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قراءة كتاب Some Pioneers and Pilgrims on the Prairies of Dakota Or, From the Ox Team to the Aeroplane

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Some Pioneers and Pilgrims on the Prairies of Dakota
Or, From the Ox Team to the Aeroplane

Some Pioneers and Pilgrims on the Prairies of Dakota Or, From the Ox Team to the Aeroplane

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دار النشر: Project Gutenberg
الصفحة رقم: 9

Getting On The Land


It may be of interest to take a look at the town of Yankton of forty years ago, where we finally landed. Yankton was the terminal of this division of the C.M. & St. P. Railway, or, as it was then called, the Dakota Southern. It was also the capitol city of Dakota Territory comprising the present states of North and South Dakota. Its buildings were mostly small wooden houses, but, as may be surmised, it commanded a large trade territory, for besides being the end of the railway it was touched by a considerable steamboat traffic up and down the river and had considerable Indian trade, besides that of the adjacent white settlements. So it was then the most important city in the Dakotas and had been decidedly so before that time.

Here the immigrants were given a cordial welcome and temporary shelter at the home of Mrs. Carrie Severson, a widow whom they had known from the old country. We do not know, of course, how our fathers and mothers felt about the enterprise by this time, but to us youngsters, who as yet were not loaded with the burdens of life, the green grass and the freedom to scamper about seemed good after a whole month's confinement in a crowded steerage and more crowded railway coaches.

Next day friends of the party, who had immigrated some ten years before, came with teams and wagons to help these newer comers to get on the land and make their start in the new and, to these people, strange land. For this was indeed a very different country from the one they had left and even from the picture many of them had had in mind. There was much to learn and many disappointments at first as we shall see.

Among the men who undertook to receive this large company in their homes and to help them get established in homes of their own, and who extended the glad hand of welcome that day, should be mentioned these: Stingrim Hinseth, Ingebricht Fagerhaugh, Haldo Saether, John Rye, John Aalbu and Halvor Hinseth. These men loaded into their lumber wagons the big blue chests and smaller parcels; deposited the passengers as best they could and started out over the prairie on what was called "The Sioux Falls Trail". This trail angled all the way to their homes in Turkey Creek, over twenty miles to the northeast. Darkness soon overtook the travelers and the following circumstance created considerable merriment for the hosts, at least. The newcomers observed, as they journeyed on thru the darkness, very many gleams of light as it were from innumerable human habitations. These points of light were, of course, fire flies, so called, or certain phosphorescent bugs which at that time were very numerous because of the abundant grass prevailing everywhere. At length one of the passengers remarked in evident astonishment! "This country must be very thickly populated, judging by the many lights we see"! When daylight came, however, the lights and most of the supposed inhabitants had utterly disappeared.

It may be of some interest to the new and coming generations to take a look at the country around Turkey Creek as it greeted the curious gaze of these new comers of forty years ago on that first morning of their arrival. Most of the friends who brought them out from town and distributed them for temporary shelter were settled on the Turkey Creek bottom and located about where they or their dwellings are now. Farthest north up the valley was John Rye, then Halvor Hinseth, next Steingrim Hinseth, I. Fagerhaug, Ole Solem and Jens Eggen, in order as named. But back of the creek bottom where these earliest homesteaders had located was the far stretching open prairie—a sea of waving grass—with a lonely dug-out only here and there and vast stretches of "no man's land" between.

There were no regular highways, only some trails winding their way over the endless grass, in some general direction, but with many crooks and turns to avoid a hill, ravine or slough. These sloughs, or small lakes, were very numerous and of considerable size and depth in those days. There is today many a waving field of corn and grain where we boys of the first generation of settlers once launched our home made boats, hunted ducks, swam and occasionally came near drowning.

The best travelled of the trails in the part of the country we are describing was the old territorial trail called the Sioux Falls Road. This angled in a north-easterly direction all the way from Yankton to Sioux Falls, and many a prairie schooner could be seen moving with stately slowness over this road, not to speak of other vehicles which were numerous. As a boy I have seen long caravans of Indians, perhaps twenty or thirty teams in a string, trekking over this road. When the ruts became too deep, by reason of much travel and the action of the water, another trail would be made close alongside the old. Thus in places six or eight pairs of ruts, made by many wagons and feet, could be seen side by side.

There were no wire fences to mark boundaries between farms or to form pastures in those days, and the cattle were herded far and wide. The people in the Turkey Creek Valley herded as far as Clay Creek. The writer of this, altho not of the earliest herd boys of the time, and living near Turkey Creek, has taken his herd many a day to the proximity of Clay Creek with practically open pasture all the way.

I am speaking for many boys and some girls, too, of those days, boys and girls who are fathers and mothers now, when I say that our pasture fence was Clay Creek on the west and Turkey Creek on the east. Not that we were not free to go farther but that the day was not long enough to get any farther and back again the same day.

There was at this time, when our pilgrims arrived, but very little of the ground broken up. What little there was broken was mostly on the creek bottom, but scarcely any on the upland. And when a little later patches of prairie were broken up in order to comply with the homestead law requirements for getting title to the land, these patches were usually in a draw or low-lying strip between the hills. Thus the fields of early days were not laid out with any reference to north or south, but their direction was determined entirely by the hills and valleys. The little breaking which was done was done with oxen and sometimes the direction of the field to be was determined by the oxen themselves more than by the driver. Some wheat, corn and oats was raised, but the main dependence of the farmer was cattle and milking.

The dwellings were of three main types. There was the dug-out, usually in a side-hill, with a sod roof, a few studdings and boards being used to support the roof. The walls and floor were usually the native earth. The sod house was a more advanced and perhaps more stylish dwelling. Closely related to the sod house was the mud house where the walls, about two or three feet thick, were made of well tramped mud and straw. These mud houses were at times whitewashed and were both comfortable and sightly. As for comfort in the cold winter the dug-out and sod house were not so bad when properly built. But do not imagine that they were equal to your furnace-heated, modern house. They were, after all, a temporary hole in the ground to preserve life until houses could be had. A house made of lumber was a luxury which many an early settler had to look forward to for many a hard, long year, and often he had to die in the dug-out or sod shanty. Finally, there was the story-and-a-half frame house of two or three rooms with a possible lean-to. This type of house put one in the class of the most well-to-do; and such a habitation was the hope and dream of years for many a pilgrim mother of those days.

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