I wonder what mama thought about our shack! Ship-lap sides,
tarpaper sheathed, all black. One room, twelve feet wide
and fourteen long. One window, one door, a boarded floor.
Howard Beers, homesteader.
“On February 8, 1911, Mary J. Dale, as widow of William Dale, deceased, a soldier in the late Civil War, filed soldier’s Declaratory Statement 06116 for SE 1/4 Sec. 23, T.29N, R.11.”
This quotation is taken from a letter dated March 20, 1915, written by the Assistant Commissioner of the Department of Interior, General Land Office, Washington DC. It reviews the correspondence and actions taken regarding the homestead claim of Mary Jones Dale, deceased. It verifies the date of the first action taken by Mary Dale, Elsie Worstell’s mother, toward acquiring a homestead.
The law under which this action could take place is clarified in a letter to Dr. Worstell from the Acting Assistant Commissioner of the Department of the Interior as follows:
If Mrs. Dale is not entitled to claim credit for the military service of her husband, it will be necessary for her to show three years’ residence, together with the actual cultivation of not less than one-sixteenth of the area of the entry for one year and not less than one-eighth the next, such later amount of cultivation continuing to the time of submitting proof. See paragraph 7 on page 3 of the circular of July 15, 1912.
As previously mentioned, Gaylord Worstell acted as the locator for the homestead filed by Mary Dale. If she could qualify for the two-year’s credit for veterans’ widows, she could prove up on the land in only one year. Perhaps to cover all the bases, a standard homestead application was filed on her behalf 30 April 1911. This application did not bear her signature and was ultimately rejected, but the date of rejection is not known.
On March 1, 1911, the land office made the entry, “Entry to record” on Gaylord’s index, and on May 27th, “Notice of allowance issued.” Apparently an application of Gaylord’s was finally accepted.
As the weather allowed, the homesteaders worked on their land. Gaylord probably hired his land broken and possibly stoned or seeded. Dias broke 30 acres through the middle, 7-1/2 acres on each 40, and planted 20 acres of oats and 10 acres of flax, which was used for hay when harvested. The entire quarter, 160 acres, was fenced, 3 wires, posts every 2 rods — value $175. Then before harvest time “someone cut the wire and drove their cattle in on it and it was no good except for hay,” Christopher Jung later testified concerning Dias’s homestead.
Frank established his residence on May 10 and built a house 12' x 16', value of $100 on May 12. He broke 11 acres, some on each 40, and seeded to flax and barley, which was cut for hay.
To break the land was to plow up prairie earth that had never been plowed before. During the years 1910 – 1915, most of the land was broken with the use of horses, but by 1917 the horse had been replaced by the tractor. A “breaker” type moldboard was used to break up new soil and make a shallow furrow. On a plow, the “moldboard” is the curved part and the “share” is the sharp cutting edge on the bottom of the moldboard. The frame holding the moldboard and share is called the “bottom.” For stubborn soil, a cutting wheel attachment called a jointer cuts the soil ahead of the share. A walking plow is pulled by a team of horses with a driver walking behind holding the handles to keep it in position. It is hard work and tiresome. A “sulky” or “one bottom plow” called a “riding plow” was drawn by a team of two or four horses. When the large steam tractors came into Montana, gang plows or multiple bottom plows soon followed. A man with a riding plow could do his own work as well as hire out to break ground for other people. Owners of large equipment could hire a man to run the equipment for themselves and for others. Many times a farmer was thrown from his sulky when the plow hit a rock. Therefore it was to the advantage of the homesteader that the land be “stoned,” or cleared of rocks before cultivating and seeding. Presumably anyone could do the stoning job. It was either hired out or the farmer and his wife and children did the work.
Glaciers once covered most of this land around Big Sandy and generally north of the Missouri River. This soil is generally well suited for crop production, particularly dry land grains. This glacial till is of varying depths, often stony, occasionally with fine soil carried in by the wind. North of Great Falls and around Big Sandy is some of the most productive farm land in Montana. It has enough clay and loam so that it can store water and make it available to plant roots. The greatest problem with soils of this nature is the difficulty in maintaining workability. Tillage operations must be done when moisture level is just right. Otherwise, clods tend to form and the surface may become puddled or crusty. Many homesteaders had chosen their sites hoping to benefit from early promises of irrigation around Big Sandy that never materialized.
As spring approached, it wasn’t long before those homesteaders who had chosen not to weather a Montana winter started returning. On the 22nd of June 1911, the Mountaineer, Big Sandy’s first and recently launched (re-launched, says one account) newspaper, carried the following item:
New construction got underway in the spring as well. One item in the Mountaineer on June 29 read as follows:
NEW STORE BUILDING FOR BIG SANDY Big Sandy is to have another addition in the way of a new store building to be located on the corner south of the Log Cabin Saloon and west of the restaurant building owned by Worstell Bros.
The building will be 40 x 60 feet and well equipped for a general merchandising business. Work will be commenced at once and completed in the near future. This is only a beginning of a great amount of new buildings that will go up in Big Sandy the coming year. Watch Big Sandy grow.
The story does not tell us who will be occupying the building. Frank had several notices in the fall papers and it sounds as if business was prospering, so perhaps he and Dias would occupy the building. In August they reported, “Worstell Bros. have received a complete line of watches and jewelry.” In November this notice appeared, “Have just received my outfit and price list for made-to-order clothing and for the next 30 days will give a 10 per cent discount on all orders at F. P. Worstell’s,” and another, “F. P. Worstell is selling ‘made to fit you’ clothes for $15 and up.” Dias’s name or the word Bros./Brothers is not in the ads. It is also missing in the following December notices as well: “Do you know a Gas Light will give 10 times more light than one for half the cost? Let me show you. F. P. Worstell,” and “GAS LIGHTS That are Safe — CLOTHING “to Fit You” — JEWELRY That is Guaranteed — F. P. Worstell.” Frank also sold magazine subscriptions, “One or more subscriptions at club rates. Every periodical printed. F. P. Worstell.”
Frank may have sold encyclopedias as well. Dr. Worstell acquired the eleventh edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica published in 1910. This particular edition is considered one of the premier editions of encyclopedias. After Gaylord died, it remained in the possession of Richard Worstell, until he and his wife died. Richard’s daughter and son-in-law have particularly enjoyed using it later in their lives and have found it extremely useful.
On July 27, the following notice was placed in the paper: “Dr. Gaylord Worstell — Physician and surgeon — Glasses fitted scientifically to any condition of the eyes. Big Sandy Montana.” He was ready to make Big Sandy his home. On August 17 the paper printed this item: “Dr. Worstell, this week, started digging a cellar for a building 24' x 26' and a story and a half high, on his corner lot, making space for six rooms for his own private use.” Then on Nov. 30, 1911, the paper printed this one: “Dr. Worstell is building a new residence over in the east part of town. It will be a story and a half building and will greatly improve that end of the city.” The earliest deed recordings available for Gaylord and Elsie are for November 1912 and April 1913, and both were for purchases in Big Sandy made by Elsie. Whether they thought it prudent for the wife to be the owner of record or because Elsie had the money in her own name must remain speculation. Dias’s wife, Bertha, also made their first recorded real estate purchase in April 1913.
Various activities of the people in Big Sandy and the surrounding area were reported in the Mountaineer for the reading pleasure of the residents. Homesteading by inexperienced city people evidently was a dangerous occupation, as one might deduce from the following story on August 17:
CUTS FOOT WHILE CHOPPING WOOD NEAR WARRICK Last week Mr. Mills, out on the Ruhe Bros. ranch, while chopping wood had the misfortune to cut his foot very badly in the instep. The cut was so deep that the flow of blood could not be stopped until Mills was very weak from the loss. However he was brought to Big Sandy and Dr. Worstell took the injured man in charge and succeeded in bringing him through all right. He returned to the ranch Sunday and was doing nicely at that time.
These accidents are getting pretty numerous out there in those mountains, and they are all of a serious nature. Of course we all make a slip some times, but we would advise a little more caution for those out there in the handling of guns and axes.
Experienced people have accidents, also. This next one is dated July 13, 1911:
Sam Hewitt, the owner of the saw mill, met with a very painful accident last week. He happened to get too close to the saw and had the first three fingers on his right hand badly shattered. He was brought in to Dr. Worstell at Big Sandy. The two middle fingers had to be amputated but the index finger was saved. Dr. Worstell reports the hand is doing nicely.
Elsie and Gaylord must have hit it off nicely with the Sam Hewitts. Elsie and Grace had a nice little vacation visiting at the Hewitt’s place as reported July 20, “RETURNING FROM TRIP TO THE MOUNTAINS Mrs. Dr. Worstell and daughter, who have been spending a few days in the mountains gathering berries and fishing and resting at the Sam Hewitt home, returned home on Tuesday.” The previous week the paper had reported, “Frank and E. C. Worstell are spending a few days in the mountains.”
The women of Big Sandy had some choice of care when they delivered their babies: 1. they could go to Fort Benton to a doctor, who had his own hospital, 35 to 40 miles away, some over dangerous terrain, especially in the winter; 2. to Great Falls, which was twice as far, but with train transportation available; 3. with a midwife attending (one midwife opened her home to expectant mothers); 4. by Dr. Worstell, who made house calls. Someone would come for him and take him back to their place, or he would follow them to the home — over gravel roads, if he were lucky, otherwise over the gumbo dirt roads and trails. Item in the September 14 paper reads, “Born to Mr. and Mrs. M. J. Bakke, 22 miles out on the prairie, Monday an 8 pound baby girl. Dr. Worstell officiated and reports mother and child doing nicely.” Not such good news was reported on August 10, “Dr. Worstell was called Saturday morning to the home of J. A. Vanover to attend Mrs. Vanover who had given birth to a baby. Sad to say the little one died but the mother feeling better at this writing.” Neighbor women came in to help each other even when Dr. Worstell delivered the baby. One mother, Bernice Linn, was brought “oxtail soup to give her strength,” by her neighbor, Mrs. Tingley. Mrs. Silvernail attended along with Dr. Worstell at the birth of another of the Linn children.
The paper reported on June 29 that Elsie had started her Bible class that would meet “next Sunday night. Lesson in the 10th chapter of Luke. Everyone is invited.” As well as teaching adult Bible classes, she also encouraged children to come into her home for instruction.
Elsie’s mother, Mary Jones Dale, arrived the last of July or the first of August and moved in with Gaylord and Elsie. Her first homestead application of April 30 was rejected sometime by or before August first, and it was not until October 16, 1911, that Mary J. Dale personally signed application for the homestead described as the South East Quarter of Section 23 Township 29 North, Range 11 East Montana Meridian.
The final proof for this homestead was contested in 1915 by Frank Figley (the contestant) who, possessing land on two or more sides of the Mary Dale claim, desired to acquire title to the land, and who is represented by his attorney, Mr. Hammond. The contest was brought against Elsie Worstell, et al [contestees], who were represented by their attorney, Mr. Harnden. Accordingly a hearing was held with witnesses testifying in answer to questions asked by the attorneys on both sides. Whenever possible, the words of the witnesses will describe the events as they occurred in 1911. The writer makes occasional emphasis. Much consideration was given to the physical fitness of Mary Dale in the following exchange:
[Mr. Silvernail, witness for the contestees, in direct examination by Mr. Harnden, attorney for the contestees.] Mr. Harnden: You may state your name, and residence, Mr. Silvernail. A. Fred Silvernail; Big Sandy. Q. What is your occupation? A. Farming at present.... Q. Were you acquainted personally with Mrs. Dale? A. Yes, sir; I have seen the lady a few times. Q. When did you first know her? A. Well, it was about the time that she filed on the place, the first time that I ever met the lady to know who she was. Q. Did you ever see her after that time? A. Yes, sir. Q. Where did you see her after that? A. Saw her in town. Q. At the time you first knew her, what was her physical condition? A. Apparently was all right. Q. Apparently was all right? A. Yes, sir. Q. How old a woman apparently was she? A. I couldn’t say. I should judge somewheres about sixty.
[Mr. Homer E. Comer, witness for the contestees, in direct examination by Mr. Harnden, attorney for the contestees.] Mr. Harnden: Please state your name and address. A. Homer E. Comer: my address is Big Sandy.... Q. When you saw her at that time [August 1911] was she in good physical health? A. No, sir; she was rather frail. Q. Well, would you say that she was helpless, or wasn’t she? Mr. Hammond [attorney for contestant, Frank Figley] interrupts from the floor: Just a moment, Mr. Comer. We object to that as leading. Let the witness tell what her physical condition was, if he knows. Q. She seemed to me in rather poor health. She looked to me to be as frail as a woman ordinarily would be that was eighty years old. She was feeble and tottery. Q. Was she helpless? A. Not entirely. Walked around, but very feebly.
[Cross examination by Mr. Hammond.] Mr. Hammond: You say you live at Big Sandy? Yes, sir; not at Big Sandy, no, sir; nine and a half miles northwest. Q. You have a homestead there? A. Yes, sir. A. You have a family? A. No, sir. Q. What is your business? A. I am at present farming. Q. Farmer? You have done some preaching, have you? A. Yes, Sir. Q. What church? A. Christian church.... Q. Had you met her before? [August 1911] A. Yes, sir. Q. Where? A. At her daughter’s home at the restaurant in town. Q. At Big Sandy? A. Yes, sir.... Q. And you stated, I believe, that Mrs. Dale at that time was practically helpless. A. She wasn’t entirely helpless; that is she was able to walk around, but you might say that she was helpless because she was quite feeble. Q. Had to have someone look after her? A. I should judge so. Q. How long before this was it that you had met her in town at her daughter’s place? A. It must have been about two months. I think it was about May, if I remember correctly. Q. You met her and talked with her then, did you? A. Yes, sir. Q. And what appeared at that time to be her mental condition? A. She seemed to be rather childish. She was quite childish when I was talking with her in the restaurant.
[Elsie Worstell in direct examination by Mr. Harnden, attorney for the contestees.] Mr. Harnden: State your name and place of residence. A. Mrs. Elsie Worstell. Q. Residence? A. Big Sandy, Montana.... Q. At the time she filed what would you say relative to her general health, physically? A. She was old, feeble, afflicted with rheumatism, but mentally sound. Q. When she filed and established her residence she was physically able to maintain a homestead? A. Yes, she had no rheumatism at that time. It was in the summer time. It wasn’t the time of the year it bothered her.
[Elsie Worstell cross examined by Mr. Hammond, attorney for the contestant] Q. You say Mary J. Dale was your mother, Mrs. Worstell? A. Yes, sir. Q. And she came out here in 1911? A. Yes. Q. What time in the year did she come? About the — I think it was the 15th of July — just come through the mountains on a ten days trip. Q. Just tell when she came and then we will get along faster. She made a homestead application or someone did in her behalf before she came out? A. I think so; I am not positive. Her land was picked out for her. Q. Who picked it out? A. Dr. Worstell. Q. Wasn’t there a homestead application made for her in April 1911? A. I don’t know about that. Q. You didn’t sign any application for her? A. I don’t think I did. If I have I have forgotten it entirely. Q. Do you know who did? A. No, I don’t. I was away in April. I couldn’t have done it. Q. You were not here in April? A. No, sir; — of, the April before she came I was here, yes. We came the previous year to the year she came. We came in 1910. Q. And your mother was in good health when she came, was she? A. Considering her age and feebleness — leaving that out of consideration. Q. You stated a moment ago, I believe, that she was old for her years. A. Yes. Q. And feeble? A. She walked slowly, like an old woman would, you know. That was due, likely, to her rheumatism — stiffness. Q. And did she come out here from Kansas when she came, or from Oklahoma? A. Ohio. Q. And she came here to file on land? A. Yes, sir. Q. You say the Doctor had picked out some land for her before she came? A. Yes, sir. Q. And you knew of course, before she filed on the land, that she was frail and weak, and physically unable to maintain a residence there, didn’t you, Mrs. Worstell? A. No, I hadn’t seen her for a long while. Q. Well, at the time she filed on the land you saw her, didn’t you? A. I don’t know when she filed. Q. She filed in October 1911. A. Did she? I didn’t know. I thought it was before that. Mr. Harnden [attorney for Worstells, speaking from the floor]: She filed a soldier’s declaratory before that and then filed the homestead entry. Mr. Hammond: There was a homestead application filed for Mrs. Dale on April 30, 1911; that is Serial 06116. The record shows that it was rejected for the reason that the application was not signed by the party herself. Elsie: She wasn’t here. Q. I don’t know whether she was here or not. Then when she filed on the land, then — when she came out here to file on the land, get at that more accurately, please. What time in the year 1911 did she come from Ohio? A. July — about the middle of July. Q. And her land had been picked out for her prior to that time? A. Yes, sir. Q. But she didn’t file on it until the latter part of October? A. I don’t know. Q. You don’t know when she filed? A. No. Q. The record states that she filed on October 31, 1911. After she came here, even in July 1911, you knew that she was frail and weak and unable to maintain a residence on a homestead nine or ten miles from town, didn’t you? A. Yes, sir. Q. Knowing her physical condition? A. Yes, intending to live with her on her homestead. Q. You had a homestead of your own, didn’t you? A. Yes, but we were going to sacrifice that because mother’s was the best. [In later recross examination of Elsie, Mr. Hammond continues.] ... Q. You stated, I believe, that your mother came from Ohio to Big Sandy? A. Yes. Q. How long was she there before she came to Big Sandy? A. I don’t remember that. Q. Where did she go to Ohio from? A. From Oklahoma to Ohio. Q. She was visiting there was she, with some of her folks? Q. She visited down in Iowa with me on her way to Ohio from Oklahoma. She was staying at Hobart, Oklahoma. Q. How did it happen that this land was picked out for her before she came? A. The Doctor was up here several months previous to my coming.
[Grace Worstell Harnden, Elsie and Gaylord’s daughter and Mary’s granddaughter, in direct examination by Mr. Harnden, attorney for contestees.] Mr. Harnden: Will you please state your name? A. Grace Worstell Harnden. Q. Are you acquainted with the late Mary J. Dale? A. Yes. Q. Will you please state what that relationship was? A. She is my grandmother — my mother’s mother. ... Q. Well, do you know when she took up this claim — about what time? A. I think in August was the first time she ever went out there; I think she established residence in August 1911. Q. Well, do you know anything relative to her [Mary’s] general health about the time she took up the residence, or before or at the time? A. When she took up residence there her health was very good; it was all right. [Later, cross examined by Mr. Hammond.] Q. You knew your grandmother, then, when she first filed on this land, did you? A. Yes, before that. Q. She was stopping at your mother’s place, was she? A. Yes. Q. And what was her condition at that time? A. Very good. Her health was very good. Q. Her health was good in October 1911, was it? A. Yes. Q. Her mind was also all right at that time, was it? A. Yes.
[Dr. Worstell in direct examination by Mr. Harnden, attorney for contestees.] Mr. Harnden: You will please state your name. A. Gaylord Worstell. Q. Your residence? A. Big Sandy, Montana. Q. Your profession? A. Physician. Q. How long have you been engaged in the profession? A. Since 1899; is about sixteen years. ... Q. What would you say relative to her health at the time she filed on this land? A. Well, she was in pretty fair health, I would say, for a woman of her age. She wasn’t naturally an active woman; she was rather corpulent but she was in pretty fair health. Q. Did she have any illness in the year 1911 that you know of? A. Well, yes, she was bothered some with rheumatism for a number of years. I used to know her over in Minnesota and I know that she was affected with rheumatism at certain times in the year, and the winter times, etc., but I don’t know that she was ever helpless from rheumatism. I prescribed for her a number of times before she came to the state. Q. For rheumatism? A. Yes. Q. Did she have any illness in the year 1911 that you know of after she made entry? A. Yes, she never was free of rheumatism, that is, since that time, as far as I have heard. ... Q. What would you say relative to her mental condition at the time she filed on the land? A. Well, she was rational at that time and she was quite an intelligent woman, and her mind was clear and active, as far as that is concerned.
[Cross examination of Dr. Worstell by Mr. Hammond.] ... Q. Mrs. Dale wasn’t in very good health at the time she filed? A. Yes, she was in pretty fair health.... Q. You have no interest in this homestead entry of hers, have you, Mr. Worstell? A. No, I can’t say I have.... Q. You had no interest in it when she filed? A. No. Q. She didn’t file at your request? A. No, I can’t say that she did. She wrote and told me to get her a homestead, and for her son — her single son. I took an active part in getting them located. Q. Then she was all right physically and mentally up until the fall of 1912, you say? A. Well, she was all right mentally. Her mind was clear. She came out here in 1911, I think. I can’t remember those dates very well, but she was — I know she was in very good health the first year she was here. [Redirect by Mr. Harnden.] Q. What time did Mrs. Dale come to Montana? A. Came here in 1911. Q. In the spring or fall? A. It was — I think it was in the summer some time. Let’s see. It was in the summer some time, yes.
In regard to Elsie’s testimony, it is not known why Mary was in Ohio or whom she was visiting. Her son, John, and his wife lived in Hobart, Oklahoma. Evidence indicates the Gaylord Worstells were living in Belle Plaine, Iowa, when Mary visited them. At any rate, Mary Jones Dale arrived in Montana.
As previously noted, the first step taken to establish residence is to construct a shelter. The typical shack was often made of precut rough lumber to provide sides of 12, 14, or 16 feet; the siding was called shiplap. The curved roof, similar to the roof of a box car, was called a car roof; tar paper covered both the roof and sides. It was usually one room, one door, and one window. The total cost was $100 or less and could be built in a day. One woman said, “The lumber yard in Ft. Benton had the lumber, nails, tar paper, etc., a person needed figured so closely, there were hardly enough wood scraps left to start the first fire in the new claim shack.” The exception was the homesteader who went to the mountains to cut his own logs and hand sawed them to make the siding. If anyone actually lived in his shack for any length of time he needed additional insulation and newspaper was often used to line the inside walls. Shack was a term that so endeared itself to the homesteader, that no matter how successful he was, or how large the dwelling became, it was still called a shack.
Shortly after arriving in Montana, Mary paid a visit to her shack, which is described in the following testimony.
[Joseph Schulz, witness for the contestant in direct examination by Mr. Hammond, attorney for the contestant.] ... Q. Is there any house on this land of Mary J. Dale? A. Yes, I think it is 12 x 14. Q. What sort of house is it, Mr. Schulz? A. Lumber. One ply lumber; car roof on it; no window in it — only a little hole. Q. Is there a hole for a window? A. Yes, there is a hole for a window — screening on it. Q. Any door to it? A. Yes, a door.
[Cross examination by Mr. Harnden, attorney for the contestee.] Q. Which direction is your shack? A. South. Q. If you are in your shack can you see the shack — dwelling on the claim of Mary J. Dale? A. Yes, sir. Q. It is in plain view, is it? A. Yes, Q. Is the window towards your shack or away from it? A. My window? Q. No, the window in Mrs. Dale’s. A. It is west. Q. Away from it, is it? A. Yes, there is no window in it; there is a hole. Q. Was there ever any window there? A. Not what I have seen: never been a window in it. Q. Is there a board or wooden door that fits over the window? A. I see once a little board there with a screening — wire. Q. That fits like a window? A. Wire screening. Q. Is there a door that would shut up against this hole? A. No, I don’t see any door. Q. Is your window — does that look out towards this shack of Mrs. Dale’s? A. No. Q. It does not? A. No, mine window is out on the west — no, it is out in the east.
[Fred Silvernail, witness for the contestees, direct examination by Mr. Harnden.] ... Q. Was it such a shack that one could live in it? A. In summer time. [Cross examination by Mr. Hammond.] ... Q. Did you say the house was completed that day that you were there? A. No, sir. I didn’t say so. Q. It wasn’t completed, then? A. I couldn’t say. I don’t think it was. Q. Was there a roof on it when you were there? A. They were putting the roof on. Q. That is, Mr. Worstell was putting the roof on? A. Frank was working at it at that time, I believe. Q. Were there any windows in the house? A. No., sir. Q. A door to it? A. Door. Yes, sir. Q. An opening or a door? A. A door frame and a door hung; it is a made door — home-made door.
[H. Comer, in direct examination by Mr. Harnden.] ... You have seen the shack on this entry, haven’t you? A. Yes, sir. Q. Is this house such that one could live in it? A. Could live in it in the summer time nicely.
[Dr. Worstell, direct examination by Mr. Harnden.] ... Q. Relative to the dwelling on this entry, was it such one could live in it in summer time? A. Yes, sir; I could describe it to you. Q. Well, I think we have the description pretty well in mind. A. It is lined with good, heavy paper and the walls made of shiplap siding; prepared roofing for roof. It is quite close. Good matched floor; much better than a number I have been in that is inhabited summer and winter.
The day before Mary’s first visit to her homestead, Frank Worstell took a team of horses and a wagonload of materials to build the shack, as well as a few household items. Fred Silvernail and Homer Comer both stopped by the place.
[Grace, in direct examination by contestor’s lawyer, Mr. Hammond.] ... Q. You say she was out there on her homestead in August 1911? A. Yes, just before I went away to school. Q. You were with her then were you? A. No, I saw them go out with the lumber to build the shack. Q. Did she go with them? A. No, we didn’t go with them. She went out after it was built.
[Silvernail in direct examination by Harnden, contestee’s lawyer.] ... Q. When did you see her [Mary] on the land? A. In August 1911. Q. Did you ever see her there any other time? A. No, I never did. Q. Just saw her there once? A. Yes, that is the only time I was ever there on the place when she was there. Q. Was there a house on the place at that time? Q. Yes, sir; that was Frank’s house at that time. Q. Frank who? A. Frank Worstell. Q. Was it completed? A. They completed it near enough that night so they stayed there.
[Cross examination by Mr. Hammond.] Mr. Hammond; You live at Big Sandy? A. I live nine miles out of Big Sandy. Q. You are a farmer? A. Yes, sir. Q. How far do you live from this land of Mrs. Dale’s? A. Two miles. Q. And you say that you saw her there in August 1913? A. Yes, sir. Q. I mean 1911? A. 1911, yes. Q. You were there yourself, were you, at that time? A. Yes, sir; I was there at the place. Q. Helping them build the house? A. No, sir; I was there with Mr. Worstell. Q. You say that they commenced the house and finished it all in one day? A. Not exactly so, no, sir. Q. When did they commence it? A. I couldn’t say as to the date when they commenced the house. Q. They were building the house when you saw them, were they? A. Yes, sir. Q. Was Mr. Worstell doing the work himself? A. Well, he was at that time, when I was there; there wasn’t anyone else there just at that time. Q. And you say that they finished it the day you were there so that they could stay in it? A. Yes, sir; they stayed there that night. Q. How do you know they did? A. Well, there was no other place for them to stay in the neighborhood. Q. Were you there the next morning? A. Yes, sir; I wasn’t at the place, but then I was sent in the close vicinity on an errand for Mr. Worstell. Q. You don’t know, then, of your own knowledge whether Mrs. Dale stayed there that night or not? A. No, sir; I couldn’t swear to that; that she stayed in the house that night. Q. Mr. Worstell came out there in the car, did he, that day that you saw him there? A. No, sir. Q. How did he come? A. He came with horses and wagon. He was there — had been there over night, then, himself.
[Redirect by Mr. Harnden.] ... Q. Now the night they were building the shack you saw them along towards evening, did you not? A. Yes, sir. Q. And when did you see them again? A. I saw Frank the next day. Q. On the way to town? A. He was at my place. Q. Which way was he going? A. Well, he was looking for his horses just then. Q. What became of his horses? A. Well, they were looking after water, I guess, and one of them strayed over to a neighbor’s and fell in the cellar. Q. The night that you saw them — A. I won’t say whether it was that night or the next night that the horse fell in the cellar. Q. Did Mrs. Dale have any way to get to town that you know of except going with Frank Worstell? A. I guess she went back with Frank; she came with Dias in the car. Q. That same day that she came, or the next day? A. No. I don’t know whether it was the next or the third day. I was there two or three days, I believe. Q. That is all.
[Homer Comer, testifying for the contestees, cross examination by Mr. Hammond.] ... Q. And you say you saw Mrs. Dale that time? A. Yes, sir. Q. How do you happen to remember it was August 1911, Mr. Comer; have you any way of fixing that date in your mind? A. I certainly have. Q. All right; what is it? A. It was on the night that her shack was finished that the horses got in the cellar. I can remember it was August because sister-in-law had got hurt a few days before and had gone to Great Falls to the hospital and I was there looking after things alone. Q. And Mrs. Dale came out there when they were building the shack? A. The day they finished the shack.
[Gaylord, direct examination by Mr. Harnden.] ... Q. Do you know when she [Mary] established her residence on that land? A. She was out there first in August 1911. Q. How long did she stay at that time, if you know? A. She went out one day and came back the next, as near as I remember. No, I remember they had some accident. I think she came back the second day. One of the horses of the team fell into a cellar and got killed and I remember somebody brought the word in — Mr. Hammond: We move to strike it out as irrelevant and immaterial....
[Cross examination by Mr. Hammond.] ... Q. And what sort of furniture did she have on it? A. She had a bed and stove and when we would go out there we would take many of the things she would need in the way of bedding and a certain chair we used to take out — a split bottom chair — and cans of water, and things of that kind. Q. And you would bring those things back when you came to town? A. Yes. Q. Everything except the stove? A. Stove and bed. Q. The bed was built up against the side of the wall, was it? A. Yes. Q. And the only residence, then, that Mrs. Dale ever had upon this land at any time was simply going out from your place at Big Sandy of an evening a few times and taking her — taking different things she needed with her for the night and come back the next day? A. Yes. Sometimes she came back the second evening. I remember one time especially we started after night. Q. She would only stay there just the one night? A. Yes. Q. And when she first established her residence, as you stated, there in August 1911, the time she had the house built, did she have a stove in the place then or shortly after that? A. Well, I am not certain about that. It seems to me that my brother took a gasoline stove out there when he built the house, or had some means of making coffee. Perhaps it was done outside of the house. I am not sure. We used to use these five gallon oil cans — make stoves of them. I don’t remember, but I think we had a stove of some kind, or some way of cooking.
[Elsie Worstell, cross examination by Mr. Hammond.] ... Q. Now, were you out there with your mother on her homestead in 1911? A. No. Q. You were not there with her at all in 1911? A. No. Q. And you don’t know whether she established her residence in 1911 or not, do you? A. Yes, I know she did. Q. Was she out there? A. Yes, sir. Q. Who was with her? A. Frank Worstell, the first time. I don’t remember who went the second time with her. Q. She was there twice, was she, in 1911, just over night? A. Yes, — I think I will take that back. I think Dias took her out in the automobile; at that time Frank was already out there, if I remember — built her shack. He took the team and household utensils the day before she went, I believe. We took mother in the automobile because we didn’t want mother to have the inconvenience of riding with the household goods that long road. Q. She stayed one night? A. Yes, I think she stayed two nights. That is the way I remember it, because he lost his horse and I think he had to get another horse to come home with from a neighbor, or something. Q. She stayed there that night in the house with Frank Worstell? A. She stayed there with Frank Worstell, yes. Q. She was in poor physical condition then, was she, too? A. Not noticeably so; just feeble. Q. You say that when any one went out with her you took what she would need that night and brought it back the next day? A. Brought back the bedding the next day and the chair. It was in one of these little Brush machines. The chair would set in the back behind the seat.
Dr. Worstell owned a 1909 Brush automobile. His son, Richard, describes it in his story titled The Most Unforgettable Character I Ever Met and his letter of 1965.
There were only four or five cars in the area. (Mr. Sam Miller had a small red Ford and Mr. Hans Lehfelt had an E.M.F. and Paul Schwartz had a two cylinder Buick that cranked on the side. Neither driver nor car required a license.) Dad owned a Brush 1909, a small roadster, wooden axle, chain drive powered with a one cylinder, two cycle engine. I had serviced the car thoroughly before starting out, even to recharging the carbide generator on the running board which supplied acetylene gas for the headlights in case we didn’t get back before dark. There were no filling stations in those times and we had our gasoline shipped from out of state, two square five gallon cans in a wooden crate.
The roadster is an open automobile with a single seat for two or three persons. The reader can check out the picture. Note the carbide light on the fender. The source book is unidentified and this picture is identified as a 1909 Brush, model B, runabout, HAC. It further states that the Brush Model B is a 1-cylinder, 7-horsepower, with 74” wheel base. There is indeed only a seat for two or three persons. An extension of the car is visible behind the seat.
The occasion that Richard is referring to was to visit a patient with abdominal pain and possibly perform an operation. It’s unknown when the doctor acquired the automobile but it is most likely he purchased it prior to moving to Montana since it was a 1909 model. The family traveled to Montana by train, and the Brush could have been part of the “earthly possessions shipped in a box car.” If Gaylord drove it out from Iowa, or elsewhere, he may have experienced some of the same problems as John Mahood and his father James, as recorded in A Gathering of Memories, a history of Big Sandy.
Gaylord always seemed comfortable driving across the prairie. On a trip to Lewistown c.1940, when Gaylord was a passenger in his son’s family car, he convinced Richard to take a short-cut across the prairie, a route that seemed familiar to Gaylord. The bumpy ride was fun for Richard’s 10-year-old daughter, but his wife was not pleased, especially when trouble arose due to fences, holes, or other problems frequently encountered on an open prairie short-cut.
Imagine the Brush on a trip across the prairie, northwest of Big Sandy, with the cane bottom rocker tied across the trunk. Imagine the occupants to be the driver and one “corpulent” elderly lady in the front. The drive will be over “rough and wild country” on roads “little more than cow trails.”
To recap: From Grace and Elsie’s testimony we know that Frank Worstell took a team and wagon with supplies to Mary’s homestead. The next day while Frank was finishing up the shack, Homer Comer and Fred Silvernail stopped by to see how things were progressing. Silvernail said Mary arrived by car and Elsie also testified that they, Dias and possibly herself, had taken Mary out across the prairie in the Brush car. Dias and Elsie returned to Big Sandy in the car. According to Fred, Frank stayed the night. During the night the team of horses strayed off looking for water. One of the horses fell in a cellar. In the morning Frank showed up at Fred Silvernail’s place and sent Fred on an errand. Gaylord testified that someone came to town to get a horse to replace the one that was killed after falling in the cellar. Mary returned to town in the wagon with Frank. The events of the two days were “finally put together like a gigantic jigsaw puzzle.” All in all, everyone remembered the night the horse fell in the cellar.
Mary Jones Dale established actual residence on her homestead August 1911. Fall was fast approaching and it was time for school to start.