Historical Details

McClain, Roy Family History-Life in Royal Valley Community

Courtesy of Our Heritage: Niobrarans and Neighbors, 10/15/2020


by Pat Brewster

The community of Royal Valley was named by a group of settlers that had migrated from in and around Royal, Nebr. Roy and Effie McLain, a young couple that came with the migration still live on the homestead in the valley and delight in reminiscing about those early days.

Listening to them, he (85) and she (82), is indeed a pleasurable experience.

Roy and the late Archie Sparks came to the valley together and each filed on homesteads in the spring of 1909.  Roy's homestead was filed May 12, 1909. He returned to Nebraska where he and Effie (Hoskinson) were married Sept. 8, 1909. In July, 1910, Roy came back out to Wyoming, had a water well drilled and built a house on the homestead.  He then went back to Nebraska and the latter part of August loaded an immigrant train car for Wyoming with part of his and Effie's possessions.

In September, Effie came to Wyoming by train. They recall there was not a fence between Lusk and their homestead in those days. Effie said, "Roy met me at the train with a team and double wagon box, and we started down the long road home which led out past the present Bud Owens ranch. He said, "Do you like it here?" I I told him to just keep still and I would tell when we got there, and I did. I just loved it here and I always have."

Roy's father, George McLain, rode the immigrant car with Roy's and Effie's possessions from Nebr. on the same train as Effie. Had she not liked Wyoming, Roy assured her she could have returned to Nebraska with his father. 

To this original homestead, McLains added the homesteads of Joseph and Emma Tudder purchased in 1916 and of Joyce Tudder in 1932.The Tudders later moved to Casper. Another half section was bought in 1945 from the late Elden Todd and Mrs. Todd who moved to Denver.    With an isolated 80 acres which Mr. McLain bought, the ranch now covers 1,200 acres.

To the recollection of Roy and Effie , Royal Valley was settled by 11 families from in and around Royal, Nebr. in 1909 and 1910 , including themselves , Charley Allens, Byron Moodys, Mrs. Sara Sandborn (Mrs. Moody's mother), Al Simmons, Archie Sparks, Will Blackmore, Eprie Kints, Leon Van Tassells, E. Kirby (Mrs. Van Tassell's father), Miss Minter Rice.

Steven Scace and Charlie and Elsie, originally from Wayne, Nebr. had already settled on the land where Sadice Hanson now lives. Charlie later was married and his widow (Mrs. Mary Scace) still lives in Lusk. Also already in the community were Mr. and Mrs. John McCleerey and family.   Within two to six years after McLains moved to Royal Valley from Nebraska, so did Floyd McLains who bought the John Harkins homestead; Lloyd Rices who came from Royal and the Lee Wood family from Ewing, Nebr.

The livelihood of McLains was typical  of most people of the community. Farming was the primary source of income supplemented at times with odd jobs and other professions.

Roy and Archie Sparks, friends and business associates in Nebraska, did cement and plaster work together. Effie was a schoolteacher.

All types of small grains were raised in the valley, including wheat , oats, millet and barley. When threshing machines came to the area, all the neighbors would get together at the first place and move along with the threshing crew. Women of the households involved would prepare meals.

Roy broke up his 40 acres of farm land walking behind a 14-inch breaking plow pulled by four horses. He used to average three acres a day, working all day long. It was 1929 before he purchased his first tractor, 11 years after the  pur­chase of the family's first Model-T Ford in 1918.

"Of course, we didn't have much money in those days, but grain wasn't so very high as it is now", said Roy.  "A quarter went as far as $5 now", added Effie , and told of having earned a salary of $45 a month for nine months a year for teaching.

Financially speaking, people of the valley were far from rich, but there was a close bond with neighbors that gave rich rewards.   Regardless of the chore a­head everyone pitched in until it was done. "I don't know how many windmills I helped raise", said Roy.

Working tools were hard to come by, and of course, tools as we know them today were not even invented. Man improvised most of what he needed. Roy used to fence by rolling out approximately a half-mile of wire, and then jacked the wagon up and wrapped the wire around the wheel to stretch it.  He began fencing his property soon after he came to Wyoming.  Usually two wires were used.

Keeping house was considerably different than it is now.   Even coffee was ground at home.   Effie still has her coffee grinder.

For several years the Royal Valley people found raising of certified potatoes profitable. They were shipped to Texas for seed potatoes. Suddenly the market just went haywire, and "they weren't worth anything. I fed 1000 bushels to my cattle that winter," said Roy.

Shortly after the potato market fell off in the early 1930's, the people began raising turkeys. Stanley Hoy was one of the larger producers and Roger and Bernice Cowell (Bernice was the daughter of the Eprie Kints) got their start here in the turkey business, said Effie.

As Roy remembers, County Agent Ed Reeves was very instrumental in promoting the raising of turkeys. Roy and Stanley were members of the three-county turkey marketing com­mittee which was headquartered at Henry, Nebr. For several years two or three train car loads would be shipped at Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Dressing out of the birds was a family chore.  Roy says he used to stick and bleed 100 turkeys a day.  The women and children would then pick them and they were chilled and placed in barrels (not drawn) with heads and feet still intact and shipped.

Roy and Effie still live in their first Wyoming home; obviously it has had proper repairs and modernizing down through the years. Originally Roy, like most all of the settlers, first built a two-room 16 X 20-foot frame home.   Two years later a log kitchen and bed­room were added by McLains, but this was not very successful and in 1919 the house was remodeled and two more room added.

McLains also had two additions to the family.  A son, Earl Leroy , was born Feb. 25, 1914 but tragically lived only three days.Three years later a daughter came, May Louise (now Mrs. A.B. Decastro of Hay Springs , Nebr.).

McLains ran cattle for years and al­ ways milked 15 to 22 cows and raised hogs and chickens until they retired in 1961.Twice a week deliveries were made in Lusk of butter, cottage cheese, cream, eggs, cheese, milk (skim, sweet and sour), and chickens.

Effie would drive the horse-drawn top buggy to make deliveries in the early days. May Louise would often accompany her and Effie recalls when she was about four years old she would dash ahead and say, "Get your money ready, Mommy's coming".

The first years of Roy's and Effie's marriage were busy ones.   Fifteen minutes after Effie arrived in Lusk she signed a teaching contract.    Reminiscing, Roy a bit mischievously said, "Effie taught school for three years and I just fiddled around home here doing my housework."  This quickly brought rebuff from Effie who said, "Housework!   He thought up things he shouldn't be thinking to torment me."

Effie taught school in Nebraska before she and Roy were married, and in the fall of 1910 began teaching at the Silver Springs School.  She walked the mile and half to school daily. She said, "In those days you cleaned the school yourself, started your own fires, bundle the children who may have walked or rode horseback as far as two miles as they arrived.

"When you sent them home you made sure they were well wrapped."

Students that first term were: Cyrus, Harry, Percy, Fred, Mary and Merts Blair; Clarence and Floyd Simon; Maurice and Lucille Moody; Myrtle, Mabel, Clara, Henry and Ralph Milburn; Ethel and Brian Rimington; Dana Barber; Elgie, Clinton, Joyce, Evelyn and Bessie Tudder; and Frank Rutledge.  School board members were: Ed Arnold, Ed Barber and Jessie Hall.

The school also served as a church during the summers when the Rev. Bernard Long, Congregational minister from Lusk, would conduct Sunday School and church.

Effie taught the Silver Springs school for three years and Miss Lucille Scace taught there two years before the school was moved.

In 1917, permission was granted to build a school in the center of the Royal Valley community.   The patrons did the work and a one-room building was constructed.

Later, with the addition of another room, the school became the first standardized school in the state with two teachers, Mabel Bunting and Leora Caldwell. Nov. 8, 1919, it was dedicated by A.A. Slade , commissioner of education.

Effie recalls that Gertrude Burke, Francis Gillett, Fern Etteridge, Leora Cald­ well, Bertha Browning, Mae Watson, Frances Eewan and Erma Kirby, Ann Pfister and Bertha Pease all taught at the school.    Many of them boarded with McLains. Will Intveen drove the bus for six years and Julius Schley for one year. Mrs. Della Grebe was county superintendent when the school was consolidated.

Effie was a very young woman when she arrived in Wyoming and now laughs at some of the situations she found herself in.  Being a teacher she automatically assumed the duty of pulling the children's teeth.

Shortly after her arrival in the community she was summoned by a neighbor to come help deliver a baby. Effie recalls she was really frightened, but the woman about to deliver was an old hand at having babies and began firing orders at Effie as to just how the situation was to be handled.

A towel was tied to the foot of the bed for the woman to pull on as she went into labor.  Unfortunately things did not go as smoothly as had been anticipated and Effie promptly sent the 14-year old son of the household to town to fetch the doctor.  The doctor arrived, the baby was born and the new mother asked if they all cared to have supper. Effie said, "No thanks, I think I'll just lie down awhile."

Most of the babies born in the valley were born right at home with the assistance of a midwife. Mrs. Mary Tibbits was usually called. When a doctor did come, it was usually on horseback, because very few cars were owned.

The Royal Valley School building also served as a church and community hall.

Church services were conducted by the Rev. Jacobs, who had a homestead and church near Jay Em, and a Baptist minister who would come out from Lusk in the summer.

Furnishings for the school were financed through monies earned by the community literary society who put on home talent programs at the school.

During World War I the building was used for Red Cross meetings when the women would sew.

Farm Bureau meetings at the school were followed by many good times with Roy at the piano and Archie Sparks on the violin.   Everybody danced - grandparents, parents, young folks and even the little kids.

Programs by the students were held frequently with the most special being given at Christmas. Teaching the children new songs took the combination of Effie and Roy.  She would bring the music home to him and he would play the tune on a cornet.

After Effie had the melody memorized she would teach it to the students.

Programs and dances were always free. Those attending would bring coffee, cake, or sandwiches for refreshments.

The Royal Valley community had a "ball line" (baseball) and Roy was captain. He still has some of the old ball paraphernalia among his keepsakes , including catcher's mitt and gear. Team members Roy recalls include Benny Updike , Bus Gautschi, Vernon and Everett Peterson, Will Blackmore, Walt Rymill, Raymond Hoy, Harold Pease and Lee Woods.

Modernization in the valley was slow coming and it was 10 years after Roy and Effie had signed for electricity that it be­ came a reality.  Roy said, "Potato Reed was head of a committee to bring electricity to the people and most of us signed up in 1941, but it was 1951 before we were put on."  This was, of course, because of World War II. Prior to then light was provided first by kerosene lamp, then carbide lights, wind charger and butane lamps.

The first telephones in the community were installed around 1915 by Roy and Charley Scace, a little over a mile apart on the barbed wire. They sent to Sears and Roebuck for the phones.  Most of the neigh­bors hooked up to the barbed wire system.

Switching dues were 25¢ a month.   In 1916 a high line was built into Lusk by the neighborhood men. Each cut and hauled approxi­mately 20 poles from Rawhide Buttes to build the line. Roy was secretary of the Royal Valley Telephone Company. Jim Fegley, former phone employee, helped build the line.

Wood was used to heat and cook and was hauled by team from Rawhide Buttes.   It was always an all-day chore , starting before daylight and not getting home until after dark.  Very little coal was used because it had to be bought.

McLains converted to butane and recall on a Sunday in 1949 discovering the supply was getting low, but did not want to bother anybody on Sunday and decided to sit it out. However that afternoon late the "Blizzard of '49" hit.   The butane tank went dry but fortunately they had a wood stove in the wash house.  This was brought in and con­nected.

Farm activities continued somewhat limited by the heavy snow, and when the storm was over the butane company was summoned.    It was on a Thursday when the truck got out. "We followed them back to town with me driving the tractor and Effie riding in a two-wheel trailer towed behind the tractor.   She sat on a bale of hay and that is the way we made our dairy deliveries. I remember we had a wash tub of eggs." said Roy.

Roy and Effie were leaders in their community from the time of their arrival. Both have been active Farm Bureau members for 50 years, she serving many terms as secretary and he serving as president.

Effie is a charter member of the Royal Valley Club which was organized in 1917.

She served as 4 H leader in foods, poultry and home beautification a good many years.

Effie has been the Royal Valley correspondent for The Lusk Herald since 1919.  Weekly McLains made the six mile trip to Lusk with the news.

Roy is a member of Odd Fellows and has served in all the chairs. Both Roy and Effie are always ready for a good game of pinochle. Their home has always been open to visitors and the setting for many a good time.

Most of the original valley people have either died or sold their places, but not Roy and Effie. Royal Valley is their home and that is where they intend to stay. They have leased out their range land and live in contented retirement in the only home they have ever known.

Company is still frequent and they rarely ever miss an invitation to get to­gether with friends. They quite often
drive to Hay Springs to visit their daughter and other relatives. In September, 1971, they observed their 62nd wedding anni­versary with old friends.

The McLains moved to Hay Springs for two years and then returned in 1974 and bought the Hans Gautschi home in September. They left in September of 1972 and came back in September 1974.  Roy passed away January 12 , 1975 with Cancer.  Effie resides with her daughter, Mrs. Addison Decastro (Mae) in Hay Springs , Nebr.

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Related/Linked Records

Record Type Name
Obituary McLain, Roy (09/18/1886 - 01/12/1975) View Record
Obituary McLain, Effie (08/11/1889 - 04/12/1983) View Record
Obituary McLain, Earl (11/30/-0001 - 02/28/1914) View Record