Historical Details

Lumsden, Bessie E.

Courtesy of Our Heritage: Niobrarans and Neighbors, 12/14/2020


On a beautiful Sunday morning in April 1907, while the church bells were ringing in the little town of Quasqueton, Ia., on the banks of the Wapsiepinicon River, a baby girl was ushered into this world.    She was named Bessie E. Lumsden by her parents, Carrie Kimball Lumsden and George L. Lumsden.

In this small town she grew up. In summer she fished in the river and in winter she skated on it. She had two older brothers and two sisters, one older and one younger. It was here that she finished grade school.

Both brothers, Lyle and Jean were in the first World War. Lyle served a year and a half in France and Jean served in the

U.S. Navy for four years. After the war, Bessie, with her mother, oldest brother, Lyle, and sister Mona moved to Lusk, Wyo. Her older sister, Lorena, was married to Elmer C. Postel, also a veteran of World War I, and they were already living in Lusk. It was in Lusk that she finished high school. Then she went 12 weeks to summer school at Chadron State Teacher's College.  During that summer she signed a teacher's contract to teach "The Bob Cat School", in the very northern part of Niobrara County. It was located out across Cheyenne River on "Robber's Roost Creek."  At that time it was 70 miles from Lusk. The road has been changed and much improved since then (1928).

It was the very first time she had ever been inside of a rural school. It proved to be a real challenge for Bessie. But she was made of good stuff and so she stuck with it. Little did she ever guess that she would teach for 41 years, all in Niobrara County. The first 17 years were in rural schools and the last 24 were spent in the grade school in Lusk, Wyo.

Most of her experiences were happy ones. She had always been a great lover of music.   She had a phonograph of her own to use in the schoolroom from the very begining and also played a harmonica and organized several harmonica bands with the children.  She played and taught songs to her pupils on her guitar. Later she bought an accordian and learned to play it and this was great to accompany the children with their singing.

Bessie never married and once after she had tried to explain to her group of first graders that she wasn't Mr. Lumsden but  Miss Lumsden because she had never married, one little boy said to her after school, "So, you never got married?"  She replied, "No, I never did." He said, "Why not?" She answered, "Oh, I guess I was just too busy teaching school." He asked, "Couldn't you have done it on Saturday or Sunday?"

Miss Lumsden retired early, at 62 years, because she felt she needed a much deserved vacation. But after one year of resting and some substitute teaching in Lusk, she felt the urge to get back with the kids.  And when she was asked by Mr. Johnsonbaugh, Director of Niobrara Schools, to take the position of running the Book mobile for Niobrara County to the rural schools, which numbered seven at the time, she willingly consented to do her best. For three years she rode the range in the Book­ mobile.  She enjoyed every school and pupil and teachers in the county.

Then in the fall of 1973 it was necessary for Miss Lumsden to have back surgery in the Casper Memorial Hospital. This back trouble had been slow in corning and was slow in healing. At the time of this writing, 1974, with a brand new Ford Econoline Panel Bookmobile, she is back on the job and is  as happy as can be. There are now six schools to be called on once every two week weeks. They are Manville., Lance Creek, Cheyenne River, Seven Mile, Fairview and Indian Creek. It is truly a joy to see the beaming faces come running out to greet the Bookmobile and driver with their books under their arms. On cold frosty mornings or sunny fall or spring days, she will come if it is possible.    The first time out to one school this fall, a little boy climbed on the Bookmobile and said, "Miss Lumsden, last night when I went to bed I prayed that you would come today and you did!"  This really made the day for her.

She has taught the boys and girls many songs and they love to sing-a-long with her and of course, the accordian.     The best loved songs of the children throughout the schools are, "This Land Is Your Land," the "Cowboy Songs”, "My Poor Meat Ball", and the "Wyoming State Song".

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Related/Linked Records

Record Type Name
Obituary Lumsden, Bessie (04/21/1907 - 04/10/1992) View Record