Sunday Stories: Laura Carolyn (Hayes) Heskett

Laura Carolyn (Hayes) Heskett, born April 6, 1864 in Holoway, Ohio (Harrison County). The daughter of William and Sarah (Kirkpatrick) Hayes. There were nine children in her family.
Laura Carolyn (Hayes) Heskett
She was educated in the country school of Poplar Ridge, Ohio, and became a “matron” of the orphans home in Barnesville, Ohio. She stayed there for seven years. Later on she was at the Soldiers and Sailors Home, an orphanage in Xenia, Ohio for eight years and was the house-mother to 30 boys.
When she came to Nebraska to be married, she was accompanied by her brother, John Hayes. On November 8, 1899 she filed on a homestead on the Birdwood Creek, a 170 acre tract of land in Sec. 10, T-15-N, R-33-W, a tract of land that Tom Heskett had picked out and on which he had built a three room sod house, in anticipation of her arrival. He had it furnished with the exception of her cherrywood piano, which she had shipped from Ohio. She also had shipped her bicycle and a quantity of jams and jellies for future use.

After their marriage, the next day, November 9, 18;99, they departed for their home in the Sandhills of Nebraska. The wedding supper was prepared and served by Allice Allen Saxton, one of their near neighbors, and who became one of their best friends. Carrie always had the time to play the organ and lead the singing at the Sunday School meetings in the schoolhouse on the Birdwood.

The following excerpt is taken from the book “NO TIME ON MY HANDS” written by Grace McCans Snyder.
When Tom Heskett brought his bride to the Birdwood, it turned out that they had been married in North Platte, and not in her home in Ohio, as planned. Tom had come to Nebraska in the mid-eighties and in spite of several disastrous events had done very well. He had already “Proved Up” on his homestead land on the Birdwood Table and his herd of sheep had increased. When he visited in Ohio, the previous winter, he had agreed that the wedding would be held in her home, but later he learned that a married woman had no homestead rights. So, if she went west before her marriage, she could file on a quarter section of land in her maiden name. So Carrie gave up all her wedding plans and met Tom in North Platte. She was wearing her beautiful going away gown. They went directly to the Courthouse where she filed on the land that he had selected for her. They were married soon afterward, and then started on the long journey to their home on the Birdwood Table, which he had prepared for her. 
Her first visit to a neighbor’s home (the McCans home) was made a few days later. She was a tall, fine looking young woman, wearing a beautiful sunbonnet, covered with rows of stiffly starched ruffles, and she carried a stout tree limb in her hand. She explained that the club was for protection from the range cattle grazing along the creek. She was used to the tame cows in fenced fields in Ohio, and thought these free-ranging cattle might not be so friendly.
Of course, the neighbors welcomed her with open arms, and apologized because of their delay in making the first call. They thought she should have a little tim in which to become settled in her new home. She said she did not intend to become lonely in her Sandhill home, that she could always find something to keep her busy. It wasn’t long before she was attending Sunday School which was meeting in a schoolhouse near by. In a short time, she had transferred a dim sod shack into a pretty, comfortable little home on the Birdwood Creek, with painted plastered walls and woodwork and lacy curtains up to the windows.
The lovely wedding dress which had never been worn, made of yards and yards of white shadow organdy and deep lace was sent back to a cousin in Ohio to be worn at the cousin’s wedding.
Carrie was a friend to everyone, and everyone was her friend. She was endowed with an abundance of courage in leaving her comfortable home in Ohio and journeying to an isolated unknown country to make a home for herself and her family. She was a gracious person, and a wonderful mother, never becoming impatient, and always with a smile and welcome, especially for the few travelers who went to her door.

What a beautiful word picture of a wonderful woman.

The early homesteaders sadly missed the many varieties of fruits to which they were accustomed in their eastern homes. But they were told that garden produce could be substituted. These included pumpkin, squash, groundcherries, watermelons and muskmelons. They learned to gather wild currants, chokecherries, grapes that grew on the creek bottoms. However, Tom Heskett promised Carrie that every two years, as long as he could afford it, he would send her and the children back to Ohio so she could spend some time with her family. During that time Carrie would can all kinds of fruits and make jams and jellies to bring back home with her. Sort of a working vacation.

It was during one of these later trips that while Carrie and her daughters were in Ohio, as Letha stated “Papa wrote a letter that he had bought the “old Sherwood” property in town.” Upon their return from Ohio, the family moved to town.

The Heskett Homestead land is still in the Kennedy name, with Tom Kennedy being the owner of the same.

Carrie died in March, 1941, and is buried in the Sutherland Cemetery. She is sadly missed by her daughter Letha (1991).

Submitted by Claudia Eberly


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