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I was given a handwritten letter by a worker at our public
library; the letter was found inside a book of biographies of Kansas Women.
Elaine Nall Bay
Rains County, Texas
On Sept. 18 - 1872 my father and mother J.D. Austin, three sisters and two brothers one team and covered wagon and four milk cows started from Oregon, Ogle County Ills for Kansas.We stopped over in Oskaloosa Iowa nearly two weeks to rest the team and cows and get cleaned up as we did not expect to make any more visits. We arrived at a point on the Sumner Cowley County line road at a claim house built by a man by the name of Randall and close to and just across the road from the James T. Chenoweth's farm. That was on Sunday Nov. 1st and on Dec. 24th we moved into our own house which was situated on the S.W. 1/4 of Sec. 36 - Twp 30 S.R. 2 East. Our house was 16x20 feet and every foot of it was fine lumber, and it seemed to us all the lovliest place on earth. We had been living in a warped, twisted cottonwood house 14x16 with an uncles family of ten and we were eight. You can imagine how crowded we were. The weather turned very cold and everyone of us had frosted feet as the cracks in the floor were so wide if we dropped anything it went out of sight and after we all had moved they took up some of the boards and found our knives, forks, spoons, stove hooks, pie tins and many things we had mourned as lost, and we greeted them joyfully as long lost friends. Father traded our wagon bows and cover for hay and corn from a man that had made up his mind to go back east to Gods country and leave droughty Kansas forever. Our tent and poles and some other things were exchanged for a cook stove and a few other necessary things. Father dug an embankment barn covered it with poles and hay, made a corn crib pig pen chicken house out of hackberry wood that grew along the creek.
He had plowed a large square of land and burned it off before he hauled the lumber from Wichita to build the house it was boxed and the cracks battened and a good shingle roof. On March 11th 1873 there seemed to be a haze like Indian summer, hardly any breeze almost too warm for comfort, about 4: oclock father told my brother Charlie to hitch up and go after a barrel of water, we hauled our water a full mile and father thought it might be going to storm. He had not gone far when the wind changed to the north and then we could see the flames leaping higher and higher as the wind drove it before it. Then clouds of black smoke began to roll up and hide the flames when it came over the last high ground it looked like a solid wall of fire. We had poured all the water we had in buckets got all the old sacks and had them wet and when that head fire came racing across the stubble and the corn stalks where the cows had been fed caught fire and blowed clear over all the fire guards, we ran from one thing to another beating out the flames, it lasted only a few minutes, we untied the cows and saw them going ahead of the fire as wild as deer, when the stable and hay caught we could do no more, but my mother risked her life when she ran into that place and untied the calf and dragged it into a safe place. The main fire was miles away but there was plenty to do for an hour or two as it seemed as if the whole world was going up in smoke. The house was safe but everything in the shape of feed was gone all the extra harness, ropes, tools, boxes and the many things put in the stable for shelter were in ashes or ruined. When my brother came home with the water he looked scared and white he could not tell whether we were alive or not and we were as anxious about him
Last update: Sunday, March 23, 2003 00:11:00
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