Historical Details

Dean, C. M. Family History

Courtesy of Our Heritage: Niobrarans and Neighbors, 11/16/2020


by Verna Dean Reed

Free Land! Whoever heard of such a thing!

We, of the C. M. Dean family were living near Whiting, Iowa when my brother Carl came home from town one day with the startling news that one could acquire 320 acres of free land in Wyoming, just for living on it for three years.   It sounded good, very good, and after a family conference of the older ones, it was decided that Carl should come out and look over the situation. If half of the promotional advertising were true, he would file on some land and then my dad and sister Lulu would each take a homestead.

A few months elapsed before this was accomplished. In February, 1911, the Chicago and North Western passenger train very obligingly made a whistle stop and we were deposited bag and baggage at Node in a snow storm, with the only accommodations being a plank platform to designate the town.  However, with true hospitality, the Peter Hansen family, who lived nearby, made us comfortable for a few days until we could secure living quarters for our stay while we were building on the pieces of free land.

A half mile east of Node, stood the vacant house of Chris Salveson. We made the necessary arrangements and moved in. The black and white decor of the walls furnished hours of amusement if one wished to crane his neck or stand on his head to read the ancient news of the Lusk Standard or the-Nebraska Farmer.

At last, my dad, mother, Fred and I were "at home" on our gift land with Carl and Lulu as adjoining neighbors, each on his own estate. Now, wouldn't our Iowa friends and relatives gasp at the idea of a nine-hundred-and-sixty-acre ranch!   You may be sure we wrote home about it, though we didn't mention we only had a cow or two, three horses and a few skinny pigs.

The corn crop didn't do well that year.

Many things happen in a few years. My folks managed to get ahead and bought the George Voorhees ranch on the Niobrara river 15 miles east of Lusk.  We were very happy there and because we did not have cattle enough to stock the ranch the first year, we leased some winter pasture to Russell Thorpe and roomed and boarded his foreman, George Saffell.

The summer of 1915 had not been an unusual summer, yet something unusual did happen.  It was on Friday evening that we watched a very menacing cloud forming in the west.  It did no damage at the ranch, but we were surprised a few hours later to learn that it had brought death and destruc­tion to the Node community.  Fred Hansen watched in horror as he saw the section house lifted to a height of a hundred feet before it collapsed in mid-air. Harry Gimmell, section foreman, Mrs. Gimmell and their three children were inside. Harry Junior, 5, was killed, the baby girl was left with a broken hip, the third was un­injured. The baby needed immediate care.

Jim Shaw came to the rescue.  He swam his horse across the flooded area near the Otis Bump house and reached Lusk to find the doctor was out of town. He persuaded Doctor Paisley, a veterinarian to make the trip to Node on the railroad hand car.

Later, the Lusk doctor praised Doctor Paisley for having done a perfect job in setting the hip.

The Ohlson family, cousins of the Hansens, lived in a house nearby, and though it was well built, it was blown to bits in the matter of seconds.  No one was seriously hurt, and the baby was found alive and unharmed on its mattress about a block away.

Time marches on and after teaching several terms of school in the eastern part of Niobrara County, I left the    reading, ‘ritin and ‘rithmetic to accept a higher salary in the county courthouse as deputy assessor for Charlie Card. From there I graduated to housekeeping as Mrs. Raleigh Reed. Raleigh was a World War I veteran.

Though my memory never seemed to substantiate the statement, Raleigh always claimed that I wouldn't wait until the com­ing leap year to propose, so we were mar­ried in 1923.

We lived in Casper for about five years and then bought a small ranch south east of Node. During the memorable year of 1929 we had a land payment coming due. The money to meet it had been in the Harrison State Bank when it had closed its doors a short time before, so we had to figure out some­ thing else. We came to Lusk, had a little chat with Mr. Ed Arnold and the payment was made on time, but not without incident.   

A strange man appeared to want to make our acquaintance, as he followed us from the time, we cashed the check at the bank until the money order was on its way. Then he lost interest.

That was the year we were especially happy for our garden vegetables, but a little happier when we had an occasional fifty cents worth of hamburger to go with them. Our Node merchant, A. A. McCoy, kindly made note of our grocery wants in a little memorandum book, including the item of hamburger, later, when we sold one of our big cows for $15, we became aware that we could have feasted on roasts and steaks much cheaper, but then I guess we had use for the fifteen dollars.

One evening as I was getting supper for Raleigh and me, my brother Carl came to visit us.   Nothing unusual about that, though this time it turned out to be a real surprise.  He had a wife with him.  Guess who! It isn't any secret now, for that was many years ago when he and Ella Pfister were married.  For a number of years, they were in partnership with Ella's brother Bill, but eventually the partnership was dissolved and Carl and Ella became owners of the old Henry Gray ranch, which included many more acres than the original. They had one son, Carl Junior.

They made many improvements, fences and sheds, and later built a new modern home. It was only about two years later that Carl passed away. Ella continued to live on the ranch with her young son until death claimed him at the age of 13. Ella's last illness and death came a few years later.

My dad's ranch was the scene of a wedding when my sister Lulu and Frank Beyers were married. They lived on Frank's ranch southeast of Node until his death, after which Lulu made her home in Lusk.  Their only child, a son, Lewis, served in the army during the Korean war. He was station­ ed in Europe and was flown home by the Red Cross at one time when his father was seriously ill.  After the war, Lewis was married to Mrs. Florence Shaw of Glenrock.

He and his wife now live in Casper.  They have no children.

After my dad's death, my mother and Fred continued to operate the home ranch.

In the late summer of 1937, Fred had hired a young man of 17, who was a total stranger, to help with the haying. For    some reason mother and Fred were concerned about the young man's behavior and found out later they had been justified in distrusting him. One Saturday afternoon when they had return­ ed from Lusk, Fred walked out to the pickup which had been left close to the barn. He was very curious about a light rack which had been placed on the pickup in his absence. Upon investigating, he found three or four of his sacks of wool and several of his guns stowed away in the vehicle. He knew immediately that the youth was waiting for him in the barn. He turned to go to the house and had he not done so he would have been killed instantly from a .22 caliber shot fired from the barn. Because he had turned, the shell landed in his shoulder  and he was able to run to the house.  A second shot missed him.

He found a shotgun and one shell in the house which the youth had missed and while he stood at the dining room window watching for the fellow to come to the house, mother had broken out a screen and was waving a pillow case from the north window, hoping that someone on the highway would come to the rescue.   Mr. and Mrs. Tony Larson saw the distress signal, turned around and came to the house. After learning about the trouble, they rushed to Node and called Sheriff Shoopman who came post haste bring­ing Doctor Reckling with him. Fred asked that they search the place first, which they did and then gave him first aid before they took him to the hospital and left mother with her friends, the Don Taylors.  The young man testified in court that he had intended to kill Fred and then force mother to write a sizable check and then kill her. I believe he received a sentence of seven years.

In 1932 cattle prices were still low and because of this, we rented our place near Node and Raleigh took a traveling sales job with headquarters in Beatrice, Nebr.  He was never fond of sales work, and after two years we returned to Wyoming, sold our land near Node and bought a ranch south of Manville. Sheep raising was interesting and profitable, even with the competition of the diamond-back rattle snakes which seemed to think they owned them thar hills. However, sixty-five of them were not around after the first year. Raleigh loved to hunt the things when they came out to sun themselves during the first warm days of spring. One day his 'catch' was 13.

Mother passed away in 1941 after which Fred continued to operate the ranch alone, that is, until he was married to Mrs. Estella Vargason, July 3, 1950. 

Stella had a small daughter, Linda, at home so from then on the ranch population increased to three. Stella's other children, Clare and Anita (Mrs. Lafe Culver, Jr.) had been married for several years.

In November, 1956 a terrible blizzard hit the community. Fred and his hired man, Kenneth Siebkin were out in the storm checking on the cattle.  They could not see for the whirling snow and drove into a deep ditch from which it was impossible to get out, and spent the next day and a half right there.    The weather was cold but they managed to keep warm by partially filling a Prestone can with snow on which they poured gasoline and set it afire.

Stella and Linda were marooned at the ranch powerless to help, but kept the telephone busy, though it was impossible for anyone to venture out. Even the State Highway Department thought it too dangerous to try. When the storm had abated some and as soon as they could shovel out, Ira Lamb and John Christian came to the rescue. They found Kenneth stumbling along in knee deep drifts. Fred was not well and so stayed in the pickup.

Sometime before this, Linda had heard Fred and Stella talking about dead people turning black when there was no undertaker available.  When the men brought Fred and Kenneth home she started to cry, for the gasoline smudge had done a thorough job of turning two LIVE people black.   She was happy when she found it would wash off.

Linda grew up on the ranch, graduated from Lusk High school and is now Mrs. Roger McDaniel.   They have one daughter, Melisha. Roger and Linda moved to Texas about a year ago.

We lived on our Manville ranch for 20 years. During that time our son, Richard entered the first grade in the Manville school and 12 years later graduated from there, the last year that Manville had a high school.  In 1959 he graduated from Boise Bible College, Boise, Idaho.     While he was in college, he was married to Betty Lou Nichols, who was a student. A year or two after graduation, the call came loud and clear to Richard to come back to Wyom­ing, so he, Betty Lou and their small son, Russell returned and spent four years in Casper. Then, somehow the grass looked greener in Richland, Wash., where they now live.  Richard and a partner own and operate "The Custom Carpet Company". Their family has increased to four since they have been in Washington.  Randy, now six years old is a first grader. Russell, who is in Junior High, takes every opportunity to write something about Wyoming in his school work. This pleases his grandmother Reed.

Randy never lived here but he likes Wyoming, too.

Several months after Fred's death, Stella built a new home in Lusk and moved to town. She then rented the ranch to Hobart and Marilyn Cockreham, who have recently purchased it.

Raleigh and I sold our Manville place to Gene and Mildred Tyrrel in 1961, and at the same time bought the Doctor Reckling home in Lusk from Lyle and Gina Berry.  I have continued to live here since Raleigh passed away in March 1968. I might mention also that I am the only survivor of the Dean family who came to Wyoming in 1911 for free land.

(Verna Reed died Dec. 30, 1973)

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Related/Linked Records

Record Type Name
Obituary Dean, Columbus (10/04/1859 - 08/19/1933) View Record
Obituary Dean, Sarah (01/12/1861 - 03/15/1941) View Record