Bessie B. Lumley

Pioneering In Grandview Township

Written by Bessie B. Lumley in 1938

My parents, Mr. & Mrs. James M. Bagby, LEFT Covington, Kentucky, on March 4, 1883, bound for Dakota, where land was free for the filing.  They were six days on the way due to a terrible blizzard, which held them at Sleepy Eye, Minnesota.  The snow was so deep you could not see over the drifts on either side of the train.

Arriving in Huron on March 10, my father bought a relinquishment on a claim near Lake Byron, built a shack and moved on, but in a few weeks another man also moved onto the same claim, and we found that we had been defrauded by a land shark.

In May, 1884, we settled in Fairbank.  The town was booming as it was thought a railroad bridge would cross the Missouri river at that place, but on the tenth of June, J.D. Cameron, head of the railroad notified the people that there would be no crossing at Fairbank, so the town died and we moved to Grandview and filed on the SE of Section 18, township 114, Range 80.

We found the following people who had arrived the year before:  Henry Snyder, A. J. Bunch, Garrett Brothers, William Floyd, R. N. Arthur, William Johnson, Thomas Crawford, Charles Porter, Herbert Lounsburg, James Shipley, Fred Gerhing, James Baker, Thomas Lytle, P. E. Blakemore, Art Harlow, James Cavanaugh, James Coleman, Arthur Mullen, Mrs. Pealston, Howard Kiddoo, Zeke Fieldhouse, John Gallighar, and Lydia Gambling.  Our teacher in Grandview was Dr. S. Ammie Yates, who filed on a claim in Llewcllyn Park Township and whose only daughter was dragged to death by a pony, causing the first death in the township.

I recall the great blizzard of Jan. 12, 1888.  We started to school on a beautiful winter morning, but later in the day, it began to snow and the wind rose, blowing the snow so that visibility was impossible, so we stayed all night in the schoolhouse with the teacher, Ike McGannon.  However, Mr. Bagby, following the direction of the wind, and crawling on hands and knees most of the way, reached the schoolhouse with food for us.  Another terrible storm, which I shall never forget, was the dust storm of November 11, 1933, the worst one in the history of the state. 

During the early days, the Indians were obliged to go to the Cheyenne Agency for rations once a month and many times you could count fifty to seventy-five covered wagons, in a caravan bound, for the agency.  They often stopped to warm and sell trinkets to the settlers, but we were very much afraid of Old Black Hawk, who was very cross if she didn’t get what she wanted.

New Fort Sully, established in 1866, about twenty-eight miles up the river from Pierre, was a good trading post for the settlers who exchanged butter, eggs, chickens etc., to the soldiers for staple goods, and we often bought condemned mules, buildings etc. from them very cheap.  We also depended on the government doctor in time of sickness, so the people were sorry when the Fort was abandoned in 1894, and the buildings were moved to what is now the Paul Steffen place and the bathhouse still stands on the R. N. Arthur farm. I recall nearly every soldier wore a buffalo overcoat.

Fort Bennett was stationed directly across the river from us. An Indian mission was located near the fort. Both were abandoned a few years later.

There were always a great scarcity of water in early days and we were obliged to haul water in barrels for ourselves and the stock until dams and artesian wells were built.  There were no trees nearer than the Missouri river so people often had to burn cow chips, twisted hay, and even corn.  The women often ground corn meal for bread and parched wheat for coffee.  Many of our homes were sod houses or dugouts.  Ours was a three-room dugout with wooden floors and ceilings. The windows were horizontal instead of perpendicular. These houses were warm in winter and cool in summer and were a great protection against the cyclones of early days. We lived in this dugout until wee bought the old Bunch Hotel and moved it to the farm for a house.

The Bagby’s raised thirteen children on Grandview prairies. 

Ralph, who died in Onida of flu in 1919.

Robert, of Pierre, mail contractor for twenty-six years has four children.

Roy, St. Paul, street car conductor, three children.

Roscoe, Huron, railroad conductor, twenty-five years.  World War veteran, has one child.

Raymond, Pierre, city employee, three children.

Rolland, World War veteran, died flu, Fort Riley, 1918.

Randolph, Pierre, postmaster, one child.

Bessie Lumley, Onida, teacher and telephone operator for twenty-six years, three children.

Blanche Baker, Alexandrea, Kentucky.  Teacher, Sully County, nine years, three children, all teachers.

Bertha Bunch, Okobojo, teacher and telephone operator, has two teachers.

Beulah Glessner, Okobojo, had eight children, three are dead.  She and Bertha have lived all their lives in west Sully County.

Bettina Carlson, Pierre, no children.

Bernice, Rapid City, music director, lives with her mother, who is very spry for her nearly eighty years.

Mr. Bagby died in 1923, at the age of seventy-nine years.

 Throughout the years Grandview had had its good years, and its lean ones, particularly the past five years have been the worst in history for drought and “hoppers”.  Grandview had a Civil War veteran, James Coleman; a Spanish-American War veteran, Robert Coleman; and the following World War veterans:  Robert Coleman, William Pulliam, Thomas Gallighar, Ben Floyd, Geoff Garrett, Ray Lytle, Roscoe and Rolland Bagby and Ivan Bunch.  The last two died in the service.

 There are only three of the original families still living on their homesteads in Grandview:  the Garretts, Floyd and Bunch families.

 Note:  More on B. Lumley in Biographical Sketch that follows….



Editor’s Note:  Following is a biographical sketch of a pioneer Sully County resident and present Sully County Clerk of Courts, who is known to many of the present-day residents of this area and by all old-timers.  Her daily activity is an inspiration to the younger generation hereabouts on how to get the utmost out of life despite the mounting number of anniversary dates chalked up by the familiar gray-bearded gent holding a scythe.  The story was prepared for the Daughters of the Pioneers, an organization under the auspices of the State of Federation of Womens Clubs, and will be filed with the State Historical Society at Pierre.

As told to

Julia V. Crandell

In March of 1884, a liveryman from Pierre, S. D., was taking a family by the name of Bagby to the town of Fairbank, north of the Little Bend in the Missouri River.  The family had recently arrived from Kentucky was on its way to this thriving little town where it was supposed that the C & NW railroad would cross the river.  Hadn’t track already been laid from Aberdeen to the top of the river hills? There was an air of excitement in the belief that they were going to be among the first to settle in a community destined to become important.

The party stopped at Spring Creek (now the Wadleigh ranch) for a drink of water for themselves and the horses.  Mr. Bagby went to the pump and found an iron figure of a Negro’s head, mouth open, into which it was necessary to drop a nickel before the pump would work.  Money for water!  Was water so scarce in this new country?

Bessie Bagby was at this time five years old, having been born in Atwood, Kentucky on February 5th, 1879.She was the second child and the oldest girl in a family that was to grow to have thirteen children, but which had at this time four:  Ralph, Bessie, Blanche and Robert.  The Bagby’s found Fairbank to be a thriving little place with hotel, stores, and a number of new homes.  Living in the surrounding community were:  the Henry Snyder’s, A. J. Bunches, Garrett Bros., Wm. Floyd,  R. N. Arthur, Wm. Johnson, Thos. Crawfords, Chas. and Thos. Porter (later killed by lightning), Herbert Lounsberry, Jas. Shipley, Fred Gering, Jas. Baker, Thos. Lytle, P. E. Blakemore, Art Harlow, Jas. Cavanaugh, Howard Kiddo, Zeke Fieldhouse, John Galliger, Lydia Gambling, G. H. Dunkle and others.  All that was needed was the extension of the railroad and the bridge across the Missouri and they would all be launched into a prosperous future. 

However, soon after the Bagby’s had arrived, word was received that plans had been changed and that in spite of the track already laid to the top of the river hills, the railroad would not cross the Missouri at Fairbank.  Families began to move out as fast as they had moved in.  Most of the businessmen moved to Pierre or Ft. Pierre, and Fairbanks became a ghost town.  Buildings stood empty.  (Today, the ground is part of the Wm. Spencer ranch with nothing to mark it as an early town site).  Mr. Bagby acquired a preemption on a homestead and tree claim in West Grandview Township and made a home for the family in a large three-room dugout.  The rooms were lined with lumber and lighted by windows arranged horizontally above the level o the ground. They were warm in winter, cool in summer, and secure against the tornadoes that swept the land.

But the water!  There was none.  Mr. Bagby hauled in barrels enough for household and stock six miles.  Later he dug a cistern which was not filled by rainfall, but which he filled during slack periods in the work in order not to have to make regular daily trips.

The Bagby children went to school three months each fall and three months each spring.  Bessie’s first teacher was named Sarah Anna Yates, and a tragedy of her early life occurred when the teacher’s daughter was dragged to death by a pony.  During another term, it was necessary for Bessie and the other children to stay all night in the schoolhouse during the blizzardfo1888.  Bessie’s father was afraid the teacher, Ike Gannon might let the children start home so he set out on foot with food, crawling on his hands and knees a good part of the way.  He fond the children and teacher at the school and sat up all night with the teacher to keep fires burning while the children slept on the benches. 

There was always thought of Indians and sight of them was quite frequent.  Bessie often saw them passing the house on their monthly trips to the Cheyenne Agency for rations, sometimes as many as seventy-five wagons in a row with squaws, papooses, and dogs in the back.  They often stopped to get warm and to trade trinkets for food.

One night when Bessie’s mother was home alone with the family, she was awakened by a great commotion outside the house. The doors and windows were rattled.  Grunting sounds.  All she could think of was the Indians were outside and she spent the night standing with the gun half-cocked ready to shoot at any moment.  In the gray dawn she was able to make out the _____ of the neighbor’s pigs rooting about the place.

Fort Sully was twelve miles from the Bagby home and the family heard the cannon fired at sunrise and sunset.  Farmers exchanged their butter, eggs, chickens, etc., for rice, beans, and green coffee to be roasted at home.  Girls of the community were glad when the soldiers came to the _____ dances, bringing the orchestra and a number of good dancers, but the girl’s country beaus, of course, did not care for this competition.

Bessie Bagby started teaching school at the age of 17 on a permit, taught the spring and fall terms between 1896 and the spring of 1902 in nearly all the schools in the west end of Sully County.  She earned from $28 to $35 per month and was able to save enough money to buy an old hotel building in the village of Okobojo, in a neighboring township and had it moved to land her father had bought at this time in East Grandview Township, to be used as a home for the large family.  She paid $150 for the eight-room, two-story building and $100 to have it moved up the Okobojo hill.  It took 24 horses to pull it mounted on wagons.

By this time, there were 13 children in the family.  The Bagby’s gave names beginning with R to all the boys:  Ralph, Robert, Roy, Roscoe, Raymond, Rolland and Randolph. The girls wee all given names beginning with B:  Bessie, Blanche, Bertha, Beulah, Bettina and Bernice. 

At the age of 19 Bessie visited her grandparents in Kentucky, and they were amazed to find that she did not talk or act like a savage, having lived so long in the Indian country.  On this trip she, also visited her old teacher, Mrs. Yates, who had taken up metaphysics and lived in Cincinnati.  She took Bessie on a trip to the Pan American Exposition in Buffalo, N. Y. and to Niagara Falls.  It happened to be at the time of Pres. McKinley’s assassination and the train on which they were tiding stopped (as all trains in the U. S. did for one minute while the martyred President was lowered into the grave.  In the city of Buffalo, she was shown the spot where he had been shot.  Bessie felt herself to be very much the cosmopolite when she returned from this trip and she spent long hours telling her brothers and sisters of the wonders she had seen.

When Fort Sully was abandoned in 1894, the farmers bought the buildings and other equipment at low prices and moved them to their farms.  (Some of these old buildings, built for military purposes are still to be seen on Western Sully County farms).  A farewell Thanksgiving dance was held in the hospital building at the fort before it was moved to the ranch of Dr. Mann.  A blizzard came up that evening and the merry-makers were unable to get home for three days.  They ate all the food the caretaker had, which was inadequate for so many marooned young people, and were ravenously hungry by the time the storm ended and they could make their way home.  As for the building – Dan Adams moved it, some time later, with fifty horses up the river hills.

After teaching for seven years Bessie Bagby married George Lumley, Jr. in 1902.  George W. Sr. had come to Dakota Territory in 1877 with his parents who helped settle the town of Armour and had moved to Little Bend in 1896.  He owned a cattle ranch on the Missouri below Pierre and also one at Spring Creek.  He bought the Little Bend in 1896 and stoked it with Hereford cattle.  His sons, Geo. Jr., Harry and Robert worked with him. Little Bend was an ideal ranch, almost completely surrounded by the river with fertile soil for hay and alfalfa

Fields. The surrounding hills provided good grazing and shelter from prairie winds.  It was here that Mr. And Mrs. Lumley went as newly-weds and lived for five years –until 1907.  At this time, Little Bend was sold to H. P. Knox who put in a sawmill and made lumber of the big ash and cottonwoods. It was later sold to the government as a game preserve.

Mrs. Lumley was happy and contented as a rancher’s wife in the Little Bend.  She and her husband hunted and fished. They picked wild plums, choke cherries, buffalo berries, black currants and June berries and preserved them for winter use.

On their first Thanksgiving Day, the Lumleys’ had expected to go to Pierre to spend the day with relatives, so had not prepared a dinner at home.  However, a snowstorm prevented the trip to Pierre so they contented themselves with fried cottontail and buffalo berry pie, trying not to think of their brothers and sisters in Pierre eating turkey. 

The Lumleys’ owned a pack of hounds, which they kept to kill coyotes and mountain lions. One day Mrs. Lumley had baked several pies for dinner when there were extra men to feed during cattle dipping time and had set them in an open window to cool.  When she went to get them, the hounds had been there before her. 

In 1907, when the Little Bend was sold, the Lumleys moved to Pierre and bought the Pierre Bottling Works from Tim Hartnet.  They operated this business for three years while the railroad was being built from Pierre to Rapid City.  Business was good.  This time the scarcity of water worked in their favor and they sold thousands of cases to railroad workers. Pop, too, was much in demand.  They sold the bottling works, for three times the price they had paid, to Tarbell and Potter.  (John Potter, a son, still owns it).

In1910, the Lumleys purchased the Gas Belt Garage from a Mr. Davey and through the Ford Agency, which they held for four counties, introduced the first automobiles into this part of the country.  They did well with this business, too, but sold it because Mr. Lumley thought he had heart trouble.  His trouble, he learned too late, was caused by inhaling carbon monoxide fumes.  He had not known it was poisonous, and had taken no precautions. They went back to ranching near Oahe.  This was during World War I.  There was an epidemic of itch among the cattle, grasshoppers ate the alfalfa, Mr. Lumley was bitten by a rattlesnake and had a very serious time.  Nothing went well, so the Lumleys sold out and went to Okobojo and took over the Gas Belt Telephone Company, he maintaining the lines and equipment, she attending the switchboard and keeping the books in addition to her duties as housekeeper and mother of three children.

Mrs. Lumley was bitten by a rattlesnake here, and after giving herself first aid, she was treated at the Pierre hospital by Dr. McLauren.  She is a firm believer in the use of the tourniquet in the treatment of snakebite and her own recovery, she believes, was due to the fact that it was not removed for three days.  At this time, she had the reputation of being the only woman in the county to be bitten by a rattlesnake and live to tell the tale.

At Okobojo, the Lumleys, with the help of Mrs. Lumley’s sister, Bertha Bunch, gave dances in the community hall for the young people of the community.  They hired a good orchestra and permitted no drinking.  People came from miles around just for the lunch of chicken sandwiches, pickles, home made angel food cake and coffee.  Price, 25cents.  Okobojo was known for its hospitable community spirit. 

After eleven years in Okobojo, the Lumleys moved to Onida, the county seat of Sully County, and took over the telephone exchange there.  They continued this work until the system “went dial” in 1941.  These were dark days for Mrs. Lumley, for she lost her job and her husband the same year.  She took a little time off that winter to visit her son, George, in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, and returned in the spring to enter the race for the office of Clerk of Courts.  She was elected and has held the office continuously to the present time (1954.)  Mrs. Lumley loves people and enjoys serving the public, which she has done for most of her life.

Mr.Lumley had taxidermy as a hobby, and wherever they lived, there was a collection of mounted native animals and birds. The courthouse at Onida has several heads preserved by him and Mr. Over, curator at the University of S. D. museum bought a full bought a full sized buffalo and a head.