GUST GUSTASON. Perhaps there is no man is Stevens County better qualified to describe early conditions here and tell the hardships that had to be endured by a young man seeking to honorably and substantially establish himself in this part of Kansas in the middle '80s than Gust Gustason, a large grain farmer and successful raiser of cattle. Mr. Gustason knows all about it, for the experience has been his.
Gust Gustason was born September 29, 1862, in Kalmar Lean, Smoland, Sweden, in which neighborhood his people have lived for generations. His parents died in Sweden; his father, Gustav Ericsson, lived to be eighty-seven and besides Gust he had a son, Alfred, and a daughter, Ida, and both died in Sweden. He secured in his native land what is termed a common school education in the United States, and since coming to Kansas has taught himself to speak and read the English language. He has a natural aptness in mathematics and always does his own calculating, whether he is selling cattle at Kansas City, as he does every year, or disposing of car loads of grain, which is also a frequent and profitable undertaking.
Mr. Gustason was twenty-one years old when he found himself stranded as an emigrant in Chicago, Illinois. He had started for Kansas, but his expenses had been much heavier than he had anticipated. His brother-in-law was living in McPherson County and when appealed to sent Mr. Gustason $35, and upon receipt of this sum he continued on his westward way. His first wages of $1.25 a day were earned on the soil of Kansas as a hand in the wheat harvesting, a new business with him. He was industrious and very anxious to repay his brother-in-law, and accepted every chance that presented to bring in money. During the first winter in Kansas he worked by the month for a wage of $20, for Taylor Stebbins, and off and on during the entire time he remained in McPherson County and even afterward continued to be employed by Mr. Stebbins, by whom he was greatly esteemed. He was given entire charge of the farm while Mr. Stebbins went out with his threshing outfit each season, and his wages were increased to $25 a month, considered very liberal at that time.
In the meanwhile Mr. Gustason prudently saved his money for the time when he could make a home for himself. This he decided should be farther west, and it was the above mentioned brother-in-law, Charles Nelson, who brought him to his present location in Stevens County. He entered a homestead on the northwest quarter of section 32, township 32, range 38. There was at that time nothing but grass in sight. The money he had saved did not more than cover the expense of his dugout, of a single room 14x16 foot in dimensions, without flooring and covered over with boards on which dirt was piled. Although a description of such a homes does not sound attractive, nevertheless many of those dugouts were exceedingly comfortable, warm in winter and safe in times of storm, while the pioneers lived happily and healthfully out of doors largely in the beautiful summer time.
For five years Mr. Gustason and his family lived in the primitive home above described and then he began the building of something better. During these five years he frequently returned to McPherson County to work for his old employer at good wages. In his sixth year in Kansas he bought a yoke of cattle, his first team, paying the sum of $40 for them, a large drain on his resources at that time, and later traded a pig for a wagon. During the next three years he not only farmed his own claim but broke sod for others with his team, thereby being able to provide his family necessities. At that time in order to get supplies he had to make occasional trips to Liberal, the journey consuming four days.
By the time five full years had slipped away, Mr. Gustason had succeeded in providing a better home than a dugout for his family, and was successfully raising broom corn, some grain and also Indian corn, his market, however, still being at Liberal, too far away to make his industries altogether profitable. It was about this time that he acquired some cows. Out of his broom corn money he paid $55 for three Holstein cows at a stock sale, but he subsequently parted with the Holsteins and went into the cattle business with Shorthorns, and has continued with this breed, finding them very satisfactory, and at times since then has owned as many as 400 head at a time. In the main his cattle have been very profitable although occasionally he has met with misfortune, an instance being in 1912, when he lost 113 head, which loss he attributes to feeding oil cake without roughness. He has done a large and profitable business also in raising horses.
It was ten years after Mr. Gustason settled in Stevens County before he began buying land, when he paid $125 for his first quarter and since then has paid as much as $1,800 a quarter. He now owns ten quarters and has more than 300 acres under cultivation, mainly grain and stock feed, including corn, being raised.
Mr. Gustason has been twice married. Before he left Sweden for the United States he was married to Clara Sakerson, who accompanied him to America. She died in Stevens County, Kansas, December 26, 1907, leaving eight children, as follows: Susie, who is the wife of John Dean, of Hutchinson, Kansas; Charles, who is a farmer on land near the homestead; Ida, who is the wife of Don Coffey, of Wichita, Kansas; Elsie, who married Tudor Hall, of Stevens County; Lucy, who married J. H. Parkey, of Dalhart, Texas; Edward, who remains on the homestead with his father; Bessie, who is the wife of Jerry Siler, of Stevens County; and Raymond, who assists his father. Mr. Gustason's second marriage was to Mrs. Laura Pennington, whose maiden name was Warren. Her father, Nicholas Warren, came to Shawnee County, Kansas, about 1874, from Fulton County, Illinois, where Mrs. Gustason was born December 15, 1866. She has one daughter, Miss Grace Pennington, who is a school teacher at Satanta, Kansas.
In his native land Mr. Gustason was reared by Christian parents within the Lutheran Church, and after coming to Kansas he united with the Lutheran body at McPherson. He took out his citizenship papers in that county and ever since has voted with the republican party. For a number of years he has been a director of school district No. 21, and has also been clerk of Center, formerly Cleveland, Township. He is rated with the representative and responsible men of his county and has been appointed a member of the local board of the Federal Land Bank and is one of the appraisers of that board. It is an honorable career that Mr. Gustason can look back over since he came to Kansas, and he well deserves the high esteem in which he is universally held.
Transcribed from A Standard History of Kansas and Kansans, written and compiled by William E. Connelley, Secretary of the Kansas State Historical Society, Topeka. [Revised ed.] Chicago: Lewis Publishing Co., 1919, c1918. 5 v. (xlviii, 2530 p.,  leaves of plates): ill., maps (some fold.), ports.; 27 cm.
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