In many ways, my life has come full circle. 400 years ago, my ancestors left England for a new world and in 1998 I moved from that new world back to
England and now live a few miles from where one branch originated.
The first time I did shamanic work to honour my ancestors over here, I felt their presence – all of that family who had remained in England, welcoming me home.
Way back in the 1970s, my mother’s family researched their family history. When reading that history, one woman shown out for me. I have held her in my heart as someone to admire and look up to ever since. I’d like to tell you her story.
Arminda Jane Moore Morton: Pioneer Woman
I never met her, she died 1 year after my mother was born. I would never have known about her if not for the family history research done by my mother’s family.
Jane Morton was my grandmother’s grandmother. She endured hardship, trials, and tribulations making a home and raising a family in the wild frontier of Nebraska back in the late 1800s. Throughout it all she never lost her faith. She is one of the strongest women I have ever heard of.
There has been many a time when I have faced a hardship and thought to myself – If Jane Morton could get through that, you can get through this! Her blood runs through your body.
I am proud to be her great-great granddaughter.
Arminda Jane Moore’s Early Life
Arminda Jane Moore was born to Salathiel Moore and Milly Ann Linch on July 14, 1863 in Knox County, Illinois.
At some point her family moved to Iowa, where she married John Thomas Morton on 8th February, 1880. She was 16 years old and he was 24. At age 19 , they moved to Nebraska to homestead. She had a 2 year old son and was pregnant with another. Enroute, she gave birth to Munson Alonza Morton, my great-grandfather.
Life on the Frontier
in Jane Morton’s own words
We came to Frontier County in October 1883 and stayed the first night at the Billy Nolan place on Deere Creek. My husband, John Morton, his brother and mother, myself and two little boys – George and Lonnie, comprised our party. In the night, the sound of a cowbell awakened us. Mr Nolan was soon moving, and cursing and swearing. He frightened me so that I was always afraid of him in later years. Next morning the mail carrier and Jennie Degering, sister of Harrison Degering drove into the yard with a team and spring wagon. Ann Nolan announced that she was going with them to North Platte, nearly ninety miles. There was more swearing, but Ann departed on a pleasure trip. (I remember Ann Nolan as a beautiful girl, who rode any horse with admirable grace.)
Mother Morton died in November 1883 and was buried in Stowe Cemetery. Stowe Cemetery was a part of the Adam Paruker farm.
We stayed for a while at Uncle Bill Terrill’s home. January 31, 1884 we moved into our own dug-out on our farm. We had twelve head of cattle and a team, no chickens, no hogs and just two cents money.
The window was not out in the dug-out and a blizzard struck February 2. We put a quilt over the window and had wood from the creek to burn– down timber and big chips. Some one had cut wood on government land. We dug a well and broke sod. Everything had to be fenced against ranging cattle.
Stowe Post Office was established in 1884 at the Swickert home. Frank Morris now owns this land. Afton Post Office was established previous to this time.
After we moved into our new sod house in the spring of ’84 it rained three days and two nights, one day more in the house. Everything was wet, bedding had to be dried.
When grandpa and grandma Piggot (hand written in ‘parents of Addison Piggot’) came to this country their house was not ready for them and they stayed with us in our 10 X 12 dug-out for sometime. Grandpa was sick and we gave him our bed. There were four in our own family. “How did we do it? I wonder, but I think we had more real enjoyment then than now.”
That summer we raised some sod corn and lots of garden on sod; melons and squash and nearly a barrel of cucumbers. John went east to harvest in July and I stayed with the little boys. He was gone nine weeks. “If anyone ever earned a piece of land, I did that one.” When John came home he brought two shoats. Will Morton dogged a calf one day and it died. We let the pigs eat the meat and they both died.
We broke more sod, had more corn and some potatoes in ’85. John went east to harvest again. The herd law was passed the fall of 1885. Everybody then had to keep their cattle fenced in. Spring of ’86 Grandpa Piggot taught a subscription school on the Carroll place now owned by Bert Lathrop. Arthur and True Heater and some of the O’Donnell children went to school.
Blizzard of 1886! John and Dominick O’Donnell had sold some cattle and delivered them to a man near Arapahoe that day. They got home. I remembered to bring the axe in the house.
I remember the blizzard in 1888 as more severely cold and ever worse than in 1886.
School District 72 was organized from Districts 21, 22 and 16. A sod school house was built and we had Sunday school sometimes. Occasionally there was preaching service in District 21. We enjoyed our first Christmas tree in ’86. Cambridge merchants furnished the candy.
During the heavy spring rain in ’87 we stood ’round the cook stove all night. We made the baby, Arthur Morton, a bed on a truck on the doorway of the sod partition between the rooms. The bedding always had to be washed by hand after each big rain until in 1889 when we bought a big western washer. It turned so hard I was always tired out after using it. 1890 marked our first drought. It was dry all fall and winter until January 8, 1891, when a heavy snow fell. There was lots of snow the rest of the winter and plenty of rain in April – dry May and wet again in June. That spring we set out 1500 cabbage plants and it seemed that every one of them grew. They were on the flat near the creek and were a beautiful sight in the early morning with the dew on them.
Father Morton would walk among them and measure them with his cane. Many of them with outer leaves measured 3 ft. across. We trimmed a nice load and took them to Arapahoe. There was no sale for them and they were left at the meat market to be sold. The next spring we received $2.50. Arch Heater came and got a nice load, untrimmed for $2.50.
The spring of 1903 we had three rows of seedling peaches in full bloom. April 29 there was quite a bad blizzard of snow and sleet. The next morning the trees were so covered with ice that they looked like packages wrapped in cellophane do today. It was a lovely sight, but it killed the trees.
John and Jane Morton had seven children.
George Salathiel who died at age 18 from pneumonia
Roy G who died at age 2 from diptheria
John Thomas Morton died August 30, 1917 in the family home from injuries sustained after being gored by a bull. Jane Morton never remarried.
Reminiscence of the later life of Jane Morton
By Velva Morton Rupe, daughter of Munson Alonza Morton and Ella May Chatelain
Grandma Jane Morton had a wonderful memory and was also considered a good speller, and would tell of their Community Spell Downs.
She was a religious person and her praying was always done by kneeling. In her later years she was made Supt. of Sunday School near Danbury, Nebr.
She and her husband John Thomas Morton had seven children. There were 5 boys, one died when 18 with pneumonia, one 2 who died with diptheria; 2 girls both died after they had families of their own.
Daughter Edna died on Grandma’s birthday, just one year before Grandma’s death.
Grandma was a widow for twenty five years, she was fifty four when Grandpa Morton was killed by a mad bull. He died on August 30, 1917 from his injuries. He died in his home in Frontier co., Nebr.
Grandpa was near 24 years old and Grandma was about 16 ½ years old when they were married on Febr. 8, 1880 in Ringgold Co., Iowa. She was 19 when they came to Nebr. to Homestead on the West Muddy Creek in Frontier Co., Nebr. They traveled by covered wagon and their second son, Lonnie, was born in Republic Co., Kansas on their way to Nebr.
When they first came to Nebr., they lived in a dug out later it was sod houses. Around 1912 they built a stone house and they were living in this house when Grandpa was fatally injured by the mad bull. He died in this house. They had only lived in this house for 5 years. After his death Grandma and her youngest son John who was around 11 years old moved to Cambridge, in Furnas Co., Nebr. Her daughter Jessie and 2 daughters also went with them. They lived close together in Cambridge. Earlier Jessie and Harmon Downey got a divorce so Jessie went to live close to her parents.
My folks went to live on Grandpa’s farm so daddy could do the farming.
Around 1933 Grandma was living in Cambridge, she usually had a quilt in a frame and did a lot of quilting. She made beautiful stitches. I have a quilt that she quilted.
She attended the free Methodist Church along with some of her close friends, Carrie Richardson and Pearl Barrett.
She would come out to the country and pay us a visit a few times. I remember she stayed with me once when Bill took fat cattle to market. She stayed in the house with the children while I milked cows.
I remember when she helped me can peaches. She would say “I just love to can peaches” and she would suggest that we put one peach pit in each jar to give them a better flavor.
I sewed our little boy, Lyle’s shirt and she said she would sew the buttons on and make the buttonholes. They were the most perfect buttonholes, mine were never that even.
We raised Turkeys- they lived on grasshoppers, one white gobbler would strut so big and gobbled his head off if we went to the out house or strung up clothes on the clothes line. Grandma would carry a broom stick and would wack him one if she could.
When John was around 15 years old he and grandma moved back on part of her farm land. They moved into a 2 room house with a built on lean to kitchen and bedroom or a store room. It was made into a bed room after John married Alice Heckenlively.
This house was located one half mile south of Kester school house and John went to school here.
Grandma broke her ankle while carrying a pail of milk to the house in 1923 and we girls spent considerable time with her. It was a very hard time for her, to have to stay in the house and tell John and the help what to do. She said that she was always the first one up in the mornings. Grandpa was slow waking up. She always milked a lot of cows and would herd cattle with her two little boys, Uncle George and Daddy when there was still open range. When they first moved to Nebr. Grandpa would go off for Harvest to make money for them to live off. That left Grandma alone to have to do all the work at home.
Grandma was a little woman who loved pretty things, she could do beautiful fancy work. I believe there were more thorns than roses along her pathway of life, but when she would stand up and testify in church she would always say “I love the Lord and have no Complaints” She did so love and enjoy her family.
The Morton land sold in 1929 and our folks moved to Halls Summit, Kansas near my mother’s folks. Grandma, John and Alice moved to Holdbrook for a short time then later to near Danbury, Nebr. Uncle Leonard’s family were living near here. Later the families moved on farms near Oberlin, Kansas. Grandma in the last year of her life lived in a small town called Merian. Francis Ridpath one of her granddaughters cared for her in her last illness which was cancer. She died July 23, 1942.