Thursday, December 1, 2011

#9 Hannah Catherine Turpin - Another Adventurer

Hannah Catherine
Turpin Bell
Hannah Catherine Turpin was the youngest child born to Sarah Elizabeth Lowery Turpin and Robert Newton Turpin.  

We are so fortunate that Hannah left her story for others to read. She chronicled her pioneering adventures for the Williston Daily Herald and it is an amazing story.  It reminds us that we need to write our own stories to share with others in the family. Of course Hannah’s example could intimidate us into wondering what anyone would find fascinating about our own lives.  But don’t you think that Hannah was a bit like us though?  She probably thought her own life was somewhat normal…until the newspaper wanted to do a story on her.

Hannah was born 25 December 1864 in Greene County, Iowa.  She arrived in Nebraska with her father and step-mother.  Her step-mother was almost the same age as she was.  Soon after coming to Nebraska, she married Douglas Bell.  I have the marriage date as Oct 12, 1880 and the marriage records should be in Holt County, Nebraska.  I found Nancy and Joe’s marriage but not this one.

From the Williston, ND Daily Herald, 13 June, 1934:


Mrs. Douglas Bell, Heading Four Generations,
Recalls Life on the Upper Missouri in Days
When Williston was a Tent City

Mrs. Douglas Bell, pioneer Williston woman who has celebrated her golden wedding anniversary and who is proud of the fact that she heads a four generation family, tells an interesting story to The Herald of her hardships and pioneer experiences she and her family have had in their effort to do their bit in the building of the west.   Her story is as follow:

"I was born on a farm in Green [sic] county, Iowa, near Jefferson City, Dec. 25, 1864.

"In the year 1879 I moved with my parents, Robert Newton Turpen and Elizabeth Lowry Turpen, to Nebraska.

"On October 12, 1880, I was married, before the age of 16, to Douglas Bell. Shortly after our marriage my husband's father, Jacob Bell, and brother Bent started on a trip through the Black Hills in the hopes of finding a location for establishing a new home, and in the fall of 1881 my husband and I started from Keyapaha, Nebraska, located on the Niobrara river, in a covered wagon to hunt buffalo.  Our route took us through Spotted Tail and Red Cloud Indian agencies and we reached the Black Hills at Buffalo Gap, then we went on to the Little Missouri river where we met Father Bell and Brother Bent, so from this time on our party consisted of four.  We camped at Camp Crook in September and later moved down to the mouth of Box Elder Creek to hunt buffalo, which were numerous in that particular part of the county, as were also the deer and antelope.

"Our home for the winter was a dugout in a hillside, covered with poles and green buffalo hides; a hide also being used for a door.  A very crude fireplace, on which, with the use of a dutch oven, all the cooking and baking was done, was built at the farthest end of the dugout with a smoke vent running through the dirt roof.

"Many Sioux Indians lived around us but they always seemed peaceable, although now as my memories carry me back, I believe we did not know enough about them to be frightened, or at least did not realize the dangers that surrounded us. A great deal of my time was given to the tanning of deer hides and the making of clothes for the men, such as shirts, trousers, moccasins, and mittens.

"The winter of 1881 was a very mild one and I spent many days with the men on their hunting trips and helped them with the skinning of the buffaloes as we were all kept very busy, the men killing sometimes as many as 40 buffaloes in a day.  The only amusement or diversion was a deck of cards and with an ammunition box for a table, many pleasant evenings were spent playing seven up.  At first our only light was that given out by the fireplace but soon candles were made from tallow rendered from the buffalo.  Our food during the first winter consisted of an almost entirely meat diet with black coffee, beans and sour dough bread.  At one time we were out of flour and Brother Bent made trip of 100 miles on horseback for a 50-pound sack.

"I did not see a white woman from September until March and one does not realize how much the companionship of a woman is missed until circumstances deem otherwise. On the 11th of April my first baby was born at Stoneville, now called Pinnacle, in Montana.  He was named Robert Frederick by two cowboys, Fred Willard and Bob Erickson, who presented the new baby with a complete outfit of clothing, which was both much needed and appreciated.  The winter of 1882 was again spent at Box Elder Creek where we again hunted buffalo.  The hides this winter were sold to men who might happen along for the purpose of buying hides and shipping them, we receiving $1.50 for a bull hide and $2.50 for a cow hide, and at this time we were also able to sell the meat at 1 cent a pound.   

"In the spring of 1883 we moved to O'Fallen creek in Montana, where the hunting was mostly of deer, antelope and some elk.  Also killed some buffalo and mountain sheep.  We were much more fortunate in our mode of living at this place as we lived in a one-room log house and had a cook stove. In 1883 the rest of the Bell family came out from Nebraska, driving their herd of cattle and the cattle belonging to us, so the living was very much improved and as the Northern Pacific railroad was not far, luxuries were to be had such as dried fruits and canned goods.  Hides and meat were hauled to the town of Terry where they could be sold and shipped.

"In January 1884, we moved down the Yellowstone river to Newlon, Mont., where another son, Oscar, was born.  In May 1884, we moved to about three miles west of what is now Williston, N. Dak., where we camped until a very nice two room log house was built. We lived here for five years during which time three more children were born, Maud, Francis, and Edna.  

"With the arrival of the children I had to figure plans for leaving them safely when necessary to leave the house, and on one such occurrence that  I remember was that of seeing a deer a short distance from the house and as I wanted to take my rifle and get the deer, and the grass was so high I did not dare to leave Oscar who was just at the toddling around age and would possibly follow and get lost, I tied him to a bed post with a rope while I shot and brought home the deer.  This is just one little incident among many that needed thought and precaution as so many little dangers seemed to be around us, especially to the children.

"In September, 1889, we moved to Williston as the children were beginning to grow into the school age, where we again lived in a very well built log house of three rooms. We were very proud of our home and as our family enlarged, rooms were added until finally we had a six room house.  It was after we moved to Williston that we had a real Indian scare as many hundreds of Sioux Indians were on the war path.  A large stockade was erected by the men of Williston and the government ordered soldiers from Fort Buford and conditions looked bad for the early settlers but the affair did not prove to be serious after all.  There were many friendly Indians here who did not like the Sioux tribe and they told us they would fight with us against them.

"During the time from 1889 to 1910 four more children were born to us, Joe, Lourissa, Paul and Anna.  On December 4, 1910, we moved into a new, eight-rooms modern dwelling, where at the time of this short story of my pioneer days, we are still living.  After my husband's days of buffalo hunting were over he went into the livestock business and had many cattle and horses, for of course as the settlers came into the new country the buffalo were killed and were soon extinct.

"While we are not what one would consider wealthy, we are comfortably situated; have accumulated several pieces of property and feel that we have a great deal for which to be thankful.

"We have had many experiences that were not always pleasant such as caring for the sick as there were no doctors here in the early days and as we were all like one big family our one thought and desire was to help wherever and whatever we were needed. My husband also was a carpenter and as an undertaker was not known of here, we were called on to make coffins.  He made the coffins and I lined them to the best of my ability and acted as undertaker for the dead.

"We must not forget the enjoyable and happy times as there were many. We had many dances and socials and the women never lacked for partners as the men greatly outnumbered the women.   

"On October 12, 1930, we had the pleasure of celebrating our golden wedding anniversary and although all of our children were unable to be with us, it will always be remembered as an outstanding event in our lives as more than 100 friends called to congratulate us, among them many of our old time friends. The hours were spent in reminiscences of days gone by and the pleasures and trials of our pioneer days.

"We have five of the nine children living and have seven grandchildren. Although we have had many sorrows and worries, the hardships are soon forgotten and there are many pleasant memories."

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