A New Life on the Open Range

Grandfather worked in Troy, New York, saving money so family could move to the Midwest.

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My Grandpa and Grandma Hager both came from Austria in 1880 to live in this great country of ours. Grandpa had made the trip to America two times previously over a period of seven years, at which time he worked and earned money. While in this country he worked in New York State as a farm laborer, earning and saving money for the last big trip in which he brought his new bride, Grandma, to live with him in America.

No doubt this was a great adventure for both of them. Although they left the beautiful countryside, where they both lived on the shore of Lake Constance, they must have looked with great anticipation toward a new life in America. For five years Grandpa worked on a farm near Troy, New York, saving money for another big move to the Midwest, where they bought land and farmed near Waukee, Iowa. During this time they became the parents of four children, two girls and two boys. They lived there for 18 years and later bought land near Perry, Iowa.

The move from Waukee to the farm near Perry in 1903 must have been exciting for the family, as it was near 50 miles in all. No graveled roads, no automobiles, no trucks; just 50 miles over trails that could almost be called open range. The move took five days in all, moving farm implements, livestock and household goods by horse-drawn wagons. My father, who was 13 years old at the time, rode herd on the cattle.

After 18 years on that farm, Grandpa and Grandma retired and moved to Perry. They both missed their beautiful native country, but never had the opportunity to return for a visit before their deaths in 1931.

Francis E. Hager
Sun City, Arizona


Back in 1955 a call went out from the editors of the then Capper’s Weekly asking for readers to send in articles on true pioneers. Hundreds of letters came pouring in from early settlers and their children, many now in their 80s and 90s, and from grandchildren of settlers, all with tales to tell. So many articles were received that a decision was made to create a book, and in 1956, the first My Folks title – My Folks Came in a Covered Wagon – hit the shelves. Nine other books have since been published in the My Folks series, all filled to the brim with true tales from Capper’s readers, and we are proud to make those stories available to our growing online community.