Thursday, January 8, 2015

Isaac's Neighbors

On November 18, 2011 I posted a blog titled "Isaac's Land From the Air Today" which explained how land in Kansas was divided into square mile Sections and then divided again into four squares called quarter sections, or more simply, Quarters.  Homesteaders could claim a quarter, containing 160 acres.  In addition, a timber claim of 160 acres could be claimed by planting 10 acres in trees and keeping them alive for 8 years.  Isaac claimed both, which gave him 320 acres.  To read more about this process, as well as information about the population density on the prairie in Isaac's time in comparison to today's population density, you may visit that blog in the archives.  I promised in that blog to return to a further description of the neighbors living around Isaac, and at last, this blog will keep that promise.

First, orient yourself to Isaac's Homestead and Timber Claim identified in the center of the photograph, easily spotted because they are bright green from the winter wheat growing in the circles under irrigation.  (The gravestones of neighbors can all be found in Neeland's Cemetery, located in the image above to the north of Isaac's claims.  To see more interesting stones in that country cemetery, you may visit "Woodmen's Gravestones," 3-8-2012 in the blog archives.  Click on the images if you wish to enlarge them.)

Felix and Mary E. Clouse Goodwin's stone in Neeland's Cemetery 
To the south of Isaac's homestead is the Pratt-Stafford County Line.  Directly across the line was the claim of William and Felix Goodwin in Pratt County.  Both of these men are mentioned frequently in Isaac's journal.  William often shared work with Isaac, and when his younger brother Felix came to live with him, they built a larger dugout, which Isaac helped with installing its roof.  When Isaac's friend Lou Clouse died about 1894, his widow married Felix.  It is believed that Lou may be buried near Felix and Mary in the Neeland's Cemetery, but if so, his is an unmarked grave.

Just to the east of Isaac's claim first lived the Green family, who moved to Pratt.  Following them was the Bentley family, who moved to Colorado and later to Salt Lake City.  After a brief occupancy by tenants, Frazee moved onto the land.  Isaac was particularly close to both the Green and Bentley families, and he and Frazee often worked together.

Eliza Campbell's stone, wife of William
Just east of Isaac's Timber claim lived Isabelle Ross, a divorced lady with children who claimed that quarter as a female head of household.  Isaac was kind to Mrs. Ross, often helping her with chores she couldn't do for herself, and she and her children frequently helped him with his potatoes.

North of Mrs. Ross lived William Campbell and his family.  He was elected State Representative for his district, first for the Union Labor Party and then twice for the People's Party.  He and Isaac were good friends and often shared political conversations.  He was frequently mentioned as a potential People's Party candidate for Governor, but family responsibilities forced him to decline.  William's wife died only a few days after Isaac's death, and William did not remain in the community very long following her death.

Just west of Campbell and north of Isaac's Timber claim lived George and Nancy Henn.  They were the couple who cared for Isaac in his final illness, and their claim for payment for that care was the largest claim against his estate, an excessively large amount, considering the favors he had given them in prior years, as well as the depressed wages during the time they cared for him.  In fact, Isaac's advice may have saved the life of Nancy's son, Frank Curtis, when the boy was young.  Nancy predeceased George by several years, and no one had his death date engraved on the stone, although he lived nearby according to census records and is probably buried next to her.

Neeland's Cemetery, George and Nancy Henn
West of Henn's and of Isaac's Timber claim are the claims of brother and sister, Jerome and Persis Vosburgh.  Persis claimed as an unmarried head of her own household, although she did help care for Jerome's children after the death of his wife.  Neighbors eager to claim Persis' homestead challenged her claim, saying she didn't work the land nor live on it full time, but Isaac and other neighbors supported Persis and she retained her claim.  She died in New York state while visiting relatives, but Jerome is buried with his wife in Neeland's Cemetery.  After the death of Persis, her land was acquired by G.G. John, and during the final months that Isaac lived in his home, John looked in on him every day.

To the north are identified Emerson, where Isaac helped build the school (See "Isaac Builds a School," 10-11-2012 in the blog archives), and beyond is the Rattlesnake Creek (See "The Rattlesnake Creek," 11-26-2012).  Near the left edge of the photograph is the name of my great grandfather George Hall, whose timber claim was along the creek.  A small white dot in the trees is visible below his name, and that is the location of his house.  George and Theresa Hall were close friends of Isaac, and they cared for him briefly in their creekside home when he was first unable to live alone.
Neeland's Cemetery, Jerome & Ann Vosburgh

The Stafford County seat of St. John is identified on the horizon.  Before Isaac acquired his horse Dolly, he walked to St. John.  The towns of Macksville and Naron are not within the photograph, but arrows show their direction at upper left and lower right.  Also shown at left by arrows are the direction of the homes of Doc Dix and the Beck family.  To the far right is the Gus Gereke claim.  In the early years Gus and Isaac frequently worked together.

As you can see from the photograph, the claims that surrounded Isaac with neighbors are now nearly all open fields without families living on the land.  Most of the trees planted by the early settlers have died or been removed, and the prairie is once again nearly without trees except along the creek and at the few homes that remain.

Very few descendants of those early homesteaders remain in the community, although homesteaders believed they were struggling to save their claims to be passed from generation to generation of future descendants.  Isaac's land passed to his brother, his sister, and the children of a sister who predeceased Isaac, but they sold Isaac's beautiful farm without ever seeing the prosperous homestead he had created on the prairie.

1 comment:

The Blog Fodder said...

Your last paragraph is so sad. Farms should be passed from generation to generation. But each generation must make its own choices.