I will be hanged, if some villain,
Some busy and insinuating rogue,
Some cogging cozening slave, to get some office,
Has not devis’d this slander. 130, Othello, Shakespeare
It was scarcely dawn when the sounds of someone moving about in the house awakened Dr. Worstell. It came to him, as he aroused out of his sleep, that it was Gracie making the sounds of someone preparing to leave. He bounded out of bed, hurriedly putting on his clothes, and he called out, “Gracie, Gracie, where are you going?” Still buttoning his pants as he hurried down stairs, he implored, “Wait, wait, I’ll go with you!”
School was about to start in the fall of 1911; however, Big Sandy schools offered only grades one through eight. Grace completed the eighth grade in May and her future looked bleak. She was experiencing some youthful rebellion and it seemed to her that her future was going to consist of housework and helping care for her ailing grandmother and the younger twins. Also, there was that hospital her parents kept talking about that they were going to build and where she could be expected to work. It seemed to her she might end up working in Big Sandy forever. She wanted to get an education and see more of the world, and she could start by going to school in Great Falls. Afraid her plans might be thwarted, she made them in secret. She had arranged for a man with a car to pick her up very early in the morning and take her and her belongings to the train depot. She had also made arrangements to have the flag raised at the depot that would stop the train for a passenger. However, it was her father who took her to the train. On the way he asked about her plans. How was she going to live, etc.? Grace had it all planned out. She felt she had lots of experience with work. She had cared for babies and she would find someone who had just had a baby and she would live with them and work for her board and room while she went to Great Falls High School. On the spur of the moment, Gaylord decided to accompany her to Great Falls and see to it that she was settled with a family and enrolled in school before he returned to Big Sandy. Grace was fifteen years old. She would someday tell this story to her daughter, Rachel (Jane).
Ben and Fern were enrolled in the first grade. A second room had been built on to the school during the summer. The October School Report in the November 2, 1911 edition of the Mountaineer is given in such a way as to indicate that the children were kept in their own grade group until fifth grade when they may have been placed in a group consisting of all the older children. Fern was noted as third in her first grade class for “attendance,” “deportment,” and “not tardy.” Later in the year, it was noted that Ben Worstell was listed as fourth in the first grade class. The school was used as a church and benefited from a visit in November by Rev. Van Orsdel, better known as Brother Van. He was starting the groundwork for the building of the Methodist Church.
Harvest time the homesteaders are reaping the rewards of their efforts. Montana farmers, like other pioneers, often planted seed flax as their first crop since it can be grown on relatively dry, uncultivated land. It was so successful in the early years of Montana homesteading, samples of it were used to convince farmers in the east of the productivity of the Montana soils. When in bloom, a field of blue flax is a beautiful sight. Flax is cut when the plants are yellow-brown. It can be reaped and threshed with the same machines farmers use to harvest other crops, such as wheat. The seeds are processed into linseed oil and meal. Textile factories make yarn (linen) from the fiber and paper mills make cigarette paper from the plants.
When Oak Dale, Elsie’s brother, died, Elsie received permission from her brother and sister to be administratrix of Oak’s estate. This proved to be a problem for the attorney in Ft. Benton, as “deceased left no real nonpersonal property of any kind. No children, no wife, no will,” as Elsie wrote later. However, in the spring of 1911, Elsie went ahead and had 26 acres of Oak’s homestead broke, cultivated and planted to flax. The crop, when harvested, produced about 8 bushels per acre.
That year of 1911, Dias recorded, “I seeded six acres of flax amd twenty-four acres of oats. Rancher’s cattle broke down my fence and destroyed the crop.” He said it was only good for hay. Frank chose to cut his barley and flax for hay. The only records available of Everett’s homestead indicated that it was “Allowed” in 1910, “Notice of Allowance” issued in 1911, later “Contested,” and in June 1913, the entry was canceled. The paperwork for these homesteads, all obtained through the Great Falls office, was transferred to the Havre Land Office in 1910 after the Great Falls office was overwhelmed with applications.
After losing most of his crop to cattle that broke through the fence, Dias was the victim of yet another common homesteader’s problem —theft — as reported in the paper October 16, 1911.
At the trial the defendant pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 90 days in the county jail, where he was taken last Saturday. Judge Ragan proposes to put a stop to this work about here, and this promises to be a very good way to do it.
Frank was the brother whose nearby homestead apparently suffered some loss, also. Some thievery seemed to reach real lows. The Pleninger family is one example. Mr. Pleninger used a scythe to cut the knee-high grass for hay. He made a rake to gather the hay and left it beside his cutting when he stopped for the night. The next morning the rake and hay were both gone.
During the court hearing regarding Mary’s homestead, various witnesses were asked about the furnishings in Mary Dale’s shack. A built-in bunk was usually reported. Most of the witnesses reported seeing a stove described as a “good stove,” “old stove,” “heating stove,” or “coal heater,” and with or without stovepipe. Mr. Hammond asked Dr. Worstell about the furnishings they carried out to the homestead with them. “Q. And you would bring those things back when you came to town? A. Yes. Q. Everything except the stove? A. Stove and bed.” Aware of theft from homesteads, Worstells were careful at first to take the stove with them. Later, from what witnesses said, it seems they left the stove at the shack.
Grace returned home for the Christmas holidays. All was not well with the family. Mary Dale had a stroke. Mr. Hammond questioned Grace about Mary’s health.
Q. Did her health remain good? A. No, when I came home Christmas time she was very ill at Christmas time; the holidays of 1911 and 1912 her health was very poor then; she was practically helpless. She had a stroke of paralysis just before that. Q. Well, relative to her mental condition? A. Well, she was out of her mind all the time I was home that was Christmas time — the week of Christmas and New Years — she was out of her head all that time. She didn’t know me at all. Q. That was what year, Mrs. Harnden? A. That was 1911-12, the last week of 1911—and ‘12. Q. Then you returned to school after the holidays? A. Yes.
Grace later said on cross examination about Mary that “She was out of her head when I was at home — in bed.” In answer to questioning about Mary’s health in 1911 by Mr. Harnden, Dr. Worstell continued his answer thus.
A.... it must have been along in 1912 sometime she had a slight stroke of paralysis. One side of her face was paralyzed and she had weakness in one arm, if I remember right. I know about the facial paralysis. That was visible, but I don’t remember the side of the face that was paralyzed.... Q. Well, was there ever any change in (this) mental condition? A. Yes, there was. Q. State when? A. — but I don’t just remember when that took place. It seems to me it was — I am such a poor hand to remember dates, etc. — but I think it was some time in 1912, in the fall. The weather was cold. She would be bothered occasionally — Mr. Hammond: Just a moment, Mr. Worstell. Just answer the counsel’s question, — A. I aim to do that. Mr. Hammond: —and not encumber the record with a lot of immaterial matter. A. Sometime in 1912, as near as I remember. Q. Describe this change in mental condition. A. Well, her trouble seemed to fall under the head of what is known as paresis. I can state the symptoms, etc. She was bothered occasionally with aphasia or inability to speak and to get hold of the right word. She would say a word that she knew wasn’t the right word and she would smile or laugh a little and try to correct herself in speech. The arteries were — that is the blood pressure was high, the arteries were rigid and she was more helpless and inclined to have sores on the back, and she would lie in bed at nights, etc., and part of the day. Q. What would you say as to whether or not she was rational? Q. She was at times; seemed to be. Was at times. rational and at other times she was not. Q. The first time you noticed any change in her mental attitude was when? Before or after this stroke of paralysis. A. I can’t remember about that; I don’t remember. I don’t remember about that.... Q. Would you say that she was deranged after her sickness, or not? A. Yes, sir; there would be no question about that, to my mind. Q. Have you in your practice had cases where the mind has been affected? A. Yes, quite a number of them. Q. You are very familiar with the symptoms, are you? A. Yes, sir. Q. Did you treat her during this time? A. Yes.... Q. Was she bed-ridden during the winter of ‘11 and ‘12, if you know? A. No, she was not in bed much of the time — that is, during the day. She used to lie down on the sofa, down by the fire — down stairs most of the time during the day; that is, that is where she would rest during the day — in the rocking chair.
Then Elsie answered Mr. Harnden’s questions:
Q. Did she have any illness after she filed? A. Yes. Q. What time? A. Late in the fall — the same fall. Q. What was the nature of that illness? A. The doctor called it a second — no, really, it was the first partial stroke of paralysis. Q. How did that affect her? A. Her features were distorted to one side, and she was quite helpless in getting in and out of bed. I had to be up with her nights. She had to get up three or four times every night. Her kidneys were incontinent and I had to wait on her almost like a baby at night. Q. How long did this physical state last? A. Until her death. Q. Did she have other sickness after she made this entry, except this stroke? A. Well, following this stroke, a few days afterwards, she had mental derangement. Q. What form would that take? A. She would not talk rationally. She would get the wrong words in the wrong place and would forget what she was talking about at that time — lapse of memory. Q. Was she violent? A. Never. Q. Did it take any other form, this mental deficiency? A. One time she had three or four days of apparent idiocy. She would giggle and sing and repeat words that had no meaning whatever in her singing. She would carry the tunes, but there was no intelligible discourse of any kind. Q. Did this mental deficiency stay with her until her death? A. At times only, up until the last month of her death. Q. And after the last month? A. She was rational the last month of her life.
On cross examination by Mr. Hammond, Elsie continues.
Q. That illness that required close attention did not occur until 1912, did it? A. Yes, the Doctor was wrong in his dates. He has got a rather bad memory for dates. Q. When was it that she had this stroke of paralysis that the Doctor spoke about? A. It was late in the fall, to my best recollection, or 1911. Q. How late? A. Beginning of winter. Q. Beginning of winter? A. Yes, that is the way I remember it.
Later in the same testimony, Mr. Hammond returned to the same subject and the time it occurred.
After the holidays, Grace returned to her employment and education in Great Falls.
The months of “Consternations” was not yet over. Dr. Worstell started the new year of 1912 with the following letter to the editor of the Mountaineer, Jan. 11.
Now comes the denial, a more unpleasant thing for me. I am called upon to deny the report that I am a “dope fiend.” I deny that as a base and malicious lie, it is without the first shred of truth as its basis. It’s a lie from the “whole cloth,” as one should say. I denounce such a lie as the work of a base coward, a low snake-in-the-grass who knew that he was attacking my good name and reputation without any cause what ever. I denounce him as a thief of the lowest and meanest order. If my friends will supply me with sufficient evidence to convict the man who has thus slandered and injured me, I shall promise to use such evidence as becomes a gentleman of spirit, who values his good name and professional dignity and reputation.
Very respectfully, Gaylord Worstell, M.D.