Historical Details

Kuhn Family

Courtesy of Our Heritage: Niobrarans and Neighbors, 03/01/2022

By Joe Kuhn

Moving to Wyoming Homestead in 1913

On about Oct. 1, 1913, the four Hughes boys, Walter, Ewart, Victor, Kenneth and I started from Hemingford, Neb. with 45 head of cows and calves and that many more horses, overland to our homestead south of Jireh. We had one covered wagon and our eats and bed­ding were all in the wagon and on three pack horses. We came through Sioux County and then into Wyoming. I remember that there were 75 gates we had to open and shut and then keep the livestock from mixing with the home­steaders' cattle and also the range cattle.

Sometimes some of the cattle would follow us for a mile or so and then one of us would have to take them back and later catch up with our outfit.

The trip across the country was 165 miles and it took about 12 days. The weather was nice and we were lucky to find water for the stock. Our homestead was 5 miles south of the Jireh store and Walter Hughes' place was 2 miles south on the same road. Grandma Hughes place was 1 mile south and one-half mile west of Walter's. The other Hughes boys had not filed on homesteads at that time.

After getting our cattle and horses located with the Hughes, I went back to Hemingford and harvested our crop there and on Nov. 12, 1913, Gertrude Olds and I were married and we loaded an emigrant car with chickens, grain, household goods and shipped it to Jireh and we were ready to live on our homestead.

Le Grand (Dick) Lee met us at the Jireh depot which was a box car at that time and drove us out to the homestead. Our house was in the granary of our barn. The barn was 24 x 32 and we built living rooms on the south, 11 x 32 with a porch on the front. This was our home for about 3 years. Then we built a house 16 x 40 and lived on the homestead un­til 1921, which was after World War I. All the banks went broke and many of us went along with them. We had 100 cows at that time and owed $36 on them. They were worth $100 until the crash came and then they went to $13; the banks went under and we had to sell our cows. The loss put us from a small rancher-homesteader to working on the section at Manville for $3.20 per day. Cliff Lindley was the section foreman at that time and he was good enough to hire the natives so we could buy flour and sugar for our families.

We lived on rabbits and sage chickens for our meat and were lucky enough to have potatoes. We hauled coal from the Lost Springs mines and used old railroad ties for wood.

We had four children at that time, Helena, Clark, Greg and Gerty, and were five miles from school. We then left our homestead and moved to Jireh. I bid on the Jireh to Flat­ top mail route and received the contract, so we had a cash income and I worked at odd jobs the first year.

The bank at Manville had a mortgage on the store and lumberyard in Jireh and the receiver for the bank came to us to buy the place. We had no money, but they sold it to us on payments and we took the store and lumberyard and what stock there was, giving our note for same and we also took the post office - and we were in business. Gertrude, my wife, was postmistress and I was depot agent and express agent and mail carrier from post office to depot and also carried the mail to Flattop twice a week.

There were two passenger trains a day, from Chadron to Casper and return, making 4 trains to meet every day. One stopped each day to let off passengers and take on cream, eggs, express and passengers. The other two trains did not stop but took on mail from a crane and hook. I would have to be there to hang the mail and pick up the incoming mail from each train.

The Jireh college was open then, in addition to a two-room public school. Jireh also had a bank and garage. There was a hotel and jewelry store, blacksmith shop and Jud Watson had a feed mill. The old Jireh depot is now the main building of the Sioux Oil Co. filling station east of Lusk.

We sold the store and moved to Lusk in the spring of 1924. We lived in the C.W. Erwin house, which was owned by the Lusk Lumber Co. at that time and our rent was $15 per month. Frank was born in that house on July 14, 1924 and I was working for A.E. Johnson in the old Snyder building, which was located where the Texaco station is now. I was grocery clerk and took care of the eggs and butter that the farmers brought in and traded for groceries. Lots of days we would take in 20 or 25 cases of eggs, each case holding 30 dozen. Most of the eggs were packed in oats or bran and some farmers had small cases that held from 6 to 12 dozen eggs.

After working for Mr. Johnson for about a year, I was awarded the railway express agency and we kept that job until Clark was out of high school and then he was the agent until he went into the service. In 1930, after Irwin Mills sold out their International Harvester store, we took the agency and con­tinued it until 1949. Mrs. Kuhn's health failed and we had to move to a lower climate; then we sold the Joe Kuhn's Sons implement business to Kilmer Brothers and Coye Jenne­wein and moved to Phoenix. Mrs. Kuhn's health grew steadily worse and in February, 1956, she passed away. 

We have always called Lusk and Wyoming our home, even if we did live in the South in the winter time.

Joe Kuhn married Frances Nehu May 13, 1958. She died July 25, 1976 in Phoenix.

Taking A Wyoming Homestead In 1913

In March of 1913 I answered an ad in the Nebraska Farmer about homesteads that were available in Wyoming and that Jireh, Wyo. was one of the hot spots. A new college was built and an experiment farm was located there.

There was a good grade school, grocery store, hotel, garage and lumberyard.

The homestead had just been opened so you could file on 320 acres instead of 160 as it had been in the past. There were locaters in most towns at that time. A locater was the same as a real estate agency today. They had maps of the counties and open land. They would take you out and show you the corners of the land and what section and township they were in. For this service they would charge from $40 to $150 according to the time they spent and the distance they had to drive.

There were no roads at that time and you had to go in a cart, buggy or horseback. When you found your choice of location, they then took you to the Douglas land office and if the land was still open you could file on your place. Most every one had two or three choices so you could take whatever was left when you arrived at the land office. Homesteads were going pretty fast at that time and if you did not have but one choice and it was gone you would be out. You did not have to hire a locater, but to save time and expense it was just as cheap to hire a locater as it was to drive the country yourself, especially if you did not know your way around.

In order to get a patent or title on your homestead you were required to build a house and farm and live on your place at least 6 months out of the year for three years. After this was done you took two witnesses and made proof of your claim and, if approved, the land was yours. In about 1918 Congress passed the additional homestead act that entitled you to another 320 acres. You had to be living on your original homestead to be eligible to file on an additional.

You did not have to farm any part of this 320 acres but as I remember you were required to either build some fence on part or have a well on it. If you were a new-comer, you could file on the 640 all at once. On your original land you were entitled to the oil and mineral rights but the additional land you only were entitled to the surface rights.

After filing on your homestead you had 6 months to move and start living on your place. About one of the first things you had to have was water and sometimes that was hard to find. We were lucky on our place, as we had a good well the first try and only had to go 125 ft. Many homesteaders had to drill 3 or 4 holes and they would all be dry or maybe get just enough water for home use.

Getting a 320 or 640 for nothing was not as easy as it sounds. We had dry years those days the same as now and many of us were out of money after the first year and jobs were not easy to get. I worked on the section at Manville on the extra gang for $3.50 a day.

I would get up in the morning, milk 7 or 8 cows and then ride horseback to Keeline; then there were 3 or 4 other homesteaders I would meet there and one of them had a Model T Ford and we would all ride that to Manville. Then get on a hand car, one you had to pump by hand, and get out on the job by 8 A.M. So about 3:30 A.M. we had that ride to Keeline, horseback home and then get the cows in and milk and were lucky to be ready for our night meal and in bed by 10.

Those were the good old days though and we all enjoyed them.

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Related/Linked Records

Record Type Name
Obituary Kuhn, Joseph (07/13/1888 - 06/09/1973) View Record
Obituary Kuhn, Gertrude (06/09/1893 - 02/01/1957) View Record