prairie fires


As told by Jules Luther Haumont
Publication unknown

     My name is Jules L Haumont, I was born February 27, 1890 on French Table at Elton, Nebraska.  In 1920 I moved to a farm in the Round Valley Community.  This is about 7 miles north of the French Table and I still make my home on this place. My father, Louis Haumont, homesteaded and lived until his death on the French Table.
     The Fire started near Brewster in Blaine County, Nebraska, burning everything in its path except where fire guards were wide enough, or where enough people got out to backfire or whip it out with wet gunny sacks.  The path of the fire was south east ward into Custer County.  The fire jumped the Middle Loup River just east of the Walworth postoffice (Walworth is about 20 miles north of Broken Bow, Nebraska and 3 miles east)  and since most of the land was grassland the fire burned everything southeast ward to Clear Creek.  The fire urned past the post office at Somerford and also the postoffice at Elton (Elton was about 11 miles northeast of Borken Bow) on the French Table.  Two tablelands were in its path, Boggs and French Table.
     The wind was very strong and when a cow chip caught fire the wind would roll it for 100 yards or more and spread fire as it rolled.  I was just 5 years old and my brother W. T. "Bill" was 7 years old.  My father was out with the other men fighting the fire.  Our soddy was 14 feet wide and 24 feet long inside. The smoke got so thick inside it that my mother made my frother and I lay down on the floor with our faces to the floor so that we could breathe.  About 5 o'clock that evening my father got home.  He was very black and grimy with ashes and soot but other wise all right.  There were no buildings or livestock destroyed but a great many Prairie Chickens were lost.
     For fire guards, they plowed a strip of ground 4 rods wide and the land was burned off every fall.  All sod houses had wood floors except two that I recall and they just had dirt floor.  Dirt floors were sprinkeld with water, then swept like a wood floor.
     During this prairie fire of 1895 my father and two other men had backfired around a hay stack and whipped out the fire thinking they had accomplished a good deed.  A whirl wind came along and warpped fire clear around the hay stack and burned to the ground.