I still live less than a quarter of a mile from the house on the family farm where I was born 80 years ago! Not too many folks are able to do that in these years of people on the move. The farmstead is in southeastern Iowa, 45 minutes south of Iowa City, where the University of Iowa is located. Our place is a "Century Farm" and then some. I have my great-grandfather's diary about buying land and moving here from Illinois in the 1860s.
The family got here a few years before the railroad got beyond the county seat town. In the early days many people homesteaded close to rivers to be sure of water and trees for fuel and lumber. My ancestor, Theophilus, hired a wagon on his first visit and drove a half day from the end of the rails. He chose some of the flattest, blackest ground in this part of the state. A family from nearer the river moved up on the prairie too, and in a few years my grand-father married their older daughter. That family and descendants still live on the other side of the section from our family farm.
One of my most vivid memories goes back to before I was married. I have a sister four and a half years younger than I am. In 1924 there was a terrible storm the night of my birthday, June 29. Our mother was frantically trying to mop up rain coming in broken windows after a severe hailstorm. She parked us on the spare bed downstairs and said not to move. Every so often she would come in with a flashlight, pointing it in our faces, to see if we were still safe 'and dry. There was no electricity. Almost every window on one side of the house had broken. I was mad about the light in my face and my sister was crying bitterly. What a night!
When she married, my sister moved more than 50 miles away. I still live where I can see that farmhouse. It has been cared for and lived in by the farmer who has operated it for many years.
Helen K. Stoutner
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.