Marco Island Writers
MIW Submission #4.
FATHER WAS AN AMERICAN PIONEER
I've had to readjust my view of my father several times. As an adult, I did some research and gained an understanding of what he had gone through when the family rushed into Indian Tenitory in a covered wagon during the Homestead Run of 1893. I was then able to flesh out a fuller picture and appreciation of my father.
'Dapper Dan' was evidently how my father, Dan Ivy, was known by some of the eligible older women in Seattle when he owned two apartment buildings in the Freemont section of the city during the 1930s.
At least, that was how he was known until he married my mother, Esther Hulseman Dean. She was a widow with two previous children, Pat and Bill. Her hope was that this prosperous older gentleman, (he was 56; she was 37) would be able to provide well for her family and become the
strong father figure that she felt was lacking in the children's upbringing.
For me, the main evidence I have of this 'Dapper Dan' is a photo of a brown-haired, wellsuited gentleman sitting on the expansive porch of one of the apartment buildings, proudly holding me, as a baby, on his lap. The only other similar image that remains is when my parents were 'dressing up' to go to a funeral.
My memory of my father starts around three years of age, after he'd lost those buildings in The Great Depression, not having rental income to pay the mortgage. By 1937 the family had moved to aZ|-acre farm, outside of Monroe, about fifty miles north of Seattle. The farm was somewhat run-down: the house needed a good paint job, fences were askew; there was no inside plumbing - only an out-house and outdoor well. It was a far cry from the 3
I discovered that the family had lost their farm in Osage, Missouri during the drought and Panic of 1893 when banks closed and many people lost farms and work. It must have been a great blow to his father, Alfred Ivy, who had saved the money for the farm down payment from his work as a courier in the Civil War. He'd left his extended English-heritage family in Tennessee to strike out on his own 'out West' in Missouri.
SEPTEMBER 16, 1893 HOMESTEAD RUN
From what I've read about that Homestead Run, I can picture what the start-up was like:
- There's chaos as thousands of horses and covered wagons converge at the starting line in Kansas.
- Then silence, after the "Only five minutes" shout of the soldiers up and down the lines, as the pioneers wait anxiously for the start-up bugle to blow.
- At the sudden loudness of the bugle and the "Giddy-up " whooping of the pioneers, horses rear up and bolt forward.
The Ivy family, including my father, Dan Ivy, and my grandparents and a number of my uncles and aunts were at the starting line. Dan's father and older brothers, Tom and William, were out front on horses, ready to dash off quickly to find the best land on which to place their two stakes. Dan was assigned to drive the slower covered wagon with their belongings and the women folk, plus a tag-along animal cart. And that's when it happened: the story that came down through the family, told as the worst moment in family history. This is how my father told it: "Tom looked back when he heard a shout from Dad, whose horse had reared up and thrown him off. He yelled, 'Dad, get out of the way!', as he saw a team of runaway 5 claim and planted their first stake in the ground. It was only about three plots away from the river and had a stream running through it so at least there was good access to water.
Adjacent plots were already claimed, but they found another plot, just one over from their first one. The plots were different enough to give some choices about how to use them: the high flat land could be used for large fields of crops and the hilly one next to a stream would be good for raising vegetables and keeping the farm animals.
I'm sure that first winter wasn't easy. From my research, I learned that many families quickly planted root vegetables, even as they were clearing the fields for the next year's crops. The late September start to the Run hadn't left much time for regular crops or building. They dug themselves large, one-room dug-outs into the side of the hill: some had two open windows and a fireplace for cooking and heating. It would have been crowded, but at least have kept them safe from blizzards and howling wolves. A fence for the animals would have rounded out that first farm for the Ivy family.
Emotionally, the family must have been in disarray, with their mother especially still grieving, and the older boys arguing about what to do and who was in charge. Tom gradually took on family leadership and became listed in census records as 'head of household'. From understanding this history, I began to appreciate the fact that my father brought to Seattle his pioneering spirit of persistence, resilience, and self-reliance. He would have called it