by Esther Knutson (daughter) in 1996)
December 8, 1904, I was born
to Leonodos (Lee) and Janie Louise Painter Edwards in Cowling, a little
Our nearest city was Mt.
which was where my mother's family settled
after a stay in Amsterdam
(now New York City)
after coming from Europe.
I think they were Dutch or German but the name Painter sounds more like
English. The records show that at one time it was spelled Paynter,
don't know much about my grandparents or the location
of their place except it was a few miles out of Cowling. I never saw my
grandparents as I remember. Grandpa must have had a farm or a
as they tell about one sad accident which happened to my mother, Janie,
she was a little girl. She was standing watching her father working his
when a spark flew out and struck her in the eye. So from that time on,
a patch over her eye. There are conflicting stories about how this
this is the version I heard.
not sure how many children were in the family, but
Mother had two brothers, Philip and George, and a sister Martha, who I
named after. Aunt Martha lived a short distance from us in Cowling and
tell how I would run away to her house and my sister Chloe would come
So she could get a goodie, I suspect.
mother was a very patient, hard-working and kind
person. I remember her long dark hair that hung down below her waist
brushed it at night. She was kind of quiet and reserved but that might
something to do with the patch on her eye. But to me, she was almost
father, Lee, on the other hand was very outgoing and
quite a story teller. He could be very harsh but also gentle too. I
when he would sit and rock me when I had a toothache, with his big,
over my jaw and singing me some of his crazy songs. As were a lot of
that time, he was a strict ruler of the roost, or it seemed to us
came from a musical family. His father, A.G. Edwards, was a Baptist
preacher and his brother, Ray, was a music teacher. His mother's name
Mathis. My dad played the organ and could sing any part. Some of his
remember were "When the Roll is Called Up Yonder" and "Old Dan
(Lee), was born in Spartanberg, South Carolina,
on October 6, 1860. He came from a large
family of 12 children. While his father was gone preaching, the boys
expected to do the work Sometimes the work suffered and so did the boys
their dad got home, so my father told us. They would rather hunt coons
in the garden.
also had a sister that was a missionary to Cuba
Edwards). In February 1898, she thought she was going to go to Brazil,
Spanish War came up and changed her plans. In October 1898 she went to Guanajay,
and established an orphanage. She later moved to Mariel and gathered
of Cuban parents that had been murdered or starved by the Spaniards in
She educated and Christianized them. She eventually married a Spaniard.
is a record of this but I don’t know much about the rest of
father was sixteen when he decided to leave home and
go live with his Uncle Morgan who was a sheriff in Rome,
While there, his uncle decided Lee would make a good law enforcement
so he had him join up with the Pinkerton Agency. He traveled all over
country. Once to Jackson Hole, Wyoming to
catch cattle thieves.
After that mission was accomplished (we never were sure just what
sold his horse and buggy that was used as a blind selling sewing
purchased a string of horses and started east. He ended up in the
of Cowling, Illinois.
That is where he met his future
wife, Janie Painter Durley.
this time my mother was married to a man named
Durley, and they had one son, Amon. They lived in Mt.
but when he passed away my mother moved to Cowling.
my mother and father were married, they ran a
General Store. My mother was a seamstress and my father farmed some
He told about fishing and finding
a few pearls in the oyster beds.
1906 they decided to go to South Dakota.
One reason for leaving was
that my mother and my brother, Raymond, had contacted malaria from
close to the river. I also think my dad had gotten an itchy foot. I
imagine it must
have been hard for my mother to leave her family, friends, and
flowers and trees to go and live on the bleak prairies of South Dakota.
the trip out to South Dakota,
we met a family from around St. Louis, the
Herrman family, who had filed a claim also. We lost contact with them
brother Raymond got caught between two street cars and dislocated both
blades. He was taken to the hospital where he had
to stay a few days. Consequently, we had to stay
awhile and the Herrman family went on.
stopped in Pierre
for a few days to rest and by doing
that, we got to go n the first train over the new bridge instead of
was as far as the train went so we came the rest of the way with team
wagon. We settled about five miles south of the Cheyenne
River on the edge of the breaks. My dad had come out
before to file a claim.
course I don't remember
coming to South
I was only three years old. Leona was about seven, Chloe nine, and
thirteen. Another brother, Charles, died when he was small and was
Antiock, outside of Cowling. My half brother, Amon, was nineteen years
had a job, so he stayed in Illinois.
He did come to South Dakota
for awhile and brought his bride, Phoebe. They had a little girl named
and then went back to Illinois
where Roberta died. They later had two other children, Margaret and
Amon was a fun loving person.
first house was a dugout
which was dug out of a bank. The roof was sod, a few windows and the
dirt, I don't remember it being too uncomfortable as it was warm in the
and cool in the summer. I do remember laying on the bed looking at the
newspapers on the ceiling. They sometimes wallpapered with newspapers.
was born in this dugout in 1911. We must have lived there about six or
years and then bought a little house from the Evans’ who were
moving. In 1926
my parents moved across the breaks to Harding Grove near Milesville.
of the few
luxuries we had was a big, beautiful organ my folks bought through the
They got it so we girls could take music lessons. Before we learned to
remember many times Papa sitting down at the organ and all of us
evening singing. It took a lot of energy to pump those old organs to
go. Raymond also played the guitar and loved to sing. In fact, he was
singing at his 50th Wedding Anniversary.
Viola was born, I remember
being sort of the pet. Probably because was the youngest and being so
Because of snakes and other dangers, my folks bought a little white
be my guard. One time a big rattlesnake was in our path. That little
guard until I got my folks. They made short work of that snake. By the
Viola came along, he was called Old Dan and he watched over her too.
some years we didn't know where the Herrmans had
settled, so I’ll never forget how happy my folks were when a
man rode up on his
big brown, bay horse. It was John Herrman's brother Ben. They found out
lived at Hilland, about sixteen miles south. He was the Stanley County assessor (now Haakon
After that we got together quite often. In fact it was at a Christmas
at Herrman's when we first met the Fergusons. They lived a few miles
Herrmans. Their son Harold turned out to be my future husband. George
Ferguson came from Rapid City
to file a claim. They had one son, Harold, and two daughters, Helen and
For entertainment on this day, all of the young people went ice
Harold, a teenager then, and another young fellow spent the day helping
ice skate. I was younger and just a little squirt, so no one paid much
attention to me. My dad used to call me mosquito toe because I was so
were really hard about this time but Papa was a
hard worker. He cut cedar trees out of the breaks for firewood and took
rest to town (about 40 miles) with team and wagon for supplies. He also
bones he collected. This was the way he furnished money for Raymond to
high school in Philip. Raymond stayed at the Winchester Hotel where he
as a handyman. At this time, the hotel was a very stylish establishment
pioneer days. It is now a museum in Philip.
attended grade school most of the time at West Fork,
near Hanrahans. Education must have meant a lot to our folks because a
winters when there wasn't school, my folks rented a small house in
moved in so we could go to school there. They also gave us the best
education they could afford.
Belle was my first teacher
and as most little first graders do, I loved her. Another teacher I
was Hazel Wedeman.
and I and some of our friends rode horse back about
six miles for music lessons from Mrs. Teeple for a couple summers. She
have lemonade and cookies when we were done. Then she would gather
our mothers, which was a treat for them.
always liked to ride horses so my job was to herd
cattle in the breaks. Leona helped our dad with the farming. Chloe did
the cooking and when she was a teenager, she hired out to do the
cooking for a
big ranch outfit near the Cheyenne
told about cooking for a crew of 12 ranch hands and making pies every
all got in on milking cows.
first introduction to the automobile was the day I
graduated from the 8th grade. I was 13 years old when my dad took Leona
into Philip and bought a new Ford. He didn't want to drive that
he gave the job to us. Of course we were delighted and off we went.
drive one way and I the other. With the roads and mud it wasn't always
entertainment we had a Literary Society at school,
box socials, school programs, and get-togethers. My mother and her good
Mrs. Wedeman, organized a Sunday School class for the little ones but
were quite a few atheists in the community at that time too, Maybe that
it was nick-named "Rumpus Flat".
of the high lights of my life was when I got my
teacher's certificate. At that time you had to take a test and the
Superintendent corrected it. I was seventeen at the time. I was so
ran all the way home from the mailbox to show it to my mother. I guess
never was a doubt of what I wanted to be.
first school was in Jackson County
near Nolin. There were about seven or eight students, My sister, Viola,
in the 6th grade at the time, stayed with me the last semester. We
the school house. Later I taught at Cherry Creek for my brother,
he and his wife, Minnie, entered the Indian Service. They met at Valparaiso University
He was a scientific scholar most of his life and worked at Oak Ridge
(Secret Service) during the war.
They had seven children besides one boy who died in infancy: George, Robert, John, Frank,
and Wilma. They moved to Knoxville, Tennessee so
they could be near
the university for their children. Raymond never did get entirely over
so he wasn't too strong and prone to sicknesses.
though there were four
years difference in age, Leona and I were inseparable. She went to
school in Rapid
for awhile but didn't like it so we went to Spearfish for more credits
teach, I ended up teaching off and on for about 25 years.
liked people and was very out-going. She went ahead
with things and I followed along. One time at a 4th of July celebration
asked her to dance. I piped up and said, "She doesn't dance". Of
course, she did anyway.
hate to think I was a prude but I think I was. Partly
because I was so shy and partly the way we were brought up. My folks
that old Baptist background and many things were taboo, I was always
against alcohol of any kind. Whenever we went out to eat I would tell
would pay for the meal but not the liquor and never did allow it in my
did get over my thing about
dancing and when I was young you had a little book and wrote down your
partners. It was usually full before the dance began. Over the years,
and I both enjoyed dancing and later in life we did a lot of square
year of teaching, Leona and I spent the summer in Illinois
visiting relatives. She usually
seemed to have a boyfriend around but she always took me along. Uncle
Aunt Martha (my namesake) lived on the edge of town (Cowling) and had a
arbor from the street to the house. They were getting elderly and said
buy their place. Three acres for $500. That was a lot of money at that
were to pay $10 a month, but after we were married we didn't think we
afford it so we let it go. Little did we know – it has an oil
well on it now,
oldest sister, Chloe, went to high
school in Philip and nursing school in Deadwood. She did private
she married Fred Carlson. They worked at the Pine Ridge Indian Hospital and then moved to Alliance,
were he operated a garage. She was his bookkeeper and did some nursing
They never had any children but always had a dog that was treated
Leona's first year of teaching at
the Markwed school at Moenville, she met her future husband, John
Harold and I got to know each other when we attended high school at
Consolidated near Hartley. There were a bunch of us that went places
There were Thelma and Stena Helgeson, Jewel, Babe, Frances,
Arthur (Artie) Britten, and Marge and Cecil Wedeman. Wayne and Clinton
Fairchild went there for awhile also. We had plays, dances and parties
different houses. We rode horseback or drove buggies wherever we went.
our parents had cars by this time but none of us had much money so it
easier and more economical to use the horses.
really didn't pair off into couples
very much. Harold and I started going together a little but I wasn't
he liked better, Jewel Britton or Jewel Edwards (me), I won out.
Leona and I came back from Illinois,
Harold and I
started going together more seriously. One time Harold had ridden
see me. It was getting late (about 10:00 p.m.) and my dad hollered out
asked him if he was going-to stay all night. Harold left pronto. My dad
strict but he kind of liked and trusted Harold too. Later in life he
with us for about a year and told me I sure got a good man.
March 16, 1924, Leona and
John, Viola, Harold and I were at Leona's school house where she was
at Elbon. I was teaching at Moenville near where John lived, so John
and I were
getting ready to start back. It was about a 35-mile horseback ride and
had about 10 miles to go home.
We had planned on getting married in the spring
after school was out but we got the crazy idea to get married the next
St. Patrick’s Day. The only drawback was that the men didn't
have any money. We
all went to Ferguson’s
and spent the night. The next day we went to Philip and Harold went to
and borrowed $50. He gave John $25 and he had $25 to buy the license
etc. Rev. Bly performed the double ceremony at the Lutheran Parsonage .
at a restaurant which was a big deal for us. We then went to the dance
Milesville, after which John and Leona went to her school house and
I went to mine. That was our honeymoon. My only regret was that we
my folks know and someone else told them. I think my mother felt bad
Sandals lived near Moenville the first couple of
years, then moved to the Hardingrove community to make their home.
Harold and I
built a small house near his folks until 1937 when his folks retired
We moved down to their bigger house. We lived there until we decided to
new house in about 1960. Times started getting better by then and my
both liked horseback riding and we had some beautiful horses. Many
were seen riding back and forth to my folk's or around the neighborhood
coal black horses; "Night" and "Star".
father-in-law and I didn't always see eye to eye. I
felt he sometimes didn't treat us fairly so we had quite a few rounds
that. He was a rough and tough old cowboy and no one usually questioned
authority so I probably wasn't his favorite either. Harold's mother was
nice and kind person. She was a jolly person and when she laughed she
everyone else laugh just to hear her. She worked hard, milking cows,
hay, then coming in to make meals for the men. George had a sense of
and had a nickname for everyone.
a couple of summers to add
to our income and for pleasure, Harold and I would play for dances. I
the piano and Harold played the drums. Usually this was a bowery dance
you put down a big platform and danced outdoors. We were sort of
musicians as I only had a couple summers of music lessons and Harold
himself . It was something we both enjoyed. Later when we had children
put them in the back of the truck and they would go to sleep when they
tired. You sure couldn't do that now.
gave beginner music lessons and also taught
school. We enjoyed parties at our house and it was cheap
bought a few cows and sheep,
some machinery, and worked night and day for awhile. Sometimes it
it was a losing battle until after the depression in the thirties.
had four children, Betty and Jeanne, and several years later, Jackie
Our families had many good times together until Leona got cancer in
was a good homemaker and a wonderful mother. Billy and Jacky were small
she died – that must have been hard. It was one of the
hardest things in my
life (except when Harold died) because we were so close. It was like a
me was gone.
mother passed away in 1931 from gallstones and
complications. My dad died a week after Leona so it was doubly hard. We
Jackie and Billy for a while, then John took them and did a good job.
never had to do much of the disciplining before, so I'm sure it wasn't
oldest daughter, Ilene, was born
August 13, 1926. We were very naive about having babies so we started
off to Pierre
because I had such
a stomach ache. I had never been to the doctor. We got as far as the
corner and decided we should go to Philip. She was born three or four
later. Mrs. Einin was the nurse and ran the hospital. Dr. Ramsey was
doctor. Esther was born in Philip November 26, 1928, Don on May 24,
Philip and Jeanette on May 2, 1937 in New Underwood. Dr. O'Tool was her
went to school at Hilland a few years, then the
three oldest went to Plainview,
east of Valsvig’s. Donny and Jeanette finished up at Bridger
Creek school where
I started teaching again. That school was just west of our place about
all went to high school in
Philip except Jeanette, who went to Wall. Esther went to Augustana Academy in Canton
in her sophomore year, but got so
lonesome Leona sent Jeannie to be with her.
and Esther went to Spearfish for their teacher's
certificate. That was during the war and at that time they needed
badly you could go one summer, take a test, and get your certificate.
taught a couple of years. Ilene did go one year and several summers to
married Melvin Burns in 1945. They lived in
Deadwood for awhile where they had a baby girl, Cheryl, who died at
they moved down and helped us for awhile before moving to the Valsvig
They had two boys, Mike and Don. After moving to Renton,
they had a boy and a girl, Kelly and Lexi. Ilene is still there today.
Meb got a divorce and is now married to Orville Breen. She has retired
Boeing after 22 years. Mike and Don stayed with us a lot over the
they were growing up. We have a lot of good memories.
Ted Knutson, a rancher and farmer from Grindstone in 1947. She taught
another year after that. They have eight children; Paula, Teddi, Lynn,
Rod, Steve, Barry,
Brandy, and Cody. All her children went to college except two who have
After the kids started growing up she painted houses for a few years,
returned to teaching as an aide for fourteen years.
met his future wife, Virginia
Mosby, while they were both serving in the Air Force in Ft. Worth,
Don was Chief Gunner on the B36 and Virginia
was in the Communication Squadron. She was from Gamaliel, Kentucky.
After their discharge they returned to South Dakota
to ranch life near Hilland. They have two
sons; Lee and Gary. They also had two little boys who were stillborn:
Steven. Don had an airplane and sprayed crops commercially and flew for
pleasure, but his main occupation was ranching and farming.
graduating from high school,
Jeanette went to Renton, Washington,
to stay with Ilene for awhile.
While there, she married Truman Black. They had four children; Shelley,
Phillip, and Rhonda. They all live in Seattle
except Shelley who lives in Boston.
Jeanette got a divorce and then became a beautician. She married Hal
in 1996 retired and planned to sell their Condo and move up to a lake
where they will build a new home.
1936, Viola, my youngest sister,
married Reuben Herrman. They took over Herrman's home place and we've
neighbors ever since. She was the only one of us that was born in South Dakota
so she was
our little "Coyote". The rest of us were Illinois
"Suckers". Viola and
Raymond were more of the studious ones but we all got in on the work
picking berries as there was always an abundance in the breaks.
attended grade school and high
school at a lot of different places; staying with Leona, Chloe, me and
It's quite a story. She went to Mariettta, Pine Ridge, Milesville,
more. She took her two-year teacher's course in Nebraska in
one year and passed with all As.
She also took some summer classes in Chadron. She was a telephone
one year, then taught school for five years in Nebraska.
Guess teaching runs in the family.
She also taught in South Dakota
had four children; Jerry,
Barbara, Johnny, and Marilyn. Her children are scattered all over the
Marilyn who lives in Philip: Jerry in California,
Barbara in Alaska,
and John in Switzerland.
and I are
the last of the Lee Edwards family alive. She moved to Philip after
and is now living the Senechal Apartments, just down the hall from me.
on each other about every day and have some good visits.
had a good life and I'm very
thankful. Times were hard in the thirties but they weren't all bad. We
lot of good times too. We traveled some; we went to Yellowstone Park in Montana
where Harold's mother's brother,
Johnny Hankins lived. We would visit Chloe and Fred in Alliance,
In 1939 we went to Illinois
to see Amon and
his family, then down to Tennessee
to see Raymond and their families. Our children got to see all of their
for the first time. We went up to North
to see my dad's home place in the beautiful Smoky Mountains.
We stayed with Way and Mae Justice who lived on my dad's sister's
and Hugh Waldrup. You could see the old Edwards place, about a half a
away. Mae was Lucy Sluder's daughter. Lucy was another sister of my
brother, Ray lived in Delta, Colorado,
a son, Earl, that visited South Dakota
don't know about the rest of the family but I can remember
my dad telling that some of the Waldrups had a big cafe called the
There were a lot of Sluders and there was a mountain called Sluder
My dad's mother had her garden up there. When we were there we tried
there but didn't get far. Our kids still remember their big feather
how Way called them "Coyotes". They had big fluffy biscuits every
meal because it was too damp to keep bread.
later years Harold and I traveled all over the United States, even to Alaska
to see Ilene's boy, Don, and family.
For several winters we spent time in Arizona
until it got to be too much for Harold to drive. He finally balked on
me – it
was too hard. We also bought a cabin the Black Hills in Silver
where we spent a lot of time. Our granddaughter, Paula, lives there now.
and I were very active in Farmers Union. He was
director of the Farmers Union Oil Coop for many years and I was more
in the educational part. We were both interested in Legislation. We
went to Washington,
several times and twice on the Farmers Unions bus to urge our
pass legislation for parity for farmers. With the help of neighbor
directed local Farmers Union camps and helped at county and district
children. I was also assessor for a few years and traveled over a large
would do about anything to get out of housework and cooking.
with the Herrman and Fosse
families, Harold and I joined the HiIland Lutheran church in the late
invaded the old time Norwegians. I remember some of them crying and
if they were happy or sad. After Mrs. Burke, the organist, died, I
organ for church for many years.
I've said, I've had a very good life. I've had two
beautiful new houses in my lifetime. In 1960, Harold decided we needed
house, so we built a spacious, modern home near our old one. It was a
from the little one on the hill. After we retired, we moved to Philip
another nice big house. We really retired in 1976 but didn't move to
1983, Harold worked hard to get everything done. He said he felt he
much time left. Sure enough, in 1986 he was diagnosed with cancer. He
would have strength to go through the ordeal. God answered his prayer.
of a heart attack instead.
was several days after Father's Day in 1986 and Harold
was feeling better that day, so we decided to go the luncheon at the
Citizen's Center. Harold got all dressed up and he looked so nice. I
arms around him and kidded him about who he expected to see. I guess
my goodbye because as we went by the hospital he said his arm hurt and
should stop. They put him in bed immediately and said to call the
hours later he had a heart attack and was gone.
was such a shock. I couldn't comprehend what had
happened. I couldn't believe he was gone, but eventually, I knew I had
on with my life. I went to stay with my kids in Seattle two or
three weeks. Then I went up to
our cabin in the Hills. I knew that would be hard after being together
then I've moved into the Senechal Apartments. I've
had real good health until I broke my hip when I was 85. Since then
in and out of the hospital. Last year I was real sick but came out of
feel there must be a reason and I am so thankful for everyone and
last week, at the age of 90, I was given the honor
of being "Grand Matron" of our Festival Parade in Philip. I don't
know why they picked me, but again, I've been blessed.
by Esther Knutson
some time, I've been after Mom to write her life
story. She didn't think it was interesting enough but I knew we would
to hear it. I took some from Mom's notes and things I've heard people
about to write this. I wish Mom could have done it as she has a unique
says she was very shy but she is also very determined
and a stickler for detail. That is probably why she made such a good
which I have heard, she was one of the best.
and my dad liked to square dance and they made a
striking couple at the square dances. He was tall and slim and she was
and petite in her colorful square dance dresses.
always said she wasn’t a good cook, but she was. It
just wasn’t her thing.