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Growing Up on a Farm in Kansas
at the Turn of the 20th Century

By Helen Hallock Balaun
From "Heritage", edited by Doug Geist

  "Morris Wells Hallock, was born in Mattituck, Long Island, New York, (in 1858, on the eve of the Civil War) and decided to go west to get out of the damp climate of the east coast. His two brothers came west with him. One sister, who was a school teacher, stayed in New York as she was afraid of the Indians in the west. They travelled as far as Kansas and settled on a farm in Lincoln County.

By chance, Morris stopped at William Wallace Pollock's home and met Etta Pollock. A romance developed and they were soon married (1881). Etta was sixteen years old.

One of Morris' brothers died and the other brother, Winslow Hallock, helped his brother, Morris, build a home and start farming. The house was a tall, narrow, two story house built on the prairie. He brought his new bride and her baby sister, Fannie, over to the new farm to live. The next year they had a baby of their own named Lowell Kaiser.

One night a very bad storm came up and developed into a cyclone. The new house was destroyed and tipped over. My father, Morris, searched in the dark and frantically called for Etta. He found her under the floor which was resting on a rocking chair. She had her baby in her arms and Aunt Fanny by her side. All were safe. Morris worked frantically all night in the cold rain and he took cold and developed pneumonia and was sick for several weeks. When he recovered, they built the house over again, but this time a smaller house was built lower to the ground. It was one and a half stories high. This house still stands in Lincoln County, but has had several additions built onto it.

Eleven children were born to this family. They were Lowell Kaiser, Ellis Martin, Inez Evangeline, Ethel Viola, Eunice Johanna, Warren Aldrich, Leslie Alger, Helen Gladys, Neola, Velna Genevieve and Muriel Thelma. (** Editor's note: Oldest born in 1882, youngest born in 1907 **) They all grew to adulthood and were happily married.

My mother and father were both Presbyterians and always had us in church every Sunday, if possible. They always had plenty of books for us to read and we always had the Sabbath Reading Magazine that we got in Sunday School.

My father was a musician and played the organ in the church. He sang bass and my mother sang soprano, and they often sang anthems together. My parents always had an organ for us to play on and later purchased a piano. My brothers bought a guitar, an old E flat horn, a bango and a mouth harp. We kids always had plenty of entertainment for ourselves.

Being the eighth child in the family, I do not remember the whole family living together. My oldest brother had gone to Kirksville, Missouri, to become a doctor and my oldest sister had left home to teach school.

My father was a scholar and well read in history. He served as Justice of the Peace for many years in Lincoln County.

My mother was the manager and could fix and repair things. Once she built a chicken pen with wire on the top and bottom to keep the varmits and coyotes out. She raised brown leghorn chickens for many years and later changed to white leghorns. My father mixed the feed of bran and skimmed milk plus some shelled corn. They made money with those chickens and managed to raise the big family and pay off the mortgage on the farm.

Many times I went with my father in the wagon to Minneapolis to pay the taxes. We would always put hay and grain in the back of the wagon to feed the horses before starting home. Sometimes we would meet gypsies on the way. Once they wanted to trade for our horses. Father would watch the feed in the wagon so they would not steal it. He would talk very stern and loud to them. I thought my father was very brave. I was very afraid of the gypsies.

My father always had milk cows. I'd wake up in the early morning hearing the steady drone of the milk separator with my father turning the handle to separate the cream from the milk. He would then feed the hungry calves. When I was older I would get up and help milk the cows. I always detested feeding those calves the skimmed milk because some were slow drinkers and some would put their noses to the bottom of the bucket and drag their foamy noses across my legs. It was always a battle of the fittest.

Our next chore was to take the cows to the pasture. That was a fun job except on school days. We liked to play and run in the pasture, hunt around for rocks, then take them home and break them and find different colored sand inside. We would use it in our playhouse as brown sugar or pepper or cinnamon. We always had fantastic playhouses, as our brothers, Leslie and Warren, would help us make them. We had real tree houses with a built-in stairway. We also had chairs, a bed, and a table on which we mixed our mud pies. We made our own dishes with clay from the little hill and dried them in the sun. It was always a big thrill when our mother would come and visit us and we would serve her make-believe tea and some of our mud pies. I know now she was only checking on us.

I will always remember the holes in the pasture that held water after a rain and we could wade and get wet. My father called them buffalo wallows.

We had many trees to play and climb in. The ash tree was wonderful to swing in. We would climb to the top and swing down with the limb, then spring back up and down on the other side. My brothers decided to make us a circus swing. It was made out of an old wagon wheel fastened horizontally onto a post. Four rope swings were fastened to the wheel on four sides so it would balance. It was powered by the boys from underneath. How very fast we could go! What fun we had until my father saw us and made the boys tear it down because he said it was very dangerous.

I will always remember the Home Comfort Range in the kitchen. It was my mothers pride and joy! The warming closets were at the top and at one side was the reservoir to be filled with water each morning to supply the hot water for the day. On Monday morning, which was wash day, the copper boiler would be placed on the front of the stove to heat the water to wash the clothes. This was an all day job and my mother prided herself in getting the white clothes out early in the morning. By the time we got home from school, the colored clothes filled the line. ON the back of the range would be a kettle of beans slowly cooking throughout the day. A pan of cornbread was ready to put in later. The cold, fresh butter and milk hung in the well. We would pull it up on a rope. We always had plenty of molasses or wild plum jam.

The sorghum molasses was made at a farmers home. If the year was good and the farmers had an abundance of sorghum cane, they would take it to the neighbor and grind it up and cook it in the vat until it was thick like syrup. Then they would fill their jugs for a years supply of molasses. After everyone had obtained their quota, the last of the syrup would be cooked until it was right for a neighborhood taffy pull. What fun we had at those neighborhood parties! We would ride home in the surrey.

When I was about twelve years old (about 1912), my father bought a Model T Ford. We were all very proud of our new car. I can still remember how beautiful it was. We all drove it except my father. He could never quite get the hang of it and after backing over the woodpile and almost tipping the car over, he turned the driving over to the rest of the family. He often asked me to drive him to Ada. The road was not paved or sanded, but was just a trail. My mother was a good driver which embarrassed my father when they took produce to the market.

Another memory I have of my childhood was at butchering time. Everyone knew when a neighbor killed a pig or a cow because the the carcass hung in a tree. The fresh liver and sausage was divided among the neighbors unless the weather was cold enough to keep it. The fresh meat was treated with an abundance of brown sugar and saltpeter, which was potassium nitrate to preserve the meat. The bacon was sometimes smoked or used fresh. The steaks were fried down just right and put in a crock with hot lard poured over the top to seal it. These steaks were very good later on.

My father (Morris Wells Hallock) would drive the team and wagon to Delphos every fall to get the winter supply of flour, apples and cabbage. (Note: Delphos is just off Highway 81 north of Salina about 30 miles. It is about 10 miles or so from Ada.) The apples and cabbage were stored in the cellar with the turnips and the pumpkins. If we had a good year with an abundance of fruit, my mother would can or dry it. They made vats out of the screen wire to lay the apples, peaches and corn on and then covered them with gauze to keep off the flies and bees. It took several days to dry with a hot sun. We had to stir the corn quite often. The dried produce had a delightful taste all of its own."

Related Links:

Return to: The Earliest Long Island, New York, Settlers, 1640 - Peter Hallock

Two of these Hallock children married two children of Henry and Nellie (Fisher) Baldwin. Read the story of their covered wagon trip to Kansas.

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