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Indian Pioneer Papers - Index

[NOTE: until we have a submission from the actual Indian Pioneer Interviews the following submission will be used]

By Ivy Coffey

Food scarce for early residents

EDITOR'S NOTE: First person accounts of the historic Land Run of 1889 and other historic events are recorded in interviews with Canadian County residents in volumes kept in the El Reno Carnegie Library archives.

Mrs. Effie Bennett Terneus came to El Reno with her parents and four other children in 1892.

They came in a covered wagon from Nebraska. She had been born in Nebraska and was 10 years old when they came to El Reno. She lived at Geary when she was interviewed in 1937 by Augusta Custer in the WPA Pioneer - Indian History Project. This is her story.

We lived one block north of where the Rock Island Depot is today (1937). That was in the edge of the city limits in those days.

I remember when we crossed the South Canadian River one time. It was at flood stage and the water was red and muddy. We had to be taken on a ferry boat.

When we went to school all the children dipped snuff. That was new to us. They gave my sister and myself some. She spit hers out but I swallowed mine and got so sick the teacher sent me home.

Mother taught us to knit our stockings as soon as we were old enough to hold knitting needles. We made them from cotton yarn. Two pair would last all winter and we went barefoot in summer.

The government furnished meat for the Indians. One time several head were turned out and Indians killed them with bows and arrows. We children sat in our yard and watched the butchering. The Indians divided the meat and carried it a way on horses.

We moved northwest of the old fairgrounds and my father, George Bennett, ran a brick yard. George Hall was his partner. The brick from that kiln furnished the material for the Kerfoot Hotel.

Sometimes my father would help Dicks and Craft, butchers, and he got heads and tails. Many times that was the only meat we would have for weeks.

I gathered the milch cows from all over town, took them out on the fort grounds and herded them all day and returned them at night for 50 cents a month. My sister and I gathered wild flowers and sold them for one cent a bunch.

We also gathered cobs from the slaughter pens of Dicks and Crafts to be used as fuel in the stove. Sometimes the butcher would give us a piece of liver, a head or some cow tails.

My father went to Bridgeport, where he took a fraction of land near the South Canadian River. While here I helped put up the hay by running the mowing machine. Sometimes I drove the horses while they were stacking hay and ran the "buck" rake.

Many times just for fun I would take a shepherd dog and go hunting, sometimes getting a rabbit and often an opossum. If I skinned it with care it brought 5 cents.

I got a job at Gorroms Store. I walked 2 miles every night and morning and my! I was proud that I was earning money - 35 cents a week.

One time when Pa went to El Reno to get his pension, which amounted to $8 every three months, the money was not there and he stayed four days. Mother and we four children lived on one chicken and a gallon of flour borrowed from an Indian, Bear Feathers, our nearest neighbor.

While were living here, some government soldiers came out to survey and were caught in an awful storm. They made a camp close to the toll bridge. They came to our place for hay for their horses and mules and father took it to them, although it was a dreadful storm. He would not accept any pay and the captain told him to stop at the fort mess house when he was in El Reno.

Father did and he was given 100 pounds of flour, a gunny sack of bacon, 100 pounds of sugar, 50 pounds of green coffee and soda crackers in six tin boxes 12 inches square. Oh my! We had never seen so much food at one time and we sure had a feast.

The high water of the North Canadian washed our place away and we moved to Custer County, 5 miles southwest of Arapaho. The nearest railroad was El Reno.

We lived in a dugout covered with sod. Neighbors were few as there was free range and many cattle. Cowboys were the only people we saw for years.

A preacher moved into the neighborhood and in summer they dragged up logs for seats and a tall stump for the pulpit. Revival meetings were conducted for two weeks at a time.

They had school in Arapaho but we were too poor to go. There was only one boy in our family. He was the youngest and too small to work so I had to be the boy.

Father went away to harvest and I hauled corn to Arapaho, where we got 10 cents a bushel. We sold eggs for 4 and 5 cents a dozen. If we got 25 cents each for chickens, that was doing well.

I went to work for a missionary minister who preached to the Indians. He received clothing to be given out to those in need. He was paid by the government but paid me with old clothes.

I married William Henry Quigel in 1897 when he was 38 and I was fifteen. Although my life had been hard, it was now still harder.

We first lived in the basement of a dilapidated house and lived the first winter on turnips, beans and corn bread.

The next summer we moved to a quarter section east of Bringham's graveyard and stayed in a dugout. The Lord blessed us with plenty of rabbits to eat and some wild fruit.

Quigel made ties for the railroad they were building through to Weatherford. Later we moved down on the South Canadian close to Shovers and lived under a wagon sheet stretched up for a tent. Then we moved back to what was called the old Henry Robinson place. We later moved into a dugout on the Sparks place near the South Canadian River. This was where my first baby was born. I was sick so long and had no doctor and when the baby came it was dead and I was almost dead. That was on December 29 and I was 17 the following May. 

Copied directly from an article published in the El Reno Tribune, date unknown

Transcribed for OKGenWeb and submitted by Bobbi J. Henley <bhenley@attglobal.net> December 2001.