Vernona Edna (Morse) Percival



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

(July 31, 1890 - October 15, 1981)


The Lusk Herald
October 22, 1981


Venona Edna Percival

Edna Percival who came to Niobrara County in 1909 to live on a homestead in the Indian Creek community died last Thursday, Oct. 15 in the Niobrara County Nursing Home following a lengthy illness.

Vernona Edna Percival was born in Des Moines, Iowa, July 31, 1890. Her parents were Fred L. and Clara Ella Morse. Edna, as she preferred to be known, had one sister, Flora (Mrs. George) Boyd who died in 1945.

Mrs. Percival was educated in the Iowa Public Schools and in 1908 she married Garth Denman Percival of Des Moines. In 1909 Garth filed on a homestead on the upper Indian Creek area in Niobrara County and Edna joined him there and in Lusk for the rest of her life.

The Percivals were the parents of five children, Garth Jr., born in Iowa, and Roger, Paul, Ella Rogers and Flora Bray, all born at the family ranch.

Mrs. Percival was a real "pathfinder" of her day as she grew up in the city and moved to a Wyoming homestead to the hardest of pioneer life. She raised her family in a home with no modern conveniences. When a teacher couldn't be obtained to teach the children, she went off to summer school in Laramie, took correspondence courses and obtained a teaching certificate and taught her own children for a number of years.

The Percivals retired from active ranching in January of 1944 and moved to Lusk. Mr. Percival was taken ill in April and died in May of that year. Mrs. Percival has made her home in Lusk ever since. She was a lively and outgoing citizen in Niobrara County for all of her 72 years here. She was a member and past matron of the Order of Eastern Star and received her 50 year pin in 1979; a charter member and first president of the Lusk Federated Woman's Club; member and charter member of B.P.O. Does, Drove #64; a charter member and past president of the Niobrara County Cowbelles; a member of St. George's Episcopal Church and St. George's Guild of which she was currently secretary; a member of the Divide Tumbleweed Homemakers Club; American Legion Auxiliary, Niobrara Hospital Auxiliary, Country Club, Niobrara Historical Society, Niobrara Republican Women's Club, and in recent years a member of the County Senior Citizens. Organizations and her work in them were her main hobby. She was an avid bridge player all of her life. She and her husband's social life centered around the bridge table and as a widow it was her main diversion and in her later years cards and her friends were a special delight to her.

Memorial service was conducted at St. George's Episcopal Church on Saturday with the Rev. Charles Wallis, officiating. Music was provided by Minerva Watson on the organ and Joy Kaltenheuser, soloist who sang "My God and I," "Rock of Ages" and "Nearer My God To Thee."

Interment was in the Lusk Cemetery. Pallbearers were Don Whiteaker, Bill Percival, Cody Clark, Lloyd Rogers, Roger Rogers and Bob Ellis.

Memorials to St. George's Episcopal Church will be appreciated by the family.

Mrs. Percival was preceded in death by her husband Garth; children Garth Jr., Roger, and Ella Rogers. She is survived by her children, Paul Percival, Lusk; Flora Bray, Albuquerque, N.M.; grandchildren, Lloyd Rogers, Gering, Neb.; Dorothy Rae Whiteaker, Lusk; William Percival, Lusk; Peggy Johnson, Missoula, Mont.; Roger Rogers, Milwaukee, Wis.; and Flora Mae Clark, Lusk; and 11 great-grandchildren.

Pioneer woman recounts homesteading experience
The Lusk Herald, July 19, 1979

A liberated woman 50 years ahead of her time, Edna Percival of Lusk came to Wyoming as a young bride in 1909, had four children at her ranch home with only the aid of a midwife and is still going strong, 70 years later.

Mrs. Percival, who refuses to tell her age, normally dislikes talking about the old days. She said, “I never did like to live in the past. When you reminisce, you’re getting old. I like to look in the future.”

However, she did talk about some of the highlights of her life as a homesteader in Hat Creek Valley.

Mrs. Percival came to Lusk from Iowa in 1909 to homestead with her husband, Garth, son Garth Jr. and her father.
They spent part of their first year here in a house on a neighbor’s homestead

SIZEABLE RANCH
By the spring of 1910, the Percivals were established on their own place. A few years later, the government allowed the homesteaders 640 more acres. Then by buying land of other homesteaders around then, the Percivals were able to accumulate enough land for a “sizeable” ranching operation.

“We bought other people’s homesteads. I don’t know how we survived,” she said. “We would have had a lot more land had we had enough money. We could have bought 6,000 acres for $1500 once.”

At 17, Mrs. Percival was the youngest woman to file a homestead claim with her husband in the Hat Creek Valley. Today, she and Nellie Christian of Lusk are the only survivors who settled in the valley.

HARDSHIP
Life on the Wyoming prairies was never easy for the city girl from Des Moines. She said, “I never knew what hardship was until I came out here. We came to stay five years, and I’m still here.”

After the Percivals settled on their own homestead, Mrs. Percival had four more children in the next five years. Roger, Paul, Ella and Flora were all born with only the assistance of a neighboring midwife.

Mrs. Percival and her husband came to Lusk by horse and wagon once a year for supplies. They never brought the children with them until they were old enough to appreciate the journey-besides they needed the room in the wagon for supplies.

The journey required an overnight stay in Lusk and they boarded their horses at the Lusk Livery Stable. At the time, Lusk was still part of Converse County and the town only extended one block past the railroad tracks, Mrs. Percival said.

“On both sides of Main Street were the most beautiful trees. They were taken out when the road came in. Snyder’s Mercantile was where the Texaco Station is,” Mrs. Percival said.

BUYING SUPPLIES
Other times during the year, the Percivals bought their supplies at the Hat Creek store. However, they ordered their canned food goods from Sears Roebuck by catalog.

“We picked them up at the Hat Creek stage station,” Mrs. Percival said. They had the most beautiful canned food. We ordered enough in the fall for the whole year.”

Mrs. Percival often rode her horse more than 10 miles, opening eight to ten gates, to the stage station to get mail once a week. She would saddle the horse herself, leave the children with her husband and have an outing by herself.

Sometimes she would take the children with her in their spring wagon. The wagon, which she hitched up herself, was pulled by one horse and had two seats- one in front and one in back.

RUNAWAY WAGON
Mrs. Percival drove the wagon herself until one day the horse became frightened and ran away with her and the children. “A thistle got caught in the brake and made enough noise to scare the horse,” she said. “It ran away with me and the kids all fell out except Ella.”

“Louise Crinklaw, a neighbor, saw the kids falling out and yelled ‘that naughty woman is throwing her kids out on the highway.’ The horse finally ended up against the fence.”

Mrs. Percival’s husband went the sell the horse a couple days later, according to Mrs. Percival, and it ran away with him while he was delivering it. ”I just laughed at him,” she said.

HOME TEACHING
Living so far out in the country meant educating the children at home. When the Percival children were old enough to attend school, Mrs. Percival attended summer school at the University of Wyoming, got a degree in education and taught the area children.

“I taught when they couldn’t find a teacher,” Mrs. Percival said. “I liked going to school. I taught until Garth wouldn’t let me teach any more.”

As the children got older, they moved into town to attend high school.

“We had five kids in high school at one time, “she said proudly. “They lived in town while going to high school. They took care of themselves and if they couldn’t, they got a blistering.”

The Percival’s son, Paul, played so much pool one year that they took him out of school and made him work on the ranch.

MOVE TO LUSK
The Percivals finally moved to Lusk in January of 1944. Percival died later in May following surgery.

Of her children still living, Paul and His wife, Betty, live on the original homestead, Roger is retired and lives in Lusk and Flora lives in Albuquerque.

Today, there are four generations of Percivals living in Niobrara County.

Mrs. Percival remains active in the various community affairs and is a member of Eastern Star, Cow Belles, Homemakers Club and other community organizations.

“All we had was drought, grasshoppers and hail,” she said: “We went through that siege-how I didn’t know. Somehow or another we survived and we still like our town.”






















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