Last updated: February 6, 2012
The Lusk Herald
December 12, 1990
Local man, others have colorful history in county
In this, Wyoming's Centennial year, Coleen Siebken and others in the Van Tassell area, are compiling information about their families. The following are a few images of one man's footprints through the years as told by Siebken.
George Siebken Jr. was born four years before Wyoming became a state in Omaha, Neb. As a child he was fascinated by the calls of the auctioneer. He became an apprentice of a friendly auctioneer and after years of training became an auctioneer.
He spent his years auctioneering the sales throughout the Omaha area. The first years he rode horseback or with team and wagon. Many a time, it is recalled, when he and a companion turned a wagon upside down to find refuge from a raging blizzard.
In 1910, George Siebken Jr. and Harry Baldwin Sr. rode west on an immigrant train to homestead south of Van Tassell, Wyo.
Siebken married Golda Bump the same year. She was from the Whitten Valley, where her family had settled when they migrated from Ireland during the potato famine. Her grandparents were killed when their young team was frightened by a circus elephant and plunged the couple into a railroad depot.
In 1912, Siebken proved up on his homestead. Bill Tadewald, a neighbor, helped him to build a home of native lumber covered with tar paper. "Old Bill" wore a horse hide coat - hair side out - that reached below his knees. The two men were caught in a sudden spring blizzard so they gathered a meager supply of wood from an old corral and took turns standing on the stove to keep from freezing to death.
That fall, Siebken brought his young wife and baby, Della, to live on the homestead.
The year 1914 brought the beginning of World War I and the birth of Wyoma Siebken in the little homestead shack. George Siebken Sr. homesteaded south and east of Van Tassell and the couple brought George Jr.'s half-brother, two-week old Harold, with them. The elder Siebkens owned and operated the hotel and cafe in Van Tassell.
In 1917, George Jr.'s brother, Harry, a police officer in Fremont, Neb., went to work for Chicago North Western as a railroad detective. He was in Chicago during the big railroad strike and worked for the railroad until his death in the 1950's. Many people may remember him for his big six gun.
The year 1918 saw the end of World War I and George Jr. met a new foe - drought. He moved to another homestead and finally sold his livestock and moved to Casper where he auctioneered for three years.
In the 1920s, he and his wife purchased the hotel and cafe in Manville, which they traded to his father for his homestead in Van Tassell and the elder Siebken began working for the Chicago North Western as a flagman.
George Jr. and his wife moved back to Van Tassell in their cars. While enroute, the steering wheel on her car came off in her hands. The car would not respond to "whoa." When the car came to a stop, George secured the steering wheel and the couple continued their journey.
One of the more humorous memories passed down through the family was of young George going into Van Tassell on a freshly broke bronc to get staples to help Harry Baldwin Sr. fix fence. The bag of staples slapped the bronc, which precipitated a long, continuous buck that scattered the staples for miles across the prairie. It is reported that Baldwin could not understand why Siebken did not stop and pick up the staples.
Kenneth and Katherine Siebken were born on this homestead. Then the family purchased the Stuart place next to Van Tassell which was to become the family home. Katherine became ill with a fever and lost her hearing.
The year 1929 saw the stock market collapse and the birth of Clarence Siebken - the only child not born at home.
In the 1930s, the two girls, Wyoma and Della were both married and left the family circle. Della lost her life a few months after her marriage. Wyoma had three children; Althea, Georgia and Jeannette, Georgia was born in the car on the way to the doctor.
Wyoma and her family were traveling on a small narrow road that serviced both horses and cars one night and came upon a team and wagon leading four horses abreast. The car ran into the horses and up onto the wagon. The little girls were bruised and bloody, but not seriously injured. Two of the horses had to be destroyed.
Tired of hard times and cold weather, Wyoma and her family moved to California to seek their fortunes in the oil fields.
The 1930s also saw the Great Depression, Work Projects Administration (WPA), and Social Security. George Siebken was probably one of the first people to hold a Social Security Card.
The 1940s brought World War II and Kenneth was drafted out of high school and served in South Africa and India.
Clarence remembers his sister Katherine, who could not hear, answering the telephone and coming to the barn and telling him who was on the phone. Her dog had let her know the phone was ringing, according to Clarence. He has never figured out how she knew who was on the telephone.
Another memory was of a night an aunt had come to stay with the family on a cold winter night. During the night, a friend of George's got stuck in a near-by snow bank. He slipped past the dogs and found refuge on the warm kitchen floor. Clarence was awakened by his aunt's screams and moans and rushed to the kitchen. The aunt, clad only in flannel, rag curlers and night creams stumbled across the sleeping man and thought it was George and that he was dead.
The friend woke up, the embarrassed aunt went to the bedroom and the friend disappeared into the early morning darkness.
Another memory was that of a family friend, Archie Voorhees snapping snakes. He would take a rattlesnake by the tail and snap it like a whip until the head popped off. The story goes that one day a head came by and hit him on the leg. He wasn't hurt, but he stopped snapping snakes.
The 1950s saw Wyoma, who by now had four girls, move back to Nebraska where she gave birth to triplet boys, Steve, Neal and Frank.
The Social Security Administration was founded and George, at the age of 72, retired from auctioneering. He and his wife drew their Social Security retirement. Katherine, his disabled dependent, drew a disability check.
In the 1960s, Kenneth moved back to the family home. He tried his luck at running a small spread. He added 160 acres with a GI loan. Still, he found a small place was the occupation of a rich man's son. Clarence had been with CNW since 1952 and George and the boys put 30 acres into alfalfa and put in an irrigation circle. George and Johnny Bruegger were the first in Niobrara County to utilize irrigation.
In 1966, Golda passed away, leaving George and Katherine alone. Katherine finally confided her pain to her friend, Eunice Miller. By the time cancer was diagnosed, it was so advanced that surgery was needed to keep her from having an open sore.
In August 1972, George died. Kenneth sold the home place, and closed the door on the little house that knew the footsteps of four generations and held treasured memories.
In 1975, Katherine spent her final days in a Denver Hospital ignoring the pain and longing to go back to her lifelong friends, the little house, and the giant white rocks where she could escape being deaf.
In 1990, the family is spread to many parts of the country. Wyoma lives in California with her husband, Kenneth. Althea, who was once offered a screen test, lives in Denver with her family and works on her paintings. Georgia has her own business and coaches for the Roller Derby. Jeanette lives in Missouri and enjoys her children and grandchildren. Shirley has two girls and is an executive for a chain of motels. The triplets all live in San Francisco with their families. Kenneth and his wife live in Cheyenne. Both are disabled.
Clarence and his wife have a small place east of Lusk. He still dreams of getting a trophy elk. Harold lives in Casper with his wife and his son, Duane.
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