Alma Lidstrom Bean - Introduction to the family
Pioneer Days in Dakota
by Alma C. Bean Lidstrom
Pa and Andrew came to Dakota Territory in 1887 from Hastings, Minnesota before the rest of
us. Andrew was about eight. They came in an immigrant car. Pa brought our team, Fanny
and Prince, a few cows and furniture.
Ma came later by train. She bought a ticket and a half. She always said that was a good
bargain because she and her family filled two seats. There were Ma, my sister Helen, who
was ten, Ethel was about six, Annie was four and I was a year and a half old.
When we came to Glen Ullin, Pa met us and we went to our new home which he had built.
It was about six miles out of town. It was a frame building about sixteen by thirty-two.
Inside were two large rooms. Outside there was just prairie and cactus. The front yard,
the back yard and all around the house it was the same.
My pa had lots of fun with me that summer. I was just learning to talk. Wherever I went
to play I bumped into cactus. I was excited trying to talk and not quite able.
Ma had a garden about a fourth of a mile west of our home. It seemed a funny place to put
a garden when all around was nothing but spare land.
On November 10th I had a new little brother. His name was Leonard. On November eighth
two years later there was another baby brother. He was named Earnest. After that there
was Gladys and Hadley. There were nine children who grew up on our Dakota Homestead.
I was in my teens when one of the neighbor boys came over and said his ma was sick. He
wanted one of us girls to go over. I went.
Many of the pioneer homes were not very well finished. This one had yellow or tan building
paper nailed to the 2 x 4šs to keep it warmer. The paper in the bedroom had blood spots
where the bed bugs had been squashed.
How my ma would fight to keep bed bugs out of her house. They were common in those days.
One of our housecleaning jobs was to empty the mattresses each year and put in new straw.
Then their "store room". It was a place to catch everything. It looked like all the junk
was put there pell mell and never taken out. There was an organ with inches of dust. The
family was very musical and we enjoyed their singing and playing at Sunday school and parties.
The father had three spittoons near places where he liked to sit. Chew and spit. He made
the rounds from one to another. My neighbor told me she washed them up on washdays. She
had oilcloth tacked behind each to keep the walls clean.
I cooked and washed dishes.
I washed clothes.
I put some kerosene on a cloth and dusted the organ.
I cleaned house.
"But I never cleaned up the *Spittoons* "
I was only four when the big Indian scare happened.
One night Clara, our hired girl, bundled me into the big lumber wagon. The rest of the
children were there and I suppose Ma and Pa. Maybe Pa drove.
It seemed funny Clara put my hood on after we were started. I wondered why she didn't
put my coat and hood on in the house. That was the way we usually did.
I know now they were too frightened and in too much of a hurry to stop long enough to
put wraps on.
I don't know what we did in town. Maybe we stayed with our friends, the Nelsons. Maybe
Pa found it wasn't so dangerous and took us back home. Maybe we stayed at the depot where
so many people went.
They told me afterward Uncle Otto was the only one who stayed at the farm. He fixed up a
shelter in an old dry stoned-up well. He was going to watch and if the Indians tried to
burn the house or barn he would put the fire out if he could.
But the Indians did not come to our place.
It was May and lambing time.
Each day some one had to go out into the pasture to see if there were any new lambs. These
lambs and their mothers had to be brought home.
I started out for the rocky ridge east of our home. After a little I noticed my small brother
Hadley following me.
"Hadley," I told him, "you better go home."
"But I want ma and candy," he answered.
Ma had gone to town and always brought candy home to us. I don't know what made him think
if he followed me he would get his candy sooner. I explained this to him and repeated,
"You must go home."
I found the sheep, there were fifteen mothers with their baby lambs. It took a long time
to drive them home because the lambs could not go very fast.
I thought Hadley had gone home. I do not know what he did. Perhaps he went home and tried
to find Ma. Maybe he waited a bit and tried to follow me, but when I came home everyone
was looking for him.
When dusk turned to darkness and still no little boy we were worried. Some of the neighbors
came to help. The spring night was so cold some of the hunters wore fur coats.
I thought of the water holes in the creek going down to the coal mine. What if he had fallen
into one of those!
It was a long night.
In the morning someone found him curled up asleep in some grass about a half a mile west of
Ma gave him a warm bath and put the tired little boy to bed. How glad we were to have him
safe at home.
Annie and I had to help with the work. One Saturday I cleaned cupboards and the next Saturday
Annie did. I cleaned those cupboards very good.
The Saturday Annie's turn came she looked at the cupboards.
"Oh, Alma, you cleaned those cupboards so good I'll just wipe them off a little bit."
My turn came and the cupboards were bad. I had to take everything out and really clean.
Annie's turn came and the cupboards were still quite good.
"Oh," she said, "I don't need to do much to those cupboards this week. I'll just wipe them a
My turn came and the cupboards were bad. I never could get out of cleaning those cupboards.
Ethel and I were scrubbing the floor. I had half, Ethel had half. The boards were wide,
about six inches. We counted them and they didn't come out even.
"Well," Ethel said, "you are younger so I guess I'll just tell you to scrub that extra board."
"Ain't fair, if I'm younger, I shouldn't hafta work as hard as you do."
"I won't scrub it."
"I won't either."
When Ma looked at her kitchen floor there was one dirty board down the middle.
Pa was digging a cellar under the house. It was the nicest sand he dug out and put in a
pile outside. Annie and I were having fun in it. We decided to bury our dolls. Mine was
a nice doll too. After we had our dolls covered up, we thought of something else to do
and ran off.
But Pa kept on digging. He kept on piling up more sand and when we came back we dug and
dug for our dolls. Annie found hers. I never did.
One day we went for a ride in our two-wheeled cart. Helen was driving. Annie, Ethel,
Leonard and I were along. Leonard was about four or five year old.
It was fun. But we started to go where it was quite rocky. The cart went bumpety bumps.
Maybe going over the rocks made a little extra noise, anyway, the horse became frightened
and started to run away.
"Watch out!" someone called.
One by one we bounced out, or slipped out. But when Leonard fell he became caught on the
cart some way. Worst of all he was pulled through a clump of cactus.
When we got him home it took Ma and Pa a long time to pull all these cactus spines out of
Another time Leonard was climbing around the hills near home. It was a warm sunny day and
he decided to sit down on a large flat rock.
After sitting down he looked around. He saw snakes, rattle snakes and lots of them wanted
to sun themselves on the nice flat rock too.
Later Leonard said, "I don't know how I missed sitting on one."
The rock didn't seem such a nice place to rest anymore. In quite a hurry Leonard decided
to let the snakes have all of it.
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We used to have lots of fun at picnics and socials. One day we were having a picnic
in a coulee near our home. Some friends from town were there.
I knew what lemons were. These people brought some to the picnic. But I thought those
bigger, rounded, more orange colored things with them were funny looking lemons. Later
I learned they were oranges.
One day our teacher, Miss Bullamore, had an orange on her desk. She peeled it. She broke
it into sections and passed the pieces around. I tasted my first orange and found it sweet
Miss Bullamore ate the inside part of the peelings.
Can you remember your first orange?
Ted and I were married Oct. 1, 1908. We came to live in Glen Ullin where Ted owned a store.
My brother Hadley lived with us so he could attend high school.
Ted was wiring his store so he could have electric lights. Electricity was not very common
then and it was quite an event.
While downtown one day I found a valentine. The valentine man was made of light bulbs,
one for his head, a larger one for his body, smaller ones for arms and feet. It made me
think of Ted wiring his store so I bought it.
I took it home, put it in the envelope with no signature, addressed it to Ted, and asked
Hadley to mail it. While Hadley was waiting to buy the stamps he heard the school bell
ring. He turned to a Negro standing there and asked him, "Will you mail this please?"
The Negro answered, "Sure, sure." Hadley gave him the valentine and penny and went on.
While the Negro waited Ted came in. He happened to be near the Negro and saw the envelope
addressed to him. He saw the man buy a stamp and mail it.
That night when Ted came home he told us. "I got a valentine today and I know who gave
it to me. I just can't figure out why that Negro wanted to give me a valentine though."
Hadley and I thought it was a good joke the way he had been fooled and for a long time
we didn't tell him it was I who had given it to him.
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