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THE DAWSON FAMILY IN THE SEVENTIES IN VAN NOTE DISTRICT

Narrator: Mrs. Elizabeth Dawson, 90, Hamilton, Missouri

Mr. and Mrs. O. Dawson came west in 1870 "to grow up with the country." They came from Oil City Pennsylvania, where the first oil well was put down by man-power used on boards. When the oil came up they did not know what to do with it, and experimented. The first oil lamp was burned in O. Dawson's father's home. It was not refined oil and was really dangerous.

Mr. Dawson had just inherited $3000 from his father and he wanted to buy a home with it. He invested it in the present Dawson farm of eighty acres at $45 an acre. One and one half mile east of Hamilton and the money which was left went for a wagon and horses. The house on his land was a two room shack, really one, for the back room was a lean-to. The front room was so small that in getting out of bed one's feet almost went into the kitchen oven. In that room, they cooked, ate, and slept. The lean-to was filled with corn which the previous owner had "thrown in" with the land as a bargain. There were two windows to keep clean.

Next fall the Dorr Judd family came out. Mrs. Judd was a sister of Mrs. Dawson and also had a $3000 inheritance. They happened to be lucky enough to buy the adjoining eighty acres for $25 an acre from a home-sick settler. So they had more money left after the farm was bought. They made a better house to begin with.

Soon Jim and Jeff Van Note bought eighty acres on the same side of the road. All were young couples beginning life and bore hardships easily. The Van Note district began with excellent people. Mrs. Sturgis (afterwards Mrs. Brown commonly called Mrs. Sturgis Brown lived on the opposite side of the road to the east). These were the near neighbors.

A well known character of the seventies who used to frequent these farms was Mrs. Lee or "Old Mrs. Lee" as she was often called. She was a demented woman who even before Mrs. Dawson came 1870 was known as a tramp and beggar. At first she dragged her three young boys with her, but as they grew older they were ashamed of her and refused to go. Some where to the north she had a daughter who wished to care for her but Mrs. Lee preferred to tramp and beg. She was seen in these parts as late as 1883 still as subject of fear to children.

This was her appearance: an old frowsy gray haired woman, calico bonnet, calico apron, worn dress; she carried a stick in one hand and carried her worldly possessions (a sack of clothes) on another stick on her back. She went from house to house begging food and shelter; she also begged from stores. They would give her short lengths of calico to get rid of her. She sometimes worked a few hours for farm women to get them to sew for her. She picked gooseberries for Mrs. Dawson who made a sunbonnet in return.

But she never stayed long in a place. After a nights rest in a barn or in a kitchen, off she went early to the road, a crazy harmless soul. Occasionally she would ask for soap to wash her dirty clothes. At one time the Caldwell County authorities put her in the County Poor Farm as a poor and insane person but she walked out the back door to freedom. If refused a bed, she always quoted Scripture "The foxes have holes, the birds have nests, but the Son of God hath no place to lay his head."

Interviewed January 1934.

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All photos are copyright KingsCross Farm, 1997 & 1998
All written material other than reference material copyright KingsCross Farm 1998