Mojo Monday ~ Back On the Ranch

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Shepherd Family Photo

Shepherd Family Photo

Elizabeth “Lizzie” Talmer Roberts is the sister of my maternal great great grandfather.  In the process of doing genealogical research I came across a story written down about her.  Her story begins in when Lizzie was born on June 10, 1861 in Headless Cross, Worchestershire, England.  I have been sharing her story here in Mojo Mondays and if you want to start at the beginning you can do so by clicking here.

…Meanwhile back at the ranch in Burlington, both of the young wives had recently given birth to baby daughters. The children born at the time were daughter of Carl and Annie, Bertha Adaline Shepherd, born on October 30, 1906 and daughter of Earnest and Mary, Mary Ella Wiggett, born on October 31, 1906.

Earnest and Carl brought their father by wagon from Burlington up to Belfry. That night the weather changed, a strong wind came first ahead of the storm. Claude and Edna spent most of the night trying to hold the ridge-pole steady to keep the tent from blowing away. The next day they went by wagons in a snowstorm to Bridger, Montana, about ten or twelve miles north. Here Laffe was laid to rest. His grave was marked with a large rock slab with the letter “S” painted on it. In 1973 his sister Valie would make a trip to Wyoming and Montana and she was able to locate a very efficient caretaker at the Bridger, Montana cemetery. He searched his records and located the grave site.

The storm continued very strong.   Lizzie took the girls, Bart and Gilford, and traveled back to Belfry on the train. Later the boys brought Rollins Don Carlos and the teams and wagons back to Belfry. When Earnest and Carl were ready to travel back to Burlington they left their father with his family. The family lived that winter in a tent on the bare ground. It was remarkable that those in the family made it through the winter.

That winter and the next spring was a very hard time for the family. In the summer, Claude and Burton Prettyman were able to get gobs on the railroad near Billings, Montana. When the Ringling Brothers Circus came to town, the kids saw the first circus they had ever seen. When the job was finished in the fall, the Shepherd family went back to Chance, Montana and the Prettyman family, to Red Lodge. In a short time, Burton Prettyman and three of the young boys had thyphoid. They were very ill and were taken to the hospital. The family recalled how during that summer Forrest Prettyman, who was just past five years old, had said to his grandmother Lizzie on several occasion, “When I die, will you bury me by my uncle Laffe?” Forrest died on September 18, 1907.

Lizzie and her family came for the funeral and stayed with Florence until Burton and the other boys were better. Later that fall the Shepherd and Prettyman families went down to Worland, Wyoming to work on the big Hanover Canal. The children did not go to school that winter. Joe and Earnest with Valie and Addie, would take the big cross-cut saw and with a couple of kids on each end, they would cut wood for both families. One day the four of them were playing down by the river and taking turns being pulled on a sled on the ice along the bend of the Big Horn River. The rope slipped out of Joe’s hand as Earnest and Addie, on the sled, headed for the swift open channel. Joe quickly slid out on his stomach to grab the end of the rope. His quick action saved them from plunging into the freezing icy river.

When the family moved to Laurel, Montana in the spring of 1908, Lizzie rented a house which the family called “The Coffee House.” The railroad was building a big ice house there and Lizzie took one room where she served family style meals to a few boarders. These were very hard times and work was hard to find, but there were quite a few men employed in building the big ice house. One of these was a young man named Douglas Spencer, who became very fond of Addie. When the ice house was about half built, it collapsed. One man was killed. Douglas Spencer dove into a ditch under the flowing, which saved his life, but his foot was caught and badly broken.

Another of the men who worked on this job and came to board with the Shepherd family was William Tubbs. William Tubbs had been born August 29, 1878 in Omaha, Nebraska. According to family stories, he had married there and was the father of two small children, a boy and a girl. The story goes that he came home one evening to find another man loading his household furniture and his family into a wagon. When he asked what was going on the man bluntly told him that he was in love with the wife and that they were leaving together. A fight followed and the story continues in that the other man was knocked backwards over the wagon tongue and died of a broken neck. Ill Tubbs left Omaha that night. Were he went on his westward journey, nor how long it was before he came to Laurel, Montana.

Later that year the family moved to a smaller house and Lizzie still continued to cook for a few men. Claude worked at the livery stable and there he met a man by the name of George Hanna. After George met Edna he became a frequent visitor of the family. Early in 1909 George and Edna went to Billings, Montana to be married. They moved into a small place of their own not far from where the family lived. It was here that they had their first child Mildred Fay Hannah on September 24, 1901.

Sometime in 1908 Earnest and Mary Wiggett left the ranch and went to Olathe, Colorado. Their daughter Millie Wiggett was born on January 1, 1909, but sadly she died the next year on December 22, 1910. Carl and Annie were still living on the homestead. Two daughters were born to them during this time, Lizzie Lora Shepherd on October 13, 1908 and Clara Shepherd on August 20, 1910.

Many people were out of work and the winter of 1909 and 1910 found many people facing very hard times. Claude and George worked at the liverly stable. Addie worked for a lady who ran the section house. Addie helped with the cooking and in the kitchen. Valie suffered from pains in her legs and her joints all that winter.

Earlier in the year their father used to take a couple of coal buckets and would follow along the railroad tracks to pick up coal. There was a curve in the railroad tracks a short distance from the house. Sometimes coal would fall off the train as it rounded this curve. Often the firemen would toss a few shovelfuls of coal off the train for people to pick up. One day in the summer father had gone for coal, but had become tired and sat down on the track where he proceeded to fall asleep. Addie notices that her father was gone just about the time she heard the train whistle. She ran out and pulled him off the track. She then gave him a lecture and asked him to stop going after coal. This was about the only time he ever left the house. He seemed more and more tired as winter and cold weather arrived.

Often the family was without good food that winter. As Christmas approached they were very bad off and had very little to eat. When their father got up on Christmas morning he went to Lizzie in the kitchen and told her he was going to die. He went over to a couch-like bed which they kept in the kitchen. He laid down, went to sleep and then died in his sleep. Rollins Don Carlos Shepherd died at age 79 on December 25, 1909. A heavy winter snow storm came up the day of his funeral, just as it had when Laffe was buried. Valie remembered the teams that pulled the hearse, and how several of the men stood on the side of the hearse to add their weight to keep it from tipping over in the heavy snow.

The family remained in very destitute conditions that winter. One of their boarders, a man by the name of Ezra King brought the family a twenty-five pound sack of flour, which was all the food they had in the house at that time. Malnutrition may have contributed largely to compounding the problems which beset Valie at this time, for it was in the sprint of 1910 that she suffered an illness which almost took her life.

To be continued….

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