Della McGannon Bagby
For generations back my people were all Americans but my great grandfather Darby McGannon was born in Belfast, Ireland. He served in the Revolutionary War for 7 years.
In the fall of 1882, my father; his 2 living brothers, Reuben and Danville; one sister, Susan Malvina; his father and mother; my sister, Daisy Alice, and myself; my half-brother, Lilburn Crumbaker; Uncle Reuben's three children, Alexander and Myrtle (now Myrtle Glessner of Onida) and Zora Ida (now Mrs. John Crawford of Pierre) came to Yankton, Dakota Territory and spent the winter there because 2 children in the family were of school age. Uncle Reuben's wife had died about three months after my mother did. [Issac's half sister, Sara J. Green, and her family had settled a few miles outside of Yankton seven years earlier.]
In the spring of 1883, we left Yankton. Grandfather [Hugh McGannon], Grandmother [Elizabeth McGannon], my Aunt [Susan Malvina] and the 5 children [probably Alaxander, Myrtle, Zora, Della and Daisy] came by boat on the "Josephine" and landed at Pierre on the 11th day of March. My father, half-brother and 2 uncles drove the 3 horses, 2 milk cows, 2 yoke of oxen with 2 wagons loaded with household supplies and some chickens. While we lived in Yankton, the adults who could file on land went to Huron, where the nearest Land Office was located, and filed on homesteads in Sully County. Three of the homesteads joined and only a white rock showed the corners where they joined [Hugh had the N/E quarter of section 29 and John S. Green had the N/W quarter. The others are unknown. See map.].
When the boat reached Pierre, they tied it to a big cottonwood tree just west of where the Legion Cabin now stands and we unloaded right at the foot of Pierre Street. The main river channel was on this side of the island at that time. We bought lumber from Yankton to build our houses and every stick of ours had "H. McGannon" put on with black paint. Several families were on the boat-eleven , I think [John S. Green and family were probably among them]-and all had their lumber so marked. Near Chamberlain, we were stuck on a sandbar several days and a part of every man's lumber had to be burned to keep people warm so none of those claim shacks were quite as large as people had planned on having.
Where Randolph's Cabinet Shop stands at the time of this writing (313 S. Coteau Street), a man by the name of Deffenbaugh had a three-story Livery Barn. The basement was for horses, oxen or anything else that men drove to town, the first floor was for vehicles and the second floor was for hay. It was March when we arrived and the hay was pretty well fed so he forked it out the back door and swept out and partitioned the haymow into apartments. I have forgotten how many apartments he made but do remember that we had one consisting of two rooms. The partitions in and between all the apartments were made of unbleached muslin! We stayed in that apartment for 2 weeks.
We then moved to two claim shacks. I think they were three miles north and one mile west of Pierre. There was a barn on one of the places. The Section Line passes between the 2 shacks. We had our cows and chickens, a garden and small patch of corn. While the younger and older ones lived there, our fathers and uncle were building our home in Sully County and that Fall we moved to that home before cold weather.
My how we loved that country! Grandmother and we children, each with a big stick and a sack, roamed over the hills for hours finding moss agates, arrowheads and many other beautiful stones and flowers. We killed many, many rattlesnakes. I remember one time Dr. Blackburn, who was President of the Presbyterian College, (located just east of where Mrs. Ed Eakin now lives at 1906 E. Erskine St.) came to our home to spend a couple of days and grandmother gave him about a pack of the finest moss agates, some as large as a man's fist.
I was born December 15th, 1877, in Clay County, Illinois, 96 miles east of St. Louis, in a two-room log cabin. Our address at that time was Flora, Illinois.
My father's name was Isaac Furgeson McGannon. He was born August 30th, 1847 and died April 5th, 1924 at Pierre, South Dakota.
My mother's name was Alice Green Crumbaker McGannon [She may be a distant relative of John S. Green]. Mother's maiden name was Alice Green and her first husband's last name was Crumbaker. She passed away in our log home August 18th, 1880 before my third birthday.
My paternal grandfather was Hugh McGannon. He was born August 8th, 1812, in Kentucky and died November 12th, 1885, at Okobojo, Sully County, Dakota Territory.
My paternal grandmother was Elizabeth Furgeson McGannon. She was born February 6th, 1819, and died May 6th, 1913, at Okobojo, Sully County, South Dakota.
We five children all learned to read from the newspapers which my aunt had papered her claim shack with. In 1880 there probably wasn't a dozen claim shacks on that many quarters of land in western Sully County but in 1883 and 1884, settlers really came, men from everywhere and from all kinds of occupations, some with really large families and some with none. Schools seemed to be needed more than most anything else so by the fall of 1885 there were plenty of schools so that all children of school age could have a chance to get an education. No one at that time said when children could go to school (they didn't have to wait until they became 6 years of age) and no one said they should be through at 18. There was no specific course of study and few books. We started at the beginning of the book each term, got a little further along each year than the year before, and kept going until we finished a book.
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Above is a picture of our school. Starting at the far left, I shall name those relatives who came up on the boat with us. Second from the left is Alexander McGannon. The teacher is my aunt [Susan Malvina] (she made her own dress). To the right of her is Zora Crawford, then Charlie Green, my sister Daisy and myself are on the far right. Our dresses are blue denim. An interesting fact about this picture is that we had no trees around the school so we children went to the creek and broke off branches and made trees (those that you see in the picture) which were stuck in the ground to make it look less barren. My son asked me why we didn't dress up for this picture and it brought quite a laugh to me. Believe me, we were all dressed up! People only got to town about once a year in those days and when we got a new pair of shoes they had to last us until the next trip to town. All of the other clothing was made at home and were we proud when we got a new dress!
For amusement at school, we played Fox and Geese, Ante Over the School House, Pump Pump Pullaway, ran races and, in winter, we had several homemade sleds and a handy hill to slide on.
For other recreation, there were dances in the different school houses. Oh, we enjoyed living through all the hardships but we made our own enjoyment! Often we had to load my aunt's cottage organ into the bobsled and hauled it many miles to some schoolhouse to furnish music for dances.
Okobojo, now a ghost town, was our postoffice and had 2 general stores, a printing office, 2 hotels, a shoe store, a bank, a flour mill and a blacksmith shop. Many times two of we children would put a broom handle under the bale of a water bucket and carried it to town full of eggs and traded them for more groceries than we could carry home in the bucket. We were fortunate as we only had to walk 2 1/2 miles and many people had much further than that to go.
We had Literary Societies in nearly all the schoolhouses. We had some very talented people and had singing lessons, debates, recitations, singing, and, of course, a paper at every meeting was read. Below is one of my old Literary Papers. It is just as it was the day that it was read. Notice what we had to use for paper clips in those days! If you read this, it will give you some idea of our political leanings in those days.
My grandparents were getting well along in years when we came to Sully County and one Sunday morning they took a walk over grandfather’s homestead and selected a nice location in the Southeast corner of his land for a Public Cemetery. He donated his land and was the first person to be buried there. Thomas Porter, a neighbor, was the second and my Uncle Danville was the third. Since then, my grandmother, father, Uncle Rueben, Uncle John and Aunt Sarah Green, and numerous cousins and dear friends and neighbors have been laid to rest there. The cemetery still stands 2 miles northwest of what is left of Okobojo.
Two very important incidents in my life which I recall so very clearly were the Blizzard of 1888 and a Prairie Fire which, I believe, happened in 1889. On January 12th, 1888, my father got out of bed to start the fires before the rest of us got up. He started the kitchen fire and took out the ashes and then called my aunt to get breakfast. She was our school teacher and when she came downstairs he told her he didn't think she would have any school that day. He asked her to come outside and look at the weather. The air was completely filled with a heavy, powdery snow which was almost like a fog. Before we had finished breakfast you couldn't see the wagon, which was not more than 50 feet away, and the snow was getting thicker every minute. Our menfolk never got to the barn that day until after 4:00 p.m. and only then with the aid of ropes and three of them calling to each other. My father tied another rope to the wagon and around his waist and started toward where he thought the chicken coop was. He made it to the chicken coop and called back that he was there. After tending the chickens, he went back to the wagon and then from the wagon to the barn in the same manner. We lost no stock and no lives in our part of the county but farther east the schools had started and there was heavy loss of livestock and lives.
The other tragedy, the bad prairie fire, started at the Fairbank school, if I remember correctly, and traveled southeastward over the northern part of the county. It burned much pasture and many stacks of hay and many farm homes. One larger fire in the eastern part of the county also burned many buildings and much livestock.
On the evening of February 27th, 1907, occurred my wedding. I had made final proof on my homestead on February 6th and was married at my father's home. On that date, the 6th of February, we started to Pierre and it took us two days to go that twenty-two miles because there was over three feet of snow everywhere. About the 23rd of February, we had what we called the "January Thaw" and every lake bed and draw was full of water. This was followed by a cold spell and everything was solid ice so that it was very difficult to travel. My then boyfriend started to Onida on the 26th to get our Marriage License. He was riding a horse but since the horse was not sharp shod he was afraid to ride so walked and led the horse most of the way. He was a tired man when he got home. It was 18 miles from our home to Onida.
Our wedding day dawned bright and clear and we had 80 guests invited for the wedding and the dinner to follow that evening. Nearly all of them came. The Congregational Minister, Mr. Askin, came from Pierre in a hack with Axel Pearson as driver. They drove from Gus Bergen's Livery Barn. In crossing the creek at the Zigler place, one horse got down so the minister gave his high overshoes to the driver and his own feet got pretty cold before they arrived at our house. I'll never forget him when he came into the house. He was swearing about the weather and said: "Damn it! If any more in this country ever want to get married, they can come to me because I certainly will not make anymore trips like that one". I felt sorry for him and yet we all had to laugh.
Our Wedding Dinner was prepared by my cousin, Mrs. Myrtle Glessner, and another cousin's wife, Madge Green. They cooked and baked for three days in preparing it. Included in the menu were 5 turkeys which I had raised on my homestead in the summer of 1906. The meal was served country style, everyone had a good appetite (for which we were thankful), and a big time was had by all. One very unexpected thing happened which has since brought us many laughs together. Before all of the guests had departed for their homes, a sudden storm came up and I had 40 guests to share our wedding night with and 40 extras for breakfast the next morning! How nice it would be to be able to live some of those old days over again! AND how nice it would be if some of our neighbors across the sea today would practice the GOOD NEIGHBOR POLICY that we practiced in those days.
Robert E. Bagby and I have gone through 44 years together, some good and some bad, but all-in-all we have greatly enjoyed it. We have four children, all living; Roberta Elizabeth Kerr, living in Pierre; Burney McGannon Bagby, living in Rapid City; Daisy May Robson, living in Brookings; and Leslie Melvin Bagby, living with us at home. We also have been blessed with 12 grandchildren, one of whom is married.
I will be 70 years of age on the 15th of December and have lived in Hughes County, Sully County, and Yankton County since the fall of 1882. I have enjoyed even the hardships that we went through in the early days, as my faith in South Dakota and the people here has never waivered. I have lived through drought, wars, blizzards, and all else that came with a full eventful life and can sincerely say living in Dakota HAS BEEN WORTH EVERY MINUTE OF IT.
I hope this little history of my life may be a
pleasure to everyone who reads it, and especially to my children.
Written and signed in November, 1951, by Della May McGannon Bagby