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Grandma Dora( Hartmann) Hansen's Memoirs of Homesteading in South Dakota

Grandma Dora( Hartmann) Hansen's Memoirs of Homesteading in South Dakota

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Published by David F Maas
This document represents the memoirs of Dora (Hartmann) Hansen, describing the experiences of the John Hartmann family as they homesteaded in Perkins County , South Dakota from 1909-1914.
This document represents the memoirs of Dora (Hartmann) Hansen, describing the experiences of the John Hartmann family as they homesteaded in Perkins County , South Dakota from 1909-1914.

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Published by: David F Maas on Jun 18, 2010
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Grandma Dora (Hartmann) Hansen¶s Memoirs of the Homesteading Experience of the John M.Hartmann in Perkins County, South Dakota (1909-1914)(Recollected February 1965)Edited by David F. Maas, Grandson of Dora (Hartmann) HansenUnedited holograph at conclusion of typed documentThe following is a true report of the five years of homesteading in Perkins County, SouthDakota. These are the memories as I saw them and knew them at the age of 6 to 11 inclusive.It was 1909. We were living in the little town of Corsica, in Douglas County, SouthDakota. Dad was a carpenter at that time. Rumors had it that free land could be had in PerkinsCounty. Land agents were taking men by the dozens to see this wonderful prairie land. So Dad,Uncle John Hendricks, and several other good friends decided to join with others to go see for themselves. The time was ripe, that is for the land agents. The grass that year was knee high and bountiful all over the plains and was quite convincing to those looking at it.The men talked to some of the ranchers that had lived there for some time and were toldquite frankly that this was a very unusual year. But ³seeing is believing,´ these ³green horns´thought, and said as much. Of course, it ended with each of this party staking their claim of 160acres. This was to be theirs if they ³proved up´ or stayed and lived on it for five years. If not, itwent back to the government. Of course, there were dreams. If it could raise grass like this,think of the other crops it would raise.But these poor sod busters were in for an awful let down. When the next year and thenext year and the next stayed so dry, the ³dream crops´ failed to mature. The land agentsneglected to say that rain was a scarce item in Perkins County. We managed to stay the fiveyears to prove-up on our land. But many of our friends and close neighbors couldn¶t take it for more than two years, so they left. This, of course, helped us as we could graze our cattle on thisfree land. I¶m getting a little ahead of the beginning of my story.Dad and Uncle John came back late that summer of 1909 to build our homes. They hadto haul the lumber 24 miles all with horses and wagons, and only trails to follow. The rest of uscame early in February 1910. Dad had helped Uncle John get his building done first. So after trying to live with Uncle John (there were nine in their family and six in ours²all in a threeroom house in the dead of winter), it wasn¶t easy.So one very cold day, Mom bundled us kids with most of our belongings in a bob sledand we went home, ready or not. It wasn¶t very cozy. [We had] just the shell of the house doneto keep out the snow and cold. The old cook stove, of course, had to do double duty. We werecomfortable, after a fashion, and it was ³home.´ Dad had built a basement barn for the team and
a couple of milk cows we had at the time. Then we had Rover, a black and white pup. He had to be in the house most of the time as there was no place for him outside yet.One morning after putting him outside for air, he started to bark furiously, scratching atthe door. Dad opened the door to see what the trouble was, when [he noticed that] not more than20 feet away, a grey wolf [was] nosing around and coming for Rover. The opening of the door scared the wolf that time. Another evening, Dad and Fred were watering the stock by a pumpsome distance from the house. It was snowing and cold when they saw three of these greywolves lurking in the shadows. Dad went for his rifle, a big 45-70, which he had fired a fewtimes, doing a good job of keeping these predators away. They didn¶t bother us much after thefirst winter.That coming fall, a new school house was built, the first one in that township. We hadtwo and ½ miles to walk to school. We had our church services and Sunday school in thisschoolhouse the first year. The second year it was decided to build a new church. Our minister was our first school teacher too. The church was built three miles from our place. This meantmore walking. Dad would hitch up occasionally, but most of the time we walked. If it was amatter of two or three miles, it was just taken for granted that walking was in order, and walk wedid.Our church was a United Evangelical (now known as E.U.B.), but it also was the onlychurch within miles of us. So we had a good attendance. There were four families originallyfrom England who were Methodist, three families of Holland descent, and two or three Norwegian families. Then there were several families that were formally U.E. members. It madeno difference as to the creed; they were all very good to come and take part in the churchactivities.We lived seven miles from our Post Office at Lodge Pole, South Dakota. There was alsoa general store and blacksmith shop in Lodge Pole. But when cream had to go to market (at leastonce a week in the summer time) or other important things, that meant going 24 miles toHettinger, North Dakota. That meant getting up very early in the morning and not getting back until late at night again, or else staying over until the next day. Either Dad or Mom would go;sometimes they could double up with the neighbors.Mother was just as good with horses as Dad was. Mom would hitch up Old Dixie and goto the Ladies Aid, if the weather permitted. These meetings were always held in homes, whichsometimes meant driving five miles or so to a meeting. One very warm day, the meeting was atour place. The sky, later in the day, got real dark and looked very threatening. A couple of themembers left, as they only had two and ½ miles to go. But the minister stayed as they had fivemiles to go.It didn¶t take long either until the storm struck. It really rained and hailed; the hail, thesize of golf balls, lay in drifts, against the house and in the ditch. We picked some up after the
storm and made ice cream, which was a real treat to us. Yes, it can rain in Perkins County²sofar and far between, though usually accompanied with hail like this storm, which would wipe outeverything even if one had the promise of a crop. Strange as it seems, and as dry as it got, wecould usually raise all the potatoes we could use. Once in a while, there was a fair crop of flax or small grain. It didn¶t pay to plant corn; we didn¶t even get fodder for feed. It was always a problem to get enough feed for the livestock for winter. Dad had to go get a load of straw (nothay) for feed. This took a couple of days, and driving most of the night, too. On this particular trip, he had to cross a crick which had quite steep banks. He didn¶t mind it in the daylight, butcoming back [at night] with a load of straw [was another matter]. It was pitch dark when he gotto this place.He couldn¶t guide the horses, so he said he grabbed the brake rope, shut his eyes, and letthe horses have their head. Well, he got through and home all right again. This was also theyear when Dad would take the pitch fork and pull up the Russian Thistles while they were stillgreen and the stickers weren¶t hard yet. He stacked them by the barn for [cattle] feed that winter.They didn¶t get fat on it, but it kept them alive. It didn¶t make any difference how dry it got allsummer; Russian thistles would grow and thrive in spite of the draught. One particular summer,the grain that had been planted that spring, never came up until after a shower of rain in themonth of August. It was a beautiful green field, but too late as far as a grain crop was concerned.Dad planted some trees when we first moved to Perkins County. He got them to growalright, but they never got more than six feet tall. This is also due to the hard pan in the groundtoday. Today, after 50 years [1965], they still are alive, but no bigger.In the summer, when we kids were not in school, we were out with the cattle, always amile to two miles from home. Especially as the last three summers when our friends had left, wecould use that land for cattle grazing. Sometimes it meant being out all day, bringing the cattlehome around noon for water, then out again. Usually though, Fred, being able to handle a horse,would go for half a day. Then Joe and I, on our own two feet, would go out for most of the day.We had from 20 to 40 head of cattle to herd. When we had the 40 head of cattle on hand, 15 of them belonged to some friends, which, through some agreement with Dad, we were to herd andkeep them through the summer.Water was another problem; we didn¶t have a windmill like the ranchers had. Water hadto be pumped by hand for all the livestock. Dad usually saw to that part of it, but when it washot, it wasn¶t that easy. He got permission to water our cattle at the Johnson Dam when we werein that territory. First, we would have to make sure that the JX (J-bar X) cattle were nowhere insight. Then we would lift the top two wires of the fence on top of the post and lower the twolower ones. Then [we would] let the cattle in to drink and out as soon as possible. We could seethe ranchers fence in their sections of land after the sod busters came in. This dam was close tothe fence line, so it was just a matter of minutes to have the cattle in to drink. This, however,was a big responsibility for two kids (8 and 9 years old) to get this chore done²without ever 

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