E. A. Dickinson, one of Comanche-co.'s most prosperous farmers knows, not only from his own experiences, but also from a personal knowledge of the early day experiences of his father and mother back in Missouri, what it means to struggle against many odds and to endure hard work and many privations in order to "get a start" in the world. Mr. Dickinson knows, too something of what our fathers and mothers had to endure in order to become established in a home of their own. The other day in conversation with a reporter for the Western Star, Mr. Dickinson grew reminiscent, and told and interesting story of his father's and mother's early day life in Missouri. It is, no doubt, the experience of many more of the pioneer settlers in that state. Here is Mr. Dickinson's story of Missouri life from 60 to 75 years ago:
"My father, Duncan Dickinson, was born in northern Ohio in the year 1827. When he was but 19 years of age he and an older brother, Nelson Dickinson, started on a wagon trip from Ohio to the state of Missouri, which, of course, was then just beginning to be settled. That was a memorable trip, too. It required some length of time to make it, as traveling then was very slow and tedious. At some point in Indiana they stopped for a while to earn some money with which to buy their necessities. They soon ran across a man who wanted 1000 rails split and offered them 50 cents per hundred for making good oak rails. Father and Uncle Nels had their axes along and as they were both skilled in the use of the ax, they accepted the offer and were soon at work. Those one thousand rails were all cut and split in good shape in just one half day. At last they landed in Nodaway-co., Missouri, close to the Iowa line, but they did not stay there very long. They moved on further south into Ray-co., and here they located and lived for some time. My father worked at whatever kind of work, he could secure, and many a day he worked hard and received therefor a sum varying from 25 to 50 cents. Of course working in the timber, getting out wood rails and building material and helping to clear the land of brush and timber so that it could be cultivated was the chief means of employment then. As already stated, my father was an expert with an ax, and for that reason he always made good in that line. He soon secured a contract to furnish wood for use on the steamboats which then piled up and down the Missouri river, wood being used then instead of coal as fuel. That kept him busy and was a source of enough revenue to a little more than pay running expenses. He worked hard and was able to save a little toward making a home for himself. It was while working there that the great flood of 1844 along the Missouri river occurred. It was the worst flood ever experienced along the river, the waters extending as they did for many miles out of the river banks and inundating large areas of land where settlements had been begun. In many places along the river bottom the water was from 15 to 30 feet deep and did an immense amount of damage. In the neighborhood where my father worked, another Ohio man, one Thomas Carpenter, had come and made some improvements in the way of a good log home, sheds, etc. The river overflowed so badly that within a few days the water had reached the upper story of Mr. Carpenter's log house. In order to provide a means of escape to the bluffs and to higher ground, the men folks cut logs and built a sort of raft. Upon this the family and their few belongings were placed and then they were rowed away to a landing place near Camden. It happened that one of Mr. Carpenter's daughters, then a young lady was sick with measles at the time the big flood came, and much care had to be taken to prevent serious consequences in her case. When the landing was about to be effected a good many people gathered on the shore and were about to pitch in and help the Carpenter family ashore when they learned that a case of measles was on board the raft, whereupon about everybody began to scatter. One young man, my father, did not like that kind of treatment for the unfortunate family, so he at once volunteered to help. He proceeded to gather up the sick young lady in his strong arms and to carry her ashore and to the house of a sister, where she was cared for. That incident led to an acquaintance between my father and the young lady whom he had carried to shore and to a dry place, and that acquaintance ship soon ripened into love and they were married not long after the lady had fully recovered from her sickness."
"Father and mother did not live in Ray-co., Missouri, very long after their marriage. They decided to move to Carroll-co., and there they continued to make their home. In that county, too, they found a great many things to contend with. It required much hard work to clear the land of timber and to get a farm and home under way. Prices were exceedingly low and it was about all one could do to make a living. That was just prior to the Civil War. Father's place was about 8 miles north of Carrollton. He was a hard worker and had just begun to get a fair start when the war broke out. And then for the entire period of the war and for several years afterwards, what exciting times we did have. Father was a Quaker and a native of Ohio, as already stated, and naturally his sympathies were all with the Union forces and against the institution of slavery. Most of our neighbors were slave holders and strong sympathizers with the South and believers in slavery. That helped to make things rather uncomfortable for my father. He was opposed to fighting, but he was willing to fight, if need be, for a principle which he felt sure was right. Every influence possible was brought to bear upon him to induce him to join the Rebel army, but of course to no avail. On one occasion father, was approached by a neighbor and offered $100 in money and a good horse if he would join the Confederates and when he refused the offer he only invited more trouble for himself and family. We were situated not far from the free state of Kansas and on the main line of travel of the many comers and goers, both free and slave, and for that reason many bushwhackers, outlaws and bandits were often found in our county, and they helped to keep things pretty warm in that part of Missouri. There was quite a sprinkle of northern people and northern sympathizers in our county, and they were spotted and given the worst kind of treatment. Many of their houses were burned, much of their property destroyed and many were brutally killed, the ambush being the means usually resorted to. I recall that on one occasion my mother got quite a scare. She noticed quite a band of men approaching on horseback, and she naturally had the fear they were intent on doing some harm. For that reason she proceeded with much haste to prepare to feed them. We children were told to scamper out in the brush and small buildings and hide as best we could. I hid behind a big cluster of lilacs and other bushes. At that time I was quite a young chap, and I recall that all I wore in the way of clothing was a sort of long linsey-woolsey shirt. It turned out, however, that we had our scare for nothing, as the men happened to be Union sympathizers, and that class of men were not the ones, as a rule, who did the house burning and killing in that country in those days."
"Just then there was quite an efort on the part of the slaves to escape into free territory. Some of the slaves in Carroll-co, made an attempt to escape into Iowa, and lacked only a few miles of reaching that state, when they were captured and returned to their owners. Some of the slave holders accused my father of helping the slaves in their attempt to get away. The accusation was made one day in town, and father very promptly denied the charge, as he absolutely had nothing to do with it. Some of the slave owners branded father as a liar, and that was a little more than he could stand. So he proceeded to knock out a few of the bullies. It happened on that occasion that my oldest brother, then 13 was with father and was carrying a shotgun, which he had brought to town in order that the gunsmith might extract a load which had become fast in the gun. The load was still in the gun, and of course the gun could not be used, but the crowd did not know that fact. When the quarrel began, my brother backed up against a building, cocked both barrels of the gun and raised it in a defiant attitude declaring that "everybody who harms dad will get the contents of this gun." The bluff worked well. Later my father joined the home guard, which was a part of the Union army, and for two and a half years was a member of that organization. During that time he visited home only a few times, but never stayed over night. You may guess what a struggle it all meant for mother and her family of several young children, trying to make a living on a small farm. Father was never able to send a cent home, as he received only $13 per month, and pay days were often a long ways apart. I tell you we were all mighty glad when the war clouds did finally pass away and the bad effects of the war had begun to die out. I was a young fellow then, but I know something of the awful effects of war. I never want to see anymore of it."
Thanks to Shirley Brier for finding, transcribing and contributing the above news article to this web site!
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