Naomi of Ohio: An American Pastoral

Naomi of Ohio: An American Pastoral

This post belongs here as part of the continuing saga of the Pounds family of Lincoln County. Naomi was the sister of Benjamin Pounds, who died in Jewell County, Kansas, in 1896. Both Benjamin and Naomi were born in Guernsey Co. OH. Ben's son Thomas Pounds died in Lincoln County in 1907.

This book is a historical novel in which the protagonist recounts her life, begun in the simplicities of the Ohio frontier of 1820 and ending in Kansas in 1909 with the complexities of a newer world dominated by railways. Naomi is a strong-minded woman who has married three times but remains childless, devoting herself to raising the orphans she's adopted. The long journey of her life comes to an end when at the age of 80 in Jewell County, Kansas, she marries her third husband, a former cavalry soldier who still wears cavalry boots and keeps a sword-- and who has never taken orders from a woman. It's not that she means to give him orders, but he needs someone to tell him what to do and by God she's the woman to do it. 

The last chapter of the book is told from the third husband's point of view, that of a man whose personal trek began in New York state and passed through the Civil War. He suffers from epilepsy, a malady whose visionary ecstasies and maddening descents he is only beginning to understand. He recounts the final episodes in the lives of himself and Naomi, as on a dark night he picks up a symbolic sword of command and stops his wife's nagging once and for all. Found innocent by reason of insanity, he spends his last years in Parsons State Hospital in Labette County, Kansas, not far from where the notorious Bender family slew so many trusting travelers twenty years before. There at last he receives proper medication and struggles to understand the forces that have determined the chaos of his life.

Grand Center, The Ephemeral

                               Section 3Iowa Township, Lincoln County, OK

Grand Center
Pop. 50 (1906)

1. Epitaph for an Unmarked Grave
In memory of
Celia Olson Pounds
daughter of Bertha Anderson Olson
born April 1872
in Hansingland, Sweden
married in Maysville Missouri
on September 26 1889
to George Benjamin Pounds
in 1891 delivered of a son named 
Thomas Franklin
in 1893
delivered of a son named Hans Allen
in 1894
delivered of a son named James William
in 1897
delivered of a daughter named 
Amanda Elizabeth
in 1898
delivered of twin girls named Early and Artie
in 1903
delivered of a son named John Anderson
in 1904
delivered of a son named Andrew Leland
on Tuesday March 20 1906 she returned
from Grand Center carrying a sack of feed
and was delivered of a stillborn daughter
on Friday three days later
she died in childbed
much lamented

2. Dewey Cemetery
spoken by Archie Pounds (1918-2004)
about 1992

Grandma, I never knew they put you here,
This swatch of pasture by the Guthrie road.
I should have guessed those cedars were for death,
But for all the years I drove these roads
I never knew there was a graveyard here.
Never asked about my grandma's grave?
My daddy growed up in this country,
He fiddled hoedowns 'round Carney and Merrick, 
But I growed up around Oak Grove.

It was my boy brought me out here today,
The August sun stuck low in the west,
The heat adhesive as a band-aid.
I beat the clump grass back with my cane,
But I didn't find your stone, Grandma.
I found Over, Swift, and Dwyer
Dewey, Dixon, Peebler, and Knight--
The monuments about a dozen,
The last dated 1907--
But I didn't find your name.  
And yet they put you here in the corner, 
And marked the plot with a stone.
Sandstone signals lives too frail for granite,
The frail and crumbly lives of farmers.

Now here's a stone:  David Kinder, 1810 to 1901.   
I knew some people by that name.
And here's the prayer they left for him:
rest father rest
the battle is over
the victory is wone

And your stone, Grandma?
I can tell what happened the same as I was here.
The rain beat the sandstone bare.
The crazy-making wind erased the words, 
Then mowers came, brush hogs broke the rock.
Some grandson piled the pieces in the fence.
Soil built up and suckers covered them,
Leavin you with post oak, blackjack, cedar,
Foxtails, cockleburs, and those milkweed flowers
That turn their battered faces to the sun.

And you, Grandma, dead at thirty-three,
Your dress now a suit of clinging clay
Down where it's black as Coley's butt.
Oak roots fiddle with your bones, 
Delvin like a husband's hand
Still lecherous in death,
Though the cradle of your pelvis
Broke in labor with the ninth.
White and brittle, the snapper clings 
To your side, no bigger than a rabbit.

It was not that the child could not thrive.
She was born with everything but the will--
That can be deformed just like a limb,
Or a woman old before her time.
Death smiled so gently on her,
Life could not get her attention.

From Sweden you came to a Missouri farm, 
And married a man with a limp, a love for cards,
And a gangrene gash in his foot from an ax.
Mama didn't like it when he stayed too long,
Said he got that leg 'cause he danced too much.
I looked in his suitcase once:  a nickel box of soda,
 A pitch deck, and Choice Reading for the Home
With a pledge to never drink or smoke, unsigned.
He lived to be seventy-nine, but you
Were thirty-three the raw March day you died.

Today we found the farm where you died
And your true stone there, the old front step 
Of your house--now filled with hay but still a house, 
Though off its foundation fifty feet away.
Inside the finishin boards said house, 
A nail wore a necklace of corn-binder gears.
Was it here death sewed his black seeds in your row?
You lie here half the globe away from home.  
Born in Sweden plump and golden, 
You died in Oklahoma white and thin.

I found your stone alright.  A quarried block 
Of limestone it'd take a team to move.
I beat the cockleburs back with my cane.
Worn by the wipin of your family's feet,
It told me plainer than any grave
Of the kitchen were you labored, of the feed 
They say you carried home in the full of your term, 
Of the corn-shuck pallet where you died.

The poor get no show when they die.
They bury you by the road, the cars scoot by 
And don't even see there's a graveyard here,
Or if they stop to look don't find your name.
It's a hell of a note, to live and die--
And my kids wonder why I sit and fret.
They don't know what trouble’s like.

The Autobiography of Mary Frances Earp: a sample

Here's the opening of the first chapter, just to give you a taste. There's a larger sample at Amazon if you click on the link.

Chapter 1
or The Goldilocks Zone,
in which Mary Frances Introduces Herself 

My name is Mary Frances Earp. I was borned in 1862 near a little fart of a place called Ravanna in Mercer County in northern Missouri, right near the Ioway, line, in the second year of the Great War of the Rebellion, but I was raised in Clio, that is Wayne County Ioway, the next county north. I was the first daughter of Reverend Martin Van Buren Wright and his wife Hannah, so my maiden name was Wright. I died in Stroud, Oklahoma, in 1961 at the age a ninety-eight. If I’d a lived another six months, I’d a been ninety-nine and bound to make my centenary but both escaped my grasp. That don’t make me no nevermind. I was aiming for a greater glory.
It’s hard not to feel a little vanity in having lived so long, but it may have just been cantankerousness on my part. I don’t know why I couldn’t die at three score and ten like ordinary decent people and stop blocking the sunlight from the young plants wanting their hour in the sun. The good die early and the bad die late, they say. 
“We spend our years as a tale that is told,” says the Psalmist. “The days of our years are threescore years and ten; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years, yet is their length labour and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away.” My length of days wasn’t labor and sorrow. In my sixties I hit a plateau and leveled off, and the rest of it was just coasting along and eating the gravy. Well, it’s possible that I’m one of the lingering bad ones, but if I have lingered it may be it’s cause I have a tale to tell.
Reader, I’ve got to say this to you plain. You may not like my story, you may not like the way I talk, but if you don’t cotton to it all you got to do is close this book and git. I’m crotchety and crabby, as you might expect from someone of my years, I’m gabby too, and my command of good grammar is here again gone again. In my posthumous years, I’ve learned some grammar, but I don’t always abide by it. It’s all according to the way I feel, and the old ways of talking is more comfy to me like an old shoe is for walking. I write this for them as wants to hear my story. If you don’t like the way I talk, if you don’t like my grammar, then go ahead and close the book. That way you’ll git shut of me.
When I was quite small, maybe eight, us kids was outside playing when my brother Matt just a year ahead a me happened to knock up against me. Keeping my balance with a quick side shuffle and putting my arms akimbo, I said to him indignantly, “Matt, you mite near pushed me over!” Gentle reader, this is who I am—or rather who I ain’t. I ain’t someone to be pushed over.
For you readers that choose to stay the course, first, don’t be impatient with me. I lived ninety-eight years on earth, I have continued in another parallel world nearly sixty more, and I’ve got a few things to say here at the outset. My memory works fine when it works. It’s just headstrong like an unbroken colt and spotty like sunshine on a cloudy day back in Ioway with the prairie wind ablowin. I know my married name is Earp, and that Earp’s my legal name, the one they wrote on my gravestone. Well, I loved Will Earp and bore him a dozen kids, but in a way I cain’t explain Mary Earp is not the real me, not the inmost me, not the me that I am when I’m most myself. That’s a fact I felt now and then during the forty years a my married life, and now it’s a settled conviction. This is what paradise is, if I understand a thing, it’s being Mary Frances Wright, eight years old again, and a transparent eyeball. 
The normal human eye sees a field about 135 degrees to the front and sides. A transparent eyeball sees the full circle of 360 degrees in every direction like a kid’s marble tossed upwards, a little ball of colored glass spinning through space. Of course I’m dazzled, frazzled, and dizzy, and my vision is dotty and clotty as buttermilk, but so what. Now we see through a glass darkly, but then we shall see face to face. That’s what we were told, but we weren’t told what the words mean. See what face to face?, I ask you. The glory of God? You might as well try looking direct at the sun. I see a lot more than I ever thought I could, but when it comes to the sun, I still need that smoked glass.
When I was a child, I used to think I would live forever. Most young folks believe that—it’s the coursing of the life energy in them. Then I lost that baby in Guthrie, on the trail from Nebraska to Oklahoma, and when that sweet creature, the child of my bowels, perished like a summer midge I knew I wasn’t immortal. Now I believe I have already lived forever, I’ve just forgotten most a the parts that happened before I was born. 

A Tale That Is Told: The Autobiography of Opal Earp Pounds

My sister Gerry Robideaux and I have just finished the big project of editing and publishing Mama’s autobiography, which she wrote in the last years of her life. (She died in 2009.) She called it “A Tale That Is Told” and we added the subtitle.It’s available first as an ebook, which you may download for free: But an ebook, as you know, doesn’t give you anything to hold in your hands, pass around, or keep on the shelf. So we’ve also made it available in print form on Amazon, setting the price as low as possible. It's short (thank the Good Lord!), running to about one hundred pages, including ten of photos.

The tale that Opal Earp Pounds tells is that of a farm girl, born in 1920 near Stroud, Oklahoma, of grandparents who had homesteaded. After finishing high school,…

Gable School, 1902

Back Row L to R: Walter Hallbeck, Kyla Baker, Magie (Maggie?) Mead, Hersie Burns, Rose Levisay, Ralph Hallbeck, Pryor Millican, Bert Hall, Joel Sandlin, Teacher

2nd Row: Wilbur Hallbeck, Will Hawe, Gertie Burns, Maud Baker
Eva Millican, Evie Gauker, Ben Brown, George Millican, Ernest Gauker

3rd row: Minnie Gentry, ___ Mead, Naomi Baker, Carl Baker, John
Hawe, Cecil Hall, Alice Wallis, Ruby Fawcett (Fouchet? Fauchet?), Earl Mathews

4th Row: Aland (?) Mathews, Ray Hall, Bill Gentry, Willie James, 
Arthur Levisay, Val Hall, Arthur Wallis, Edd Wallis

Clarence Hallbeck, Carl Garvison, Willie Fawcett (Fouchet? Fauchet?)

Gable School was located about half way between Meeker and Prague. Click to enlarge the photo. 

Three-Year-Old Travels Alone from New York to Stroud

Three-Year-Old Travels Alone from NY to OK

New York Times, 7 March 1900

     Assistant General Passenger Agent Palmer of the Wabash today received a telegram from Stroud, Oklahoma, announcing that Helen M. Francis, three years and eight months old, had arrived safely at that point after having traveled from New York city without escort other than the trainmen to whose care she had been committed. Officers of the road say that little Miss Francis is the youngest child that has ever traveled alone by rail on a journey of such great length.
     The child was placed aboard a West Shore train in New York last Saturday, tagged for Stroud. Conductors on every division were notified, and where change of cars was necessary passenger agents took charge of her. The girl’s mother died recently, and her father desired to send her to her grandmother.

     The Chandler News noticed the story 9 March 1900.

The original clipping was provided by Jan Vassar.

Review of "The Lonesome Death of Billie Grayson"


Prof. Peter Casagrande
University of Kansas

Lillibridge, Pioneer Days

Pioneer Days of E. B. Lillibridge 
as Told to H. E. Lillibridge
(from the Lincoln Co. News, 1958)

I was born on a farm in Ohio December 6, 1865. Desiring to move westward the family migrated to Kansas where farming conditions were better. However, renting a farm usually meant a lot of hard work with a scant living. We heard of a chance to own a home--not buying one--for we had no money. The government was opening up a wilderness country for settlement. This was Oklahoma where we had a chance to make a home.

In September 1891 we left Kansas to make the run for new homes in the Iowa-Sac and Fox opening. The party consisted of my brother William and myself. We camped in our wagons six miles east of Guthrie where we waited for the date of the opening. 

On September 11, 1891, we camped in our wagons six miles east of Guthrie where we waited for the date of the opening. There were a great number in this race. among some of these were W. P. Goble, John Miller, W. B. Lillibridge, Frank Burris, George Greathouse, Dave Skeels, Newt Barnes and many others. Crossing Deep For from the south there was a scramble in crossing. Deep Fork was a crooked winding stream with many sharp bends. The water was fairly clear at that time. The banks were steeper and the stream deeper because the land was no plowed up and sand was not washed in from cultivated fields as it is today. Some places the stream was shallow and some places very deep holes of water were found. Crossing with wagons and stock was quite a job as there were no roads or bridges.

Some people were in wagons, buggies, horseback, muleback, oxen and many on foot. Climbing a steep hill a woman afoot jumped on behind the saddle of a horse-back rider and continued the race at a faster pace.

I arrived on the NE quarter Section 26-E, 15N-R.3E and staked my homestead at 5:00 p.m. September 22, 1891. Then I pitched camp and shot a wild turkey which was prepared for supper.

The next day was spent locating corners, then I went to Guthrie and filed on my homestead. 

Spring came and time to start growing food. This season I had 10 acres broke out with a team of 10 oxen.

The evening of the Chandler cyclone I was working on my cave and I saw the black cyclone cloud in the direction of Deep Fork and going toward Chandler. As I was six miles northwest of Chandler I did not know of the horrible thing that happened.

That night Mr. McCaw came riding up the road calling to everyone within the sound of his voice, "Chandler is blowed away."
I drove into Chandler finding a terrible sight. Many men, women and children, killed or injured. Others were walking around in the street, some were searching for friends. Mrs. Barker set up a stand on the sidewalk serving hot coffee.

A horse and buggy at a hitching post in front of the old wooden court house was blowed away and the next morning was found on the east side of Chandler. The Filtsch hardware store had purchased several new wagons which were lined up in front of the store. They had sold one which they had taken an old wagon as a trade in. The old wagon would hardly stay together. The iron rims were loose on the fellas and the spokes were loose in the wheels. This old wagon set between to new wagons. The old wagon was not disturbed by the storm. The two new wagons on each side did not fare so well. The spokes were twisted out of some of the new wheels--literally splintered.

An iron bolt 8 inches long was driven through a white oak tree by the wind. Blades of grass were driven by the wind into trees like nails.

The Nash residence was blown into the air and landed in a lumber yard. Emma Nash was in  the house at the time but was not injured.

At one time there was a village or settlement of Indians in the northwest part of my homestead. Wooden racks were found with dried meat.

There were some wild animals found: Wildcats, deer, wolves, wild turkey and occasional lions.

Hundreds of copperhead and rattle snakes lived in a rocky canyon on the Andrews homestead in the northeast corner section 25-E, 15N-R, 3E. Many hogs, horses and cattle were bitten by these snakes. 

One day was set aside as snake day. People came from far and near organized a snake hunt in this rocky place. One hundred dead copperhead snakes were counted at the end of the day. 

My best land raised a bale of cotton to the acre. The land was fertile and plowed deep. Many hours were spent in the fields. We worked not only daylight to dark but I have plowed many times also by the light of the bright full moon.

Freight was hauled from Shawnee and Guthrie to Chandler. It was about a four day trip to Guthrie and return, camping out on the way. We made the trip in all kinds of weather, never waiting for fair weather. We made our own roads or trails, taking off through the blackjacks where ever we could get through the best. I made my coffee in a gallon syrup can kept for that purpose. The old train run near what is now Carney then westward near Dudley and winding towards Guthrie.

My wife Maggie worked in the cotton fields as well as helped with the chores and it was not long until we had a good home and a nice farm. It was due to her hard work and loving help that we were able to have such a happy home. Two boys were born in this home, Joseph and Eddie.

Gale Hobart was one of the pioneer preachers of the Oak Grove community, highly respected by all who knew him. He asked no financial help and was self supporting by his own farm near Ida postoffice, Section 19-T, 15N-R, 4E. The community was better because of him.

The Choctaw railroad built a railroad from Chandler through Guthrie to Kingfisher. I got a job working on the road bed. It was a good job, working shorter hours than on the farm. I got $2.50 per day with my team of horses for 10 hour day. No coffee breaks or rest periods. The railroad afforded a lot of work of a lot of settlers.

When the road was finished a little steam engine and baggage car and wooden passenger coach was put into service, making the round trip in one day, going to Guthrie 8:00 a.m. and returning about 5:00 p.m. The terminal was first at Guthrie then later the road was extended to Kingfisher. The road was so rough, coal was often scattered along the roadbed, which was sometimes gathered by the farmers for fuel. The fireman would sometimes throw coal at the cattle to get them off the tracks. The little engine often caused fires in the fields along the right of way, doing a lot of damage. Community stores were built up to serve the public along the route.

A general merchandise store, post office and blacksmith shop was built and run by John Shoop on the southeast corner of my homestead. This was called Lowe, Okla.

Coffee was wholesaled by the coffee barrel and then sold to the customer by the pound in roasted coffee beans. Everybody had his own coffee grinder and enough was ground for one meal at a time.

Every family made their own butter with a churn and moulded the butter into one-pound wooden moulds. These one pound cakes of butter usually weighed 18 ounces or more.

After living in the log house a few years I built the present house, which still stands. I hauled the lumber from Guthrie, which was cyprus timber. 

A combination school and church was built out of logs in the southeast corner of Sec. 32-T, 15N, 32. This was named Oak Grove. Both whites and colored used this school house, all students walking to and from school. Some of the students were grown up or adults. There was a large attendance, except during cotton picking season when almost all worked in the fields.

In 1900 a new school house was built in the present location, the southwest corner of Section 24-T, 15N-R, 3E. This was equipped with new coal oil lights.

M. Hallock had a water well machine and drilled most of the water wells in the Oak Grove community.

I was a member of the Anti-Horse Thief Association Lodge No. 52. The number was branded on the horses’ front hoofs. The association was very active and all members were diligent in this work.

I have lived on my homestead continuously for 67 years and still live here. 

As far as I know I am the last remaining homesteader who made this run of this Iowa Indian settlement, who still lives on the original homestead.