Childhood on Upper Squaw Creek: 1901 to 1917
Reminiscences of Hester Gross MacAskill Woody
My father, Gustav Gross, immigrated from Germany when he was a young man. He became a naturalized citizen to the point of almost forgetting his native tongue. He became a real American. During WWI. In a drive for liberty bonds he bought more bonds than anyone in the neighborhood. He had them made out in the names of his family. One was in my name that he cashed and gave me when I was attending summer normal school.
There were eight in his family. Three boys and one girl came to America - his older brother Frank came first, then, as more money was saved, Gustav, then Richard, and Mary came over last. One boy and three girls stayed in Germany. In the beginning of the war, before America became involved, he had a letter or two from his brother who had a couple of sons in the army. After America entered the war he never heard any more.
My mother Annie Cramer was born in Missouri and came west with her family, the William Cramers, by covered wagon when she was about nine or ten years old. She did most of the cooking for the family as my grandmother was in poor health. My grandmother was pregnant at the time and miscarried coming across the plains. In fact that was the reason my grandfather had for coming to the west, to seek better health for her.
Annie was the oldest girl of nine children and helped take care of the family, not only the cooking but gathering buffalo chips, making the fires and doing what laundry was done. Her father helped her when he could. She also helped care for her mother. She walked all the way as there wasn't room for her in the wagon. She collected the firewood and chips while walking. Two or three of the other older ones walked with her and older brother Marion and helped with the chores.
They settled first near Vale. From there they went to Round Valley, following Jack Coggburn, a brother of Annie's mother's. They stayed in Round Valley for five years. Annie hated Round Valley as she again had much of the work, besides shoveling tons and tons of snow. From Round Valley they went to the Ola country to a ranch on Pine Creek.
From the ranch on Pine Creek Annie, my mother, married my father, Gustav Gross. They began their married life on Hog Creek near Midvale where my father was on a ranch in partners with his brother Frank, a bachelor. They did not stay there very long before they came to Squaw Creek and homesteaded ten miles above Ola.
He had over a thousand acres with the addition of a desert site he was allowed to file on, which was east of the ranch and gave him more pasture for his cattle. In later years he bought the Condie Wilson place which joined him on the northwest. As he developed his herd of white faced cattle it was necessary to put them on the forest reserve with the Cattle Assn. with a herder hired by the Assn.
The homestead house sat on a hillside near a natural spring. The whole hillside was developed into orchards with fruit of all kinds, apples of several varieties, prunes, pears, plums, berries, etc., plus lots of garden, all watered by the spring. There was a large barn on the flat across the road with a hay storage in the center and wings on both sides with stalls for horses as that was our transportation.
There were two families of Grosses on Squaw Creek as my mother's younger sister, Ruth, married my father's younger brother, Richard. They homesteaded also. The two ranches joined. The two families were very close.
My young life revolved around Aunt Ruth's family and my grandfather. I never knew my grandmother as she died fairly young leaving my grandfather with three small boys and a young daughter. The rest of the family of one son and two more daughters had married and moved away from home. I always felt the loss of not knowing my grandmother and I used to stand and admire her enlarged picture my grandfather had that hung in his living room over his organ.
It was a routine of mine when I was small to go spend a week with Grandfather after school was out. It was something he looked forward to as well as I did. I guess he spoiled me.
There was one near tragedy that happened on the ranch when I was small, about four years old, that has remained with me all my life. My father was hauling hay from the lower meadow across the creek and my older sister was with him. My mother and Aunt Ruth were around the bend in the creek fishing and out of sight of the rest of the children which consisted of my oldest sister about ten years old, my older brother, my two cousins - Aunt Ruth's boys - myself and baby brother about eighteen months old.
Evidently my oldest sister Josie was left in charge of the children. My younger brother toddling around fell in the creek in a deep hole. I have always remembered seeing him floating down the creek completely submerged with one little hand and part of an arm sticking up out of the water.
Then I remember seeing my mother on the bank of the creek working with him. The rest of the story is from her telling. Hearing the children screaming and crying she and my aunt rushed to where we were and found the baby gone.
My father, hearing the commotion, came also. My mother, then pregnant with the next child, was the only one who could swim and dive. She immediately jumped in and swam and dived and felt around some underbrush where she was sure she would find him, but he was not there.
When she got up out of the water and went a little farther down the creek she spotted one little knee sticking out from under the bank on the opposite side of the creek. He was apparently drowned and seeing no life there my father and aunt begged her to leave him alone and consider her condition. But she wouldn't give up and kept working with him.
A few days before she had read somewhere how to bring a drowning person to and that all flashed before her mind as she worked with him. It seemed like hours until finally he gave one little gasp and then she knew there was life there. So her perseverance and determination save his life. It has always been a mystery to me how she accomplished such a task and without any damage to the baby.
You might think life was dull but it never was. One thing there was always plenty of work to do and the stream that ran through the ranch made for good fishing and swimming in the summer time. Our fishing poles were long slender willow poles and our lines were black thread that our mother twisted up on the wheel of her sewing machine, but we caught fish.
Our recreation was visiting neighbors which all the neighbors did and you always went to eat dinner with them. We had a Sunday school that was organized by my mother, assisted by Aunt Ruth, May Bowman and Mrs. Mabley. It was held in the school house. We also had church services held in the school house. The minister lived in the Ola parsonage. Sometimes he held revival services in the school house. It was in one of these services that I went into the Methodist church when I was about twelve years old. I have remained a Methodist since that time.
There were neighborhood parties with games and refreshments held in some of the neighborhood homes, also sometimes in the school house. The big entertainment was the school Christmas pageant. As I began to grow up we finally persuaded our mother to let my brother and me attend some of the neighborhood dances and later dances at Ola. My two sisters Josie and Janie had married and moved away from home by then.
In times of illness and sorrow it was a case of neighbor helping neighbor. My mother had some severe pneumonia spells where neighbors would sit up all night with her, giving her medicine that was left by Dr. Skippen from Sweet. That went on until she was up and around again.
In the case of a death the neighbors did the work there also. The earliest I remember was when the little Mahley boy drowned when a waterspout hit above their house which sat in a draw. In the family trying to flee the flood of water the little boy was knocked from his oldest sister's hand and washed away. He was found not in the creek as they supposed but had washed into an irrigating ditch. I was quite small so about all I remember about it is attending the funeral which was my first. I wondered why everyone was crying, so I cried too. That is another scene that has always remained with me - seeing that little boy in his casket with a big bruise on his forehead.
I remember of a woman in upper Squaw Creek that passed away in the winter and my mother and Aunt Ruth spent days getting the body ready for burial, even making the clothes to put on her. It was called laying them out. Just what method they used I do not know.
The same method was used when my youngest uncle, Thomas Cramer, died in January of pneumonia after being ill only about three days and with Dr. Skippen being right there with him. That was a bad time for all of us as he was young, only about 21 years old. It was especially bad for my grandfather as that left him alone, the others having married and left home. Later he sold out and bought a small place in Payette. Later he sold that and spent his remaining years with his daughters.
A few years later my Uncle Richard died, leaving my aunt alone on the ranch with the four children, the youngest only about five years old. My uncle was laid out as the others by neighbors and relatives.
All in all those were happy childhood days on the ranch, with loving parents and relatives, and as I grew up my vacations from school were spent on the ranch during the summer helping my mother with the cooking and housework. There was plenty to do and she needed my help. My brothers were home and then there was hired help during haying time. I had brothers to take me places. My father had good rigs and horses so we had a way to go.
One event one summer was quite special. My oldest brother, Bill, took a girlfriend, Olivene Kenward, a sister of Io Nesbitt's, and me on a pack trip over West Mountain to Blue Lake. He knew the forest trails or at least knew how to follow the blazed trails. We camped one night in Sage Hen Meadows (that was before the lake, of course) then on over West Mountain to Blue Lake.
We girls made biscuits and my brother cooked them in the Dutch oven. We also picked huckleberries and made cobbler in the Dutch oven. The lake was full of fish and we couldn't catch a one. They just weren't in the biting mood.
It was a very enjoyable trip for all of us, especially Olivene, as she had never been on a trip like that before. She wrote to me when she went back to school in Moscow that she reported on the trip to the mountains and it went over big. I was always glad we took her on that trip. She was so thrilled with it and she only lived three or four years after that. She finished her education and did some teaching, then was married and lived about a month after that when she died from a ruptured appendix.
As far as I was concerned there was always a Gross post office and a Gross school but I know that was not so. Which came first, I do not know, but I presume it was the post office.
When a post office was to be formed a name was asked for, my mother and Aunt Ruth decided the name of Gross should be submitted. The name of Boston* was also sent in. They were early day settlers on Squaw Creek, the place Nesbitt's now have. My Aunt Ruth was the post mistress and the post office was held in her home. She had that for a number of years. When she gave it up, Io Nesbitt had it in her home, on the place where Homer Nesbitt now lives. Mrs. Nesbitt had the post office for quite a few years. It was still called the Gross post office. When she gave it up, it reverted back to a route as it is now.
The Gross school was located on a flat over the hill from the Querry place, now the Davis place. That is the school I attended until I finished the eighth grade. It's a distance of about two and a half miles from the ranch. In good weather, in the fall, we walked that distance. We had a trail through the hills that we and other neighborhood children used. I am amazed when I am up in that country now that I can still see the trail over that last steep hill we traveled to get to school.
You can see it from the road at the Davis place. In bad weather we went horseback to school and had to stay with the road which is the same now as then except a small hill the road went over to the school is fenced off and no sign of a road having been there. In those days the winter time was lots of snow so at times we went to school in a cutter or a sleigh that my father made. We had hay in the sleigh and plenty of quilts to keep us warm.
In much later years there developed a dispute about the location of the school. One faction wanted it kept where it was and the other faction wanted it over on the Pine Creek side. No agreement was reached so one night the school house burned down. Then the new school was put over by Pine Creek.
One winter of heavy snow the school house caved in. Thus ended the Gross school. The youngsters then were taken to Ola as they still are as far as I know.
The year I was an eighth grader was a short term so our school was out before I could take the state exams. In those days it was necessary to pass the state exams before you could go on to high school and I was determined to go to high school.
So I stayed with Zadie Dyke in the Methodist parsonage in Ola where she was staying to send her two younger sisters to school. There, in the Ola school, I finished the eighth grade. That fall I went to Boise to high school and graduated from there four years later in 1921. Then I attended Summer Normal there also that year.
That fall I taught in Pearl, then Summer School again and I taught the Glendale School south of Melba. My teaching career ended in the spring when I got married. I did teach one more year during the war at our Vanderdasson school.
The end of my high school was the end of my carefree days on the ranch. Then it was summer school and then only back on visits after that.
* Will Boston was the original homesteader of portions of Sections 2 and 11, Twp. 11 North, Range 1 East, B.M., later owned by Nesbitts. He was Liza Jane Coggburn's brother; therefore, the brother-in-law of Hester's great uncle Jack Coggburn. His wife Mattie died June 1900 and is buried in the Ola Cemetery. All three families -- the Cramers, the Coggburns and the Bostons -- were from Taney County, in southwest Missouri.
Hester Anne Gross was born 21 May 1901 at Gross, d. 7 September 1986, Emmett
Her parents were Gustav Gross and Rebecca Annie Cramer Gross
her siblings were:
Josephine I., b. 29 September 1895, at Gross, m. Harry Granger, d. Nov. 1978, Caldwell
Janie A., b. 10 September 1897, at Gross, m. Bill Kimball, d. 7 April 1990, Emmett
William J., b. 13 June 1899, at Gross, d. 23 March 1976, Emmett
Gustave A., b. 28 January 1904, at Gross, d. 18 July 1984, Pueblo, Colo.
Frank M., b. 14 January 1906, at Gross, d. 27 February 1988, New Plymouth
Marvin E., b. 1902 at Gross, d. 30 January 1982, El Paso, Tx.
See photo of Gustave, Hester & Frank
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