Regarding Uncle Myron

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

About two years after his arrival here, Dad (I formed the habit of calling my father ‘Dad’; the older children called him ‘Papa’) spent one fall in the harvest fields near Pomeroy, Washington. Uncle Myron and perhaps others of the family went along. Myron, then nineteen, met Katherine Burns, sixteen, and they were married. Myron later took up a homestead on the opposite side of Granddad’s (east). He also moved into a crude log house about a quarter mile from Granddad’s. There was a much used woods trail between the two houses, and Grandpa, in his last years, built a road of sorts through the woods near where the country road now runs. The country road cuts through at least part of Uncle Myron’s old building site. His cellar hole is still visible. He also had a well that sometimes had water in it — which I keep planning to fill up!

Uncle Myron was not old enough to take a homestead at that time, but was by the time it was legally possible. The history of that place (which I won’t go into in detail) includes a great deal of tragedy. Five children died on the place, three of them by fire. Victor” s two stillborn children are buried in the Sandridge graveyard, along with Myron’s three children, Cecil, Vernon, and Kathleen.

Through course of human events, all of Myron’s place, one forty of Grandpa’s place, all of Dad’s place, and a small L-shaped piece comprising about five acres below our old house that Dad bought off Grandpa before his death, became mine.


A shot in the dark

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

There was one story about chicken thieves that I remember only vaguely. The one about horse thieves, that one I remember quite clearly. It seems that Dad and Granddad were traveling with a team of very nice horses and a buggy through some portion of the central states. Before entering a certain area, a man noticed their team, inquired where they were going, and warned them that the region was full of horse thieves and that they would be very lucky to get through without having the horses stolen.

Somewhere along the way, they stopped for the night at either a private place or a small inn. Dad said that the proprietor of the place aroused his suspicion at once so he and Granddad kept a wary eye out. The proprietor disappeared early in the evening. I don’t know where Granddad slept, but Dad made his bed down in the manger next to the horses. Sometime during the night, the horses raised a commotion and roused Dad. He grabbed his pistol and strained his eyes though a large crack in tile manger and saw a man’s legs along side of it. Dad thrust his pistol through the crack in the manger and between the man’s legs and pulled the trigger. He could tell by the sounds that more than one man had hastily got out of the barn.

He later found that one of the horses had been untied. Anyway, he followed them outdoors and fired the pistol a few more times to speed them on their way. I do not remember whether it was this case of the case of the chicken thieves where the ground was frozen and he could hear the pound of running feet for a long time afterward.

At any rate, the proprietor of the place came up after awhile, breathing hard, and said, “I was just over at the neighbors playing some cards and I heard the shootin’ and I wondered what was up?” Dad explained, but was convinced that the man had arranged the raid.

The other story had to do with an incident that occurred after Dad and Mom were married. By present day standards, and by any standards for that matter, it would seem to me unnecessarily risky and foolish but this is the story as he told it: Dad had been away somewhere and had gotten home in the late evening and had just tied his horses up without putting them away for the night. He and Mom were sitting on the front porch in the dark when two young and partly drunk neighbor boys came driving by in a buggy, singing dirty songs loud enough to be clearly heard. Dad rushed out to his buggy, drove out into the road, whipped up his horse and began chasing the boys down the road and, as soon as he got close to them, he began shooting his pistol in the air over their heads. The poor kids were scared to death and drove as fast as they possible could to get away from him, but he stayed with them till they made a dangerous right angle turn into their home lane.

The next day, Dad met a group of the neighbors in the course of his work, and one of them asked him, “You didn’t really mean to hit the boys, did you?”

“Hit them! Of course, I meant to hit them. If a man can’t act a white man, he shouldn’t be treated like one!”

The father of one of the boys spoke up and said, “Well, Del, that the most scared pair of boys I ever saw. You don’t need to worry about them driving by your house singing dirty songs again.”

Dad tended to brag about risks he had taken but he never encouraged me or my brothers to take chances without reason, or even to fight, for that matter.

Firearms, too

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

The life that I was born into was one of second-hand goods, patch, repair, makeshift and make-do. The older children saved shoes in the summer by going barefoot. And Dad had a fretting time of it each fall when he had to buy the simplest of new clothes for the children to start school with. We always managed to eat though the diet was probably not always well balanced. I remember Mom telling about one particularly difficult time when she made water gravy out of brown flour without grease. We ate little wild meat till Victor was old enough to hunt.

Dad was quite a bird hunter in the prairie states but did little of any kind of hunting here. The guns he brought through were a double-barrel shotgun, 12 gauge, and an old Civil War percussion-cap musket, bored out into a shotgun, which he acquired as a boy and used to hunt prairie chicken and other birds for years afterwards. Which brings to mind his story, which he swore to be the truth, of hunting quail on a rainy day with the old musket. He saw two quail in a clump and fired one shot, after which he picked up 13 quail and two rabbits!

Lloyd’s family had the musket, the last I knew. Sidney carried it a Frontier Day parade. Mom shot an owl (or hawk) with it at

Grandma’s one time. Grandma had the gun but did not know it was loaded so she put a second charge on top of the first. The recoil knocked Mom on her back but she got the bird. I have read that Civil War muskets picked up on the battlefield sometimes had as many as five charges, one on top of another. An experienced person checked with the ramrod for depth.

Dad acquired a Winchester 38-40 Kings Improvement, patented in 1866, after he got out here. I have seen them mentioned in fiction but once — in a story by Ernest Haycox. He referred to it as ‘a nester’s gun’. It is not much different than the: oftmentioned 44-40 — both fired pistol ammunition. Victor killed several deer with it, and I killed one deer with it and at least three bears. It is not a legal hunting rifle today

Uncle Myron, at one time, had an old 45-70 single-shot army rifle which fired a 45 caliber slug from a long straight cartridge. In the 38-40, the forty appears to indicate size of the slug — the bullet in a .38 Smith and Wesson is much smaller. Of course, one might indicate hundredths of an inch and the other metric measure. I checked the 38-40 rifle’s muzzle and it is about 7/16 inch.

Dad also brought through a 32 pistol which he commonly carried most of his life when he was away from home. There were great number of stories he told about it.

As pioneers in eastern Washington

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

Kennedy’s claim was on eighty acres of what is now the Lakin place — Harry Martin took over after he left. The Martins did not starve but left after acquiring title. The homesteader had only two choices — live off his timber or find an outside job. Dad used both methods, but the outside job with regular pay was by far the most dependable.

At this point I had better explain that none of the first settlers here had any real legal status. They took the land on a first-come, first-served basis, and their only claim was the tradition of squatter’s rights. The Homestead Act was passed in 1862, but this region had never been surveyed and officially opened for settlement. The Forest Service was founded in 1905 during Teddy Roosevelt’s administration, and most of this region was thrown into the Colville National Forest; government survey was speeded up and the squatters were checked out to some degree as to the reasonableness of their claims. Most long-settled families were approved but a bachelor was not considered a ‘hardship case’.

Dad filed his claim officially on June 28, 1917. The claim was advertised in a newspaper called the Marcus Messenger on August 16, and he received his deed signed by Woodrow Wilson through his secretary on May 15, 1918. He probably filed a statement of intent five years earlier. There would have been ample time and he probably would not have been credited with his period of unofficial occupancy. There was a ‘prove-up’ fee in excess of a hundred dollars; Dad managed to borrow the money from someone, a storekeeper, I think, he was a bit short at the time.

By that time there were ten of us that sat around the long rectangular table in the old log house — the amount of sugar, flour and lard consumed was really something. The house had been expanded by a rude board lean-to with its own stove for winter.

The family settled in Ferry County, northwest of Spokane and bordering on Canada. The land wasn’t anything like Iowa!

The D.W. Hodgson homestead

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

Dad chose my present home as his place to settle and built his first house in a rather improbably place, partly because it was more or less in sight and hollering distance of Grandad’s. Also, he said that the trees were so thick that it was hard to tell what the place looked like and the nearby gulch offered a certain promise of water which was never more than partially kept.

Dad had scarcely even felled a tree before he climbed the hill to build his house, but Grandad went along to give advice and moral — support and he managed to get the hang of it and knocked down with axe and crosscut enough trees of Varying sizes — fir and tamarack — to run up a very crude log house with a split shake roof that turned the water much better than the old tie camp building. One of the major difficulties with the house was that it was built on a hillside and the logs on the upper side had to be trenched down and, after the walls were up, he had to shovel the dirt from one corner to the opposite corner to level up the floor. The hastily laid floor, nailed on poles, settled; with the loose dirt in the lower corner, part of the floor had a pronounced slope. I was born in that log cabin in the spring of 1913 and the floor was never leveled up until the early 1920’s when we added the frame addition which is all of the building that now stands. The frame building was an old bunkhouse — bought cheap and re-assembled with variations. [Note: We were living in the ‘new’ house when Lelia was married in 1919 {1920} so my date is a little bit off.]

The log cabin became the kitchen and the north window was cut down into to an intermediate door. The water question and inertia was the chief reasons for not building somewhere else at that time. The well did provide water part of the time. Snow was melted nearly every winter and before roads were built, water was transported by hand in buckets — later in cream cans — slung across saddles and finally endlessly hauled by myself in sleds and wagons. Cattle and horses were taken to water. I finally got the water piped down in 1950 after the present house was built in 1941 and later, by the joint efforts of myself, Dad, Victor and Lester. Lester bought the new lumber and the old livery barn in old Kettle Falls for the rough framing materials.

Our first electricity was Lester’s idea and expense, and was a battery-powered 32 volt plant which was never very efficient. After several years we got REA {Rural Electrification Administration is now WWP {Washington Water Power Company}.

To get back to earlier events. Dad and Mom moved into the house In the middle of the winter and settled into adjusting to circumstances. Dad and Mom and five children crammed into one room — 3 beds — a cupboard and table of sorts — sundry boxes and a very small flat-topped cook stove.

I think I vaguely remember the cookstove myself… It was mostly cast iron — even the oven door which swung from side hinges was cast. One of Dad’s favorite stories was of how it arrived at their tie camp home that fall. He and Uncle Myron, who was then about 17, walked into Orient in the morning; Dad bought the stove and he and Uncle Myron, between them, carried it to what is now the foot of the hill near the railroad bridge across Boulder Creek, which at that time (and much later) was a long trestle. They got there at dark and, Uncle Myron having given out, they parked it for the ‘night and trudged the rest of the way home to supper.

[Note: Vera says that I could not have remembered the old cookstove as it was discarded for another before I was born and in view of the time lapse, it does seem probable. Her recollection of it was as to how awfully small it was. She says Mom had to bake bread in cans in order to utilize the oven space.

Dad got out very early the next morning and carried it the rest of the way home on his back. I never persuaded him to admit it, but he must have stripped the stove down to do it. The legs the lids and the oven door surely could have been removed. The stove had to be carried about half a mile to get to the old tie road and around a thousand feet of that was almost straight up and down hillside. I have been over the route many times. There was another half mile of flat land after he reached the road. It took lots of strength and determination. Dad bought one cow fairly early but did not get a horse for quite some time — no one would sell a horse for a reasonable price and there was the question of winter feed. His first horse was an old cow pony, received as a gift of trust from one Jack Kennedy, a bachelor who had seen enough of homesteading. The government man from the Land Office said he couldn’t hold the claim without a „long-haired partner’ and Kennedy, with very good logic, said he could not support one there. He said in somewhat different language that she would starve to death. The horse, Snowball, died before my time.

There were other horses — Ned, Lady, Kit, tow of Lady’s colts, King and, a number of years later, Lizzie, a red roan named Napoleon and, much later, two fair-sized work horses which Lloyd bought but later transferred to Dad, Bess and Molly. My last horse, several years dead, was Bingo.