The Diary of Lizzie Dopps
In the second spring of our pioneer life
our Gracie* was born, There
were no doctors there in that new country, but when a child was born,
the other women from round about came to help and we usually got along
Our Gracie was a little darling with
very dark blue eyes and almost black curls.
She was quite a serious-minded child and a very orderly little
Time passed and about eighteen months later
our little Jennie came to our home.
Her advent was heralded with mixed emotions, happiness, anxiety
This time it was not only the expectant
mother that faced danger and death.
It was the father as well, Eli very nearly drowned going
for help for me. It was
Late in the afternoon I knew my hour was
approaching and Eli went after Ellen.
A heavy rainstorm was coming up and when it
did rain on this Kansas prairie land, it rained to make up for lost
After Ellen arrived, Eli went to
bring Mrs. Williams who lived across the Prairie Dog from us.
Ordinarily a team of horses and wagon could
easily ford this creek, but there had been a cloud-burst a few miles
from us, and this mild little stream had grown to the proportions of a
roaring river. Nevertheless,
Eli plunged in with the team and wagon.
He landed safely on the other side, but realized the danger he
Mrs. Williams met him at the door
and he said, "Mrs. Williams, my wife needs you and I’ve
come for your help, but the Prairie Dog has risen out of its banks.
The crossing is dangerous so I’ll not ask you to go back with
She was not a young woman and so replied,
"No, I'm afraid to go across that water,” and fortunate it was
that she was not on that return trip.
Dangerous or not, Eli knew he must
return. After urging his
horses in the water (all his animals, even to the cat and dog, had
confidence in him and would do his bidding) they were soon struggling to
keep adrift and it seemed they were fighting a current.
They were swimming and the wagon was pulling them downstream
between high banks,
If they could only hold out until the banks
were not so steep! But
their strength was ebbing. One
of the horses was not much more than a colt and he was getting panicky,
barely keeping his head above water, and leaving the other horse to do
all the pulling, including the weight of the frightened horse.
At last they were out of the rapid current
and were nearing the other side, but the bank was far too steep for them
to effect a landing. Would
those banks never flatten out!
There was not much time to think of
anything except those raging waters and the struggling team, but there
were moments when came the thought of his sick wife and the baby that
was coming. He would never
see them! 'No!
He must not even think of that!
He couldn't leap out and swim for shore and
leave that poor struggling team to drown when he had driven them into
this peril. That was
unthinkable. Even if he
were selfish and heartless enough to do this, it would do no good to
try, as he could not scale that slippery perpendicular bank.
At last the bank seemed not so steep and
soon the poor team was able to pull themselves and the wagon out of the
water up onto the home side.
In the meantime, over our little home the
stork was hovering, ready to alight.
Darkness had come and the candle lighted.
Ellen and I were awaiting the help we were hoping for,
little knowing of the peril that Eli was in.
Time was passing and Ellen went out
to the other room to fix the bed as we had planned for the occasion.
Suddenly, I knew the moment had arrived, and I cried out, "Ellen,
In her hurry and the excitement of the
moment, she snatched up the
candle so swiftly the flame went out and all was darkness.
Ellen knew my house as well as I
did, knew where I kept everything, but in her excitement became
bewildered and cried out, "Oh, where are the matches?"
I was beyond helping her, but she found the
matches, re-lighted the candle, and all went on as it should. Our little Jennie arrived.
By this time it was raining in torrents and
the sod roof began to leak. They
had to move my bed and put a tub down to catch the water.
Before my confinement, I had arranged our
little home as tidy and neat as could be, had a nice new rag carpet and
all looked very cozy.
But when things began to happen and it
started to rain so hard and the roof began to leak, they were at that
time too busy attending to me to pay much attention to the havoc the
storm had wrought.
Alas, my new rag carpet was ruined!
The rain seeping through the sod roof, of course had formed mud,
and my carpet was a sight to behold! Eli said, "We'll fix that up alright.
I'll stake it out in the creek and the water rushing through it
will wash it nice and clean.”
He carefully staked it out, but those were
busy days, what with the new baby and Gracie only a year and a
half old. We tried to hire
help but it was impossible to find anyone, so Ellen came every
day to help out and do what she could.
When we went to get the carpet it was gone,
washed away, I suppose. It
probably never reached the ocean---too many hundreds of miles--but I
never saw it again. The old
Prairie Dog tried to get my husband and failed, but it did get my
carpet. Well, I should
worry about that!
God had been good to us. We had our darling baby, I was getting along fine, and Eli
had been saved from a watery grave, so why grieve about a rag carpet!
My days were certainly full now with two
babies and duties on a homestead claim.
Jennie was about three months old
when harvest time came and I had to cook for the harvest hands.
When the threshers arrived I had fifteen to cook for, dinner and
supper, but of course, the threshers were there only for a few days.
One hot day after dinner was over but the
dishes still to be washed, something went wrong with Gracie and
she began to cry, although this was unusual for her.
Then baby Jennie began to cry.
This was too much for me, so I began to cry.
Eli came in from milking and found all
three of us wailing. He set
the milk pail down and putting his arms around me, said, "Well,
what is the matter, Lizzie?
I know. You are just
tired out and there is one thing certain sure--we will never have two
babies at one time again."
He was always like that, kind and
considerate and kept my courage up.
The children grew and thrived and were such
companions for each other in their play, since there was so little
difference in their ages. It
was sweet to watch them when one had time, but really time was as scarce
as hen's teeth.
There were heartaches as well as gallantry
and high courage. It was about this time that Dave's and Ellen's
little Maud came and their darling little Etta took
angel's wings and flew away.
*According to her tombstone in the Norton Cemetery, Gracie was born in 1874, and died 15 April 1877.
*According to her tombstone in the Norton Cemetery, Maud Close was born in 1873, and died 08 June 1888.
|© 2006 Laurie Arnold. All material presented herein was transcribed or otherwise provided by Laurie Arnold from the unpublished text of the diary, family photos and personal genealogy. She and her family have graciously given permission for the diary to be posted to the Norton County Kansas GenWeb website, for the benefit of others who had pioneer families in Norton County, Kansas. This diary, photos and personal genealogy may not be reproduced, published or re-published for any reason, in any format, without prior written consent of the contributors or copyright holders. web design © 2006 Ardie Grimes|