The Story of a Kansas Pioneer, by Melissa Genett Anderson

Part IV.

     In 1866 a school house was built on the corner of our farm, and was always referred to as the "Phil Moore" school house. For three years we had been having a six months term of school, taught in an old log house. But now that we had a school house, we could have church as well as school. A Methodist circuit rider passed through once a month. He would baptize either by immersion or sprinkling, just as was preferred. A Dunkard came once a month also. But he preached that you must go under the water three times, face foremost. The Dunkard men wore their hair bobbed and parted in the middle, and both men and women had their distinctive dress. They practised foot washing, and when meeting saluted with a kiss, men kissing men and women kissing women. My son Charles was four or five years old at this time, and admired the Dunkard preacher very much. He would stand before the mirror, part his hair in the middle, and sleek it behind his ears in imitation. I would sometimes ask him what he was going to be when he grew up. "Be a Dunkard preacher," he would reply.

     Then we had a local preacher who held afternoon meetings once a month. He was known as a "Campbellite." I do not think anyone sent him; he just came. He had one great trouble -- he never knew when to stop. He was preaching along one afternoon when the sun was getting low. In those days the men took one side of the house and the women the other. It would have been considered a great breach of etiquette to do otherwise. Finally my husband arose from his seat on the other side of the room and went out. He reached a place where he was in view of myself, but not of the preacher, and motioned for me to follow. I did not think it was right to leave while the man was preaching at the top of his voice, but the motions were repeated until I got up and left.

     "What is the trouble?" I asked.

     "Trouble!" he answered, "It will be dark now before I can get the cows milked."

     The next day he was going with his hired man past the same school house. Both were driving teams. The hired man was ahead and had just come even with the building when my husband called out, "Jim! Stop and go to the school house door!" Jim got down to carry out the order. Then my husband continued, "Look in and see if Moody is still preaching."

     There was one circuit rider who often took his wife and little girl with him. It was hard and tiresome for the child. One day, looking up into her mother's face, she said, "Oh! I wish my papa was not a circus rider!"

     But it made no difference who preached, or what he preached, or when he preached, we all went and got, I trust, some good from each meeting.

     Of course no account of early Kansas would be complete without mention of the grasshoppers. Their first visit to us was sometime in the sixties, I do not remember the exact year. On one bright, sunshiny afternoon we noticed that the sun was growing dim, and found that the air as high as we could see was alive with flying insects coming nearer and nearer to the ground. Before we could think, grasshoppers were devouring everything green. I looked out at my fine cabbage patch, all nicely headed out -- only the bare stalks remained. After they had eaten everything in sight, the grasshoppers did have the good manners to rise and fly away.

     This was not true on their second visit. My memory fails me again in regard to the exact year, but I think it was in the fall of 1874. We first knew of their arrival when we noticed our orchard standing as in the dead of winter, stripped of all foliage. Later, the trees came out in full bloom, and our next year's crop was gone.

     This time the grasshoppers deposited immense numbers of eggs in every acre of cultivated land. Corn planted the next spring got a few inches high when the grasshoppers began to hatch, and they soon made away with it. A little later the fields were replanted in the hope that by the time the corn was up, the grasshoppers' wings would be grown and they would fly away. But they ate up this second planting The fields were planted the third time, and the grasshoppers were gone, but it was the first of July. Although the corn grew rapidly and made fine, large ears, when it was in the milk, frost took it. My husband had 115 acres in corn, but not an ear fit to feed a horse. There were also twenty acres in wheat. The grasshoppers let it alone until it headed out; then promptly devoured it. These were hard times for Kansas!

     And yet conditions were gradually improving. How many conveniences the young bride of today has that we of 1860 never dreamed of! Because we had never dreamed of them, we were contented with what we had, and as each new help came to us, it was an added joy. My mother had had to dip her candles, but I had a candle mould. I could mould four at once. My first coal oil lamp my husband carried from Fort Scott fifty miles on horseback. It was the only lamp in the neighborhood. Of course I knew nothing about the care of a lamp. I was admiring it, but noticed a speck on the flue. I took a damp cloth to remove it, and the flue broke, the pieces flying in every direction. Everyone in the room except myself was wondering why it broke. I did not try to clean any more hot flues with a wet cloth.

     I had heard of the sewing machine, but it was 1867 before I ever saw one. In 1869 1 got my first one, a little thing that had to be fastened to the table with clamps, but oh! it would sew. It immediately became a neighborhood machine. No matter what I had planned for the day, I would see a neighbor coming with a big roll in her arms, and I knew at once she was coming to sew. My work was at once slipped away, and a happy woman left for her home that day with more sewing accomplished than she could have done in a week by hand. I felt it no hardship; I was happy I could help her. Neighbors meant something in those frontier days. After we moved into our new house on the farm, I had a larger sewing machine.

     When Charles was seven years old, his father took him to town and ordered him a tailor-made suit: coat, vest, and long trousers. He also was fitted with some red-topped boots. But the boots did not last long. He had seen men oil their boots, so of course his must be oiled. Taking a cup of coon oil, he began the task, pouring the oil on them and holding them in the fire. Suddenly I heard the oil sputtering and frying, and the boots were burned up.

     In 1876 we went over near the Missouri line to visit a brother of my husband. After leaving Mound City we saw, out on that beautiful prairie, a peculiar new house. Every window and every door were covered with wire screening. That took my husband's eye, and he examined it carefully. Soon after we got home our house was the wonder of the neighborhood, all screened in. It did not seem possible that flies could be kept out. And oh! what a pest they used to be. In the evenings the ceilings would be black with them, and in the early mornings such a buzzing as they did make! There was no napping after they began. Whenever we began to set the table, someone had to take a brush to keep them off. But the fly has been conquered. If one gets into the house today, it is so lonely it cannot sing, but sits ready for the swatter, which it is sure to get.

     Our oldest children, Viola, Charles, Effie, and Ada, were all born in the log house. We later moved into a new frame house on the farm. Here our baby Pearl was born, October 20, 1876. She died November 30 of the same year, and is buried in the Logue Cemetery. It was in this house also that our son Arthur was born, April 13, 1878.

     Viola, our oldest daughter, had a beautiful, happy childhood. When she was twelve years old, we got her a little melodeon, which brought joy and sunshine to her and to the rest of the family. On May 5, 1878, Viola was married to Park Vannordstrand. But on July 21, 1879, her eighteenth birthday, we had to see her go. Though our hearts were broken, we could not keep her. She lies in the Logue Cemetery.

     We lived on the same "claim" for twenty-three years, in 1883 moving to Greenwood County. On October 5 of that year, Arthur, too, left us. He is buried in the Greenwood Cemetery. Our youngest son, Roy, was born about one mile from Eureka. We later moved into town, and here, on April 18, 1890, my mother passed away. She lies with Arthur in the Greenwood Cemetery.

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