Think not the object gained that all is done

The prise of happiness must still be won. Quoted by M.B. Pittis

“Big Sandy, the town on the Great Northern Railway.... ” read the opening of another national news and promotional story. The prosperity of the community was touted. It reported that every quarter section of land was taken up and the farm homes surrounded with beautiful groves and the oats in the fields were seven feet tall. Among the attributes of the town were listed its wide streets, splendid lighting, and cement walks. Businesses included three hotels, two banks, two newspapers, two billiard halls, several lumber yards, a merchandise store, cafe, clothes cleaning plant, and four saloons. Lights were installed in 1917, and there must have been a library, as it was being moved in 1917. The article predicted that Big Sandy would grow to have a population of 5,000 in ten years.

Perhaps it was with much the same optimism that the Worstells faced their coming contention.

The decision that was sent down from First Asst. Sec’y. A.A. Jones of the Interior Department, U.S. Government, August 4, 1915, stated that Worstell may continue cultivation of the homestead until she can make final proof and “nothing in the Commissioner’s decision prevents it.” Mr. J. Frank Figley contested that decision and filed “Notice of Contest” that was duly published, as required, in the Big Sandy Sentinel, August 1915. The notice makes clear that the reason for the contest is that he, Frank Figley, meets the personal qualifications that entitle him to contest, that no one else is contesting the acquisition of title and that he has “an interest in or desire and intends, if permitted to do so, to acquire title to the said land under the provisions of Homestead law,” etc., etc. The basis for his claim and with which he charges the defendants are: A. Entrywoman Mary J. Dale, who died December 1913 never established and maintained a bona fide residence on the said land at the time of her death. B. None of the heirs of the deceased Mary Dale, has ever resided upon the land. C. Has not cultivated or improved the land. D. Has not caused there to be made any bona fide cultivation and improvement of the land. E. Although more than six months have elapsed since the heirs knew of the death of Mary Dale, such default still exists. Attorney for Mr. Figley will be Mr. R. E. Hammond.

The contestant’s case for appeal was set forth in his letter of September 20, 1915, prepared by his attorney, Mr. Hammond:


Now comes the above-named contestant by his attorney, and appeals from the decision of the Honorable Commissioner of the General Land Office dismissing said contest, said appeal being based upon the following specification of error:

1. The Honorable Commissioner erred in holding that the heirs of the entrywoman had complied with the law subsequent to the death of the entrywoman, and that they had time in which to comply with the law either as to residence or cultivation.

2. The testimony offered at the hearing was sufficient to warrant the cancellation of the entry, and the Honorable Commissioner erred in holding such testimony insufficient.

The testimony is conclusive, and is so held, both by the local office and the Commissioner, that the entrywoman had wholly failed to comply with the law at the time of her death, and as is aptly put by the Commissioner, “The entrywoman having failed in the matter of residence, there was no compliance with the law for which the heirs could receive credit in making up the full necessary period.” That is, they must either have lived on the land for at least five years after the entrywoman’s death, or continued the cultivation for a like period. This would be impossible of accomplishment as the statutory life of the entry would have expired before such period of residence or cultivation could be had. Referring the decision of the case, therefore, to a purely technical interpretation of the law, the entry must be canceled under the contest.

After a very careful examination and review of the testimony submitted at the hearing, the local office held the entry for cancellation, stating in their decision, “your local officers do not believe that acts of the defendant as to residence during the year 1911 were sufficient to comply with the homestead but that such residence was in effect a more makeshift or colorable compliance with such law, and further that good faith has not been shown by either the entrywoman or her heirs.” This decision was reached after the most careful consideration of the testimony, and consideration of the demeanor of the witnesses. Certainly upon questions of fact the Register and Receiver are the best judges. They see the witnesses; they know the conditions, and many times have personal knowledge of circumstances connected with the matter under consideration which is not possible in one who must decide wholly upon the transcribed testimony of the witnesses.

We invite the closest scrutiny of the entire record, from which it will appear that the heirs of the entrywoman twice undertook to get through final proof on this homestead, once by one of the heirs who assumed the position of guardian of the entrywoman; this was rejected for the reason that there had been no judicial determination of the woman’s insanity, and no proof of letters of guardianship having ever been issued. A second proof was attempted in which the heirs claimed a credit for the military service of the entrywoman’s husband; as credit for this service had already been had by the husband in making proof upon a former entry, the proof was likewise rejected. It is worthy of note that all the attempts at final proof were by the heirs who have, throughout the entire case shown a most remarkable interest in getting through some sort of final proof which would secure the land for themselves. It is now understood that a third attempt at final proof is being made.

The testimony submitted in the case, even that portion of it offered on behalf of the contestee, discloses a spectacle of selfish greed and unparalleled avarice seldom encountered. Dr. Worstell, the son-in-law of the entrywoman testified that she could not go alone to the homestead; that she could not even be left there without some one being present who knew how to take care of her. Mrs. Worstell testified that she is the daughter of the entrywoman; that when her mother filed on the land “she was old and feeble.” Can we picture a person who would permit her mother whose mental and physical condition was such as is disclosed by the testimony in this case, to isolate herself, or rather to be isolated, on a homestead miles from medical aid and proper attention. Such a thing could be for but one object.

Everything connected with the case indicates most clearly the absence of good faith, and an attempt to acquire title to public land by any method however questionable so long as it could be done. Those who would under our statutes become the heirs of the entrywoman have shown a cold, calculating disposition throughout the entire transaction, avaricious, mercenary, and pitiable because it’s true.

In conclusion, the decision of the Register and Receiver was correct and should be adopted. The decision of the Honorable Commissioner can not be upheld by law or precedent. We, therefore, respectfully submit that the decision of the commissioner should be reversed and the entry held for cancellation, and preference right of entry awarded to contestant. Resp. Hammond, Attny.

The Notice of Hearing was published on the 22nd of September. The answer to the contestant, Mr. Figley, was prepared by Mr. Harnden, Elsie Worstell’s attorney, and stated that Elsie knew of her own knowledge that the allegations set forth in the Application to Contest were false and untrue.

Mrs. Elsie D. Worstell answers the contestee by denying each and every allegation and also on behalf of the other heirs. Her attorney will be E. D. Harnden, none other than her son-in-law, Emery Harnden. Dias Worstell signed as notary public. Washington is notified and they recognize that Contest and Answer to Contest have been made and the parties are notified to appear before the Register and Receiver at the U. S. Land Office in Havre, Montana, on November 8, 1915. They also receive a letter stating that the “entry remains intact.”

On the designated day, the contestant, the contestee, and witnesses are sworn in before the Receiver, Jake A. Mayer, in Havre. Joseph Schulz witnessed for F. Figley, and Frank Figley testified on his own behalf. Witnesses for the contestee were Fred Silvernail, Homer Comer, Gaylord, Elsie, and Grace. Mr. Harnden made a motion to limit evidence to the fact of establishing residence on the land, as all else would be immaterial since the contest was brought after the death of the entrywoman. He was overruled. Testimony concerning the quality of the residence and the presence of Mary in the residence was given in detail. Joseph Schulz, witness for Mr. Figley, admitted that he moved to his homestead in December 1911, and was working away from his homestead during the summer of 1912. He further stated that if someone was occupying the shack at night he would not know about it. Mr. Figley admitted that his knowledge was all from other people and that he had no first hand knowledge of Mary’s presence, or lack thereof, first hand. Concerning the quality of the shack, the opposing views can be summed up on that subject in the following exchange:

Question by Mr. Harnden: You can maintain a residence in any shack. You know that that is a customary shack throughout the country. Answer by Mr. Figley: No, it is not. Q. Single boarded and car roof it is. That is inhabitable in the summer, anyway, isn’t it? A. You would have to have light, wouldn’t you? Q. You wouldn’t have to have light if you don’t want light.

As pertains to the cultivation of the land, Mr. Schulz said Mr. Andrews plowed some first and he saw John Arverson working the land. He said the land was sowed, then “cut the crop and left them setting. That is a year ago.” [1914]

Mr. Figley avowed that in 1915 about 15 acres were in cultivation, that the crop had been cut and in shock, and he saw a team plowing — stubble plowing. It was also shown that he had no first hand knowledge of the claim until 1915.

Grace saw the crop in shock in 1913. She thought Fred Silvernail had put in the crop. Mr. Silvernail testified that 20 acres or more were broken in 1913. He knew this because he and his team did part of the fitting of the ground and that John Halverson seeded the winter wheat in the fall. Some oats were planted also. Fred was there when some of the work was being done. He said that Mr. Worstell paid for the plowing and sowing. Homer Comer agreed there were 20 acres of land broke in the spring of 1913 — he had done the stoning of the land— and sowed to winter wheat in the fall. It was not reseeded in the fall of 1914, but oats were planted in the spring of 1915, he said.

Fred said there was 30 rods of fence around the cultivated portion of 25 acres. Mr. Comer said there were about 30 acres fenced and he had done it himself.

After the hearing was completed, the Worstell’s attention could be spent on other things. Richard was going to school in the new school building. He had spent his freshman year in Great Falls, and was now the lone sophomore in Big Sandy. There were six freshmen, three juniors, and no seniors. There were two teachers, Principal Vivian Hutchins and her sister, Rose Hutchins, together with Mrs. Inez Hope Ary and Miss Carrie Schumann who helped out in study hall and penmanship. The students were grouped together with the seventh and eighth graders.

The past year of 1915 had been a very good year for the farmers and by extension, for business in general. Another member of the Worstell family had come west looking for opportunity; it was Gaylord’s other sister, Mary Etta, and her husband, Raymond Lee Carnes. Mr. Ray Carnes was a building contractor who had built houses in Tappan and Uhrichsville, Ohio. Big Sandy appeared to have new opportunities. Ray first filed on a homestead July 1915, in the same vicinity as Isabel’s first filing and with somewhat the same experience. He built a 10' x 12' shack worth about $45. After he built the shack, he discovered that there was a reservoir site covering most of the land and he decided to abandon the claim. He then filed on the W2 NE4, E2 NW4, E2 SW4, Sec. 32, T28, Range 12, Serial Number 031853, next to Verona, on February 19, 1916. This represents 240 acres. First rejected, it was later allowed to stand. The house he built on the second claim was valued at $200-300; other improvements included a barn worth about $25, two and a half miles of fence and breaking of the land.

The Carnes’, who were married April 16, 1910, had one child when they came to Big Sandy, a four-year-old daughter named Corabelle Jane, who was born in Ohio on Feb. 28, 1911. Up to the time of her marriage, Mary had made her home in Canton. One of Mary’s good friends was Sylvia Belle Worstell, youngest daughter of James, who had her homestead not far from Wilbur Worstell and the Rattrays. They may have known each other in Ohio, or after Sylvia got her homestead in Montana in 1918.

Mary and Jane were contrasting sisters. Mary was a redhead with a fiery temper; Jane was a brunette. Mary had a cockeye and poor vision, yet Isabel had taught her to quilt and crochet. Jane was more the outdoor type and Mary more the indoor type, but Jane was the cook and caregiver. When Mary and Ray’s first child was born, Jane was there to help with the new baby. Mary was an entertaining story and joke teller. She liked to visit with the men and could keep their attention with her stories. Alpheus’s granddaughter, Phyllis, has enjoyable memories of Mary and her good humor, but as a child, Jane’s daughter, Betty, remembers Mary as somewhat overwhelming and intimidating. Mary inherited the secret formula for a medicinal salve that someone in the Worstell family had concocted, perhaps Dr. Hiram Worstell.

The Havre Register and Receiver prepared a resume of the hearing on the Mary Dale claim held on November 8, 1915, and reviewed it. It was March 10, 1916, before the Register and Receiver made their decision. In their correspondence they again reviewed the case and noted that when Elsie Worstell first submitted proof on Mary’s entry, she was not entitled to claim any credit accruing from William Dale’s military service. Concerning the sufficiency of the cultivation, they felt it was of an uncertain character but that they could not find “that it was wholly insufficient.” On the issue of residence, they did agree there was some difference of opinion as to the frequency of the visits. About Mary’s health they stated, “The physical and mental condition of the entrywoman after the winter of 1911-12, would without doubt have excused further residence, but your local officers do not believe that acts of the defendant as to residence during the year 1911 were sufficient to comply with the homestead law but that such residence was in effect a more makeshift or colorable compliance with such law, and further that good faith has not been shown by either the entrywoman or her heirs.” The conclusion read as follows:

It is our opinion, and we do so find, that the contestant has proven sufficient of the charges as laid to warrant an order for the cancellation of said entry.

We would therefore respectfully recommend the cancellation of said entry, subject, however, to the usual right of appeal.

Within the thirty days, August 27, 1915, attorney for the Worstells prepared an appeal to the decision of the R & R. He based his appeal on three points of error:

1. It is error to consider the residence of the entrywoman, that being immaterial after her death, while the local officers make that the deciding issue in the case.

2. It was error to over rule defendant’s motion that all evidence as to the deceased entrywoman’s residence be rejected.

3. It was error to cancel the entry after admitting as they do on page 9 of their report, that there was evidence to show that the cultivation was not insufficient.

Mr. Harnden’s argument and authorities cited were tight and specific. Cases nearly identical to that of Mary J. Dale and her heirs provided precedents. In his words he says the right to the entry goes to the heir(s) free of any default and may be completed by the heir(s) by either residing on the land or cultivating the land for the required period, but need not do both. He further excerpts testimony given at the hearing.

In the Contestant’s Answer to Appeal of Contestee, Mr. Hammond quoted no sources and appealed to “the spirit and letter of the law.” He says, “The heirs of a deceased homestead entryman succeeds to whatever rights the deceased entryman had at the time of his death, and no more.” He likened it to the situation where a person is killed instantaneously by the wrongful act of another and “the heirs had no right of action.... based upon the logical hypothesis that a person who was killed instantaneously could himself have no right of action.…” This would appear to be a citing of the law as it existed before the right of the “Wrongful death suit.” After appealing to “good faith” he points out “... where an attempt is made to acquire title to government land purely for speculative purposes, and by ‘hook or crook,’” the department should disapprove.

The above statements were forwarded to Washington by the Havre R. & R. along with their joint opinion that their decision was in favor of the contestant.

Still hopeful they would receive a positive decision, on June 21, 1916, the Worstells again published their intent to make final proof. Proof must be published for four weeks, and they had reason to expect some lag time in government action.

The Havre R & R received the decision of the Washington GLO in a letter dated August 14, 1916. The letter was very complete with a full coverage of every action taken since Mary Dale filed for the homestead. R & R was to notify the parties; additional copies were included. The final portions are quoted.

... entry must be regarded as made by Mary J. Dale in her own right. The final proof was therefore rejected, but the entry was allowed to remain intact, subject to the submission of new proof showing due compliance with the law.

If the entrywoman had duly complied with the law as to residence up to the time she became insane in 1912, she might by reason of insanity have been excused from afterwards residing upon the land. It, however, appears from the testimony in the case, that the entrywoman did not actually reside upon the land and make it her home to the exclusion of elsewhere, during the period intervening between the date of the entry and the time she became insane.

The entrywoman having failed in the matter of residence there was no compliance with the law for which the heirs could receive credit in making up the full necessary period.

It was therefore incumbent upon them either to reside upon or cultivate the land for the full term prescribed by the law.

The entry was made prior to the passage of the Act of June 6, 1912 and as only a little over two years from the date of the entry had elapsed at the time of the entryman’s death sufficient of the lifetime of the entry remained within which the heirs could comply with the law either by residing upon or cultivating the land.

It appearing from the evidence in this case that some cultivation was done by the heirs after the death of the entrywoman, it is believed that the entry should not at this time be canceled.

Your decision is reversed. The entry will remain intact, subject to the submission of proof showing due compliance with the law during the statutory lifetime of the entry.

The contest is dismissed, subject to the right of appeal.

Duly notify the parties in interest of this decision, and at the proper time report the action taken.

Two copies enclosed for service. Very respectfully, Clay Tallman

The Worstells were much encouraged by this decision. Thus the nuisance of having to obtain affidavits for another final proof testimony and that of getting the witnesses to do likewise didn’t seem too onerous. All the information remained the same except the ages. However, this case became that of an irresistible force meeting an immovable object. Yet another rejection August 30, 1916, from Havre on the grounds there was a “private protest.”

This “private protest” may have been the impetus behind the letter of October 9, 1916, that the Havre office received from the GLO Chief of Helena Field Division. Quote:

It has been represented to me that there is good and sufficient reason why the homestead entry ... should not be permitted to proceed to patent until the validity, or invalidity, thereof has been carefully investigated and determined, it being alleged that said entry has not been initiated, or maintained, in accordance with the law authorizing such entries. You are, therefore, hereby advised that it is my purpose promptly to proceed to such an investigation; and I do now and hereby protest against the acceptance of any proof which may be submitted in support of said entry, or the issuance and delivery to said entryman of any evidence of right or title to the lands covered thereby, requesting that my said protest may be by you duly noted upon the records of your office, to the end that the same may become and be known to all persons who may in anywise be interested in said entry, and that, thereafter, it may be duly forwarded to the Commissioner of the General Land Office, at Washington, D.C. for his information in the premises. Resp. Ira Lantz, Chief of Field Division

Elsie Dale Worstell was notified Oct. 14 of this latest action and advised, “When report of a special agent is received in that office, action will be taken on your entry, of which you will receive due notice, through this office.” Signed R & R.

It would be June 1917 before any more action by the Helena field office would be taken in the Figley vs. Dale Heirs case. Meanwhile, other special events were taking place.

The Methodist Church was dedicated in March 1916. Richard wrote, “Mother was most active in church affairs and I was secretary of the Sunday school and janitor without remuneration.”

Mr. Emery Harnden purchased a homestead at a sheriff’s sale in March 1916 just a month before their daughter was born in April of 1916. Dr. Worstell attended the birth of his granddaughter. “Well, here’s little Rachel!” he said as she was born. Thus he had christened her. Rachel would later choose to be called Jane. Rachel described the event and her reasons. When she was in third grade, the family moved to a new town. On the first day in the new school, two girls walking arm in arm approached Rachel. One girl asked, “What’s your name?” “Rachel,” she said. “Oh, that’s a Jew girl’s name,” said one of them, and the two walked off. After school, Rachel told her mother, Grace, about the incident and told her she wanted to change her name. “What name would you like to be called?” Grace asked. “Jane,” said Rachel, “because there is an older girl at school who was nice to me and her name is Jane.” So Jane it was. By then, Rachel Jane had a cousin, daughter of Grace’s sister Fern, who had a daughter Jane. Jane is a good family name, bringing to mind Aunt Jane (Elizabeth Jane) the homesteader. Fern’s family questions if there weren’t more reasons why Rachel picked the name Jane. For some reason Rachel Jane believed that when Gaylord chose the name, Rachel, it was the name of Gaylord’s first love. She further believed that he looked her up once, and, as Jane said, “He realized he was over it. She was no longer pretty.” Of course Rachel was a good Worstell family name also, dating back to Rachel Price Worstell, wife of the ancestor, Matthew Worstell, and there had been other Rachels in the family, too. As Rachel Jane got older, she often wondered if there were any Jewish people in the family. She said she was frequently asked if she were Jewish. “Perhaps it is my nose,” she said.

Elizabeth Jane Worstell and her mother spent the winter of 1915-16 in Pittsburgh. Jane had a job and Isabel stayed with Jane or other members of her family in the area. This year, when Jane returned, she made the investment to break the land and seed it to winter wheat. According to Lawrence Ophus, a Big Sandy resident, Jane hired Paul Green to break the land using a steam engine with a 10 or 12 bottom plow. The cost of breaking and seeding had gone up in price and she paid $440 for the job that would have cost $385 the previous year. Lawrence Ophus eventually became the owner of 80 acres that once belonged to Jane.

During the summer, Jane may have been one of the first of the family to visit Glacier Park. It was on the occasion of her eldest brother’s visit to Montana. Alpheus came to Big Sandy to visit his mother, and he and Jane spent a few days in the park sightseeing. Jane and Isabel left on December 5, 1916, to winter in Pittsburgh.

Nineteen-sixteen was a bumper crop year for the farmers and it must have been a bumper year for land transactions. Not all of Gaylord’s brothers came to Montana. Even so, some of those who did not come west have their names on Chouteau County land deeds. Frank sold Verona lots to his brother, Dr. H. Emerson, chiropractor in Canton, Ohio. Dr. Everett Worstell purchased a homestead from George Rickert that he then sold to his brother Edwin in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, who later sold it to his sister E. Jane Worstell. Only three of the eleven brothers and sisters of Gaylord were not persuaded to invest in Montana; a better search of documents could prove otherwise. Emery Harnden’s father and Ray Carnes’ father may have purchased land in Big Sandy or Verona as well. Gaylord acquired homesteads from Barneys, Kugelards, Hurds, and Godfreys during 1916. In February 1917, Gaylord purchased from Frank, for the obligatory $1, the lot in Big Sandy that Frank had purchased in 1913. In July, Frank purchased the Mary and John Ellis homestead for $4,500. Then in September 1917, Gaylord purchased the same Ellis homestead from Frank. The Godfrey property was later sold/transferred to Gaylord’s son, Richard, in 1929. The total acreage that Richard acquired actually included three parcels that Gaylord acquired from Jane Godfrey, her sister, Edith Vanderhoof, and the property Frank Worstell had purchased from John and Mary Ellis.

The headlines in the early months of 1916 included not only the news of the war in Europe but of a skirmish on our own border. The Mexican rebel bandit, Pancho Villa, commanded headlines in March 1916. The United States gave Villa some early support against Mexican dictator Huerta, but withdrew the support in face of Villa’s brutalities in support of Carnaga. This action so angered Villa he attacked the New Mexico town of Columbus, killing 16 people. President Wilson gave Gen. Pershing permission to pursue Villa into Mexico. Hampered by orders not to use Mexican railroads, Pershing failed to capture Villa, and the expedition was withdrawn in 1917. President Wilson was reelected in November 1916. Congress declared war with Germany April 6, 1917.

As 1916 drew to a close, it seemed to the doctor that resolution on Mary’s homestead might be accelerated by an appeal to a higher authority. A letter was written to The Honorable H. L. Myers, Senator from Montana, United States Senate. The Senator wrote a letter to the Commissioner of the GLO and enclosed the letter from Elsie. An answer to the Senator was prepared “by direction of the Sec. A. W. Patterson,” Department of the Interior. The pertinent sentence is, “In reply thereto I have to advise you that said case will be reached for consideration in regular docket order within the next ten days, and you may rest assured that said case will be fully and very carefully considered.”

Government offices, including the offices of the Department of Interior, must have worked through December, because on Jan. 3, 1917, an answer to the Worstell inquiry was mailed to the Havre Land Office. Letter from the General Land Office of the Interior Department, Washington D. C. to the Register and Receiver, Havre Land Office, Re Figby vs. Dale Heirs Appeal; the contestant had lost again. The bottom line appeared in the last paragraph:

The Commissioner, while agreeing that the entrywoman had not complied with the law of residence, yet, in view of the cultivation shown to have been accomplished by the heirs, held that sufficient time remained at date of filing the contest for them to comply with the requirements within the period of the entry. The decision is correct and is affirmed.

Alexander T. Vogelsang, First Asst. Secret.

Again in March another letter to Havre from Washington declared, “The case is hereby closed. So note on your records. The entry remains intact.”

Spring came and went. By April, Mr. and Mrs. Dias Worstell returned from their winter hiatus in Ohio. Bertha took employment with the Campbell Land Company. The Campbell Land Company had recently incorporated with the sale of $20,000 worth of paid-up stock. This may have been a reflection of the previous year or two of bumper crops. A notice appeared in the paper of May 17, 1917, that Frank P. Worstell resigned as postmaster of Verona. This proved to be a harbinger of the Montana exodus. Frank later took care of some financial transactions during the summer, as mentioned previously. At some time Frank met a lady by the name of Beatrice Marie Le Duc from Devils Lake, North Dakota. A family note says that she was in Big Sandy in 1917. She was to have some influence on his future plans.

As of July 3d, Senator Myers had not yet been advised of a final decision and requested an update on the status of the Figley/Dale case.

It was in October 1916 that the Helena office advised the Havre office not to make any decision concerning the Dale homestead until after they, Helena, had made a complete investigation. They said their office would promptly proceed with such an investigation. Mr. C. A. Rush was assigned to the task and he did his investigation on June 6, 1917. On August 16, he forwarded his report to the office in Washington, through Ira Lantz, Chief of Field Div., Helena. Mr. Rush reported that he had spoken with Mr. Figley and his wife. Mr. Figley admitted there were oats planted in 1914 and about 10 acres of wheat in 1915. He is absolutely certain that there was no crop in 1916. He said he measured the land with a steel line tape and found approximately 19 acres broken. Mr. Rush felt the testimony of the witnesses was approximately correct, “except that Mr. Figley swears that there was no crop upon the land in 1916. [This appears to be a controversial statement since the hearing was held in February of 1916; no one testified concerning land in crop in 1916.] Mr. Rush’s letter continued as follows:

At the date of my investigation there were approximately 20 acres in cultivation. The improvements consist of a 1-room frame house 10x12, rubberroid roof, now used as a granary, and 370 rods of 2-wire fence.

In view of the above it appears that 20 acres have been in cultivation each year, beginning with 1913, with the exception of 1916, and that entrywoman complied with the law prior to her death.

I have therefore to respectfully recommend that the final proof as submitted be accepted and clearlisted, final certificate issued and entry proceed to patent in the absence of other objection. Very Resp. C. A. Rush, Special Agent, GLO

The General Land Office, DOI, Washington, D.C., needed to send yet another letter to Havre. A reprint of the recent report received from Special Agent Rush as background information was sent. This time there was no more “The entry will remain intact,” but, “In view of the facts ... the Register is directed to issue the final certificate.…”. In the parlance of the early 21st century oral communication, the word “final” might have been replaced with the “d” word.

Final Certificate

October 2ndm 19 17

It is hereby certified that, pursuant to the provisions of Section 2291, Revised Statutes of the United States, to the [sic] Heirs of Mary J. Dale deceased, of Big Sandy, Chouteau County, Montana, has made payment in full for South-east quarter(SE1/4) Section 23, Township 29 North, Range 11 East, Montana Meridian, Monntana, containing 160 acres.

Now, therefore be it known that, on presentation of this Certificate to the COMMISSIONER OF THE GENERAL LAND OFFICE, the said heirs of Mary J. Dale, shall be entitled to receive a Patent for the land above described it all then be found regular.


Approved December 19, 1917

Later, Elsie Worstell purchased the shares of the Mary J. Dale homestead belonging to her brother and sister and willed the farm to her daughter, Grace Harnden Mauerhan.

Richard never spoke of the legal contest over the homestead claim or made any reference to the emotional effects it may have caused. However, he could have been alluding to it when he wrote, “To be sure he [Gaylord] had his moments of frustration, like when someone was pushing him into doing something he knew wasn’t the right thing.” With Figby vs. Dale settled there was one less frustration for the doctor’s family.