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Narrative History of

CHARLES L. ROBBINS and CLARA P. BROOKS

circa 1925, son and daughter respectively of Arlington, Iowa pioneers Lewis Edgar Robbins

who married Julia Lorena Barnes and of Alfred Clark Brooks who married Frances Lenora Richards.

Written by Chas. Robbins.

[editorial changes in brackets]


Contributed by Dale Robbins

C. L. & Clara Brooks Robbins
Pioneers of Iowa, Oklahoma, and Washington

In writing this sketch of ourselves I will leave comment on dispositions and character to others who may care to add to this history. [I] Will write of each of us separately until our marriage and thereafter the writing will refer to both of us under the editorial “we.”

I was born Mar. 17, 1878 in a little board shanty about 14 x 16 feet, unplastered, that sat about 5 rods from the road midway between Brush Creek and Wadena on what was long know[n] as the Fish place. This shanty was on a little piece of land (10 a) that my father had traded for and soon after traded it off again. The little building had been built to shave hoops in. It was the first school building in that neighborhood.

The first home I remember was the east 20 A. of the old Iowa home place. The house was of logs about 20 x 20 and later had a board lean-to kitchen 8 x 20 built on the north side. There was a low upstairs or chamber next [to] the roof where we 5 children always slept. This room upstairs was separated with a curtain into two rooms. The gable ends had a window in the East and West ends. The windows were six pane 6 x 10 windows of two sashes each. This chamber was not plastered and our beds came to the roof on the wall side and I remember we had to be pretty careful when we got up or our heads got a good bump. During the first 10 years at this place we had no barns or out buildings except those made of poles and straw covered. The cellar was simply a hole dug under the house and bins were made in it and covered with straw to keep the canned fruit and vegetables from freezing. We had no well but carried water from a spring on the 20 just south of ours but 40 rods away.

There were trees all around the house and barn and heavy timber and brush for miles around, in fact everywhere except where fields were cleared or roads cut through. At first these roads went the shortest routes between places and the settlers had hard times of it to get them put on section lines instead of lengthwise of their farms. I remember such a road went from the Northwest corner to the Southeast corner of father’s farm and it almost took a law suit to get it put south by the house. Father had his fences cut many times by prairie men who owned timber tracts down that way.

I first went to school when I was 5 years old. The school was in the little board shanty that I was born in. My first teacher was Sarah Gladwin. About this time a school house was built 40 rods west of the Antwine corners and was known as the Timber school. Later this name was changed to the Maple Grove School. This school house was a frame building 16 by 24 feet with four windows on each side and no hall. This school was a part of then Brush Creek school and was mostly run by directors who lived in town.

I attended the Timber school every term till the fall. I was 16 years old and at that age had never studied grammar because there had never been a grammar class after I was old enough to take it. Among my teachers at this school might be mentioned; Sarah Gladwin, Kate Huddy, Steve Brooks, Lester Walrath, Etna Keith, Nora Newton, Elsie Newton, Elsie Allen, Nell Newton, Myrtle Little, [and] Neva Richards.

Just a few words here as to how we boys at that time made our spending money; and by that I mean all the money we had because all we ever spent it for was clothes and school books and money spent on ourselves for treats or entertainment was never known. When I was about 8 years old I began to go into the woods to dig an herb called ginseng [sic]. All the boys and girls of that part of the county did this. The root of this herb sold at from 25 to 45Ë per pound green or about $2.50 per lb. When washed and dried, it taking about 5 lbs. of green to make one of dry.

A good hustling boy 8 to 12 years old could gather about ½ lb. in a day but a man could gather two or three lbs. We sold these roots to a dealer, Wm. Seargant, who made his living dealing in ginseng, pilings [? – diff. to read] & hook-poles [or hoop-poles?]. He lived at Wadena. Some of the time up till I was 16 I got work on the farms hoeing corn or other crops or picking up potatoes or driving horse on the hay forks. I usually got 25Ë per day.

I had lots of time for play and put in lots of time fishing, hunting, skating, swimming and playing base ball. In other words up to the time I was 16 I was an average kid living in the woods and didn’t worry much about clothes. As in summer we went bare-foot and overalls, shirt and straw hat was all we needed. In winter of course my folks helped me get together as good an outfit as they could afford.

At the age of 16 I began going to school at Arlington and [in] 1896 passed the common school exam and started in High School. During this time I walked from home a distance of 3 miles except in extreme weather when I staid [sic] with my sister Hattie Smith. In the spring of 1898 I graduated from the High School and began work on a farm for J. S. Moore. My H. S. teachers were Mr. Pressnall, Mr. Wellman and M. J. Goodrich.

In August 1898 I attended Normal Institute at West Union, was granted a 2nd Grade certificate to teach and secured the winter term of school at the Kiple [sp.?} school 3 miles north of Wadena. I taught a 3 ½ month term for $90, paid $1.50 per week for board and washing at Mr. Moore’s where I had worked during the summer.

The next spring I did not apply for a school but attempted to canvass for a home doctor book called the “Cottage Physician.” I worked at this about two weeks around Stanley, Iowa but got homesick and gave it up. The first spring that I worked for J. S. Moore I got $16 per month and of course board. That was the year 1898. After the book agency failure I again hired out to Mr. Moore at $23 per month. That year I joined the U. B. Church at Arlington and later transferred to the Wadena Class as Mr. Moore was pastor there.

In the fall of 1899 I was given the old home school, Maple Grove[,] on a years contract at $30 per month. This year was up in June 1900 and during the summer I worked out by the day during the vacation. Wages were then 1.00 per day.

In the winter of 1900-01 I taught the Wilcox school 4 miles east of Arlington, 3 months at $22.50 per month, and again worked by the day during the summer and fall. That fall I went with two cousins, Jim [&] Will Crawford to southern Minnesota to work in harvesting. While there we work[ed] with a steel gang at Mankato at $1.75 per day. This was the best wages I had ever received. We boarded at a hotel at $4.50 per week.

In the winter of 1901-02 I again taught the Wilcox school at $25 per month, four months. The school was out Feb. 25, 1902 and the day following I started to Okla. Where my folks had moved the preceding fall. At the same time Jesse Brooks, Clara Brooks and Grace Brooks started there[,] our schools being out the same day. All our folks had moved there.

Clara Brooks was born on what is known as the John Culver place, about 5 miles N. W. of Arlington, Ia. On the Fayette road. Her father A. C. Brooks did not own this place but rented it of Jack McFarlane[,] his brother-in-law. When she was 3 years old he bought a farm of this own about a mile N.E. of there. The place like all other farms was mostly timber which had to be cleared up.

The first school she ever attended was the Brooks school located about 2 miles towards Arlington. On account of deep snow she was unable to attend school winters until she was at least 10 years old. This was the only country school she ever attended. Among the teachers she remembers there were Lavella Brooks, Julia Brooks, Lenora Huddy, Kate Huddy, Alfred Heath, Jennie Little, Bess Newton, Lulu Hartson, Alfred Comstock, Myrt Comstock, Orlando Brooks & Lissie Horton.

In the spring of 1895 she went to West Union and took teacher’s examination and succeeded in obtaining a second grade certificate. Geo Eckhart was hired to take her to West Union and her aunt Neva Richards went along. She secured the Taylorsville School about 2 miles from Arlington. She received $18 per month and paid Uncle Ev. Richards one dollar per week board. This was a 3 month term. She taught the same school again the same fall and received $20 per month 2 months.

That fall A. C. Brooks sold out where they lived in the Brooks neighborhood and bought out Pete Smith in the Maple Grove district. [Note: as was common in those days she had been teaching school without having attended even high school.]

The winter of 1895-96 she attended high school at Arlington with M. J. Goodrich as principal and teacher. The spring of 1896 she taught Taylorsville school 3 months at $20 per month.

In the fall of 1896 she secured the Maple Grove school for a year of 9 school months at $25 per month. She taught Maple Grove again the year 1897-98 at the same wages.

In the fall and winter of 1898-99 she taught the Corn Hill school on the Fayette road two terms at $20 & $27.50.

In Spring of 1899 she taught at Mill Grove 3 months at $20.

She missed teaching a fall term that year and in the winter of 1899-1900 taught the Gundlach school out near Aurora about 14 miles from home.

In the spring , fall and winter of 1900-1901 she taught the Brooks school at 27.50 per month. In year 1901-1902 she taught the Brooks another year at 27.50 per month.

This brings her history up to Feb. 27, 1902 when she took the train for Oklahoma with her brother Jesse, and cousins Grace Brooks and myself.

We had planned to be married as soon after we got to Oklahoma as we could find a farm we could rent. My folks had been trying all winter to find a place for us but up to our arrival had been unable to do so. After we got there I tried to find a place but most of them wanted to sell or rent for cash rent. We could do neither. At last my brother Wayne who was to work father’s place let me in on the deal and we agreed to work it together each taking one third of the crop raised. There were two houses on the place; the original homestead stone shack and a new two room the folks had built that almost joined the old one. They agreed to let us have the small stone house to keep house in. It was not plastered inside and was only 14 feet square but we had to do this or wait another year so we decided to do it.

I had to have some sort of a farming team and as I only had $145 saved from all my work and teaching school it was quite a problem how to make it reach for all I had to have. The folks had all necessary farm tools that they had brought with them and in their deal with Wayne he was to use their team. I found a team of 800 lb. mules that I bought of Irvin Polson for $135 including a chain tug harness. I paid him $100 down and gave a note for the balance for one year. I bought an old low wheeled wagon for $10 on time. Father’s place was covered with cockle burs every where it had been in cultivation and the old ridges where the last years Kaffir corn had been listed in were still in the fields. Our first work was to drag down these weeds and burs and plow this ground as we were planning on putting the whole place into corn.

Clara’s folks lived about six miles from mine on the Pawnee road. We were married on April 16, 1902. Had a wedding at her home and had the Iowa Colony there as guests. We drove home after the wedding behind our mule team in my $10 wagon. We had no time to honeymoon as it was late to put in the crops and we wanted to do some repairing on the house so we could begin house keeping by ourselves.

We did not raise very big crops that year because the place was run down and we did not understand dry farming. It rained all the time till June 1st, then it quit and didn’t rain again until fall.

Nothing of importance happened that summer. Aunt Phoebe Rawson visited our folks and we all had fine times fishing on the Arkansas River which was only four miles away. The men of the neighborhood formed a company and had a 210 foot seine made and as it rained most of the time so we could not work we put in our time fishing. We caught fish weighing up to 65 lbs. Three kinds of cat fish, carp, shad, perch, sturgeon, drumheads, buffalo and other kinds I have forgotten. We raised a nice garden and all together spent a pleasant summer. My third of the crops made me lots of rough feed so we decided to buy some stock. We had bought a cow of Mr. Bruny [sp. ?] for our milk and had let her run in the home pasture.

In the fall of 1902 Clara’s father offered to sell us 80 A. of a second place he had bought and as he had between four and five hundred dollars of her money that she had saved from teaching and offered to take that as first payment we decided to take it. Clara also had sufficient money to buy most of our first housekeeping furniture. We gave $1800 for the 80 acres on a contract to be deeded when full payments were made. The place had a good orchard, well, barn and a nice stone house and cave or outside cellar, but only about six acres of broke[n] land the balance being in fine pasture.

We moved to this place late in the fall and having bought two cows and two yearlings of Will Penny I had to put in most of the winter hauling fodder from our other place six miles away. I had traded Wayne a bicycle for a sow and when she got pigs it gave us a good start in live stock.

We spent a very happy year at this place but because of the small amount of work land on the farm we were unable to pay more than the interest and so late that fall we sold the place back to Clara’s father for $2000 thereby making enough to leave us our stock and about $700 cash.

May 29 of that year our first baby came. We named him Aaron Lorimer. This was 1903.

That same fall we bought of Fred Beaver 80 acres 1 ½ miles farther N.E. making it about 7 miles from Pawnee. This place cost us $1135, $700 of which we paid leaving a mortgage of $435 – at 7%.

We moved there during the winter of 1903-04. The place had 35 acres of plowed up land but poor sandy soil. Sand rock cropped out everywhere and the balance of the land was pasture poorly fenced. The house was a two roomed box affair built by putting the boards up and down vertically with no frame. It was divided into 2 12x12 rooms. There was a big spring close by covered over with a stone building and a good drilled well near the house. The barns were poorly built box sheds. In the fall I had traded the mules to Jesse Brooks for a team of horses, Mike and Gray and with this team I prepared and put the whole 35 A. into corn because an Iowa man don’t know anything but corn.

In May 1904 a R.F.D. examination was given in Pawnee and two new routes were to be established and as I had got all the farming I could stand I took this examination as also did my brother-in-law L. D. Kern. When the appointments came he and I had been successful in getting the two routes at $60 per month [--] we to furnish our teams & mail hack.

This work started July 1-1904 and we had just got our corn land by for the season. We had only 3 days to get ready our outfits, sell off our stock, rent a house in town and move in. In our haste we almost gave our stock away and gave big prices for driving horses. I gave $120 for a span of ponies and ordered a regular Studebaker mail hack which cost $75.

We lived in Pawnee 5 years. While there Frances was born. During that time I drove the Rural Route. My salary built up from $60 to $75 per month. On this we had to furnish our own outfit. While living in Pawnee we bot vacant lots 1 & 2, block 52 and built our own home. We finally sold this to Harley Davis for $800.

In May 1909 I took Civil Service examination for City Letter carrier at Stillwater, Okla., [and] was successful in securing a position. So we moved there to begin work July 1, 1909. My salary was $50 per month with nothing to furnish. This seemed a small salary but at that time was considered good pay.

In the fall after we moved to Stillwater we bought a home at 1205 Lowry St. for $800. Here Ormonde [note: his name usually seen w/o the “e”] was born.

In July 4, 1910 I was transferred from the City Carrier force to the General Delivery Window and worked in the Post Office 10 years excepting what time I was Letter Carrier.

After living at 1205 Lowry about 4 years we bought 5 acres of Fred Stallard one mile east of Stillwater and built a house and put other improvements thereon. We lived there only one year, in the meanwhile renting the house on Lowry Street at $8.00 per month.

In 1914 we traded our place east of town to Walter Starry for a property at 405 Duncan St. We moved to this home and lived here until we moved to Washington in 1919.

In the meanwhile we had sold the Pawnee property and the one at 1205 Lowry St. at $800 each. Wayne [named for his uncle] was born at 405 Duncan St.

Jan. 1, 1919 we rented our house for $20 per month and sold our household goods ready to move West. We had brother Wayne rent us a farm in Yakima Co. near Sunnyside where he lived.

When we went to Wash., we went by Thayer, Kansas and stopped there to visit Clara’s parents. While there Ormonde had a relapse of flu which ran into pneumonia. He was very sick and we almost lost him. He got better and we came on arriving at Sunnyside Mar. 5, 1919.

Before the first year was up we sold our home in Okla. For $2000.

We lived one year on the Widow Brown place S.W. of Sunnyside. There was only 11 acres tillable soil on this ranch. We farmed that and all of us worked for the Cascade Fruit Co. We sold over $500 worth of prunes. In the fall of that year Jesse Brooks and family came from Montana to live in Wash. He got work in the Cascade orchards. They lived with us that fall and winter and in the spring of 1920 we moved to a 10 acre place N.E. of Sunnyside that we had bot for $3250. We paid $1500 cash and gave security for the balance. We lived there during 1920. I [was]working in the Cascade orchards. The boys and Clara did the farming on the 10 acres.

In the spring of 1921 I was employed by the Reclamation Service as patrolman and stationed at Prosser, Wash. The work consisted in patrolling the laterals and canals of a certain section of territory and keeping records as to the amount of water delivered to ranchers. We lived in a government house for which a rental of $10 per month was charged. My salary was $125 per month, I being required to furnish my own transportation. I used a horse & buggy. While living here we sold our Sunnyside home for $3500 which after commissions were paid left us our original investment. Land was dropping in value very fast. We were glad to get our money out of it.

While living at Prosser [Aaron] Lorimer started to college at Washington State College at Pullman, Wn.

In the spring of 1922 we were transferred to what is known as 40 mile beat, 4 ½ miles east of Sunnyside. This was an auto beat and paid $140 per month. The work just the same as at Prosser only there was a nice little tract of 7 acres [note: + house] which went with the job.

In 1923 Clara and I both made visits in Okla. Frances had graduated from Sunnyside High School.

In 1924-25 Lorimer worked in architects offices in Seattle, Tacoma & Yakima. Francis did a years service in the U. S. Coast Guard on Puget Sound.

Up to July 1-1925 all [the] same as usual, Jesse Brooks moved to Yakima. Lorimer [is] working at Eugene, Oregon, planning on attending college there. Francis [is] home. Aug. 1, 1925 we bought new Ford car. Price $503 equipped with balloon tires. Salary now $150 gross. Wayne [bro. Of C.L.R.] living at Rathdrum, Idaho.

C. L. Robbins’s History stops here. C.L.R. retired with a government pension April 1, 1941 and that same year bought and moved to a home in Sunnyside (1013 S. 13th St.) where he lived almost until his death January 27, 1978. Clara died July 8, 1974. Both are buried at Sunnyside, Washington.

Related Links:

Saga of Taylorsville, Iowa

Taylorsville (Fairfield Township) School Register - 1864 - 1871

The Story of Salon Barnes

[SUBMITTER NOTE: For genealogies of any Robbins, Brooks, Barnes, or Richards family member of the pioneering days in northeastern Iowa or elsewhere contact Dale Robbins at dale_robbins@hotmail.com . He has many old photos, clipping, obituaries, biographies and documents pertaining to many of these people. He will be happy to send copies for no charge except expenses. Let him know what you might be looking for.]

 
 
     

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