Edwards, Painter, Herrmann, and Dingerson descendants

Recollections of Martha Jewel Edwards Ferguson


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(Written by Esther Knutson (daughter) in 1996)

On December 8, 1904, I was born to Leonodos (Lee) and Janie Louise Painter Edwards in Cowling, a little town in southern Illinois. Our nearest city was Mt. Carmel 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, which would be Dutch.

I 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 blacksmith shop, as they tell about one sad accident which happened to my mother, Janie, when she was a little girl. She was standing watching her father working his anvil when a spark flew out and struck her in the eye. So from that time on, she wore a patch over her eye. There are conflicting stories about how this happened but this is the version I heard.

I'm not sure how many children were in the family, but Mother had two brothers, Philip and George, and a sister Martha, who I was named after. Aunt Martha lived a short distance from us in Cowling and they tell how I would run away to her house and my sister Chloe would come after me. So she could get a goodie, I suspect.

My mother was a very patient, hard-working and kind person. I remember her long dark hair that hung down below her waist when she brushed it at night. She was kind of quiet and reserved but that might have had something to do with the patch on her eye. But to me, she was almost perfect.

My father, Lee, on the other hand was very outgoing and quite a story teller. He could be very harsh but also gentle too. I remember when he would sit and rock me when I had a toothache, with his big, warm hand over my jaw and singing me some of his crazy songs. As were a lot of men at that time, he was a strict ruler of the roost, or it seemed to us anyway. He came from a musical family. His father, A.G. Edwards, was a Baptist traveling preacher and his brother, Ray, was a music teacher. His mother's name was Nancy Mathis. My dad played the organ and could sing any part. Some of his songs I remember were "When the Roll is Called Up Yonder" and "Old Dan Tucker".

Leonodos (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 were expected to do the work Sometimes the work suffered and so did the boys when their dad got home, so my father told us. They would rather hunt coons than hoe in the garden.

He also had a sister that was a missionary to Cuba (Jennie Edwards). In February 1898, she thought she was going to go to Brazil, but the Spanish War came up and changed her plans. In October 1898 she went to Guanajay, Cuba, and established an orphanage. She later moved to Mariel and gathered children of Cuban parents that had been murdered or starved by the Spaniards in the war. She educated and Christianized them. She eventually married a Spaniard. There is a record of this but I don’t know much about the rest of the family.

My father was sixteen when he decided to leave home and go live with his Uncle Morgan who was a sheriff in Rome, Georgia. While there, his uncle decided Lee would make a good law enforcement officer, so he had him join up with the Pinkerton Agency. He traveled all over the country. Once to Jackson Hole, Wyoming to catch cattle thieves. After that mission was accomplished (we never were sure just what happened), he sold his horse and buggy that was used as a blind selling sewing machines, he purchased a string of horses and started east. He ended up in the little town of Cowling, Illinois. That is where he met his future wife, Janie Painter Durley.

Before this time my mother was married to a man named Durley, and they had one son, Amon. They lived in Mt. Carmel but when he passed away my mother moved to Cowling.

After my mother and father were married, they ran a General Store. My mother was a seamstress and my father farmed some land near the Wabash River. He told about fishing and finding a few pearls in the oyster beds.

By 1906 they decided to go to South Dakota. One reason for leaving was that my mother and my brother, Raymond, had contacted malaria from living so 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 beautiful flowers and trees to go and live on the bleak prairies of South Dakota.

On the trip out to South Dakota, we met a family from around St. Louis, the John Herrman family, who had filed a claim also. We lost contact with them in Chicago because my brother Raymond got caught between two street cars and dislocated both shoulder 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.

We 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 going by ferry. Midland was as far as the train went so we came the rest of the way with team and wagon. We settled about five miles south of the Cheyenne River on the edge of the breaks. My dad had come out the year before to file a claim.

Of course I don't remember coming to South Dakota. I was only three years old. Leona was about seven, Chloe nine, and Raymond thirteen. Another brother, Charles, died when he was small and was buried at Antiock, outside of Cowling. My half brother, Amon, was nineteen years old and 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 Roberta and then went back to Illinois where Roberta died. They later had two other children, Margaret and Johnny. Amon was a fun loving person.

Our first house was a dugout which was dug out of a bank. The roof was sod, a few windows and the floor was dirt, I don't remember it being too uncomfortable as it was warm in the winter and cool in the summer. I do remember laying on the bed looking at the newspapers on the ceiling. They sometimes wallpapered with newspapers. Viola was born in this dugout in 1911. We must have lived there about six or seven 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.

One of the few luxuries we had was a big, beautiful organ my folks bought through the mail. They got it so we girls could take music lessons. Before we learned to play, I remember many times Papa sitting down at the organ and all of us spending the evening singing. It took a lot of energy to pump those old organs to make them go. Raymond also played the guitar and loved to sing. In fact, he was still singing at his 50th Wedding Anniversary.

Until Viola was born, I remember being sort of the pet. Probably because was the youngest and being so small. Because of snakes and other dangers, my folks bought a little white collie to be my guard. One time a big rattlesnake was in our path. That little dog stood guard until I got my folks. They made short work of that snake. By the time Viola came along, he was called Old Dan and he watched over her too.

For 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 they lived at Hilland, about sixteen miles south. He was the Stanley County assessor (now Haakon County). After that we got together quite often. In fact it was at a Christmas gathering at Herrman's when we first met the Fergusons. They lived a few miles east of Herrmans. Their son Harold turned out to be my future husband. George and Laura Ferguson came from Rapid City to file a claim. They had one son, Harold, and two daughters, Helen and Thelma. For entertainment on this day, all of the young people went ice skating. Harold, a teenager then, and another young fellow spent the day helping Leona 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 small.

Times were really hard about this time but Papa was a hard worker. He cut cedar trees out of the breaks for firewood and took the rest to town (about 40 miles) with team and wagon for supplies. He also sold bones he collected. This was the way he furnished money for Raymond to go to high school in Philip. Raymond stayed at the Winchester Hotel where he worked as a handyman. At this time, the hotel was a very stylish establishment for pioneer days. It is now a museum in Philip.

We attended grade school most of the time at West Fork, near Hanrahans. Education must have meant a lot to our folks because a few winters when there wasn't school, my folks rented a small house in Philip and moved in so we could go to school there. They also gave us the best higher education they could afford.

Veva Belle was my first teacher and as most little first graders do, I loved her. Another teacher I remember was Hazel Wedeman.

Leona and I and some of our friends rode horse back about six miles for music lessons from Mrs. Teeple for a couple summers. She would have lemonade and cookies when we were done. Then she would gather flowers for our mothers, which was a treat for them.

I always liked to ride horses so my job was to herd cattle in the breaks. Leona helped our dad with the farming. Chloe did more of the cooking and when she was a teenager, she hired out to do the cooking for a big ranch outfit near the Cheyenne River. She told about cooking for a crew of 12 ranch hands and making pies every day. We all got in on milking cows.

My first introduction to the automobile was the day I graduated from the 8th grade. I was 13 years old when my dad took Leona and I into Philip and bought a new Ford. He didn't want to drive that contraption so he gave the job to us. Of course we were delighted and off we went. Leona would drive one way and I the other. With the roads and mud it wasn't always an easy job.

For entertainment we had a Literary Society at school, box socials, school programs, and get-togethers. My mother and her good friend, Mrs. Wedeman, organized a Sunday School class for the little ones but there were quite a few atheists in the community at that time too, Maybe that was why it was nick-named "Rumpus Flat".

One 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 State Superintendent corrected it. I was seventeen at the time. I was so tickled, I ran all the way home from the mailbox to show it to my mother. I guess there never was a doubt of what I wanted to be.

My first school was in Jackson County near Nolin. There were about seven or eight students, My sister, Viola, who was in the 6th grade at the time, stayed with me the last semester. We stayed in the school house. Later I taught at Cherry Creek for my brother, Raymond, when he and his wife, Minnie, entered the Indian Service. They met at Valparaiso University in Indiana. 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, Marion, Dorothy and Wilma. They moved to Knoxville, Tennessee so they could be near the university for their children. Raymond never did get entirely over malaria, so he wasn't too strong and prone to sicknesses.

Even though there were four years difference in age, Leona and I were inseparable. She went to business school in Rapid City for awhile but didn't like it so we went to Spearfish for more credits to teach, I ended up teaching off and on for about 25 years.

Leona liked people and was very out-going. She went ahead with things and I followed along. One time at a 4th of July celebration someone asked her to dance. I piped up and said, "She doesn't dance". Of course, she did anyway.

I 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 were from that old Baptist background and many things were taboo, I was always dead set against alcohol of any kind. Whenever we went out to eat I would tell them, I would pay for the meal but not the liquor and never did allow it in my home.

I did get over my thing about dancing and when I was young you had a little book and wrote down your dance partners. It was usually full before the dance began. Over the years, Harold and I both enjoyed dancing and later in life we did a lot of square dancing.

After the first 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 Tom and Aunt Martha (my namesake) lived on the edge of town (Cowling) and had a grape arbor from the street to the house. They were getting elderly and said we could buy their place. Three acres for $500. That was a lot of money at that time. We were to pay $10 a month, but after we were married we didn't think we could afford it so we let it go. Little did we know – it has an oil well on it now,

My oldest sister, Chloe, went to high school in Philip and nursing school in Deadwood. She did private nursing until she married Fred Carlson. They worked at the Pine Ridge Indian Hospital and then moved to Alliance, Nebraska, were he operated a garage. She was his bookkeeper and did some nursing too. They never had any children but always had a dog that was treated royally.

In Leona's first year of teaching at the Markwed school at Moenville, she met her future husband, John Sandal. Harold and I got to know each other when we attended high school at Marietta Consolidated near Hartley. There were a bunch of us that went places together. 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 at different houses. We rode horseback or drove buggies wherever we went. Most of our parents had cars by this time but none of us had much money so it was easier and more economical to use the horses.

We really didn't pair off into couples very much. Harold and I started going together a little but I wasn't sure who he liked better, Jewel Britton or Jewel Edwards (me), I won out.

After Leona and I came back from Illinois, Harold and I started going together more seriously. One time Harold had ridden horseback to see me. It was getting late (about 10:00 p.m.) and my dad hollered out and asked him if he was going-to stay all night. Harold left pronto. My dad was strict but he kind of liked and trusted Harold too. Later in life he stayed with us for about a year and told me I sure got a good man.

On March 16, 1924, Leona and John, Viola, Harold and I were at Leona's school house where she was teaching 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 Harold 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 day on 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 the bank and borrowed $50. He gave John $25 and he had $25 to buy the license and rings etc. Rev. Bly performed the double ceremony at the Lutheran Parsonage . We ate at a restaurant which was a big deal for us. We then went to the dance at Milesville, after which John and Leona went to her school house and Harold and I went to mine. That was our honeymoon. My only regret was that we didn't let my folks know and someone else told them. I think my mother felt bad about that.

The 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 and moved to Rapid City. We moved down to their bigger house. We lived there until we decided to build a new house in about 1960. Times started getting better by then and my teaching helped too.

Harold and I both liked horseback riding and we had some beautiful horses. Many times we were seen riding back and forth to my folk's or around the neighborhood on our coal black horses; "Night" and "Star".

My 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 about that. He was a rough and tough old cowboy and no one usually questioned his authority so I probably wasn't his favorite either. Harold's mother was a very nice and kind person. She was a jolly person and when she laughed she made everyone else laugh just to hear her. She worked hard, milking cows, putting up hay, then coming in to make meals for the men. George had a sense of humor too, and had a nickname for everyone.

For a couple of summers to add to our income and for pleasure, Harold and I would play for dances. I played the piano and Harold played the drums. Usually this was a bowery dance where you put down a big platform and danced outdoors. We were sort of self-taught musicians as I only had a couple summers of music lessons and Harold taught himself . It was something we both enjoyed. Later when we had children we would put them in the back of the truck and they would go to sleep when they got tired. You sure couldn't do that now.

I gave beginner music lessons and also taught school. We enjoyed parties at our house and it was cheap entertainment.

We bought a few cows and sheep, some machinery, and worked night and day for awhile. Sometimes it seemed like it was a losing battle until after the depression in the thirties.

Leona and John had four children, Betty and Jeanne, and several years later, Jackie and Billy. Our families had many good times together until Leona got cancer in 1943. She was a good homemaker and a wonderful mother. Billy and Jacky were small when 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 part of me was gone.

My mother passed away in 1931 from gallstones and complications. My dad died a week after Leona so it was doubly hard. We kept Jackie and Billy for a while, then John took them and did a good job. He had never had to do much of the disciplining before, so I'm sure it wasn't easy.

Our 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 11-mile corner and decided we should go to Philip. She was born three or four hours later. Mrs. Einin was the nurse and ran the hospital. Dr. Ramsey was the doctor. Esther was born in Philip November 26, 1928, Don on May 24, 1930 in Philip and Jeanette on May 2, 1937 in New Underwood. Dr. O'Tool was her doctor.

Ilene 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 one mile.

They 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.

Ilene and Esther went to Spearfish for their teacher's certificate. That was during the war and at that time they needed teachers so badly you could go one summer, take a test, and get your certificate. They both taught a couple of years. Ilene did go one year and several summers to keep her certificate updated.

Ilene married Melvin Burns in 1945. They lived in Deadwood for awhile where they had a baby girl, Cheryl, who died at birth. Then they moved down and helped us for awhile before moving to the Valsvig place. They had two boys, Mike and Don. After moving to Renton, Washington, they had a boy and a girl, Kelly and Lexi. Ilene is still there today. She and Meb got a divorce and is now married to Orville Breen. She has retired from Boeing after 22 years. Mike and Don stayed with us a lot over the summers as they were growing up. We have a lot of good memories.

Esther married Ted Knutson, a rancher and farmer from Grindstone in 1947. She taught school 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 ranches. After the kids started growing up she painted houses for a few years, then returned to teaching as an aide for fourteen years.

Don met his future wife, Virginia Mosby, while they were both serving in the Air Force in Ft. Worth, Texas. 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: James and Steven. Don had an airplane and sprayed crops commercially and flew for pleasure, but his main occupation was ranching and farming.

After 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, Doug, 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 Burton and in 1996 retired and planned to sell their Condo and move up to a lake near Hood Canal, where they will build a new home.

In 1936, Viola, my youngest sister, married Reuben Herrman. They took over Herrman's home place and we've been 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 and picking berries as there was always an abundance in the breaks.

Viola attended grade school and high school at a lot of different places; staying with Leona, Chloe, me and others. It's quite a story. She went to Mariettta, Pine Ridge, Milesville, Philip and 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 operator for one year, then taught school for five years in Nebraska. Guess teaching runs in the family. She also taught in South Dakota later.

They had four children; Jerry, Barbara, Johnny, and Marilyn. Her children are scattered all over the world except Marilyn who lives in Philip: Jerry in California, Barbara in Alaska, and John in Switzerland.

Viola and I are the last of the Lee Edwards family alive. She moved to Philip after Reuben died and is now living the Senechal Apartments, just down the hall from me. We check on each other about every day and have some good visits.

I've had a good life and I'm very thankful. Times were hard in the thirties but they weren't all bad. We had a 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, Nebraska. 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 cousins for the first time. We went up to North Carolina 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 place, Laura and Hugh Waldrup. You could see the old Edwards place, about a half a mile away. Mae was Lucy Sluder's daughter. Lucy was another sister of my dads'. A brother, Ray lived in Delta, Colorado, and had a son, Earl, that visited South Dakota several times.

I 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 Dixie Pig. There were a lot of Sluders and there was a mountain called Sluder Mountain. My dad's mother had her garden up there. When we were there we tried walking up there but didn't get far. Our kids still remember their big feather beds and how Way called them "Coyotes". They had big fluffy biscuits every meal because it was too damp to keep bread.

In 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 City where we spent a lot of time. Our granddaughter, Paula, lives there now.

Harold and I were very active in Farmers Union. He was director of the Farmers Union Oil Coop for many years and I was more interested in the educational part. We were both interested in Legislation. We went to Washington, D.C. several times and twice on the Farmers Unions bus to urge our Congressman to pass legislation for parity for farmers. With the help of neighbor ladies, we directed local Farmers Union camps and helped at county and district camps for children. I was also assessor for a few years and traveled over a large area. I would do about anything to get out of housework and cooking.

Along with the Herrman and Fosse families, Harold and I joined the HiIland Lutheran church in the late 1930s and invaded the old time Norwegians. I remember some of them crying and wasn't sure if they were happy or sad. After Mrs. Burke, the organist, died, I played the organ for church for many years.

As 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 a better house, so we built a spacious, modern home near our old one. It was a far cry from the little one on the hill. After we retired, we moved to Philip and built another nice big house. We really retired in 1976 but didn't move to town until 1983, Harold worked hard to get everything done. He said he felt he didn't have much time left. Sure enough, in 1986 he was diagnosed with cancer. He prayed he would have strength to go through the ordeal. God answered his prayer. He died of a heart attack instead.

It 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 Senior Citizen's Center. Harold got all dressed up and he looked so nice. I put my arms around him and kidded him about who he expected to see. I guess that was my goodbye because as we went by the hospital he said his arm hurt and maybe we should stop. They put him in bed immediately and said to call the family. Two hours later he had a heart attack and was gone.

It was such a shock. I couldn't comprehend what had happened. I couldn't believe he was gone, but eventually, I knew I had to get 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 62 years.

Since 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 I've been in and out of the hospital. Last year I was real sick but came out of it. I feel there must be a reason and I am so thankful for everyone and everything.

Just 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.

Postscript by Esther Knutson

For 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 all like to hear it. I took some from Mom's notes and things I've heard people talk about to write this. I wish Mom could have done it as she has a unique way with words.

Mom 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 teacher, which I have heard, she was one of the best.

She 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 little and petite in her colorful square dance dresses.

Mom always said she wasn’t a good cook, but she was. It just wasn’t her thing.

There were several stories I wanted to get in but couldn't find the right spot. It wouldn't be complete without a few of them.

I remember when I was small about a fight over ice cream. My dad's sister, Helen, and some of her friends wanted to make ice cream and borrowed cream from my folks. They were supposed to share it when it was done but instead, took off with it. Of course, that was too much of a challenge for my dad so, Viola and Reuben, Bus and Rachael Samco, the folks and Donny and I took off after them. Donny and I were abut five and seven I suppose. We found them at an old school house and swiped the ice cream. After a big chase in the night, Donny clobbering one guy on the nose with a dipper and breaking his glasses, running through a barb wire fence, we ended up with the ice cream. I think there were some mad people, but it sure was exciting for us kids,

Mom tells when she and Leona were in college, their folks sent them $10 to come home on. Instead they each bought a wig and then had to beg a ride home with Harold.

One other story was when Ilene was a baby, Grandma Laura took care of her while Mom was teaching. Ilene caught a cold so Grandma put a skunk oil poultice on her chest. Mom said Ilene smelled so bad she could hardly stand being near her.

It was always fascinating to me to watch my dad bring in big hayracks full of hay in the summertime and unload them with big pulleys. Then after work sometimes he would take us swimming in the stock dams. Mom didn't like water so she would never go in but always went along.

I'm sure there are a lot more stories but space runs out. We miss our dad. He was a hard worker and there was always something going on when he was around. In 1995 Mom had serious surgery and has been recuperating ever since. The following thank-you note she put in the Pioneer Review kind of sums up how she feels about her life now.

Martha newspaper article

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