The Ekalaka Eagle - Your Community Builder

PART II-B

SYKES-BELLTOWER HISTORY CONTINUED (1909-1939)

 

February 16, 2018

FIGURE 1: Check from James Summers to local Ford dealer George H. Farwell for the total purchase price of a new Ford Model T car in 1919.

by Sherry Farwell, Ned Summers & Marguerite Goeders Rozelle

THE HOMESTEADER HISTORY OF THE SYKES-BELLTOWER "SURVIVORS"

The U.S. Census of 1910 contains just a few recognizable family names of "Nesters" in the vicinity of Sykes-Belltower, e.g., Burditt, Sykes, Massingale, Sigler and Farwell. However, homesteading quickly increased the number of their neighbors. As noted earlier, the ranks of these neighbors were then thinned by severe weather events and The Depression. The following narrative will summarize the history for the homestead families that endured and stayed to become members of the "Survivors". Whereas most of the "Nesters" also became homesteaders and members of the "Survivors", their family stories have been summarized in Part I and will not be included in Part II.

SUMMERS: James Summers, his wife Lyda, and their five children (Ethel, Charles, Chester, Kirby, and Wayne) moved from Indiana to Lead, SD in 1900. James worked in the Homestake mine until 1907 and then the Summers family moved to Puyallup, WA. In 1909, James decided to seek a different life for his family, so he came to Speelmon Creek and established a homestead claim when he was 46 years old. Working alone at this rather advanced age, James constructed a small log cabin in addition to some other basic living facilities and then in 1910 he sent word for his family to join him in Montana. After their arrival, the four young boys helped with numerous homesteading tasks and supplemented the family's income by working as hired hands on nearby ranches such as the Farwells & Burditts. Later, Charles, Chester and Kirby acquired their own homesteads claims close to their parent's place. By 1911, James raised a good corn crop and had two good water wells. James' friends called him Honest Jim. According to the related story, Jim stopped at a neighbor's yard and talked to him during Jim's ~4 mile walk to the country store to do some trading. A couple of hours later the neighbor spotted Jim walking home. Then in another couple of hours he saw Jim walking back toward the store. The puzzled neighbor confronted Jim and asked him if he had forgot to get something at the store. Jim said "No, but they gave me back more change than I had coming." As shown by the check in Figure 1 written by James, after 1919 he no longer had to walk to the store, he was the proud owner of a new Ford Model T. Honest Jim died in 1928 and Lyda passed away in 1954. She had moved to Ekalaka in 1938 to live with Chester who owned and operated the C. M. Summers service station. Kirby stayed on the Speelmon Creek ranch and married Gunvor Lykken in 1929. Gunvor was the daughter of Hans and Josephine (Bye) Lykken. She was born in 1909 at her parents' first ranch located between Albion and Capitol. Hans was an immigrant from Norway who had arrived in the Capitol area during 1900. He was proud to be a new citizen of the United States and married Josephine in 1907. Mr. and Mrs. Lykken subsequently purchased the Alfred Jensen and Ole Stensvik places on Box Elder Creek and lived at this ranch site from 1919-1944. Kirby and Gunvor had three children, Betty Lee, Hazel and Ned. Betty Lee married Edwin Loken and Hazel married James Courtney. Over the years the Kirby Summers' family come to understand and accept the land's limitations. Kirby learned the variability of rainfall along with the extremes of weather and how to adapt the ranch for production efficiency. Kirby and Gunvor were severely challenged by the dismal conditions of the 1930's. Nevertheless, like all the "Survivors", they decided that this piece of land was their place and home. Hence, they stuck it out. Gunvor passed away in 1979 and Kirby died in 1983. Ned and his wife, Patsy (Doyle) continue to operate the Summers' ranch with the family's conservation ethic. Their ranch house includes a room that was the family's first log cabin.

GOEDERS: Two immigrants from Luxembourg, Peter and Marguerite Goeders, left Chicago in 1908, moved to Scranton, ND, and in 1910 joined the Kingsley family on an immigrant train car headed to Marmarth. From here they traveled by mule-pulled wagons to Camp Crook, then west over Belltower Hill to their claim site north of Sand Creek. Over the next 5 years they built a homestead shack, dug a well, constructed a blacksmith shop, fenced the property, learned English, became naturalized citizens, and obtained their land patent. Their son John (Petie) and daughter Marion were both born on the kitchen table in that one room shack in 1912 and 1916, respectively. In addition to raising kids, animals, and farming, Peter became widely known for his blacksmith shop and his considerable expertise in building and fixing anything of metal. The Goeders blacksmith shop provided essential services for many years to people within a radius of 15 miles. Figure 2 (located on page 8) shows a photograph of Peter The Smithy inside his renowned blacksmith shop. While Peter worked long hours in this blacksmith shop, Marguerite cut corn, fed animals, tended their garden, walked 5 miles each mail day to the Sykes post office, plowed fields, milked cows, separated the milk, washed clothes, killed snakes, battled plagues of grasshoppers, pumped water, planted trees, maintained the outhouse, entertained guests, watched over the kids, raised turkeys and chickens, canned produce and fruit, made the family meals and washed dishes. This giant of a working homesteader woman had a height of 4' 2"! In 1916, Peter and Marguerite ordered a pre-cut house from Sears & Roebuck for a catalog price of $701. When the kit pieces arrived in Marmarth, Peter used a team and wagon to haul them to their homestead site, a task that required several multi-day trips. Peter assembled the pieces into a house, which Marguerite called her "little palace on the plains". Their son, Petie, married Mary, a city girl from Minneapolis in 1945. They built and lived in a house on a hill next to Peter and Marguerite's "little palace". Petie and Mary worked together on the ranch with his parents. They had two children, James in 1947 and Marguerite in 1949. Grandpa Goeders died in 1966 and Petie died 3 months later. Grandma Goeders survived another 3 years and Mary passed in 1999. James lives in Belle Fourche. Marguerite became a teacher and subsequently married Jim Rozelle. The Rozelles are now retired and spend summers on the Goeders' ranch, where they reside in the "little palace".

SHUFFIELD/ARNOLD: Benjamin and Cariota (Katie) Shuffield came to the Sykes-Belltower area in 1909. Ben's son, Joseph, from his previous marriage traveled with them. Their homestead was located directly east of the Goeders' place and south of the Summers' place. Ben and Katie had four surviving children: Addie May (initially married George Richmond and then subsequently married Leonard Mumedy), Edward (married Evelyn Foster and they had two children, Gary & Mary), Robert (married Evelyn Carter and they had two sons, Ben & Bob) and Johnny (married Louise Mulkey). Joseph was in the military during WW I and married Pauline LaGrande in 1926, They lived in the Sykes-Belltower community for a number of years on a ranch located northeast of the George H. Farwell place. Ben died in 1924 and Katie then married John Arnold in 1926. Katie and John had one child, a daughter named Ethyl, who grew up and married Glenn Frye in 1944. John and Katie Arnold operated ranches on the Shuffield homestead and the Ray Bridgeford homestead. John also hauled freight with horse-drawn wagons/Model T trucks and worked for the WPA during the depression. According to John, "During this time, the jack rabbits were so thick that they ate what little grass did grow, and the dust storms and the grasshoppers took care of the rest." The Arnold's operation of the Belltower store previously owned by Ben Gross will be summarized in a later Post Offices/Stores section of this overall community history. Katie passed in 1953 and John died in 1957. In 1957, the George and Vernalea Kittelmann family moved to the old Ben Shuffield place where they farmed and ranched until moving closer to Ekalaka in 1971.

courtesy photo

FIGURE 2: Master blacksmith Peter Goeders inside his community blacksmith shop on the Goeders homestead.

KINGSLEY: As mentioned earlier, the Dwight Kingsley family traveled in 1910 along with the Goeders family from North Dakota to their homestead sites north of Sand Creek. A son, Arthur, accompanied his parents on this trip. Arthur added a needed skill to the community, he had a regular ice saw and he had been trained in its use to cut large slabs of ice. His ice blocks from Box Elder Creek each winter were stored under sawdust in many neighbor's ice houses. Before this, ice in the summer was only available after hail storms. Until approximately 1917, the main mail road was located on the west side of Box Elder Creek and Mrs. Kingsley carried the community's mail on this trail-like road by foot. According to the memoir of Mildred Coons Lavell, "How the people's hearts ached for the old lady trudging through the snow carrying the heavy mail bags." Another son, George, and his wife, Alice, joined the Kingsley family in 1922 at their homestead. George was badly crippled due to rheumatism and this affected his ability to perform manual ranch labor. Therefore, George made a living as a freighter for nearby stores and neighboring ranches. They found Montana to be good for their physical health, but the hard winters and dry summers were financially stressful. George and Alice had nine children: John (killed in WW II), Henry, Andrew, Lester, Bob, Max, Minnie, Betty and Donna. The three Kingsley girls attended college prior to being married and living in Idaho and California. The authors of this historical summary knew some of the Kingsley family. They were modest, hard-working, honest folks that let their deeds do most of their talking. Here is an example. George Kingsley was hired by the Goeders family to haul them a big load of coal for the winter. George broke his shovel while unloading the coal at the Goeders ranch, so he borrowed a shovel from Peter Goeders to finish the job. George then departed and as the sun was disappearing, Peter was surprised to see George coming back to their place. George explained to Peter that after he had driven back home, he discovered that Peter's shovel was still in his wagon. So, he immediately turned around and returned Peter's shovel. Bob was by far the most verbal Kingsley and for years drove his trademark 1950 Chevy coupe. Bob had a wonderful sense of humor and enjoyed telling stories whenever he encountered neighbors like Petie Goeders, Kirby Summers, Dave Gross, Ralph Curry, James T. Carroll and Sherrill Farwell. Minnie Kingsley McDonald at a young 92 provided valuable family information for the preceding summary.

... to be continued

 

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