the Follett Working Unit of the Soil Conservation Service, under the direction of Albert Hodges, received the Superior Service Award from the Secretary of Agriculture, Orville Freeman.
One of the stories told during the drought was of the farmer carrying a load of wheat to the elevator. A highway patrolman stopped him and asked how much wheat he was carrying. The farmer said, "400 acres. " The patrolman replied, "Get it to the elevator quick!"
Even when harvests are meager, farmers still chuckle at the story.
In 1957, drilling for oil and gas began in the Follett area and developed into one of its leading industries. This was welcomed by Follett as a stabilizing influence to its economy.
The 1950's and 1960's were years of a gradual decline in the number of farmers and an increase in the size of the farms. The small farmer could no longer survive unless he had a supplemental income. The skyrocketing costs of machinery, labor and supplies, combined with the decline in the price of wheat and grain sorghums, forced many farmers to sell out. Many farmers, while continuing to operate their farms, have moved into town.
|RETURN||Taken from "Pioneers of the Prairie" published in 1967|
Posted to the Net by Stan Crump