Krecji recalls hard times in Niobrara County
Came here in 1920
He's been around a while.
He can tell you about the land prices of yesteryear and the prices of automobiles and food back when a dollar was harder to come by, but when it went somewhere when you did earn one.
Louis Krecji, who is 88 years old, lives 40 miles northwest of Lusk and came to Niobrara County from northeast of Hemingford, Neb. in Sheridan County. His parents came from Bohemia and homesteaded in western Nebraska. That property was proved up in 1889. That was when Grover Cleveland was president and he signed the homestead papers.
When Louis came to Niobrara County in 1920, he came to help his ailing brother, Rudolph Krecji. Louis and James, his older brother, brought horses from Nebraska.
"It took us four days," Louis said of the trip. He was bringing the horses for himself and his brothers.
Rudolph and James Krecji came to Wyoming in a covered wagon in 1918 and filed on a homestead prior to Louis' arrival. Louis said the two lived under the canopy of the wagon until Rudolph built the shack they lived in.
"Rudolph was a veteran of World War I. When he came back he wasn't feeling too good. I came to help my brother. I built his chicken house, his barn and his cellar," Louis said.
Louis said Rudolph went to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., but doctors there said they could not help him.
Louis filed his own homestead in 1923. President Calvin Coolidge signed his homestead papers. It was in 1923 that the mineral rights were taken away from homesteaders.
"I could have proved up and got the mineral rights, but it would have cost extra," Louis said.
Began with an Avery
When he first began farming, Louis had an Avery tractor, which he and his brothers had brought out in 1920 with Rudolph's Model T, which Louis used to haul fuel to the Avery to bust sod. The Avery was brought from Nebraska.
"We brought it up to bust sod. It worked better than a breaking plow with four horses. It took quite a man to handle one of them (breaking plow) and I had no horses," he said.
Louis moved the house from Rudolph's place to his homestead to its present location. He has since done some adding on.
"Here I stayed and I've lived here since," Louis said.
"I had the Avery and the Model T car. I busted sod with a two-bottom plow. I sharpened my own blades. I never went to town. I raised hogs and hunted and trapped to make a living. I did trapping to make money to run the Avery to bust sod for the next spring," he said.
In 1925 he had a big crop of corn.
"I had a big crop of corn and I was finally in hogs. I sold the hogs and started in cattle (in 1931)," he said.
"I bought calves and raised them up. I gave $15 for them calves," he said.
"I remember when I came up here if he got $65 a head for them he thought he was getting rich," Viola Krecji said.
Viola and Louis were married Oct. 20, 1937 in Harrison, Neb. She filed her own homestead in 1935. Her homestead was already in the works when the government stopped allowing homesteading, so her's was the last in the area and possibly the last one in the country.
Her homestead was not adjoining to Louis's property, but over the years the couple has purchased the property between and the two homesteads are now part of the same property.
Louis drove to Cheyenne in 1929 to check on what land was open for homesteading. he found out the land that Viola eventually homesteaded was open and available. She, her father and her brother came out from Nebraska and filed the homestead. She had been a registered nurse in Alliance prior to coming to Niobrara County.
Her brother soon left to return to school and she remained and proved up on her homestead. She then moved up to Louis's homestead after they were married in 1937.
"She got 647 1/2 acres and had to pay $1.25 extra for the 7 1/2 extra acres because it was on a correction line," Louis said.
Bought adjoining land
He added that he paid $1.50 an acre for the land that was between his homestead and Viola's.
"That was the cheapest I bought," he said, adding that he paid $3 for land on "the creek. Then it got to $5 for adjoining property. That was a little too much."
He said during the 1930s people tried to sell land. It was not like it is now, however, he said.
"A man would come to you and say 'would you like to buy my place.' The answer was 'that depends on what you want.' $5 was the most I paid at that time," he said. He is shocked by the cost of property now.
The couple have two children, Harry, who is a dirt contractor and Maryevelyn who helps her father with the chores around the family's farm/ranch.
"They're (children) running cattle with us - mostly taking care of them, Louie and Maryevelyn take care of the cattle. Harry is a dirt contractor who works mostly where they're drilling for oil," Viola said.
Viewed covered wagons
Louis is full of memories of when he first arrived in Wyoming.
"While I was living on Rudolph's place in 1921 and 1922, I was on the west side of the road and you should've seen the covered wagons going north. I just wondered where they were going. They were leading cattle and horses and maybe had a few chickens. As much as three one behind the other.
"When I first come here there were grey wolves. They killed cattle and horses. I saw them kill a horse. There were coyotes a plenty. I've seen as many as seven and five. And bobcats. I was trapping - that's where I made my money. The last grey wolf I caught was in 1927," Louis said.
"When I bought gas for the Avery it was 16 cents or 18 cents a gallon. The oily gas was eight cents. I got it at Lance Creek."
"Oil was 40 cents a gallon for the Model T. I sent to Montgomery Ward and got 30 gallon barrels.
"In the '20s you could buy good shoes for $2.95. Postage on the shoes was 19 cents, now it would be $2.50. It was three cents for postage for a long time. Postage was very low. In 1930 you couldn't go to the bank and borrow money. Some of the homesteaders sold their homesteads. John H. Paul Loan from Wisconsin lent money all over. He paid $1 an acre. He wrote them. They wouldn't pay taxes, or interest, so it went to foreclosure and he sold it for $2 an acre. He was here, but I didn't buy any land from him because I didn't have the money. You couldn't borrow money. Now it's $60, $70 an acre. The cheapest around is $40 an acre," he said.
Louis has raised oats and wheat, as well as watermelon and musk melon.
"In 1925 I had watermelon galore and a big crop of corn," he said.
"This country was open country. When Jim and Rudolph came it was open. I fenced and ran out other people's animals. I had no horses - just the Avery and the Model T."
Louis tried his hand at thrashing crops to make a living, but that turned into a lot of trouble when the farmers he thrashed for would not pay the bill when he was done.
"I fought with farmers who wouldn't pay the bill. I made more money staying at home," he said, adding that the thrasher is still in one of his sheds on the place.
"The only good money I made (thrashing) was for Hitchcok out of Lance Creek. I got 150 bushels and I got $1 a bushel to thrash it."
For relaxation, Louis and his brother James teamed up to play at dances around the country for many years. Louis played the accordion and James payed the fiddle.