Hopkins County Folk Lore
My Trip to Dawson Springs, Ky from Colorado and Back to WyomingSubmitted by Neta Jaynes
MY TRIP TO DAWSON SPRINGS, KY. FROM COLORADO AND BACK TO WYOMING
By Ivan EtheridgeThis story was related by Ivan Etheridge to his daughters Marjorie and Maizie, who transcribed it. I shall interrupt the narrative at certain points to attach NOTES of explanation.
In the year of 1895, in the month of October, Whit and Beckie Etheridge and children, Ivan, Obie, Stella, Ellis and Lottie, the baby, and Ma's brother Lee Phelps, a bachelor, left Berthoud, Colo. to go back to Ky., where we had come from, with the intentions of staying, where all of our folks were.
We were living on a farm in Colo. so Dad and Ma decided to go back where everything grew big with plenty of water. In Colo. that year it was dry. We were used to growing our garden and then storing it in a dry cellar where it would keep all winter.
We started out with two covered wagons, with a small cook stove in each one. In Dad and Ma's wagon they had an offset box so it would be wide enough for their bed springs. Ma loaded in her feather bed and the other bedding, under their bed they had a trundle bed for the smaller children to sleep on. In the other wagon Obie, Lee, and myself slept in it. It contained an old smoky stove. In the morning Lee would build the fire, cuss because the stove smoked, Obie and I would pull the covers over our heads and laugh, then he would make us get up and stand beside him; we never did get enough sense not to laugh at him.
We went through Denver and on through Cheyenne Wells, Colo. At this place our troubles started. Dad had got into a threshing machine deal. He owed this man, Aleck Myers, $160.00. He told Dad if he would deed over his homestead(160 acres), that the debt would be paid. We had gone on through Cheyenne Wells, and camped in the state of Kansas. Myers had Dad arrested but the state of Kansas wouldn't let them take Dad back to Colo.
During our stay there, the wagon that Lee, Obie, and I slept in burned; anyway, we got rid of the smoky stove. Then we hitched our horses on the other wagon, and we all moved in the wagon with Dad and Ma. They took the little kids in bed with them, and Lee, Obie, and I slept in the trundle bed. We were on our way to Ky.
Dad bought a 100 lbs. of onions for 50 cents, and loaded that in our wagon with the rest of our possessions. Everything went smoothly, till one day we came to a corn field. The old man wouldn't sell us any corn, told us to go on. We drove on down the road, and over the hill, Dad stopped the wagon. Lee and Dad went back and stoled all the corn they wanted, then we just drove on. From then on we just drove out of sight and went back and got all the corn we needed, we never bought any more corn.
We always camped at small towns, they had camping grounds, and there were lots of other wagons "Going back to see the wife's folks."NOTES:At Hutchinson, Kansas, where the big salt springs are, Dad had his hammer and threw it in the wagon and broke the handle off of "Old Long John," a big 5 gal. water jug. But we still carried it all the way to Ky. The handle extended about half way to the top.
"...left Berthoud, Colorado...": Berthoud is about 40 miles north of Denver, and that is where they were located in 1895. But they had originally homesteaded in 1887 at the now extinct town of Bryant, in Phillips Co. in the extreme northeast corner of the state. After that, they lived in Washington Co. My great-grandfather Absalom Phelps, a Civil War veteran, died in Colorado in Dec. 1887 soon after his arrival. He was working for the railroad in Sterling, got caught in a blizzard while walking 30 miles home to Bryant, caught pneumonia and died. His grave is a prominent one in the Bryant cemetery, now in the middle of a field.
From here on I really had a good time. Lots of things to amuse an 8 year old boy. I would walk and pick nuts--there were hickory, oak, and hazel nuts. Then in the evening when the day's travel was over we would crack nuts.
We always tried to travel close to the R.R. tracks, it was level there and you could see the train headlights three hours before it got there. I always tried to sleep on the side of the wagon that the train was on, for I liked to watch it go by. Understand, there was a grown man and two boys to sleep in the bottom of the wagon box. Dad had made an opening the back, we had to go in feet first. I had to go to bed early so as to get the side next to the train tracks, so I could watch the trains go by. Now and then we crossed the tracks, so I would have to change sides of the bed. No wonder Uncle Lee couldn't hardly stand kids, and he never failed to tell them about it. We traveled from Kansas on down to Springfield, Mo. From then on it was more hilly, and we didn't have any brakes on our wagon, so Dad cut a forked stick and wired it on the back end of the wagon, so when the horses had to rest, the stick would hold back our wagon. Lee would just rave about that.
Everything went along all right until we got to Springfield. We camped in the city, because there was a street car line right close to where we were camped. This was the first big city we had camped in. Obie and I wanted to ride on the street car, but we didn't know how to go about it. Obie wasn't six years old, I coaxed him to take the first ride. The conductor had a buggy whip for just such riders as us. He gave Obie three or four licks, before he could get away. He was afraid to tell and I "darsent." That was one thing we never talked about till years later.
Dad took a notion that he would travel south, down through the Ozarks, as he had an aunt down in Lapland, Mo. He wanted to go by and see her.
There was no flour mills between Springfield and the Mississippi River the way we went. Dad got several wooden buckets of jell and sacks of flour. Now the country down there was rough. It was nothing uncommon to see a house built on a hillside, back of the house on the ground and the front five or six feet off the ground, on stilts, or posts. The hogs, dogs, and chickens all gathered under there to keep dry.
The soil down there was as red as any brick, that is what causes the Red River of the south. Down here we hit the Ozark Mts. In after years I told Aunt Goldie about going over a mountain with the front and back wheels off the ground, that was how we broke the wagon reach; she had a big laugh about it. That was Aunt Goldie.
"...he had an aunt down in Lapland, Mo." I never could find Lapland, MO on the map. But I have since been told that this term refers to that part of Missouri that "laps" down into Arkansas, i.e. the SE tip of MO. He later talks about "going down the Lapland," as if it were a river, meaning, no doubt, "going down into the Lapland." "...Red River of the south"--meaning the river forming the border between TX and OK and flowing through LA into the Mississippi. Many people are perhaps not aware that there is a Red River "of the north," forming the border between North Dakota amd Minnesota. "...I told Aunt Goldie." This was an aunt by marriage, on his mother's side. "...how we broke the wagon reach." The wagon reach is the pole joining the rear axle to the forward bolster of a wagon.
The farms were small, an acre would have been a big field. The farmer had no cash income, $50.00 a year was a fair year's work, they could raise anything to eat but they had no way of keeping it through the winter, as the cellars fill with water. That was where Dad and Ma seen they had not estimated what the people were up against. For their meat they would turn an old sow and pigs loose in the spring, they would live on nuts and roots. In the fall they would be pretty good size hogs, about 150 lbs., called razorbacks. They would have a big hog "killin" and salt them down.
They could raise cane ten foot high, and had lots of molasses, also corn, peanuts, and sweet potatoes, but no Irish spuds or squash, but no way of keeping them for winter. But they raised all kinds of fruit but again they had the problem of not being able to keep them for winter.
They dried their apples and pumpkin, for food through the winter.
Dad and Ma thought, Well, being they had come this far, they might as well go on, maybe they would like it. We were in the Ozarks. When we told them where we were from they didn't know where it was. They didn't know where Colorado was. Some of them had "heared" of it. Not much travel through the country. Some of the old people were illiterate, about half of them.
Down in Taney Co., Mo., it was just one street, and on the other side of the creek was the road we were traveling on. It had a court house. Years later I was telling a bunch of men about the place, and was laughing. An old man at Wheatland, Wyoming, got up and started to take off his coat, and said. "That is where I came from." That man thought I knew that he came from there, and was making fun of him.
At Springfield, Mo., Dad got some railroad maps, and that was when I started my education, in reading and study- ing the maps. I had only been to school a few months, and had just got to the DOG AND CAT AND RAT stage in reading but had a good memory for reading, so in a little while I could read the maps. BUT I DIDN'T EVEN KNOW HOW MUCH TWO AND TWO WAS.
As we were going on down through Mo. we were headed for the Black River. That is where they are mining for mica (at Leeper). At Leeper there was a saw mill. Dad and Lee were going to work for a while. The foreman told Lee to go the storeroom and get a line. Lee was gone quite a while, he came back and told the foreman he couldn't find a line. The foreman explained that a line was a rope (the foreman had been a sailor, and to him a rope was a line). Lee said, "Why didn't you say you wanted a rope?" The boss said, "You sure would look funny on ship looking for a rope." Uncle Lee said, "Yeah, and you sure would look great on a cattle ranch looking for a line."
At Leeper, Obie and I made our first wagon. We sawed the wheels off a log. I got to see the trains and engines, as we were camped close to the switch yards. BUT WE DIDN'T TRY TO STEAL ANY RIDES.
After we left there Dad went into a store to buy some dried apples. He told the clerk that he wanted 50 cents' worth. The clerk asked if he had SACKS. Dad asked him if he didn't furnish his sacks? Then the clerk asked if he knew how much he was buying? Dried apples were 1/2 cent a pound.
We went from Leeper to Poplar Bluff; there Dad tried to buy some eggs but couldn't, so Dad bought some goose eggs, they tasted like soap and weren't a bit good.
They had a big rain there. Nearly dark, a man came and told Dad to move up on higher ground, for it might flood and wash us away. Dad hitched up the horses and moved us up on higher land. It sure did rain, our covered wagon leaked so we had to sit up all night and keep a fire going. Dad drove on in to Poplar Bluff and got some oil cloth to put over the canvas, and we had to stay there all day to dry out.
While we were in Kansas Dad caught a young prairie dog for us kids as a pet. We taught him to bark, so he would bark when we told him to. We had been charging 5 cents for anyone to walk up to the wagon tongue and look at him stand up on his hind legs and bark, that was the first big town we hit that had a payroll. Obie and I was plenty busy showing off our dog and bringing in the nickels. Negroes and whites came to see our prairie dog. The next day Dad took Obie and I down town and bought us both a pair of shoes.
With our dog money we were in BUSINESS, and as proud as heck. From there on, when we came to a big town, we showed our dog and brought in the coin.
Now we took off down the Lapland to find Dad's aunt. We stayed there for quite a while. They had never had any flour bread, or biscuits. Ma made some biscuits and had some jelly in those twenty-five pound wooden buckets, that didn't take long to eat up our flour and jelly. They usually had a jan-thaw (I don't know if that is right or not), anyway the men decided to make maple sugar, they tapped the maple trees, then put the sap in a large vat and built a fire under it and kept it going till the sap turned to sugar and syrup. Then it was poured into a barrel and covered. Our flour was all gone, but it sure was good with corn bread. I had another big experience while we were there, I had my first smoke. Dad's aunt had a boy about my age; we, Obie, Frank, and I stole a twist of tobacco. Down there the cane grew about ten foot tall, and 1/4 inch through. We made some pipe stems and then got some corn-cobs, we were all set. We boys went out in the woods, because we were afraid our folks would catch us, so we crawled in a hollow log. We sure were sick. I usually tried everything out on Obie first, but that time I was right in it. We were about the sickest boys I ever saw. I still remember laying across that log vomiting.
"At Leeper..." Leeper is on the Black River (as he says in III), and it is in Wayne Co., MO. p. 4: "Now we took off down the Lapland to find Dad's aunt." Sounds like the Lapland would be a river, but I don't find that on the map either. My father always said that they had visited his father's aunt in Mountain View, MO. That would be Aunt "Dink," or Mary Ann Howton, who married Henry T. ("Doc") Ligon in Hopkins Co. in 1855. They were living in Mountain View at the time, though I think "Doc" may have already been deceased. But all their children were girls, except one boy, Lewis Grant (no Frank). Either Frank was a generation younger, or this was another aunt that I don't know about as living in MO. It is also to be noted that they would have already passed by Mountain View, MO, which lies to the west of Leeper, in Howell Co.
Next we traveled north towards Cape Girardeau, coun- try roads were real muddy, the horses had to pull all the time. Somewhere along that road Dad traded his gun for half a hog. One evening we camped, it had been raining (snowing) all day. Dad was a great fellow for setting something on fire. He set a big hollow pine tree on fire right close to our wagon, pretty soon it got to burning real good, fire shooting out of it just like a chimney. He had to hitch up the horses and move the wagon.
Everything went all right till we got to Dutchtown, twelve miles this side of the Mississippi River. There they had a mill that ground flour, Dad got a sack. There we crossed a small river bridge, the road on the other side was a toll road that run from Dutchtown to Cape Girardeau.
The horses were used to pulling the wagon through the mud, and when we got to the toll road, it was so much better that the horses couldn't hold the wagon back, and they began to trot, so Dad pulled off to the side of the road and camped by a big oak tree. Ma made some biscuits, we had been eating so much salt pork and corn-bread that we all had the scurvy, caused from so much salt and no vege- tables, that our mouths were sore. Uncle Lee thought it was the corn-bread that scratched our mouths.
We camped right by the Mississippi River, close to the ferry road. We camped behind the levee. We had to go up a steep bank to see the river. We could see the steamboats about 15 miles away, the lights were all on, it sure was pretty. Then you could hear the whistle miles away, and it would make big waves. There were shanty boats all along the river bank, they were just thick along the bank. Lots of people like to ride the waves in their canoes. The little kids on the shanty boats jump in the river and swin, and the men fish, getting their daily food.
The river was four miles wide. The ferry would bring the R.R. cars across it, it was a long ferry, and that is all it did, was to haul freight cars.
The land was higher than the river on the Illinois side. When we crossed on the ferry, it carried three wagons abreast. I had to go to the railing to look, and we were one fourth of a mile out before I knew we had started. There was no motion, just slided out.
From here we headed east, to Shawneetown, there was almost all negro people there. We made our biggest killng there, showing our "dog" (prairie dog). We crossed the Ohio River, then we headed in for Dawson Springs, Ky., our destination, about 75 miles away.
We went to Uncle Sant and Aunt Martha Young. Grandma Etheridge was living with them. We got there about in the evening on the 3rd of March 1896. It was snowing hard. They had three boys about our ages; kids like we were, we would try anything to outdo the other one. We would run around the house barefooted to see who could do it in the longest time (in the snow).
p. 4: "The river was four miles wide." Surely this is an exaggeration. A little boy's imagaination is at play here.
We were playing in Uncle Sant's tobacco barn (BUT WE NEVER SMOKED ANY-- once was enough for years). Kelly Etheridge was in the top of the barn and he fell and cut his head open, and we had to have it stitched up. When we got to Uncle Sant's place we popped corn, and us kids really had a good time being able to be on the ground after traveling October to March.
Grandma Etheridge smoked an old clay pipe. I used to fill her pipe and then get her a splinter to light it for her.
The kids had a game they called "coon hunting." One kid would climb up a second-growth tree, he would be the coon. THEN WE WOULD CUT THE TREE DOWN TO GET OUR COON. He was supposed to straddle the tree and ride it down and light on his feet. I had Obie playing coon for me, somehow he didn't ride the tree right and he fell sideways and had an accident, blooding his nose, and bruised him up quite a bit, not a good coon.
We kids were used to lean meat (beef), those kids of Uncle Sant's would squall for fat meat, they didn't like ham, too much lean. We didn't think much of anyone who would squall for fat meat.
Uncle Sant had a pond, more water than Obie and I had ever had the chance to swim in. It was just a mud hole, and we all went swimming. Uncle Sant licked his kids, and I suppose Ma did us too.
That spring the apples began to come, they were green as grass. Kelly and I got Obie and Uncle Sant's boys to try some of them and if they didn't make them sick, we were going to have some. Well, we didn't get to try any, they just had a good tummy ache.
When visiting Uncle Sant's place, we left our covered wagon there. We went to Willie English [Inglis], they had what was called English [Inglis] Hill. Dad didn't have any brakes on the wagon, so he put a pole in the wagon wheel so we could get down to the house. They lived on a little creek, I used to gather up the crawfish and and put it [them] in the creek. We made a little dam. Obie was too big to try it out, so I got Stella to try it out and a crawfish got her by the toe. I finally got her out and the fish off her toe.
While we were there, Ma took us to see the Purdys. Dad went off with a bunch of men coon hunting, made me stay back with Ma, to help her get to the Purdys'. I had Lottie on my back (the baby), Ma was carrying didies, and clothes for the rest of us. Obie was supposed to watch out for Ellis, I was supposed to take care of Stella too; now understand, I was mad because I had to help take care of the younguns, I wanted to go with Dad and the men coon hunt- ing. I took Ma and the kids through all of the mud that I could find. Old Stella got stuck in the mud, I didn't care if she did, I had to pull her out. We were sure a sight when we got there. Mrs. Purdy smoothed my feathers by letting me drink out of Nig Purdy's mustache cup. I felt pretty big.
"Kelly Etheridge": Kelly was son of Miles Sanford Etheridge, brother of my grandfather. He is the one who disappeared about 1890 and was "found" by me 100 years later, in 1988, in Oklahoma. His children were raised by his sister, Sarah Hicks. She and her husband Jim Hicks had no children of their own. "Uncle Sant's place...": Drury Sanford Young was husband of my grandfather's sister Martha. "Grandma Etheridge": Charlotte (Howton) Etheridge. She was born about 1822 and died two years after this, 22 July 1897.
That night Frank Howton came courting the little Purdy girl, she had lost one hand, and later he married her. That night I went home to stay all night with Frank Howton. On our way we had to go under an old tree that Ma and Grandma told me that the limb rotted off after someone had been hung on it. It didn't bother Frank BUT it sure did ME. Nig Purdy and his wife were fighting. They had an old tom-cat they would talk to. If Nig meeded his pants patched he would say, "Tom, my pants need to be patched," or she would say, "Tom, I need some wood."
We went to Uncle Sant's and then to Riley Harris's. They were poor people, all they had to eat was corn-bread and winter onions. While there Riley went up to Peter Howton's to borrow a piece of meat.
Uncle Bill Phelps loaned me his knife, and I cut my finger, that was when I first found out that I couldn't stand blood. He gave me the knife, I was sure proud of it.
We never stayed over a day or two at any one place, only at Uncle Sant's. We went to see Betsy Etheridge, she was Dad's brother's widow. It was there that I learned to braid bark, and make a good whip, when it got dry (also how to cut the wood out).
While we were there, Jim Davis and Tomasee (his brother) came by in the wagon. But Tomasee had to sit in the bottom of the wagon; while Jim was driving, Tomasee had to sit down and hold on to both sides so he wouldn't fall out. Jim said, "Us promise Mother we take good care of Tomasee."
We went from there to George Coats's, my mother's uncle. As we were going over there, we came to a place where a big tree had fell across the road. Instead of cutting a piece out, they cut another log and placed it on each side and the wagon went over it. We kids were throwed from side to side, and from one end to the other, as we went over it. That was when Dad and Ma said that was when they made up their minds to go back. They had heard us older kids say that if Ma and Dad stayed here, when we grew up we would go back to Colorado. Dad said that "if the kids knew better, it was time to go back," and Ma said that it was.
We went to old man Lewis Howton, that was Grandma Etheridge's brother. His wife was blind and couldn't see at all. There were no windows and no stove, she used the fireplace and a Dutch oven with legs on it. She would put her bread in the Dutch oven, then rake the coals over the top to do her baking. Ma said that her house was just as clean as anyone's house.
We started back and stopped at Nancy Creekmur's, another one of Dad's aunts. They were Confederates, all the rest were Union on both sides (Ma's and Dad's).
"...she had lost one hand, and later he married her." This was Georgie; and Uncle Ivan got this wrong; Norman Robards says he married her sister Jennie instead.
The Creekmurs and the Howtons had a family feud going on. The year before, Joe Howton had come out to Idaho, and when he got back, he told them he had seen a thousand head of sheep in one herd, and 100 acres in flax. Now back there the biggest farm was three or four acres. The people didn't believe him. They said that "Anybody that would lie, would steal." Some of the Creekmurs had lost some hogs, they laid it onto Joe Howton and his two boys. The Creekmurs got together to go over there and give them a lickin.' Joe Howton and his boys put up quite a fight, but Joe and one of the boys got killed. The sheriff got Weatherspoon (Witherspoon?) one of the Creekmur girls' husband, tried him and hung him. They caught two more and gave them life in prison. The rest got away and hid out in the woods, and would come home now and then. Lit Creekmur was hid under the house. One day he saw someone coming on horseback down the road, he thought it was the law, and he shot himself, while under the house. He lived about 1/4 to 1/2 mile from Uncle Sant's.
Creekmur was a troublesome old man (the Creekmur boys' dad). One day he saw a Union soldier going by, he started after him, he wanted his horse. He chased this soldier about 20 miles, finally the soldier turned on him and shot the old man, almost in front of Creekmur's house. The Creekmur boy took after the soldier, they wanted his horse. They shot the horse to get the soldier. The soldier had a good horse and had outrun the boy. A mob gathered, and Nancy Creekmur said she "saw the soldier shoot her husband." But the people knew she hadn't, because it was rough there and lots of trees, and she couldn't have saw it. The soldier had run out of ammunition. We just stayed there a few hours. We had to go through her yard to get to Uncle Sant's. This had just happened a few days before, and no one was very friendly with them.
Then we went to see Vine Phelps, Ma's uncle's wife. She had two boys about Lee's age. One time I was fooling around and (in the barn) run on to them playing poker. Lee made me promise not to tell. The reason I remember her so well, she had what she called California Beer to drink with her meals, instead of milk or coffee. She made the beer out of yeast, sorgum, and water; it was good, but she probably put something else in it. Oh by the way, it was Arbuckle's coffee, at 2 lbs. for 25 cents.
Next week we went to Dawson, Ky. Uncle Sant's was about five miles from Dawson. On the way we saw a man leaning against a fence around a corn field (the fences were all rail). The man had a jug of whiskey, and he was so drunk he couldn't get up, he was the Dr. that brought me into the world. We stopped and talked a little while, a little farther down the road we stopped at a place that was Dad's sister's daughter's place, and it was years later (about 50 years later) that Ma told me who she was. Alice Allman [Almon] was Dad's niece. Her mother was Dad's sister, Susan. Susan had married John Wyatt, against her father's wishes. John was in the Union army, his first wife was also an Etheridge, but no children.
"The Creekmurs and the Howtons had a family feud going on..." (pp. 1-4). This was no doubt part of, or connected with, the following incident, recorded in Clauscine Baker's The History of Caldwell County, 1936, p. 147: "July 8, 1895, a number of men went to Hewlett Howton's house, four miles west of Dawson, on the Princeton and Dawson road. They called him and he walked out the door into the yard. One of the men attempted to put a rope around his neck while another man held a pistol on him. Hewlett said: `Gentlemen you can't do that,' and knocked the rope away and grabbed the pistol from the man that had him covered and began shooting. Glenn Staffy got his thumb shot off, Russel was shot through the body and several more were wounded. Hewlett was shot and then turned and walked into the house. He looked at himself in the mirror and then laid down upon the bed and died. The mob took Berry, his brother, out to the barn and started to hang him, but one of the mob went to school with him when they were boys and he caused them to let Berry go. "George W. Clark was coroner of this county at that time. He went into the community where some of the members of the mob lived and pretended to be a tin-ware peddler. He received some information which led to the arrest and conviction of the members of the mob. The mob borrowed a buggy from James Witherspoon and put one man in it that was seriously wounded and carried him to Hopkins County. John Wilson of Princeton trailed the buggy and obtained facts that led to the conviction of the wounded man and several others." This incident is referred to today by residents of the area as "the Howton mob." "Lit Creekmur was hid under the floor...he shot himself, while under the house." Lit Creekmur was a cousin of my grandfather, and before he shot himself he had dug his own grave and put a picket fence around it. It was the first grave in what is now the Creekmur Cemetery in Caldwell Co. "Alice Allman [Almon]..." Almon is the correct spelling. She married Bill Almon, uncle of Marvin Almon of Louisville, who married Lillian McElroy, granddaughter of my great-uncle Sanford Etheridge. These folks are now in their 80's and I count them among my dearest relatives. "Her mother was Dad's sister, Susan. Susan had married John Wyatt, against her father's wishes..." The whole story of Susan Etheridge and John Wyatt I have yet to relate, though I may have alluded to it a couple of times. It's a doozy! Susan's granddaughter Gladys Wyatt Mangum of Madisonville, and now of Evansville, IN is also one of my dearest relatives.
When Dad's sister married John, Granddad Etheridge turned her picture to the wall, and wouldn't let her name be mentioned in the house. All respected that wish but Martha. She told Granddad that she intended to bring her sister's children home to visit whether he liked it or not, and she did. But Granddad never spoke to them. And when this sister died, he never went to see her, or went to the funeral. Granddad was illiterate, but Grandma was as well educated as some of the women were in those days. You see, the old man carried that so far that Dad and Ma never told me about it till I got after Ma and made her tell me who she was. Dad and Ma made an agreement that they would never treat one of their children that way, no matter what they did, and they never did.
A little ways farther we came to another hill, called Galloway, that was another hill that you had to have help to go up or down. Lots of mud. When we got to the bottom of the hill, they were draining the swamp. They had a big plow, and had eight or ten oxen hitched to the plow. They were clear up to their bellies in mud, horses couldn't have moved in that mud.
Finally we got to Jim and Sarah Hicks's, Dad's sister and her husband. They run a store, and were having a well dug, behind the house, or store. The water was just as black as ink, they used it for ink, and had another well dug, for water. Some fellow wanted to buy it from Uncle Jim for ink, but he thought he could get more for it; in a little while it quit being black ink and turned to Epsom Salts. If Uncle Jim had of sold it he would have been a rich man.
Jim and Sarah Hicks never had any children of their own but they raised 10 or 12 of their brothers' and sisters', and kept them until they were grown and ready to go out into the world on their own.
We liked to stay there, we always had biscuits once a day. Ma made the first light bread that they ever had back there. But there wasn't much flour, their main bread was corn-bread.
In after years the U.S. Government bought some land, and in this piece in one corner was Uncle Jim's well, and in the other three corners there was different kinds of water, gloubers salts, sulphur water, and I don't remember the other one. The U.S. Army put up a veterans' hospital, and changed the name to Dawson Springs. It is a resort now, and people come from far and wide to drink the water.
When Dad and Ma decided to go back to Colorado, Uncle Sant and Aunt Martha gave a farewell party for us. All of Dad's and Ma's relatives were there. We had lots of fun. The men played horseshoes and ran races, all the women brought picnic lunches, we had a great time.
"Granddad was illiterate, but Grandma was as well educated as some of the women were in those days." Taken literally, I suppose his grandmother WAS as well educated as SOME of the women were in those days. In fact, though, Uncle Ivan has it backwards here. His grandfather could in fact read and write very well, and it was his grandmother who could not read or write. Also to be noted: Uncle Jim and Aunt Sarah raised the three children of Uncle Sanford Etheridge, but no other nieces or nephews that I know of. Uncle Ivan is wrong when he says they raised 10 or 12 of them (there were hardly that many anyway), but they may have had other foster children at different times.
Then we went to see old man Henry Howton, that was Dad's uncle. Before the Civil War he ran an underground station, so the negro slaves fleeing from their masters could get across the Ohio River, where they would be safe and free. This was just an old well that the negroes could hide in during the day. Uncle Henry would feed them and then they could travel at night, that is, he would take them to another station and they would take care of them the next day, and so on until they were safe. He had a neighbor that owned negroes. One day he came over to Uncle Henry's and brought a negro boy to hold his horse. Well, he made a mistake by staying for dinner. When he got to the table he found the colored boy at the table. He wasn't going to eat, but he had to sit down and eat with the negro boy, the old boy didn't like it but Uncle Henry weighed 190 lbs. and was 6 ft. 4 inches tall so he didn't have much choice.
My uncle had a blacksmith shop, and he let me run the bellows. That was something I have always liked ever since. While we were there we went seining for fish. I remember catching fish, but I don't remember any big ones, they were catfish.
Then we went to Eli Coats's, he had a saw mill, they were hauling logs, one log to the wagon, with four or five team of oxen to the wagon, with mud up to the knees.
Some old friends of Ma's passed one day, Becky Dudley and her sister Liza; both were blind. They would walk along the road, knitting. They didn't have a home of their own, but would go from place to place knitting and weaving for their board and keep. Ma said they were always welcome. They could tell color and print of cloth with their fingers. They were always dressed nice.
Most all of the people had a few sheep, to shear for their wool. Then they would card it and spin it into yarn, then they would dye the yarn. They knitted socks and wove some into cloth for other clothing.
On a day in May when kids could pick may-apples we started west. Lee Phelps and Burwell Davis and some more young men went as far as Olney bridge (iron). We stopped there for dinner. Burwell and Lee and the others went on into Princeton. Burwell was getting his license to marry Jenney Howton.
We went on west; lots of rain and spring mud, was deep. We were headed for Golconda, on the Ohio River, that was where we crossed the first time we went out. Understand, that was Dad and Ma and I was only about three months old at that time. That was in 1887 in a covered wagon. Dad and Ma camped in the very same spot in 1887, now in 1896 we camped here again. So you can understand how deep the mud was, we were driving along in a one-track road, when the wheel on the left-hand side dropped into a deeper hole. The wagon just laid down. I don't remember if anyone helped us out or not, anyhow he cut a pole and pried her up and we went on again.
We crossed the Ohio River on the ferry long before the sun went down. It had been raining all day and the sun came out, we were now on the prairie country of Illinois. One wheel of the wagon got dry and got to squeaking. Dad had forgotten to get some axle grease, so he had to use some butter and I helped him. The next day Dad bought a box of "Frazer's Axle Grease." If you are 70 years old, and ever done any riding in a covered wagon, you will know what Frazer's Axle Grease is. All covered wagons carried it (box of it).
Now we were headed for East St. Louis, going along Ma got sick and we had to lay over a few days. While there an old lady gave me a dime to hold her geese, while she picked them. Every time she would pull a hand full of feathers the old goose would squawk.
Going along the roads I was always out walking and picking blackberries. Ma made pies for us. There was lots of blackberries along the road in Illinois, more than the plains states ever saw. I imagine if the truth was known they made me walk, because I was the oldest and liked to tease.
Just before we got to Belleville, Illinois we came along the same path that a big cyclone or hurricane had come; it had twisted off big trees close to the ground. There were lots of trees laying around. The road was cleared so people could travel.
Dad and Ma took this same route when I was a baby and we camped at the same place, east of the toll bidge (road). It was a corduroy road, just logs laid side by side, made it rough riding but it was better than mud. There was a chain across it, you had to pay to travel on it. For some reason or other we didn't get to East St. Louis till late, so we camped there that night. They had a water trough in the street, and Dad took his team down to water. He happened to look in a saloon window and saw a bartender that looked like his long-lost brother. He took his team up to the window so he could look close and make sure it was him. As there was no place to tie the horses here, he just thought he would take the horses on down and water them, then take them back to the wagon, tie them up, then come back, and see if it was his brother.
He tied them up and never thought about it again till he was halfway across the state (of Missouri). Dad always said that God had saved him in that manner, because he firmly believed that his brother would have killed him. His brother had left his family, and the law had a heavy charge against him in Kentucky. That was several years before, and he has never been heard of since.
"He happened to look in a saloon window and saw a bartender that looked like his lomg-lost brother..." This refers to Miles Sanford Etheridge (1853-1926), his older brother and namesake of Yours Truly. There is, however, no truth to this story. Uncle San was in Mena, AR at the time. My grandmother had told me that he left Kentucky because he was wanted for bootlegging. Fact is, he had gone off with a woman friend who told him, "It's either the kids or me." His second wife (first wife had died) had already left him because of the kids, who had "beat her up," and wouldn't give him a divorce. He sent the children, one of whom was just a baby, to his sister Sarah, and she and her husband Jim Hicks, who were childless, raised them. It appears that the "bootlegging" incident may have happened earlier. There was an arrest warrant out in the early 1880's for a "Sanford Edwards," who was wanted for illegally keeping a "tippling-house," and it is amusing to read the returns of the sheriffs of Hopkins and surrounding counties, "No Sanford Edwards in my county," "Sanford Edwards not found in my county," etc. The fact is, there WAS no Sanford Edwards in Hopkins Co. at the time, and it just goes to show how people JUST CAN'T GET OUR NAME RIGHT! I have told the story of Uncle San more or less at length already, and shall not repeat it here (another time, though). No one in the family knew where he had gone until I found him, and his grandchildren, in Oklahoma in 1988. He had been missing for 100 years! Now if there was any animosity within the family, it came from Uncle Jim Hicks, who was threatening to sue San for child support if he could find him (can hardly blame him, Uncle Jim, for that, either). As for being afraid that he would "kill" him, I think this was a bit of showboating on Grandpa's part, to impress the kids. From what I know of him, he loved to tease, and if he was anything like my Dad in this, he could have carried such things to ridiculous lengths. A good indication that he was not really serious is that "he never thought about it again till he was halfway across the state (of Missouri)," thus showing, I believe, that it was not a real thing in his own mind.
The next morning we got on the Eads Bridge, this was a toll bridge and it had been tore up by the cyclone, but they had men standing along the side, because there was no rail, and it had not been fully repaired; so I walked along beside the horses, they knew me and weren't afraid. They went right across. The bridge was all repaired on the west side, so I didn't have to walk with the horses. So I stuck my head over the side to look, a steam boat came along and I got my face full of smoke. I got to see a steam boat under the bridge, it was so foggy you couldn't see the water.
When we got across we could see the damage the cyclone had did to the city. There were many of the buildings torn down, some of them with just one wall standing. We went through St. Louis about 10 miles and camped. One of our horses took sick and died. Then Lottie took the typhoid fever. Dad got a job there working his team, he got $1.50 for him and his team.
Then Ma and I got the every-other-day chills. I had mine one day and she would have hers the next day. I would feed her black root tea, and she would feed it to me, the next day. If you have never tasted black root tea, you can't know what you are missing, bitter--and how! It broke up Ma's but mine lasted almost a year. But it wasn't as bad as that first summer, I would be out of my head every time my temperature came up. But I always had the same old dream, the ceiling was always falling on me. I was always trying to pin it up with straight pins. I had my last chill that winter when we got to Wyoming.
It was late summer before we got started again, St. Louis and St. Charles. There was a brewery close to us, these people lived close to where we had been sick. These people used to go down to St. Louis and get beer. We had never tasted beer, so that night Dad gave me a nickel and a gallon bucket and sent me down to get some beer, a gallon for 5 cents. None of us liked it but Stella, she just loved it. So Ma throwed it out.
We crossed the Missouri River at St. Charles. Dad got a slab of salt pork. We drove a few miles out and camped under a big old hickory tree. Ma started a fire to cook some salt pork, and it had some skippers in it (they are little white worms, caused from no grain to fatten them with; also due to the humidity). She would slice it, then put it in a skillet with some hot water, then when the water began to boil the skippers would crawl out (real yummy). Then she would wash the meat and fry it.
While Dad was working I used to take his dinner to him; on my way back there was a tree I always stopped and played under. I could see St. Louis, there was a balloon descending. Right at this big hickory tree I began to gather nuts to bring to Wyoming with us. From then on when I got out to walk, I always took a little bucket with me to pick nuts in.
"...Eads Bridge, this was a toll bridge and it had been tore up by the cyclone..." This famous bridge, still in use today, was built by the renowned engineer John Buchanan Eads from 1867 to 1874. And have you noted that tornadoes are never mentioned in history books but that cyclones frequently are? Well, what we now call tornadoes used to be called cyclones. pp. 2-3: "One of our horses took sick and died." My father said that the team horses used on the eastward trip in 1895 were Maude and Fannie. He couldn't remember the names of those used on the westward trip in 1896, except that one of them was Blucher. And he said that the horse that died in St. Louis had slipped on the pavement and hurt her shoulder. We have a group picture of the family taken in a studio in St. Louis in 1896. [Later] I found a note in which my father describes the horses. He said they had come to Kentucky with 2 teams, Mug and Fanny, 2 grey mares [Mug apparently the same as what I had remembered as "Maude" above], and Blucher and Cellie. Blucher (despite the name, that of a German general) was an iron-grey mare. In Kentucky, he sold these two to Clayton Johnson (remember, one of their wagons had burnt up). He said Mug got sick and died on the street (I don't know where); he said she weighed 1600 lbs. For the return to the west, "Dad persuaded Clayton to sell him back Blucher; and he traded Mug's harness for pieces of harness for Blucher. Fanny slipped on the brick pavement in St. Louis, hurt her shoulder, and it swelled up and she died. Dad paid $8 for an old white horse, Charlie, in St. Louis. He traded him to a man in Missouri for a mare, Bird, so after that we had Blucher and Bird. Bird never could be ridden." Of later horses he said, "Ned and Molly were later. Molly was the dam of a whole string of buckskin colts: Clawhammer, Susey, Tomahawk, and others."
A few days later three things happened to us on the same day. We had an old dog that had followed us from Colorado to Kentucky, and now on our way back going by a house a lot of hounds came running out to meet old Watch, he was to us a FIGHTING dog, he was pretty good at it too. So when a half dozen dogs started to fight, that he had went to meet, he had them coming and going. He would lick the first hound that got there, and the hound would go howling to the house. This was just a small house or shack, and there were more negroes came out of that house, I don't know how they all got in there. They were all laughing and enjoying a good dog fight. Old Watch walked all the way under the wagon. I had an old rag doll named Polly that Mrs. Reese gave me at the same time she brought Stella to our house. I brought this doll from Colorado to Kentucky. I played dolls with Stella. That night when the traveling was done, we camped at the same place we had camped the first time we came west. Then I missed old Polly. Obie had got mad at me for something I had did to him that day, and he threw her out. I sure felt bad, Stella and I had lost our best loved doll. And we shed a lot of tears, she was real to me.
At this place in 1887, our folks turned south and went to Jefferson City, and crossed the Missouri River there. They went on to Atchison, Kansas, and on to Colorado, we kept straight on west and crossed the St. Joe. While there we passed the insane asylum there. That was something that us kids never saw before.
The bridge there was a turn bridge, it would swing around so steam boats could pass. Both wagon and train crossed on this bridge. We camped for dinner on the west side of the bridge. It's a prairie country there, and level, we could see across the river, it was so muddy you couldn't tell it was there.
Before we got to St. Joe, Dad and Obie got out to walk one morning, and got behind the wagon, and couldn't catch up. I was driving, and whittling and for once not teasing the other kids, and Ma didn't drive me out to walk. She was more than likely sewing back on the bed, by hand. She had nothing to make her think of Dad and Obie. Dad run and carried Obie, until he got so tired, he hollered at Ma. He would get pretty close to the wagon, then I would come to a hill and then I would let the horses trot downhill, then we would leave him behind again. That continued till noon. Ma had me drive outside the road and camp for dinner, THEN she missed him. I don't remember what was said but there must have been a-plenty. Years and years later he couldn't talk of it without losing his temper (and he had a dandy). He always said that Ma would just sit back there and sing. With the kids squalling all around her, I know she really forgot him.
We had gotten away from the nut country, and now we were in the fruit country. I had filled two big 100 lb. bags (grain sacks) full of nuts to take back to our new house, there was enough to last two years for us and Grandma's family (Grandma Phelps).
We crossed the South Platte River at North Platte, Nebraska. It was a long wooden bridge, the longest I ever saw. We came along between the two Platte Rivers to Ogallala. We saw the old tree that they had hung so many train bandits on at one time.
Somewhere between North Platte and Ogallala, we stopped and Dad picked corn for an old man, his wife had died. Ma cooked the meals and Dad and the old man picked corn, and hauled it to town and sold it for 7 cents a bushel. The school was close, and this man had a son about my own age, so I went to school with him.
I heard Dad and this other man talking politics. They didn't like free trade and democrats. I got to "politicking" in school with a kid that was a democrat, and I gave him a licking and the teacher gave me one.
After we moved a little way on, Obie got sick, and we had to stop again. The kid at this place had six fingers on each hand. Now we were headed for Sidney, Nebraska. In that country there were lots of deserted houses, they had either dried out or starved out, two years before.
The fall of 1896 was rainy, and the ponds were full, and the water birds were thick and roosting in the old buildings. Dad would take me and the lantern and a stick, and kill birds for food.
The sister of [grandfather] Miles B. Etheridge married a man by the name of Bush (her name was Mary Ann). I met his grandson, and this is what he told me (I have heard my Dad tell of his Dad going to Trigg County to visit his sister Mary Ann Bush). They were having dinner and Bush picked up his cup of coffee and drank it, and said, "Why, this coffee is plumb cold." Grandfather Etheridge then picked up his cup and took a big drink of it and the darn stuff was so hot that it took the hide off all the way down. Bush's grandfather could eat red peppers, by the hand full. I can remember a similar incident about my Dad. Mother would drink her coffee as hot as blue blazes, but Dad couldn't. One morning she poured the coffee, and she was drin king hers and Dad thought that if she could drink hers so could he. AND IT WAS RATHER HOT. Dad took the cup and threw it across the room and broke the cup.
The story ends rather abruptly, before their arrival in Wheatland, WY, and I suspect it was not finished. The dates of the trip (information from my father): left CO 5 Oct. 1895 and arrived in Dawson Springs, KY 12 Mar. 1896; left Dawson Springs 12 June 1896 and arrived in Wheatland, WY Christmas Eve, 1896. About the addendum at the end: Mary Ann Etheridge married James J. Bush, and they lived in Trigg Co. I do not know the identity of their grandson, whom Uncle Ivan says he had met, nor the circumstances or whereabouts of the meeting.
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Nancy Trice, © 2000