Homesteaders


| September/October 1975



Old Trusty 32-40

A. W. Wilken

10208 Pineridge Drive, Sun City, Arizona 85351.

In the summer of 1905, my father, Jerry Wilken and Bill Walterman started out from Conastota, S. Dakota and headed for N. Dakota to stake out a homestead on the prairie and strike it rich (so they thought). They had two teams and a buggy and covered wagon. In those days, traveling was slow, so they didn't make much mileage, especially as they worked along the road to keep them in groceries.

The enclosed picture of their covered wagon was taken in Ellendale, N. Dakota. At that time Ellendale was just, as they used to say 'a hole in the road'.

I don't remember how long they were on the road, but they finally arrived at Lehr, N. Dakota and Bill Walterman got a job at the Lehr Cremery and Jerry Wilken went to work at the Lehr Lumber yard, so after they got a little 'stake', they bought enough groceries and started out to stake a claim. They finally found two claims about fourteen miles south-east of Lehr, near a grocery store and a post office called Helwig.

They built a shack on each claim and then made preparations for the winter. Jerry Wilken built a sod house on his claim and then sent for my mother and my brother and me. We were real comfortable in the sod house, but we had to walk about three miles through snow about two feet dep to school. But we were at an age when snow didn't bother us too much, but we had our ears and cheeks frosted so many times that the skin would peel off like it does with a good sun-burn!

When spring finally came and the snow started to melt, we got the pick-axe and crow bar out and started to clear our land of rocks, -and there were plenty. You never get it cleared because after the first crop of flax that you harvest, you plow out a lot more rocks as you ready the ground for the next year's wheat crop. Sometimes you wonder where they all come from again! The flax crop generally turns out good on the sod ground in the first year.