First Few Years Were Treacherous on Western Kansas Homestead

Rattlesnakes and food shortages only two of the obstacles on western Kansas homestead.

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We came to western Kansas in 1908. That was some time after the Native American troubles had been resolved; however, we suffered many of the privations our earlier relatives had experienced on a Kansas homestead.

My husband filed on a quarter section of school land, and later we bought a relinquishment on another quarter section from a neighbor who went back East.

After filing on the land, Maurice built a little shack there, 16 by 16 feet. We arrived at the shack after dark, and immediately my husband set out to fetch our personal belongings and horses from the old home. All that first night there seemed to be something around the shack, and when daylight came I saw cattle everywhere on the wide prairie surrounding us. I stayed in that shack, with two babies, for a month before my husband returned.

Nearly all the other settlers were young with small families. They were friendly and welcomed strangers. We made our own amusement, mostly with literary and church gatherings. Everyone traveled in wagons to these events, wrapped in plenty of covers so one did not get cold.

In the winter of 1911-12 we could not get to town for supplies for nearly three months. The storm came in December and the snow stayed on the ground until April. Many cattle were lost.

People shared what they had. One of our neighbors had a good supply of flour, and when we ran out, my husband went to his house to borrow some. The man loaded several sacks on the wagon, saying perhaps someone up our way might be in need of flour. That flour was appreciated by others as well as ourselves.

During the winter one family lost a little baby. They buried it in a snow bank until they could get to a cemetery.

One of the worst things we had to contend with was rattlesnakes. Almost everyone could use a gun and kept one handy for shooting snakes.

In the first years about all the fruit we had was wild plums and wild grapes. We did not raise much garden for three years because we had to haul water, sometimes as far as three miles. The land grew melons nicely without water, so most families had watermelons and cantaloupes. We used to make a butter out of pie melons; it wasn't as good as apple butter, but it was tasty.

Mrs. M. E. Shufelberger
Dodge City, Kansas

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.