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Catherine Peebler Keim (1832-1934)


Posted By: Barry Mateer (email)
Date: 12/8/2021 at 13:52:47

Creston News Advertiser Creston, Iowa
October 7, 1932

Former Resident Now 100 years old
by Mrs. J.S. Bowman

On Oct. 3, 1832, a baby girl was born in Howard county, Missouri, whose span of life has been drawn out much longer than that of the average person. Andrew Jackson was president of the United States, and amid the tumultuous scenes of those days she was ushered into the world. Her parents were Michael and Fannie Jacks Peebler, and this baby girl was named Catherine Jane.

Their home was in Carthage, Ill. But they were farmer folk and the crops were very short in Illinois that year, so they came to Howard county, Missouri, where her mother’s parents lived, and here the baby girl was born. They had expected to remain several months but they received word that the fall rains had brought good pasture, so they decided to go back. When the baby girl was a few weeks old, this pioneer father hitched the oxen to the wagon, loaded his wife and two children in it (for there was another daughter 2 years old) and away they went over the prairies across the streams and through dense timber bound for home.

Move to Iowa
When the subject of this sketch was 6 years old the family moved across the Mississippi river into Jefferson county, Iowa. The father bought a tract of land from some homesick homesteader, who had built a log house on it, and into this the Peebler family moved. There was only one other family for miles for very few white people had come into this part of Iowa as yet. Indians roamed over the county and the Indian agency was only 12 miles west of them. Hundreds of them lived in tents, and there were always soldiers stationed among them to keep order and to pay them the money from the government. These soldiers were called “dragoons” and they wore blue clothes trimmed with yellow stripes.

In the summer time almost any hour of the day, the Indians passed the door of the cabin home going north to hunt and fish. It was a common thing for them to come to the door and begged for chicken, bacon and even the family dog. This little girl looked into the face of Chief Black Hawk as he rode by, looking neither to the right nor to the left with a red feather in his hat. She also remembers seeing Chief Keokuk. Although it was a common sight to see these Indians pass, the settlers were also fearful of an outbreak and the children lived under the shadow of this fear.

One Exciting Day
On day a man came running to the schoolhouse door and shouted that the Indians were coming into the white settlement that night to plunder and kill. The frightened children ran all the way home and told their parents. That night the settlers, few in number but brave, prepared to defend themselves and families. They met and decided to hitch a good team of horses to a wagon and take their families east toward the Mississippi river where the country was more thickly settled and where they could be better protected. However they waited a while but saw no sign of anything unusual so they determined to find out for themselves. Several men started toward the Indian reservation. They rode on and on until they came to the camp. All was quiet within the wigwams and the little ponies were tethered around grazing. They aroused the dragoons and found it was a false alarm, so they went back to their anxious families relieved beyond measure.

For a few years there were no schools, but the country was fast filling up with people from the eastern states and soon there was a demand for schools. It was I session about 3 months of the year and that in the winter time. With her lunch of corn and bread, and milk, this little girl and her sisters trudged three miles, through the woods to school, and it was nothing unusual to see a wildcat or lynx tracks in the road. Often the long walk made them so hungry that they would eat part of their lunch before they reached the schoolhouse. Children had to get up at 4 o’clock so they could help do the chores in order to get to school when it opened at 8 o’clock.

Older People In School
Many of the scholars were 21 years old or more and some of them could read or spell about like a 6 or seven-year-old child in these modern times. The teacher, nearly always a man, had to get there early so he could make pens of goose quills or mend their pens with his knife. Children always carried quills to school, in was made of walnut bark and water, boiled down and a little copper was added. Sometimes indigo was used to make blue ink. They spelled out of the dictionary and many spelling bees were held. At the first they used almost anything that was printed for readers, but as she grew older regular school books came into use.
Thus her childhood was passed and she grew into young womanhood. But this time there were eight girls and one boy in her father’s family and she was kept busy spinning, knitting and weaving cloth for their clothing. She was married in her early twenties to Louis P. Keim and four children were born to them while living in Jefferson county. Government land had all been taken up in this part of Iowa, so in 1863 they moved 150 miles west into Union county, where cheaper homes could be gotten. The Civil War was going on and there were many hardships in their new home. The country was thinly settled, and there was hardly a home but what the husband and the father had gone to war.

No Railroads Then
There were no railroads any nearer than Ottumwa 100 miles east, and their nearest trading place was Afton 20 miles away. They took their wheat 30 miles to mill, and once they were out of flour several days and ate potatoes instead of bread. Coffee cost 75 cents a pound and everything else accordingly high. Many substitutes were used for coffee, such as parched wheat, and sorghum scorched a little, and corn meal stirred in it then water poured over it and boiled.

This was prairie country with nothing to break the winter winds. They lived in a log house with clapboard roof and one morning when they arose the snow had entirely drifted over the door. In the spring her husband would break a few acres of prairie sod and plant what crops he could care for, then the remainder of the summer worked at the carpenter trade. She and her oldest son, yet a small boy would gather the corn. When the war was over, living conditions became better.

Members of Church
Both she and her husband became members of the Church of the Brethren early in life, and a Christian home was established. Four more children were born to them, seven of whom were raised to manhood and womanhood. One having died in infancy. In 1894 she with her family moved to Ray county, Missouri. Her husband died in 1913, after enjoying each other’s companionship for 61 years.

Two daughters, Mrs. Fannie Newland, Drakesville, Iowa and Mrs. Emma Folger, Osceola, Iowa, have died in recent years. The remaining children are Charles H. of Leon, Frank M. of Ludlowvillie, N.Y., Mrs. Kittie Bowman, Norborne, Mo., Ellis W. of Ottawa, Kan., and Mrs. Jennie Woods, Lucerne, Mo. She has 20 grandchildren, 32 great-grandchildren and one great-great-grandchild. Of her father’s family one sister remains, Mrs. Caroline Gray, Afton, Iowa the next to the youngest of the family. She has been living with her daughter, Mrs. J.S. Bowman, since 1904.

On Oct. 3, 256 of her relatives and friends gathered from five different states at the home of J.S. Bowman near Norbourne, Mo., to celebrate the event. Those who attended from this vicinity were Mr. and Mrs. Fred V. Johnson, Mrs. C.A. Applegate and Mrs. George Shannon and her mother, Mrs. Caroline Gray, now 84 years old, who is the only living sister of Mrs. Keim.

gravestone photo at Findagrave

Clarke Biographies maintained by Brenda White.
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