Sunday Stories: Ellie Heskett

Thomas Ellsworth “Ellie” Heskett was born June 4, 1865 near Bethesda, Ohio. Was the son of David Newton and Jane (White) Heskett. The Heskett family can be traced back for many years, and originated in Lancashire, and Cheshire, England, where they had large estates in that country.

Jane (White) Heskett was a direct descendant of William White, one of the 41 Pilgrim Fathers who were on the Mayflower which landed at Plymouth Rock in 1620. The Whites were devout Quakers, very religious in their beliefs, very prim and quaint and uncommunicative; usually speaking only when the “Lord gave them utterance”.

While still a young man, the urge to “go West” was too strong to resist, so with a few belongings in a wagon; along with John Hillard, and Lou Cogger’s father, they started westward where they settled in Medicine Bow, Wyoming, working as sheepherders in the area. Later he decided to come to Nebraska and his final destination was in the Sandhills along the Birdwood Creek, northeast of Sutherland. In 1894 he worked for the John Bratt Ranch and it was while there that he decided upon homesteading on government claims that were available. It is not known if the trip to Nebraska was made alone or if he had a companion.

He traveled northward along the Birdwood Creek and applied for a government claim on a 160 acre parcel of land in Sec. 10, T-15-N, R-33-W. There he erected a sod shanty and started to raise sheep. It was a lonely life, with only his dog and his horse to keep him company. He took the sheep into the foothills of Wyoming every spring and many times did not meet another human being for several months. But he liked the great wide-open spaces, where he could be alone with Nature and his thoughts. His thoughts often drifted back to Xenia, Ohio to where he had met Carrie Hayes, a house-mother in a boy’s home. And after several years she consented to come to Nebraska to become Mrs. Tom Heskett.
The valley of the Birdwood. The house on the left would be approximately where the Heskett sod house was located.
Their sod house, which was built on a slight knoll overlooking the Birdwood Creek, was very comfortable. Later a large summer kitchen of framework was built just east of the house, where the cooking was done in the warmer months and where the fuel was stored during the winter, the fuel being of dried buffalo chips, which were plentiful and free for the gathering.
Thomas Ellsworth “Ellie” Heskett
Tom or “Ellie” as he had always been known, in his younger days, was a successful sheep raiser, and made annual trips to the Chicago markets with two or three carloads of lambs each time. In those early days, the livestock owner accompanied the cars of stock by riding in the caboose of the train to their destination.

Tom Heskett married Carrie Hayes on November 9, 1899 in North Platte, Nebraska.

To this union were born two daughters, Lois Margaret Heskett Brewer, April 5, 1903 and Letha Jane Heskett Kennedy, born August 17, 1908. In 1915 the family moved to town because of a heart ailment Tom suffered. He entered into selling of real estate, but even that became too strenuous, and his death came in March, 1924. He is buried in the Sutherland Cemetery.

Submitted by Claudia Eberly


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