Historical Details

Gentry, Bill and Family

Courtesy of Our Heritage: Niobrarans and Neighbors, 11/23/2020


by Catherine Thomson

William George Gentry, my father, was born in Plattsmouth, Nebr., Aug. 9, 1880. He was the third child of Milton and Ima Mae Gentry.  He had two older sisters, Ruth and Cora.  He was working in Omaha when he met Ina Estelle Miller, my mother.  Mother had been born Jan. 18, 1885 in Whiting, Iowa.

She was teaching near Pender, Nebr. when they met.  They were married at Whiting, Iowa, June 26, 1907.  One year later, to the day, their first son, Gould William was born.  Two other children were born into the family before they moved to Wyoming.

Catherine Ina was born Jan. 15, 1910 in Auburn, Nebr. and Ross Edward was born Dec. 17, 1911 in Whiting, Iowa. Ina always called Dad "Will" but everyone else called him "Bill".

Bill had filed on some land, 160 acres, that happened to be in the middle of a meadow belonging to Richards and Comstock Spade Ranch near Ellsworth, Nebr. They traded Dad a square section two miles north of Manville, Wyo. for the relinquishment to the meadow land.

We moved to the new home in the spring of 1913. We lived in a sheep wagon while Dad and carpenters built a bunkhouse, then lived in the bunkhouse while the men built a frame house and barns and sheds.

My sisters, Elizabeth and Isabel, and a stillborn brother were born there.

Elizabeth Martha was born Dec. 17, 1913; then the boy, then Isabel Caroline June 27, 1916.   Gould and I started to school there in Manville. Gould walked to school the first year.   The next year, when I started, we rode a school bus. The "bus" was a lovely buggy that Clarence Pinkerton drove.

The Maxwell children, Ethel, Earl and Ivan, who lived across the road from Pinkertons also rode.    Beulah and Clyde Willoughby, who lived closer to town, were the last to pile in the "bus". The little two seater buggy was crowded.   None of us cared.

Dad farmed the land at the Manville place until the spring of 1916. Having five children to feed, he thought that he could make a better living in Nebraska.  He trad­ed the Manville land for a ranch on the Minnecadusa Creek several   miles north  of Wood Lake. It was a lovely little place right beside the stream.  Lots of wild cherries and flowers grew beside the stream. We loved the running water. The old house wasn't much and we lived in a big house just south of the town.  We walked to school.

We lived there only a year.  It wasn't a good year to have tried the cattle business. Dad came back to Wyoming and filed on a homestead about 25 miles north of Manville.

Two other families moved up from Wood Lake with us. We pooled our furniture, livestock and machinery to make several car loads (railroad cars). The other families were Olives and Clarks. Olives had a large family of boys, no girls.They had taken a homestead over west of Little Lightning Creek near Lone Tree. Clarks' homesteads were near ours.

School was still in session when we moved, so Dad rented a house in Manville so we could finish the school term. Clarks rented another house and John and Dad built a couple of make-shift shelters for us to live in that summer (1917) while they built permanent homes. These two buildings were about a half-mile apart; Clarks on the east and ours on the west side of Lance Creek about two miles below Jakey Mill's U-L ranch headquarters.

After school was out we moved to the homestead.    We had two double wagon-box loads of food, furniture and supplies. It took us two days to get to the cabin. We had to cross Lance Creek 13 times.  We camped out at the foot of the VS hill, near where Sheinors lived. Mrs. Sheinor was a tall slender woman.   The next day Elizabeth referred to her as the long lady and for the rest of our lives she was the long lady to our family.

I wonder what my mother thought when we unloaded at the cabin after the second day of traveling in those dusty wagons. On TV now the wagon trains move in serenity along with the women in immaculate dresses and with their beauty parlor hair-do. As  I remember moving in a wagon there was always either one or the other of two draw­ backs, dust or mud.  If the weather was dry, the dust curled up from the wagon wheels and raised into the air from the wagon ahead and settled in a cloud over the wagon which happened to be behind covering everything with a coating of fine gray dust or, if it was raining, every one and everything became dripping wet and the horses and wagons tended to go into a hill rather than up while the unfortunate horses struggled to keep them moving. But there were some times when the weather was right, the roads were firm and dry and it was very pleasant to be riding down the road and enjoying the fresh clear air, the sight of antelope, prairie dogs, rabbits and domestic animals, herds of horses, sheep and cattle.

Dad had bought a shetland pony which the boys rode along behind the wagons driving our several milch cows and an extra horse. Anyhow on that particular move nothing exceptional happened.

I don't think that anyone ever heard my mother complain. It was not her nature, but I'm sure that she must have had many misgivings when we arrived at that first cabin.  It was built on the style of a sheep wagon with built-in bunks in one end with room for a table in the middle and the stove just inside the door. Our furniture was stored along the sides and we children lived out of doors all summer.  One of the Olive boys spent the summer with us.  The boys slept out of doors. He and my brother soon had a small round corral where they could milk the cows that gave us good rich milk.  My mother had been used to better times. She had always used linen table­ cloths and nice china. For the first time since her marriage she gave up using these. We ate from enameled plates off a plain board top table while her linens and china were stored in boxes.

Dad hired a man who made cement blocks.The two men spent the summer making them. They could not be set in the sun so they had a roof shelter put up and dried the blocks on long rows of two-by-fours that had to be laid level so the cement blocks would dry square and true They had only one form and mixed the cement by hand in a flat mortar box, poured the cement in the metal form and as soon as the cement set released the sides of the form leaving the block on a wooden slab which they carefully moved to the racks in the shade to dry.    They dug a basement, built a foundation 24 feet x 36 feet and started laying the cement blocks.

By fall the house was nearly enough done that we moved in.  The rafters were up divid­ing the kitchen in the south east corner, dining room next and living room in the south west corner. As long as we lived there, the partitions were never completely finished. Only rough boards made the floor. The ceiling rafters were covered with some tongue and grooved boards. There was a ladder to reach the large attic and several beds were set up there and there was lots of storage room up there.

Mother put her piano in the "living room", put her embroidered scarves on the dressers and unpacked the worn linen table cloths. She used all these, changed them every Saturday, scrubbed the rough board floors at the same time and washed the linens on a wash board. She ironed them with an iron called the "sad iron". The name was most appropriate.

Before we left Manville, Mary Clark had become ill and passed away.  We were left with only the four Clark men for close neighbors.  My mother was disappointed, for she had thought a lot of Mary.

That first summer we hauled our water from Jakey's U-L springs. We had a stone boat with two barrels fastened to it and one single gentle horse could move it easily. The boys usually hauled the water. Often I would go along, sometimes walking, sometimes standing, holding on to one of the barrels.  The ground was so rough that it was easy to walk as it was to ride over the rough prairie.

Before too long, we had a well drilled. Bert Good was the driller.  The well was out in front of the house where it could serve both the house and the barns. A windmill pumped the water. I still love the sound of a windmill slowly pumping up and down and the chuckle of a wagon as the wheels turn, sounds I seldom hear anymore.

The first World War was in progress the first year we were on the homestead. Flour and sugar were rationed. We could get only one week's supply at a time. It was a three-day trip into town with a team and wagon.     This getting supplies almost every week was a nuisance and a time-consuming chore to my father who was trying to get the land fenced and a house built. My mother was an expert at using the oatmeal and supplements that one must buy to get the rationed white flour and sugar. I don't believe that we ever felt deprived.

There were a few bad months when Dad had to register and we worried that he might be drafted. With five children to support, however, he was exempt from active service.

Supporting the family was a major problem. There was no income from the dry farm.     Dad had worked at the Lance Creek oil field when he came up from Nebraska and filed on the homestead and while we were living in Manville so we children could complete the school year.  All the years that we were "proving up" on the land, he spent many months working at the oil field. This provided all the cash income that the family had.

Most of our living came from the place.

We always had a lovely garden.  We milked cows and butchered pork and beef. We kept chickens for both eggs and meat. Many settlers ate antelope, but my parents were determined to raise their children to be law abiding, so set a good example for us by obeying the game laws.

About the time we moved out, in 1917 that was, the John Bray family settled in about three miles to the northeast of our place. One midsummer day the boys caught the team, harnessed them and hitched them to the wagon. We all piled in and went to visit the "neighbors". They had children and my parents were determined to get a school.    There were four school-age boys in the family:  Clarence Bray, and John's three stepsons, Kenneth, Louis and Otis McAllister.

My folks and the Brays did get a school. They had to provide the schoolhouse the first year.  Somehow, they managed to get a small shack built about half-way between their house and ours.  It was up on a high ridge between two big draws.  Our first teacher was Miss Heywood.  She came up from Denver, boarded with us and walked the mile and a half each day to school. We had to cross the creek, sometimes getting wet feet when the water was too high.  It always varied, and one never knew how deep the water would be.   Of course, midyear it was frozen. We had to carry both our lunch and water.

Miss Heywood thought that she had reached the end of the world. She stuck it out until near the holidays. She went home for Christmas and never came back.  My mother finished teaching out the school year.

The next year more settlers came in, the Clair Rices and the Bushnells. Bert and his wife Lottle and Ira and his wife Rachell both had families and their own homestead filings.  Howard, their father, had his place.     Mrs. Canfield, a sister to Ira and Bert, filed on a place too.  She passed away leaving an orphan daughter, Gwendolyn Canfield.  Gwen lived with her grandparents.

My mother cooked for the carpenters who built the Bushnell homes in the summer of 1918. With all these children, the school was moved so that it was half-way between Bushnell's and us. This establishing a school half-way between the patrons often caused a problem and sometimes the patrons almost used a yardstick to find the half-way spot.       For the next few years, we would go to school at this country school for a month or so in the fall, then move into the Lance Creek oil town for the winter months while Dad worked there, then move back to the homestead in the spring.

The McCullough family lived up on the divide east of us.      There were three grown girls in the family, Edith, Lanore and Bertha.           All three taught school.  For the next several years one or the other of these sisters taught our country school.

They had a brother Gould's age, Leonard, who came to school too. The Rices had their own school.    Edith was married to a Mr. Bond.   At that time Lanore and Bertha were single.  From the time that the school was established between Bushnells and us, one or the other of these girls was my teacher, even when we were in the oil town. I loved them, especially Bertha.

In the fall of 1921, my mother had another baby, our youngest brother, Warren Mille He was born Oct. 3. He was a very delicate child. We stayed on the homestead all that winter instead of moving into the oil field.  I have seen my mother wake little Warren up to be sure he was still alive.   He used to lie so still and quiet. He was several months old before the doctor prescribed a formula that agreed with Warren. Finally, he began to thrive and grow.

When a person filed on a homestead, there were certain requirements that had to be met before one could "prove up". One  had to establish a home, live in it for three years, plow a certain· number of acres and fence the land. Then after final proof was made, the President of the United States signed a patent.    When this patent was re­ corded at the County Court House in the County in which your land was located, then the land was yours. You could do whatever you wished with it.

Many people were lured by advertisements to file on a homestead. The Government, local, state and federal branches, wanted the land to be deeded so that owners would be paying taxes. Railroads wanted the west settled to increase their business.

The Federal Government devised several plans to get the land into private owner­ ship. Railroads were given outright grants. Land patents were given to pioneer settlers for complying with certain regulations. These plans were publicized. The railroads issued glowing circulars with pictures of land-owners standing in fields of neck-high wheat.

These were true pictures of fields from Iowa, eastern Nebraska and other points in the eastern United States. However, the results were tragic to many a homesteader who settled in Wyoming and other dry western states.  The first of these settlers had naturally taken the best locations, those few where springs of good water flowed the year around and where the grass was watered by the subsoil. The very first settlers were given deeds by just settling on the land. After the Spanish American War, many soldiers claimed 160 acres that each

soldier could get for having fought in the war. Many of the earlier ranchers would buy up these claims as soon as the veterans would sell and the prices paid were minimal: fifty cents or a dollar an acre or maybe for the price of a drink at the bar, and the owner was glad to get that. Then about 1913 the homestead laws were passed allowing a settler to file on 640 acres.             This sounded like a lot of acres, but many a home­steader learned that he could not make a living on one full section of the available land in northern Niobrara County at that time.  For the next 20 years (1913-1933), many tried. Many failed.

As soon as their patents were recorded at the court house the new land owners could apply for a loan. The Federal Land Bank would loan a small amount, between three hundred and a thousand dollars, for the mortgage on a section of land. A few just took the money and left the country.

Some left and tried for years to keep up their mortgage payments, sending hard­ earned money from distant places, so great was their desire to own their own land.

Some sold to earlier settlers who had enough resources to put up a small amount over the loan and assume the loan payments.

My parents had this single purpose: to give the children an education. They mortgaged the new homestead, and moved to Denver, Colo. to be nearer school. That was in the spring of1924.                       

In February, on Valentine's Day, 1925, our youngest sister, the baby of the family, was born. We named her Margaret Ella. Less than a year later my family moved again, back to the home­ stead.  After spending the summer there, Dad went to work at the oil fields again.

They bought the old cook house from the Old Argo Camp, and moved it over to one of the oil "camps" where there was a store and post office.

Several of our neighbors, Kruses, Rices, and Deuels had homes there. Living was easier there was natural gas for heating, cooking and lighting.   My parents always had lots of friends and spent many evenings visiting with them. Schools were handy for the younger children.  Dad worked at the Carbon Black Plant for a couple of years.  He had a ruptured appendix, and was left with a bad hernia which was eventually the cause of his death.

Where they still remain to tell us that the cooling drink is there.

It has cheered the lonely traveller who has come to make his home

Where the cabin smoke curls upward and once

more has ceased to roam.

Slowly came the men to conquer where the red men once held sway

Where the antelope and wild birds welcome

in the dawn of day.

Naught to break all Nature's picture save a rider here and there

Not a road to mar the setting, naught to worry, naught to care.

But we cannot keep the picture and keep back all progress' way

So we can but keep the memories of those golden old time days.

Many things have come to change us and we can but heed the call

Of the mighty trend of progress, which so surely comes to all.

Once again we view the picture, once again we scan it o'er and we

See the mighty oil field where riches open wide the door.

Where lonely mounts kept vigil, now great trucks go swiftly by

Where the lantern flickered in darkness, electric lights loom in the sky.

Where the lonely cabin hovered, friend and foe alike then came:

Stately homes now grace the prairie

homes now worthy of the name.

In the other parts than oil fields stretch the highways, coast to coast.

Where the tourists throng in hundreds over land of which we boast.

In Wyoming State the rich mines have been tried and proved their worth.

Here again we see the riches poured out to many by Mother Earth.

In 1934 there was a vacancy for post master at Lance Creek. My mother was appointed to the position. My parents cleared one room of that old cookhouse and moved the post office. The building was moved three times while the post office stayed in that same room as long as she was post master.

During these later years of her life, she greatly enjoyed her lodges and friends. She was proud of the family that she had struggled so hard to raise and educate.

She was proud of her record for excellent work at the post office.  When she had to retire at age 65, she bought a little house in Manville.   She enjoyed being there where she still had many friends that she had known first in 1914 and 1915 when she and Dad came to Manville.

Mother wrote a poem about her impres­sions of Wyoming. She would be proud, too, to know that it was read, years later, at the Wyoming Pioneer State Meeting.     Here it is:


If I could but paint the picture of the old Wyoming State

It would be of hills and valleys where the coyote calls his mate.

It would be of plains and sunshine, rock clothed peaks with vale between

Where the Cattle graze contentedly in haunts protected and unseen.

Here and there upon the prairie stands the emblem of the land

The monument that tells the story, waters flowing close at hand.

Rock by rock some lonely herder laid each step with patent care,

Let us mark the lonely highway over which the old stage rolled,

Through the days of flowers and sunshine, and alike through storm and cold.

Let us not forget the first ones, who have made Wyoming great,

As we gently draw the curtain and look back on memories' slate.

By Ina E. Gentry - about 1918.

Time seemed to be moving awfully fast.

I taught school a couple of years, then married. Gould joined the Marines. He was hurt. He seemed to have mental trouble and was in the hospital about 15 years.  When released, he located around Riverton, pas­sed away there several years ago and is buried there in the Veteran's Cemetery.

Ross married Florence Frisby, a Man­ville school teacher.   They had one daugh­ter, Martha, she lives in Cody, Wyo. now. Ross has worked in the oil fields most of his life.      Martha married   Ron Robinson has two boys Tyade and Richard.

Elizabeth married Horace Davis, a stepson of Wes Neal. She had two little boys, Bill and Ed. She passed away in April, 1935, and is buried in the Manville Cemetery. Bill, William Arthur Davis, an electrical engineer, is now living in California.             

He has two children, Lexie and Scott. Bill married Clarice Halley. Ed married

Louise Mayden; they have four children.

About two years after my mother became post master at Lance Creek our father passed away, Jan. 3, 1936. He was buried in the Manville Cemetery. Mother was left a widow with three children. Isabel had gone to live with mother's sister in Iowa in order to finish high school. As soon as she graduated, she returned to Lance Creek.   The next year she and Charles Slaughterback were married.    They had two children, Jean, now Jean Geer of Gillette, and Donald Lee who married Kay Somar and now lives in Idaho Falls, Ida.  He is a mechanical engineer.

Warren earned his B.A. Degree, then his Masters. He married Mildred Axline. They live in Scottsdale, Ariz. They have three sons, Edward Axline, Thomas William and Bradly Jay. Warren is a college pro­fessor.

After Elizabeth passed away, mother took Billy to raise. Horace's brother Harley and wife Ann took Eddie Ray. So Peggy (Margaret) and Bill were with her. Peggy married Cecil Foster before she was ready for marriage, divorced him and later married Bob Varney.   They adopted a daughter, Sue, before Bob passed away.  Now she is Mrs. Bob Carlson and lives in Antioch, Calif.

Mother had been with Peggy for some time when she passed away in January, 1955. She was brought home back to Manville to be buried in the Manville Cemetery in the lot which she and Will had bought many years before in which to bury the stillborn son.

Images & Attachments

There are no attachments for this record.

Related/Linked Records

Record Type Name
Obituary Gentry, Ina (01/18/1886 - 01/20/1955) View Record