In the spring of 1871, my parents with their family consisting of my two brothers, a nephew, and myself, moved from our former home in Iowa and settled in Kansas on a homestead two and one-half miles south of the Solomon River, at the point where the beautiful city of Beloit now stands. My mother was said to be the first white woman ever seen in that locality.

When the homestead was first taken there was not another dwelling place in sight, but during the first summer so many had settled on our side of the river that by fall we could stand in our door yard and count something like a hundred dugouts and shacks that in those days comprised the homesteader’s dwelling place.

At the time of our settlement on the quarter section Uncle Sam had given us, we had but two neighbors on our side of the river, and both of them were bachelors living in dugouts down in the draw where we could not even see the smoke from their stovepipes! A cheering situation, wasn’t it, for those who had left friends and civilization behind?

My mother, along with the wives of the other homesteaders, got very lonesome and homesick and longed, oh, so intensely, for the blessings and comforts of civilization.

The men and boys, though, for the most part took a more cheerful view, and rather liked the wild, free life. They liked to walk after the breaking plow and see the long black furrow stretch away behind them with never a break in its ribbon-like surface. Not a tree to chop down, not a root to grub out, at which they had spent so many weary, back-breaking hours “back east!”

The boys especially enjoyed the long horseback rides over the smooth miles of prairie they must traverse in making their occasional visits with each other, and their holidays were often spent in summer, fishing or swimming in the clear depths of the Solomon.

The girls, too, took kindly to the new life, and learned to ride horseback in summer, go skating in winter, and, in fact, learned to do most of the things their brothers did.

The first few years of the homesteader’s life were very hard indeed, especially if there was a growing family to provide for. While the children of the pioneers were easily satisfied as long as they were not really hungry and had somewhat of clothing to cover their restless, growing bodies, yet the parents were often sore perplexed to know how and where provision and clothing were to be obtained.

Most of the early settlers brought some money and a supply of provisions with them when they came west and this often would be sufficient for their limited needs until some land could be broken out and a crop of sod corn raised. This, with the plentiful supply of buffalo grass for grazing purposes, would enable the homesteader to keep a team, a few chickens, and a cow or two.

Between the years of 1871 and 1874, the country settled up very rapidly, although there yet remained for many years after this, much good grazing lands, public lands, and the less desirable claims.

2 thoughts on “Pioneer Life in Kansas, by Mary Barrett, 1912, Part 1

  1. Always so fun to read your posts! I have your The Farmer’s Wife Sampler Quilt and The Bible Sampler Quilt. Thank you so much for your wisdom and expertise shared! Kathleen ~ Lane Hill House

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