John Eakin Cochran – Part 1
by John E. Cochran 1857-1952
Editor's Note: This autobiography was first published the 1940s in John E. Cochran's book, Pioneer Days, published by E.S. Knapp in Spokane. The book was reprinted in the 1960s. The chapters that contained John's story were serialized in Cochran Chronicles from 2009-2012.
Through his life John E. recorded significant events in a diary. After his retirement to Colfax in 1940, his daughters urged him to write down some of his stories. There are lots of places in his narrative where details were missing and timing is difficult to follow. After all they are the memories of an 83 year old. Even without clarification, it is fascinating to read John's words telling his story that began before the Civil War in his own way.
I was born in Monroe County, Tennessee, September 28, 1857. At the age of six I went to school. The schoolhouse was small and made of logs. Benches were of chestnut logs. The bark had been peeled off and the logs had been split in the middle. Four holes were bored in each half log and pegs were put in for legs. We had no backs. Benches were different heights to fit the pupils. Our schools were conducted only three or four months a year.
I was quite small when father went to war. He fought on the Confederate side. We were not far from the war zone and many times the soldiers from both the North and the South passed our house. Anything they wanted—our stock, garden stuff, chickens, meat—were picked up by either side. Mother hid a soldier in our house once. We children did not know he were there until he had been fed, doctored, and rested many days. My sisters raised a good crop of corn while father was at war. He fought in several battles and was held a prisoner for many months.
I remember the time when soldiers commandeered Johnson's mill and ground grain for the community. They took only the legal toll - one eighth of the grain. This was the legal charge according to the U. S. Government. The soldiers in our neighborhood had drill practice and roll call, but it was the custom for a mess mate or friend to answer for you. In the winter when we butchered hogs a soldier helped father cut the meat, make the sausage, and render the lard. This soldier whose name was Shay taught father a lot about saving all the parts of the hog. He even peeled the snout and pickled it with pig's feet. We saved everything but the squeal.
We entertained both the Northern and Southern soldiers alike, and we were treated equally well by both the north and the south. Both sides foraged. Father had a mow filled with hay. The forage master came and took it but gave a receipt. In a few days another officer came to see how much corn we had. Father showed him the corn crib, which did not have much corn. Father told him his girls had raised the corn while he was at Vicksburg. This was in March. No corn had been planted yet. The officer said that we did not have enough corn to put in our own crop. Next day a wagon drawn by four horses drove up to our place with several sacks of shelled corn. It was nice clean yellow corn — it was a variety we had never seen. We planted it and it did so well it became the standard crop of our community.
Much as I liked old Tennessee there was a time when the west called me. Following the Civil War there had been a movement westward to the Rocky Mountains area and to the Pacific Northwest. The covered wagon had taken thousands of families from the eastern states to new homes in the far west. On May 10, 1869, there was an unusual event west of Ogden, Utah. It was the driving of the golden spike when the first transcontinental railroad went across our country. Up to that time it took two months to cross the prairies. Now the iron horse took people to San Francisco from which place new settlers went North and South.
J.P.T. McCroskey, a neighbor, had gone from Tennessee to Washington Territory and had located near Colfax. He wrote letters home and these letters were published in the local papers. Soon my brother Bill and my brother-in-law, Pleas Kittrell, were located in that western area and I was soon to join them.
On August 2, 1880, I left my home in Monroe County, Tennessee for the Pacific, accompanied by my sister, Texie Kittrell, and her nine months old boy, Edgar. Father, mother and cousin, Lafayet Lowry, went with us to Sweetwater, our railroad town. We stayed there until 4 a.m. August 3 when the train came in. Mother's parting words were, "John, be a good boy and tell Billy to be good, too."
Our through tickets were handed to us at Chattanooga. They cost $60 each. We crossed the Tennessee River at Covington, Kentucky and went via St. Louis and Kansas City to Council Bluffs where we changed cars. Through Nebraska I got my first sight of real prairie. We rode for miles thru cornfields. I stood in the car and looked back. The steel rails seemed to come together. We passed through Wyoming and watched the prairie dogs. We came in sight of Black Hills and then crossed the Rockies at Sherman, Wyoming, the highest point on that road.
We passed by the thousand Mile Tree, so called because 1000 miles from San Francisco. We traveled slowly in an emigrant car. We had our own bedding. We bought mattresses filled with corn shucks to sit on. Car seats only had slats. We turned our two seats opposite each other and put our mattresses and quilts on them. We warmed up our food and made coffee on the stove.
At Elko, Nevada, a man came into the train while it was stopping and asked if there was anyone there from Tennessee. We boys knew each other as Tennessee, Maine, Missouri or Arkansas or the state from which we came, Joe Williams yelled out "Tennessee, you are wanted." I went to the door and met a man who said his name was John M. Lane who wanted me to stay with him and be a policeman in Elko, Nevada. He said he'd give me a good time and show me how to make easy money. I told him I was going to Colfax, Washington Territory. I didn't want to be a policeman.
Our train was 11 days going from Sweetwater, Tenn. to San Francisco, Calif. We arrived at the Golden Gate at 10 A.M. but by 3 P.M. we were on the ship, Oregon, bound for Portland, Oregon.
In 1880 San Francisco had a population of 233,959 while Los Angeles had only 11,183. But in 1940 Los Angeles had 1,504,277 and was larger than San Francisco, Portland, Tacoma and Seattle combined. It was the railroad that gave San Francisco the early start.
On leaving San Francisco on the ship, it was a beautiful sight to look out on the big ocean and it was thrilling to hear the sea lions bark on the cliffs as we sailed out of the harbor. We were silent and solemn. We were bound for the land of promise and would soon be at the end of our journey.
This Joe Williams and I had become good pals. We were sitting on a bench on the ship as we sailed out on the dark blue ocean, watching the big waves go up and down, when he asked me if I had brought anything along to keep me from being seasick. I told him I had not. Joe took a bottle from his pocket and said, "I did." He offered me a drink. I said, "No, not now." Joe looked at me in a hurt way and said he would try it anyway. He took a good drink, was quiet for a few minutes, and then rushed to the railing and there was much ado. He then went to his bunk and was sick till we got to the mouth of the Columbia four days later.
At the mouth of the Columbia a pilot came on board our ship while we were at anchor. He directed the pilot of our ship through the drifting sand bars at the mouth of the Columbia. The sand bars are continually shifting as the waves and the tides move them. We anchored or tied up at Astoria where we changed to another boat headed for Portland. We stayed all night on this boat and in the morning we sailed as far as Celilo. In 1880 there were no locks in the Columbia so we had to get off this boat and climb up some steps on the bank of the river. We then got on a railroad car and rode for a mile or so, changing again to a boat—a nice steam boat, called the D.S.Baker and started up the Columbia to Wallula, Washington Territory.
It was a beautiful summer day and all on board seemed happy and cheerful. Everything on the boat was clean. Beds were good. They set a good table. It was a pleasure to travel on such a boat. There were chickens on board in a coop on top. At midnight the cock crowed, giving us country folks a homey feeling.
We arrived at Wallula at 1 P.M. and took a rather famous train to Walla Walla. This train was slow. It was a narrow gauge. There were 4 by 6 ties and 4 by 4 sawed rails with strap iron nailed on top for the car wheels to roll on. There was one coach and a baggage car and 10 passengers. We got to Walla Walla by 5 P.M. on August 19, 1880. Train and stage did not make connections so we stayed over night at the Columbia Hotel, where we found bed bugs.
By 1880 Walla Walla was the metropolis of the Inland Empire area. The Northern Pacific Railroad had not yet gone into Spokane. The only railroad of the Inland Empire was Baker's strap iron railway from Wallula to Walla Walla. It was built by Dr. Dorsey S. Baker. It was 32 miles long. Baker went east to Pittsburgh in 1872 and bought a 7 1/2 ton locomotive. Often the strap iron on the wooden rails worked loose and wound around the wheels and punched holes in the floor of the car. The train was then stopped till the strap iron was again nailed down.
One reason Baker used strap iron was because he could not afford iron rails. He financed the road personally. When the road reached the site of the Whitman Mission, six miles west of Walla Walla, he ran out of funds and said that the terminus would be at the Mission. That meant that the town of Walla Walla would not be the terminus. Fearing that a rival town would grow up west of Walla Walla, the citizens of Walla Walla hurriedly raised $25,000 to help Dr. Baker build his road into Walla Walla. His road was never mortgaged. It paid good profits. He sold it to the Oregon Navigation Company.
After spending the night in Walla Walla, we went on to Dayton and remained there Saturday and Sunday as the stage to Colfax did not run on Sunday. I went to church at 11 A.M. and in the evening. My diary says, "Rev. Van Patten preached from text Exodus 12:13. In the evening his text was Isaiah 35:8." Diary also says, "This is the third Sabbath I have been on the road from Tennessee to Washington Territory and I feel better tonight than I have since I left home."
About the trip from Walla Walla to Dayton my diary says, "Today I have seen things quite pleasing to the eye. Wheat fields as yellow as gold and men harvesting in the fields."
On Monday at 5 A.M. the stage left Dayton for Colfax and Texie, Edgar and I were on board. We stopped for breakfast at Pataha. Roads were rough and dusty. There were ropes on the front seat for us to hold on to so as to steady ourselves when we hit the chuck holes. It was necessary to change horses every 20 miles when we put on six new horses. We arrived at Colfax at 5 P.M. and hired a man to take us out to the J. P. T. McCroskey place, which was four miles south of Steptoe Butte. It was Monday, August 22. At last we were at the end of our transcontinental trip.
The next day, August 23, I started across the country south of Kamiak Butte to see Billy, my brother, and Pleas Kittrell, Texie's husband. Pleas was working in the hayfield so I took his place and he went to the McCroskey's place to get his wife and baby boy, Edgar.
I met Billy, my brother, at Gus McQueen's place. Billy was teaching school at a school house called Dog Creek. Harvest was in full swing. The wheat and oats were fine. I worked from daylight till dark for $1.50 a day and board. I shocked grain for Henry Hunt till it was all in shock. Jim Stevenson came to Mr. Hunt and asked him to bind his (Stevenson's) crop. He asked Mr. Hunt if he knew where he could get a hand to shock for him. Mr. Hunt said he would bring me with him. So we started about 11 A.M. I went along to help open and shut the fence where the binder was taken through.
I had eaten an early breakfast and when we got to the Stevenson home I was hungry. Mr. Hunt introduced me to the Stevenson's very politely. Mrs. Stevenson had prepared an excellent meal of warm biscuits, beefsteak, butter, fine cold milk, potatoes, gravy and dried apple pie. Dried fruit was the kind of fruit used at this time. Needless to say I was well pleased with the dinner. Mr. Stevenson returned thanks at each meal. He was a fine Christian man. He had a motherly wife who gave me a good bed in which to sleep. They had books and papers to read. They made one feel at home. They had four children, a boy and three girls—ages were from two to 10. The boy's name was Ollie. The girls were Leona, Axle and Hettie, They were as fine a family as one would care to meet. Mrs. Stevenson talked to us like a mother. It was a pleasant home for a lonesome boy.
I usually wrote letters on Sunday at my leisure. She praised me for this and said I should write to my mother often. She knew my mother was always glad to get a letter even if I did not have much to say. The letter would show her that I was thinking of her.
I still think of the Stevensons though the father and mother have passed on to their reward. Some of the children are still living. It was fortunate when I came into this new country that I found such a nice home. This kept me from becoming lonesome and homesick after leaving a fine home in Tennessee.
EARLY EXPERIENCES IN THE COLFAX COUNTRY
The preceding chapter tells about the month of August 1880, when I left the state of Tennessee the first of the month and going via San Francisco and Astoria reached the Colfax country safely and found a good home—Jim Stevenson. August was a most interesting month, I had seen many people. I had covered much territory. August ended with considerable rain. This was a surprise to me. Diary says on August 31, 1880, "Bad weather for harvest. This is the coldest time I ever saw for this time of the year. I will work for Jas. Stevenson as soon as I can go to work. It is raining today, I cannot do anything now but I am to get $1.50 per day when I go to work."
I must tell of an instance in the harvest field. I was hauling bundles to the thrashing machine and it was the custom when dinner was called to quit work at once no matter where the wagon was -- loaded or partly loaded. We would unhitch the teams and start for the house, I was driving a nice team, very quiet and most pleasant to handle. A young man who was pitching bundles to me on my wagon, a nice jovial young fellow (Robert Hawks) said to me, "You ride this one and I'll ride the other." "Agreed," I said and began to mount the horse. Then Robert said that he thought I had better not try it as he knew that horse. I paid no attention to him but onto the nice horse I quickly went. The next thing I knew I was lying on my back on the ground and the quiet horse was on her way to the barn. I was a tender-foot but I had no one to blame. Up to that time I had never seen a horse buck but have seen many of them—since.
Sept, 29 my Diary said, "I am 23 years old today. Received a number of letters from Tennessee." On Sept. 30 the Dairy says, "This has been a pleasant month, I have seen such fine wheat crops. There has been a hard freeze, killing vegetation,"'
In October, 1880, when harvest was over my brother and I went to work on the railroad which was building north from Walla Walla. We got $2 per day. We worked on the railroad until December and then went to Walla Walla to be paid off. There was a wagon train of 13 wagons and 25 men leaving Walla Walla for Colfax. We embarked with the crowd and put our luggage in a man's wagon. He was the "Wagon Master" and his name was Bob Cochran. He assigned each man his place in the line each morning. There were 25 to 30 head of loose work horses to drive. He kept them in front. The morning we left Walla Walla it began to snow. We were loaded with apples, squash, syrup, sugar, salt, stoves, rice, flour, crosscut saws, kegs of nails and anything else we might need in the winter. Walla Walla was the big shipping point for the Inland Empire, The merchandise came up the Columbia to Wallula and then on the Baker railroad to Walla Walla, the same route I followed in August.
Those were real pioneer days and we had no hotels in the country. In the evening it would clear up and freeze. The next day it would snow. We would camp at an eating place and pay 25 cents for a meal for a man and 25 cents for the hay for a horse. We crossed the Snake River at Central Ferry where the ice was running badly. That night we camped with a man named Clark, We were cold and hungry and scared. But we found that Mr. Clark had sheds and feed for the stock –also a nice big kitchen, lots of Irish potatoes which were cooked with their jackets on, a large pot of boiled beef, lots of gravy, and sour dough biscuits as big as saucers. There was black coffee, butter and sugar. This bunch of hungry, cold men made the grub disappear rapidly. After supper Mr. Clark let us put our blankets on the kitchen floor and we had a very comfortable night.
In the morning we had more snow. We moved slowly up the river. Thousands of cattle were sheltering along the bluffs. We had to drive them out of the road so our wagons could go along. That night we got to Alkali Flat and wondered where we would sleep. The Wagon Master went ahead to find a place for the stock and for the men. He found a haystack but the owner said he could not care for the men and the stock. The Wagon Master began to tell the men how to bunch the wagons for the night so as to break the wind. He said he would soon have a nice fire if he could burn the poles from the corral. The owner of the haystack asked us to wait until he could see his wife. Soon the man returned and said we could tie the horses in the barn and feed them hay. We had grain in our wagons. When the stock was fed we were asked to come to the house and cook on the stove. Said the man, "Here is plenty of wood; make yourselves comfortable. Put your beds on the floor. We'll not get up early. Cook your breakfast in the morning." In the morning he charged us only 25 cents apiece and 25 cents per horse.
The snow was getting pretty deep as we neared Colfax because Colfax is much higher than the Snake valley. A few miles from Colfax we stopped with a man named Rhineheart. He was a pleasant old man and had quite a family. It snowed all night and in the morning there was no trace of a road over the hills to Colfax. We paid George Rhineheart $5.00 to take his sled and break a road to the town. This was a memorable trip for a tenderfoot from Walla Walla to Colfax, a distance of 84 miles in five days. Autos now make the trip in less than two hours. But in 1880 we had poor roads. We stopped a few days at the Baldwin House, then went eight miles east where our brother-in-law lived. The three of us engaged in burning charcoal. The snow was deep but we had fair success. We burned two or three pits of coal and found a ready sale for all we could burn when delivered to Colfax at $20 per ton.
We lived well that winter. We had plenty of wheat at the flour mill. We had taken wheat as pay for our work in the harvest fields. Beef was cheap, only 4 and 5 cents. a pound. Brown sugar was 5cents a pound. Syrup was a dollar per gallon in tin cans. My sister Texie was a good cook. Billy and Pleas would entertain us evenings with weird tales of earlier days as they traveled to the railroad to get work. They got $2 per day driving scraper teams on the dump. They had to go to Sprague, a distance of 60 miles, and they carried their blankets on their backs. Billy always carried a pistol and Pleas always had a pipe. Once they went broke. This was at Rock Lake, Washington Territory. Billy traded his pistol for two loaves of bread and supper and breakfast for both of them. Later Pleas traded his pipe for two more loaves.
The winter of 1880 was long and dreary. There was so much snow we did not go to social activities, debates, neighborhood sings or to church. We had our own entertainments and we called them, "The Modoc Struggle."
In February of 1881 I visited my old friends, the Stevensons. He wanted a man to help him cut cordwood and said he would pay $1 per day, I told him I would rather work for $20 a month. He said he preferred to pay $1 per day. 1 began at once to work for him by the day, but there was snow, snow, snow --every day. 1 expected him to have me quit on account of the snow and cold. He told me later that he was expecting me to quit because of the cold. He was anxious to get enough wood cut in the winter to give him employment hauling wood to Colfax during the summer to get his groceries and other supplies.
Homesteaders usually paid cash but credit was available to men improving the land or making a home. The common interest was 1 ½ percent, per month—18 percent per year but sometimes it was 2 percent per month or 24% per year. There were many stock mortgages or a man went on your note. Notes were payable in 90 days or were renewed.
In the spring of 1881 the 0,R.& N. Railroad was being built from Texas Ferry on the Snake River to Colfax. Men and teams were wanted at $4 per day. Pleas, his wife Texie, Billy and I were anxious to start. We bought a tent and a team apiece and went to Texas Ferry on the Snake River to make our fortune. The roads were not very good and the horses were rather cold shouldered. We had to be pulled out of the mud but teamsters were good hearted and seldom charged each other. This was in March. When we got down to the Snake River it was fine spring weather.
I told about the cattle sheltered along the bluffs as we were going from Walla Walla to Colfax in a blizzard. Now as we in the spring went along that same road we found the carcasses of hundreds of cattle. One could step from one carcass to the other. Cows, calves, big steers and some horses had perished in the storm, 1880 was known as the "cow killer" year. Stockmen would say that any year ending in a cipher (0) was supposed to be a bad one. I have never in the past 60 years seen such a winter as 1880. However, we had a big loss of cattle in 1890 in the Colfax country.
We had a successful summer. There was plenty of work for men and teams. The wages were $2 per day for a man and $4 for man and team. Billy and I had a good four horse team. We had new harness and the horses were in fine shape. It took two men and four horses to plow up the dirt. The scraper could be filled easily as the team was driven through the dirt. (Diary for April 28,1881, says that one of the horses broke its neck by being picketed out by the neck. It was a rather expensive learning experience.
On May 26, the diary says, "Since I have come on this railroad job I have formed the acquaintance of some pretty good boys—and some awfully rough.
The last day of May was disagreeable according to Diary: "This has been one of the most disagreeable days I ever saw on account of the dust, wind and cold." But on June 6 Diary says: "We have moved 20 miles. We are camped by a beautiful spring and in one of the finest places I ever saw. Grass cannot be surpassed. Horses look fine."
We did not like the alkali water or the hot weather of the Snake River country but the boss wanted us to stay on the road so he offered us a contract in the Rebel Flat country. We got 10 cents per square yard for loose dirt and 12 ½ cents for dirt, rock and gravel. We made $1500 apiece that summer.
Diary for June 25 said: "Although this is a very rough life, Saturday evening always brings pleasure. Many hands work on Sunday, but we have never done so."
Diary July 4, 1881 said: "Great celebration today with flags flying. Beer drinking among the Dutch and whiskey among the Irish—Union Flat, Washington Territory.)
It was in July that the sad news came that President Garfield had been shot.
Diary of August 1, 1881 said: "One year ago today I was at my home in Tennessee. Now I am on a plain in Washington Territory. August 24: Received a letter from my mother today. On last night of August Diary says: This is a lovely night. Everything is quiet. Bells can be heard tinkling. Cattle lowing. Men are conversing over affairs of the day. Some are content; some are not; some are cursing—they know not what for. Others are asleep, perhaps dreaming of home and friends. I am studying, looking to the future."
Sept. 15, 1881, Diary says: Received a letter from father. This is the quickest mail I have received. Same day Diary says: Received $486.25 for grading 2000 feet of railroad at Rock Lake, Washington Territory. Sept. 18: This is the third Sabbath of September. Dreaming of home, dear old home, home of my childhood and mother. Not at all homesick but thoughtful of the past.
Sept. 27: We moved today 395 yards of earth with four teams. We get 10 cents per yard ($39.50). We are doing well. Sept. 29: I am 24 years old today. I am growing older. Am I growing wiser and better? I have been in Washington Territory one year. I am clearing $7.50 a day. I am looking forward to a happy future.
We got through with our railroad work by November and I went back to Pleas's place for the winter. My old friend Stevenson asked me to teach the district school. The wages were $40 per mouth... I commenced to teach at a school known as Draper's and had a pleasant time. Was invited to social functions. Attended church and Sunday School. Conducted the literary society. Frequently stepped out with the ladies. Was invited to dinner at the J.A. Pickard home and became well acquainted with his daughter Emma who two years later became my wife.
Diary Nov. 13 says: Went to Colfax today to get a permit to teach public school at Draper school house. Nov. 17: Let G. W. Draper have $300 for four months at 1 ¼ percent per month (5 percent for the four months.) Nov. 21: Stopped overnight at the Rev. G. W. Drapers. Went to church. Nov. 23: School doing fine. Have 16 pupils. Nov. 30: 8 P.M. Party at L.P. Barr's. Quite a crowd. Had a real jolly time. Up all night. Back at Hunt's at 5 in the morning.
In those days the teacher lived in the homes of the pupils, going from home to home each day or two. Diary Dec, 17 says: Five weeks of my school now gone. Seven more to come. Dec. 30: Dinner at Jas. Pickard's. Pleasant day, buggy riding and singing; sledding at night, four horses to one sled. 13 passengers. Feb. 10, 1882, My school is out at Draper school house. Had a nice time.
Following the closing of the term, I made preparations to go to work on the railroad again. On Feb. 18 it was 14 below zero, I crossed the Palouse River on ice. Thought spring would never come. Until it got warmer I worked for Lem Bell on the Palouse River, driving logs to Colfax. Made $2.50 per day. There were 20 men on that drive, a jolly bunch. We had five meals a day and worked from daylight to dark. River was high and we wanted to make Colfax before the river got low.
It was June 1, 1882 when I went to work on the railroad again. A bunch of men, horses and wagons left Colfax for Sulphur Lake. There was plenty of dust and the roads were bad. We arrived at a big spring. George Bassett lived there, a very pleasant man. This place is now Washtucna. Nine miles from this place, down the canyon, was Washtucna Lake. We arrived at our destination the next day, pitched our tents and soon were at work. We had to haul water 10 miles for ourselves and for our stock. The railroad furnished us with a tank that held 500 gallons. We furnished six horses and a man to drive. He made two loads a day.
My brother and I moved dirt by contract. We paid $4 per day for a man and team and furnished them the water. Sulphur Lake was well named. Nothing would drink the water. It was a beautiful lake. The water was clear and the bottom was pebbly. Some of us were swimming our horses in the lake. In places it was from 20 to 40 feet deep, I had ridden several horses across when I got one that would not swim. I had heard that if a person would slip off the horse from behind and hold the horse by the tail, the horse would swim out. I did this but I lost my hold on the tail. I could not swim. I nearly lost my life. I was rescued by Billy, my brother. He and another man laid me across their knees and water ran out of my lungs thru my nose.
We worked on this road till late in the fall of 1882, then went back to the Colfax country. We had made good that summer so concluded to go to a school taught by John McCroskey at Bethel, Washington Territory. We had a good family to board with. Miss Emma Pickard was a grade teacher and boarded at the same place. Frequently on Friday night I would go out to the Pickard ranch. Seldom did I stay overnight. They were a very pleasant family to visit with and Mrs. Pickard was an excellent cook and a fine entertainer.
Mr, and Mrs. Pickard had each been married before. Mrs. Pickard had three children by a former husband; Mose, Irwin, and Janey Beason, Mr. Pickard had four children by a former wife: Robert, Warren, Lewis and Emma Pickard. Then Mr. and Mrs, Pickard had five children: Delbert, Georgia, Charley, Dave and Pearl. (What a fine chance for a family history. What a happy family (12): 3 plus 4 plus 5. Did they ever say—My children and your children are quarreling with our children?)
In 1883 my brother and I rented 400 acres in the Dog Creek country and raised 4,000 bushels of wheat. In October we were offered 95 cents a bushel. We sold next June for 40 cents per bushel. Such were our experiences in the early days.
In the spring of 1883 Billy and I had made a trip to the Big Bend country to get us some land from the Government. We wanted to get preemptions, 160 acres for living on land for six months and paying $1.25 per acre. We both found claims and I made my filings in June. During the summer I built a house 18 by 24 feet. Frame was made of fir logs and poles. Rafters were from small fir poles while sills and sleepers were from larger timber. I got lumber for the floors and siding, I am told the house is still in use in 1942 though I built it in 1883.
I made several trips to the Big Bend during the summer and fall of 1883. On each trip I would take things needed for the farm. That fall I was at Colfax to hear a murder trial.
An 18 year old boy had shot and killed a railroad boss. A bartender brought in a tray which had a glass of water and one of whiskey. The defending attorney took the glass of whiskey and said, with a gesture toward the ladies, "Please excuse this breach of politeness." He drank the whiskey and continued his plea for the boy, saying, "How long must this stripling of a boy stand before a brutal man? Until he falls at his feet, dead?" At that moment the attorney then fell forward, dead. Courtroom was cleared but the attorney had gone to his reward. The prosecutor did not renew the trial.
Reprinted from Cochran Chronicles, Volume 26, Number 1, October 2009
(c) 2009 JECFA