Sunday Stories: From Syria to the Sandhills

Taken from the McPherson County History Book: Facts,Families and Fiction

By Norm and Renee (Ellis) Greunke

Syrian peddler Kalil Michwee of
Birmingham, Ala., 1917
Mike David arrived in Tryon in 1897 with a peddler’s pack on his back. He had arrived in America the year before, at the age of 13, from his native Syria. Mike resided a short time in Fort Wayne, Indiana, but the lure of the West led to his first business venture selling dry goods direct to farmers and ranchers through Iowa, Missouri, Kansas and Nebraska. He carried his wares as he went. While covering this territory he was constantly looking for a place where he might establish a home. It was in McPherson County where Mike found he liked the friendly, prosperous people.

At first he tramped the hills with his bag on his back, but then bought a horse and buggy to carry his goods. That way he could cover a much wider area of the country.

There were only two other buildings in Tryon other than the sod courthouse where Mike set up his first store in 1903. He started his business with a one hundred dollar loan and in no time had it repaid in full. Back then, Mike sold a few groceries and other assorted items including underclothes, something that embarrassed the bashful young man in his twenties. When Mike came to America, he could not speak English, but somehow got across what he was trying to sell.

Business was good and he like the West and its people, but there was a beautiful young girl back in far away Syria who had often expressed a desire to come to America. So from 1907 through 1908 Mike returned to the land of his farmer parents and married Miss Sadie Aboud. The following year he returned to Tryon accompanied by his 23-year-old bride.

Nineteen hundred and nine also saw the birth of the couple’s first child, Mabel. The family moved to Hay Springs for a while where the David’s second daughter Eve was born the next year.

The Davids returned to Tryon where the remainder of their children were born, David in 1914; Eli, 1915; Mary, 1917; Vera, 1919 and Helen, 1924.

Another major project was undertaken in 1920 when Mike decided to build a house for his family. The spacious structure was built by the late John Dahlin, Sr. It included eight rooms and bath, with a large basement, modern heating and water system. It was the pride of the Mike David family.

Mabel Ellis, first born of
Mike and Sadie David, July 26, 1909
It was said that among Mike David’s qualities were his guidance and advice. He was actively interested in the welfare of the community as well as the success and financial security of his friends and neighbors. Mike was also active in the promotion of good roads and played an important part in securing much of the hard surface highway through the sandhills he once crossed with his four-horse teams.

Sadie David was a devoted wife and mother and was said to be instrumental in helping her husband make a success of himself and his family. She, too, was loved and respected by everyone in the community. And, says daughter Mabel, she was quite a cook… that, even though her mother couldn’t read a recipe, ‘she could make a lemon pie stand high.’

A couple years after the present building opened, the David’s oldest son, David, was killed in 1939 in a road accident during a blinding snowstorm near Bridgeport, Nebraska.

David Family May, 1948
Back row L-R: Eva, Mary, Helen and Mabel
Front row: Eli, Sadie and Mike, inset: David
In 1941 Mike and Sadie David retired from active business and moved to Sioux City, Iowa, where there daughters Mary and Helen lived. But Mike still made frequent business trips back to Tryon. On December 8, 1948, the Davids were traveling from Tryon to Omaha when they were involved in a car-truck accident at Wahoo. Sadie was killed instantly. Mike was taken to a Wahoo hospital where he died the next day, never having regained consciousness. The Tryon Graphic said the deaths were a severe shock to the entire community and that “they will be sorely missed by their family and multitude of friends.”


  1. I wonder how bad is that road accident that it killed David’s oldest son. Maybe, the vehicle's windscreen is totally wreck.


Post a Comment

Popular Posts