By Janie HARLAND
It is almost impossible for the present
generation who has grown up with electricity, submergible pumps, pressure pumps,
air conditioning, refrigeration, irrigation wells and water gushing out at the
turn of a faucet, to realize what the windmill meant to their grandparents and
great-grandparents who homesteaded the Panhandle ninety years ago.
The windmill began with the coming of the
railroad. The Iron Horses needed lots of water. Unlike the earlier pioneers,
the railroads could not always follow the rivers and streams. Without the water
pumped by windmills, the settlement of the Great Plains and the railroad’s
attempt to span the continent would have failed.
And had it not been for a Yankee mechanic who
decided to stay home and tinker with little wheels, the Westward Movement may
have been jeopardized for want of water.
Daniel HALLADAY built and rebuilt many models
of the windmill in his small shop at Ellington, Conn. before he came up with a
modified version of the large European mills. These first mills had cloth
sails. He developed the first self governing mill for the American pioneer.
The Union Pacific Railroad placed an initial order for 70 of the pilot models.
HALLADAY’s operation then became known as the United States Wind Engine and Pump
Co., of Batavia, Illinois.
Then came competition: Eclipse,
Fairbanks-Morse, Currie, Aermotor, Baker, Dempster, Elgin, Woodmanse, Jumbo,
Battle-axe, Merry-Go-Round and a dozen others. Many could be built for as
little as $3 each. By the 1920’s the gear type mills had been introduced and
then came the steel towers.
The first windmills in the Texhoma area were
on the 3C ranch which began operating in the 1880’s. Roughly their spread was
bounded on the east by the Anchor D--on the north by Teepee Creek--on the west
by Willow Bar--and on the south by the Texas-Oklahoma line. There was no
running water on the ranch so they had drilled wells to furnish water for their
large herds. When settlers came about 1904 most hauled water from one of these
wells as the 3C company lost their grass land with the coming of the
homesteaders, and had moved to another location leaving the wells and tanks.
The real estate brochure of 1908 proclaimed
“No purer water ever came out of the ground
than is found in the Texhoma Country. The supply is inexhaustible. It is
always found at a depth. averaging 100-150 feet. Well drilling contracts may
be had for 50-75 cents per foot. One windmill will supply the water needed for
a section of land. Such a mill can be purchased and set up for a cost of not
over $75 and this mill, with drinking troughs and dirt tank, built up or excated
will furnish sufficient water for 500-1000 head of stock. Wells may be drilled
any where with the knowledge that there will be no failure to obtain an
inexhaustible supply of the finest water. People believed the supply was
inexhaustible and some still do, I suppose, or they would not waste so much
letting it run off down the road from their irrigated fields. I suppose if the
water had been taken only with the windmill, the water table might still be
Among the first settlers who came around
1903-04, there were several well drillers who
drilled wells for all who could afford one. So many hauled water for 2 or 3
years, and some proved up and sold their places without ever having a well.
I was born in 1909 and my folks got their
well about 1908, so I don’t personally know what it was like to haul water, but
my mother still talked about it often. I was old enough to remember, so I know
it was a great hardship.
Will QUARTER filed on the land just west of
ours and he had a well drilling rig so, of course, had a well. Mama carried
water in buckets each day for the household use and Papa hauled with a barrel
fastened on a sled for the animals and for washing. I don’t suppose they had
more than 1 cow and perhaps 2 horses, a few chickens and hogs. It was almost
half a mile, but people were used to walking everywhere and I’m sure Mama
enjoyed the daily visit with Mrs. Quarter, whom she learned to love as a sister.
When my father’s mother died in 1906, there
was never any question about how their part of the estate would be spent.
Fortunately there was enough for a good deep well with the best grade of
casing. I don’t believe any one enjoyed a good cool drink from the well any
more than my father did. I have seen him sit in the shade of the house on a hot
still day at noon and he waited for his team to rest and for it to get a little
cooler before going back to the field, waiting for a breeze to turn the mill so
he could get a refreshing drink. On cold days he would get a drink of warm
water from the well and let it run so the sows could get a warm drink.
The water was pure and the energy from the
wind was free, but there were some troubles; the leathers had a way of giving
out in the coldest weather and there is no colder job that pulling sucker rods
on a cold wind day; or it would break down in hot still weather and the cattle
would be out of water. Perhaps the mill was repaired but there was no wind to
make sure it was going to pump, the cattle were standing around the dry tank
with sad eyes mooing mournfully. There was nothing to do bit to drive the herd
to a neighbors or to load a small tank on a wagon and haul water for them.
At first the housewife was so happy to have
all the water she could use in her own back yard that she asked for nothing
more. Then she wanted a long wooden trough fixed from the drinking barrel to
the stock tank so she could set her crocks of milk in it and keep them cool
until she could skim the cream off and make butter to trade for groceries. Most
people had their garden close so they could irrigate from the tank.
We had several large cotton wood trees near
the well and a table under one. Every few days, Mama would take the jars of
milk out and set them on the table where she would skim the cream off to churn.
My brother and I would come with our cups and dip clabber milk from the
different jars--sampling it until we found one we thought the best flavor and
then drink all we wanted. The clabber milk was then fed to the chickens and
In the late 1920’s after several good wheat
crops and the Panhandle looked like the garden spot of the world people began to
erect storage tanks to pipe water into their homes, but the percentage was small
and bath rooms on the farms were few and far between. Then came the drought and
the decline in wheat prices and many left their farms and went elsewhere to make
a living. In the 1940’s, rains came again, agriculture programs were set up and
the farmers who were left had larger farms, better houses and nearly all had hot
and cold running water, bathrooms and cooked and heated with gas or butane.
They also had gas refrigerators which added to the comfort of the farm family;
but it wasn’t until electricity came to the farms that the country people could
have the labor savings appliances that had been part of the city life for a
number of years.
Rural electricity has also changed cattle
raising and has all but done away with barbed wire and the good old windmill.
Now the cattle owner drives a few stakes, puts up one small - smooth wire
through which runs an electric current, puts down a tank or two which he fills
from the tank on his water truck --the water being brought from town --and he
has a pasture for his cattle anywhere.
The mills on the permanent pastures are
equipped with submergible pumps powered by electricity.
Very few of the old windmills still dot the
landscape. Of those that are still standing, few are useable because the water
level has dropped so low. No pioneer- can view the decaying remains of a once
proud windmill without a feeling of sadness and almost personal sympathy for the
friend which served him so well.
(This was written by Janie HARLAND and is
published in the Panhandle Pioneers – Volume 5)
Source: Undated clipping from the
Guymon Daily News, Guymon, Beaver Co., OK
The Rock Island came to No Man's Land
In nineteen hundred and two.
Towns were planted each ten miles,
But residents were very few.
Soon families came in number
And everyone agreed
That somehow, someway,
The kids must learn to read.
There were no schools
But some, for monthly fees,
Used their homes and taught
The kids their ABC's.
Then in the towns some rooms were built,
Sometimes two and sometimes three.
The district paid the salaries,
So now kids would learn for free.
But many lived too far away
To take their children in each day;
So schools were build, six miles apart,
For those who lived from town away.
The teachers lived with families round;
Some even in the schools;
They taught eight grades, made the fires,
And swept; according to the rule.
The children came in carts or walked,
And many rode horseback.
They brought their lunch in buckets,
But never a paper sack!
Some had a well
Near where they did play;
But some hauled water
To fill the crock, every single day!
The County Superintendent ws in charge;
He visited all each year,
And tested the eighth graders
When the end of term was near.
He also gave two teacher tests,
In early summer and in late.
All over eighteen years who passed,
Earned a county certificate.
Some of the schools were just dugouts,
Some were made of wood,
But all were for a gathering place,
And that was understood.
On Sunday, there was Sunday School,
Sometimes a preacher came;
Dinner on the ground at noon,
Then a friendly baseball game.
There were literaries and debates,
Pie suppers quite a few,
Picnics at the end of school,
And many programs too.
Now, gone is the superintendent,
Gone is the yearly test,
Gone is the big commencement
With each graduate in his best.
Gone are the debates and pie suppers,
Gone are the miles of walking,
Gone is the friendly game,
Gone is the leisurely talking.
Gone are the Big Chief Tablets,
Gone are the country schools,
Gone are the tin lunch buckets,
Gone; because progress rules!
Now the team travels miles
And brings to the school great fame,
If they manage to win
That big championship game!
Many now drive their own cars
To school twenty miles or so.
But walk! A city block!
That's too far to go!
They sit before a computer
And with their finger tips,
Get their instructions
From a distant teacher's lips.
It's really frightening to contemplate
How far and fast we've come;
But through it all, let's ne'er forget,
The folks that we came from.
Guymon Daily Herald Sat-Sun., June 4-5, 1994, Page 12
Betty Lou LONG AARON
As the news got around that government land
could be filed upon for homesteads in what is now the Oklahoma Panhandle,
families from many states headed there to file claims in hopes of fulfilling
their dreams of owning their own land. To day, it is hard for us to imagine
that there was a family living, mostly in dugouts, on each quarter of land.
Realizing that there was a demand for a way
to educate the children, Mrs. Samuel (Ruth) EDGECOMB, during the winter of 1906,
taught some of the neighbor children in her dugout home which was located two
miles west of what we all know now as Four Corners (30 miles west on Highway 64
As the neighbors would visit each other, it
was felt that a community building was needed which could be used to have a
school and a Sunday School. Mr. J.C. WELLS and son, Rolley, visited the homes
in a radius of about five miles square and solicited money to build such a
building. They asked each family to come and help with the building.
W.A. CRISMON had just purchased the Skaggs
quarters which would be located just northwest of the EDGECOMB homestead and
donated one acre of the land to be used for the building. A sum total of $84.63
was raised and about Nov. 1, 1907 a hole 12 foot by 18 foot and 12 foot deep
with a shingle roof was completed. The lower walls were plastered with gypsum
or “caleche”, no floors, but some seats with a desk for each pupil were built.
The next year a wooden floor was laid.
The community gathered to choose a name for
the building. “Father” COPELAND who lived northwest of the building proposed
the name “White Hall” and that name was adopted. This had been he name of a
school in Missouri where the COPELAND’s had attended.
Rolley L. WELLS was asked to teach the
“subscription school” for three months which would enable the application for a
school district. The school was held during November and December, 1907 and
January, 1908. The enrollment was about 25 pupils consisting of children from
the families of CRISMON, CATRON, EDGECOMB, FAIRMON, WHITE, HARTER, OXLEY,
HORNER, COPELAND, IVIE, LEATON and WELLS.
Since Oklahoma Territory had not adopted
uniform text books, the children brought whatever school books they had used
before coming to Western Oklahoma. The teacher’s salary was five cents per
pupil for each day the pupil was in attendance.
At the close of the three months, the teacher
went to the county seat and made an affidavit stating the number of pupils
enrolled, the average attendance and the number of pupils in each grade. An
application could then be filed for a legal school district. After receiving
the application, the term of school was extended to six months and later eight
The author of this article was unable to
establish the year in which the regular building was built, but the school
building was truly a community center. Not only was the building used for the
school, but also served as the Sunday School, which in 1908 became part of the
movement of the United Brethren Church
Almost every month it was used for social
events such as box suppers and play presentations. One play, which can be
remembered by many people was the one in which Zula LONG played the part of
As the depression and “Dust Bowl” days
arrived, many homesteaders began moving from the community which caused
consolidation of several of the smaller schools into White Hall.
In the earlier years, students either walked
to school, rode in a buggy or rode horseback. A barn was built for shelter of
the horses. As automobiles became a method of transportation, bus routes were
established by paying various families or individuals a small fee to take the
students to school and then return them home after school. A hot lunch program
was introduced during the World War years. Each family was asked to bring
certain items of food each Monday morning to be used in the weekly menus. Ora
HOSKINS was the first to cook.
The entire school, which consisted of grades
one through eight, would average between 20 - 25 students. Some grades may have
only had one to two pupils, more than three was rare. State written tests on
each of the subjects were received every six weeks and as everyone will agree,
these tests were not necessarily on materials which had been studied.
Before a student could pass their eighth
grade, they had to go into Guymon at a designated time and take another state
written exam. In the earlier days, it was a very rare event if a student could
attend school all eight years, especially the boys as they were required to drop
out of school to help in the fields.
Sometimes it may have taken only a short time
and other times they would miss so much time until they would just completely
drop out of school. Since the teacher’s time was so limited with each grade, a
lot of pupils’ learning came from the help of older brothers or sisters at home.
Recess was always an enjoyable time. Rather
than grouping in small groups as the schools today, the entire school would play
various games. It was not unusual for the teacher to join in the fun. Some of
the games played were Hide n’ Seek, Kick the Can, Red Rover, Blackman and
softball. During the “Dust Bowl Days”, many times the visibility was so bad,
rather than have regular school, the time was spent having spelling bees or math
bees. Age was no barrier as everyone participated.
Little recognition has been given to all the
dedicated teachers who taught in all the little country schools. Most of them
lived with various families in the community they had to schedule just how much
time to spend with each grade and see that each grade was taught all the
required subjects; reading, penmanship, arithmetic, grammar (English), spelling,
history and geography.
Early day teachers were paid $35 a month and
gradually received $85 a month in the 1940s.
A listing of the dedicated teachers are as
follows: Ruth EDGECOMB, 1906; Rolley WELLS, 1907/1908; Ferne KNIGHT, 1908/1909;
Jim EDGECOMB, 1909/1910; Grover KENNEDY, 1910/1911; Roy HUNT, 1911/1912; Harry
DUNNING, 1912/1915; Dana TRAVELSTEAD, 1915/1916; Otto PERRY, 1916/1917; Carl
PERRY, 1917/1918; Vivian ARNOLD, 1918/1919; Dollie WHITE, 1919/192; Cad PERRY,
1920/1921; Arlo RUDD, 1921/1922; and Ida GILLASPIE, 1922 Also, Mable ALEXANDER,
1923/1924; Ruby HENDERSON,1924/1927; Lucille MARTIN, 1927/1928; Iva Pearl
TALBOTTE, 1928/1932; Edna HAMMONTREE, 1932/1933; Vuren QUIGLEY, 1933/1936; Doris
HICKS, 1938/1939; Kathryn PIERCE MESSINGER, 1939/1940.
Other teachers were Beryle SPENCE, 1940/1942;
Elma BORDEN, 1942/1943; Elma BORDEN/ Lonita SHIPP, 1943/1944; Buena JOHNSON,
1944/1945; Lillian HART, 1945/1946; Ruby JORDAN, 1946/1947; Norlene INGELS,
1947/1949 and Frank and Betty BALL, 1949/1950.
Another group of people who served the
community were those who served on the school board. The records are incomplete
in the earlier years, how ever, the following names were found:
A.C. HIATE, J.F. HARTER, A.F. POLWIN, W.A.
CRISMON, J.C. WELLS, Cora POLWIN, Cora HORNER, R.V. HUNT, R.F. BALLARD, O.S.
OXLEY, Velma METZ, E.J. MCGRAW, J.T. HOMER, W.E. METZ, F.L DEAN, Elza HATTER,
C.C. OXLEY, M.T. REEVES, Carl DOUGHERTY, Charlie FERGUSON, J.C. WHITE, Carl
CLINE, Lester SPARKS, C.E. BEAMAN, Wayne WILLIAMS, Earl HOSKINS, DeIbert HOLEMAN,
C.W. MYERS and Harold PREDMORE.
As the school term ended in the spring of
1950, the school doors were closed forever, leaving many memories and the sound
of children’s voices which echoed inside the walls for 44 years. All schools
for several miles around were consolidated into what we know now as Yarbrough.
This school permits a student to receive their high school education in the
community. Prior to this, a student who wished to go further with their
education had to go to Keyes, Texhoma, Goodwell or Guymon.