Family's Kansas Homestead Adventure Was Short-Lived

Esther Billings' Kansas homestead adventure lasted all of one night.

| Good Old Days

When our century was young, there was still government land in Kansas to be given to people with "pioneering fever." In the summer of 1908, my parents had an attack of that malady and decided it was time they should own their own farm and try out a Kansas homestead.

Some friends who had bought a relinquishment in Kansas sent back letters full of hope for the future. After the threshing was over, my parents had a few hundred dollars which they planned to use either for filing a claim or for buying a relinquishment.

Father insisted Mother and I go with him to this land of promise, so on a hot Sunday in mid-August we boarded a train and headed for the far corner of Kansas.

We arrived at the town shortly after noon and walked to the hotel with a scorching sun bearing down on us. At the hotel we were served a meal of leftovers. Then Father hired a driver with a team and surrey to take us to the home of our friends.

Those were the longest 15 miles I ever traveled. The sun beat down on our backs and the heat was almost unbearable. The horses struggled thru sand while sweat dripped from their bodies. Up hill and down we went, seeing no signs of life on that road until we came to a sod house. In a group of people sitting on the ground in the shade of the house, we recognized our friends. Father paid the driver, and we joined the party. They gave us drinks of water from a barrel which sat in the shade of the house; it was wet but not cool. When the group broke up, we were loaded into a wagon to ride a few more miles to our hosts' home.

Our friends, who had a little money when they moved to this area, were better equipped to face the hardships of frontier life than were many of their neighbors. They had a well and a windmill, a two-room frame house and a cave.

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