MY UNCLE LAFE
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|I am not sure just when Dad,Mother and the three girls went to Moberly, MO. But he rented his farm and bought two lots about two blocks south of the Hannibal and St. Joe machine shops. This was in the western part of town. Soon after this, perhaps five or six months, he traded his farm for a big 10-room house in the extreme eastern part of town. Not far from a big school where he was janitor for one term of the school. I believe he had mortgaged the farm to build a small house on these two lots he had first bought. And when he traded the farm for the big house, which was a good one, but he assumed a mortgage of $300, and when he traded this note was due, in about six months, and about this time the country was suffering the worse money panic it ever had, and perhaps until yet, and Dad was unable to renew the mortgage, or to borrow elsewhere, then he traded the big house for the Moberly Hotel. It was called the Moberly House. I am not sure Dad knew he was a poor trader or not, but it's my opinion he was just that. Ellis was living with the folks at this time, working in the shops. I went home on a visit and stayed about four days while they were running that place, as I did not answer Dad's letter as I should have done. I did not hear often from them. But in the fall of 1878, they all moved to Cowley County, Kansas.|
It's so long since these things happened and what I am writing was told to me I will be guessing about some of the dates and what really did happen. It seems there was a small, rather hunchback man that was boarding with the folks and was a ticket agent for some railroad and he was going to western Kansas to take up government land. His name was Charley Knight. He had a good pair of mules and Clarence drove these mules out to Kingham County for him. I am not sure how the other folks got to Winfield, but Winfield is where they first landed, then they went 18 miles northeast of Winfield, and at first stopped at Sam Phoenix and John R. Thompson. Then Dad got a filing on a 160 acres, one mile north of the Phoenixes, where Ellis worked for about six months.
This was all prairie land, only Richland Creek one mile south and Dutch Creek one mile north and also onemile west as this creek run around. This prairie was a rolling one, but while I lived there what I saw going was in the form of dust. There were numerous springs there on that prairie but they were usually out of sight until you were right at them for they were in sinkholes. There was one close to Dad's house that I built a well over. About six months after Dad moved to this farm, he got the Wilmot Post Office. Then after I went home in the fall of 1880, he and I bought a small house, and a small stock of goods, of J. V. Curd, and moved it and joined it his little room he used for his post office, then he added more goods, and he had a very good business for a country store. Then in 1885, the railroad was completed from Beaumont to Winfield, and as it missed old Wilmot by about three miles, Dad sold his farm and moved his post office and store to the railroad there he built a house and store building. One day after they got settled, about all of their children met there, and then the folks were really enjoying themselves, in my opinion, more than they had since they first went to housekeeping. Then after Mary and Theodore Heineken died there in 1887 and they had the two little girls to care for, I don't remember just when for I and my family was in Springfield, Colorado, but some things got going wrong, and the family all moved to Carthage, Missouri. Clarence and his wife Mattie were in Carthage then, Mattie working in a dry goods store and C. L. in a lunch house. Soon after the folks got to Carthage, Dad had some money left out of his wreck, they bought and run a eating and rooming house here while Mother was trying to help do some paper hanging, she fell off a chair and broke her right hip. Then soon after this happened, they lived awhile with Wilton and Mary, who had moved to Webb City in 1890. Then not long after that they went to live with Ellis and Louise down on the Salt Fork in OK. Then Ellis and Louise brought Dad and Mother and Pearl and Ettie down to our home near Carney, OK, I believe this was in May 1895,for I took them all to Winfield about the middle of August in Roasting Ear Time, then they rented a house and went to housekeeping. I sent Leland up there to attend school, I believe it was in 1898, but he played too much, and I got him back home.
I saw the folks about once a year. In January 1899, I took them 20 pounds of butter and a dressed hog that weighed 200 pounds dressed. Dad would not allow me to cut it up for him, he wanted to do that job himself. Dad soon after this got sick, I went up to see him, he was able to get up by himself, and did not seem much sick. But the heel that he got hurt when he was 8 years old was then a running sore. Less than a month after I was there, he got much worse and died on June 28, 1899. He was buried in the Wilmot Cemetery where six years later we buried Mother by his side. I wanted to keep the folks with me for I could take care of them there much better than I could help them in Winfield, but the girls wanted to go to Winfield to school. Especially Pearl and what those girls wanted they got, if Mother could get it for them. Mother thought as much of those girls as she ever did of her own, and I knew Winfield was a good place for them to go to school. After Dad died, Mother, Pearl and Etta lived by themselves for some time as both girls were attending school in Winfield. In 1901, Mother and Ettie lived with us on the Hockenbary Farm, one winter, Ettie going to school, while Pearl was living with friends in Winfield, where she had many. I am not sure how long Mother lived with Allie. She went there from our place, which was near Baldwin, Kansas.
In 1902, I was in K.C., at the livestock show and stayed two nights with Allie. Mother was there then. I saw her every year but not very often. Mother and the girls kept house until Ettie was married, on Jan. 5, 1904. I saw Mother not long before she died. She was able to sit up some then but was about all in. She died on April 17, 1905. I was then living in Tschumche, Kansas, on a small farm that was part of the town site. C. L. was living in Chicago, Allie sent us each a message and we met at Allie's and we paid the doctor for his services and the medicine he gave Mother. We also got her a suitable casket, but not expensive, yet it looked good. We shipped her body to Wilmot on the same train we went on, and we had wired the people there we would be there, and were met at the station by a lot of her and our friends, and her body was taken to the home of John and Emma Groom, where John Watt, Mother's Sunday School superintendent and teacher, held a short service, and then she was buried in Wilmot Cemetery, by the side of Dad who had been buried there six years before. Then we went to Winfield and among us that were collected money and gave Will Cayton and son an order for a suitable stone to be placed at their graves, and after I know it was done, and how despite all the ups and downs (and mostly downs) this couple lived happily together at all times. Dad took several mild scoldings from Mother, but he took them with plenty of salt, and was soon forgotten by both.
|I have been quite a rambler. I was too dumb to get much education, and to bashful to court the girls until I was 25 and discovered then that no young girl wanted a bachelor. So I married the first girl I ever loved. I first met her while she was teaching at the Summit School House at old Wilmot which is about three miles northwest of the little town on the Frisco RR. Her name was Rachael E. Nawman. She had almost (not quite) red hair and lots of it, in fact I never saw any other woman with so much fine hair that was coarse, she was 5 ft 4, weighed 117 1/2 and I thought her the sweetest woman there was, this was in October 1880, and on Sept. 5, 1882, we went to Arkansas City with a hired buggy and a fine pair of my own mare colts just three years old. We were married by Reverend Broad head at his parsonage,just after dark, then went to the Leland Hotel and spent the night. The next day I took her back to her Dad's and left her there while Ellis and I went back to Emporia to finish up our washing machine, very unsatisfactory undertaking. This was a deal Ellis and I got into before I was married, the purpose was to add to my cash which was then just $300 and before we found out it was a bad deal most of that $300 was D Gone. Ray (his wife Rachael) had told me she thought it was a wild goose chase (her judgment was good).|
I had before this built a story and a half addition to Dad's house, expecting to take my wife there to live after we were married. But she did not approve of that idea, I had to change my plans. Rachael was born Nov. 7, 1854 in Clark County, Ohio, where her German parents were from. Rachael taught six or seven terms of school before we were married. After Ellis and I finished our business in Emporia, I took my wife to Dad's,shucked his corn, got him his winter and summer wood, and shucked some corn for Cal Sturms. Then in March we moved one mile south to J. W. Miller's farm, the same one Wilton had farmed two years before. After one year, we moved two miles west to a larger farm, but not to do much farming. I had a good team but could make more money at my trade of stone work and sheep shearing. Stayed one year there, then we moved to Winfield and bought two acres just east of the city limits with two small houses, chicken house, well and small barn. In 1885, we rented it out for six months for $25 a month. Had a hard time collecting the rent, but we succeeded.
The next year, Gladys was born there, then we traded for a house and lot on East Fifth Street and I got a job of delivering of flour and feed, then one day I was taken down with sciatica, which cost me my job. This was about March 1, then with George Robinson I went to Springfield, Colorado, in April and in May I chartered a car and moved my possessions and some of Morris Cohen's out there where I went to work at once. First, I built a concrete house for Cohen, then did everything that came along that had an honest dollar in it. Built myself a nice little house in town, plastered and painted it white, filed on 160 acres of very good land, five miles southeast of town, built a two-room half dugout, a barn, had a well drilled that cost me just $100. Had five acres plowed, fenced it, planted all kinds of crop and garden truck and got nothing. Although my rheumatism bothered me lots, I worked every day when it was possible to work for the weather. I built several stone houses and cisterns, went 35 miles into the cedars for post and wood, all alone, cut my foot badly, had a sick horse that I had borrowed, but got back home with a fine load of wood that was over six feet high from the bolster, came near being lost 50 feet from the house, during a big blizzard. This day an old 65-year-old woman was frozen to death within less than a quarter of a mile of her home, trying to get to her daughter's. Just a quarter mile away, she started in the wrong direction, this was on smooth prairie and me and five or six others were looking for her and I was the first one to find her as the others were looking between her shack and her daughter's. I looked southwest of her house, the way the snow was going that day. He was laying on her back with her hand over her face in very little snow. She had a basket of knitting with her. We were in Colorado nearly three years.
In the fall of 1890, I sent Ray and the two kids home. They had been there the year before for about three months. Then later I sent two colts and a young cow to Kansas by John Rogers. Then after I mortgaged my claim for $250, she paid out $200 of it for a deed. I started back to Kansas with two horses and two mules, a big wagon loaded with furniture and a buggy. These mules were poor in flesh and very slow. They belonged to Mr. Hogue. I had agreed to drive them to Winfield and had written Hogue at Winfield when I started as there was a very large corn crop that year in western Kansas. Hogue decided to stop me at Buckland, the western end of the railroad at that time, and keep his team there and fatten them and sell them. So that is as far as I got with that outfit, and I was glad for it for it was a very lonesome job, about 180 miles. From Buckland I went home by Wichita, then took a trip down to Seymour,Texas, to work in the new booming town. But I was too late to get much work for the bubble had burst. Then Pap Nawman and I took a trip into the Caw Indian country to see an old rich Indian who wanted some young man to manage his big farm, but we were only one hour too late, and the job had just been let. Then on Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 30, 1891, the Iowa and Sac and Fox country opened to settlement. I was one of the first one's to get a farm down there.
I finally settled at Carney, OK, just 110 miles of Pap Nawman. Pap then 68 and not well yet from the grippe, went down with me and we stayed until the first of March, and built up a horse barn and a cave. We first built the barn and lived with the horses until we got the cave ready to occupy. Then we moved into that and was as snug as a bug in a rug. Then we built the house of hewn logs 12 by 16, story and a half. Then we hired a man with a big team to take a load of our goods down to the new home. Then our labors began. Soon after I got located and fixed around some, I was appointed road overseer. Then the next spring I was elected township assessor. I had that job for four years, then was elected county assessor, and I had that job for two years. That job paid $2,000 a year, but I only saved about $600 for each year's work of three months each. After I finished the house and added to it, I had a nice-looking house with five rooms, and had built a good and big barn, and had 200 fruit-bearing trees on that place. We sold it and moved to Franklin County, Kansas, and bought an 80-acre farm, which we kept one year, then traded it for a 120-acre farm two miles west. We kept this one just over one year, then sold it and moved to Baldwin, Kansas. We moved there on Jan. 7 and left in March for I had bought the home I always wanted, just 37 acres right in Tecumchea, five miles west of Topeka. But as Sol Becker had died (he was Pap's main farmhand) and Pap Nawman wrote me to come down and take charge of his farm, so we rented our house and moved down to Pap's farm, just two miles south and a half mile east of Winfield. This move was in August 1906. And after Pap died and we settled with Ray's brothers, we sold the place and moved to The Bidawee Farm 5 miles southeast of Carthage, MO. This move was in January 1910. Then on July 15, 1915, we moved to the East 13 at Carthage just east of the city limits. There I had a spell of staying in bed for 30 months. Then in November, we sold the Phelps place and moved to Carthage. Then on April 10, 1920, Ted and I went to Kansas City and bought a restaurant and a big 10-room house. But it was really too large for us, so I sold it for $500 more than I paid for it, then bought a smaller place where we lived for six or seven months. On Jan. 1, 1924, we traded our Carthage house for a big 10-room at 1631 Belleview in Kansas City, MO. The big house in Carthage that we traded for was very old-fashioned, had been moved from the present site from another lot, had cost us in the trade $3,000 but was really worth about $2,000. But Ellis thought it was given to us, for he thought that I had gotten that much more than The 13 At Place was worth. The 13 At Place had cost us about $6,000 and we got $7,000 beside the house. I had thought I was making a good bargain when we swapped for we was getting a good brick house that had been built a long time, but it was just as good as ever to look at or live in, but the town had grown away from it and it was now not as saleable, and I had overlooked that point, so we swapped even. Now I believe I could have gotten $1,000 to boot, but the way it turned out, I had assumed more debt than both properties would sell for.
I have made some good trades in my time but must have left my ability in the bed I was so long in, I often think my mind was about as sick as my body. Before I had that spell of laying in bed, I paid $60 for a cow, keep her just one week, traded her for two hogs and $45 cash, sold one of the hogs for $52.50 and ate the other. Then one day a few years before, I paid $60 each for two young mares, sold one the next day for $100 cash, the other I kept four days and sold her for $90 cash. The colts I owned when I was married had not cost me over $100 and after breaking them and keeping them two years, sold them for $350 cash and I worked with them all the time and raised a corn crop that I could have sold for $300. Such is life. We moved from over the restaurant where there were six rooms to the Belleview place on Jan. 5 and the next morning the weather was six below and as we were not used to running water in the house, about all the faucets and pipes were frozen. On June 20, 1926, Paul, Della, two other gals and I, left our place for Los Angeles. We got to Pasadena early on the Fourth of July and down to Los Angeles about 10 o'clock and stopped at Mrs. Davidson's at 1311 South Hill. There John (McPherson, his nephew) met us and took us home and there we were joined by about all the other bunch and before night, seen the "big pond," got hurt by falling on a big rock, and taken back to John and Alexina's house and put to bed, all in one day (and what a day!) Eleven months to a day, I was back home where I had left Ray, Mary and Bob to keep house while I was sporting around. After staying at the Belleview house for six years and seven months while Ted, Paul and Gladys paid our payments, Mother and I made our living and about once a week had enough left over to buy a 10-cent ticket to see the Sumit St. Show. Then about the first of August 1930, we sold Edd Keeney the house and all our furniture, except some keepsakes and the best part of our bedding, which we shipped to Chicago, then on 30 of August we shipped ourselves to the same port. And now I found out I have made another grave mistake. Since Roosevelt and Hoover have decided that for all old people over 65 years that have lived continuously in one state,from 10 to 15 years and are now paupers (and orphans) may draw $15 per month from some of the more lucky class (what will become of such people as us?). We never did live 10 years in one state at a time.
|Note: Melville Lafayette "Lafe" McPherson was born in Michigan in 1853, moved to Missouri with his family at the age of 15. While his parents ran a boarding house in Moberly, MO, McPherson worked as a farmhand along the Kansas-Missouri border. He wrote about his experiences then. After his marriage in 1882, he lived in Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma and Missouri. Finally, in 1930 he moved to Chicago where he died in 1943 at age 90. We are fortunate to have his recollections of his family life. Here is his story, edited by his grand-nephew, Bertrand K. Macpherson|