Last updated: December 4, 2008
December 4, 2008
A SHORT HISTORY OF MR. & MRS. C. A. VAN BLARCUM
By Milton Whitman
Claudia A. Van Blarcum was born in Knobnoster, Missouri August 31, 1877. His folks lived on a farm near Knobnoster, where he grew to manhood. He attended a country school near his home and as he grew older worked for the neighbors to earn a few dollars to supplement the family’s income. In his late teens he went to Montana and worked on a cattle ranch for a time, then went back to Missouri.
Louie May (Sprague) Van Blarcum was born in Knobnoster, Missouri January 16, 1883. When she was just a small girl her family moved to Cortland, Nebraska where they lived for a few years then they moved back to Missouri. She attended school in the ‘Tater Hill’ school, which was just a short distance from her home.
On February 19, 1903 Claudia and Louie were married and to this union were born four children. Frances, now Mrs. Ralph Berg, John William, who died at six months of age, Genevieve, now Mrs. Fay Swope, and Claude Olen, who passed away in 1934 at the age of 15.
In 1907 Claudia, Louie, and Frances moved to Crawford, Nebraska. They moved by immigrant train from Warrensburg, Missouri to Crawford. They worked on farms and ranches near Crawford until 1910. when they took up a homestead about 30 miles north east of Lusk, Wyoming.
During the fall and winter of 1910 Claudia and my dad, E. R. Whitman hauled lumber from Crawford and built their houses on their homesteads.
In April 1911 Claudia, Louie, Frances, and Genevieve, along with two other families, Mr. And Mrs. E. R. Whitman and Mr. and Mrs. John Swope, moved their homesteads in Wyoming, by wagon. It was a two day trip from Crawford to their homestead, so they camped out over night half way between the two places, and turned their teams loose out on the prarie.
After the family was settled and the well dug, (the well was about 40 ft. deep and was hand dug. He hewed out a log for a watering trough which Frances and Genevieve had to hand pump full of water for the horses at noon,) he worked around Crawford to get enough cash to buy the bare necessities, in the fall he dug potatoes and took enough home to last the family through the winter in lieu of cash.
As Frances said “our main meal was cornbread, potatoes, and they ate chicken for their meat”.
In the winter time Claudia worked for different sawmills that were operating out of Harrison, Nebraska, and one fall he worked in Lusk, Wyoming digging ditch for water mains and sewer lines.
While Uncle Claud (from here on Claudia will be referred to as Uncle Claud and Louie will be Aunt Lou) was away from home working, Aunt Lou kept the homestead going with the help of Frances and Genevieve. The first year or so, she was afraid of the cowboys that were always riding around the country. When she would see them she would make Frances and Genevieve go in the house and stay until the cowboys were gone. After a while she learned who they were and the ones she had seen most often were Ray and Andrew Christian. Their dad owned land that joined the homestead.
They were about two miles from school so Frances had to walk the two miles to school, the school was called Pine Knot and at that time was west of our place about a mile. Their first year in Wyoming their crops were planted in sod. The sod when worked well grew good crops, but no amount of work on sod made for good potato ground and the first crop of potatoes the tubers were about the size of a large pea. A lot of the ground was what they called black root, which was tough, hard, and hard to get a good seed bed. The first year or two were dry years, which didn’t help the crops grow.
After a few years the homestead became more self supporting, so Uncle Claud was home more and developed it. He ran quite a few horses, and it seemed to me he was always breaking horses to work. Two of his old faithful ones were Prince and Gyp. They were both gentle and were broke to ride as well as to work.
Along in mid winter, one time Uncle Claud had a tooth ache and it abcessed. He got on Gyp and started for Harrison to have Dr. Wallace do something for it. It was cold and a lot of snow was on the ground and Harrison was twenty miles from home. After he got through the Monroe Canyon the snow on top was deeper, the road was impassable so someone had tacked the fence down so they could go in the pasture. When Gyp came to the fence she stopped and would not step over it. After a little persuasion with a rope and a few kind words she jumped it and when she came down the jar broke the abcess, the pain was gone, but he was
only about four miles from town so he went on in.
In the spring just after school was out Uncle Claud was always my buddy. I would go up to visit, supposedly, and before I went home he would cut my hair off real short, which I couldn’t get at home. I guess my folks didn’t like my hair short, but I guess I figgered after it was cut nothing much could be done about it and Uncle Claud was too far away to get punished for doing it.
Each fall the people would buy enough groceries for the winter. In the spring they would run out of certain things so the neighbors took turns about making the trip for the things they were short of.
One spring it was Uncle Claud's turn. He got about a mile from home, late in the evening, when a snow storm came up. Aunt Lou put a lighted lamp in the window so he could tell where the house was, but one horse walked faster than the other and he made several circles out in the pasture before he could finally make out the road and keep the team going toward the light.
Their first car was a Model T Ford. Many a time when they and my folks went to Harrison we would push it up the ‘Holtz Hill’. The longest trip they would make was to Crawford, Nebraska, down to Aunt Lou’s folks. One evening my folks and they started to Crawford for a visit. East of Harrison a ways was a wire gate, closed, across the road. It was the time of day when the lights wouldn’t show and it was too dark to drive without them. There was a dim road that left the main road, ruts, that went around the gate and through the open wire. We were in the lead and went around the gate, Uncle Claud saw that we didn’t stop so he stayed in the main road. We kids were watching back to see if he would turn and go around the gate, he didn’t, and when he hit it, it looked like a bunch of firecrackers had gone off. We went back and untangled the Ford from the gate and put the gate back together the best we could and went on our way. The next morning we looked the Ford over but there weren’t very many scratches on it.
Each August before school started Aunt Lou and Mom would spend a week or so making dresses for the girls for school. I think the time was spent about equal between the two homes. I always thought of it as sort of a ritual. We kids would be out playing and every so often they would call one of the girls in to be fitted, and they were always waiting to be called in. Me, being the only boy in the bunch thought it was sort of dull and I guess I caused plenty of squabbles during that period.
Uncle Claud was quite a sports fan and was a pretty good ball player. The community started out playing baseball and they would play other communities around. Then they started soft ball and branched out by playing teams away from home. I remember one time they playing teams away from home. I remember one time they played Lance Creek and was beaten pretty badly. Uncle Claud's only comment was “I guess we played out of our class”. One time they played under the lights in Lusk, but didn’t come out so good, the ball was some place else from where it looked like it was. They had a good time never the less.
He liked big game hunting and went hunting several seasons around Dubois and in the Jackson Hole. He always brought back his game. He bought a hunting horse called ‘Paint’ which he took with him each trip.
When he quit work he spent a lot of his time tramping around in the hills south of his house, and also spent a lot of time building a foot path around a fishing pond he had above the house. He called it ‘Natures Walk,’ it was an interesting path to walk around the pond on. The last time I walked around it was in the spring and in the upper end of the pond was a mother duck with a bunch of little ones swimming around. You could let your imagination go and you felt like you were miles away from civilization.
He lived out his life on the place he developed from the open range.
Transcribed by Andriana Windham from a typewritten and hand written acccount.
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