FERGUSON, Henry K. (1838-1930)
Posted By: Karon Velau (email)
Date: 9/6/2020 at 13:02:41
Henry Keagy Ferguson
(April 21, 1838 – April 11, 1930)
Ida County Pioneer, Ida Grove, Iowa, Wed., Jan, 28, 1925, p.
Octogenarians Describe Grasshopper Days and Coming of Railroad
Henry Keagy Ferguson is one of the very few persons who have resided in Ida County for more than fifty years and he can talk very interestingly of the visitation of the grasshoppers in Ida County, of the coming of the railroad and of various pioneering conditions. Mr. Ferguson was born April 21, 1838 in Blair County, Pa., one mile from the town of Clayburg. His grandparents came from Scotland. He will be 87 years old the coming spring. Later on, he resided in Sumerset Co., Pa., three miles from Johnstown. From there he moved to Cedar County, Iowa, in 1852 and had lived in Iowa nearly three quarters of a century. He came with his parents and they settled on a farm. In 1873, Mr. Ferguson purchased some land in Silver Creek Township, paying $6 an acre for it, the tract being the railway lands. In those days if a person had cash, he could get this land for $5 an acre, or $6 an acre, taking 6 years to pay for it, showing an interest rate of 16 2-3 per cent. The agents for the railway company received 10 cents an acre commission. Mr. Ferguson commenced taking The Pioneer [newspaper] in the fall of 1873 and has been a reader of the paper ever since, the publication being still taken in his family. He arrived in Ida County in the spring of 1874 and at that time there was no doctor in Ida Grove and no bank. Those were hard times, too, and a little later when the bank came, Mr. Ferguson says that his request for a loan of $7.50 was turned down, although he was an owner of farm land.
Before the advent of the railway, Mr. Ferguson did his trading at Denison and Storm Lake and hauled the lumber from Storm Lake to build his four room house on the prairie. There were no roads, each man making his own track across the unfenced expanse. Travel was by lumber wagon. The only bridges across the Maple in this region were at the Moorehead bridge just west of the town site of Ida and one at Durst’s Mill, near where Battle Creek now stands. Mr. Ferguson and his neighbor took their grain to Durst’s to be ground. “There were no trees anywhere, excepting along the streams,” says Mr. Ferguson. “All the timber groves on the farms and the shade trees in the towns have all been planted since then, even the great big trees in what is now the old town.” Mr. Ferguson says that it was about 1876 that the grasshoppers visited Ida County and gave the country a black eye for several years. They hid the sun like a cloud and where the swarms struck a building in their flight, you could scrape them up from the ground with a shovel. They ate the corn silk, causing the ears to shrivel and dry up. The small grains had been harvested in Ida County and were not so badly damaged, but further north and west, the growing grain fields were swept clean. A field that had been visited by grasshoppers had nothing left afterwards but a few sticks and stalks. All the remainder of that year, hundreds of settlers from Nebraska who had lost everything from grasshoppers, came streaming through Ida County in their wagons on their way back home where they had come from. The next spring, there were lots of young grasshoppers hatched in Ida County and the farmers looked for another scourge, but the hoppers left and went elsewhere.
Mr. Ferguson was married in 1866 to Eliza Jane Anspach, who died in 1900. They had twelve children of whom eight survive. He married Mamie Tubbs in 1903 and ten years later they retired from the farm and moved into Ida Grove. Mrs. Ferguson died in 1919. Mr. Ferguson has 26 grandchildren and 11 great grandchildren. He was baptized into the Methodist church at an early age and since then has consistently attended the worship of that church, being found in his pew every Sunday that the weather permits. Mr. Ferguson enjoys good health and comes down town nearly every day, making his home with Mr. and Mrs. Wm. Devine. Work and absence of worry seem to be the secret of his long life.
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