Cum, Cum, Cum. Wilbur Worstell

On May 16, 1913, Owen Wilbur Worstell made homestead entry for 160 acres Northwest quarter, Section 10, Township 31 North, Range 13 East, serial number 02073, at the Great Falls land office. The homestead was southeast of Kremlin, Montana, a small town west of Havre. Wilbur was a first cousin of Gaylord Worstell; his father, James, was the eldest son of Ann and Hiram Worstell, brother of Gaylord’s father, Thomas. Wilbur was born Sept. 12, 1878, the sixth of the eleven children of James.

After serving in the Civil War, James got married and he and his wife had eleven children; ten were born in Ohio, one in Kansas. The first child, a son, and the fourth, a girl, died very young. The second son (third birth) was Henry Delano, born in 1872. Henry Delano was attending Valparaiso University in 1894-95, the same years Everett, the dentist, and Emerson, the osteopath, were attending. H. Delano graduated from the Commercial Department there; prior to that he attended Ohio Northern University in Ada. He taught in Ross County for a time, and was also a carpenter. He was a sober, sometimes gruff, man, but to family in need, he was a friend in deed. He built his sister Nettie a house when she became widowed, which they shared for a time. He was there for his siblings when their western ventures failed, and he became the prime care taker for his brother, Wilbur, when senility began to take its toll. On September 6, 1899, he married Katherine Search. They had one son who died in infancy. Delano didn’t have much interest in long-term teaching, so became a mail carrier in Chillicothe, Ross County, until he retired. Kathrine died in 1931 and Delano in 1958.

Rev. (Hiram) Maynard Worstell, James’ fifth born, was an ordained minister in the United Brethren Church. He graduated from Otterbein College in 1907, where he acquired the name “Horse” because of his size and football prowess. Like so many Worstells, Maynard also did some school teaching. He was a good carpenter and house builder, and had a good sense of humor. He, his brother Delano, and another brother Wilbur, called themselves the Marx Brothers. Delano, with a mustache, was Grocho, Maynard was Chico, and Wilbur, the violin player, was Harpo. They all did carpentry and built their nephew, Richard Rattray and his wife, their English Tudor home that they lived in for 34 years. In November 1907, Maynard married Zoa Stouffer. Zoa was born Oct. 17, 1882, in North Baltimore, Ohio. She died in 1970. He and Zoa had five children, three boys and two girls. The family moved to Westervill, Ohio, near Columbus, so the children could attend the United Brethren College of Otterbein. Their middle child, a daughter, Sylvia Luree, was born in 1914 and died in 1931.

The eldest of the Reverend’s children was Hillis (Hi) Merrill Worstell, born August 11, 1910, in Columbus, Ohio. Hi was big, tall and handsome, and played football for Ohio State University in Columbus. His dad, Maynard, was quite a sports fan, and an extremely enthusiastic supporter at his son’s games. Hillis graduated in Industrial Engineering. In 1935, he married Florence Theresa Huber, who was born in or near Kansas, Ohio. They had two children, both born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, before Hillis moved his family to Houston where he became a district manager for Warner and Swasey Company. He was a member of professional organizations and St. Vincent DePaul Catholic Church in Houston. Their daughter, Mary Josephine, was born in 1936. She married John C. Gussett in 1959 and they had six children, five boys and one girl; all were born in Houston, Texas. The Gussett’s third child, Shawn Andrew Gussett, is interested in genealogy and is active on the Internet. Hillis’ boy, Thomas (Tom) Merrill Worstell, married Sara Frances Harley in 1941 and they had three children. Hillis died in 1975.

The second son of Rev. Maynard was Karl Robert Worstell, born April 22, 1913. Karl was also a graduate of Otterbein College and was a coach and mathematics teacher in Perrysburg. Karl married Mary Ann Twining in 1939. They had two children: Roberta, born in 1940, married with three children; and Steven, who lives in Kansas City, Missouri, who also has three children. An interest of Steven and his wife is dog breeding. Karl was present at a small Worstell reunion in New Philadelphia, Ohio, in June 1993. Unbeknownst at the time, the Worstell Family Reunion, dating from about the turn of the century, was still being held the last Sunday of August in nearby Feed Spring. Also present at that reunion was Richard Worstell’s son, Cameron, and his wife, Ruby. Both very tall men, resembled each other. Karl died December 27, 2001.

Maynard’s son, Donald J. Worstell, born in 1916, Otterbein graduate, was an industrial engineer for Action Mfg. Co., in Philadelphia. He also lived in Columbus, Ohio. Donald was first married to Doris Good, later to Gloria V. Stewart. He had three children: Ronald Alvin and wife Donna live in Denver, where Ronald taught in the music department at the university; Donald and his wife Stephanie live in Gahanna, near Columbus, Ohio; (Veronica) Sue, who married Bruce Pickering, lives in Pataskala, Ohio.

Maynard’s daughter, Helen Ruth, was born in 1919 and graduated from Bowling Green, a state college near Toledo that was founded in 1910. She became a teacher and taught business education from 1942 to 1957. She was married to Carl A. Eckel and they had two daughters, Sheila and Sharon. Helen was the organist for the Grace United Methodist church of Perrysburg, Ohio, for over 20 years; Helen was a fine pianist, as well. She died in 1977, age 58.

Rev. H. Maynard Worstell died in 1946, preceding his wife in death by 24 years.

Twins, Nettie Theresa and Rachel Clarissa, were born to the James family on March 4, 1881. Nettie, too, attended Otterbein. She married William Brewer on December 26, 1912. Their residence was St. Marys, Ohio. Their five children were: 1. Martha E., born May 11, 1913, died 1932. 2. Walter F., born Feb. 4, 1915, married Caroline Wimer in 1936, and had one son, John William Brewer. Walter was a jazz pianist. He worked for a lumber company and did sign painting and drafting in Wapakoneta, Ohio. 3. Helen, born March 8, 1917, married Adrian Greber in 1936, and they had two daughters, Eileen and Jane Ann. 4. Arthur, born Oct. 25, 1919, married Frances Goodman in 1940, and had one son Arthur Richard. 5. James Vance, born c. 1921, was a private in the U. S. Infantry, served, and was wounded in W.W.II.

Unlike his brothers and sisters, Owen Wilbur never went to college and never married, but he owned his own farm in Ross County, Ohio. When the urge to go west struck Wilbur, he sold his farm and went to Everett, Washington, to work in a sapphire mine. Then the Montana land promotion reached the west coast and Wilbur answered the call to homestead there; he was 35 years old. After arriving in Montana, he purchased a steam engine, thrashing machine, and gang plows. It was June 1, 1913, when he made actual settlement upon the land and built his shack. That summer he broke 10 acres and planted wheat. His crop produced 82 bushels. The next year he broke 80 more acres and planted flax, then took a short leave to go back to Ohio to visit friends and family. His harvest that fall was a failure, “No crop.”

Soon after Wilbur filed for a homestead, his sister, Rachel Clarissa Worstell, known as Clara, age 32, born in Ohio and single, also filed for a homestead. Clara was one of the twins, born March 4, 1881, three years after Wilbur. In her biography she writes,

When I was 17, I took the teacher’s examination and began teaching. My first school was the Charleston School near Tucson. I boarded at home and rode a bicycle back and forth to school. I taught school off and on while going to college at Otterbein. Here I graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1909. [She was a high school Latin and humanities teacher.]

In 1910 I took the Civil Service examination, and got the job in the Census Bureau. I was in Washington D.C. one and a half years helping to tabulate the 1910 census figures. As I look back this was one of the happiest and most exciting times of my life. This was the first time I had been away from home any length of time and interesting experiences were ahead for me. There were young people from every state and I learned a lot about the different sections of the country. The Southern people still hated the North and feelings ran high. I roomed with a Southern girl Melissa Basham from Tennessee. I began to see the Southerner’s view point. She was a teacher and said the Southern schools had different text books than ours. The Civil War was fought in the South. The South was outnumbered by the North. Old men and boys fought to defend their homes. No wonder the Southerners resented the North as our soldiers wantonly destroyed their homes, and devoured their crops. Miss Basham said it made her feel like crying to hear me sing Marching Through Georgia. Miss Basham and I forgot our differences and became life long friends.

Miss Basham and her boy friend Arthur Gallaher, also from Tennessee would go with me and my boy friend, Roger Strong from Kenton, Ohio, out from Washington on trips to Mt. Vernon, Arlington Cemetery, Virginia Caverns, Virginia Beach, moonlight boat rides down the Potomac to watch Halley’s Comet.

Later Miss Basham and Mr. Gallaher were married, and Mr. Strong and I accompanied them down to Norfolk, Va., on a boat ride honeymoon trip. We four went together to amusement parks, went to shows about three times a week. Most of the shows were stage shows Shakespearean plays. Movies were not so common. Technicolor pictures were introduced about this time and I saw the first colored pictures in the Uniforms of the English Colonies, soldiers marching in parade celebrating King George V coronation.

Buffalo Bill show was in Washington while I was there. Buffalo Bill was on horseback and did some of his famous shooting; he was a great marksman. People in the show would throw up balls and he would shoot and hit them every time.

Mr. Strong and I went to my church the U. B. Church on West Capital Street and Mr. Gallaher and Miss Basham went to her church on Sundays.

We visited Congress while it was in session; we had to stand in the gallery. We heard the famous Latimore case.

Washington D.C. is noted for its magnificent buildings: the Corcoran Art Gallery, the Congressional Library, the Smithsonian Institution, the Pan American Building, and all of the government buildings are worth seeing. The Washington Monument is the outstanding thing in Washington. This I visited and went to the top many times. There were so many inspiring things about Washington, D.C. I remember reading the inscriptions above the entrance to the Union Depot, “Give to the world the best you have and the best will come back to you,” and “Be noble and the nobleness that in others lies sleeping though not dead will rise up in majesty to meet thine own.” This depot has since been torn down and a more magnificent one replaces it. I was in Washington, D.C. a year and 6 months.

In 1912 I came home still out for adventure. I took the Civil Service examination to teach in the Indian schools. I got an appointment to Taos, New Mexico, an adobe village just out of Taos was my school. This two-room school building had a cottage housing the Superintendent and one other teacher. This is where I stayed and taught the Indians to read and write English.

After the children had passed the third grade they were sent to Santa Fe to finish their education which was about the seventh grade. The Indians took on some civilization but still held to their common practice sitting on the floor and eating from a common mess pot.

In the spring of 1913, when my school was out, my brother Wilbur who had started out with me went to Canada then to the northern states and found a homestead in Hill Co., Kremlin, Montana. He wrote me “Com, Com, Com;” he had found homestead adjoining his that I could file on and get it by paying a relinquishment and living on it the required time.

Clara filed for her claim on July 14, 1913, for 160 acres in Southwest quarter, Section 3, Township 31 North, Range 13 East, serial number 022079. She also gave her address as Kremlin. It was actually Laredo, a little town south of Havre and east of the homesteads, and was the home community for the Worstells. Clara built her shack on July 15th and actual settlement on the land is given as August 20, 1913. In the homestead file of Clara Worstell is a Notice of Rejection for the entry described above “pending completion of prior entry HE 020162.” This serial number precedes that of Wilbur’s. Wilbur may have made this filing for her, and she then made a new filing after she arrived in Montana. In any case, it was late in the season and she did not work the land until the following year, when she broke 10 acres. “Planted to flax but got no crop.”

In October of the year 1911, Egbert Gerald Rattray, of Canada, made entry for the Southeast quarter of Section 10 adjacent to what was later to become Wilbur’s homestead. Shortly after the Worstells settled on their homesteads, Bert Rattray met Wilbur and his eligible sister, Clara. He courted Clara and “sought and won a wedding ring partnership;” they were married on September 9, 1914. Bert filed for permission to reside with his wife on her claim and this election was granted. “He moved his shack on to my farm and built on two more rooms. We painted it white and called it The White House,” wrote Clara. On November 9, Clara Rattray gave notice for publication in the Kremlin Chancellor to make final “commutation proof” for her homestead. Her signature, Clara Rattray, on this day shows an “R” written over a “W,” a common mistake for newly married women. The value of the improvements on her land was estimated to be between $200 and $300 and included two houses, 10’ x 12’ and 10’ x 14’. Upon careful examination of the papers known as “Testimony of Witness” filed by two witnesses, one house is described as being on the southwest quarter as in the homestead description, and the other on the southeast quarter. Her neighbor, John Dobbie, testified he had seen Clara on her homestead 250 times each year and another neighbor, Fred Martin, said he saw her 100 times each year. In Clara’s final testimony she said [her] “husband has an unperfected homestead entry, he has resided with me on my claim about a month.” On December 18th, 1914, Clara received her “certificate to receive a Patent” for the homestead with the payment of $200 in lieu of the performance required for the three-year proof for homestead. Patent was transmitted in April 1915.

In January of 1915, Clara went to be with her in-laws, west of the Rocky Mountains in Libby, Montana. Even by train, there could be times, such as winter, when this would be an uncomfortable trip. From the Libby office of the Kalispell land district, Clara applied to the Havre land office for a leave of absence from her homestead. The request was made “for a leave of absence from the said land for a period of six months from Jan 15, 1915 to July 15, 1915, and, in support of said request, I have to state as follows: I am under the doctor’s care and it will be impossible for me to return to homestead until July 15th, 1915.” Clara’s daughter, Sylvia Melissa Rattray, was born May 9, 1915 in Libby, Montana. Clara wrote:

In 1915 Sylvia Melissa was born at Libby, Montana. (We had gone over the mountains to Libby and Bert worked in a logging camp that winter. The failure of crops made it necessary for him to get work through the winter.)

Still optimistic in the spring of 1915, Wilbur Worstell broke 10 more acres and planted 70 acres of wheat, 12 acres of oats, and 8 acres of flax. That fall he reaped 1800 bushels of wheat, 400 bushels of oats, and 100 bushels of flax. With such promise, in September 1915, Wilbur filed for an Additional Homestead, SW4 Sec. 10, T 31N, R13, adjacent to his first claim and on the southwest quarter where the house description was for Clara’s claim. This application, number 030446, was made in the U.S. Commissioner’s office in Kremlin. The following January he took a second leave to visit family in the east. In July of 1916, Wilbur gave Notice of Intention To Make three-year Proof on the west half, i.e. both homesteads, which was witnessed by the Worstell’s friends, John Dobbie and Fred Martin. At that time, the improvements on his land consisted of a 10' x 14' house, 9' x 14' granary, 12' x 24' barn, and a cistern, total value of all improvements, $200 to $300 dollars. The two and a half miles of fence was valued at $150, and he had 210 acres under cultivation. Wilbur, as he was known by the family, signed his name Owen W. Worstell on his papers. He was granted his certificate to receive patent on July 12th 1916.

The CIRCLEVILLE HERALD Friday, September 9, 1988 — Circleville, Pickaway County, Ohio, published a story by Willie Ehrlich under the heading “Pickaway Spotlight,” which captured some of the history of the life of Sylvia Melissa Rattray Leist and her mother, Clara.

...One local resident, Sylvia Leist, recalls vividly her early years in Libby, Montana — an area often bleak and always raw in its early days — and an iron-willed woman, her mother, who tried to conquer the prairie on her own. She eventually failed but many of today’s “liberated” women would not even attempt what she and her sisters tried.

Clara Worstell was a graduate of Otterbein College. After working with the 1910 census in Washington D. C., she and her sister Sylvia [Belle], received a postcard message straight to the point, even if misspelled — “Cum, Cum, Cum” — from their brother Wilbur Worstell, who had gone to Laredo, Montana, in 1913 to homestead. The two women headed out, each to claim a section of land entirely on their own.

Laredo, a town consisting of a depot, a school, a store, a hotel, a town water pump and some hitching posts, was several miles distance from the homestead. When Sylvia [Melissa] was two and a future brother a few months from birthing, her father was killed by a run-away team of horses during a trip into Laredo.

Little Sylvia remembered that first prairie home — the badger holes in the earth bank piled high against the outside walls to insulate against freezing winds, a porch ceiling painted an incongruous blue, a swing in the barn as the only tangible bequest of her father. These memories are skimpy because her mother by herself could not meet the government homesteading requirements and lost the land.

Laredo is still marked by the old railroad sign and its memory is kept alive by a model of the town in the Clack Museum in Havre. Clara continues in her biography:

In 1917 Bert was coming home from Box Elder with a load of coal, when his team ran off throwing him out. His neck was broken. The neighbors who witnessed the tragedy kept the news from me until the next morning. They told me that he was hurt and was at the doctor’s in Box Elder that evening. The next morning they brought me the sad news.

The date was October 20, 1917.

When it came time for Richard Gerald Rattray to be born, Uncle Wilbur, Clara’s brother, set out to get Dr. Worstell in Big Sandy. It was December 28 and the temperature was 40 degrees below zero. Wilbur got the team ready but, before going far, he had to return home as the horses were covered with icicles. Richard Rattray was born December 29, 1917, but instead of Dr. Worstell, it was a Russian midwife that delivered him. Richard likes to say that he is “not illegitimate, not a bastard, but posthumous.” Egbert Rattray is buried in Havre, Montana.

The author did not acquire the homestead file of Egbert Rattray and therefore the history of his homestead claim is not available at the time of this writing. When the applicant was not native born (E. Rattray was born in Canada), he or she needed to provide a certified copy of naturalization or declaration of intention to become a citizen. Clara made a “commutation proof” and had already acquired the certificate for patent for her own homestead. She would have inherited Bert’s claim, and it is probably this claim, mentioned in the Pickaway story, that she was not able to “prove up.” In a bad year, the value of 160 acres was next to nothing. The description of the shack mentions the bank of dirt piled up around the footing. People who stayed in their shacks during the winter would surely have done this, and if not they would have scraped and piled up snow around the shack, perhaps even if they already piled up the dirt. Piling up snow around the foundation of houses without a basement was still being done in the 1960s and will continue to be so where needed because it is effective.

Sylvia Belle, the youngest daughter of James Worstell, homesteaded not far from Wilbur and the Rattrays. She was born January 23, 1884, in Emporia, Kansas, and attended Otterbein College, as did her siblings, and also Bowling Green. Teaching positions and travel took her across Colorado, New Mexico, (where she taught at Taos the year after her sister taught there), Mexico, to Panama, and eventually to Missoula, Montana. There she attended Montana University to become certified to teach in Montana. On February 25, 1918, Sylvia filed for a homestead on SE4 Sec 25, T 32N, R14E, containing 160 acres, serial number 042173. It was filed in the Havre Land Office under Act of February 11, 1915 of the Abandoned Fort Assiniboine Military Reservation.

The 179,000-acre military reservation, Ft. Assiniboine was established in 1879 to act as a deterrent to Indian uprising. It was a state-of-the-art fort. Col. C. A. Broadwater of Helena and a Chicago company got the contract to build the fort. Labor was provided by unemployed miners who had come to a gold rush in the Bear Paws near Box Elder. Additional men included 500 half-breeds from the Red River country, North Dakota, as well as the carpenters, masons, and other tradesmen who came with Broadwater from Helena. Bricks and mortar were made on site. Wood that wasn’t shipped in came from the Bear Paws. Eventually the fort comprised over 100 buildings, including barracks for 10 companies of men and officers, a 25-patient hospital with two operating rooms, chapel, library, school for children of the officers and for the enlisted men, telegraph office, stables for 300 horses, water tower, water lines and sewer system, steam power plant, saw mill, saddle shop, wheelwright, blacksmith, and granary. Civilian help provided staffing for many of the services. The 10th Negro Cavalry, first under Col. Mizner then under Gen. (to be) John J. Pershing, arrived in 1892. Pershing and the 10th Cavalry fought in Cuba and the charge up San Juan Hill. Later on, few soldiers were reassigned to Ft. Assiniboin. When a fire destroyed the water tank building, the government chose not to repair the damage but to vacate the post, and then turned it over to the U. S. Department of Interior. The Second Infantry Regiment, which had been stationed there, was sent to Wyoming. In 1913 the buildings plus 2,000 acres were designated the site of a state agricultural and manual training school, known as the “Assiniboine School.” It was also an agricultural experiment station. When Northern Montana College was established in Havre on donated land in 1929, there was no further use for most of the old fort buildings. Some were torn down and the brick used in building Pershing Hall and other buildings around Havre. During the Depression, some of the buildings were used as a W.P.A. transient work camp. Only about 16 of the original 104 buildings remain.

On April 22, Sylvia wrote the Land Office, Washington D. C., as follows:

I have filed on a homestead in the Assiniboine Reservation and I am writing to know if I can teach the coming school year in the Indian Government Schools and hold my homestead while doing so? Also can I commute in 14 months. I expect to have all the land under cultivation this summer.

The letter of reply included circulars with pertinent information. Again Sylvia gave notice for a five-month absence starting September 17, 1918. All homesteaders were allowed this leave. On January 4, 1919, she filed an “Application For Leave Of Absence” with the following explanation:

...that I have placed the following improvements on the said land, to wit: Shack, chicken house, cistern, Fence around entire farm which improvements are reasonably worth the sum of $350; that I have cultivated 90 acres of said tract the following years: 1918; that my present post-office address is Browning, Mont.

I hereby ask for a leave of absence from the said land for a period of six months from Feb. 4th to Aug. 4th, and, in support of said request, I have to state as follows: I had heavy expense in putting out my crops and in having the 90 acres broken up. My crop for 1918 was a total failure. In order to meet my obligations and support myself it is necessary to ask for a leave of absence to teach in the Government school at Browning, Mont.

Sylvia Belle Worstell

It had been a disastrous year for farmers. The winter had been bitterly cold, and the spring and early summer rains had not materialized. Sylvia’s application was witnessed by George W. Hall, of Laredo, Montana, 54 years of age, and Clara Rattray, of Laredo, Montana, 38 years of age. Sylvia returned to her homestead in July 1919. On August 2 she again made application for leave of absence.

..., during the year 1919, she has maintained a residence there on and is still doing so; that during the year 1918 she broke and cultivated ninety acres of crop, and has the same amount in crop this year, but on account of the drought, which was prevalent in this vicinity during the year 1918 and still exists, deponent secured no crop during the year 1918, nor will she secure any this year; that it is necessary that she leave the land in order to work and secure means with which to continue her residence and cultivation; that there is no work to be had in the vicinity of the land because of the prevailing conditions, and in order to obtain food and support herself it is necessary that she leave the land. She, therefore, asks for a leave of absence until June 30, 1920, under the provisions of the Act of Congress, Approved July 24, 1919, for the relief of homestead entrymen in drought stricken districts.

Sylvia Worstell

Leave was granted from August 4th to February 25, 1920, and later for another five months; Sylvia returned to the homestead July 3d. “Notice of Intention” to make proof was published in the Laredo Tribune in May 1921. Witnesses were Jerry Yoder, Mrs. Clara Rattray, Mr. O. W. Worstell, Mrs. Minnie Hall. Testimony for Final Proof was taken June 18, 1921. Mr. Yoder and Mr. Worstell testified to the acreage planted during the four years and the crops sowed. Improvements on the homestead included a shack valued at $100, house at $300, barn valued at $100 – $200, water well worth $300 and two or three miles of fence valued at $150. This was nearly $1,000 worth of improvements, an impressive investment. In answer to “How many times each year have you seen this land, and the claimant...?” Mr. Yoder said, “Nearly every day. I live about ½ mile east of her place and can see her place from mine and we go back and forth to visit.” The marital state of the witness is never requested, but relationship is, and Jerry Yoder was not related. In answer to the same questions, Wilbur answered, “Average once a week. I live on the place,” and “I am her brother.”

Witnesses to Sylvia’s Notice of Intention included Mrs. Clara Rattray, her sister who had also witnessed her Application for Leave of Absence, and Mrs. Minnie Hall, also her sister, and wife of George Hall who had also signed off on the leave of absence application. Minnie Agnes was born December 15, 1869. As a girl in the teens she was converted and joined the United Bretheran church at Emporia, Kansas. She received her Bachelor’s Degree from Otterbein and became a teacher. She was 25 when she married Rev. George Wesley Hall in March 1894. They began their gospel ministry together as quarterly conference preachers. When George Hall’s health precluded him continuing his own studies, Minnie returned to college. She graduated in 1909, became an ordained minister in the United Brethren Church in 1914, and pastored three different churches in Ohio. In 1917, the Halls went to Montana to be missionaries. Minnie, too, obtained a homestead east of Laredo. This unbroken prairie land faced the open plains to the horizon in every direction, except for Square Butte to the east. Mrs. Hall organized a United Bretheran church in Laredo and served as its pastor. As many women of her day, she was also an artist.

Sylvia apparently did not teach in the Indian schools every year during this time, but instead taught children in her home as Clara’s biography explains:

When Richard was one year old we moved into Laredo and I began teaching again in the school at Laredo leaving Richard with my sister Minnie, and Sylvia with her Aunt Sylvia, who was teaching in her homesteaders shack. She had about 9 pupils. After I had taught there two years.…

Part time during the school year and during the summer, Clara probably worked in the Laredo Hotel, as the Pickaway story continues:

At age five Sylvia started school, staying with her Aunt Sylvia and Uncle Wilbur while her mother cooked meals and managed the hotel to earn a living. Every Sunday Clara Rattray walked five miles out and back on the open prairie to visit her daughter and son Richard.

Aunt Sylvia lived with the children in a one-room home called, for some unexplained reason, the “cook car.” With wallpaper no doubt a scarce item on the frontier, the cook car was papered with pages from the “Saturday Evening Post.” Their surrounding neighbors were Russians, who were barricaded behind broken English.

Perhaps the hodge-podge wallpaper muted the whistle of the wind, bitter in winter, heat blasted in summer. Cow chips and horse apples (dried manure) were collected and burned for fuel on the treeless plain. Indians figure in Sylvia Leist’s memories, visiting the ranch to pick through a truck of goods as if on a “wish”ful trip through an exclusive store.

The plight of the American Indian is described in the book, Grits Guts and Gusto by Dr. Hans J. Peterson. Chief Rocky Boy is quoted, “I want to let you know how I suffer here for grub. It’s hard to make my living. I am getting tired of making my living on the dump. I am like a chicken picking wheat, doesn’t matter where I find it.” Dr. Peterson wrote, “They [Indians] lived by gathering thousands of tons of buffalo bones scattered over the plains and stacking them in immense piles at the railroad stations.... When the bones, the buffalo’s last gift to then, were gone they faced starvation.... Harried by police and ruffians, the Indian women searched garbage cans... and even used the flesh of the occasional horse or cow found dead on the prairie for food.”

Before the establishment of Rocky Boy Reservation, the Indians “... wandered, hungry and ragged. Nobody wanted them. These people were a conspicuous part of Big Sandy’s early years,” is quoted from Gathering of Memories.

Aunt Sylvia’s “cook car” was probably a work train’s cook car that had been obtained from the local railroad and the smaller of the two shacks. When Sylvia gave her testimony for Final Proof, she explained that her claim was a relinquishment on which she had filed and that it already had a house on it; she said she built the second house the previous year. Her certificate shows four payments of $80 each, one for each of the years 1918 – 1921 inclusive. Someone with a better understanding of relinquishments could probably explain the reason for this amount of money paid the U. S. Land Office.

As Uncle Wilbur testified on Sylvia’s Final Proof, he lived on her place. He must have helped make life interesting for the family group. He could do anything and one of things he did very well was play the violin; he played for the community dances around the country. Richard Rattray said he was “a wild violinist,” and that he carried rough sapphires in his violin case and gave them away as he pleased. Richard remembers trips the family made to Havre in the buggy. It always seemed like a long trip for the little boy. On one occasion he kept telling his Aunt Sylvia he needed to “pee.” “Wait until we get to Havre,” she said. When they crested the hill and could see the town below, it was quite a relief to Richard to know they had reached Havre. Aunt Sylvia only knew he had relieved himself too soon. In 1920, Wilbur purchased a Maxwell automobile. The picture of Richard and his dog, one on the trunk and one on the hood, is a treasured possession of Mr. Rattray.

In 1921-23, Clara was teaching high school in Shelby, Montana. Sylvia Melissa was with her, but her son Richard was with Minnie Hall. Richard had been with Aunt Minnie, at least during the school months, since he was one year old in 1918. Minnie and Richard loved each other, almost like mother and son. It was she who told him the facts of life, and hoped that someday he would become a dentist. Minnie preached in Laredo and had a pastorate in Harlem. Minnie was an orator, a very dynamic preacher; George was not, he was quiet and thoughtful. Minnie helped organize the Montana branch of the Women’s Missionary Association and served as its president. George ran the ranch and milked a herd of dairy cattle while Minnie lived in Harlem. Minnie commuted by train every week from Harlem to Havre, then out to the ranch, a distance of about 50 miles. One assumes that little Richard made the trip with her during the time he was living with her. The Halls expected to make Montana their permanent home. They located a good piece of level ground a two- or three-hour buggy ride away from the homestead, and purchased it and started building a nice new home. During the summers, Sylvia and Clara often paid long visits to George and Minnie’s ranch. Rustlers were a problem for the Halls. On one occasion, a group of rustlers made off with horses they had gotten from the Hall ranch. Minnie drove the buggy into Laredo and notified friends who got together a posse. The posse tracked the thieves, who were caught red-handed with a large herd of horses in a temporary corral. The rustlers were changing the brands on the animals, but the Halls were able to identify their own horses.

It was hard for Clara and her little daughter Sylvia Melissa to be separated from son and brother those years in Shelby. For diversion, they may have gotten caught up in the excitement of the community during that year of 1923. It was the publicity gag turned financial disaster in the Jack Dempsey – Tommy Gibbons boxing match. Clara writes her memories:

While I was there [Shelby] the famous Dempsey-Gibbons prizefight took place. This about ruined the town of Shelby as the crowd crashed the gates and there were no gate receipts (leaving the merchants and business men, who had guaranteed the costs, holding the bag).

The Dempsey story was retold in the Great Falls Tribune, July 20, 1973. The community of Shelby invited J. W. “Body” Johnson to be their main speaker during their commemoration of the fight’s 50th anniversary. The instigator of the fight, “Body” Johnson, had let negotiations get out of hand when Jack Dempsey’s manager, Jack “Doc” Kearns, answered Johnson’s proposed offer of $200,000 for a Dempsey fight with one of his own for $300,000. Johnson had not expected his offer to be taken seriously. Johnson and his real-estate business partner started the publicity gag at a time when “business was diminishing at the same rate as the area’s oil boom.” According to J.W. Johnson, it ended in a personal financial disaster for Johnson’s father, who had put up money from a personal loan, and for his bank, which had to close for a time. Records show a net loss of $164,500, which was totally absorbed by Johnson’s father, J. W. said. About 7,000 people viewed the fight, and many of those had not paid, as the hurriedly erected barricades were easily breached. The winner, Jack Dempsey, took home $250,000 and the loser, Tommy Gibbons, earned $7,500 in training fees. The Tribune story reported, “Johnson said no one else in Shelby lost money. He said much of the money was raised in advance ticket sales in other Montana communities.... Johnson said the publicity gag ... provided a profit for no one but Dempsey, ‘but at least I can say it was an honestly held fight promotion with no shady negotiations.’” The Tribune article also said, “The Shelby area, at one time sitting on the richest oil fields in Montana, began losing population after the fight. Johnson said it was the diminishing amount of oil in the area that caused many to move away, not losses from the fight.”

Oil wasn’t the only thing diminishing. The country had been in a drought since 1918 and farmers were taking a major hit. “That year 1923, I moved to Harlem, Montana, living with my sister Minnie and teaching in the high school there,” wrote Clara. Richard was in first grade, Sylvia Melissa in about the fourth grade.

The previous year, January 1922, George Hall passed away. Minnie was grief stricken and did a lot of crying that year. With Rev. George Hall gone, the summers in the bleak little homestead had lost their appeal for the sisters. It was time for the Worstell women to pull up stakes.

The newspaper account of young Sylvia’s story said, “... Sylvia Leist’s youth on the prairie ended when her mother, who had gone to the Seattle area as a maid, found a teaching position and reclaimed her two children.” With Rattray relatives in the Spokane area, the Worstell women gravitated in that direction. Sylvia attended Eastern Washington College of Education in Cheney, Washington, a little southwest of Spokane, to become certified to teach in Washington state. Sylvia got a teaching position in the small town of Rosalia south of Spokane. Then Clara got a teaching position nearby in a three-room school called Squaw Canyon. Little Richard, who had been living with Aunt Minnie, was “tagged” and put on the train in Harlem to go Spokane to join his mother and sister. The school had a teacherage and Clara had her children in her school.

After a time, Rev. Minnie Worstell Hall sold her homestead to a friend named Mr. Becker and got a pastorate in Spokane. Then she suggested to Clara that Sylvia Melissa come live with her and go to a larger school. The “country” in the young girl was evident. When asked by her new teacher to tell the class where she was from, her answer “Squaw Canyon,” elicited much laughter. Her embarrassment was so great she refused to return to that school. When Aunt Sylvia left Rosalia school, Clara took a position there. The years at Rosalia were good for the Rattrays. Clara purchased a 1925 Ford touring car that cost $500. Clara “paid for it making $50 payments each month for a year.” The locals thought she was a terrible driver. One day Clara was driving and a gentleman in a group of onlookers said, “Here comes Mrs. Rattray. Better watch out!” Then before their very eyes, she ran into a tree. Clara taught school there until 1929, when she again became unemployed. The Pickaway news story continues:

Eventually Clara Rattray decided to join the Pickaway County relatives. After many adventures on a trip cross country by Model T, tent camping beside mostly gravel roads, the Rattrays ended up here.

Clara had learned to drive. Minnie retired her pastorate in Spokane and joined Clara and the children for the trip back to Ohio. The year was 1927. They packed Clara’s 1925 Ford touring car with their belongings plus four camp cots, and a white 15 x 10 foot tent with canvas and poles rolled and secured on the fender. “... We stayed at tourist camps, which were just spaces where we put up our tent for the night, and cooked our meals on a camp stove...,” reported Richard. “We didn’t have to camp too many nights as we managed to stop with people on the way. Friends in North Dak., Merril, Wisconsin, and Indiana, for over night.” One of the little adventures on that trip was to negotiate the mountains by driving in reverse to take advantage of the extra engine power necessary to climb the grades. When Minnie retired, it proved to be the church’s loss; the minister who filled the pulpit the first Sunday after her departure, was “in his cups,” so to speak.

Owen Wilbur Worstell headed east in his Maxwell about the same time. Their destinations were Ross and Pickaway Counties, the family home and where Delano Worstell, Clara’s brother, was living. Delano had a wilderness farm of uncleared land that he allowed Wilbur to live on and to work for him (Delano) clearing the land. Wilbur built a house on the farm and invited Clara and the children to live with him for a time. The Pickaway story notes:

Several lean years followed for the family struggling to establish themselves. Eventually Clara found a teaching job at Washington Township School, where she taught from 1929 through 1932. Some Pickaway County residents learned reading, writing and ‘rithmetic from her before she became Mrs. Jesse DeLong and gave up teaching.

Clara writes:

In 1938 Mr. De Long passed away then Richard and I lived together in Chillicothe until he was inducted in the service in 1941. Meanwhile I worked at various places in Columbus, and one and a half years at Otterbein Home, Lebanon, Ohio.

Wilbur spent most of his working life on the Ohio wilderness farm. Sylvia, also, returned to Chillicothe and at age 50, in December 1934, she married Maurice Harper, a Simmons Company salesman. After he retired they moved to Florida, where he died and is buried. Sylvia Belle then returned to Ohio, where she died in 1982. She never had any children of her own. Clara died in 1974. Sylvia and Clara share the same headstone in Forest Cemetery, Circleville, Ohio.

After Minnie moved to Ohio, she had a ministry as a circuit rider. While still preaching in Spokane, Minnie met Rev. George K. Hartman at a religious convention. They carried on a romance by correspondence. In 1932, Richard Rattray and his cousin Karl Robert Worstell (son of Rev. Hiram Maynard) took their Aunt Minnie to Harlem, Montana, to look at property. Karl was 19 and in college, Richard about 15. They also went to Glacier Park over the newly opened Going-to-the-Sun highway. They may have taken Minnie on to Spokane, because in September 1932, Minnie married Rev. Hartman in Spokane. Minnie’s nephew, Walter Brewer, son of her sister Nettie, lived with the Hartmans. Walter remained firm during this time not to let them “make a G— D—— preacher out of me.” When Rev. Hartman retired, he and Minnie moved to The Dalles, Oregon, where Minnie was pastor of The Dalles church and the Beaver church. On one occasion, Minnie went to Ohio to visit the relatives. Karl Worstell and Richard Rattray drove her back home and on the way paid a visit to her “second farm,” which she later willed to Karl Worstell. By this time the Montana farm was surrounded by the Rocky Boy Reservation.

Rocky Boy Reservation was populated with an unique group of Indians. Imasees and his band of Canadian Cree, homeless Indians including those abandoned after their temporary employment at Fort Assiniboine (many of whom were children of French-Canadian and Indian women from various tribes), Chief Rocky Boy, and the Chippewa, were first unsuccessfully settled on the Blackfoot Reservation in Browning. With the abandonment of Ft. Assiniboine, Rocky Boy Reservation was established on over 53,000 acres of fort land for the Chippewas, Cree, and the others. Later purchases swelled the reservation to 107,000 acres. Minnie appears to be one of only three homesteaders who did not sell.

Minnie Worstell Hall Hartman, minister, died Feb. 25, 1944, and is buried in Feed Spring cemetery. The obituary for her on MyFamily.com from The Religious Telescope, reads in part:

In the fall of 1942, Rev. Mr. and Mrs. Hartman retired from the active ministry and came to the Col. R.M. Baker Home at Puente, California. Mrs. Hartman passed to her heavenly home on February 25, (1944).... Mrs. Hartman was distinguished for her social grace and queenly character, her rare talent for public speaking, energy of action, and power to organize and work with people. She finished her life work with the love and esteem not only of her own relatives, but of a wide circle of friends in many places. ... Internment [sic] was made at Uhrichsville, Ohio.

The Montana hiatus for the children of James Worstell was over. The Pickaway writer closes with a suggestion to his readers.

The memories of Sylvia Leist of a way of life now vanished, evoking echoes of the “Little House on the Prairie” series, were written down for her children, and eventually their children. Would that my grandmother, whose stories are now lost permanently, had done the same. Others may want to take a lesson from Mrs. Leist and preserve their past for their descendants.

Sylvia Melissa Rattray married Arthur Leist in June 1935. They had two children: Carrol Ann, a travel agent, born in 1936, married Nelson Stevens; Gerald Arthur Leist, born in 1940, married Susan Smith and has four girls. Sylvia Melissa’s hobby is crocheting and her group calls themselves the Happy Hookers.

Richard Gerald Rattray married Helen Bowman in Pickaway County in 1946. Helen was a high school home economics teacher for 23 years. Richard was a sergeant in the U.S. Air Force during W.W.II. He had a home and garden business in Chillicothe “selling trowels to tractors” before retiring to Circleville. They have two children. Their daughter Margaret Jane, born in 1957, married Jeff Spevak, a journalist, and they reside in Rochester, NY. Their son, Scott Spevak, born in 1959, is a graphic artist. Scott is married to Gail Chin, a Chinese lady, and has two sons. The couple lives near Chicago and are conservative Presbyterian. Scott and Margaret both graduated from Ohio University in Athens.

It has been through Richard Rattray that much of the material for this chapter was obtained. In the course of sharing the information, there were always jokes such as the one about the Baptist who said he’d never be a Christian, the train robber who agreed not to take the belongings of the Methodist minister because he (the robber) was a Methodist, or the one about the Frenchman and the Swede who were fighting over a young woman on the train to Idaho. The Swede, tired from the argument, looked out the window and saw the railroad sign for Havre, threw up his hands and said, “Ya ‘kin hav’ ‘er.”