Historical Details

Benshoof Family

Courtesy of Our Heritage: Niobrarans and Neighbors, 12/08/2020


by Ruby Hahn

Perry and Rozella Benshoof, both born in Iowa, and their parents moved to Wayne, Nebr. where they lived near each other, grew up as neighbors and were married Sept. 26, 1888.  Rozella had English, French and German ances­ try and Perry mostly German.

My parents (the above named) came to Van Tassell by train Feb. 23, 1913.My two brothers, Harry and Lundy, and sister, Ethel, and myself (Ruby) came with them. Inez remained at Wayne to finish her term of school at Wayne State Normal.

Immediately after our arrival at Van Tassell, we went to the Sam Gagstetter home to stay the first night. Sam had located the homesteaders.

A Wyoming blizzard was raging the next day which necessitated our staying at the Gagstetters for three days before we could leave.

The trip to our homestead in a lumber wagon 12 miles south and six miles west of Van Tassell was a fun jaunt for all of us. Dad pointed out the cow chips along the way, which we strained our eyes to see, not realiz­ing at first that they were what we had seen all our lives on the Nebraska farm, but knew them by another name.

These we and others would be using for fuel.   Our homestead was (and is) located one mile south and one and a half miles west of the present Prairie Center school.

Traveling from Gagstetters to our place we saw only one home -that of Henry Meeker, since most of the homesteaders came that spring and we were the first in that immediate area.

Dad had to have a good sense of direction because of no landmarks. A pile of rocks marked the corners of each section of land.    Part of our way we had the old Ft. Laramie - Ft. Robinson trail to follow which came across the section just north of our homestead.

Our journey ended at the 14 by 16 foot house (if it could be called a house) that dad and Harry had built the fall before. It stood alone in the center of the prairie. The place did not look lonely to us - after all dad and mother were there and the whole new experience was hilarious for us. When the horses stopped dad said with a chuckle, "This is home."

The wagon load of furniture was crowded into the shack. There was a table, kitchen range, a cot, three mattresses, piano, wash stand, a few chairs and boxes to be used as chairs. Other things were bedding, three or four dozen jars of canned food, the kind of indoor bathroom used in those years and a few clothes. There were eight of us to live in this one room because two of our neighbors from Wayne were with us, Hugo Splittgerber and Irving Moses. They remained with us until they could get their shack built. My mother, sister and I slept on the cot, which opened up almost as wide as a bed, the five men slept in the attic on mattresses. The attic was high enough in the center for a short person to stand, but the men never could; consequently, they had to dress and undress sitting or on their knees. This was our only place for privacy for taking a bath.

The picture from our one room shack was prairie in all directions, with only range cattle and cowboys in sight; we never did look in the distance that we couldn't see cowboys riding the range - a big thrill for newcomers to pioneer country.

Harry, my oldest brother, was the in­ducement for our family to come to Wyoming. Land in eastern Nebraska was priced too high for a young man and a homestead in the west was his dream. Within two weeks after our arrival, the men had built a shack on his homestead near our shack.

Harry's shack from then on was the man's quarters - except for eating meals. This made the work much easier for mother, not having so many people to work around.

As the spring months and early summer passed there were homesteaders coming in from different parts of the country and numerous shacks dotted the prairie within sight of our little abode, and brought friends whom we appreciated.

One of our near neighbors stands out, a man whom we called "Glenn," and kept everyone curious about him for the fact he was always dressed in a suit, white shirt, tie and katy hat. He never revealed where he came from or what he had done previous to coming to the area. Attired in this fashion he walked to our place for groceries and kerosene.

My dad had built a storage building for groceries, which we brought from Van Tassell and resold to the homesteaders who had no transportation of their own.

Several of these were women and children who lived on their homestead the seven required months of the year.  They could walk to our house for groceries and kero­sene for their oil ranges. The husbands of these women worked in the mines in Lead, S.D. to support their families.

The 18 miles to Van Tassell was a long trip with the team and lumber wagon, and often the men making the trip stayed at the hotel overnight, it being too much for horses in one day.  If they returned the same day it would be near midnight because they had to give the horses several hours rest before starting home.

The Van Tassell post office served people for miles around. Mrs. Catherine McCabe, postmistress, was also druggist and doctor. She had such a thorough knowledge of drugs that she prescribed medication for anyone's ills. She was a God-send, since there was no doctor available. Her advice was also helpful for livestock remedies. Mrs. McCabe was the mother of Genevieve McMaster.

Mail service was slow because someone had to go to Van Tassell to get mail. Each one who went carried mail out for all  the neighbors     No one ever complained about mail service - it was just another experience that went with homesteading.

Entertainment consisted of sleigh riding and skating in winter, parties and dances and much visiting. After the Prairie Center Church was built, ice-cream socials, carry-in dinners and meetings were held there. It served as a community building for school meetings and other occasions where more room was needed.

Frank Grooms was the Superintendent of the first Sunday School held in Ethel's homestead shack, the first summer the home­steaders moved in. Those who attended were to submit a name for the Sunday School. The name "Prairie Center" received the most votes - this name suggested by Mrs. Gana Grooms, and the community still goes by the same name.

In 1914 Dr. Gray from Cheyenne came to Prairie Center and organized the Congre­ gational Church, with members joining who previously were members of several other denominations.  Dr. Gray also organized the Van Tassell church at the same time. Frank Grooms donated land on which to build a church and an acreage for a ceme­tery. This was located 2-1/4 miles south of the present Prairie Center School.

The building started in the fall of 1914 and was completed March 1915.

The first community gathering at the church was a carry-in dinner on New Years, 1915. This was before the completion of the interior of the building.  A huge pot-bellied stove being fed plenty of wood soon was red hot and kept us comfortable for a joyous day together.

A March 1913 blizzard caught three men in a tent one half mile west of our house.   They had just arrived to build their shacks when the snow and wind began. They succeeded with much effort to hold the tent down until the storm sub­sided. These men were Clint Bair, Nate Sutton and Sidney Fogelsong. Blizzards were numerous in the winters and treacherous electric storms preceded by sand­ storms. These sandstorms we could see when they got to the east of the Rawhide Buttes, which was warning to get inside while we could still see to get indoors.

We feared rattlesnakes more than blizzards. My mother warned us each time we went away from the house during summer months to carry a stick and watch for snakes.  We had many hair-raising exper­iences with running onto snakes, but through the years very few people have been bitten.

The first wedding in the area was that of my sister Ethel and Eugene Browder, June 3, 1915. By this time we had a bedroom added to our original 14 by 16 to help accommodate the 21 who attended. Reverend C.E. Carter performed the ceremony; he was the first minister at Prairie Center.

Hugo Splittgerber was married in the summer of 1913, but he went back to Wayne, Nebr. for his bride.

The first burial in the Prairie Center Cemetery was the infant son of Mr. and Mrs. W. H. Newman, Jan. 2, 1916 and three weeks later was Martha Serafin, two years old, who froze to death after wandering two miles from her home. She left the house in late afternoon; when the family was not able to find her by nearly dark, they called in the neighbors, who walked the prairies until two-o'clock the next morning, until they were too exhausted to keep going. Neighbors farther away were summoned and continued the search until the break of day. They found her little body frozen stiff.   She was buried in a homemade casket covered with white cloth. My mother and Mrs. Joe Vondra, Sr. covered the casket and prepared the body. The casket was in our bedroom until time for burial.

The Rawhide Buttes furnished fuel for all the homesteaders, along with cow chips. It took at least three days for a trip there and back; one day to go and a day to gather and load wood and one day to return home.

These trips were more play than work for the children who went. Mountains were new to us and climbing them was great sport; we never were satisfied until we reached the top where the government marker is located.

During the winter months we each took a bath every two weeks because of lack of privacy and having to bathe in a cold attic with a basin of water.  We did change clothes each week and mother washed them on a board. The houses were so cold it likely helped to keep B.O. down to minimum and also we were outside in the cold air much of  the time because we enjoyed it.

Home remedies were very effective - those used most often were peppermint for an uncomfortable stomach, mustard plasters or lard and turpentine for congested chest, hot lemonade or hot ginger tea and a hot foot bath for colds. Luckily the wide open spaces of pure clean air seemed to keep people healthy and I do not recall any serious illnesses during those years. Mrs. George Groves and my mother acted as mid- wife at many births in the community. Frank Grooms, Jr. was likely the first born in the area, March 1914 and later Ernest Splittgerber in Oct., 1914. My mother was also in attendance when Bernice Splittgerber and Boyd Bair arrived.

Inez taught at the Siemson school for the 1923-24 term and I taught the same term at the. Lacy School. Pupils were Anna Coffee, Samuel Coffee, William Coffee, Virgil Martin and Bryan Lacy.

I taught the Larson School for the 1924-25 term. My pupils were Charlotte, Marguerite and Jeanette Hahn, Gail Larson and Helen Fleming.

I taught at the Jacobson school during the 1925-26 school term. My pupils were Alice, Lester and Charles Britton, Helen, Rose and Charles Rejda and Ingeborg Jacobson.

My brother, Harry, married Gertrude Wilson, July 18, 1925 and was a rancher near the home place until 1959 when they moved to an acreage east of Torrington.

Ethel and Eugene Browder were ranching on their place eight miles east of Jay Em until they moved into Jay Em in 1955, then to Torrington in 1963.

Inez has been in Jay Em since 1928. She is now the post mistress there and a partner in the hardware store.

Lundy married Pearl Wilson Dec. 24, 1925 and ranched east of Jay Em until 1943 when they moved to Spokane, Washington.

I was married after three years of teaching school, to Reuben Hahn., May 1, 1926.    We lived 3-1/2 miles north of Van Tassell until May 1927 when we moved to the Frank Rider ranch 4-1/2 miles east of Jay Em; we ranched there until November, 1968, when we moved to Torrington.

Rozella and Perry had 12 grandchildren who are: Darrell Benshoof, Mrs. John Schnackenberg (Marion), Mrs. Jack Wade (Ellen), Verne Browder, Mrs. Helen Bower, Cavil Benshoof, Lyman Benshoof, Mrs. Lyle Morehouse {Leona), Merle Hahn, Wayne Hahn, Mrs. Leo Fowler (Bernita Hahn), and Mrs. Alan Arnold (Arlene Hahn).

Perry and Rozella's great grandchildren now number 34. Rozella Benshoof passed away June 7, 1932 at the ranch home. Perry married Mate Pittenger, Dec. 24, 1933, who passed away in Feb. 1949.

Perry passed away on Oct. 1957 in the Spencer Hospital at Lusk after a six­ month's illness.


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Record Type Name
Obituary Benshoof, Perry (12/28/1865 - 10/03/1956) View Record