Historical Details

Whitman, Milton

Courtesy of Our Heritage: Niobrarans and Neighbors, 01/21/2021


I was born Nov. 6,1908 to Tina (Sprague) and Estle R. Whitman in a farmhouse east of Crawford, Nebr. I always say I was born under Crow Butte. Crow Butte is just a few miles east of Crawford.

I am of mostly English and Irish de­cent, English on my father's side and Irish on my mother's. Of course, going back on both sides there are other nationalities.

After living two years on the McClain place where I was born, I moved with my family 32 miles northeast of Lusk, Wyo. or 21 miles northwest of Harrison, Nebr.

My family consisted of three girls, Elizabeth, (Mrs. Chas. Seaman) of Lusk; Esther (Mrs. Walter Gibbs) Casper; Hazel (Mrs. Ollie Seaman) Harrison; my father and mother and myself.

Two other families moved from Crawford with us; Mr. and Mrs. Claudia Van Blarcum with their two daughters, Frances (Mrs. Ralph Berg), Lusk, and Genevieve (Mrs. Fay Swope), Lusk.   Mrs. Van Blarcum was my mother's sis­ ter and they moved to their homestead one mile south of us. The other family was Mr. and Mrs. John Swope and their daughter Edith. They moved to their homestead about four miles northeast of us. Of course, we all moved by team and wagon and it took us two or three days to make the trip.

The furniture and goods that we brought with us consisted of two wrought iron bed­ steads, one rocking chair, expansion-type table and high-backed chairs, babies high­ chair, glass door cupboard, wood burning cook and heating stoves, dasher-type butter churn and an organ and stool. That just about filled the two-room house. The first year or two we kept the harness, saddle and grain also in the house. 

In 1918 the neighbors built a few miles of telephone line and joined the then existing line, which was a line used by Sam Thomas Sr. in Nebraska. Sam Thomas Jr., west of our place, Arthur Thompson, quarter mile west of us, and James Christian, seven or eight miles northwest of us. The new neighbors that joined the line were: John Burke, Claudia Van Blarcum and my folks.

Our special occasions in the early days each year were the Sioux County Fair at Har­rison, Nebr.   For several years that was the only time we kids got to go to town. The fair was held the last week in August and was the time we got a new pair of shoes and got a new hat. They lasted me until fair time  the next year. I think perhaps, that was the second largest occasion for us, Christmas being the largest.

Since fair time was such a large occasion for us, I will elaborate a little on it. We only took in one day of the three day affair. The night before we went we would fill the wagon box about half full of hay and spread quilts on top of it for we kids to sleep on.  Mom and Pop always sat in the spring seat.  We would get the team in from the pasture and turn them in the yard, so they would be handy for morning. Morning for we kids came about 3:30 and by 4:00 a.m. we were on our way to Harrison. We generally went to sleep again about a couple of miles from home and woke up again about half way to town going up what was called 'the Holtz Hill'.  By that time we were thirsty and hungry so had to eat and drink. We always drove into town and spent a couple of hours or so getting our new shoes and my hat, and of course, I had to have a water gun so that I could get my sister's clothes all wet and I remember hav­ing a fight with some of the town kids be­fore we went to the fairgrounds.

The fairgrounds were about a mile northwest of town, so at noon we would go out there to eat our dinner. The hillside west of the race track by noon was covered with wagons, horses and people eating their cold dinner.

The biggest event for me during the afternoon was spending my nickel for a bot­tle of pop.

We would get home about midnight, tired, sleepy and grouchy.  Then for the next two days I would have a fair of my own.

Other special occasions were, of course, Christmas and New Years. At Christmas we kids would hang our stockings on the backs of chairs. They would be filled with candy and nuts and underneath there would be a toy and a book. Christmas Eve was spent by my folks and Aunt Lou and Uncle Claudia, Frances and Genevieve getting together and sometimes the two families would go to my grandparents, the Spragues, at Crawford, Nebr.

The 4th of July was spent at a big picnic held on different creeks with the whole community. Fried chicken and homemade ice cream were the exciting food of the day.

The country dances were always excit­ing occasions for me.  On those occasions when we kids were all too small to dance we would play ourselves out by playing in the dark, then we were all put on one bed and in corners of the bedroom to sleep. As time went on we got to the awkward age, where we were too little to dance and too big to play little kid games. That is when we boys tried out our first cigarettes. The oldest one in the bunch would roll one from tobacco and papers we had taken (from our dads) a day or two before and after it was finally lit, which was no easy chore, it was passed from one to the other until it was smoked up. Of course, some of us would get sick first.

The next step was learning to dance, which to me was sort of  painful. I was awkward and bashful and seemed to be in everyone's way.

Another special occasion for me was when the "Raleigh" man came with his soap, salve, pills, medicine, spices, etc. Each year he got to our place in the evening and stayed all night with us. The next morning before he left he always gave we kids candy and gave mom some samples of his goods to pay for his and his teams lodging. He al­ ways came in a covered buggy and had the word "Raleigh" in large letters. on both sides of the buggy, which to me was really something big.

Our earliest transportation was, of course, the team and lumber wagon, and sad­dle horse. In 1918 we got our first car which was a Maxwell touring car. My dad traded steers to W. J. Lacy in Harrison for it. At that time the means of transporta­tion, Model, T's , Maxwells, Rio's, etc. It was 10 years ahead of the roads over which they traveled in this part of the country. I think after a year or so the cars became like the team, they automatically stayed in the two ruts and stopped at the wire gates. 

I believe there were 23 gates to be opened in the 21 miles to Harrison.  They got pret­ty good at fording creeks; however, there were a few they had a little trouble cross­ing. Dirty Jim Creek between home and Har­rison was one that nine out of ten times they crossed it they got stuck. Indian Creek between home and Hat Creek was a guess for them.

A little episode crossing Indian Creek happened one night on the 6th of July.

Three cars, my uncle Claudia, Clyde Van Blarcums and my folks went to see a circus,  (this was in the early 30’s). After we reached Hat Creek and got on what was then the A.Y.P. highway, they all speeded up to get to town as early as they could. After they all got there the drivers were tell­ing each other how fast they drove and how they got their car up to the high speed.

The high speed was 30 miles an hour and one held the throttle down steady and an­ other one would hold his down for awhile then let up a little and press it down again.

After the circus was over we all started home and got out just about where Mr. and Mrs. Urbanek now lives and a hail storm hit us. We got the cars up next to the buildings then we all went into the grainery to wait out the storm. After the storm, we started home. It took us until midnight to get to Indian Creek. When we reached Indian Creek it was out of its banks, so we waited until 4 a.m. before it went down enough to try to cross it.

Of course, each car bogged down in crossing. The sun was well up before we reached home.

There was no established church in the community however, off and on through the years we did have Sunday School in the Pine Knot school house, and a few years ministers from Harrison would come out and hold

During the tens and twenties there were several blizzards each winter. Of course some were worse than others, but none were disasterous like the ones in the 80's and 90's. The blizzard of 1949 was disasterous. I did not know first hand how bad it really was until spring. I was working for the University of Wyoming that spring getting wool samples from flocks all over the state. While traveling from place to place I saw dead antelope all over the prairie.  The ranchers told me of their experiences and experiences of their herders. Several herders lost their lives, some froze to death in their wagons, others became lost and froze to death. The ranchers took me out to some of their campgrounds that they used that winter--there I saw whole bands that had died a few feet from their shelter.

Fires and electrical storms have also come as disaster, the electrical storms for the most part causing the fires. While teaching school and living in Jackson Hole, Wyo. I worked for the Forest Service as fire jumper and fought several forest fires as well as prairie fires.

Runaways used to be common occurences while growing up and working on different ranches.   All the farming and ranch work I ever did, until the last few years, was with horses, and through the years there were always some horses that refused to be sub­dued and every once in awhile would assert their independence by waiting for a chance to get me off guard then clear out.

My last runaway was with a team that had been worked a few years.  I was work­ing on a dude ranch near Big Horn, Wyo. in the early 30 s. For some reason, unknown to me, (I guess they knew) they started run­ning away with the foreman of the ranch.

After they had run away with him a few times they were turned over to me. They got away from me a time or two, but I kept working them. The last time I had them hitched to a spring-wagon, which I was using to haul posts in. I was fixing fence in the moun­tains at the time and was going back to the ranch for some posts. I took a short cut which took me over a pretty steep hill with a narrow irrigation ditch about half-way down it. When the front wheels of the wagon  went into the ditch, both horses jumped forward and pulled me out over the dash­ board. Somehow I was thrown to the right side and in so doing the wheel hit me on the hip bone causing some damage and, of course, in other places as well. I froze onto the lines and was dragged over bush, rocks, grass etc. Most of the remaining way down the hill. I did finally let go of the lines. The team ran on down the hill to a fence and tried to turn; they lost the wagon and both fell into the fence.

Needless to say I spent quite some time in the hospital at Sheridan and several years getting over it. I guess my hips and back will never get over it completely.   I have learned to work without it bothering me too much.

I have broken several horses to ride and rode some in the rough string on John Kendricks OW roundups. One of the horses that I never really conquered was T Bone. He was a long legged black horse that was purchased from Kendricks ranch. He never gave up trying to get rid of both the rider and saddle. Quite a few times he would get rid of the rider. He was my winter horse on the ranch I was working on and I never really got too cold riding him.

As a kid growing up, it seemed like every winter there was always an epidemic of some sort going on: chicken pox, measles, whooping cough, flu. We did miss the 1918 flu epidemic, mumps and in 196 8 in November I was in the Veteran's Hospital in Denver when the Hong Kong flu hit the hospital. Several doctors, nurses and several helpers were out and several patients died from it. Several patients that were able were called upon to help in what capacity we could. I helped feed other patients that were unable to feed themselves.

The only time I was quarantined was during the last part of my senior year in high school. An epidemic of smallpox broke out and most of the pupils were vac­cinated but for some reason there were a few of us that weren't. It was while I was on the senior sneak that I broke out with it.   We went to Hot Springs, S.D. for our sneak and I started breaking out while I was in the plunge. Just a few bumps came out but I didn't pay any attention to them.

I felt good so went on with the rest. That night six of we boys camped out in the open at Cascade Falls and came back to Harrison the next day.  It was a hot day and I really broke out.          My folks were in town so they bought me out home and the doctor quaran­ tined the east bedroom and there I was supposed to stay. I missed all the rest of the activities for the seniors: however, I did make it to the graduation exercises. I was late getting to town. The Model T was low on gasoline and I had to back up the hills.. The Monroe Canyon is quite aways to travel backwards and is kind of slow.

Dr. Priest of Harrison was the only doctor I knew until I had the runaway at Big Horn and only knew him by being given a physical to play football. The only den­tist I knew was Dr. Wallace of Harrison.

He pulled a dead tooth and put a bridge in when I was still in grade school.

The cure-all medicines I took were Ral­ eigh's linament, castoria, castor oil and epsom salts. To cure colds and sore throats I drank sagebrush tea and drank a compound of sugar, butter and vinegar. This had to be swallowed while it was still plenty hot, the burn from it was worse to me than the sore throat it was supposed to cure. In the spring, to thin our blood and tone up the body, we drank sassafrass tea.    Year around to keep us healthy and ward off disease we had a little cloth logo asphidity tied around our neck. It didn't work because I got all the kid diseases. I suppose it did have its use--it was pretty good tasting  and I could keep myself occupied by making the sack different shapes and by just chew­ing on it. The little sack and its contents became pretty sour after a few months, but I didn't mind, as it was a gradual process and I didn't notice the change.

I received my elementary education in the Pine Knott school district #9. The small school building was moved from its place of birth one half mile west of our home to one mile north of home just before I started to school that fall. My first grade teacher was Ina (Jewett) Larson and my class mates the first year as I remem­ber them were: My sister, Elizabeth, Frances (Van Blarcum) Mrs. Ralph Berg, Cora (Swope) Leeling, Bill Swope,Arloph,(Mike) Chard, Charley H ughes ,Ola  Hughes, Fern Hughes, Blanche (Burke, Nellie (Burke) Baker, Ralph Moore. Other teachers were Bernice Clark, Bessie Newlin, Laura Townsend, Mar­ tha Newell, Ida Mccloud, Emma Walters, Laura Hammond , E. A. Blunt, E. L. Guneious.

My high school was the Sioux County High School at Harrison, Nebr.

The school terms of 1928-29 and 29-39 were spent in the American College of Com­merce at Omaha, Nebr.

My next school was the University of Wyoming. There I received a B.S. Degree in Education and a Master of Science degree in agriculture.  My Thesis was "Crimp Type in Relation to Staple Length in Range Wool .” It was an original study.

After the U.W. I had post graduate study at Colorado State College in Fort Collins, in Ft. Collins, Colo. and Post graduate study in Colorado State Teachers College at Greeley, Colo.

My major occupation has been ranching at home, on a dude ranch near Big Horn, Wyo. and Passaic, Wyo. and teaching school, beginning in Pine Knott, Jay Em, Jireh, Keeline, Jackson, Burlington, Colo. and Hotchkiss, Colo.

I spent six years working for a car financing company, Securities Credit Corp. in Denver, Colo. and spent one-year work­ing for the Pan American Seed Company in Paonia, Colo.

To get extra money, or moonlighting as it is called, I have cooked, worked on guest ranches, ran a teachers’ placement bu­reau in Denver, worked for the U.W., and moonlighted while in the Army by working with entertainment companies and groups.

I have had two wives: Louise Crawford from Keeline and Sara Attaway of Hotchkiss, Colo. I have no children.

I am a veteran of World War II. I received my basic training at Camp Roberts, Calif. and after that was stationed in the replacement Depot #2 at Fort Ord, Calif. Was discharged in May 1946.

I am at present a bachelor living on the home place 32 miles northeast of Lusk. My first address was Arid, Wyo. Arid was moved from just across the Nebraska line to our place with my dad as postmaster, soon after we moved here. There was no regular mail carrier from Harrison to Arid so whoever went to town brought all the neighbors mail to the postoffice for delivery. After a few years Arid was closed and there were a few years there was no post office in the community. In 1924 the Whitman post office was established with my dad as postmaster and my mother assistant. A regular mail carrier was hired and there was mail service twice a week. When my dad became 65 years of age, the government retired him and did away with the post office. The government at that time established a mail route from Harrison to our place then north and then east and back to Harrison serving the people that had been served by the postof­fice. The route is still in existence and we are still getting mail twice a week, Mondays and Fridays.

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Related/Linked Records

Record Type Name
Obituary Whitman, Estle (10/16/1883 - 02/27/1964) View Record
Obituary Whitman, Tina (03/30/1884 - 11/04/1969) View Record