Frontier County Historical Society

Court House Frontier County Historical Society was organized in 1985 by Ken Wolf to try to preserve the history of Frontier County and the surrounding area of the state of Nebraska.

We have a membership of about 100 people from all over the United States. Many natives have moved away but they still maintain ties to the area.

We have on hand many family histories of the pioneer families and many events that took place in the early formation of the county.  We are always looking for more stories.

We send out a newsletter four times a year and need stories for that.

We have about six meetings a year on the second Sunday of the month. 

 

GRASSHOPPER MEMORIES

I was born in a sod house and lived in a sod house during the Depression. My dad had a stroke and I have faint recollection of him. We took him in our Model-A to a train in Utica and he later died in a hospital in Yankton, S.D.

During the Depression, the sky was hazy with dust and usually windy and hot. We wore straw hats to make things easier. I was always told to wear my hat so I wouldn't get sun stroke.

The days were hot and sometimes it seemed like there would be a tornado. We took our dog and lantern and climbed into our cellar. The wind blew, but again there was no rain.

The grasshoppers were so numerous they even got into the house and ate our clothing. We had a small building for chickens that could be pulled into the field, whereby the chickens would eat the grasshoppers and we then ate the chickens. I stepped on grasshoppers that were laying eggs on the road all the way home from school. Rabbits were also plentiful and my brothers would hunt them with the Model A at night and come home with a pile of them. Later the rabbits developed tumors, so we stopped eating them.

My clothes were made out of chicken mash sacks and flour sacks. Two sacks made a gathered shirt, one made a blouse.

Horses pulled a sleigh, as the roads were not open during the winter. Sometimes the horses had to be shoveled out to make progress. Some of the horses died of sleeping sickness.

Many people moved from our state to California, where there was not a drought. Some just left with motorcycles.

My mother could not understand why some families had so many children when they could not clothe or feed them. Some of the pupils came to our school without coats or hats. We did receive some surplus from the government at our school, which was apples, oranges and grapefruit.

My oldest brother was a talented person. He repaired all our machinery and also was my doctor. My ring finger was infected and he laced it with a blade and squeezed out the pus. I almost lost my life several times. At an early age, I fell out of a highchair and turned blue. Another time, I had pneumonia and was given a live-or-die medication. Once, a cow trampled me and broke my leg.

The kerosene lamps, gas lamps and Aladdin lamps had to be maintained. Later we got a wind charger that gave us lights at night. On a windy day you could even iron. Those batteries would bubble in the attic.

The sod house was comfortable and cool and I'm glad that I lived in it in the 1930's.

Real Experience

By Bessie McFarland

I grew up in Depression times, in the "Boot Hell" of Missouri. This is the land in the southeastern corner of the state, if you look at it on a map, you will see that it resembles a boot heel.

In the early 1920's, we moved about five miles from the small town of Cardwell, Mo., population about 900. Daddy was a farmer. He rented 40 acres of land and planted soybeans, corn and cotton. Tractors were not plentiful in those times, and he farmed with a pair of big gray horses.

Our family consisted of Daddy, Mother, me and my baby brother. When I was 8 years old, I started milking cows, feeding the farm animals and helping out with the field work. I was Daddy's hired help- minus the money. Mother had to take care of the baby, cook the meals and keep things going at the house.

Daddy only planted six or seven acres of cotton, so we picked it ourselves. When we were through, I could go pick for our neighbor and make a little money for myself. I had nowhere to spend it, however, so I gave it to my father. He went to town about once a month for essentials like flour, sugar and salt, and he would bring us back some bananas, oranges and sometimes a little bag of candy. Money was scarce during the Depression.

One year when I was 12 or 13, after our cotton was picked, I went to our neighbor and asked if I could pick cotton for him. He had several children with whom I went to school: in fact, the girls were my best friends. He hired me and said he was paying 50 cents per hundred pounds. Wow! That was lots of money. However, I couldn't pick 100 pounds in a day, which was from sunup until sundown. (You always start picking early, while the dew is on the cotton, it makes the cotton weigh more.)

Three of the girls and I started out to the cotton patch when the sun was just coming up. The cotton stalks were way higher than our heads, we could only see straight up. (No defoliating in those days).

We were getting wetter by the minute-but so what? The sun would dry us. We began picking and talking as teenagers do, mostly about boys and how privileged they were. They could even smoke cigarettes, something unheard of for girls. We sure wanted to try one, though.

The girls' father and older brothers all smoked. The girls decided they could slip some cigarette papers and matches out of the house. No one smoked ready-rolled cigarettes in those times; everyone rolled their own. As for the tobacco, we had heard the boys talk about smoking dried, mashed-up cotton leaves; they said it tasted like tobacco.

The next morning we started out again at sunrise. The girls brought all the fix in's for our little experiment. We were down in the field quite a ways from the other pickers, no one could see us. So we sat down on our cotton sacks and started our handiwork.

The cigarettes didn't look too bad for first-timers. One of the girls had watched her brother roll cigarettes, so she was faster that I was. She lit up and pulled in a big draw. I just watched for a moment; this was new to me.

Just then, she started to turn an odd color; in fact, she looked green. Then she started coughing and vomiting. It scared me to death. I'd never seen anyone who looked like she did. I thought she was dying, and I said to myself, "If that's the way smoking' affects a girl, I don't want any part of it."

By noon, Mary was OK and ready to pick cotton. And that was the end of us smoking dried cotton leaves.

That happened more than 70 years ago, but I still remember how scared I was. We never mentioned it to anyone. That's just one of my experiences from the Good Old Days.

THE JOY OF ELECTRIC IRONING

It was indeed a great day when we got electricity. Life changed a great deal for the better.

I don't remember exactly the year, but sometime after World War II.

We did get an iron fairly soon after we got electricity. What a joy to be able to plug it in instead of using a flat that was heated on wood stove. You could never get the iron exactly the right temperature on the stove and you were forever coming up with scorched white clothes. I guess other things got scorched but it did not show as much.

I remember the bright overhead lights that you pulled a chain and everything was brighter than it had ever been before. The neighborhood seemed to take on a different look when you could look out the windows and see the electric lights brightly burning. There was no more washing smutty lampshades on Saturday, and trying to do homework by lamplight.

We had very few appliances for a good many years, but we were happy to just have bright lights -- and the electric iron.

Frontier County Historical Society
P.O. Box 242
209 Center Avenue
Curtis, NE  69025


We are looking for new members!

Membership is only $25.00/family/year!

 If you would like to sign up or make a donation please contact Marcile Nelson.

 

 

OFFICERS

  President: 
Virginia Roberts

Vice President:
Marian Davis

Secretary:
Jean Smith

Treasurer:
Marcile Nelson

 

 

Free Lots Available

What a great opportunity! Retire, live and raise your family in Curtis, NE! Construct a single-family home (meeting certain specifications) within a specified time period and receive the lot for free. All lots are on paved concrete streets with all utilities.

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