Tag Archives: Iowa

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.

Life on the prairie

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

The cold winds, snows and blizzards of the prairie states very much a part of the memories of both my parents. School was mostly reserved for winter and one reason Mom got more schooling was because her father sometimes loaded up the children in a Sled and hauled them to school behind a team of horses.

Mom was once a fairly close observer of a tornado in action. She was in school at the time she saw it — they called them cyclones. Dad was never involved in one but heard many stories from people who had been. An example: a man was caught out in open country with a team and buggy. I think the horse survived, but the buggy was torn to pieces. The man laid down on the ground with his arms around a fence post. He managed to hang on till the storm was past but the wind picked him up and dropped him repeatedly. The cyclone cellar was a common part of the scenery.

When Mom was about 18, her family, including herself joined the Society of Friends (Quakers).

I don’t remember how Mom and Dad happened to meet, through mutual friends at a dance, perhaps, or at a ‘playparty’ where people danced to vocal music such as ‘Skip-to-ma-loo My Darling’. Morm had had one boyfriend before — a young fellow named Sweet.

After their marriage, Dad went in for farm rental and sharecropping and I gather with little more success than Grandad had.

I remember a story he told about an extremely wet day in early spring when it wouldn’t have been practical to work in the field if one had been disposed to. At the time, Dad lived close to a river where there was a bridge so he took a fishing pole down under the bridge and spent most of the day fishing. As it happened, a neighbor drover over the bridge on his way to town and saw Dad there fishing and on his way home he went out of his way to stop and tell “Old ‘Lias” that his son was out wasting his time fishing before he had his spring crop planted. He got Grandad so excited that he came several miles afoot to tell Dad the error of his ways. Dad was pretty burned up about it and told Grandad that the neighbor was no ripsnorter for work and the chances were he would be through with his spring work before the neighbor was.

Another fish story that he told was of driving along a river that had shrunk from floodstage to a lower level, leaving a large school of pickerel stranded in a small side pool. He noticed them somehow and pitched out a few with a shovel, but as he was going away from home he left the rest until he came back — someone else cleaned out the pool, though, before he got there.

In the fall of 1896, Dad had a share in an enormous corn crop which could scarcely be given away.

On the maternal side

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

Her sisters were Ida, Josie and Ethel. Ida married Charles Lehman; Ethel — James Rush (Rusch); Josie first married Grant Horton — lived here for awhile in the Rock Cut area (on the Ed Olson place, as it was later known. They sold it to the Jenny Mine for $1100. Olson obtained it from the County by tax-title purchase during the depression following the crash of 1929. and left for Canada in 1909. Her marriage to Grant Horton went on the rocks and she has been married several times. She has one daughter, Mrs. Ruby L. Hoag, Barrhead, Alberta. Her maiden name was Ostertag (Easterday). As of last report, Josie was still living — 89 years old, Christmas 1970. Address — Ella J. Beecroft, Hillcrest Lodge, Room 12, Barrhead, Alberta, Canada.

Mom grew up with a cousin who lived in her home, what was once sometimes known as ‘woods colt’ — not so common then as now but never really unusual.

John Palmer Beard farmer). [??], he got religion (Baptist, I think) in his teens and retained his abiding faith for nearly 90 years. His home was in Forest Grove, Illinois, and he died at about the same time Mom did. He was very anti-Catholic and was firmly convinced that the Roman Church was the true daughter of “the great whore that sitteth on seven hills.”

There was another child [Annie] who died at an early age as a result of oversetting a kettle of boiling liquid on herself.

Adding to the mix

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

D.W. Hodson & Minnie B. Leach Joined in Marriage — September 19, 1895 At Marshalltown, Iowa — Marshall County

Marriage performed by James C/unreadable/ak — Justice of the Peace

The Leaches came from Kentucky. Great-grandfather Nathan was completely illiterate. Mom’s chief recollection of him was of an old man with a cane sitting by the fire and almost constantly twiddling his thumbs.

The Leaches still believed in witchcraft for treating of some diseases. Dad’s old folks were definitely opposed to it. A good many amateurs practiced medicine and were probably no more dangerous than some of the licensed doctors. Mom, in her early life, was afflicted with stomach worms but eventually got rid of them. I don’t know how — perhaps with castor oil and turpentine. I think she was nearly grown before she did get rid of them, however. Great-grandfather Darling was very literate and a great reader of such books as were available. Mom mostly remembered him as reading the Leather Stocking Tales and the Bible. Not a very religious man, he read the Bible for pleasure and for the sake of argument — he said you could prove anything by it.

My recollections of Mom’s early life are rather limited. She was born (I believe) at Union, Iowa, February 2, (Groundhog’s day) 1876. (Through some error, the date on her tombstone is 1877.) Died in the Spring, 1963 — 87 years.

She had more education than Dad though I don’t think she ever officially graduated from the eighth grade but she read freely and could spell reasonably well. She could also sing tunefully. She had three brothers and three sisters — Nate and Harry who spent most of their later lives in Oklahoma — and Howard — the youngest, who was a casualty of the Philippine War, believed to have fallen off a foot bridge into a swollen stream. He would have boarded a ship for Europe and World War I in a few days. His father, John Leach, lived off his insurance during his last years. Her mother (born Mary Frances Darling) died a while before Howard did.


Minnie and Delwin Hodson

Matters of health

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

Except, for occasional illnesses, Dad retained enormous physical vigor until the fall of ’29 when he suffered a breakdown from Which he never fully recovered although he lived something over twenty years longer. When he quit hard labor working out during the Twenties, it was at least partly due to the fact that the need was not so great — most of the family were married or doing for themselves.

As for Grandpa, I myself can remember him in his old age, so long as he was able to go, getting out with a grub hoe and digging brush and stumps. In the event that I do not mention it later, he finally had a stroke and lived in a more or less helpless condition for about two years longer.

Getting scammed

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

Sometime during Dad’s growing up period, Granddad bought a forty-acre farm with Dad’s approval and assistance. Between them, they got the place paid for but Granddad’s vanity suffered — he was sure the neighbors called him a forty-acre-patch-farmer. He set his sights higher and traded the paid-for forty for an eighty. The deal might have worked out but the dealer pulled a deliberate ‘whizzer’ — he let Granddad read one contract which gave him quite a lot of time to pay off the balance and then switched papers so that the contract he signed gave him a very short deadline.

Granddad lost the place, of course, but took some pride in the fact that he beat the other guy out of the new house he had built. With the help of a neighbor, they moved the house across the road onto someone else’s land. They moved it with rollers and something called a “capstan” — a cable and pulley setup.

Afterward, Granddad accumulated enough of the world’s goods to raise a stake large enough to move out here when he decided to. He does not seem, as I have said, to have been too practical but he was not, so far as I have heard, a wastrel. That is, I have never heard of him being a heavy drinker or gambler or a chaser of women. And as for lack of energy, by the time a son is grown up, his father is almost certain to be on the physical slide downhill.


As for the girls

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

Hattie married Parker Harvey — remained in Iowa — had two daughters and died young. [Hattie’s children — Hazel, Harold and Grace. Stella still living.]

Emma married Thomas Bay — they moved out here after died after the others. She died after having two children — Mabel and Forest. Grandma and Grandpa raised them.

Ruby married Levy Long — eventually he moved to Canada and in the Twenties moved back here to the states. She had three children: Aurel, Adrian and Sylvan [Cleon S.. I don’t think he [Elias] ever succeeded in farming out other members of the family as he had Dad. The girls may have worked out some but they would not have received much more than board and a clothing allowance. John worked out but was less steady and was more disposed to spend his time and money on private hell-raising and got into at least one scrape that cost them money. Myron was still just a kid and I have gathered that he felt that he had a tough enough ‘row to hoe’ also, just staying with the family.

What do you do with the family photos that don’t fit into the story? I can’t find Helen in the text, but here she is early on. Might she be Hazel?


And then much later.