Plains Settlers: Steinke Family Struggled to Establish Nebraska Homestead

Louis Steinke went through the ringer, and many animals, to improve his Nebraska homestead.

| Good Old Days

My father, John Steinke, lived 83 years in Perkins County, Nebraska, before his death in 1977. Some years ago he wrote an account of life on his father's Nebraska homestead, a story which spanned 30 years from 1883, when the claim was filed, to about the time of World War I, when the character of farming, as he knew it, was changing with the introduction of big farm machines.

The following paragraphs are based on material in my father's original manuscript:

After my dad, Louis Steinke, filed on a homestead northeast of Verango, Nebraska, he returned to Buffalo County to await the next year's spring when he would bring his wife, in a covered wagon, to Perkins County (or Keith County as it was called then). They lived in the wagon until a 12- by 16-foot frame shack could be completed.

Dad helped build the High Line Railroad thru west Nebraska. He drove mules hitched to a scraper to smooth the grade for the tracks. After two years he had saved a little money and in 1888 he was able to replace the shack with a two-room sod house. The first child born to the family died and was buried on the homestead, for there were no cemeteries in the area at the time of his death. All the other children in the family were born and reared on that farm.

When the horses which had pulled his wagon West died, he bought a yoke of oxen which he used to break sod. The oxen also made weekly trips to Big Springs for the family's water which was hauled home in barrels. None was ever wasted, so we all washed in the same water.

Later Dad traded those oxen for horses, and after one died and he had no money to buy a replacement, he broke a milk cow to work with a horse as a team.

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