2010 Reunion



"Early Settlers in Lyman County"
Published 1974

From the time the railroad came to
Chamberlain and maybe before, a trail
meandered from Chamberlain to the Black
Hills. It found the best possible route be­
tween the heads of draws leading to White
River to the south and a range of low hills to
the north known as the Earling Hills or The

Trails branched off leading to the various
ranches on the White River. It has been re­
ported that soldiers used this route to the
Black Hills and perhaps to Wounded Knee.
During the years from 1885 to 1905, when the
railroad was built west, there is little record­
ed history. The buffalo were gone and the
Indians were being subdued enough to make
it safe for white families. The land west of
the river lay here, vast and waiting, so set­
tlers began to look at Lyman County, which
included Jones at that time. The most ad­
venturous came and settled or squatted along
the streams, built their cabins of logs they
found, and ran a few cattle among the herds
of the cattle companies who operated all over
the western country from the Missouri to
Montana and Wyoming.

The land could not be homesteaded till it
was surveyed, which was done in 1891-92. In
the 15 years or thereabouts before the rail­
road came, the early ranchers prospered. It
was an ideal setup for that purpose-plenty
of free range for the herds of cattle and
horses, with good ranch sites along the river.
Good frame houses replaced the log cabins
and they lived a very good life. Old ladies
have told of ordering fancy dress costumes
from Chicago for masquerade dances and of
trips back to Germany, and so on.

But changes come fast and when the long
talked of railroad to the Hills was started, it
spelled the doom of this life. Carl Lintvedt
told that Mrs. Moore, who had a store and
post office on Medicine Creek where the
Coble-Williams ranch now is, refused to be­lieve
the railroad was coming. She said,
"I've been hearing railroad talk for twenty
years and it will have to whistle, and whistle
good and loud, before I believe it."

But coming it was and this is where we
came in. Marion Harlan had come out from
Iowa in 1903 and filed o a homestead, just
over the line in what is now Jones County.
His claim was crossed by the old trail, which
was no accident, as he said that he wanted
to be near the road. It was the only sign of
civtilization anywhere.

In the game the homesteaders played with
the U. S. Government to get possession of
this western land, the rules were being
changed all the time. Maybe the rules were
the same, only the referee didn't see fit to
call them until the land began to be sought
after--when the railroad really began to be
more than a dream.

However that may be, the rule was that
six months after filing, a shack was to be
built as evidence that someone was coming.
Then you could go back home for another
six months. There were hundreds of these
shacks scattered over the prairie and there
must have been a rich harvest for the Cham­
berlain lumber companies. The range cattle
used" them for rubbing posts.

In September of 1904 when Mr. Harlan
came back, the shack had disappeared, which
was customary by that time. It was much
easier to move a shack to another claim than
to build one yourself. One might wonder
what drew him to . this country after that
trip. He told of the hot wind and drouth and
that the country was bare of grass from
Hilmoe to his place, a distance of 10 miles.

It was plain by then that to hold the land
any longer the famiiy would have to move on
it. At any rate he came out in April, 1905,
and built another shack, 9 x 14 this time.

This was the spring of the "May blizzard"
that destroyed so much stock, but in June
when Mrs. Harlan and the two children, a
daughter Pearl and son Theron (now living
in Chinook, Mont.), came to Chamberlain the
snow was gone, the prairie green, with flow­
ers everywhere. Mr. Harlan had stayed be­
hind to earn a little money, so a 14 year old
boy, Roy Andrews, met the family in Cham­
berlain with a wagon. Floor boards were
gotten for the shack, windows, screen wire,
lathe, tar paper, a laundry stove with one of
those ovens that fit in the stove pipe. There
were probably other items but you can get
the picture, nothing unnecessary.

Mrs. Pearl Hullinger remembers crossing
the pontoon bridge and how crooked it was,
how the railing was broken in places and how
it buckled up in front and behind as they
crossed, "but if our boy driver was worried or
our mother frightened, I didn't know it, so I
wasn't either. We got over to Oacoma, five
miles, and the day was spent. This was slow
motion, remember?

"Bright and early the next morning we
started out and there, sure enough in the flat
west of Oacoma, were the mule teams and
scrapers starting out to build the railroad.

"I can see that old trail unfold ahead of us. 

'Road houses' had been established about
every 15 miles along the way. We made a
good drive and got to Dunnings that night,
near Red Butte which is south of Lyman.

There were two before this, Petersons and
Chases. There was nothing formal about
them. Just homesteaders with foresight, a
little money, or both, who built a little better
house and could let the women, at least, sleep
under shelter. The men slept where they
could, in the wagons, or haystacks, or what­
ever. Meals were served and I have wondered
how they did it when the rush was on later
that summer. I can only remember Creeds
store, about south of Presho, where we ate a
late dinner after a rain storm which caught
us. Then the next was Hilmoe, a store and
postoffice and a road house named Stoops
where we spent the next night, seven miles
east of our claim. Andrews had a road house
just across the trail from our house, and
there a 17 year old girl, later Mrs. Albert
Anderson, and two little sisters, and their
father cared for the streams of travelers all
that summer.

"So we were just in time to watch the
world go by. There were all kinds of people
in all kinds of ways. I remember a man on a
bicycle and one lone car.

"Everyone was young and life was one big
joke. There was lots of rain, and mud, and
mosquitoes, and they laughed about that.
The old ranchers were understandably bitter,
and made dire predictions, but no one else
seemed to have any doubts.

“The trail forked two or three miles west
of us, one going to Westover and the other
to the Hills and we kids got very glib in 
di­ recting people. First they would want to
know the numbers of our land, and I can
still say very fast, “The southwest quarter of
section one, township 3, south, Range 31, east.
B. H. M.” Then they would want to know the
way to White Clay Buttes and we would say
'Go west to the lone tree and take the right
hand trail.' I never did go west for many
years and it was quite a thrill to finally see
White Clay Buttes just north of Murdo.

"The railroad got through to Presho that
fall. There was a flurry of excitement very
early one morning when Dr. Newman came
by and stopped at Andrews to get warm and
rest his team. He had been in Presho only a
few days when he was called to Nick Hursts
near Westover. When there, he found one
child dead with diphtheria, and another 
dy­ing. He had antitoxin and was able to save
the rest. So civilization had its benefits,
though at that time we kids grudged every
fence and bit of plowing that was done. We
liked it the way it was and I still do like the
sense of freedom and space when I climb a
hill and see it as it was in my mind.

"The old trail had had its day. It was a
beautiful winding road in the summer but a
bitter one for horses. It wasn't so bad for the
horses that were owned by their drivers, but
the homeseekers, many of them city people
who knew nothing of the care of a horse, and
had no idea of the distance they must travel,
hired livery horses. As they were hired by the
day, the faster they went, the more money
was saved. I remember lying in bed at night,
listening through the thin walls of the shack
to horses being beaten, as they came into the
road house late at night. I remember a beau­tiful
gray horse that was too exhausted to get
up next morning and was left. We kids car­ried 
feed and water, or helped, as it lay there.
I don't remember the end of the story but it
must have recovered.

"When one thinks of the heat of summer,
and the bitter cold of winter, it is plain that
most of the romance of the old trail is
imaginary. It was mostly a long, hard road.

It seemed as permanent as 1-90 does now, but
traffic stopped that fall, never to be resumed.
Section lines were fenced and now there is
nothing left to show where a broad, black
highway ran except for a few dim ruts in
some pastures.

"We were among the families who stayed
after homestead days. A sister, Irene, now
Mrs. John Hulce, was born in 1906. My
hus­band, John Hullinger, came with his family
in 1909 at the age of 16. It is his generation
that have taken it from there and developed
the homesteads into homes.

"Our father died in 1927 but our mother,
Minnie Harlan, still living and active at the
age of 98, this year of 1968, has been
privi­leged to live to see many of the
dreams come true."

Published by

Lyman County Historical Society


Written by Pearl Harlan Hullinger

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