Sunday Stories: Callander Family, Part 1

Excerpted from: McPherson County: Facts, Families, Fiction; Established in 1890

The Callander Family – by Mildred Doudna

In October, 1905, Fred and Agnes Callander with three small children, Archie, 7; Ruby, 5; and May, 2 ½ years old, came to the Sandhills, filing on the Kinkaid Homestead, one and a half miles east of Tryon, McPherson County, Nebraska. Here they raised their family of two boys and five girls. They built, (or layed up) a sod house and it was there I was born February 14, 1908. I was named Mildred Frances, namesake of Mrs. Jennie Frances Clothier, the mid-wife. On November 15, 1910, another girl, Marie Dora was born. Then after building another sod house almost a mile north, Lawrence S. was born April 8, 1914, and on June 22, 1918, Rachel Ann arrived on the scene.

In those early pioneer days having enough to raise a family was made only by sacrifice and long hard hours of work by the homesteader and his family.

My father had a four-horse team of small horses and a freight wagon used to haul freight of various kinds, mainly I think, food supplies, and taking corn to market and returning with some coal for heating. He hauled freight from Stapleton and from North Platte, many miles on ungraded roads, through valleys and around hills, for both the Mike David and I.C. (Ide) Heldenbrand stores. He would take one day to go, and another to come back. The miles have been shortened much as more modern roads were made. In these little stores they had most anything you would want to maintain that way of life, from food, remedies, pills, liniment, kerosene for the lamps, hardware, dress material by the yard, (or dry goods) sewing notions, hardware, feed and some lumber and fence posts., etc.

In winter it was unbearably cold, so to keep going the long hours the trip would take, he walked many miles alongside the wagon. When he made the trip with snow on the ground, the sound of the wagon wheels made a very weird or eerie sound that could be heard for miles on a cold quiet evening. I remember so well when waiting for him, if after dark, going outside listening in the stillness, and guessing how long yet? It was always a homecoming for we all loved him so much.

It is hard for today’s generation to imagine, or visualize the “way of life” of so long ago (three quarters of a century). Flour came in 48 pound cloth sacks (the old David Harum brand and the Sioux Lookout brand) I remember, and sugar in 100 pound muslin sacks. These sacks were used for dish towels, or whatever the need. There were very few cereals, a few boxes of Corn Flakes, but mostly long cooking Quaker Oats or ground corn meal for mush. Of course we didn’t get eggs and milk in cartons, but from our own farm.

There was no electricity, so no refrigeration, telephone, radio or TV. To keep foods cold they were kept in the water barrel with fresh cool water being pumped by the windmill, and it was kerosene lamps and lanterns that lighted our way.

He also did some carpenter work for others, helping to build barns, and other buildings as progress came. Even when building a sod house, there were doorways, window frames and sometimes floors. There have been many live on a dirt floor till there was money enough to buy the lumber for the floor.

My father also worked for the U.P.R.R. “Rip-track” for a time, but he had to stay in North Platte away from home, so it was not for long.

Then by 1914 and 1915, he and Archie worked planting pine trees at the Halsey Reserve. During the time of planting they rescued some of the smaller culls of Jack, Scotch and Yellow Pine that were being discarded, took them home, planted and nourished them. For many years they were the only pines in the Sandhills and they still stand out, tall, proud and glorious. One spring day 20 or more years later, pushed by high winds, a fire raged through the forest burning many of the trees planted during the years the Callanders worked there. But over the years, our home trees grew very well.

Planting at the Forest involved first plowing a furrow over prairie hills and all, then working with a spade pushed into the soft sandy soil, worked back and forth, a tree was inserted and with a firm step pressed closed, it was left to grow.

It is really a miracle that I lived, after being stricken with Poliomyelitis and Meningitis at 18 months of age, weighting 28 pounds. I was taken to Doctors A.J. and Marie Ames, husband and wife. Tenderly caring for me and studying the case, Dr. Ames wrote to me later that he often referred to the case, and it was recorded that he had distinguished the difference in polio and meningitis. I’m sure it was only through the loving family and the persistence of my praying mother that my health slowly returned, but I was down to only eight pounds when going home. I had been unconscious, or in a coma for 21 days.

Starting school had to be delayed until I was seven years old, and I was the first of the family of seven to go to high school, graduating in 1928 from McPherson County High School. There were usually three of us at a time going to school, a distance of one and a half miles, walking most of the time. However, we had a kindly old neighbor, John Crayne and his wife who lived about a mile or so on further east and north of us. He would come to town quite regularly, in the afternoons driving the shiniest, fattest, most beautiful team of horses in the country, hitched to a fine four-wheel “Top buggy.” He would plan his time to go home just as school dismissed and would give us the ride home that we appreciated so much. That walk was really tiring in severe weather, either cold, or hot, when we first started. He also owned a feed grinder pulled by horses. We used it to grind feed for our chickens many times.

In 1931, June 1st, George Grabbe and I were married. He was employed at the State Farm, the sub-station of the University of Nebraska. We lived there for 13 years. During that time our two daughters were born. Dottie was born on May 15, 1933, and seven years later Mary was born on August 9, 1940. After moving to an acreage in the northeast part of North Platte, we became an active 4-H family, both with livestock and domestic programs. George passed away April 4, 1956.

On January 6, 1963, Winfred Doudna and I were married. Again we were involved in livestock, being some of the early breeders of the new Limousin breed of cattle. They had been raised many years in France. The breed was introduced to this part of the country by means of artificial insemination. I was the Secretary-Treasurer for three years of the Nebraska Limousin Association, after Winfred passed away January 13, 1976.

My home is now in North Platte. I think I’ll always be a real native Nebraskan, as I enjoy the different seasons and being involved with church work, as I have been a life-long Christian. My family now consists of my two daughters, Dottie Sanchez and Mary Henry and her husband Larry, and their families. Deb Sanchez, George Henry, Dawn (Henry) Walker and her husband, Gerald Walker, are my grandchildren.

Callander Family Data

My father’s parents, were Archibald Callander, from Bannockburne, Scotland (April 30, 1935 – August 17, 1914) and Elvira Callander, born in Vermont on January 29, 1831, reared in New York, and died March 28, 1905. He had one sister Mary, and brothers James, Hugh and Eddie, a twin, living just past a year. Fred Callander came to Saline, County Nebraska from Indiana at 13 years of age. In 1894 the family moved to Oxford and on April 8, 1897, Fred married Agnes M. Smith. They came to Tryon in 1905.
  • Fred Callander: December 26, 1873 – January 15, 1944, at rest, Miller Cemetery
  • Agnes Callander: January 7, 1879 – July 1, 1962, at rest, Miller Cemetery
  • Archie Callander: February 27, 1898 – August 4, 1929, at rest, Miller Cemetery. He drowned in the Whitewater Lake, west end of the County. Left his wife Bertha and two small sons, Glenn and Clair.
  • Clair Callander – Died after a farm accident at 13 years of age, at rest, McCook cemetery.
  • Glenn Callander: Glenn has four sons, Grant, Archie, Fred and Calfin. Glenn and his wife, Dawn, were married on May 30, 1983, and live near Hayes Center on a farm as of 1984.
  • Ruby Cass: May 5, 1900 – 1950. Died as a result of a car accident that also killed her husband Wayne Cass. They had five sons and one daughter.
  • May Johansen: Feburary 6, 1903 – September 6, 1973. Her husband, R.G. Johansen, preceded her in death.
  • Mildred Doudna: February 14, 1905 – September 1989. North Platte.
  • Marie Martin: November 15, 1910, lived in Monrovia, California as of 1984.
  • Lawrence Callander: April 8, 1914, lived in Elk Grove, California as of 1984. He married Ruby Parks of Upland, Nebraska. They have one son and two daughters.
  • Rachel Ann McGiff: June 22, 1918, lived in Long Beach, California as of 1984. She married Francis (Frankie) McGiff. When it came time for Ann to attend high school, she was needed at home, the folks were failing in health and aging. All the others were married and/or gone, so after she married and settled in California, she attended night school in Downey and graduated in 1972 in a large class.


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