Sunday, May 10, 2015

Leaving Pompey's Pillar

After my Dad's brother Robert Theodore died and my Dad and his sister Win nearly died,  Maude and Dunc Robertson decide to give up their dairy farm at Pompey's Pillar.  Dad always told me, that the water was bad in Pompey's Pillar, and they thought that it was the cause of the sick children.

The first child to become seriously ill was  Robert Theodore "Teddy." He died on November 17, 1913. The Great Falls Tribune reported:

Robertson Baby Dead

On Monday morning at 10:30, Robert Theodore, the fourteen-months-old son of Mr. and Mrs. Oscar D. Robertson of Pompey's Pillar, died of acute inflammation of the bowels.  The little child has been a sufferer for a long time.  The remains were taken to Great Falls the first of the week and internment was made in the family burial plot.  

The members of the family and Miss Mittie Brodock, Mrs. Robertson's sister went to Great Falls to see the remains of the little fellow put in its final resting place.

Robert Theodore Robertson
Bill for Teddy's Headstone

My Aunt Winifred and my father became desperately ill with the same symptoms Teddy had and nearly died.  Dad said his hair at birth was red, but it all fell out during this illness.  When his hair grew back in, it was dark brown.  The illness of both children had to have occurred in 1917 or after since my Dad's birth was March 9, 1916, and he said he could talk enough to say, "Milk, Momma!" when he was recovering.

After losing a baby and nearly losing two others, Grandpa and Grandma packed up. They auctioned off their farm and headed to West Fork to take up flax farming.  The town is now called Westby, located in the northeast corner state.

An old red journal of Grandpa's indicates some business with the railroad, whether the car number applies to supplies coming early in the Pompey's Pillar venture or moving, I don't know. A red journal indicates the the family made the move to West Fork by rail car. Possibly, Dunc and John went ahead to build a house and make things ready for the rest of the family. Journal entry, "My car is 41350."  Uncle John accompanied Grandpa.  Journal entry,  "Left Wolf Point at 5 oclock Nov 15, 1917 for Great Falls John and Dunc. Laid Over in Glasgow the 17    went from Glasgow to haver at 4 oclock   are at Coberg in the Milk River Valley."

Journal entry, "Pompey's Pillar Mont Apr 15 1917    a regular Blizzard is Raging today"

Later journal entry, "Bound for Scobey.  Left Pompey's Pillar with my carload of Household goods 5 horses and wagon on April 17th at 3.30 pm 1917

April 18 left Billings at 1 oclock on Gt Northern"

Journal entry, "Rate from Pompey's Pillar to Billings on, Billings 12 to Plentywood 32, Plentywood to Scobey 12.  Robinson at Lead office of Gt Northern in Billings gave me the rate  Take no other"

Journal entry, "April 19 kept me in Billings from 7 oclock on the 17 until 3 oclock the 18th thence to Gt Falls  Laid over 6 oclock on the 19th until 4:30 P.M. the 19th  Just arrived in Havre 4.30 A.M. of 20th        arrive at Glasgow 8.30 P.M. Laid over untill 12:30 P.M.  Then Left for Bainville  arrived at 8.30 am 21 Apr     Left Bainville 1.30 P.M. Apr 21 bound for Plenty Wood     Apr 21 6 P.M. arrived at Plenty wood.  Left Plenty wood Sunday 22 at 3 pm   Bound for Scobey    Arrived at Scobey Apr 22 9.30 P M at night  Apr 23 at Scobey   snowing like blazes for two days 23rd and 24      Apr 26 John"+

The flax venture was a bust.  The family lost every penny they had.  My Grandmother delivered twins, a boy and a girl in Fort Benton, where her sister Mabel lived, on Oct 10, 1917.

Maude holding Geneva, Gene, Sid in the background and Winifred

In the middle of all this upheaval, O, Dunc , was drafted to serve in WWI Nov 4 1918, eleven days before his 46th birthday.  He did not see combat but served in the Washington shipyards.

So the next time I think I'm having a rough day or a rough year or a rough 5 years, it might be time to ruminate on these events in my Grandparents' and parents' lives and put things in perspective.

Sunday, May 03, 2015

Learning More About Pompey's Pillar

View from the Pompey's Pillar Farm, taken by the rich relatives from Chicago
The years in Pompey’s Pillar must have loomed large in my grandparents’ life.  They saved more paperwork from this time than from any other time in their life combined.  There are receipts for operation and maintenance fees, character references, various correspondence with the bureau of reclamation , tax notices, deeds, maps, stock certificates,  and water rights, to name a few.
Character Reference

Farming during the first year: 1909

Before the Pompey’s Pillar venture, O. Duncan Robertson and Maude Brodock Robertson must have saved up to provide themselves with a healthy stake to get started.  No greenhorn, Grandpa did not calculate to rely solely on farming the alkaline western soil. He had a dairy farm in mind.  Their dairy stock was of the finest.  Grandpa kept excellent records of his improvements and his stocks’ pedigrees and milk production.  Mr. Berg, whoever he may be, and Warrent bred their cow to Grandpa's registerd Holstein bull.

Certificate of Registry for bull
Grandpa had names for his cows.  It appears that many were named after friends of family:  Nettie, Mittie, Beauty, Rose, Edith, Alberta, and May.  This is more evidence of our changing culture. If anyone named a cow after me, I would assume the person was trying to pick a fight.

I would have never dreamed that the Huntley Project, Ballantine, Pompey's Pillar area created a telephone company.  But here is the stock certificate that proves it.  Evidently, Grandpa had stock in the company and had the contract to string some of the lines.

To me it looks like the Pompey’s Pillar neighbors were a tight knit group,  Several papers refer to a Yeoman’s Association which Maude, Dunc and several neighbors joined.   There is even a certificate that looks remarkably like a health insurance policy.  In this valuable paper, my Grandmother lists the causes of death from siblings to grandparents.

Dairy Licene for the Robertson's Yellowstone stock farm.

Bill for stringing telephone wire on the Yellowstone Stock Farm Letterhead

Building Huntley Project
I’ m inclined to believe Wikipedia when it states that much of Huntley Project was poorly designed and cheaply built.  It wasn’t long before repairs and replacements were needed. Looking at some of the receipts, the maintenance fees seem to occur often and fees seem exorbitant for this time period.  Call me naive, but $172.90 for irrigation maintenance fees for a farm where the entire mortgage was a $1000.00 seems outrageous.   Like the rest of the west, the soil tended to be alkali and crops didn’t grow as well as the farmers would have liked. Interestingly, Wikipedia states that in 1913 some of land became waterlogged. 

 Looking through these documents made me realize at little more about the character of those I descended from.  They were very literate, paid their debts, and were good business people.  They valued quality and knew how to plan to achieve their goals.  Grandma and Grandpa, you were A-1.