Paths to the Farm, Part 4
The endless plains lay before them as they drew nearer to the homestead. They could see forever, to infinity! It just didn’t seem to end. The prairie grass stood as tall as their knees…sometimes taller. The 35 miles from Larned to their new home seemed to take an eternity but there were so many new sights to behold.
Finally, there stood the new house that their Pa had built for the family! And there, at the back of the house, was every boy’s dream. A river! The possibilities of throwing a baited fishing hook into the waters of the Pawnee must have flitted through the boys’ minds as they eyed the edgings of ash, cottonwood and elm trees. There were no fences to hinder wild chases of hide and seek. Very little of the ancient sea bottom black soil was broken out, so that chore loomed happily in their father’s mind.
The house was the only frame house in the county at that point as almost all pioneers were living in dugouts, which were holes dug into the side of a hill or in soddies . Sod house were literally big squares of prairie grass, buffalo grass in this part of the plains, cut about 3 inches deep. The squares were then stacked until a small room stood that was roofed with yet more sod. The sod houses didn’t fair well in rain, to say the least. With virtually no timber on the plains, wood was highly valued and had to be shipped in on the railroad. That also meant that the wood fences that held farm animals back East were non-existent. Instead, rock posts were quarried out of the ground and there were plenty of limestone quarries in the area. That back-breaking job was another task to be accomplished.
So, the thirty-five year old Charles set about doing just those jobs. The house was built, but in order to “prove up” additional homesteads, places of residence had to be established on other quarters of ground. A soddy was built on a quarter near the house. A dugout sprang up on another quarter. Timber claims were planted on other land and before Charles was done, he had purchased 6 quarters of land and that was considered a substantial amount of land in that era.
The farm and the family thrived and grew as a baby girl was born in the frame house in 1881. A big sister named Jessie remembered the occasion with this:
The buffalo thistle crop was all most wonderful to us for about three or four years after we came here, Father came down stairs one morning and told us there was a tiny baby girl upstairs, and wonder of wonders! It was explained how she was found under a buffalo thistle. My sister and I were so delighted, we searched over all the farm under all the thistles. But the thistle crop was like all others and this one little girl was the only one found on that farm and I think it was a mistake. She must have been the production of a sunflower, for she had a yellow head and grew to be nearly a foot taller than either of us.-Jessie Ruff Button