Pickle City, Sherman Township

Pickle City was the the territory in the northwest corner of Sherman Township and covered an area of approximately ten square miles before the Missouri River engulfed so much land, probably fifteen square miles.

This land was occupied, cleared, farmed and homesteaded by numerous families including Bryan's, Hime's, McIntyre's, Swesey's, Marley's, Glenn's, Jester's, Hogeboom's, Steven's, Barcus's, Karsch's, Grapes, Phliegger's, Anderson's, Lawrence's, Sears, Pilus's, Lindley's, Jeffrey's, Houpe's, and Johnstons.

There was even a knoll called Gospel Hill where Emery Skull lived. These people lived a simple life, clearing trees, brush, farming by horse and hand plow. Much of the land was wild hay and those homesteaders used it to feed their livestock. The Burger boys ran a sawmill, others lived off the land alone, with little to sell but enough to buy salt, flour, and same cloth. These people were loving and enjoying each other in their very sparse moments. Bartering was common among the families. A story was told that a family that raised chickens had little to feed them but for onions and the people who bought them would have to grain feed them for a month before butchering them to remove the onion taste from the meat.

Activity was frenzied in 1921, when a ferry was being built in the school yard. The Blencoe Elevator instigated the building of it to operate off Gumbo Point west of the school house. It was to haul grain from the Nebraska side of the river to Blencoe. It was powered by a Fordson motor with Charlie Barnes, captain at the helm and Roy Hogeboom as first mate. It was called Newa. It sank one summer and the motor had to be taken to Onawa to be cleaned and worked on. The ferry served its' purpose well and when it sank the second time it was salvaged for scrap. Along this same course in the winter when the Missouri was frozen, wagon loads of grain drawn by horses was brought into the elevator.

In 1924, the Missouri gorged with ice and sent ice water flowing through Pickle City filling Milvihill-McIntyre Lake. It ran silent at first; the first inkling of the flood was when Si Pilus rose early and put his feet in the cold water on the floor of his house. This flood was devastating, livestock were caught in the pens with the ice crushing them causing sudden death. Fortunately no lives were lost, however many families living in the lake circle were wiped out and chose not to return to the hard life. It took years to establish the old way of life after the flood. Again people moved in and moved on after a few years, good times and comfortable livings were within reach with hard work. Pickle City was booming; card games were prevalent and a bowery even arose among the settlement. Elt Richardson ran threshing crews to harvest the crops.

About 1932, the great depression hit Pickle City, again causing grave problems. Some farmers sold their grain for little or nothing, others burned it in the field. No food was available, save the little raised in the garden. Many tried to find jobs, with no success and again people moved. The lived hand to mouth and often went hungry. Only the good old American stamina and ingenuity of the women kept the people of Pickle City alive only to run into several years of drought when the fields yielded nothing. Farm prices started rising in the late thirties and early forties and again Pickle City was thriving. Needless to say the food was abundant and delicious. At this time, transportation was still difficult and the people recognizing the need of Christian unity, banded together for worship on Sunday.

In the summer of 1935, several families from Missouri moved in with the men working on the river trying to stabilize the channel. The Massman Construction Co. worked several years all up and down the Missouri. Housing was hard to find and many large tents were pitched in Walker's and Jones's timber. They were good honest people and they brought some needed cash into the community when they would buy garden and poultry products.

Again, tragedy strikes when Japan bombed Pearl Harbor in 1941 and Pickle City was thrown, along with the rest of the country, into World War II. Pickle City contributed her share of boys to serve on foreign soil, and she was fortunate that she lose no sons, but did lose relatives and friends.

Again the Missouri River was on the rampage, swelled by the heavy snows in the mountains, she spilled over the banks in April, 1942. The people, including women and children were busily filling sand bags to hold the whirling waters back, but the bank broke loose, discovered a barely enough time to get the livestock out. Several families moved to the two high knolls where Philip Johnston and Pearl Denney lived. The rest of the community were forced to move to relatives or friends in the hills. When the waters finally receded there was little to move back to. The entire western area of homes was wiped out and the farm land was ruined by the settling sand. Many of the families just moved on, to start a new life elsewhere. Those who did move back found the debris and clean-up back breaking and discouraging. Arms were also sore because of typhoid injections. Since the flood uprooted all these families, there were only three children left to attend school, so Pickle School was closed at this time with the children being bussed to Blencoe.

During WW II and the years following, crops and prices flourished and because of advanced mechanization, more families were forced into larger farms or moved out entirely. New generations grew up and moved on as there wasn't room for all. The school house was sold and moved to use for storage.

Pickle City was again doom in the spring of 1952 when the Missouri River was again angry. The waters were not as turbulent as in 1942, however it caused some of the terrain to shift and of course the clean up and debris was exhausting work.

Many will remember the good times at the Creswell Pony Farm when there was an annual rodeo and the children rode the ponies. Much work was poured into this venture for all to enjoy.

The people who have remained in the community are descendents from the first settlers and this land is part of them. Few homes remain in comparison to the twenties and thirties. One of the land marks is the barn on the Glen Walker place, built with wooden pegs and notched together. It too, has weathered and will probably be gone in the near future.

This just a short story of Pickle City, all the history would fill volumes. Those who lived in this community, hold deep love for it and take a little Pickle City with them wherever they are. It has changed through out the ages just as the generations will change in the future. May God in His mercy bless Pickle City and watch it prosper and she will contribute her share to society and to the universe.

NOTE: See Pickle City School elsewhere for more information.

~Source: Blencoe Centennial History Book; submitted by May Stanislav

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