Man Returns to Homestead Property to Find Shack on the Move

Neighbor takes movable shack from one homestead property to lay claim to his own.

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This incident happened during the early days in eastern Colorado. Old-timers will remember that to homestead property one had to build a dwelling on the land and do certain other work. Most homesteaders stayed on the land only the length of time required by law and took a job, usually far removed, to earn a grub stake to finish the prescribed stay and to finance needed improvements.

Jim had built his little shack, and because he was a man of ambition and planned to make a real home on his land, he was not satisfied with a little tarpaper shack. Instead, he constructed a neat 12-by-16-foot house with clapboard siding and a shingle roof. He mounted it on runners so he could move it about his claim as he chose. Eventually it would be a farm work shop.

Then Jim went east to earn a few months' wages. He would come back in the spring and break a few acres of sod for a wheat crop. He got back to the prairies a few days earlier than he had expected, caught a ride with a neighbor to within a couple of miles of his claim and walked in after dark, carrying some groceries.

Tired from his trip, Jim took to his bunk at once. Some hours later he was awakened by the sensation of moving. At first he thought there was an earthquake, but finally decided his cabin actually was moving across the prairie! He could hear the clop-clop of the horses' feet and the low commands of the driver. A neighboring homesteader had decided to move the shack to his own claim during the owner's absence. He planned to prove his claim by having a dwelling on the land and then return the cabin before Jim came home.

The driver was one surprised man when the cabin door opened and Jim confronted him with a drawn .45. The would-be mover had no choice but to turn the team around and pull the cabin back. The experience did not sever the friendship of the two men. They lived neighbors for years, their children went to the same school, and Jim's eldest son married the neighbor's pretty daughter.

Nelle Portrey Davis
Welcome Ranch
Bonners Ferry, Idaho


 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.