- Born: 9 Oct 1855, Morris Twp., Huron, Ontario, Canada 78
- Christened: 21 Oct 1855, Kincardine Twp., Huron Co., Ontario, Canada 79
- Marriage: Mary Magdalene Svoboda 9 Jul 1877, St. Paul, Howard County, Nebraska 77
- Died: 25 Feb 1935, Vassar, Tuscola Co., Michigan, at age 79 80
- Buried: 28 Feb 1935, Riverside Cem., Vassar, Tuscola Co., Michigan
Cause of his death was myocarditis.
Interment record says he died of myocarditis. He was a farmer.
In 1907 he was living "five miles west of St. Paul", according to his mother's obituary.
Fred Welsh, Pioneer
An account by his son, Fred V. Welsh, says, "My father, Fred, who came to Michigan at a town now called Peck in Sanilac County where he worked for a man named John Merrin who ran a farm and sub-contracted lumber logs for Simeon Murphy at a place somewhere near Cass City where Merrin ran a lumber camp. I think only white pine was cut, and was run down the Cass River to mills at Vassar. Dad worked as an ax man on the river run."
An account by his daughter, Nora Welsh Hammer, gives the following details of those early years in Michigan: "They lived in Peterborough for a time. Dad was born there. He later moved to Elks Corner, Michigan (now Peck). They lived there until Dad was eighteen. Sarah married Nelson Riness while living there. Dad went to work in the lumbering camps when he was fourteen years old. One time he walked alone, from Ludington, Michigan, on Lake Michigan, to Peck, north east of Caro, with only his little dog for company. He had been laid off at the lumber camp. He said he would have died of starvation, but for some fish given to him by Indians he met. He was delirious from mosquito bites and starvation when he reached Peck and was ill for a long time."
Another account by Nora gives slightly different details: " Fred Welsh was born to James and Elizabeth Welsh in Peterborough, Canada in 1855. His parents emigrated from County Fermanagh, Ireland, in 1837, with their parents. When he was about twelve, the family moved to Elk Corners, Michigan, now known as Peck. The country was tough and unsettled, and at an early age he started working. At the age of 14, he went to work in the lumber camps. He was discharged at Luddington and walked back to Peck through unknown and forbidding forests, across almost the whole state of Michigan, a distance of over 225 miles. He had his little dog and his rifle; he slept by logs. One night a terrible thunderstorm blew up and he took refuge in the hollow log. Several times he came upon bands of roving Indians who gave him food, but he was nearly starved and delirious from mosquitoes and flies. Nevertheless, he finally reached Elk Corners and home.
The two accounts by Nora tell of the Welshes moving to Nebraska. She wrote, "When Dad was eighteen, a covered wagon train of sixteen families, all relatives and most with large families, drove to St. Paul, Nebraska, where they settled on homesteads. Uncle Peter Welsh, who had eight children, was one of the group. I think they all came from Canada. I don't know whether my grandparents joined them at Peck or whether they came with them from Canada, and Dad was working at Peck. They settled on high, flat land, west of St. Paul, Nebraska, and it is known to this day as Canada Hill. About half of Howard County were relatives of ours."
The other account varies as to the size of the wagon train, but it gives other information. "In 1870, his parents and his six brothers and sisters immigrated to Nebraska with a wagon train consisting of 40 families. They settled on the prairies north of Grand Island, near the spot where St. Paul is now. The place is still called Canada Hill where they settled in this new land. They built sod houses, or dugouts, the first winter and survived his best they could. There were buffalo and wild game, especially prairie chickens, rabbits, and coyotes."
Nora tells about her father's activities in Nebraska before he married: "Two years before he was married, he was a teamster for the United States Army. He hauled supplies for Fort Hartsuff, named after a general, which was a distance of 75 miles each way, and he had to ford a river twice each way. On his route was the "half-way house", called the "Concrete" because it was one of the few buildings made of stone in that area. On a high hill in back of the Concrete was the grave of a white man who had been scalped by the Pawnees. The Pawnees and the Sioux made up the majority of the Indians in the area. In a canyon near Upland, Nebraska, the Sioux massacred a whole tribe of Pawnees. The unsuspecting Pawnees were in the canyon when the Sioux swooped down upon them and killed every man, woman, and child.
Nora's brother, Fred, also describes this time: "Before Dad took up his farm, he ran a tote team from Fort Hartsuff up on the Calamus River to Grand Island where the fort got its supplies. As near as I can make it, the distance was about 90 miles, with what they called a halfway stop, a large grout building of lime and gravel. The lime was burned at the location of the building close to the North Loop River, northeast of Elba, about 9 miles. The walls of this building still stand. Dad told me he had various brushes with the Indians and had to use his blacksnake whip to keep them from stealing his load of food stuffs for the fort, but they made no attempt to kill him and take his wagon. His (Dad's) main troubles were from prairie fires and fording the North Loop River when there was high water. The river would then be about one-quarter mile wide and have a swift current that you could not swim against. I tried it many times. It had a shifting sand bottom that would vary in depth from six inches to six or seven feet, and kept changing depth constantly and in flood time was impossible to ford. Dad told me he lost several loads of supplies in it, as he had to cross it going and coming back from Grand Island.
When Dad was not on the tote team he worked as a helper in building the fort (Fort Hartsuff), the buildings of which still stand, and was, as I understand it, another case of useless expenditure by the government, as the Indians never attacked it at any tine. Though the troops did go out against the Indians a number of times, Dad said he went along several times, and as he put it, was "scared fartless", but the troops from the fort handled them easily.
" ---- Dad, now 21, had a nice level "160" and a fellow living with him called Dave Shields. Both were bachelors. This was before the Union Pacific Railroad came up the valley from Grand Island 60 miles and ended in Ord. All the residents worked on it, and it meant much to them as times were hard and money scarce. But it made the North Loop Valley a place to live in, as wagon trails were the only way before, and no river bridges. (They had to ford the river.) Towns grew up along the railroad --St. Paul, Elba, North Loop, and Ord."
Fred tells of his father's marriage: "It was after the fort was built that Dad moved into the North Loop Valley and took up his homestead near what is now called Cotesfield and married mother, whose maiden name was Maggie Svoboda. She was born in Brunne, Moravia. Her father was a butcher. They had some money, and her brother Vince Svoboda was an educated man and knew how to make and keep money. He was in my time Howard County's richest man. He was county clerk for several years. St. Paul was the county seat and was named after a Judge named N. J. Paul who married Dad and Mother in 1879. Dad was an uneducated man and, until after he married mother, could not write his own name. Mother was an educated woman and taught him to read and write. Dad had to make a living for the family through the years 'by the sweat of his brow' and was a tireless worker and put in many 16-18 hour days. He was a good Dad, whose main fault was he was Irish and loved to fight and drink whiskey. I have seen him in a number of fights and nobody ever whipped him." Nora adds these details: "Dad homesteaded and met Mother while she was working in a restaurant. They were married at St. Paul and moved to his homestead at Cotesfield, Nebraska."
NORA'S STORIES OF THE NEBRASKA YEARS:
I was born in 1887 - February 27 - on my father's farm in Cotesfield, Nebraska, I know little of that period, except for what Dad told of a terrible blizzard they had that winter; a good many froze to death. In some cases the roofs blow off their soddies. Dad walked home from work through that terrible storm and found Mom in the barn where she had gone to feed the animals. The rope she had tied from the house to the barn blew loose, and she couldn't find the house where the little children were alone. They would all have perished if Dad had not found his way home.
Dad sold that farm and took a homestead and timber claim up in the hills thirteen miles northeast of Elba. There were miles and miles of rolling hills with not a tree or house in sight.
After the folks went up on the homestead, we lived in a dugout on the east side of the farm facing west. There were small windows up next to the roof, There were just the two big windows and a door on the west side. The dugout had dirt floors and was divided with board partitions like a barn. The horses were kept in a dugout by the windmill, a quarter of a mile to the west. We had to carry water for our use all that way. We had some kind of a barrel with rope wound around it and a bucket at each end of the rope. We would hitch a horse to it with a hook and would pull up one pail of water as the other one went down again. There was a big tank there by the corral, which we filled for the animals that way. The animals were kept in a corral by the tank at night, and we herded them on horseback in the daytime. The older girls all had ponies. The coyotes were so bad that we couldn't keep a cat, as they ate them, as well as any chicken that strayed away from the house. The coyotes would sit up on the hills back of the house and howl so you could hardly sleep at night. There were also some wildcats. On a moonlit night, you could hear the prairie chickens clucking like a bunch of old people.
About four years later, my dad built us a sod house by the windmill and barn. They plowed the sod in strips and cut it in squares with grass on the upper side. Then they stacked the squares in rows the size of a house they wanted and poured water over the grass so they would grow together. The windows were about half the size of an ordinary one and were set deep in the sod, which made nice windowsills for flowers. Some put paper or boards on the inside walls and whitewashed them. I think we just had building paper on the inside. We took the gray clay and puddled it with water and spread it over the ground inside. When it was given two or three coats, it looked almost like marble. We didn't have a board floor for years.
He dug wells and anything else he could do to raise money besides farming. Most of the wells that he dug were at least 120 feet deep. These wells were dug by hand, and the dirt was sent up in buckets. The clay was so hard that they didn't used curbing in the wells (wood blocking around the sides of the well to keep it from caving in). Horses were hitched to ropes that ran over a wood frame above the well. When the horses pulled, one bucket went down and the other came up with water. All of the stock was watered in this manner
They were unable to keep a cat, as coyotes would catch it as soon as it would wander from a home. There were wildcats in the hills, though. Snakes were very thick - especially the big bull snakes, which were not poisonous but were dreadful looking. We had blue racers and rattlesnakes, too, which were poisonous. Around every water hole or tank were lots of prairie dog holes. These animals were about as big as a small dog, with short tails and sharp ears. They would whistle and chatter when they were scared.
There were very few settlers. Most lived in sod houses in the canyons. The only frame buildings were on John Allen's farm (he was a rich English bachelor) and our one-room schoolhouse, which was one and a half miles from the Welsh's. The children walked back and forth every day, An old-maid aunt of one family was our first teacher. We had church in the schoolhouse. A retired minister who had taken a homestead there served as minister for us.
They plowed firebreaks around all the buildings and kept barrels of water sitting around. Those prairie fires were a fearful sight at night, roaring over those open prairies, and often the stock and all the winter feed were burned up. The cattle were herded on the prairie, as there were no fences. Once he drove his cattle through a prairie fire into the river and was able to save all of them.
The farmers usually loaded up their water barrels and went to help the neighbors when there was a fire. We all had caves, either in the ground or dug back in the hills facing east, as we had such terrible storms from west to southwest. There were also terrible hailstorms.
We were afraid of horse thieves too, as there were many roaming those prairies. My dad always traded horses when they wanted to and kept on the good side of them. I remember one they had caught and sent to prison when I was a little girl stopping for dinner in Elba with us when I was sixteen.
The cultivated fields were all on the level tops of the hills. My dad plowed with a walking plow and sowed the grain by hand from a sack he carried on his chest. There were buffalo wallows in the fields, which filled with water every time it rained, and they would get full of polliwogs if the water stood very long. The nearest river was thirteen miles to the southwest.
Obtaining fuel was a problem, as there were no trees. Corncobs were one thing we used, and I know we burned dry cow dung. We would go out in the wagon and turn them over when one side dried so the other side would dry. They did not smell too bad, being mostly prairie hay.
We had one big long room and a slanting kitchen. In addition to our own family, we also boarded the teacher. We had just one lamp, and Mom made candles out of tallow. She also made soap out of tallow.
One year the grasshoppers came in and ate everything green - they even ate the handles on the spades, hoes and everything for the salt that was on them. We had to kill all our calves and pigs and fry them down as we did not have feed enough for them. We were forced to sell all of the large livestock because they were unable to feed them.
My oldest sister, Bess, graduated from the eighth grade and taught our school for four years.
How we got enough clothes, I'll never know. Dad's sister, Carrie, was a dressmaker in St. Paul, and Mom's sister, Clementine, was dressmaker in Farwell, and they got us some clothes. Mom made a coat from Gramp Svoboda's fine overcoat that four or five girls wore. There was a new one of us girls every two years, except the last and third from last, who were boys. There were nine children altogether. Trading in Elba took us all day, and it was a thirteen-mile trip each way.
When Dad first came to Nebraska, he enlisted and was with the troops at Fort Hardsuff, near where Ord is now. He was teamster and hauled freight from Grand Island to Ord. It was necessary to ford the river near Elba. One time he lost Mom's new cookstove in the river after they had finally saved up the money for it.
Dad moved back to Elba when I was eight and ran the livery barn. He had about twenty horses, and Fred and I fed and cleaned the horses, watered them and hitched them up for customers. . He was also a marshal in Elba for a while. During that time, there was a bank robbery. The robbers came out shooting, and he fired at them with his shotgun from the middle of the street. One of them was wounded, and they were soon captured. The bank got their money back, and he received a five-dollar reward. Everyone thought it was awful after he had risked his life that way. The railroad came through in 1882. The nearest town that the railroad ran through was Elba, 13 miles away, from which they hauled supplies with lumber wagons.
Grampa Welsh had a homestead between Elba and St. Paul, and they boarded the railroad men while they were building the railroad to Ord from St. Paul. Both my aunts married railroad men. My sister, Clarice, was born the day the first train went through Elba.
Dad had an old muzzle-loading gun and had to put powder and shot down the barrel with a ramrod. He killed so many prairie chickens with that gun. Dad had another way of catching them, too. He would prop up a box and put a grain of corn under it on a string, so when the bird pulled on the corn, the box dropped down over it. I remember helping him dig out several badgers from their holes.
In Elba, we went to school and the two oldest taught. We all got the measles when I was twelve, and Leola and Bessie died just a month apart when it turned into pneumonia. Clarice was in California and came back alone. School only went to the tenth grade, so I went to school and then worked in the printing office. They had the eleventh grade the next year, which I took, and then worked in the St. Paul printing office for a year. After that, I attended college for a year and taught school one year.
In 1901, he and a friend made a trip to Michigan to visit his sister. The trip took three months each way and he stayed two days because he was home sick. They moved to Michigan with their six children in 1910, where they bought a farm and resided the rest of their lives. Fred Welsh died on February 25, 1935, in Vassar. He was buried in the Riverside Cemetery.
FRED V. WELSH'S STORIES OF LIFE IN NEBRASKA:
When the railroad came through the valley, it went into one corner of Dad's farm and out of the other making it in two triangles. H was never satisfied with it though it was rich black valley land of the kind which, of late years, irrigated, sold for $1,000 an acre. At the time, it sold for $20 or $30, I think. Dad dug many wells with the spade in order to have some money to keep things going, and, while I am on the subject of wells, I will tell you what kind of land the North Loop Valley was. It was rich black loam, and 30 to 40 feet down it was just as rich as on the top. The only thing it lacked, which Nebraska always lacked, was water. It never got enough rain, and crops burned up year after year. Cinch bugs and grasshoppers took the corn and wheat which at that time was all spring wheat, and cockle burrs grew shoulder high in the corn, and the prairie fires that once in awhile came in from the hills of Greeley county were a sight to alarm the bravest heart. I have seen them when I was a boy. When the wind was blowing strong it looked like the waves of the ocean 20 feet high and 10 miles wide, burning everything in its path. The farmers in the hills of Greeley would burn a fireguard around their homes and haystacks, but when the wind was a 60 mile-an-hour gale, the fire would jump the guards and leave nothing but the sod house which could not burn. The North Loop River was approximately a half-mile wide, and one fire out of the hills jumped the river into the valley and did all kinds of havoc in the valley.
Well, to come to a point as to what the people as a whole had to put up with, they fought drought and famine, cinchbugs and grasshoppers, prairie fires and hail, and diseases without medical help. There were no doctors to be had in most of' the places, and when diphtheria or disease came, whole families died off. When the towns were established along the railroad, a few doctors and drugs stores came in but they did not have any of the modern medicines to help them. They had to be brought to the homes with team and wagon, and it took hours to get to the nearest homes. Most of the child-ren were born with the help of a woman neighbor they called a midwife.
Well, I will forget the calamities for a spell and come back to them later, and go to the time my folks moved on to the farm near what is now Cotesfield. Dad, being Irish, tried to liven things up a bit, especially when he had a few shots or whiskey under his belt, and I will tell you about some of them. There were three or four of our family born there on the farm near Cotesfield, and that is where these Incidents occurred.
Dad still had his hired man named Dave Shields and had to haul hay to his cattle a considerable distance. They would take two teams and wagons with what we called hay racks. The hay at that time was all loose hay. These racks were built on a 10 by 14 platform with a fence around them, and set loose between the bolsters of the wagon. Anyway, Dad and Dave decided to race their teams down the dirt road in the valley. It was a straight line for about 2 miles and then took a curve at right angles. They got along very well until they reached the curves and Dad could not get his team (a pair of wild broncks) slowed down, and his hay rack flew off the wagon with him under it, and broke several of his ribs. He could not carry on with his work for some time.
These Incidents were before my time, but some of the eldest girls were born on this farm, and on the second farm on Hanson Creek, which was bordered on the west by the North Loop River. It was on the level of the rivers and not nearly as good, I think most of those things happened on the Homestead, or the first farm.
Things had been a bit dull for some time, so Dad and Dave figured to have a little rodeo of their own. They had a herd of cows and young cattle, and a large herd bull. They lassoed the bull, snagged him to a tree, and after much time and effort saddled him with their hard saddle, which happened to be a very good and expensive one, and Dad talked Dave into trying to ride him. Dave got on him while he was still snagged to a tree and Dad turned the bull loose. Dad said Dave rode him very well for a reasonable time then threw him off and took off west for the river, which was five or six miles away, crossed it, and took off into the hills of Greeley County. Dad and Dave took horses and lariats and a rifle the next day, and found the bull in a valley full of wild plum brush about 8 to 10 fact high, of which there were a good many running from the hills to the river. They could not get near enough to lariat the bull and had to shoot him with the rifle to save the saddle, which was worth several bulls at that time. I don't think they even dressed the bull out.
At a second thought, those plum canyons, as we called them, were sources of the only fruit many of the early settlers ever had. I have seen them blue and red with wild plums when they were ripe, to give color to the canyon. A large part of them were the size of a hickory nut, and blue. Others were the size of a walnut and yellow and red, and boy, were they delicious! There were some gooseberries without thorns like the eastern gooseberries. They were of good size. There were some chokecherries just like our eastern ones. That was the fruit we had at first.
It was another year of drought. Everything was burning up. Dad's brother-in-law was a preacher, and he and his helper named Rev.Sparks were holding revival meetings in the schoolhouse on Dad's farm, located in a grove of box elders that were planted for a timber claim. To come to the point, the preachers announced that they were going to pray for rain and all the settlers in the valley for miles were there. Both preachers were the shouting kind. Dad said they strode up and down the platform shouting, "Lord, we won't go home until you send us rain." The rest is Dad's Dad's description of it. Dad said the wind came up a gale and the damnedest clap of thunder you ever heard, and hail began to fall so thick it blurred the vision. The horses all broke loose and ran away, the women all fainted, and the hail continued until the crops that were left by the drought were beaten into the ground.
During these meetings there was a family of several -- I think four brothers to be exact, and their dad coming to the meetings and both the ministers advocated public confession of sin. One of the brothers got what he called religion and confessed he had been getting friendly with his brother's wife, and, as Dad put it, the damnedest fight started up among the family. Dad said the old man strode up end down on the platform telling how he would wade through blood till Dad grew tired of it and he went up and punched him in the head and dragged him outdoors.
There were four men from the East who brought a lot of money into the North Loop Valley and established ranches and ran large groups of good cattle - I think most of them purebreds. At least two of them were from Michigan. The first I don't know too much about. They were before my time. But the first was named Ed Cook, a bachelor with a housekeeper. He took up huge holdings where Elba now stands that went for four miles along the river and way back in the hills. Cook platted Elba, laid out the streets and blocks, sub-divided the blocks into lots and sold them to the public. He built a huge house, cattle sheds, and horse barns that are still there including granary and corncribs, and two large corrals or cattle yards. They were made of boards up and down, about seven feet high to keep the cattle out of the terrible cold winter winds. He died before I was old enough to remember him. His housekeeper, Mrs. Roe, lived In Elba until I was about 6 or 7 years old.
Marion Fugate, whom Dad called Mary Ann, and who had a beautiful large house and yard in Elba was the administrator of the Cook estate and had a large ranch of his own, later owned by Walter Riness, a son of Nelson and Sarah Riness. Anyway, Mary Ann was a rich man and a sport. I mean he had money enough to be one. He owned a race horse of his own named "Nanny O" on which he would wager what seemed to be at that time huge sums of money. "Nanny O", as far as I know, never lost a race. He gave Dad a lot of work on the Elba ranch, which was surely needed, and he paid Dad what was for that time fair wages for him and his team. I think Dad and he drank a lot of whiskey together, anyway. He would always bet on Dad's fights which, as far as I know, he always won. These fights were always to the finish, not by rounds, and at times the winner was the loser, if looks counted for much. I will describe one of them.
Greeley County, Nebraska was an Irishmen's town, and once in awhile one of them would come over to Elba. They were some of them real fighting men, and all were wearers of the green, who for some reason Dad heartily despised. I have found them a very likeable people, especially their blue-eyed maidens! Well, to shorten a long story, Dad and this Irishman both were feeling their oats and it was not too long till they had a fight arranged in the corral of the livery barn. As I understand, Dad was getting the worst and of it till Fugate crawled up on the fence and shouted, "I will bet $100 on Welsh", which I imagine gave him much encouragement and the other much discouragement, for after that Dad said he whipped him easily. Mother said you would never know he was the winner by the looks of him.
Well, back to the folks and their experiences on the farm on Munson Creek. As I mentioned, Dad was never satisfied with his farm after the railroad came through and made it into two triangles, so he traded it for a farm right on the Loop River and Munson Creek. It was level with the river. It was a sandy soil, not nearly as good as the first one, but was a good stock farm and there was some pasture there even in drought years. His brother Jim had bought a threshing machine and could not make it. Dad foolishly took over by mortgaging his farm. It was run by horsepower. It took four teams walking around in a circle and what we called a tumbler rod running from power to threshing machine. The machine took four men to handle it -- two band cutters, a grain feeder, and one to keep the straw away from the back end of it where it had a straw carrier built on the same principle as the combine carrier. The man that fed the grain stood at the front with a band cutter on each side and fed the grain head first into the concaves as it was shoved to him from each side by the band cutters, a hard and dangerous job. I know two men that lost an arm in the concaves as they grabbed the grain. The first binders tied with a small wire, which is the reason, I suppose, they burned their strawstacks when they were lucky enough to have one. These wires would bind around the concaves and had to be taken off with a hammer and chisel after every threshing job. There was much expense and little profit (drought years), few small jobs, and no money to be had, even by those lucky enough to have a small threshing. To make a long story short, Dad lost his farm to the mortgage and moved to Elba where they had a small house and an acre of ground. The Grasshopper Scourge - I only remember a very little of this one, but I have seen them come from the south and go north into the Dakotas as far an you could see up in the air, and as far as you could see sideways. So they darkened the sun in my time, with the cripples and worn out ones dropping to the earth, but nothing like the old settlers said this one was. They ate the Dakotas barren, and than came back and cleaned out Nebraska. They ate the part of the harness that was sweaty from the horse; they ate the fork handles where the sweat of the hand was; they invaded the houses, so the women could not keep them swept out. They got on the rails of the railroad so the engine could get no traction and utterly destroyed every green thing. I think at this time many early Nebraska people would have perished if it had not been for the good people in the eastern states that sent clothing and food. After the folks moved to Elba, Dad had what tools he had on the farm left and a good team. It is here that Marion Fugate gave him what work he could do: rebuilding corrals for the cattle; scraping them with team and scraper free of manure; ditching them so there was good drainage, patching up and rebuilding cattle sheds, and hauling in feed. It was here in Elba on Feb. 11, 1889, I had the fortune or misfortune of being born. I could never decide exactly which. Anyway, by scraping and saving, the folks saved up enough money to make a payment on a hill farm in Greeley Co. There was a lot of good land on the high fields, which were of irregular shape, caused by many dry canyons. But the farm happened to be located where the cool air from the Loop River and the hot dry air from the hills met and caused hailstorms that wiped out the crops every other year -- sometimes partly, sometimes completely, leaving nothing but prairie grass which grew again. Dad built himself a sod house on this farm. If It hadn't been for these soddies and dugouts, as they were called, where there would be a large family residing in one large room, and which were warm against the fearful cold winter winds, most all the country people would have died, as there were at that time no trees in the hill country to break the winds from the Dakotas in gales up to 70 miles-an-hour, and 40 below zero. I will try and tell you about the one we had after we moved to the farm in Greeley Co. When the folks came back to Elba from the Munson Creek farm, Dad worked for Fugate, plowed and fitted gardens, mowed lots and streets, and worked at any kind of a job he could get. And he got plenty to do, as he was a hard worker and when he was on a job he worked all the time. And the farmers were glad to get him when they could. I was born in Elba before we moved to Greeley Co. It was on the Greeley Co. farm where the folks suffered the most and got along with the least. I will attempt to describe our "soddie", as they called them. Ours was one of the best. It was approximately 16 by 20 feet, with a little kitchen built on one end about 8 feet square. It was built on a hillside and about five feet on the back, dug out of the yellow clay to a front where there was very little digging. The back and ends were carried up to an 8-foot ceiling out of sod chunks or bricks 5 inches thick, 14 inches wide, and four feet long. They were broken out of the prairie with a breaking plow, and out in lengths with a spade, and were laid in the same method as bricks are laid using loose yellow clay as a mortar. The front of our house was of up and down pine boards, 8 feet long and 1 foot wide, with wood batts over the cracks up and down. There were 2 regular 2-sash windows and a 3 by 7 door facing the valley. I think the door was up and down boards 2 thick with tar paper between. The kitchen had sod sides and ends, and a one-sash window with no door. The ends of the roof were laid in a slight circle and it was built of 2 by 10 joists lengthwise with the house, which were in a circle also. These were covered with shiplap boards bent to the circle and covered with tar paper on top of which was 12 to 16 inches of loose yellow clay. I don't remember of it ever leaking anywhere. The floor was of shiplap laid lengthwise on wood joists. The clay and sod sides were whitewashed. The wood front was papered on the wood.
As I have stated before, Fugate and Lewis both ran a ranch and gave Dad all the work he could do after we moved to Elba. A man named John Anderson ran at that time the Cook ranch, part of which Elba was built on, and had a boy named Hans, who in later years was my pal after we came back to Elba from the Greeley Co. farm when we starved off of it. The old folks would not stay down regardless of the number of times they were whipped by circumstances they could not control. The biggest mistake they ever made was going to this farm in Greeley where the devil and his imps seemed to be in full control. How the folks scraped up money for the down payment I can't figure, but they did. Some of these obstacles I will try to describe. There was drought, and hail, cinch bugs, grasshoppers, prairie fire, no fuel of any kind, diseases without doctors or medicines, and you name it, it was all there. How any lived in that God-forsaken country I'll never know, but many survived. We moved to Greeley Co. when I was three years old. Dad had fenced in 40 acres of pasture and had 6 or 8 milk cows which, when the grass did not dry up, gave us milk and butter which could be sold in Elba. But it was ten miles across the hills and was a day's drive with team and lumber wagon. This trip was made once a week and was one of the highlights of my youthful days. Dad traded in a little store run by Jay Smith, and he always gave us a small sack of mixed hard candy. This Smith was a good man and built his business into what would be considered quite a store, even in these days. But he got to fighting booze, and as most of the Polanders and Danes were boozers, they quit him and he went broke, as they quit him and want to a store run by their own kind. This farm in Greeley had a lot of flat hilltop land that was good but had irregular shaped fields that would have produced good crops if drought and hail had left it alone. Walter Riness, in his later years (Dad's nephew), put down deep wells that cost 7 or 8 thousand apiece and irrigated it with aluminum pipes and produced good crop. He acquired several thousand acres of this land. We had what was one of the better soddies which I have described, and these soddies were the only reason people could live, as they were warm and held out the howling blasts of Nebraska's blizzards. The cow barn was dug out of a hillside and covered with hay. One of the main troubles was lack of fuel, as at that tine there were no trees only along the river ten miles away. These trees were owned by ranchers and valley farmers; however, many a load of trees were hauled into the hills. We went over the pastures and picked up dried cow manure which would burn in the kitchen stove, but nearly drive you out of the house We also used dried sunflower stalks which grow in the valley bottom as large a man's arm, dried cornstalk roots, and twisted hay. There was considerable ear corn burnt when they had it as it sold for very little and it was a day's haul to the nearest town (Elba) on clay hills without roads. The folks always tried to raise pork enough to eat, and most years you had pork put down in salt brine once a day. In years of drought even this was not possible as were potatoes and any kind of garden stuff. Most of our breakfasts were, as I remember them, mush and milk, and a piece of toast, if we were lucky. Dinner was fried mush and salt pork, and if we had it, bread. Supper was more of the same. We had kerosene lamps most of the time, but once in awhile the oil would run out and we would have to get along with a "bitch" (rightly named) which was a tin cup of lard with a wool rag for a wick. It gave quite a light but gave off a black smoke that would nearly choke you if used too long, so we had our pollution problem long before modern cities. I have seen my poor old mother (God love her) with her work-cracked hands at midnight making moccasins and work mitts by the light of those bitches out of old clothes sent in by the eastern states and eating dry bread that she might save the butter for the rest of us. Well, enough calamity for now. I will come back to it later. I will try and tell some of Dad's doings while we were in Greeley Co. The county seat was Greeley, a town of Irish wearers of the green, and Dad heartily despised those men. Greeley was nearer than St. Paul and a place where you could get whiskey and a fight if you were so inclined. Dad decided to go there on St. Patrick's Day. Well, to make a long story short, he headed for the saloon. The bar was lined with Irish toasting St. Patrick. Dad asked them what all the fuss was about. They knew he was Irish, and said, "You devil ye! Don't you know it is Patrick's Day?" By this time Dad had enough whiskey in him to make him cocky, and he said, "To hell with St. Patrick! He is no better man than I am." That started it. Being badly outnumbered, he sought a little assistance by breaking a leg out of a card table, and when he hit an Irishman, he went down and stayed down. He was getting along fairly well until they started throwing billiard balls at him and hit him in the eye with one. After this it was going very badly with him, until an auctioneer named Bill Covey, who was on Dad's side and was about the same caliber as Dad, came in the saloon and broke the butt end of a billiard cue and waded in, and it was a bad day for the Irish. At least Abe saved Dad's life and got him out of there, and by that time it was a question if he was worth saving. I remember very well how he looked when he came home that night. I was three years old. Where the billiard ball struck him in the eye it was a bluish-green and stuck out of his head a full inch; his nose was mashed flat; and the rest of his face looked like pounded beefsteak. I remember poor old mother worked over him all night with poultices and hot epsom salts before he even looked human. At least he survived, and one would have thought that he would never go back to Greeley, but he did. As soon as he had recuperated, he went back with a load of corn. This time he took his old double barreled shot gun with him and kept away from the saloon. It was dark when he had his corn sold and groceries bought and started for home. He was about half way hone when his team stopped, and when he tried to urge them on an Irishmen said, "Ye devil! We got you now." Dad reached and picked up his shotgun and shot a load of buckshot between his team about ear height. Dad said there was the "damnedest" running and thumping going on and the green Irish took for the timber. Fortunately he did not kill anybody, but he sure tried. After this affair they left him alone, and he did not go to Greeley anymore at night time. Well, I may as well tell you about the coyote and hen incident while I am at it. By this time my oldest sister, Bessie, had gone through the 8th grade, and the folks, however they did it I can't figure out, had sent Bessie to Fremont Normal College. In those days you could teach if you had good grades and could get a term in the state normal, which she did. Of course she could teach only in the country schools. So Dad bought her a spotted horse, a nice blocky little fellow that could run faster than any ordinary horse I ever saw. It was the same one I have my picture on, with Hans Anderson on his. We kept the horse until he died of advanced old age. Anyway, we always kept a bunch of hens, and the coyotes always liked a hen to eat. One day Dad was leading Spot to water with his bridle on, and a coyote came into the yard and picked up a hen. Dad jumped on Spot and took after him. You could guide Spot by leaning left or right. He overtook the wolf, jerked Spot's bridle off, and whipped the wolf with the bridle until he dropped the hen. Dad brought the hen back with him. They had to kill her, but she made a very welcome pot dinner, Dad had a very nice little rifle and was a very good shot and a good many of the meats for our meals were from prairie chickens or rabbits shot by him. It was a muzzle loader and used a buckshot for a ball. I think brother Glenn's boys still have it. I used it a good deal myself when I was a kid. Well, after crop failures from drought, hail, cinch bugs, and prairie fires, Dad allowed himself to be talked into a trip to Missouri, by an old neighbor, Mike Lobart, who used to live beside him when he was in the Loop Valley, and who had a brother living there. So they rigged up two covered wagons and lit out. I remember how badly I wanted to go with them, but poor old Mother had troubles enough without me to worry about, trying to keep things going. We had a large shepherd dog that went along under the wagon. About three weeks after they had left, the old dog came back home, so sore-footed that he could hardly travel. After they returned home they told us that the dog was with them when they got to Missouri and had whipped all the dogs along the way. But when they had gotten to Missouri there was an old Billy goat eating along the road, and when the dog tackled him, he soon found out that a Billy goat was an altogether different matter than a dog. The last they saw of goat and dog, the dog was leading, and they were headed for Nebraska. Dad also got in a fracas with a large Negro and broke his hands all up pounding him on the head, till a bystander says, "The way we fight then blokes is to kick then in the shins," after which he came out all right. Neither Dad nor Lobert had any use for Missouri, its methods of farming or way of living, so they took off after the dog. On the way home they accumulated two barrels of apples and brought then along home. The neighbors and relatives were there, and our barrel of apples was gone in two days' time. In some way the folks traded what they had in the farm for an old livery and feed barn in Elba, and we moved back to town, which was mighty lucky for all of us.
OBITUARY: Funeral services were held yesterday at 2 o'clock in the afternoon for Fred Welsh sr., 79 a resident of this county for nearly half a century. He passed away at his home in this township Monday after an illness of 14 days.
The services were conducted from the home with Rev. J. Wallace Jacobus of the local Baptist church officiating and intermet was in Riverside cemetery.
Born in Peterboro, Canada, October 9, 1855, Mr. Welsh moved to this county in March 1910 and followed the occupation of farming. He was married to Maggie Welsh in the year 1878 and to this union were born 10 children, five of whom survive: Mrs. John Riley, Nebraska; Mrs. John Hammer, Fred V. Welsh jr. and Glenn L. Welsh, all of Vassar and Mrs. H.P. Dunning of Ansley, Nebraska. His wife preceded him in death November 16, 1930. He also leaves two sisters, Mrs. Elizabeth Tolliver of Idaho and Mrs. Carrie Smith of Polk, Nebraska
Noted events in his life were:
• moved to Michigan, 1869, Near Peck, Michigan.
• moved to Howard Co., Nebraska, 1873, Howard County, Nebraska.
• Naturalization, 1874. 81
• bought land, 20 Feb 1877, Howard County, Nebraska. He bought land from his father, James Welsh
• Residence, 10 Jun 1880, Cotesfield, Howard Co., Nebraska. 82 1880 census shows Fredrick, a farmer, and Magdaline with daughter, Mary E., 1 year, and daughter, Leola, 6 months.
• Residence, 4 Jun 1900, Elba, Howard County, Nebraska. 83
• moved to Michigan, 1910, Tuscola Co., Michigan.
• Residence, 15 Jan 1920, Vassar Twp., Tuscola Co., Michigan. 84
• Residence, 14 Apr 1930, Vassar Twp., Tuscola Co., Michigan. 18
Fredrick married Mary Magdalene Svoboda, daughter of Johann Svoboda and Mary Dobes, on 9 Jul 1877 in St. Paul, Howard County, Nebraska.77 (Mary Magdalene Svoboda was born on 22 Jul 1856 in Brunne, Moravia 80, died on 16 Nov 1930 in Vassar, Tuscola Co., Michigan 80,85 and was buried on 19 Nov 1930 in Riverside Cem., Vassar, Tuscola Co., Michigan.)