Ocea Viola Iliff

Ocea Iliff in 1992
Ocea Iliff in 1992

Ocea Iliff, at age 106, says she is "just an old lady" who's "seen a lot of things."
Ocea Iliff, at age 106, says she is "just an old lady" who's "seen a lot of things."

Ocea Iliff and Edith Coan reminisced on Ocea's birthday.   Ocea enjoys having visitors and talking about the past as well as the present.
Ocea Iliff and Edith Coan reminisced on Ocea's birthday. Ocea enjoys having visitors and talking about the past as well as the present.

Photo courtesy of the Joshua Brackett Eagle Scout Project
Photo courtesy of the Joshua Brackett Eagle Scout Project

(October 24, 1892 - October 28, 1999)


The Lusk Herald
March 24, 1999


Ocea Viola Iliff

Mass of Christian Burial for Ocea Viola Iliff was celebrated on Wednesday at St. Leo's Catholic Church with the Rev. Patrick Shea officiating. Interment was at the Lusk Cemetery. A Christian Wake Service was held on Tuesday at the funeral home.

Ocea died Oct. 28, 1999 at Niobrara County Nursing Home.

She was born in Indiana on Oct. 24, 1892, the daughter of John and Suzanne Iliff.

She moved to Wall Creek near Kaycee with her parents and two brothers in the early 1900's, where they ranched.

She remembered the notorious people from the Hole in the Wall with fondness in a March 1999 interview published in the Lusk Herald. She said although they were thieves, they gave her family money for food when there was none.

She lived in Lusk for more than 90 years.

She and her brother, Dave Iliff, owned and operated a motel in Lusk for many years.

She was married once for a brief time and had no children.

In recent years she enjoyed reading and playing bingo with other nursing home residents.

She was an amazing woman with a strong belief in God. She said her mother taught her family to pray every day, go to church and honor God

She was preceded in death by her parents, two brothers, David Iliff and Ancell Iliff, and a younger sister, Pauline June Straight.

Survivors include a nephew, Glenn Eugene Berry in San Diego; a niece, Zora June Dean in Mountain Home, Ark., and several nieces and nephews.

Cicmanec-Pier Funeral Home of Lusk was in charge of arrangements.



The Lusk Herald
December 20, 1989
Local Woman Enjoys Reminiscing About Past

by Mary Shield, news editor

When Ocea Iliff was 14 years old, in 1907, she, her mother, and her baby sister, Pauline Iva, came west from Jay County, Ind. on the old stage.

"It was December or January and it was cold. They put a hot rock down on the floor and put a buffalo robe on us. We stopped at the halfway house to eat. They put on six horses. It was a rough old ride. The coach had old straps. There were no springs and we swung back and forth," Iliff said.

"Pauline would cry. It was awful. We lived there (Buffalo, Wyo.) for a couple years," she said, adding that the family moved to the Powder River country where her dad and two brothers, Dave and Ed had homesteads. The family lived in Bozeman, Mont., for a brief time also. Iliff tells of taking the train to Clearmont, Wyo., and then took the stage to Buffalo. She said Buffalo still does not have train service.

The family moved to Casper in 1914 or 1915 and came to Lusk in 1917 with a sheep wagon near where the old bridge used to be. Their first house was called Old Lusk. It was a four-room house, which they later built on to. The house was torn down last year, Iliff said.

"It was the Old Lusk's homestead when we bought it in 1919. Mother had her house on the second lot. We owned the whole block eventually. There were four lots," she said.

They also had a big old tent which was used for their hired men who worked in the oil fields.

Her father and brother Dave freighted for Ohio Oil Company driving six, eight and 10-horse teams to pull big casings to the oil fields.

Her mother and father both died at Old Lusk. The family had seven tourist cabins in the 1930s.

Iliff and her brother Dave moved to Phoenix, Ariz., for a short time.

"We had a trailer together. We got too hot and Dave said, 'Why don't we just go home,' so we came back to Lusk," she said.

She and Dave bought the house she now lives in in 1960. He died 15 or 16 years ago. Her brother Ed lived in Sturgis, S.D. and was a soldier in World War II. He belonged to the American Legion.

"He got so helpless and couldn't take care of himself. He got a pension and that's where (Sturgis) he died," she said.

"Pauline was the only one who got her feet wet. Noone else married. I guess we were all born to be old maids and old bachelors," she said.

Some of her earliest memories of Lusk provide a stark contrast to the way many things are done now.

When I first came to Lusk they had a cart with a hose to put out fires and they'd push it. My father helped put the water pipes in this town. He worked for Fernau. They dug ditches and put the pipe in by hand. There was no pavement in town then," she said.

"I was raised on a ranch and we always had a garden, cows, and chickens.

"In 1910 or 1911 my dad filed on our homesteads. There wasn't a barbed wire fence between Casper and Kaycee. Kaycee had a post office and a little store. We went to Buffalo to go shopping. During the depression, Dave hacked trees and dad stayed home. Everything came in to Buffalo with teams."

Iliff said she is amazed to look around and see all the modern conveniences that many of us take for granted, such as refrigerators and freezers.

"We used ice for our refrigerators. Now they have refrigerators that defrost themselves and freezers that freeze."

She said the washing machines of yesteryear were much different than the modern version that pumps the water in and pumps the water out and dryers that dry clothes "and you never have to go outside," she said.

Her first washing machine was a Maytag with a ringer. While she ran the tourist court she used the Maytag a lot to keep the linens fresh and clean. They had a wash house and a hose and a wringer.

"Dave worked for Midwest Hardware, George Gibson, then for Jim Christianson at the stock yard. Dave was a good carpenter. Whenever George wanted something done right he'd come to Dave." She said Dave made several pieces of furniture which she has in her house.

She had a cousin who was involved in the Johnson County War. When she came to Buffalo she said she had to be careful of what she said because she knew a lot of people who were involved in the Johnson County War, which was a fight over water rights.

"It was quite a squabble," she said, adding that the oldtimers used to tell her about it.

"I lived across the fence from a couple that moved in just after the Civil War," she said.

"I used to wash dishes for a woman and the woman taught me how to cook. We all worked. I worked for $5 a week," she said.

When she came to Lusk she worked for Gertrude and Roy Chamberlain at the Ranger Hotel cleaning for 25 cents an hour.

Ocea said she also lived just north of Harrison, Neb., where the family ran a saw mill near Five Points.

"I just knew everybody in the country. We used to get together once a month and visit and sew and embroidery and knit. I can't sew much anymore (because of her rheumatoid arthritis), I used to crochet all the time and knit. I crocheted a bed spread and numerous afghans. I don't crochet anymore. I can't see very well any more.

"I do all my own cooking. I love to cook. There were six in our family and I was the cook. Mother was a tailor and she liked to sew. She worked in a tailor shop up in Casper.

"I used to love to read. I can only read for a short time now. I have cataracts. I had one operation, but I still can't see very good," she said.

She is also a survivor. She has survived two broken hips, a gall bladder operation and has rheumatoid arthritis.

"I'm lucky I can get around yet," she said.

When she broke her hip she had a friend stay with her. She uses a walker now.

"They wanted me to have a wheel chair and I said 'no sir.' They (doctors and nurses) were good to me at the hospital. They were awful good to me."

When Iliff and her brother moved into their house there were holes in the walls.

"The yard was awful. We had an open porch when we bought the place in 1960. We lived in an apartment over the garage at Don Taylor's for two weeks before we got this place. We went and got beds and that's all we had the first night here," she said.

"We brought stuff in. We had siding put on, got the porch fixed and did all the inside new. The roof was awful. We paid cash for it (house). We sold the tourist cabins and paid cash. It wasn't worth much. Dave was a carpenter. Dave was in his 70s when we bought the place. He'd be 103 if he was alive today."

Ififf celebrated her 97th birthday a few months ago. She reflects on how things have changed a lot.

"Our first radio was a big box. I think we got it in the 1920s. There was a wire attached to it outside. Oh my, how things have changed. Now we have telephones you can carry around and don't have to have them hooked up," she said.








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