The move to eastern Washington state

Continuing with Gerald Nathan Hodgson’s Northwest family narrative, with thanks to Michael Howard Hodgson:

As for the trip out here, about all I know was that Uncle John Hodgson came out here first, spent some time on the West Coast, and finally wound up on forty-acre homestead on what is now Hodgson Creek above Barstow, after his marriage to a Norwegian immigrant girl named Inga. He wrote glowing letters to Granddad about what a wonderful place this was and Grandpa finally came out here alone to scout the situation in 1902. He considered homesteading in the Deadman Creek area but a delegation of earlier settlers came and told him he was not wanted. Granddad told them that he did not know what it was all about, but if he was going to have that kind of neighbors he did not want to settle there! Since they did not state, it is difficult to know the reason, but it was quite plain that Hodgson was no longer young and alone; they figured they could get away with it.

Granddad finally chose the area around where my road turns off. There was an old [railroad] tie camp there with buildings and a road of sorts up from the railroad which had been completed in 1902. The place had claim papers stuck up on it but it was not occupied so he could have simply pulled the papers down and taken over; however, he located the claimer and paid him about $200 to officially vacate. Afterward, he wrote to Dad asking him to finish winding up his affairs and get Grandma and Uncle Myron started on their way west. This Dad did, and Grandma and Grandpa spent the winter at Uncle John’s place at Barstow to take care of the place and livestock. John and Inga were away. Grandpa had established living quarters and facilities at the tie camp, also residence, before Grandma’s arrival. The winter at Barstow was an accommodation of convenience. Uncle Myron arrived and spent the winter with Tom Bay and Aunt Emma. They moved during the summer to the old tie camp and started to establish a new home. Dad and Mom made their decision to follow, sold off all their property that ‘could not be packed in boxes and barrels, loaded up children in the railway carriage, and started west for Spokane. It seems to me that they were able to get special low priced tickets as emigrants. There were five children — Vera, Victor, Lelia, Lester and Howard. Howard was a babe in arms.

Dad carried his entire wealth in one large leather wallet on his person, mostly in yellowback gold certificates. I do not remember the sum but it was in excess, I think, of twelve hundred dollars. I still have the wallet. In hearing him tell about it I can more less understand him carrying the money on his person but have always been puzzled as to why he did not carry at least a small portion of it in another pocket. Apparently, he just did not want more than one wallet to keep track of. At any rate, he got through with it safe}y and the money served as a backlog for several years. The gold certificates, though, were a handicap, in a way, as they attracted so much attention that he was thought to be rich and be accordingly overcharged.

They got off the train at Barstow and somehow found their way up to Uncle John’s and spent the night there John and Inga were not too cordial or, at least, not very helpful. John had some horses somewhere, but did not volunteer to locate them, so Dad and Mom started out the next morning afoot for Granddad’s — between five and six miles through completely strange country, mostly following the railroad track. They carried Howard all the way and Lester, who was not quite two, most of the way. Vera, Victor and Lelia walked from Barstow along with the others. This was the Fall of 1904. I would have to get additional details from Lelia and Vera. [Lelia seems to remember John, Inga and Grandma meeting them at the Barstow station, so it is possible that Grandma accompanied them as guide on their walk next day,]

They took up residence in one of the old tie camp buildings which had a rather flat roof covered with dirt and which leaked whenever it rained and it was a rainy fall.

Victor Hodgson

Enduring a Dakota winter

Continuing with Gerald Nathan Hodgson’s Northwest family narrative, with thanks to Michael Howard Hodgson:

Their North Dakota winter was noteworthy because of the cold, the wind, and the windblown snow of the blizzard. It was dangerous to go anywhere in blizzard season. People strung ropes between the house and barns to find their way back and forth. However, Dad was running short of coal and perhaps other necessaries such as chewing tobacco, so he took a chance and made a trip to town with a team and sled and started back with a load of coal. A blizzard struck before he got quite home, and it was dark also. I think he may have had the help of fences part of the way, but when he reached home he couldn’t see it and passed by; however, Mom had set her kerosene lamp in the window as a beacon and Dad was just lucky enough to glance back and see it through a rift in the snow. I can’t remember whether he got the sled turned around or not but he at least reached the house and barn with his horses in safety.

After the hailstorm and the blizzard, Mom said she would not live in North Dakota if you gave her the whole place, and the stage was set for the move out here. Somewhere along the line, she took her children and went back by railroad to visit her parents and then never saw them afterward. Her father spent his last years in a town called Popejoy. Iowa (present population 190); was married at least once afterward but no further children. I remember reading a portion of a letter from Uncle Howard in which he said. “I sure think Paw made a fool of hisself. getting married again.”

A bit of feuding

Continuing with Gerald Nathan Hodgson’s Northwest family narrative, with thanks to Michael Howard Hodgson:

Dad spent one summer plowing up virgin prairie land with a ‘footburner’. This particular plow was noteworthy because, in order to cut the grassroots, it had to have an always sharp share — so the shares were made of a very soft iron so that whenever the share stopped cutting, you took it off the plow — laid on an anvil or a piece of railroad rail and hammered it out to a thin edge. I think I still have the hammer he used for that purpose; at any rate, he always called it the plowhammer.

Other recollections I have of this job consist of his associations with a fellow worker named Harry Hanner and his family and at least one squabble that they had. Dad and his family lived in one shack and Hanner in another. They mutually used an open slough well for their water supply. Hanner early started the practice of getting out extra early in the morning and drawing water from the well while it was unmuddied for his house use and then watering his horses also, without giving any consideration to Dad’s needs. After he had done this several days in a row, Dad made it a point to get out still earlier one morning and left the well as bemuddied as he had been finding it. As I remember it, there was a general ‘chewing match’ between both the ladies and the men. I think the feud was patched up somehow. As I remember it, this was in North Dakota.

He spent one winter in North Dakota and at least one summer in which he tried to raise a crop of wheat. He grew an excellent crop but it was hailed right into the ground just before it was ready to cut. The only nice thing about it was that the grain sprouted and grew33 into a hay crop before frost.

[Note: Vera says of the family wanderings — Grandfather Elias usually moved first and the children usually drifted along behind. And since Lester was born in Minnesota, Dad could not have spent more than two years in North Dakota. Some members of the family lived in Dakota for a awhile. Vera also recollects Grandpa swimming the Missouri River on his back with Dad riding on his stomach.]

Thickening the plot

Continuing with Gerald Nathan Hodgson’s Northwest family narrative, with thanks to Michael Howard Hodgson:

My sister Vera was born in 1896. Mom had experienced a premature birth earlier. She had attended a social gathering in the evening, probably following a busy day, so fatigue may have had something to do with it. However, she blamed it on her corset. In those days a woman who appeared in public obviously pregnant was considered somewhat obscene so most of them laced as much as they dared. At any rate, the child aborted shortly after she returned from the party and Mom swore off corsets during pregnancy from then on. She lost another child due to illness between Elva and myself, which explains the five-year gap.

I don’t remember much about their early years in Iowa. I think they spent one winter in Estherville, Iowa — present population over 8,000 — and I think he worked on the railroad as a section hand. I remember him telling about having to climb a high steel tower with a kerosene signal lamp. He did it regularly for a time and it must have taken all the courage that he possessed for he always dreaded heights. Either before or after this, he spent a while in Minnesota. Their residence in Minnesota was near Alpha. Estherville is just south of the Minnesota border. He also mentioned Emmetsburg about 30 miles south of Estherville. There was a Story City that figured in his life in some fashion, west of where he grew up. It may have been a place where he remembered buying some moonshine whiskey! There was such a place that he told about where an odd looking old jigger had a basement full of jugs. Portions of Iowa were ‘dry’ in those days by local option.