-- The original typed copy was scanned using OCR software on January 3, 2002 by Debera McCracken Tredennick. I tried to not correct spelling or word usage. The document is as close to the original as possible.
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Fifty-six years ago last September; James and Mary Caroline Quinn decided to sell their cozy little home at Ridge Farm, Illinois and move West, taking the advice of the husband's physician, saying that if he wished to live more than a year to change climate. With sad hearts they sold the home they had occupied since newly weds. The five children born there - Clara Bell, Lenora, Helen, William Pleasant, Ralph, James and Mary Caroline (the baby they told us would die on the trip) were all thrilled over the prospect of the trip. They took as part payment for the home a fine team of horses, harness and a covered wagon. If the parents were sad, the children were overjoyed when they saw the snow white covered wagon with the long strip of oil cloth on top and such lovely horses - one, a large dapple gray, the other, black as coal, both so shiny and sleek. A lantern swung from one of the bows of the wagon, bedding was piled on top of the other things. We children liked nothing better than lying down on this bedding.
Preparing to leave, we were banqueted, feasted and invited to different homes of our kind neighbors and friends. Some people of Georgetown heard of our going to Kansas, and, as they had relatives there, planned to go with us. They were Mr. and Mrs. Reagan, and their two boys - Allie and Charlie.
The first evening we camped a few miles from town in Hickory Grove. Most of the towns people it seemed, came out with a big picnic supper and ate with us and stayed until a late hour. They gave us food enough to last a good part of the journey. This was in 1876, the Centennial Year, and many cities and towns were celebrating. At Tuscola, Illinois they were having balloon ascensions and one came close to us as we neared the city which thrilled we children. The roads were very heavy and at times almost unpassable, especially in Illinois. Mother had her big cook stove along but at Decatur, Illinois, we had to dispose of it to lighten our load. We always doubled teams at muddy streams. We children were all eyes and ears to the novel sights and sounds, such as, the ferry boats' whistles. On October first, Lenora Helen's eighth birthday, it being on Sunday, we were camped for the day as father did not travel on the Sabbath, we explored what we called a mountain. It was very steep and imagine our surprise on gaining the top to find a graveyard and road circling round and round to the valley below.
Mr. Reagan's team was just an ordinary bay team while ours was so pretty -- so many people asked if we would sell or trade our team but did not mention Mr. Reaganís. One time as we were going through a town, they told us that horse thieves were in the neighborhood and that we should keep close watch on our team. We camped near a big hedge and while we were eating our supper, a man came along carrying a bridle, just after he passed, he gave a shrill whistle and was answered from a distance. Mother and Mrs. Reagan kept watch until midnight and then the two men took their places. About one or two o'clock there was a great commotion and noise on the other side of the hedge and the horses reared back snorting almost breaking loose. The men had the guns ready and fired in the air once and all was still and we were not bothered with horse thieves any longer.
Clara Bell and Lenora Helen caught the ague, one having a chill one day and the other - the next. They also caught something else and methinks I can yet feel the rake of the fine tooth comb as it went down through the long golden curls at Mother's knee. We were still in Missouri, when a man and two boys trailed us for a day or two. We found out they were stealing so decided to give them the slip so we made camp a longer distance from them than usual and started again before daylight, making no fire and as little noise as possible. We detoured from the main road and so saw them no more.
One evening, a long lean pot hound came to see us. Mr. Reagan carelessly left a new box of axle grease open and the pot hound ate it all. It gave him Cholera Morbus and the last we saw or heard of him he was, running and yelping at every step. Some of the people along the way were very kind to us, while others were not so kind. Once a big hail storm came up (that was in Kansas) and the men ran the teams in to a farm house and a man came out and helped us to get into shelter. They asked us to sleep in the house and at supper time had us put our food on the table and eat with them and they contributed a large pan of milk with all of the cream left on it. The other party was so different; Mother and Mrs. Reagan wanted to put the coffee pot on her stove to boil as the wind was blowing a gale. She just kicked a chair towards them and went into another room -- needless to say they walked out without heating their coffee.
When we were near the Kansas line we children were all excited, thinking that perhaps there would be a rope or chain showing us the line, but all we did see was a lot of grasshoppers to bid us welcome. In fact, they ate up our garden next spring they were so glad to see us. Mother and Father intended to go to a Quaker settlement in Rice County, but Mrs. Reagan's father lived here so they induced us to come to Sumner County. Then Father found out that there was one homestead or soldier claim left so that was another reason why we stayed. In May little Alpha Zula was born the first little Quaker in Kansas, and supposedly, by the alphabet "z" to be the last, but eight more followed. They are as follows: Edwin, M., Thaddeus Steven, Paul Howard, Margaret Elsie, Ruth York, Ester Alma, Robert Wallace and Ray Milton. Father traded the handsome dapple gray horse for 25 acres of sod breaking and a plug horse. We moved into a bachelor's home (Matt Feinen) while father built the box house of one room, stripping it but having no floor put in it. Our wood was hauled from Indian Territory to burn and also the poles for the straw stable.
Well do I remember when Mother's acute hearing would announce that father was coming several miles away, and I must be ready to take the team. A cold freezing wind was coming from the North and Father had been walking for miles to keep warm. Mother would have hot coffee and supper ready. The harness straps would be frozen and had to be thawed out before they could be unbuckled. The mangers would have to be filled with hay pulled from the stack and corn put up in the boxes for the poor horses.
As memory brings it all back, I can see clear moonlit nights and our bachelor friend coming over with his accordion to spend the evening and play and sing his German songs. While mother with her soft sweet voice, Father with his big melodious bass voice, Lenora Helen with her clear bell-like voice and Clara Bell with her alto voice joined with him to make the evening very pleasant.
We walked North two miles to school until Father helped build the schoolhouse in our district. Father also made the benches. We had Sunday School there with Father as the Superintendent.
I never can forget one June morning as Father went to plow corn on a neighbor's land that he had rented 1/2 mile South of our house, he saw a man plowing on our place. He asked him what he was doing. "Plowing my hedge row", he answered. "When did it become yours?" Father asked. "Your filings have run out and it is just as much mine as yours", he replied. Father turned around and came back to the house. Mother saw how white he looked and thought he was sick. This young man's two sisters had come down with an excuse to borrow something and asked me to come to their birthday party. When mother asked if Father was sick, he said, "No, Lou Huffman has jumped our place". He turned to the girls arid said, "Go home and never darken my door again. I want nothing to do with such people". They cried saying they knew nothing about it but that didn't help a bit. Lou had a horse saddled and bridled, ready to head Father off, but Father rode down to Dan Hustons and got his pony and saddle and angled across to Wellington, borrowed the money and boarded the train and went to Wichita and proved up. Then there was a long wait until he got the patent from Washington. During this wait, Lou was making himself as overbearing and disagreeable as possible, ordering the little boys to take "the cows off his grass (William Pleasant and Ralph James) and flourishing his revolver around. After the neighbors found it out they gathered a mob, masked, came and called Father out and said if he would say the word, they were ready to take this man Lou out end string him up to the nearest tree. Father told them to not touch a hair of that man's head, that he wouldn't have his blood on his hands for all of the places in the world. He thought things would all come right. This man is still living or was seen in Wichita not long ago. He owes his life to Father for those men meant business as they were surely riled up to think that a young man would try to take a home away from a man with a family trying to help build up a good community.
Perhaps some of you remember the marble quarry that used to be on the hill East of us. Same of our neighbors had marble for their doorsteps, it was very pretty too but didn't seem to be durable. There was a handsome young man whose father worked or owned the quarry, who was from Chicago. He took quite a fancy to Lenora Helen, we were not allowed to attend dances especially public ones. Spelling schools were our great diversion and delight. One night Lenora Helen, Clara Belle played truant - started to a spelling school, got sidetracked and attended a Lodge Dance in Gueda Springs. We went with a neighbor boy. This handsome Chicago boy was there and he monopolized all of Lenora Helen's time. That night while we were at a little eating house close to the dance hall, some cowboys had a fight of some kind. One was brought in with a big gash in his face. After that there was a lot of shooting near the little eating house. How foolish we were-supposing a stray bullet had struck one of us when Mother knew nothing of our whereabouts.
I well remember Lenora Helen's first beau. She must have been about nine years old. They were going to have a magic lantern show at the Winsor Schoolhouse and this young lad wanted to pay her way in - so came before dark to go with us. Mr. Morton was taking us on a horse. While we were waiting to get started this youngster wanted to show off a little to brother showing how he could run backwards. Mother had been washing and had left the rinse water in the tub and -- alas -- alack -- as he ran backwards he didn't see the tub so hit his heels on the tub and fell "Curplunk" into the water. Mother had him stand behind the stove until he was sufficiently dry to go. Pride goeth before a fall, you know.
Mother had a little inheritance of a few hundred dollars left her by her Father so she took the money and built this lovely little cottage. It was a very happy wife and mother, on her golden wedding day, to be so nicely settled in this new home. The neighbors were so good and kind as to bring her gifts such as dishes and the like. The children all helped, too, in furnishing the home. This was the way the neighbors had of showing their appreciation of the kindness Mother had shown them in their sickness and sorrow and joy.
Today, we gather as a big family, as she requested to keep one day a year, so that we may keep in touch with one another and learn to know each other better. We have such a lot to be thankful for. We can thank God for Christian parents, honest, upright, loving and kind, with all the hardships they endured; for they never forgot to thank God for the many blessings of life. Brothers and Sisters, what a legacy has been left to us -- not in money -- but the true knowledge and example of a wonderful ~ Christian life.
Again, we thank God that we all are living and that such a goodly number can be present today. Can we do less than meet once a year as Mother requested? I sincerely hope that we can be together another year -- if it is God's will.
Quinn Tells Story of Strip Race
Tom & Carolyn Ward, Columbus, KS
|Assistant State Coordinator|
Nancy Trice, Madisonville, KY