LYON COUNTY GENEALOGY
PETER AND CAROLINE PETERS
Peter and Caroline were among Lyon Countys earliest settlers. They traveled to this area from their home in Davenport by boxcar. With them were their three young children and all of their possessions. Their possessions were a few chickens and ducks, a cow, some pieces of furniture and a kerosene lantern. Caroline also brought a seedling (in a tin can). This is now a 100 year old walnut tree standing in Harold Agesons yard.
Peter was a carpenter and contractor and in need of work which he found in this area. The family lived on a farm a few miles out of town while Peter built a home for his family in Lester. It was on that farm that they endured the noted winter of 1888.
Peter built several homes in Lester including the home place which is now lived in by his grandson, Harold Ageson. The first well dug in Lester was at this home site. Children from Lesters first school carried water from this well. He also built the Fred Haegele home, which is now owned by Martha Feucht, the Chamberlain home (of which the blueprints are still among Peters memoirs) now owned by Don and Marie Soehl and the Jimmy Cunningham home. Many farm buildings in this area were constructed by Peter.
Four children were born to this couple. Alvina (Mrs. Lawrence Schubert) who lived on a farm near Lester. Ferdinand, who was a plumber and house mover in Lester all of his life. Henry, who worked with his father in the carpenter business, and Mathilda (Mrs. Oscar Ageson).
Peter died in August 1916. He was the first person in Lester to be taken to the cemetery by hearse rather than horse and buggy. Caroline died at the age of 66.
Peters came to Lyon County as a child, in 1888. The Family came from Scott County, Iowa. He was born there at Maysville, which is adjacent to Davenport. His father heard about the new country in Lyon County and so they loaded the family, the furniture and the livestock in a freight car, and made the trip across the state on the Rock Island. He recalls that the livestock consisted of two cows, a dog, two cats, some chickens, geese and ducks. The livestock had one end of the car and the family the other. Fare for the boxcar trip from Davenport was $17.
Then, what is now Lester, was known as Hastings. It was named that way because the only buildings were located south of the present Rock Island depot, and a man by the name of Hastings operated a store and ran a hotel there.
When the Peters family arrived at Hastings, the Rock Island was completed to Sioux Falls, but the Sioux City and Northern, now the Great Northern Railroad, was just being built. About 1892, the Hastings Store and Hotel moved a few blocks North to what is Main Street in Lester. Now one of them is the Marnette Pool Hall. At that time the town was incorporated and given the name of Lester.
The naming of the town is interesting. Peters says that in the blizzard of 1888 there were several deaths and many head of cattle perished. The Cleaveland family was farming north of the town, and their son, Lester, died in the storm and they lost some eight head of cattle. The town was named Lester, after Lester Cleaveland.
Peters recalls that the family made many trips to Rock Rapids in the early days. Then, he says, Rock Rapids was about the size of Lester today. He said that most of the businesses were on the East side of the river, and what Main Street there was, was along Tama Street, running South from what is now First Avenue.
The early days in this area were tough, Mr. Peters says. He told of the depression of the 1890s, when there was hardly enough to eat, or enough clothing to wear. He said his family collected cow chips and twisted hay to provide heat for their home and for cooking. They made tallow candles to provide light. He said that in those days coal could be bought at Lester for from $2 to $2.50 per ton and kerosene was 10 cents a gallon, but there was no money to pay for either coal or kerosene.
As a youth Peters used to work in the wheatfields pulling mustard. For a ten-hour day he was paid 25 cents. Wages for a farm hand in those days was 75 cents per day.
Hunting in the area was excellent in those early days, and Peters recalls that the Sioux City and Northern would often stop their trains a couple of miles north of Lester, so the crew could get off and shoot a few prairie chickens.
After farming for a few years the Peters family moved to town and Ferd has been there ever since. In 1903 Adele Puck moved to the Lester community from Scott County, and in 1907 she and Mr. Peters were married. They had no children, but raised Clair Vickerman, in their home. He now is in the livestock business in Sioux Falls.
Once Lester had three saloons, three stores, two butchershops, a furniture store, drug store, four elevators, three grain houses, two blacksmith shops and a doctor. The population was around 200 when it was incorporated.
We had a race track West of town in the early days and had some good horse races. We had about the best baseball team in the county and had the largest dance hall in the county, too. We had a good band. At the 4th of July celebrations and Old Settlers picnics wed dance until morning. The Sons of Herman, a German lodge, used to put on the celebrations. Ferd Peters gave kids a choice of a plug of tobacco or butterscotch candy. Also he gave rides on his Ford tractor and renamed every child in town and remembered each name.
Mr. Peters worked as a farm hand, as a carpenter, as a plumber and well digger. For five years he was a contractor and built homes and farm buildings. For several years he worked for the late L.V. Chamberlain, who operated the hardware at Lester. Later he bought the well works business from Chamberlain and since has been in business for himself.