Written by Helen Bernice (Todd) Hough, 1959.
At left: Helen Bernice (Todd) Hough, photo from TIGER: The Wilmore, Kansas, School Yearbook 1958 - 1959, courtesy of Nancy Smith. Mrs. Hough taught the 3rd and 4th grades.
Why did the Todds come to Kansas? I donít know and have never heard it discussed but I can guess. John Edward Todd and Emma Herron Todd were young married people with one child, Alma. John was one of eleven children and the old home farm at Greenwood, Indiana certainly could not be divided eleven ways and make a living for anyone. Kansas in 1882 was becoming to just such young people who needed opportunity and were hardy stock with pioneer spirit.
Little is known about the Todds in Fort Scott, Kansas. However I have confirmation from Omar Todd that he was born March 20, 1883 at Fort Scott, Kansas. He says that they moved in a covered wagon to Comanche County in the spring of 1885. He was two years younger than Alma, who was four.
The Todds homesteaded a quarter of land seven miles south of Coldwater, near the little village of Avilla. It was the southwest quarter of section 19 in 33-18. The deed calls the homestead completed March 21, 1890. Todds made two payments on this land at the rate of $1.25 per acre. One was made May 27, 1885 for $47.40 and the other was March 19, 1886 for $142.24. The homestead was sold to James F. Mansfield, February 22, 1887.
Very little is known about life on the homestead since the children were too young to remember. The family spent part of the winter of 1885-1886 in Indiana on a visit with family and escaped the big blizzard of January 6, 1886. While visiting there, [Indiana] ,Grandmother told the family that their Thanksgiving mince meat pie was from the meat of antelope. Frank was born December 20, 1886 on the homestead. The homestead was sold in the spring of 1887 and Granddad bought a livery stable in the little town of Avilla. Here the family resided for the next eight years. Ralph was born August 22, 1888. The children attended school at Avilla. Granddad was looking for the opportunity to establish himself firmly in this new land. Land was cheap but money was scarce. The land and climate was best fitted for the raising of cattle.
Great Grandmother Todd of Indiana had come into an inheritance. She sent $100.00 to John in Kansas asking him to spend it for railroad fare so that they might bring the family home for a visit. She had never seen the youngest two boys. So in the fall of 1891 the Todds started for Indiana on the train. The children attracted some attention from the other passengers as children do, but particularly that of a gentleman, Volney Barber of Decatur, Illinois. Mr. Barber had been to Kansas attending to business interests and looking over the country with an investment in mind. In the course of the conversation and getting acquainted he and Granddad made a business deal. Mr. Barber had a piece of land near Avilla which he wanted fenced. The men agreed that Granddad would do the labor for 10 cents a post and Mr. Barber would furnish all supplies. Thus began a very successful partnership of two men was to last for seventeen years.
The land was fenced and the agreement was satisfactory to both partners. Mr. Barber wrote to Granddad that he had a carload of horses for which he had no market. If Granddad would accept them and dispose of them he could have half of whatever he received. The deal was made and the horses arrived in Coldwater. Granddad very conscientiously began to trade the horses, but he ran into trouble. The horses were not acclimated to Kansas weather and they began to lose weight. He did everything he could to get them in better shape and to sell them, but at best they were a poor bargain. One trade was of particular interest. A man wanted a stallion and Granddad had only one and he was in very poor condition. He was priced at $5.08 but the man didnít have $5.00, yet surely wanted the stallion. Granddad wanted so badly rid of him that he asked the man if he had anything he could trade. The man couldnít think of anything he had except a quarter of worthless land. Granddad finally took it, but he felt so ashamed to have so little to offer Mr. Barber as his share of the stallion that he deeded the entire quarter in Mr. Barberís name. In later years they had many a good laugh over the horse deal. Mr. Barber was very enthusiastic and wanted to try again so further business dealing passed between the two men, with Mr. Barber furnishing the capital from Illinois and Todd the labor in Kansas.
Mr. Barber came again to Kansas and found a quarter of land deeded only in his name. Upon inquiry, Granddad explained and Mr. Barber insisted that all land must be on the half and half basis. And he wondered if they shouldnít perhaps deal in land. He sold the quarter of land for $500.00 and gave it to Granddad to be used for buying land. Thus Granddad became a trader, a buyer and a seller of land. He found a valley with good grass and a good all year round stream, Nescatunga Creek, flowing through it and here he concentrated his efforts.
In 1895 the Todds moved to the "Old Home Place" the northeast quarter of the first section in 33-18. Here they resided for thirty three years or until Granddadís death. They moved into the house that was vacated by the homesteader previously. Most every quarter of land had a house, and in many cases the homesteader had taken the $1200.00 mortgage that was allowed and then vacated the land. This was taken up for taxes and was selling at $1.25 an acre. Granddad bought this first quarter in November, 1897 from Hosen H. Funk and Elizabeth Funk for one thousand dollars. It became the custom for any man who settled near water, that he was entitled to the grass halfway to the next lining water. In order to hold these rights Granddad began to fence all this area. Then step by step as each piece threatened to sell he bought the land. Times were good; his boys became old enough to help with the work and Granddad prospered.
On May 23, 1898 Todd and Barber owned nine thousand forty acres of land. For ten years Granddad was the manager and one-half owner of approximately this same acreage. At first the children went to school at the little town of Nescatunga in a building which had been constructed for a church. In 1900 the kitchen part of the hotel was bought and moved to within a mile of the Todd home place and named the Nescatunga School. Even today I can find my dadís name, Frank Todd, carved on the old desks of the Nescatunga School. Grandmother and Mrs. Eyman Phebus decided they must have a Sunday school and Church. Through their efforts these were organized and services are still held at the name little Nescatunga School house today.
As the Todd children began to grow up, marry and need homes of their own, Granddad began to plan how he could help them. Mr. Barber had a son in Illinois who wanted to try his fortune in Kansas. Mr. Barber and Granddad decided that this would be the time to dissolve the partnership. The Todd-Barber ranch was divided with Granddad taking the south ranch. This dissolving the partnership took place November 23, 1908.
On April 1, 1913 Granddad bought a piece of land in section 19 of 33 -18 for a home for the newly married son. Five hundred sixty acres were bought for $10,000. In 1916 Frank and his wife, Minnie Boswell Todd and their five small daughters moved with their family to this land and they continued their married life together there.
A way of life has passed away. It seems that it was such a good way of life that weíve lost unless it was that childhood is always dear when remembered. However, I have some memories of the old way that my children will never have, I remember the ice house, a great pit was dug deep in the ground and here every winter ice was cut from the ice pond and stored in the ice house in straw. Such a luxury; Grandmother had an ice box with real ice all summer long. I remember the cook shack. Henry Gates, a neighbor was the cook and during all the busiest season when there were lots of men to cook for he would come and take over in the cook shack. He would let me set the tables which were raised from the sides and propped up. We used tin plates and "cook shack cutlery." I remember when Henry danced a jig with a pot of stewed chicken on his head. The pot slipped and the chicken was strewn all over the floor. The men were coming to dinner and he reasoned what they didnít know wouldnít hurt them and his only problem was "how to silence us kids." I donít remember how he did it, but I do remember that for years and years we never told and it remained a profound secret between Henry and us.
I remember the Delco House. Here the engine and batteries for the light system were kept. Granddadís was the only electrically lighted house that I ever saw in my childhood.
I remember round-up days. Everyone who could ride a horse helped and certainly I was there, from daybreak until the last creature was penned. I can still smell the burning hair from branding and I lived it. However, I do remember the dipping vat and itís horrible smell. Uncle Ralph and Uncle Dick were always going to dip me too, and somehow I must have believed them for I had a horror of the pit. I remember when I dropped my cap in the vat. Mother was unhappy with me. It always smelled after that.
I remember butchering day and the smoke house. Great kettles of hot water, killing many hogs, scraping, butchering, cutting up lard, rendering, seasoning the hams and bacon, and finally the smoke house. Granddad smoked the meat as only he could give it the very best cure.
I remember the candy tree. It was the only one like it ever. Only Granddad knew how it worked, but work it did. He would take a hold of it and caution us to watch the upper branches as carefully as we could. After two or three shakes down would come the candy. It was a marvel. We all shook the tree, but only Granddad could get the candy to fall.
I remember the steam engine. It was a monstrous thing and when it was running it was very frightening for a little girl. It did much work on the ranch, but I stayed away from it.
I remember silo filling time. After school we would race one and one half miles to the silo field and Granddad paid us a time for tramping the silage. It meant running and playing in the silage and just managing to stay on top. It was fun to climb all the way down the ladder through the tunnel - yet it was scary.
I remember Sunday. We went to Sunday school in the afternoon and then to Granddadís afterward, where all the family gathered. We always had on our Sunday clothes and werenít supposed to get dirty. I always did and always got spanked. I hated Sunday clothes.
I remember the barn and hay loft. It was built in the side of the hill. The hay loft was built on one level and the horse barn on the lower level. There were dozens of places to hide and many games were played and many hours spent in this beloved place.
I remember the phonograph. I had to change the needle after every record but the beautiful music was practically the only music I ever heard as a child.
I remember the upstairs. Only on rare occasions was I allowed up there and I was only supposed to look. Once in awhile, however, I got to try on the hats and shoes that Grandmother had stored there. The hats were beautiful with massive big feathers and high heeled shoes were high laced.
Whenever the grandchildren went to Grandmotherís they were given a cookie. We loved her and everyone had great respect for her. We worshipped Granddad. Granddad died in 1927 and Grandmother retired in Coldwater, living until she was 89 years old.
John E. Todd, born on a farm in Marion County, Indiana, March 21, 1857. In 1882 he came to Kansas and bought land in Barber County and in 1884 came to Comanche County, locating on government land 10 miles south of Coldwater. Later he secured a large tract of land and entered the cattle industry on a large scale. Mr. Todd was the first county assessor of Comanche County. He held various township offices and in 1912 was elected a member of the Board of County Commissioners. -- Diamond Jubilee Historical Booklet, 1959.
The Wilmore News, April 8, 1927.
DEATH CLAIMS ANOTHER COMANCHE-CO. PIONEERJohn E. Todd, One of the Early Day Settlers,
Passes From This Life at Dodge City Hospital
Wednesday evening, April 6th, marked the close of the life of one of Comanche County's leading pioneers -John E. Todd. The end came at the St. Anthony Hospital of Dodge City, which he entered some three weeks since to take up the losing battle against complication of diseases.
Mr. Todd is a well known citizen of the county, having located here as a pioneer in 1885. His original home was near the old Avilla townsite, south of Coldwater. Some few years later he removed to his present home, southeast of Coldwater, where he reared his family and proved himself to be a respected and useful citizen.
Mr. Todd served Comanche county for several years as county commissioner from the first district. He also served in official capacities in his home school district and township and was always identified with all movements for community betterment.
For a number of years, Mr. Todd has been active in the masonic order, being a member of the Coldwater Lodge and a 32 degree mason. The masonic brothers escorted the body from the train at Coldwater, Thursday afternoon.
He leaves to mourn his loss a wife; three sons, Omer, Frank and Ralph; one daughter, Mrs. Nick Pepperd, all of whom reside in Comanche county, except Omer, who resides at Ingalls.
Funeral services were conducted this afternoon by Rev. Walker at the Presbyterian church in Coldwater. Interment will he made today in Crown Hill Cemetery.
A host of friends and fellow citizens will greatly miss Mr. Todd from the affairs of the county.
Arthur Hough, husband of Helen Bernice (Todd) Hough.
A Reunion of Former Residents of Wilmore, Comanche County, Kansas held 10 March 1991 in Tucson, Pima County, Arizona.
-- Mary Lee (Cobb) Hough, one of the people interviewed, was a daughter-in-law of Arthur and Bernice Hough.
Thanks to Roberta Malone (who purchased the Ruth Botts Collection of History - 1971 historical scrapbook at the Ruth Botts estate sale) for contributing this history, to Bobbi Huck for arranging the contribution of this article to this site and to Glennda Burt transcribing the manuscript.
Thanks to Shirley Brier for finding, transcribing and contributing the above obituary for J.E. Todd to this web site!
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