South Dakota Genealogy Trails

Buffalo County, South Dakota

Family Histories


Memories of Frank I. Hall - Contributed by Bob Nagel

Frank Hall homesteaded in Buffalo County about 1884.  His son, John Dewey Hall, lived in Gann Valley for quite a few years.  This historical data is contributed by Frank's great-grandson.  Spelling and punctuation has been preserved as much as possible.


Frank I. Hall


Historical excerpts from Dad's Letters: ["Dad" would be Frank I. Hall]

1-31-40, Spearfish. A brief sketch of my life with carbons to each of you.

As I glance back over the hills and hollows of my recollection, I find I was born May 1, 1860 in Porter Co. Indiana, and lived there until I was 6 Yrs. old. I remember when Lincoln was assassinated. Flags stood at half mast as the nation was mourning for the beloved president.

In 1866 we moved by team and covered wagon to Iowa, driving some loose horses and mules. We' started about May 1; camped out at nite and were about 2 months on the road. I do not recall crossing a bridge on the trip. He forded small streams and were ferryed over larger ones like Illinois and Mississippi Rivers. Our first stop was in Marion County, Ia., where we had relatives' and we stopped to rest while father went to look at the country. We bought 80 acres in Polk Co., 15 miles north of Ft. Des Moines which had no railroad at that time, the nearest R. R. at that time was Grinell, 80 miles away. We drove our stock and to our new home. The land was timber and prairie.

Father started a small house on the open end as there was a beautiful spring that never froze. Soon the house was ready to shelter the family. Lumber was all oak. As it was late in the fall father started putting up hay and building hay sheds for stock. Just as he had hay up a fire came up one nite and burned all we had. The good neighbors were right on hand to put up some more hay. The house was then finished so we could winter in it. The wind was so bleak that the next summer we moved the house to the timber on the other end of the farm. The land was very sandy so at the end of 6 Yrs. we sold out and bought 80 acres 6 miles west in Dallas Co. The first 80 cost $5 an. acre and the second 80 $8 an acre and was all prairie with many ponds and musk-rat houses.

Here I worked at home till I was 24 years old and. got my schooling by walking 2 miles thru swamps and fields. I could not start school till corn was shucked and then had to stop in spring when it was time to sow small grain, so I seldom got over 3 months of school. Father soon got a yoke of cattle, one a big roan durham, the other a big yellow Texas steer with one horn off and the other as long as your arm. With these, father would take a grist of corn and wheat to White's water mill on the river at Des Moines, taking 2 full days for the trip. I have seen teams and wagons mired to the hub on Walnut St, now the main St. I presume the city has 100,000 now.

It was on this farm that I passed my boyhood days and formed my youthful habits. In 1884 the tide of emigration turned to Dakota Territory and early in Feb. I came on an excursion to Kimball, S.D. At that time we took the south Milwaukee train, went east into Ill., crossed at McGregor and came west on No. Milwaukee R.R. that brought us through Sanborn and Canton. Reached Kimball Sat. nite. Sunday AM was clear but 35 below zero with a foot of Snow drifted over the prairie trails. Mr. Stroud (Johny Stroud's father) and I started on foot for Crow Creek 16 miles north. I did not have overshoes, just grain leather boots as we called the cow hides in those days. We reached I.W. Bilsland's at sunset where we had supper and slept in a sod house (later the John Brearly home). The deep snow and cold made it hard to find land corners. I chose N.E. 15-108-68 in Buffalo Co. and Stroud S.E. 22-106-68. We went backt o Kimball, took the train to Mitchell and filed on the land 2-19-1884. We returned by train to Iowa and began planning to return to our homestead. We took an emigrant car for horses, grain and machinery and got to Kimball 3-29 and drove to the homestead. I boarded with Bilslands till I could build our 14 X 22 shack. I batched there till 10-1-84 and then drove by mule team and wagon to Iowa.

It took two weeks to make the drive. Later I drove by team to Ia., and back to Dakota. I husked corn and hauled hay to Des Moines. On Feby. 25th. 1885 I was married to Olive Anna Marshall of Dallas Co. Ia. and on March 15th.we were back at Kimball and drove to our claim. The day was fine and good dry roads. On Jany. 29th. 1886 Bert L. Hall was born, Hazel O. Hall June 30th. 1890 - Earl F. Hall Jany. 2nd. 1895 - Dan Hall April 11th. 1897 -J. [John] Dewey Hall Aug.21st. 1899 and Virgil H. Hall July 31st. 1903. 5 boys and one girl all living and well born in same house on N.E.15-l06-68 in Buffalo Co. S.D. Mrs. Duzan being present on all occasions. Must not forget Big blizzard of Jany.12th. 1888 the worst in history, Bert was 2 Yrs. old but we got by fine. From 1900 to 1920 crops were very good and country prosperous. Raised catt1e and hogs, horses and mules. I liked mules as I got [a] lot [of] kick out of it. We lived on homestead for about 40 years and they were the happiest days of my life. During those years I was register of deeds 8 Yrs. Bonded Abstracter for Buffalo Co. , Abstract Co. 8Yrs., Co. Treas. 2 yrs. and most of this time I was Deputy Auditor and Deputy Clerk of Courts. Was member of S.D. legislature in 1915 as house member from Buffalo Co. I taught several terms of school, two of which were in Gann Valley. It was in Mike Hileman's homestead house with all sorts of windowsand seats. I had 45 scholars many of them well out of their teens. The board gave me $25.00 first tem and next fall board said if I would take it again they would tilt the salary 3 bucks making it $28.00 per month. Was in 2 big prairie fires one up in Marlar Twp. where grandpa Marshall lived. It was April 2nd. 1892, we were at Uncle John Graysons. We had Bert and Hazel and their 3 girls. Theyhad gone to Wessington Springs. It struck us about noon burnt the house and all that was in it. After the smoke cleared away I loaded the five kids and mama on a front bob sled and took them 2 miles to Grandpa Marshall's house.  Herds of cattle, & flocks of sheep were burned and many teams working In fields were burned with the harness on. Next fire was down home in April 1898, but not so much damage was done. The winter of 1896 and 7 was the long winter, we were snowed in last of Oct. with no signs of a thaw till St Patrick day 17th. of March.

About 1924 went to Big Bend the poor mans paradise in Hughes co. Here I Was Co. Assessor for four years and for several years we hadJoe Crook [sp?] P.O. and I usually took care of it. In February 1928 yourDear Mother passed away and since then it has been a lonely life for me. I try to be cheerful and happy and look at bright side of life but heart aches and lonely hours come to me in the wakeful hours of the night. For the past 10 years I have been dividing the time among my good children, perhaps more in [Sand] Hills on account of the sheltered climate. I have only touch a few of the high places and
left out many events. File these away as they may be handy reference some day. This has all been done from memory off hand and without notes.
January 31st. 1940
Spearfish S.D.



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