Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Back in Time - Grandfather

Franklin Stearns
near Provo, SD
approx. 1922
I didn't know my paternal grandfather, as he died many years before I was born. He was born June 4, 1870 in Almond, New York and died September 4, 1927 in South Dakota.

The following narrative is from the Edgemont Centennial 1890 - 1990 book that was compiled by the Edgemont Centennial Book Committee - edited by Caroline Curl and printed 1989 by Edgemont Herald Tribune, Edgemont, SD, pages 413 - 415 (I apologize for the choppy sentence structure, but this was copied verbatim from the book. I added the information in the parentheses.)

Frank was a farmer, as were his father and grandfather. Land was expensive and the desire for a farm of his own brought him to South Dakota. In May, 1910 he and his brother-in-law Julian came to South Dakota (from Minnesota) by train. They each filed on homesteads east of Provo. Their families came on the train to Provo on November 1, 1910. Frank met his family with a team and wagon. There were no roads, just trails to follow. The family arrived at their new home, a sixteen foot by twenty-four foot, two-room, tar paper shack. There was no insulation, electricity, or plumbing. It was all wonderment for five small children: Theodore (7 years), Sadie (6 years), Edward (5 years), Arthur (3 years), and Charles (1 year).

The family kept warm with coal and wood. Coal was used in lamps. The groceries were bought at the little grocery store in Provo. Henry Kramer, known as Mr. Germany, was owner of the store. He also tested cream brought in by the rural people and sold their eggs. These things helped a great deal when buying groceries. Customers were given a sack of candy when the grocery bill was paid.

Frank and his wife (Annie) milked a number of cows and sold the cream. Of course, the children drank a lot of milk. If it hadn't been for the cream checks, times would have been a lot tougher.

Frank worked on the section (railroad) at Provo during slack time at the farm. Sometimes he walked the four miles to Provo, stayed there during the week in a box car with the other railroad employees, and then walked home for the weekend.

When the children were young, Frank contacted walking typhoid fever. They thought his sickness came from drinking from a water hole. He was delirious in the middle of the night, so Annie and the children walked to the neighbors for help. During that time, Frank left home and couldn't be found. The next morning people were out looking for him. He was found miles from home near Cascade (approximately 20 miles), and the sheriff put him in jail at Hot Springs. Dr. Hargens went to the jail to examine him and convinced the sheriff that Frank was sick, not crazy. He was in the hospital several weeks, and his first concern when he recovered was if the children were okay.

Annie went to Hot Springs to see him a few times, but travel was not easy then. For her to get to Hot Springs, someone would take her to the train in Provo to go to Edgemont. She walked about five blocks to her sister, Ada's place and stayed overnight. The next morning she walked back to the train depot to catch the train to Hot Springs, spent as much time at the hospital as she could , and in the afternoon, returned to the Hot Springs depot to catch the train back to Edgemont. She stayed there overnight and caught the train back to Provo the next day. With five little children, and cows to milk, this journey was not easy.

All farm work was done with horses. It was the boys' job to walk along and keep the horses going. A walking plow was used. Frank unloaded an Avery threshing machine, tractor, and gasoline tank from a railroad flatcar on September 17, 1922. (note photo above) A platform had to be build so the equipment could be removed from the flatcar. Frank threshed for others in the Provo and Edgemont areas with the older boys helping him.

Frank joined the Home Guard in Edgemont. He would walk the eight or nine miles to Edgemont, and after the drill, walk home. He was a hard worker and a good provider. He would help anyone in trouble. Frank passed away on September 4, 1927 at the age of fifty-seven from bleeding ulcers. His wife, Annie passed away January 7, 1950 at the age of eighty-two.

Other posts of interest:
     Century Farm
     Country Road
     Peaceful Prairie (photo)
     It's Grand
     Pioneer Souls
Approximate mileage from:
     Farm to Provo - 4 miles
     Provo to Edgemont - 8 or 9 miles
     Edgemont to Hot Springs - 25 miles
     Farm to Cascade - 20 miles


  1. What tough stock you come from!! Those that came west to homestead and start a new life had to be hard working, resourceful, determined folks! Good picture - and isn't that quite a piece of machinery!!

  2. Love this post. My Grandparents homesteaded in Montana and have heard many a tale. It was such a different life then compared to now but what perseverance they had.

  3. I love the picture of them in the Century Farms post! I am in love with these two people. They are the epitome of American pioneers, those who shaped our country and made it great. Thank you Nancy! I have been so depressed about everything that is going on in our country right now and you have reminded me that we are strong and we endure.

  4. I wonder why they didn't stay in Minnesota. We have lots of Stearns that live in this area. In fact my third grade teacher was a Mrs. Stearns.
    I enjoyed you old photo and the history that went with it! :)

  5. So interesting having just spent today tracing firemans ancestors in cemeteries of new bern North Carolina. I wish we knew their stories. Yours will be a treasure for family

  6. Great story! I love that you have these family stories and the photos to go with them.

  7. What an interesting story and a blessing that this story and photo are preserved for future generations. These "pioneers" were tough folks, men and women alike.

  8. How nice to have some history about your family.

  9. I just loved this post - thank you for sharing part of your family history with us. It sure does make me realize how spoiled I am - not to mention incredibly thankful for the grit and independent spirit of our ancestors. This country was truly built by their ingenuity and the work of their hands.


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