Mr. William N. and Mrs. M. E. Babcock came to Nebraska in the fall
of 1870, remaining through the winter in Ashland. Mr. Babcock took
up a Claim in February, 1871, and they moved onto it in May of that
year. The land joined Dr. Smith's on the West, part of which is now
the Town. Mr. Babcock died eight years ago and we are indebted to
Mrs. Babcock for these reminiscences, who, let me say, fully
appreciates the experience of having grown up with a new Country.
Their first shelter was a tent made of four sheets sewed
together, a habitation which was not destined to long life. Within
the first week of this new experience, they were favored with one of
Nebraska's remarkable storms, which in the hours just after midnight
brought down their tent in such a shape as never more to be erected.
From their sad predicament they wended their way barefoot toward the
Smith home, being assured they were on the right land by locating a
furrow which the Doctor had struck around his claim, they made what
runs were possible with each lightning flash as an illumination,
finally reaching the dwelling to receive a glad welcome from Mrs.
Smith who told them she could well guess what had happened. The
following day revealed the sad condition of their belongings, to say
they were wet is probably making it too dry! As a result of this
experience the men went that morning, to secure lumber for a more
permanent home, during the building of which they stayed with the
During the days of their tent life, Mrs. Smith was
their first caller, who having made her way over the prairie, found
it necessary to wade through a ditch; on reaching the other side she
saw a large rattle snake crouching on the grass, knowing the
Babcock's slept on the ground, she wondered if she should tell Mrs.
Babcock about it? Would she like to know of such a thing? Would it
make her frightened? Then thinking that if a snake were as near to
her house she would like to know of it; she told her all about the
snake, but it is said, Mrs. Babcock only laughed!
necessary in those days for Mrs. Babcock to go to the Woodard home,
a distance of one mile, whenever she needed a pail of water. Mr.
Woodard was the first Post Master, and she would go there for the
mail, during one of those trips she was overtaken by a storm, and
had to wade through water waist deep to get back home.
another occasion she was caught in a storm, and sought shelter in
the Smith home, catching Mrs. Smith going through one of her wet
weather experiences, she was sitting on the bed with her umbrella up
and basins were placed around the floor, catching the water.
The Babcock Sod house was 12 ft. by 14 ft., and in this building
she commenced and taught the first local school, having as pupils,
three Woodard children, C. C. Smith, and her own boy, Fred. In this
small home, too, she provided lodgings one stormy night for a family
of eight persons who were passing over the country.
no uncommon thing for men to get lost on the prairie, perhaps the
women were not so venturesome, and yet they must have been
courageous at times. One dark night when Mr. Babcock was from home,
a man knocked at the door, saying he was lost, and could they direct
him to Dr. Smith's house, nothing daunted, Mrs. Babcock went out,
put the man on the right road, telling him to look for the lighted
lantern which the Doctor kept burning and he would be sure to find
the place. Dr. Smith was called to a sick case where the help of a
Nurse was needed. Mrs. Babcock being asked to go, they set out in
the wagon with Mr. Henry Sheldon. After traveling for some time they
realized that they were lost, then they saw a house which the Doctor
thought was his home, there was the usual "it is" and "it is not"
and to make sure the Doctor made his way to the building and called
out the name of his "better half" but the response was very
disappointing it was not his home. They went on again, and at last a
light was seen, and on approaching the dwelling it was found to be
the Sheldon home, their destination, but the experience had been so
mystifying to Mr. Sheldon that he failed to recognize either his
home or his barn, and with difficulty was persuaded to unhitch his
I can quite understand how, people lost on the
prairie would act like people lost at sea, by going round and round
in a circle, and coming back to where they started from, but I have
not learned the reason for their becoming so mystified as not to
recognize well known people and places, that such was an actual
experience is shown in the following story.
Mr. Job Hathaway
called on the Babcocks one evening and visited till dark, then he
started out for his home about a mile distant, it was a very dark
night, and sometime after he had left a man knocked at the door, and
asked if they could tell him where Job Hathaway lived? "Why, what's
the matter with you Mr. Hathaway?" asked Mr. Babcock, "It is only
fifteen minutes since you were here!" and Hathaway replied, "You are
mistaken, I never was here in my life." Mr. Babcock led the horse
and went home with him, and it was quite a time before Hathaway
recognized his own home.
One Sunday morning an Indian looked
through the window, and before any information could be given, he
was in the house. On looking round the room he saw a scarlet shawl,
then commenced some sort of a rigmarole, the only word discernable
being "papoose," so taking it for granted he wanted the shawl for
his baby, Mrs. Babcock let him have it, then he admired Mr.
Babcock's cap, and being anxious to ge rid of him they gave him the
cap also, to his unbounded delight, and he left.
cattle passed over the Prairie, often 15,000 in a herd. One day a
cow strayed from the herd and was seen by the Dolan boys. They of
course could not undertake the catching of that cow alone so they
sought the help of Woodard, Babcock and Smith. These set out after
the cow; no easy task for if the cow saw them first, it was sure to
go for them, and sure enough the cow saw them, and was about to make
a rush at them, when they all fired, bringing it to the ground, the
animal was killed and quartered, each home having a quarter of beef.
The Dolans had no place to store their share so it was packed away
with the Babcock's beef on the Sod roof, all went well until about
midnight, when the wolves scented that meat and would have had it,
(for they had already brought it to the ground,) if they had not
been able to frighten them away; and thus the meat was saved. It has
been suggested that a few stray Texas Cows might come in handy these
days of dear meat, seeing we are not all vegetarians as yet.
Pioneers of Fillmore and Adjoining
Source: Pioneer Stories of the Pioneers of Fillmore and adjoining
Counties, by G. R. McKeith, Press of Fillmore County News, Exeter,
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