The Story of My First
A. H. Tobiassen, 1904
A Jones County Pioneer
In complying with a request from my daughter and my grandchildren, I have decided to put down in writing the story of my life. It is not one of great accomplishments but I realize that I too have always been interested in the story of my ancestors. So I have decided to do this, and it will give me something to occupy my mind during these days and weeks when I have scarcely anything else to do.1-28-67 (84th birthday)
I was born to Anthony Olie and Clara Susanna (Twito) Tobiassen in Lake Mills, Iowa, January 28, 1883, in a house about two blocks south of the present Lake Mills Lumber Company. My father had been born April 22, 1853, in Tromso, Norway, an island town in the northern part of the country. He spent the first 11 years of his life there until 1864 when his father, hearing glowing stories of success from friends in America, gathered his family together and set sail for this country aboard the Norwegian vessel "Norge." Landing in Quebec, the family immediately set out for Le Grange, Iowa, and then to Indian Town. There were five children in the family -- Theodore, Christian, Trina, Adrian, and Anthony. Father received his earlier education in Indian Town, followed by two terms at Grinnell College. In 1876 he left to teach school in Lake Mills and it was here that he met and married my mother, September 18, 1879. They were married 61 years -- until her death November 14, 1940. Father died October 12, 1948, at the age of 95.pictured right is A. O. Tobiassen as a young man. Below is Clara (Twito) and Charlotte "Lottie" Tobiassen
Mother's parents had both come from Norway. Her father, Hans Twito (a giant of a man noted for his strength), had come to America by himself in 1842 from Tinn, Telemarken, Norway, and settled in Muskego, Wisconsin. That same year, the Einong family from the same town in Norway set out for America in a sailing boat. During the 13-week crossing, typhoid fever broke out and the mother and one child died and were buried at sea. This family also settled in Muskego, Wisconsin. The oldest daughter, 16-year Aslang Einong, took over the task of mothering the rest of the children and making a home for them in the strange new land. In 1844 on Easter Sunday, Aslang and Hans Twito were married in Muskego. They later moved to Spring Grove, Minnesota, where all of their children were born including my mother and her twin brother John (April 3, 1864). Grandfather Twito died leaving grandmother with eight children to raise. She was a real pioneer and in the early 187O's she moved her family to Lake Mills where she bought land and raised cattle and hogs, managing her farm with great success.
Left: A "Gaggle" of Twitos and Tobiassens on the front porch in Draper, So. Dak.
When I was about four years old, father bought a 120-acre place about a mile and a half northwest of town, and we moved there from the house in town where I had been born. I have a faint memory of the days when we first lived there. My brother, James Benedict (Bennie when he was young and Ben when he got older), was three years my senior. We put in our time scouting around exploring and discovering. There was scarcely any ground under cultivation. It was mostly marsh and slough land with a ridge and some islands covered with timber. My father worked in the Van Valkenburg Lumber Yard and walked back and forth every day. There was plenty of wild fruit and nuts -- plums, grapes, crabapples, cherries, blackberries, strawberries, hazelnuts, etc. It was a fascinating place for young boys! There were many of my mother's brothers and sisters living in and near Lake Mills and they all had children, and we were together a great deal and had such good times.Right: Ben and Homer -->
Mother's brother, Tom Twito, had five children -- Hilda, Mattie, Hans, Amanda, and Oscar. Jake Twito and Aunt Carrie had seven Henry, Elmer, Alice, Cora, Mamie, Harry, and Annie. Her sister Annie Peterson had six -- Henry, Hilda, Albert, Mollie, Nettie, and Amanda. Oscar Twito of Forest City had five -- Alfred, Horace, Ada, Walter, and Tilden. Isabel Gilbertsen had three -- Galena, Martin, and Alice. Her sister Sophia Nelson had many children but they lived up in northern Minnesota and I knew but two of the children and never saw the rest of the family. John Twito, mother's twin brother, and his wife Sarah had four children -- Helmer, Emlet, Isabel, and Archie.
A sister Josie was born soon after we moved out to the farm but she died before she was two years old. I remember clearly the day my next sister Lottie (Charlotte Josephine) was born in 1889. I had been taken over to the neighbor's to stay until after the baby arrived. When I was brought back home they showed me my new sister and said the stork had brought her while I was gone, and I believed them.When I asked him if he wasn't afraid to drink that water, he said "No, the pipe would kill all the germs."
Living on a farm in those early days was quite different from what it is today. The work had to be done by hand or horse power as there were no power machines. Even threshing machines were turned by horse power. What farming was done on our place had to be done by hired help. Most of our land was too marshy and too soft for horses to walk on. An old man, Eiel Halvorsen, put up some hay on shares in the slough. He cut the grass with a scythe. Then he had a sort of rack on top of a rail with the rail stuck in the soft ground. He then raked the hay up and piled it on top of the rack after which he pulled the thing out of the ground and carried it out to the more solid ground and spread it out to dry and cure, after which he piled it up in a small stack. I used to watch him and when he wanted a drink he would punch a hole in the ground and water would fill it at once. Then he would take his clay pipe and get down and suck the water up through the pipe. When I asked him if he wasn't afraid to drink that water, he said "No, the pipe would kill all the germs."
Father had some of the upland broken up and later on we had a large garden and patches of corn, potatoes, etc. Since a large part of the land around Lake Mills was low and marshy, the county decided to build some large county ditches for drainage and the landowners dug smaller ditches to drain into the large ones. Tiles were put in to bring water to the smaller ditches. I well remember when a ditch was being dug on our place by a rig drawn by eight oxen, four yokes in a line with men on each side with goad sticks to urge them on to pull all at the same time. When the lowlands began to get drier I remember some of the men had some pads to strap onto the horses' feet so they wouldn't mire down so easy. The outside iron ring, I think, was about seven or eight inches in diameter. Most of the wagons had high wheels with narrow iron tires. But so that they could use them in the marshy ground they got the low-wheeled wagons with wide tires. Now those lowlands have been drained out and tiled and they are some of the most productive land in that section of the country.Boys and girls start smoking because they think it proves their maturity.
As a young boy I enjoyed being with the men working in the field. Erick Moen, a neighbor boy, was plowing near our place and I was following him. When he stopped to let the horses rest he took a chew of tobacco. He got me to take a chew and I chewed it until there wasn't much left. When I got home at night I became very sick and had a bad stomach ache. I told my mother what I had done and she rightly decided that I had swallowed some of the tobacco. Tobacco chewing was common practice with the men in those days. Many of the younger men smoked and rolled their own cigarettes but I never saw women smoke cigarettes. A couple of the older women I knew smoked pipes. The 19th constitution amendment in 1920 gave women the right to vote and maybe they thought equal rights with men to smoke. At least there are about as many women smoking now as there are males -- even though there is abundant proven evidence that cigarette smoking is a major cause of lung cancer and damage to the heart. Boys and girls start smoking because they think it proves their maturity.
There was lots of wild game around Lake Mills in the early days as there was Town Lake that bordered on the town site and about four miles from there was Rice Lake. Town Lake was later drained out and is now farmed. Lots of ducks, prairie chickens, rabbits, and squirrels could be found and when I got older I did lots of hunting. Gophers (ground squirrels), both striped and brown, were a pest and when we killed them we pulled their tails off and got a bounty of two or three cents apiece for them. When I would see one go in a hole I would place a snare over the hole and lay down and wait for it to stick its head out and look around. Then I would jerk the string and snare him. If they didn't come up I would pour water down the hole and they would soon stick their heads up to see if it was safe to come out. Almost every weekend we would be overnight with some of the cousins or they would be with us.
We now had quite a few cattle, some sheep, chickens, turkeys, and also a few pigs. We generally had five or six milk cows and Ben and I had to do the chores and milking. It was about this time that father bought our first team of horses -- two mares, Nellie and Fannie. We felt real proud to be handling the horses. Soon we had a mower, hay rake, rack, and did all the haying ourselves. We also sheared the sheep. It was about this time too that Ben and I did our first carpenter work. Father bought and had installed a windmill from Uncle Oscar who was a dealer in farm machinery and sold many windmills for farmers to get water for their stock as there were no gasoline motors to pump the water in those days. We had a tank kept full of water to keep the cans of milk in so they wouldn't sour. No refrigerators and no ice delivered in the country for the ice boxes. We had a cover over the tank where the milk was kept. But we wanted a house to enclose it and father told us how to build it and we did a decent job of it. We had a padlock for the door and could keep it locked. The milk tank was connected with the stock tank so that when the tank got full the water would flow into the stock tank. The cream wagon came every week and collected the cream and delivered it to the creamery.
Mother's brother Oscar died and as his wife had died earlier his children were taken over by relatives. Horace came and stayed with us, Ada with grandma, and Walter with Uncle Tom. Some of his wife's folks took the other two boys. While still on the farm I had become interested in bees. I bought the bee keeper's book by A. I. Root of Medina, Ohio, and subscribed for the American Bee Culture magazine. We had several colonies of bees and I tended to them. Many people in the neighborhood raised bees. Our friend Henry Thompson who came to America from Norway with pa's folks when dad was 11 years old, raised lots of bees and he showed me how to tend them.
In I898 father bought the Ed Hinman house in Lake Mills. It was situated right across the road from the Missouri & St. Louis Rail Road depot and contained an acre and a half of land. We also brought the bees down there as there was plenty of room for an apiary. Father was now part owner and manager of the Farmers Lumber Company (later called the Lake Mills Lumber Co.).He hollered, "What shall I do?" I told him to run and stick his head in the rain barrel -- which he did.
Ben and I fixed up a room at the back part of the house that had been used as a wood shed and storage room, and we converted it into a room where we kept beehives and bee supplies, bee veils, smokers, wax foundation, etc., and sold them to beekeepers in the area. We got the hives in crates, knocked down from the G. B. Lewis Co., and nailed them up and sold them for $1.25 a hive. I was now often called to take swarms down when they swarmed and put them in the hive I would bring with me. I was called to Forest City once to bring several new hives with me and transfer all the bees which were in old boxes and crates and put them in the new, modern hives. It was quite a job as I had to remove the brood combs and fasten them in the lower part of the hive, remove all the clear honey and put it in pails for eating. The man had a full beard and bushy red hair. He came down to watch me. He laid down between two currant bushes without a mask on and stuck his head out. Soon a bee came buzzing around him. He struck at it and that started trouble. It stung him and soon several bees were in his whiskers and hair. He hollered, "What shall I do?" I told him to run and stick his head in the rain barrel -- which he did.
Ben hired out to a farmer for nine months and later got a job in Chicago in the stockyards and stayed with a cousin of father's. Later on he got a job in the bank at Emmons and I tended the bee business alone.He then poured blasting powder in the hole and packed stuff on top of the powder after which he lit the fuse and we ran away.
While we were still on the farm we had a visit from some of father's folks who had been living in Tama County, Iowa, but were now about to move to Washington state. Aunt Trina and Uncle Theodore and two of his cousins, Anna Berthusen and her brother Follif, visited us. Uncle Theodore stayed quite a while and he did lots of rock blasting. There were lots of large boulders and they broke them up and used them for building foundations on houses and barns. He had a kind of chisel which he turned and pounded with an iron maul, thereby drilling a deep hole in the rock. He then stuck a piece of fuse in the hole and let the top extend out. He then poured blasting powder in the hole and packed stuff on top of the powder after which he lit the fuse and we ran away. The explosion split the rock up and often threw pieces into the air. Once the explosion didn't explode and for a long time Ben and I did not dare to go near the rock.
The first year I attended school was in Lake Mills but the next year a school house was built in the country and we attended it until we moved to town in 1898. I was a little behind in some subjects then as we only had seven months of school in the country. But I had a very good teacher, Miss Mabel Southwick, and she took so much time to help me. She stayed after school and with her patience and help I soon caught up and passed with very good grades. I was always interested in debates and took part in debating when I was in high school and also in Ellsworth College.
Our house needed painting and when vacation came I decided I could paint it by myself. I did, and then Grandma Twito got me to paint her house and when I finished that, my cousin's husband Isaac Larson hired me to paint his large house and granary on the farm near Scarville. The following summer I spent my vacation painting with the Stewart Brothers Painters. During the other summers while I was in school at Lake Mills, I worked in the canning factory during the canning season and at the planing mill making boxes for putting the canned corn in. Once while Jack DeVaney and I were working at the factory keeping the corn husks away as they came out on a conveyor belt from the husking room something terrible happened. As we stopped to take a short rest DeVaney stuck his fork in the ground and extended his left hand over to rest on a timber on the conveyor but he missed the timber and stuck his hand in the gears of two cog wheels and crushed several of his fingers. I can still hear just what he said, "To think that I would do a thing like that!" Jack was an exceptionally smart person. He later graduated from the Minnesota University and got into politics and ended up as a member of the U.S. Supreme Court. Ben and I also often got the job of unloading car loads of brick and tile for the lumber yard.
Grandma Twito always spoke Norwegian and tried to get me to talk it. I could speak it but not very well as we never talked it at home or among the other relatives. During the second half of the last century there were so many immigrants coming to America and settling in the west that many of the settlements had churches where the sermons were in a foreign language. There were two Norwegian churches in Lake Mills and in some areas there were German churches. There was an Irish settlement near Lake Mills at Bristol and you could hear the Irish brogue often.
I graduated from high school in 1902 in a class of eight. Dr. Fred Christianson tried to get me to study to be a doctor. He said, "You are just cut out for a doctor." He gave me a book to read and he said, "When you read that you will decide to become a doctor." At one time I had about decided to quit school and get a job and earn some money but Professor Vogenitz had a talk with me and he convinced me that it would be a very foolish thing to do. I entered Ellsworth College at Iowa Falls in the fall of 1902 and went one year. Then I taught school during the fall term in the Kettelson School about two miles out in the country and walked back and forth each day. I taught the spring term in the Linde School where we attended when we lived in the country.
In the winter of 1904-05, I taught a school near the town of Leland and boarded with the Cooley's. Ben and cousin Alfred had bought 480 acres of North Dakota land in Stutzman County for $10 per acre on the crop-payment plan. They each had a team of four horses and some household goods and tools loaded in a box car and shipped to Marion, North Dakota. They broke up lots of ground that first year and got a good crop and made quite a good payment. I went along with them and finished up a school where the teacher had to quit before the term ended. I also did some work for them converting the granary into a place to live in as there was only a stable and granary on the place. I finished the school about the first of August and then attended a summer school at the State Normal in Valley City for one month. Then I went to Fort Ransom, an inland town on the James River, and taught as principal in a two-room school. Just out of the valley was the site of the old fort. We could find many kinds of relics -- clay pipes, hobbles for horses, empty shells, etc. On a large flat boulder some characters were chiseled. They have not yet been able to figure out just how they got there. They were there when the soldiers came. Some say they were put there by the Vikings.. . . he said, "Remember you are out in the West now!"
When school was out, I went back to Lake Mills. Father was then in the land business and was making trips to the Dakotas with land seekers as the trains were running land seekers excursions every other week and so many people were seeking land or homesteads in the Dakotas. I went with him out to South Dakota and we both filed on homesteads. We moved out there in the fall (1906) and established homes on our claims. The folks had lumber in the car with their furniture and also a cow and horse. I rode in the car to look after the cow and horse. I milked the cow and gave her back the milk and she drank it. There was a small shack on their claim and they slept in it until another boy from Lake Mills, who had filed on a claim, and I finished their house. When we unloaded their furniture and lumber, we put a carpet over the things and we fixed a place and slept under it. The second night we had a snow storm and it covered up our shoes and some of our clothing. When we got the house finished enough so that they could move in, I got L. W. Wheeler to move the shack over to my claim. The snow stayed on for some time and there were some bad drifts. I had spoken to Ray Huston to move it but when I got ready for it I asked him and he said, "O, I can't move it until the snow goes away." My time was nearly up and I didn't want someone to file a contest, so I asked Wheeler and he said, "This is just a fine time to move it.", and he put some planks under it and hitched his team on and it went along fine.
When we went out to hunt for claims in the spring, the train only went as far as Presho but they were working on grading many places west of there on out to Rapid City. We got to Presho in the evening and all rooming places were filled up but an ex-priest had set up a large tent and had many cots in it. He showed us a barrel of water and a basin and some towels where we could wash in the morning and he collected 50 cents from each of us. He said he would not be there in the morning. When someone made a remark about the layout he said, "Remember you are out in the West now!" In the morning we got up and broke the ice in the barrel and cleaned up and after getting something to eat, hired a livery to take us out to look at claims. We drove out north of where Draper now is, then north past Spears' Post Office and then west and south down to Westover. Then back to the Ray Huston ranch where we stayed overnight. He had a list of claims that had been filed on but had not been established as residences yet, and relinquishments were offered for sale. As most of the better lands and those near the spots where the railroad was going to build depots and the towns would be built were already filed on, we decided it would pay to buy a good relinquishment. I paid $500 for my claim and the folks paid $800 for theirs. I moved onto my claim and I always stayed there on week ends. I had five acres broken up and planted corn and potatoes on it. There was a large prairie dog town on it and I could sit at the shack and shoot prairie dogs. I finally got rid of them by dropping poison in the holes.
I have always been interested in rifle shooting and when they had a shooting gallery at Lake Mills, Mr. Baldwin had cardboard targets and charged 10 cents for six shots at the targets. He kept the best scores until the last of the month and then gave a prize to the best score. I won twice -- once a clarinet and once a Silverine Swiss watch.
During the first few months, I was kept busy doing carpenter work helping build claim shacks and houses for new arrivals. After I had helped a neighbor build his house, we purchased a corral from a rancher who had quit farming. It consisted of large cottonwood logs placed on top of each other making a solid wall. We used a two-man saw and sawed them up into fence-post lengths and then used wedges and split them up in sizes for posts. We then built a fire and placed the bottom end of them in the fire until they were charred as he claimed that would keep them from rotting so fast. He had a yoke of oxen and we hauled them to town and sold them as there was a great demand for posts to build fences on the ground they had to break up and cultivate before they could prove up their claims. I got to learn how to drive a yoke of oxen.
I got $80 a month and that was a
fair price at that time.
When I finished high school, I took the examination for entrance to Iowa University and I had figured on entering it but I wanted to earn some money first. So in the fall of 1907, I hired out to be principal of a two-room consolidated school in the country near Enderlin, North Dakota. I got to Nome, a small town five or six miles from Enderlin, but in order to get to Enderlin by rail I would have to change trains and lay over until the next day so I decided to carry my grip and walk. I got $80 a month and that was a fair price at that time. I boarded at the home of one of the members of the school board who lived across the road from the school house. Board and room didn't cost much compared with what it does today.
When I finished school in the spring, I returned to Draper. Then a little later on, Dub Kinsella and his mother and I decided to make a trip to Seattle and take in the "World's Fair" there. It was called the "Lewis and Clark Exposition." One of Kinsella's brothers lived in Seattle, and I went on up to Lynden to visit with father's relatives. I stayed at his sister's place, the Worthens, and had a very nice time. Her children were Minnie, Elsie, Mary, and Howard. I also visited with Uncle Theodore and the Pete Berthusen's. When I went down to take in the Fair, Uncle Theodore went with me. It was such a nice trip and I was always glad I had made it. Grandma Tobiassen died while on a visit to Lake Mills with Aunt Trina and her husband. She is buried in the Lake Mills cemetery near the grave of my sister Josie.
When I returned, I got a job as principal of the two-room school at Monroe, South Dakota. I taught the eighth and ninth grades and Miss Ethel McCcord taught the lower grades. The local doctor and I became great friends and I often went with him when he made calls in the country. I would sit in the buggy and wait for him. His wife was a sister of Mrs. Carpenter of Murdo. I had about decided to quit teaching school and go back to college, but when I got back to Draper E. C. Young offered his store for sale and I decided to buy it. I had sold my homestead for $3,200 less $200 for agent's commission. My sister Lottie joined me and we assumed the name of A. H. Tobiassen & Co. We had a good business and added to the building and stock.Below: Draper Main Street, 1907
Then in 1911 the big event of my life happened when I got married to Mildred Hawkins who ran a cafe and confectionery store with her mother the second door from our store. We were married at the home of her aunt and uncle, Mr. and Mrs. C. A. Whitney (Aunt Libby and Uncle Tom), and made a honeymoon trip out to the Black Hills on the train.Right: Aunt Libby and Uncle Tom
Before getting married, I had added a kitchen to the house as we had been using the dining room as a kitchen and dining room too, but it was too crowded. In 1936 we remodeled the house by adding a good-sized living room with basement and furnace under it. We also built a screened-in front porch and we then turned the old front room into a bedroom, giving us three bedrooms. Lottie and Joseph Beach were married in 1913 and later on I bought her interest in the store. Soon my brother Ben sold out his interest in a hardware store in Marion, North Dakota, and came to Draper buying a half interest in the store. We now changed the name to Tobiassen Bros. Co.
Left: 1913 Draper fire - "Only the foundation remains."
On the night of March 13, 1913, a fire started in the basement of the McGilvera building, and fanned by a great wind, it destroyed the buildings on both sides of a whole block in the center of the town. It burned our store and the contents with the exception of a warehouse at the rear of the lot. A terrible blizzard followed the fire, and trains were delayed for more than a week. As soon as groceries could be shipped in from Chamberlain, we opened a grocery store in an empty shed on the side street to furnish groceries to the families who were badly in need of food to replenish their pantries.
At the National Republican Convention in Chicago in 1912, after a long and bitter contest, Taft was nominated as the candidate for president on the Republican ticket for a second term. Theodore Roosevelt was strongly opposed to the nomination of Taft. Roosevelt was a strong conservationist. Much scandal had developed as our timber lands and oil fields had been taken over by monopolies, and lawsuits were threatened by certain ones in Texas who had taken over the rich oil fields illegally. Roosevelt held that Taft had been too negligent in conserving our natural resources. This was a period when great monopolies and trusts were being formed and Roosevelt held that rules and regulations should be enacted to regulate them.
When Taft got the nomination, "Teddy" immediately called a meeting and he was chosen as their candidate and a new party was formed and was called the Progressive Party. Someone asked if he was feeling fit enough to assume the head of the party and leadership in a strenuous campaign and he answered, "I am as strong as a Bull Moose," and after that the party was often referred to as the Bull Moose Party.
Now the first state to hold a Republican Convention after the Chicago Convention was South Dakota, and I was a delegate to that convention which was held in Sioux Falls. Roosevelt was very popular in that state as he had lived in North Dakota and so many of his Rough Riders in the Spanish War of 1898 were from the Dakotas and his views on conservation were popular with the people in that territory. At the convention many of us who were for Roosevelt held a rump convention in a large basement and decided that we would vote to endorse Roosevelt for president instead of Taft. When the convention was called to order a motion was made to endorse "Teddy" instead of Taft and it carried by a good margin but it raised a great hullabaloo among those who were for Taft. When I got home as I was walking up the street, Mr. Purvis, the saloonkeeper, came out and stopped me. He said, "You did a crazy thing -- chosen as a Republican delegate and then vote for a man in another party!" I told him I represented the people of South Dakota and I knew they were for Roosevelt. He said, "I will bet you $10 Taft will beat him." I called him and at the election in the fall, South Dakota went strong for Roosevelt and in the national election he got more votes by far than Taft but since the Republican party was split Wilson, the Democrat, was elected president.
Left: A new store, 1913
After the big fire we immediately made plans for erecting a new building. We sold the old lot and bought one a little more centrally located. We hired Beckhart and Agnew to build the new store building. It was built by the Frost patent -- two walls of concrete, one four inches and one three inches with a two-inch space between them and all connected and reinforced by iron rods. It had a full basement and an elevator to bring goods up or down, and a room in the rear where we unloaded and unpacked the goods. We moved the old warehouse down and put it on the rear of the new lot. It was used to store the flour and salt in as we got the flour and the barrel of rock salt in carload lots. The building was completed in the fall, and Mille and I went to Minneapolis and St. Paul to purchase a line of dry goods from the Lindeke-Warner Co.
Another big event had taken place in my life when a baby girl was born to our union. We had the baby, Aileen Alice, on our buying trip to Minneapolis. We had left her in the care of some women clerks at Lindeke-Warner's while we were transacting our business elsewhere in the building. My father had come up to Minneapolis unexpectedly and he knew where we would probably be. Arriving at the store he asked some clerks if we had been there. They said, "Yes, and here is their baby." That was the first time he had seen his grandchild. We were certainly surprised to come back and find him with the baby.Left: Aileen, early photo
Mille's mother, Alice Hawkins, was now living with us and she was an expert cook and enjoyed baking, cooking, and sewing, and it gave Mille time to help in the store. She sort of took charge of the dry goods department. If she wasn't needed in the store she was generally tending to her flowers and garden. We had a good line of Star Brand shoes and we now bought out the Kinsella Company that had commenced a store in a building formerly used as a saloon. Later on we bought out a small store that had started up across from ours and now we were the only general store in Draper.
My brother Ben and Rachel Vick were married in Draper. On May 30, Memorial Day, 1918, we were holding a meeting in the Draper Opera House and I was the speaker. When we were through and came out I was greeted with the news that Rachel had given birth to a baby boy. James is now a dentist and lives in Aptos, California, and has four boys -- the only Tobiassens now besides me. My brother Ben died in 1934 after a long illness.
My sister Lottie and Joe Beach had two daughters, Neva and Gladys. Neva McCullough also has two daughters, Maxine and Marjorie. She and her family live in Black Hawk, South Dakota. Gladys Nichols and her husband live in Mesa, Arizona. Lottie died October 3, 1958.Right: Gladys and Neva Beach
In July 1935, three friends and I drove out to Rapid City to witness the ascension of the balloon that took Captains Stephens and Anderson up 14 miles into the stratosphere. This was the highest up anyone had been at that time.
I had been active in politics and had made the nominating speech for Al Zoske when he decided to run for state senator. When Martin Parish agreed to run for State Commissioner of Public Lands at the meeting in Murdo they asked him who he wanted to nominate him at the state convention at Pierre, and he said Homer Tobiassen so they appointed me as one of the delegates and I made the nominating speech for him. There were three of us delegates from Jones County and we all went in one car but one man who lived up by Van Meter on the Northwestern Railroad. When we got our checks, which were figured so much a mile by nearest rail from your post office, ours were many times as much as the man from Van Meter. Our mileage was figured to Mitchell, then north to Woolsey, and then on to Pierre, while his was just from Van Meter to Pierre which is just a few miles.
In 1924 I was nominated for state senator. In the election that fall, I carried all the towns in both Jones and Lyman Counties but the Farmers Union was very active at that time and when the votes were all in I lost out by a small margin. When I became a rural mail carrier I did not take an active part in politics, as civil service employees are not allowed to be active in party politics. I was chairman of the school board when we decided to build the new school house in 1920, and there was quite a contest on both pro and con for building the school. When it was being built I took all the papers that contained the arguments in regard to building it and put them in a glass jar and placed it behind the brick above the entrance to the new building so it will be available when the school house is someday destroyed.
I had sold the store in 1920 to McManus and we retired from the store business, but we still owned the printing office and the theater. I had been having James Convey do the actual printing but we now took over and did it all ourselves putting out the weekly county newspaper called the Draper Tribune. We also ran the picture show ourselves now. We continued both of these ourselves for several years but I finally got into the insurance and real estate business and disposed of the newspaper and picture show. I continued in the land and insurance business until I started carrying mail in 1930.
While I was a mail carrier I attended rural carrier state meetings and I was elected president of the South Dakota association in 1940-41. Mille was also active in the auxiliary and was elected state secretary. We attended national conventions in St. Louis and Columbus, Ohio, and I took part in the one in Minneapolis at the time of the second World War. While carrying mail I generally had time during afternoons to do some wood carving, a thing I had always wanted to do since I had worked in the planing mill. While there, Ben and I and a man who worked in the mill decided to build a boat. He had been a boat builder in Norway and was an expert at it. It was a keel boat 16 feet long. He constructed the keel from a 4x4 and made curved ribs to form the framework for the sides. The sides were made of cedar sidings and fastened together by copper rivets with pitch between each one to seal out the water. It was the only keel boat on Rice Lake at that time. All the others were flat-bottom boats. It had two sets of oars.
It was in 1915 that I got my first automobile. I traded a quarter section of rough land for a 1913 model Rambler with an auto firm in Sioux City. I went down there to bring the car home but as I had never driven a car he sent a man with me as far as Yankton. I then proceeded alone. There were no hard-surfaced roads on the entire way at that time. I came to a muddy strip and had to get a farmer to pull me out. This was one of the first years that they had self starters on cars and they did not work very well. The car wouldn't start so I had to get the crank and turn it by hand. When it started I forgot to take the crank out and when I got to Chamberlain it had fallen off and I was unable to find another one in Chamberlain. So I had a fellow get his car and give me a push. There was no bridge across the Missouri River at Chamberlain at that time and we had to cross on a ferry so I let the motor run until we got across. A little way out from Oacoma I killed the engine and had no crank and the starter wouldn't work. Finally a fellow came on horseback and we jacked the hind wheels up and put the car in gear and he turned the hind wheel until we got it started. It ran until I got about four miles from Draper and then it stopped again, and I found out I was out of gas. I phoned to Draper from Clancey's and got Joe Beach to bring me out a can of gasoline and he pushed the car with his. I finally got home and I knew a lot more about cars than I did before!We stopped in all the towns and Baker would draw a crowd by singing and playing on his banjo.
When we first went out to South Dakota there was nothing but dirt roads and when the roads got muddy it was almost impossible to travel by auto on that heavy clay (or "gumbo") soil. This caused a great demand for better roads as travel by auto became the prevailing way of getting places. Great rivalry grew as to which route should be developed, especially from east to west out to the scenic spots in the Black Hills and parks out in the western states. Great rivalry developed between the routes that are now No. 14 through Pierre and No. 16 through Chamberlain. At that time a trip was made which started at Sheridan, Wyoming, in a large car with a sort of platform on the rear. The purpose was to promote the improvement of what is now No. 16 crossing the Missouri River at Chamberlain. Draper was very much interested in this. There were six of us who made the trip. One man from Sheridan (Mr. Fisher) who was really the main promoter and a man from the Jackson Hole Park District, Mr. Baker of Rapid City (a son of the manager of Baker Park and he was a singer and musician), Attorney Martin Parish of Murdo, myself from Draper, and a man from Chamberlain. The man from Jackson, Wyoming, was a cousin of President Woodrow Wilson. We stopped in all the towns and Baker would draw a crowd by singing and playing on his banjo. Then he would explain our plans and speak from the back of the car. We called the route the "Scenic Route" and signs were later put up along the Scenic Route. When we got to Sioux Falls they prepared a dinner for us and gave a dance and we had a very pleasant time. This route was known as the "Scenic Highway" until the United States numbered the interstate highways and it became Highway 16.RIGHT: Mille's notes for OES, 1915
In 1912 I joined the Masonic Lodge at Draper and shortly afterward Mille and I joined the OES. But the great fire of March 1913 destroyed our lodge room and we had to hold our meetings in a room over the lumberyard office. Mille became Worthy Matron of the Eastern Star Chapter and I was Master of the Draper Masonic Lodge in 1915. As we had failed to find a suitable room for our meetings we decided to surrender our charter and the members received Grand Chapter demits. Later on I joined the Murdo Masonic Lodge and we both joined the Magic City Chapter OES at Murdo. I became Master of the Murdo Lodge and was Worthy Patron of Emelie Chapter for three years. I took an active part in our district meetings and was often the speaker on the programs.
In the year 1913 I subscribed for the National Geographic Magazine. 1 became very much interested in it and realized it was a valuable magazine to keep. I saved all issues and soon took on the task of binding them. At that time I was in the printing business and some of the presses and paper cutters came in handy in binding but later on I made my own equipment for binding. I now have all the issues bound from 1913 to the present time -- over a hundred volumes. All are indexed and two special books with indexes or a table of contents for the entire set.
Homer & Mille, 1952
In 1939 we made a trip to the west coast to visit father's relatives at Lynden, Washington and to take in the World's Fair at San Francisco. Aileen was with us and we had a wonderful trip. In 1934 Rachel and James, Mille, Aileen and I had attended the Chicago World's Fair. We visited many of the interesting places in Chicago as well as taking in the sights of the Fair. Later Mille and I made a trip to Florida and stayed at St. Petersburg. After I retired from the postal job in 1950 we, with Mille's uncle, Tom Whitney, started on a trip to visit Aileen and her family at Bloomington and then proceed to Florida but our car skidded on an icy spot and tipped over near Farmington, Illinois. We all got bruised up some but Uncle Tom got hurt worse. We took him to the hospital in Bloomington and he seemed to be getting along real well but all of a sudden he took a turn and died suddenly. We accompanied the body back to DeWitte, Iowa and after the funeral we returned and then went on to Pensacola, Florida. When we returned to Draper we disposed of our home (1951) and moved to Bloomington, Illinois. We bought a house at 11 Dawes Place and planted some fruit trees, shrubs, flowers, and a small garden. Mille enjoys her flowers so much. We are so happy to be here with our daughter, our grandchildren -- Patricia and Stewart, Jr. (Toby), and our great grandchildren -- Tamara and Teresa (Tami and Terri)!
50-year anniversary family photo. Left to right: Terri, Dave, Pat and Tami, Homer & Mille (just behind the huge corsage), Aileen, Stu and Stu Jr. - October 2, 1961
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