Stedmans Settled Kansas Homestead in 1870

The story of the Stedman family's move to a Marshall County, Kansas homestead.

| Good Old Days

Attracted by the free land in Kansas, and the possibility that two young sons, too, could homestead or buy cheap farms in a few years, the Zerah Stedmans sold most of their possessions in 1870 and bought passage to the end of the railroad line at Nebraska City, Nebraska, with hopes of settling a Kansas homestead.

When their goods had been ferried across the Missouri River there, Zerah hired a driver with a wagon and oxen to carry the family to their claim in Marshall County, Kansas.

The oxen pulled the plow which cut the prairie sod, and the Stedmans built their first prairie home. The final job for the oxen and wagon was to deliver a ridge pole and shorter roof supports from timber on the creek. Then the Stedmans watched the wagon roll across the lonely prairie until it disappeared.

Zerah, once the transaction for the land was completed, found work at a mill 16 miles away. On Saturday afternoon he walked home and on Monday he walked the 16 miles back to work. Part of his wages was paid in flour and cornmeal, a great benefit to the family.

In the soddy, Phebe Stedman directed her boys to hoe out a shallow trench at the base of the walls, and in one corner she had dug a sinkhole, a little larger than a gallon pail. In case the side walls leaked in a driving rain and water threatened to muddy her packed-dirt floors, the trench would collect the seepage and direct it to the sinkhole.

Always a neat and industrious homemaker, Phebe hand sewed yards and yards of sheeting, brought from her Michigan home, to make a ceiling. It hid the poles and the sod overlay, and even better, it prevented dirt from sifting down. She also constructed a muslin wall to gain the privacy of a bedroom.

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