This is my Great-Grandmothers's story of her life in Nebraska, as toldto my Aunt sometime in the 1930's. I thought you may enjoy readingabout some of the trials that she and her family went through. Mary AnnBurbank Williams was born in 1862 in Illinois. She and myGreat-Grandfather, Jarvis Sumner Williams later moved to Missouri and onto Muscotah, Kansas.

-- Connie Snyder


Mary Ann Burbank Williams

  I was born on Pink Prairie near Geneseo, Henry County, Illinois,October 23, 1862. We lived there a year then moved onto my Grandmother'sfarm near Sharon, Illinois, stayed there a few years, then moved ontothe Liberty Stinson farm where my sisters Louisa and Carrie were born. From there we moved to where a railroad was being built.

   My father worked teams and Mother ran a boarding house, feeding asmany as forty to fifty men. My older brother John was nine years oldand I was six. I remember of standing on a box and washing and dryingdishes.

   We moved along as the work progressed. John and I went to the BryerBluff school that winter. In the spring we moved into the Stokes farmnear Colona, Illinois. We stayed there three years. There my sisterLouisa and brother Freddie died a week apart with scarlet fever. Thedoctor told my parents that they must take us away or they wouldn't haveany children so they had a sale and started in covered wagons fromColona, Illinois April 10, 1872 to make our new home on a homestead inNebraska.

   Gilbert Fleming, an intimate friend went with us also to locate upon ahomestead. We were six weeks on the way, took eighteen head of cattleand sixteen head of horses, had two covered wagons loaded withprovisions and equipped with beds. My brother John rode a horse all theway and drove the horses and cattle, had some little calves come on theway, put them in the box at the back of wagon box until they were strongenough to travel. We camped with other travelers, we would form acircle of wagons with the stock inside.

   We did our cooking over a camp fire, baked bread, biscuits etc. in adutch oven, stopped long enough to wash bake and rest the stockoccasionally. We never traveled on Sunday. We crossed the MississippiRiver between Rock Island, Illinois & Davenport, Iowa in a ferry boat. Stopped at Red Oak, Iowa a week to look for land and to visit Mother'srelation.

   It was a long tiresome trip, roads were poor. We got stuck crossingPeevy bottom and had to double teams. We fell in with more homesteadersuntil there were fourteen wagons of us. We had great times together. The women would get supper while the men got feed for the stock.

   They would spread out a long cloth on the ground and all circle aroundand share each others food and now and then someone would pull out andgo some other way.

   We crossed the Missouri River between Council Bluffs and Omaha on aferry boat and camped on the outside of Omaha. It was a rough place tocamp. In the night men came around looking over our stock. The menkept watch all night and had to drive one man away with a gun. That wasthe toughest experience we had on our trip.

   The bridge over the Platte River at Fremont had just been completed sowe were glad to be able to cross there easily, as before when travelershad to ford it and many times struck quick sand and had a hard time tosave their families, provisions and stock.

  We arrived at Willow Creek on my Mother's birthday May 30, 1872 andvisited Mother's cousin, Frank Thomas. After resting a few days,Father, Gilbert Fleming and Frank Thomas went on a search for ourhomesteads. They each took eighty acres joining each other on section30 in what was later called Rescue school District No.73, SaundersCounty, Nebraska. They had to drive a team to Lincoln to file on theirhomesteads as there were no railroads in Nebraska then.

   We put our covered wagon boxes on the ground and lived in them untilthe men could make a sod house, lived in it during the summer while theybroke up some prairie and put in sod corn, garden and melons.

   Father hauled lumber from Fremont, twenty five miles away, taking twodays to make the trip, to build our house which was 20 feet by 16 feet,a story and a half. We didn't get it sided or plastered that year,lived in the basement that winter and used the sod house for the stock.

   We had but little fuel and not much provisions as crops and vegetablesdid not grow very good on the sod and it was so dry.

   In 1873, we had some wheat and oats but the grasshoppers took the bigshare of our crop, even the grass. Father had to go to the Platte Riverbottom to cut hay, hauled it seven miles. We had no fuel so he went toan Island in the Platte River and chopped wood. Father had to work veryhard that winter to keep us warm and feed for the stock.

   My brother John and I went to school in the home of Mr. Miller's asthere wasn't a school house built then. Was two miles from our home andno roads. We had to wade through snow drifts. I nearly froze onemorning so I stayed all night and John went home. So during the coldweather I stayed and helped some for my board. Mrs. Miller was theteacher. They were very poor and about all we had to eat was bread,onions and water gravy and to this day I don't like water gravy.

   There was food and clothing sent in from the east to help us butFather was too proud to go and get anything. Mother made the smallerchildren shoes of grain sacks and old pant goods, of course theycouldn't go out of doors with them as we had lots of snow that winter.

   Mother's people in Illinois sent us a box of clothing, dried fruit,beans, etc., and Uncle Peter Burbank of Detroit sent us a box ofmaterial to make into clothing. In this box was a five gallon jar ofapple butter and don't you think we children didn't enjoy it as we hadnothing but bread and boiled wheat, no meat or fruit. We had somebutter and milk but no vegetables. Sister Carrie was quite small, attimes she would get so hungry for potatoes that she would cry so Motherwould go down into the cellar where we had a few little potatoes we weresaving for seed and get a few and cook them in a tin cup for her. I canremember how good they looked to me but I was too big to ask for themand realized that we must save them for seed. In 1875 it was very dryand grasshoppers came again but not so bad. We had some wheat and oatsand a little corn.

   The winter of 1874 Father took a team and went to Lincoln and workedon a railroad. Mother and we children took care of the stock and gotalong the best we could. I never heard Mother say a word of complaint,she wanted a home of our own so badly and was willing to go throughanything to keep it. 1876 was another hard year. Mother was not wellall summer. She passed away September 25, leaving a little baby boy whoafter three weeks followed our dear Mother.

   That was a hard winter on us all. I being the oldest girl in thefamily of six had to do the work as best I could, with so littleexperience and not much to do with, it was very hard on us all. I triedto do the work and go to school, did the washing and baking bread onSaturdays, ironed and did other work at night.

   I worked many nights long after all the rest of the family were inbed. I was fourteen years old when Mother left us.

   Soon after Mother's death Father sold our homestead and rented theRiggs farm the next year. It most broke my heart to leave the homesteadas Mother loved our home so much. In November 1878, Father brought us astep-mother. By that time my oldest brother John was away from home. Sister Carrie and brothers Edd and Will and myself were still at home. We then moved to a farm near Fremont which Father later bought. Justafter we had gotten on our claim and the wagon boxes on the ground readyto live in I met my future husband, Jarvis Williams, for the first time,he and another young man saw us drive on to our new home and came tocall upon us and find out how we were.

   We were always good friends from then on and later kept company andwere married at Wahoo by Rev. Peck, a Methodist Minister on January 21,1878, then we moved on to his homestead which was about a mile and ahalf from my Father's homestead. It was in Chester precinct schoolDistrict no. 73, Saunders County and joined his Father's and SisterAra's land.

   We had many ups and downs with sickness, poor crops, shortage of food,feed and fuel, often burned gulch weeds, twisted hay and buffalo chipsbut we loved each other and were very happy.

   The homesteaders were very sociable, all living on the same plane,helping each other in sickness and when one neighbor would drive to townwhich would be Fremont twenty five miles away or Wahoo twenty miles,they would bring groceries, medicine, mail or what ever they needed forall. I remember one time my husband went into Fremont in a bob sled,coming home his endgate lost out and scattered groceries for a long way,so had to go back and gather them up, it usually took two days to make atrip.

   My husband's mother helped to organize the first Sunday School in ourschool house, had preaching occasionally when a missionary preacherwould come, had revivals in the winter time which were well attended andmuch interest shown and many were converted.

   We had charivari's, parties and always a literary every two weeksthrough the winter, would have a program of songs and readings. A shortrecess and then a debate upon different subjects such as "Is iron morevaluable than gold", "anticipation more pleasure than possession" etc.

   Later our mail was brought to Rescue from Wahoo by a carrier who drovea sulky cart, came twice a week, stopped for dinner at myFather-in-law's, who was Postmaster for many years. The BurlingtonRailroad was built in 1887 and went through our farm. My husbandbutchered and sold meat to the camps and we sold butter, eggs and milkto them.

   We had twelve children, Charles Edward and Bertha Florence passingaway in infancy. Ten of our children lived to be grown to man andwomanhood.

Please click on images for larger size pictures.

Jarvis Sumner Williams (1851-1926)
and Mary Ann Burbank Williams (1851-1926)

Photo taken at Wahoo, Nebraska, Jan. 21, 1878.

Czarina Abigail Glazier Williams (1830-1923)
at Wahoo, Nebraska.

The style of her clothes suggests this picture was taken somewhere aroundthe turn of the century.

Jarvis' mother is mentioned in the story as having helped to organize the first Sunday school. My mother always called her "her blind grandma", and had some fond memories of her, although she diedwhen my mother was 9. Jarvis' father was John Sumner Williams(1823-1898) He died at Rescue, Saunders, Co., NE.

Mary Ann's father, Jesse, and her brother, William Burbank.

William and Mary Ann's parents were Jesse Burbank (1828-1919), and Cynthia Melvina Thomas (1837-1876).

© Oldtime Nebraska, 2000, Mary Ann Burbank Williams -- submitted by Connie Snyder - March, 1997