Monday, January 15, 2007

Crabtrees Arrive on Immigrant Train - 1892

Peter Crabtree was born in Ohio, ninth in a family of 20 children. His wife, Sarah Williams was born in a log house near Portsmouth on the Ohio River. Her parents were William Henry and Elizabeth (Altmann) Williams.

In 1879 the Peter Crabtree family with eight children joined a large group of relatives, in-laws and friends who left Ohio and made the long trip to Cass County, Nebraska. There they bought a farm, built a sod house, survived the “grasshopper years”, started two sons to college at Peru State Normal College and another in farming. In 1892, they brought the eight younger children to Haigler, Nebraska, on an immigrant train to find land near the others of the Williams family who had come in 1886 to establish homes along the Hackberry creek in northwestern Kansas.

This is the rest of the story as told by Frank Crabtree and written down as nearly word for word as we can remember.

“We came to Haigler on an immigrant train. There were box cars for our farm implements, furniture, dishes and things like that, and our cows and horse were in a stock car. Vester rode with our livestock (one adult could ride free in the freight car to take care of the animals) Vester saw stowaways stealing rides by hiding among other people’s stuff.

Uncle Jerome (Crabtree) was waiting for us when we got off at Haigler. The men put the wheels back on our wagons and loaded our stuff in. They hitched up the horses and we followed a trail through the brakes to the southeast towards the Hackberry toward Uncle Henry’s place (Jonathan Henry Williams). The others had come earlier and already had houses built. Uncle Jerome’s house was just south of the Charley Zuege homestead. When we got in sight of his house we could see the whole family outside watching up the trail and when we got close enough for them to see that we were us, they all ran pell mell to meet us. (Ma and Aunt Mag, Jerome’s wife, were sisters)

We went to Uncle Henry and Aunt Ella’s (Mary Ellen Vanderford) to stay while we looked for land. My sister, Cora, (Crabtree-Marshall-O’Brien) was the same age as Ida, their oldest kid. On down the creek was Gran-dad Williams’ place and Uncle Henry’s place was down on the Hackberry. (south of Lee Mills’ house.) We had a hard time to find a homestead. Most of the available land had been already taken by the time we got here. The quarter we got was about five miles north and east of the rest of the family. It was a tree claim. Took less time to prove up. It was just south of the James Boyd place. They had moved over west (James Boyd basin quarter 1890 – 3 quarters west a few miles 1894 and 1895) We lived in their house while we built ours. We built a barn first. There was a strip of land already broke up that we planted to corn the second year. We raised a kind of little red corn – with small ears – real hard kernels – almost too hard to shell. It would grow when bigger corn would dry up. We discovered that it was richer than other corn. Vester picked half a wagon box full in a little while. I thought we could help (the cousins Harley & Charley, Uncle Jerome’s boys) and get it done really fast. But Vester ‘fired” us after a little of our kind of help. Uncle Jerome had two or three milk cows and some chickens but no corn. Aunt Mag came over to see if they could get corn from us.

Later, we broke out the prairie with a sod breaker plow. Pa hired George Mullen to break up the land up on the divide (around where the Prairie Rose schoolhouse was later). We left the pasture on the hillside. I broke it out years later. (This land was later owned by Kenneth and Marion Miller). Livestock made its own way in winter. The tall buffalo grass was good feed and the Boyd quarter had water in almost all the time, even during the dry years.

We had the hillside pasture fenced and kept the horses in during the summer. If we didn’t have hay, we would let the horses out with harness on during the noon hour to eat grass. We gave them corn when we had it. We raised corn and cane – not much wheat then.

Vester had a team – lively but gentle and he left them in our barn. Once he sent me to bring them over to our house (the Boyd house at the time). I got on one of them. He was tired of the barn and started trotting – pretty jolty. I quit trying to hold him back and they got to a gallup. Within 40 rods of home, I fell off and woke up in bed. I was ten years old. We had brought one cow and had quite a bunch in a few years. We had all the milk, butter, chickens and eggs we needed.

Neighbors on the east were the O’Learys. There were young people the same ages as the Crabtrees.

Vester had a 1pre-empt that had a shack already built on it. The man was leaving. Vester proved up on it. Then he and I went back east (to Cass County, NE) to the home place for 2 or 3 years then came back. He and Dave came back and filed on other land.

Abel and Becky came in 1893, Oren was three years old. Their homestead was north of us and south of the Lute Stafford place.

For a year or so we lived on a place down on the Hackberry south of the homestead. It belonged to some people named Thompson who were leaving. Mrs. Thompson gave readings. They left about 50 bushels of corn and Mrs. Thompson told Ma not to let anyone have it. One day, a man and the sheriff came and started to load up the corn. Ma tried to stop them. The sheriff said, “the only way to stop us is with a gun and we have guns too.” The Thompsons probably owed a store bill someplace.

One school year we had 40 pupils. They came from surrounding districts. I remember from the west district, George Boyd, Harley and Charley Crabtree. There were the Burns children from the east district and the Whites from the Hackberry south and the Wagners. In the district were the Biggses, the McKinneys and O’Learys. Pauline Wagner was the age of Cora. She was a nice girl; very bright; real short and tiny. She 2ciphered me down in multiplication. I always chose addition… I got pretty good at that.

Cora and I were kids when we came to this country. Hurley and the girls, Addie (Booth), Mary (Graves), and Lizzie (Pate) were teenagers. Serepta was 23 and started teaching school right away. Vester was 21 and was the main pioneer because Pa was in poor health. Ma was sort of like a doctor or nurse for the community and was a midwife. I remember that she made a salve that cured skin cancer. Pa was a great story teller and Bible student.”

Of this family of eleven, three sons, Vester, Hurley and Frank spent their entire lives in the northwest Kansas southwest Nebraska community. Cora and Lizzie retired in Haigler. Addie (Booth) died young while living in St. Francis. Dave and Serepta spent several years of their retirement here. The oldest, Will, was very involved in the education system and became a college president and Secretary of Education in Washington, D.C. The Crabtree roots went deep, but that is another story.

1 preempt: the right of purchasing before others; especially : one given by the government to the actual settler upon a tract of public land the right of purchasing before others; especially : one given by the government to the actual settler upon a tract of public land.

2 cipher: to compute arithmetically

--Italics added for clarity
-- Alice (Crabtree) Gregory

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