The grasshoppers came again and I do not consider they have left me fifty Dollars worth of produce. William Dale

The new Big Sandy school was started in 1914. In January it was ready for the opening reception. The Mountaineer’s item read:

Everybody’s goin’ to the big dance and opening reception of the new school building next Saturday night. The floors are finished with hard maple and the rooms in the basement and first floor will be in readiness for your pleasure. C. J. Kops, the piano man of Great Falls, who has sold the board their brand new Kohler and Campbell piano, will be here to assist in furnishing music.

The school was a handsome building. The ground floor, or basement, had windows at least half the height of the very tall widows on the first and second floors. All the rooms received ample natural lighting. The light coming through the windows was controlled by a venetian-type blind with wooden slats that could be raised and lowered like modern “top up – bottom down” or “honeycomb” blinds. They were probably the same ones hanging on the windows in 1940, but by then they needed to be restrung and pulleys replaced as teachers found them nearly impossible to operate.

The winter of 1915 was extremely cold. The Missouri River was frozen sufficiently to move freight across on the ice. Winter is a good time to take care of correspondence, and the Worstells continued to work toward the completion of Mary Dale’s homestead contract. The Worstells included William Dale’s discharge papers as “proof of service” that he had served in the military. This was still considered insufficient, but the U. S. Land Office requested and received from the U. S. Army a record of William Dale being “mustered into service for 3 years October 9, 1862 and ... a private June 9, 1865.”

Then Mr. Evans, member of the House of Representatives, received a letter from the Worstells appealing for help in the settlement of Mary’s homestead. So Rep. Evans addressed a letter of inquiry to the Hon. Clay Tallman, Com’r, General Land Office, and requested the status of the case.

The Dept. of the Int. (Dept. of GLO), on March 20, 1915, wrote the Register and Receiver, Havre, Montana, concerning the final proof by the Heirs of Mary J. Dale deceased. Their letter gave a complete review of the case as follows:

In rejecting this proof, you failed to allow credit on account of military service rendered by the deceased husband of the entrywoman, there apparently being no record in your office as to the period claimed. Inquiry of the War Department has elicited the information that William Dale served in Company C, 31st Regiment, Wisconsin Infantry, from October 9, 1862, until June 9, 1865. The improvements shown are such as may be accepted, though meager.... The record appears to indicate that the entrywoman’s residence upon the land began only in May, 1912, and she may have remained there until November of that year, when she became ill, leaving the land at that time and never returning.... it is found that the proof ought to be accepted, provided it is clearly shown that Mrs. Dale was entitled to make entry as the widow of the soldier and to obtain credit on account of his military service. However, it is not shown on oath that she was the widow of the soldier herein above mentioned, nor is there any statement indicating whether he had exercised his homestead right, or was at the time of his death qualified to make an entry under the homestead laws.

The Havre office was directed to advise the Worstells they had 30 days to appeal and to furnish the necessary information. Elsie wrote the following letter to Havre R & R to inquire whether they knew if her father had used his soldier’s rights:

Havre 013669 Big Sandy, Mont.

Register and Receiver, (To) March 25, 1915.

U. S. Land Office,

Havre, Mont.

Gentlemen: Your favor of the 24 inst. has been read carefully and I desire to state that my father William Dale of Co. C. 31st Wis Inf. made homestead entry near Medara or Midary, now known as Brookings, So. Dak, about 1873 or 1874 on 160 acres of land. As I remember, we lived there two years and the grasshoppers drove us out. I was five years old in 1874 and do not know how my father made entry. If my father used his rights as a soldier in homesteading and if no subsequent law has bestowed any rights upon his widow as a result of his service in the Civil War, I desire to know this before going to the expense re of proving that Mary J. Dale, my mother was the widow of William Dale the soldier and father. My father, William Dale, never made any other homestead entry.

I most respectfully request that the records of the General Land Office be consulted to show the nature of my father’s homestead entry and what if any, advantage as such soldier’s widow my mother would be allowed in proving up her claim.

My idea is, that if the widow is not now entitled to any benefit from the husband’s service, that I must continue to cultivate my mother’s claim until three year’s cultivation has been accomplished.

Very respectfully,

Elsie Dale Worstell.

The entry record was obtained for Mr. Dale’s homestead and included the following:

Application number 3834, Vermillion Dakota Territory, May 20, 1872

I, William Dale of Brookings County D.T. do hereby apply to enter, ... the W 1/2 S.E. 1/4 & E 1/2 S.W. 1/4 of Section twenty five (25) in Township One hundred and nine (109) of Range fifty (50) containing one hundred and sixty Acres. [signed] William Dale. Land Office at Vermillion, D.T....

The homestead experience of William Dale, Jr. is one of heartache and deprivation. As the three-year term for completion of his homestead commitment was near at hand, it must be inferred William was told his improvements on the land might not be sufficient. Therefore he wrote a poignant letter to the General Land Office Commissioner in Washington D.C. explaining the reasons for what might be perceived as meager improvements. The letter starts with the salutation, “Sir:”

My case is a special one and for its decision depends upon you. In making my statement I will endeavor to be as brief as possible. In May 1872 I filed upon my homestead. In October of the same year I broke up housekeeping and took my family to the parents of my wife at Iowa Falls, Iowa. There my children, four in number were prostrated with scarlet fever. Oct. 21st we buried our oldest child and came nearly losing two others. When I left for Dakota in November they were both unable to be out of bed. They were in delicate health the whole winter and the winter being unusually severe could not safely be removed until spring. In March following my wife had a spell of sickness but she made arrangements and left for Dakota May 10th 1873 before she had fully recovered. Five days later she was at Medary D.T. My wife being an only child she was followed the same year by her parents. And when I make the statement that I have made my Homestead my home since May 15th 1873, I mean I have owned no other but my family have been with Mrs. Dale’s Mother a great portion of the time. She, my Mother in Law is of necessity left alone a great deal of her time by her husband being away. Last summer she was sick and needed her daughter’s attention nearly the whole time. This summer my wife is in delicate health and unable to perform her customary duties and is staying with her mother who lives on a farm half a mile from my homestead.

I have been unfortunate since coming to Dakota. When I left Iowa, I had an undivided half in a farm of 120 acres upon which I had laid out $2000 in improvements and was out of debt. Now all I have to show for it is my homestead and barely enough to keep my family over winter for taking my profits and loses into consideration the latter far exceeds the former. The 1st year of my settlement I had but five acres to cultivate. When I had planted one acre of it to corn a flood came and overflowed the whole and the ground did not become dry enough to do anything with that season. The 2nd year the grasshoppers took all that was planted upon it. This year in addition to my own I have cultivated my Mother in Law’s land. The Blackbirds entirely destroyed my corn. The grasshoppers came again and I do not consider they have left me fifty Dollars worth of produce.

I would have added more improvements to my homestead but for two reasons. In the first place I feared another raid of Grasshoppers and 2nd I wanted to have my patent secured to me before I go to any additional expense. The above I respectfully submit to your decision trusting your favorable consideration.

Yours Respectfully, William Dale


William and Mary Jones Dale were married July 23, 1865. Their children included an eldest child, name unknown, probably born about 1866, who died Oct. 21, 1872. Second born appears to be Elsie, Gaylord’s wife, born about 1868. Her sister Florence May was born about a year later. Florence married Anta Sherman Hale, born 1866. “Florence D. Hale was an elocutionist and a great worker in the church and died in 1935. Anta Sherman Hale died in 1950. They had four children,” reports the family archivist, Cornelieus F. Dale. Cornelieus does not say where the Hales were living in the 1930s. An unverified newspaper item says that Florence Hale was living in California in 1933.

The fourth born of the Dale family was John Richard Dale, born April 2, 1870, at Iowa Falls, Iowa. He married Dorothea Bishop, born in 1872, on Sept. 10, 1897. John died June 28, 1918, Kiowa County, Oklahoma. “John R. Dale was a promising doctor at Oklahoma City and Dorothea was librarian at Oklahoma Federation of Women’s Clubs. They had one son, Clifford, who died in infancy.” One more child was born to the William Dale family, Oak F. Dale. On November 18, 1875, two witnesses testified that William Dale had a wife and three children. Oak gave his birth place as South Dakota on his homestead application. These two statements make his birth date around 1876. Oak Dale, of course, never married, and died in Big Sandy, September 19, 1910. It will be remembered that William Dale died October 16, 1906, and is buried in the National Cemetery, Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

On the homestead final proof made November 18, 1875, William’s witnesses affirm they have known William Dale for 3 and 5 ˝ years and that on May 15, 1873, he “entered upon and made settlement” on the land described above and “built a house 17 feet by 21 feet, one story high, and has not been absent from his homestead six-months at any one time,” has lived in said house from the 15th of May 1873, has plowed and cultivated about 12 acres and “dug and finished a well and planted thirty fruit trees.”

His final affidavit, which is necessary for the military credit given veterans, says that “I served for over ninety days in Co. “C” 31st Regiment Wisconsin Infantry that I was mustered into the U.S. Military service on or about the 13th day of September 1862 and Honorably discharged therefrom on the 9th day of June 1865.” William received his letter of patent, signed by President Ulysses S. Grant. William had indeed used his veteran’s benefits.

To complete the information to satisfy the Land Office concerning Mary J. Dale’s homestead, Elsie obtained the marriage record from Hardin County, Iowa, for William Dale and Mary Jones. Elsie also obtained a letter from an old family friend and neighbor in South Dakota, as follows:

1871 Old Medary Farm 1915

H. I. Stearns, Prop.

Brookings, So. Dak. April 16th 1915

Mrs. Elsie Dale Worstell

Dear little Elsie

I was most happily surprised to hear from you and would be more so if I could see you. I searched the Records and found that your Father proved up on an ordinary Homestead here during Grants term as President, and the Patent was signed by U. S. Grant. We did not come here until 1871 so you see it was after that time. He did not use his soldiers Right — at that time. I know and can make affidavit that your mother was the wife of Wm. Dale but of course do not know that he was a soldier of the Civil War that is my oath to that effect would not do. Of course you can show that other way I certainly will help you any way possible. His Homestead is described as follows E 1/2 of S.W. 1/4 and W. 1/2 of S.E. 1/4 — Sec. 25 T. 109 Range 50. Now Elsie when you write to Flo. give her my love for a very dear little Girl Friend.

Yours Respect. H. I. Stearns

Both of these items were forwarded to the Havre office April 19, 1915. Alas! The letter from the U. S. Department of Interior dated May 8, 1915, at the top of the page read, “Proof Rejected.” As the letter read, “On May 24, 1872, William Dale made homestead entry ... He submitted final proof thereon November 22, 1875, being allowed credit on account of his service in the late Civil War.” The length of time necessary to prove up on an ordinary filing at that time was five years. Further more, as the letter stated:

The widow of the soldier is not entitled to make homestead entry and be accorded credit on account of his military service, unless he was himself qualified to make entry at the time of his death; the question whether he obtained credit for his service in connection with that entry would not be material. However, in this case, as stated, he not only obtained title to 160 acres under the homestead laws, but availed himself in submitting proof thereon of the special privileges accorded him on account of his service in the Army in time of war.

Of course Gaylord and Elsie appealed in a letter dated June 5, 1915 addressed to the Sec’ty of Interior to wit: “... I was advised thru the U.S. Land Office at Havre ... that my proof was rejected ... I now beg to appeal from the action of rejection and offer to continue the cultivation of said homestead ... “

The 1914 crop of oats on the Mary Dale homestead yielded about a ton of oats per acre. The crop of winter wheat they planted in the fall was a failure as it was “winter-killed.” This particular year temperatures reached as low as -62o. Two people froze to death that year and several were hospitalized. The Worstells would not plant again this year, but fallow and wait until the next spring to plant spring wheat.

Meanwhile, the owners of the various plow rigs in the area got together to set prices for their work. They agreed on charging $4 per acre for breaking, $3 for stubble plowing, $.50 for discing, and $.25 per acre for harrowing. Gaylord added to the hospital property by putting in cement side-walks on the two sides adjacent to the streets.

Jane and Isabel returned from Pennsylvania in May, but Jane would not have any cultivation done this year. Dr. Everett Worstell, dentist, was not spending much of the year with his dental practice in Big Sandy. The paper made note, “Dr. E. C. Worstell of Chicago, who is now at the coast expecting to arrive at Verona in a few days to visit with his mother, Mrs. Isabel Worstell.” As time went on, dental care was provided by a dentist who would come to town for a few days once a month. In the absence of a dentist, Dr. Gaylord filled in as needed. Tooth extraction was the most common procedure. Keith Edwards, Big Sandy historian, was one of Gaylord’s patients from the time he was born in the hospital in 1918. The senior Mr. Edwards took Keith to have a permanent molar pulled. As Keith said, it should have been filled. Often people were too poor to have good dental care; thus, some people had lost their teeth by age 45. In the 1920s extractions cost $1 and gold crowns $5. Keith must have yelled vigorously, as he remembers Doc saying, “Good thing the train came into town at the same time, or half of Big Sandy would have been over here to see who was getting killed.” The Edwards were patients and admirers of Gaylord. Although there was a library in town, Keith, an early and avid reader, says he often borrowed books from Gaylord’s rather extensive library as he had many of the best sellers of the day.

It was good to have a doctor in the area. One of Gaylord’s noteworthy operations took place in March when R.S. “Babe” Tingley, who had been suffering multiple attacks of appendicitis, decided to have the offending organ removed. The operation was performed in Big Sandy City Hospital with the assistance of Dr. Porter from Fort Benton. It was found to be a “very stubborn case, the appendix having grown fast to the intestines.” Even so, the patient recovered nicely.

Paul Sonksen, whose family knew the Worstells well, told the story about his mother when she sought advice from a Big Sandy doctor for abdominal pain. The doctor told her she was having female problems. The pain persisted and she went to Great Falls to see a doctor. When the doctor saw her, he immediately said, “She has appendicitis.” “How can you tell?” asked Mr. Sonksen. “See how she has her right leg pulled up? That’s to ease the pain,” said the doctor. During the operation the doctor allowed Mr. Sonksen to observe the operation. When the abdomen was opened, the doctor shook his head and said, “It’s too late.” He told Mr. Sonksen to take care of the family. There were six children. When Gaylord heard about Mrs. Sonksen, he was dismayed. He later saw the local doctor and asked him, “My God, why didn’t you ask me? I’d have helped you.”

One day the doctor was preparing to go to the country to do an operation when he saw Mr. Sonksen go by the hospital. He called to him and said he needed someone to help him with an operation. “I guess he thought if he had seen one operation he could help,” said Paul. Paul related that the two men arrived at the home and prepared the patient and the implements. They used a small can of ether with a wick. Dr. Worstell told the patient to count out loud, which she did, and to count in Czech; she was Bohemian. When she stopped, Dr. Worstell said “Now we can begin.” It was a mastoid operation. He used a small chisel to make a small hole behind the ear and drain the pus, then scraped the bone before closing. Mr. Sonksen’s memory of the operation, is pretty clear. The mastoid is a portion of the temporal bone behind the ear. The honeycomb portion of the bone can be invaded by infection from the inner ear. During a mastoid operation the physician carves out the infected portion of the bone to prevent the infection from spreading to the brain.

At this time, the business section of Big Sandy was located primarily on the west side of town. When McNamara and Marlow built their new store, “The Big Store” on the east side of the railroad tracks, other town businesses all gradually moved across the railroad tracks as well. McNamara and Marlow were excavating the basement for the new store in the summer of 1915, and Richard Worstell was being paid thirty cents an hour for his work on the project. During much of the time that Richard was growing up he was also “a newspaper boy, selling up to 150 copies a day of the Great Falls Tribune.”

Dias’s business was doing well. He received three railroad cars of machinery during one week in June and reported having “put out six push-harvesters this spring.” The heavy work could be dangerous and Tom Chesterfield “mashed his right hand pretty badly,” while unloading the machinery. Dias also purchased a homestead from Silas and Emily Sawyer, and the property Bertha had in her name was transferred to Dias. How long Dias kept his other holdings in Big Sandy is not known.

City elections were held and Dr. Worstell was one of four councilmen elected to help guide the new city. One of the other councilmen was Dr. McLellan.

On the national level, the war in Europe filled the headlines. The Lusitania was sunk in May, 1915. United States involvement in the war was certain to follow.

The Worstell appeal letter mentioned earlier was forwarded by the Secretary of Interior to the Federal Building, Helena, Montana, with a letter stamped Decision Promulgated and signed by A.A. Jones, First Asst. Secretary. After reviewing the case, he wrote, “...The Commissioner held that the widow was not entitled to credit for the same military service as that which had been claimed by William Dale. In this there was no error, and the entry must be regarded as made by Mrs. Dale in her own right. The Commissioner did not cancel the entry and the appeal appears to misconstrue the decision.” The secretary then quotes the Worstell letter in which Elsie appeals from the action of rejection and asks to be allowed to continue cultivation of the homestead until she can make final proof as heir of Mary J. Dale. The next and final statement in the letter appears to be the final word, “This Worstell may do and nothing in the Commissioner’s decision prevents it. The decision is affirmed.” This sounds like good news!

Not quite. On August 27, 1915, J. Frank Figley applied to contest the homestead of Mary Dale and to acquire title for himself to the land under the provisions of the homestead law. He further claimed that:

...none of the heirs of the said Mary J. Dale, deceased, has ever resided upon the said land, and has never cultivated or improved the same since the death of the said entrywoman; that the said heirs, and all of them, have failed to make, or cause to be made, any bona fide cultivation and improvement of the said land, although more than six months have elapsed since the said heirs had notice of the death of the said entrywoman, and that the default of the said heirs still exists.

Notice of Contest was mailed to the heirs, i.e., Elsie, September 1, 1915.