I was born June 5, 1904, near Ashford, Washington. Ashford is a very small town in Pierce County. it is the last town you would pass through if you were to go up Mt. Ranier (sic). It is a place where very tall cedar trees grow. The Nisqually River ran between our home and Ashford. it was a small, swift, roaring river fed by the melting snow in the Mountains. there was no bridge across it at that time. My mother used to have to walk to Ashford for supplies, and she had to walk across the this river on a log and carry my brother, James and me. The older two, Blanche, age six and Arthur, age eight, could walk across by themselves and carry some things. I could not do it, even to this day.

We had nothing to live on except what we raised so my father worked and was gone all week. One December night when I was six months old, the house burned down. James, age two, kept running back in the house. My mother had to carry him out several times. She was able to save almost nothing. My sister took me and ran out in the woods. She took off her apron and wrapped in around me. My mother sent Arthur to the nearest neighbor's for help. They had two big dogs which they kept tied up in the day time but let loose at night. They jumped on Arthur and bit him in the face very badly. When my father came home that week he found the house burned, and the family gone. He stirred through he ashes to see if there were any bones. We were at Grandpa Richey's house.

We left Washington and moved to Cottonwood, Idaho, where Grandpa and Grandma Zigler lived. My father worked in saw mills and on farms. My brother, Clarence, was born near Cottonwood, Idaho, July 15, 1906. In 1908, my parents took up a homestead in the mountains (Craig Mountain) Nez Perce County. We first moved into a one-room shack; I think it was about twelve feet square. There were eight of us in the family at that time. I remember hearing my mother say, "This place is so small, I have to go outdoors to turn around". We lived there until the neighbors got together and built us a log house. It had only one big room downstairs and one the same size upstairs. We felt like we had a palace. The logs were not smooth on the inside or on the outside. My mother used to paper the walls with newspapers. Our favorite Game to play at night was to find a certain word in a space on the wall. The snow would get about eight feet deep there in the winter. We could not travel at all. We had to live there seven months out of the year in order to prove up on the homestead. Every year we moved to some logging camp for five months. This meant a different school for us. We gave the ground and helped to build a log schoolhouse on our homestead. Our school term was for only three months.

One day before moved to the homestead, only Arthur, Blanche and Bennie were old enough to go to school, the wind was blowing awfully hard. Mama thought it would not be safe for them to go so they stayed home. In the afternoon the wind died down a little and we needed some flour so Ben got on a horse and started to the store to get some. There were a lot of trees across the road. One tree had fallen on three children who usually walked to school with my brothers and sister. They were all dead. For some strange reason, grass never grew again in the spots where these children were killed.

While we were at a logging camp, on February 16, 1912, a new baby brother came to live with us. His name was William Albert. Grandpa richey stayed with us that winter. He read the BOOK OF JASHER aloud to us.

In 1913, Grandpa and Grandma Zigler both died; Grandpa (John Lear) died January 20, and Grandma (Lydia Jane) died March 26. That year our family moved with horses, cows and chickens. We road in a covered wagon from Nez Perce County, Idaho to Douglas County, Washington. It took us about three weeks, a distance of about three-hundred miles. What a change! We left Idaho, with mountains and beautiful tall trees to move to rolling prairie land all covered with rocks and sagebrush. On our homestead in Idaho we had had a spring of clear ice cold water. In Douglas County we had to drink alkali water. We all got sick, and Willie almost died. At this time, this was a wonderful wheat country and any thing we planted grew well. We were about twenty miles from Mansfield or Coulee City which were our nearest towns. There was a store and Post Office at Leahy; that was only five miles. We had a wonderful crop of wheat and were going to start threshing the next day when a big hail storm came threshed it all out on the ground. Of course, that was just bad luck, and it would not happen again. My parents mortgaged everything we had, including the homestead in Idaho, and bought a thousand acres nine miles from Mansfield. it never did rain in Douglas County after that. We were living on this place in 1917 when Willie got sick and died. He is buried in the cemetery at Mansfield, Washington.

At this time, Blanche was growing up, and the young men were doing a lot of buzzing around our place. Some of them even had cars. Clarence and I were having lot of fun teasing. One day we were embarrassing Blanche more that usual and she said, "Ma, spank these darn kids". "Ma, spank these darn kids," got to be our battle cry. The time came when she decided to marry Walter Howard. On November 11, 1918, Dad took them to Waterville, our county seat, to get married. When they got there they found everything in an uproar. Stores were closed, people were dancing, shouting and singing in the streets. Everyone was so happy. The war had ended. They finally found a justice of the peace and were married and came home to bring the rest of us the glad news that the war had ended.

During the war no one could buy flour without buying a lot of flour substitutes. We some wheat that was second class. They allowed us to keep it for hog feed. We had a little hand-grinding mill. We ground wheat everyday and made "Lazy wife bread" out of it. Sometimes we at much. We were so tired of this kind of bread we could hardly eat it, yet we knew we were lucky as most people did not wheat a way of grinding it. One time the folks had little money and gave us a choice of buying a sack of white flour or something else that we needed. We all yelled for the flour. When they went to town they bought the sack of flour. It cost over thirty dollars by the time they bought corn meal, rice flour, potato flour and all the other things they had to buy to get it. Of course, we were glad to get the substitutes too because were something different to us.

Blanche and Walter went by train Winchester, Idaho, soon after they were married. The following year we fixed up another covered wagon and went back to Idaho also. We had a couple of cows and a few horses. Clarence and I rode horseback and drove them all the way. We moved in with Blanche and Walter. They were living in a very small house. They had two rooms and a bath. Their bed folded up in the wall. I do not remember where everyone else slept, but I made my bed in the bathtub. Walter, Dad and James worked in the saw mill. The men working in the saw mill were allowed to carry home a pitchy board for kindling. They carried home these boards one at a time which built us a good-sized house. Blanch and Walter's first baby, Freda, was born October 19, 1919. A date that was easy to remember because of three nineteens.

I went to school for a while in Winchester but quit and went to work in the saw mill. Tehre were about six girls working there. We sorted lumber and put it in different places in the drysheds. Two weeks before I was sixteen, they found out that I was only fifteen. They were not allowed to hire any one under sixteen so they asked me to quit until after my birthday. Soon after that, a depression started, and they were laying off people so I n ever got to go back. Dad, Clarence and I moved to a little farm near Kamiah, Idaho. Clarence was going to quit school; I was not. I did not know anyone and was so lonesome I did not know what to do with myself. Idaho then passed a law that children had to stay in school until they were eighteen or through the eighth grade. I went to Clarkston, Washington and stayed with Aunt Mary Zigler and finished the eighth grade. Aunt Mary had a cancer operation and needed me. The next fall she and I moved back to Winchester. I started high school there.

I had only been in high school six weeks when my father decided to move back to Iowa. Aunt Mary begged me to stay there with her, but I could not bear to have the rest of my family leave without me. Dad's cousin, Tom Kimberling, decided to go with us. He and his wife had no money so talked Dad into paying their expenses, and he would pay him back. What a mistake! We had two old Model T's; and he had a big Grant. We made pretty good progress for one day. After that we hit snow, rain and mud. No hard surfaced roads in those days. We often did not make more than ten miles in a day. The Grant was always in need of repair, and we would sometimes have to camp and wait a week to get them. At this time, we almost wished we were traveling with horses and our old covered wagon. We spread our beds out of the ground to sleep. they were wet, but we rolled them up in the morning. They would freeze and not dry out so when it was night we would have crawl into a wet bed again. We were in Colorado when we ran out of money. One model T had given out in Wyoming. We sold it to a junk dealer for fifteen dollars. We then had pile the load of that car onto the other one. We were really piled up. It was just a one-seated car. As we came near to Denver, we had nothing to eat and no more money for gas. We passed a big field of cabbage that had not been gathered. Dad went to a house and asked if we might have a head of cabbage to eat. The lady said for us to help ourselves. Then as Dad was turning to leave she said, "Wait a minute." She went back in the house and came out with a loaf of bread with a dollar bill on top of it. We some money in the bank in Lamoni so we used the dollar to send a telegram, and they sent us a hundred dollars.

Etta Kimberling had a brother living in Denver so she and Tom went to his house for supper. They came back later to tell us they had decided to stay there. It was a happy "Good By" for all of us. We never heard from them again. Dad had said all the time that we would never pay us back, and he was right.

Dad had a brother, George, living in Kansas. they had not seen each other for about twenty years so we hunted the family up and had Thanksgiving dinner with them. they took us around to see all the other relatives who were living there. While we were there a big sleet storm came. The roads were solid ice. they begged us not to start out on them, but we thought we had to go. We had gone only about twenty miles when the car rolled over three times. James was driving. I was sitting on Clarence's lap. Arthur was spilled off about twenty feet down the road. He was the first one up and asked, "Is any one hurt." I quickly answered, "I am not." then I looked at Clarence. He seemed to be unconscious, and his face was covered in blood. I thought he must be hurt badly. I was leaning over him and soon found that the blood was coming from me as I had broken out the windshield with my head. Some one called my cousin, Delbert. He came and took the rest of the family back to Uncle George's. He took me to his place and called a doctor to come sew me up. I also had a broken breast bone. Dad and the boys got jobs picking corn. They earned enough money to fix the car again, then they went on to Iowa without me. I stayed with Delbert till the first of January, 1923, when I came the rest of the way to Iowa on the train. At this time, Albie Tapscott met the trains in Togo.

I started to high school in Lamoni at the second semester taking any four subjects I could with this late start. I was the only girl in the General Science class taught by Blair Jenson. K. C. Harder was my teacher in two subjects. When school was out we moved to a small place northeast of Davis City, where we raided vegetables and sold them.

Sometimes in July of this year, 1923, there was a circus in Lamoni. It was held on Turney's farm and was just over the fence from Grandpa Richey's place. I came to Lamoni to see what I could see. Mary Wightman, Lorna Chasey and I got together. We were cousins and all the same age. Lorna had a boy friend who did not have a car but knew a fellow who did. He told this fellow he would get him a date with a couple of wild women if he would take his car and take us for a ride. He agreed. This is how I met Joseph Thorpe. He had a new 1923 Model T. He was very proud of that car. We started going together very steady.

In September I started to school in Davis City. I was going to take five subjects to try to make up for what I had lost. I was getting along very well, when one day in Physical Geography class our teacher asked us to write a theme on which state we would like to live in and tell why. I was a bit homesick for Washington so that was the state I wrote about. Having lived there most of my life, I knew what I was writing about. Most of the kids wrote about California. Only one wrote about Iowa, and he wrote very little. We were to read our stores out loud in class and then tell which story we liked best and why. Everyone in the class, except me, said they liked mine best. The teacher then told us to write another theme on anything we wanted to as long as it was something about Physical Geography, and again we would read them in class and tell which we liked best. Spurred by my success on the firs theme I decided to write about the Grand Coulee in Washington and put some of my personal experiences in the story. I did not go home for lunch because I was going to use the noon hour to write. I got an encyclopedia on my desk and looked for what it said about coulees. I wanted a good background. I wrote, "A coulee is" but never go any farther.

I heard a car honk outside and went to see if it was. It was Joseph. I went out to him, and he said, "Lets go get married." I said, "O.K." I went home changed my dress and told my mother what we were going to do. She and Arthur went with us to Leon to get the license. Then we drove to Lamoni and stopped by Tom Bell's house and were married. I should end this story here say "Lived happily ever after," but this is a true story. Joe lived with his folks, his father and mother, at Andover, Missouri. I moved in with them. We got off to a bad start. A large charivari crowd gathered that night, but we slipped out. They were disappointed so they tore up everything they could and for months after, some threw rocks at the house and broke so many windows we had to buy hardware cloth to nail over them. Joe worked for the railroad as a section hand. He made seventy-three dollars a month. We thought that was a lot of money. We could also get free passes once in a while to ride on the train, but Joe hated this job. Once before we were married he and Tommie Williams were working on the railroad and Tommie said, "Joe, we are fools to works like this, let's quit and go to school." Tommie had less than an eighth grade education, but he threw down his tools and started to Graceland. He went as far as he could at Graceland; then went to Ames and kept on until he became a doctor. Even though Joe hated his job he did not have the courage to go with him. Joe had worked on the railroad long enough to have the most seniority. Times were beginning to get hard, and they were going to lay off some of their men. Joe and Leo Harris had gone to Kansas a few summers to work in the harvest and made good money. They wanted to go again, so he quit his job, and they went to Kansas. But they could not find any work. He never got back on the railroad to work again. From then on all the money we had was from selling strawberries and other fruit. His folks had twelve acres in Andover. It was all in fruit and very productive. Joe and his father got the idea of trading this place for a fifty-five acre farm near Decatur, Iowa. My mother-in-law and I tried our best to talk them out of it. this place was brush, hiss and clay. I knew we could not raise anything on it. The men could not be talked out of trading so moved to this awful place. By then we had three children. James was four, Josephine was two and Mildred was two months old. My father-in-law bought a beautiful little jersey, which had lost her calf, for fifty dollars. We had never heard of Bang's disease before. Now we had it. We could not brings on the place without them losing their calves. If we raised any corn, the groundhogs ate it. If we tried to raise ducks, they went down the river which ran through our place. Rabbits ate our garden. There was no well; we had to drink water from cistern. He placed five acres to soup beans, and our family ate all we raised in one winter. It took every dollar we could get to pay our taxes, and I think they were only about twenty dollars a year. We made an old saw rig out of an old car so we could cut and saw up some wood. Everyone else was poor, so there was not much sale for wood. I cannot remember how we got them, but we had a jack and a jenny and use to haul wood or go to town or any place else where we had to go. We still had what had been our new Ford car, but we could not buy a license or gas for it. Once we traded wood for sorghum. We had twenty gallons and because we had so little else to eat we ate all the sorghum in one winter. We sold wood to Mrs. Krucker who did baking in Lamoni. She bought one load a month and paid us $2.25 a load. That was our only steady income. Mr. Dobson killed a hog and gave us the hide. We picked enough fat off of it to make us a gallon of lard which we made last as long as we could. Much of the time all we had to eat was corn which I shelled and took to the barn and ground and mixed with water and baked with no eggs, milk or any thing else in it. Joe's health was getting bad. He thought it would help if he had teeth pulled. I have no idea how we got the money for him to do it, but he went to Independence, Missouri and stayed with his sister, Violet, and had all his teeth pulled. After that he had to live on our poor food with no teeth. We planned for a time when we would be able to buy new teeth but knew it was out of the question ever to do so. I tried to raise chickens and kept them in little tin boxes. We had no money to buy feed so Joe would come to town and sweep out the elevator for the trash to fee them. One year when we sold the chickens and paid the taxes there was enough money left so I could buy a pair of stockings. They cost seventeen cents.

The time came when so many people were having such a hard time that the Red Cross started giving a forty-nine pound sack of flour to poor people, once a month, I think. We were sure glad to get it. I do not remember what happed to our jack and jenny, but for some reason Joe had to walk the nine miles to town and carry a sack of flour back. He was so tired he said that he would never do that again even if we all starved. when it was time to go again he would not go. I wanted that sack of flour so badly that I said, "I will go." He said, "You can go if your want to, but I will not do it." I walked to town and got the flour. I thought I would leave it some place until we had a way of getting it home. My brother, Jim, was in town. I went home with him and stayed all night. The next day he took me home in a wagon.

After Joe was gone, I moved back with my folks. They were living on a farm that Aunt Emma Chasey had bought south of Lamoni. I had the idea of taking my four children and moving to southern Missouri. I now had a cow and one horse. Dad was going to give me another old blind horse. I did not want to to Missouri without first going down and seeing what I could find. I had no money so I was going to hitch hike. Mary Wightman, my cousin, did not like to see me go alone so she went with me. We went as far as Mountain Home, and then started back. We had found a place where I thought I could squat for a while. We had been gone about a week. When I got back to my folks, I made preparations to move, but several things happened to delay me. Then Arthur kicked over the gasoline can. Gas went all over his pants legs caught fire, and he was badly burned. We took care of him at home for about a month, but he was only getting worse. I hitch hiked to Leon to see if we could get him in the hospital. I had to wait until afternoon to get to see the Board. The lady in the welfare office asked me if had any money to buy lunch. I told her I did not but that I did not mind about that. She reached into her purse and got a quarter. She said, "Go buy yourself something to eat." I went to a a cafe and bought a hamburger for a dime. I save the fifteen cents to buy a box of soda and something else to take home. When I went back to the welfare office, she asked me if I had lunch. I told I did, but did not tell her I only spent a dime. Anyway, we got Arthur in the hospital for a while. He got worse again after they brought him home so Dr. Hills took him to Iowa City. He was there all winter. He did not get better for the hospital asked my mother for permission to amputate his leg. She would not allow it so they tried some new methods and in about three weeks he was home.

In the meantime, Aunt Emma had decided with all the drouth, chinch bugs and grasshoppers, she could not keep that farm so she sold it. I gave up moving to southern Missouri and went to the county for help. There was no A.D.C. in those days but the county gave me twenty dollars and month. It seems like a fortune to me. I had had no money for so long. The folks had to have some place to move. Dad and I ran everywhere looking for a place. There was this little farm east of Davis City, fifty acres; it was not a good place. It was brush, hills and clay banks. It had belonged to Lotty Downey's father. We did not want to buy it, but we had to. We had no money except the twenty dollars a month I was getting from the county. They Downeys agreed to sell us the place for ten dollars down and ten dollars a month. So we still had ten dollars a month to live on. We had quite a few cows then as we had some of Aunt Emma's. Fortunately for us there was forty acres south of us which no one used and there was no fence in between. It was brush but it made extra pasture. In 1934, we had a bad time the same as other people did because there was no rain. 1936 was the awful winter we shall never forget. After that things started to look better. My father started to get, "Old-age assistance," twelve dollars a month. We lived on this place either years. Then I sold it and moved to Lamoni, started hanging paper, built my own house and now I shall say "Lived happy ever after."

I would still like to tell a few facts of how our family connects with Lamoni history. My grandmother Zigler was a licensed mid-wife and Grandpa was blacksmith. At one time he had a shop in Sedgewick. My Richey grandparents and three oldest girls moved to Lamoni in 1883. They came in a covered wagon. The girls went to Spurrior School at the same time some of Barrs, Harps, Brantwaits and Joseph Smith children did. Once Fred M. Smith put the cockleburs in Aunt Cora's hair. Grandma had to cut it get them out. Grandpa burned the bricks for brick load of cedar lumber back to Lamoni. Then he came back and helped to build some of the houses in our end of town.


While we lived in Idaho, we had cold born, a beautiful little sorrel mare. I cannot remember what happened to her mother, but it seems like we had to raise her without much help from her. She was loved, petted and teased by all. The big boys used to spit on her. It would make her so mad that she would bite and paw them. All her life we had to warn people who were around her not to spit. They also teased her by sitting on her and reaching behind themselves and pulling the hair on her hips. This would make her buck. She never bucked very hard so they thought it was a lot of fun. That was another we had to be careful about, never to put your hand behind you when you were riding her. Two people could never ride her. Yet she was very gentle. My mother always rode her if she needed to go any place on horseback. If you put a little child on her, she always walked slow and careful. Most of us learned to ride on her.

When we moved to Douglas County, Washington, Ginger went with us. she had several Beautiful colts, some them were, "Taft," because Taft was president then; "Esther," because she was born on Easter; and "Cuter," because he was so cute. We children stayed away from her for a few days when she had a new colt. If she saw a rattlesnake, she would stomp it to death. Once, Clarence and I killed a skunk. We had never seen one before. We wanted to take it home to show so we tied a string on it and were going to drag it home, but Ginger would not let us.

At this time, we went horseback every place we went. My father used to say that we would walk a mile to get a horse to ride half a mile. I am sure we did sometimes because the horse did not always want to be caught. Almost every Sunday the young people of our neighborhood would meet at our place and have a rodeo. They broke all the horses to ride and even rode the calves. I never did anything but watch as I was not a good rider. Even Ginger had no trouble in throwing me off. Blanche rode everything. The harder they bucked the better she liked it.

When we went back to Idaho in 1919, we took Ginger with us. I think I rode "Cuter" all the way. Back in Idaho, we lived in Winchester and worked in the saw mille so we did not need horses. We put them out to winter on Snake River. We never found Ginger in the spring. She was 16 years old then.


While we were living in what we called the Wilover place in Douglas County, Washington, there was a lake covering about five acres right in front of our house. We had an old water trough, about as big as a good-sized boat, which we used for a boat. I was made heavy wood and leaked at the seams. We carried some cans with us to dip out the water. I had always ridden in it with my older brothers and sister. They did most of the dipping. I thought it was so much fun that I decided sometime I was going to get into it, when there was a nice breeze and just let it drift across the lake by itself. I planned to go alone when no one else was around. The say seemed right to do it. I had not counted on my four year old brother being there, but I should have as he was always at my side. I told him what I was going to do, and of course he wanted to go with me. I told him he couldn't go. He started to cry, and I could not stand that so I let him go. I took the paddles out because I just wanted to drift. I was fun until we were near the middle of the lake. Our boat was leaking pretty bad. I was afraid to do much dipping because I the motion might upset us. We just sat there, Willie in one end and me in the other. The boat got more and more water in it until finally it started to sink. Willie made a dive for me and somehow got in my arms. We went under and came up with me clinging to the bottom of the boat and Willie still in my farms. At first, I thought we would just be still and drift on across the lake. We seemed to go awfully slow, and my fingers began to cramp when I was digging them into the wood to hang on. I yelled a few times, and my mother heard me. She had company. My could could not swim. Blanche and Clarence were there, but they could not swim either. My mother sent Clarence to where the men were running a header. Arthur unhooked Taft out of the team and without waiting to take his harness off, jumped on and came flying down the road. He caught up with two men in a pickup and jumped from the horse to the back of the pickup and told them to hurry as there were two kids drowning the lake. I said a prayer out load, and Willie tried to repeat everything I said.

Arthur soon got there. The pickup drove as fast as it could over those rough rocky roads. Taft seeming to send a raced of some kind, with his harness flopping around him, beat them getting there. By the time we had drifted almost across the lake, Arthur did not have far to swim to us. He took Willie out of arms and set him on the bottom of the boat, leaving me to hang on by myself he pushed us to shore.


In the fall of 1915, my mother took Willie and went on the train to the west coast to visit Grandpa and Grandma Richey. A man hired my father to take a team to Wenatchee for me. That was over half way to the west coast so Dad decided we would all go and spend the winter there. He fixed up a covered wagon and took one of our teams and tied the extra horses one on each side of them. We drove four horses and as far as Wenatchee. We were glad to get rid of the extra horses.

People were very good to us on the way. They let us camp in their barn yards, have water for our horses and gave us pears and apples to eat on the way. We usually made a campfire and made pancakes in a frying pan. One day when we were up in the mountains we were out of baking powders and expected to have to make our pancakes without any. About eleven in the morning we met a man on horseback. He told us he was very hungry and di not have any thing to eat. Dad said, "It is almost noon, if we only one baking powders we would stop and fix dinner." The man said, "Oh, I have baking powders." He dug out the baking powders from his pack; we made pancakes and made some extra for him to take with him. He gave us the rest of his baking powders.

We spent the winter on the west coast living in a little house on Grandpa's place. It seemed so nice to be back in the timber again. We were so close to Mt. Rainier, it looked like you could reach out and touch it.

In February, Dad decided it was time for us to start home. Everyone said it was too early, and we would never be able to get through the mountains. Dad agreed it would be hard but knew it would take us about two weeks to get home, and by that time it would be time to start spring work on the farm. When we got into mountains the snow was over the tops of the wagon wheels. The horses just could not pull the wagon through it. There was nothing to do but turn back, and what in the world were we going to do? We did not have much to eat and no money. We went back to an old logging camp. It was warm, and there a barn to put the horses in. We knew we could not stay there until the snow melted. There was some old hay in the manger. My brother, James, went scratching in it to get some for the horses and found an old pocket book. There was 18 dollars in it. I do not think I ever saw my father happier. It was not really enough money, but we went back to a railroad station. They figured every way they could to make it cost less for us, and we crossed the worst of the mountain on the train. After that we were soon home. It was time to start farming.


New Tales of Old Times-Edith Thorpe, transcribed and contributed by Conni McDaniel Hall, 08 Jan 2023.
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