"Moomaw's Corner," A Relic of Western Nebraska Homesteaders- part 2
by Hugh Houchin 11/06/2011 / Leadership
The life of a homesteader was one challenge after another, and Leon and Minnie Moomaw's life was no exception.
Minnie Young became Mrs. Leon Moomaw on April 2, 1914, and she and Leon spent their first summer as husband and wife beginning the laborious task of upgrading both homesteads. However, in September of that year, Leon had to return to Lincoln to fulfill a teaching contract, and when fall came he headed back east leaving his bride of five months to continue her education of homesteading. Minnie hired a neighbor girl to help with the chores, and the two females worked and learned together.
In 1914, an entry in Minnie's diary displayed the toughness, resolve and independence she garnered in her short time in western Nebraska. In October, Minnie was to return to Lincoln, however, before she left cattle needed moved from the Moomaw homestead in the Wildcat Hills, to another location about eight miles away. Minnie's diary entry referenced that she and the hired girl decided to drive the cattle to the new location by themselves, but they didn't tell anyone, because if they didn't get the job done they didn't want anyone to know they failed. Once again, that mysterious intangible that identified homesteaders spurred the women forward, and they successfully moved the cattle.
Minnie returned to Lincoln, where she and Leon lived until 1916. At that time, the two of them, and their baby daughter, made their permanent move to western Nebraska. The Leon Moomaw family settled on the homestead north of Bayard, and the history of "Moomaw's Corner" began.
Leon and Minnie toiled in western Nebraska making their dreams become reality. They developed both homesteads; erecting buildings and breaking heretofore unbroken sod in order to grow crops. Their commitment to each other, and their dreams, made it all come true.
Their eyes remained fixed on their work, as the hours turned to days, to weeks, to months and to years. Then, when they looked up their homestead in the Wildcat Hills was about 3,000 acres; likewise, "Moomaw's Corner" became a garden of paradise with the vegetables they grew and sold throughout the area. Nonetheless, unfortunately, when they looked up the great depression of the 1930's stared back at them, and they were in debt. In spite of the dismal outlook, Minnie and Leon called upon that homesteader intangible, and determined they would survive.
Even though the situation was dismal, and their conversations with creditors centered on the subject of foreclosure, they remained optimistic. However, unbeknownst to Leon and Minnie, they had an unknown reservoir of capital earned from years of non-stop grueling work ethics, and this reservoir came from an unexpected source, the government. In 1933, the Department of Roads gave the okay to rerouting U. S. Highway 26, which was a few miles north, to within one-half mile of Leon and Minnie's north Bayard homestead.
"Moomaw's Corner" immediately produced a cash flow, because Leon and Minnie homesteader's spirit took advantage of the opportunity. In order to serve travelers on U.S. Highway 26, they opened a variety store and gas station; using their previously private gas pump. Once again, their work ethic rewarded them. The gas station and variety store had no set hours; day or night, traveler or neighbor, if anyone needed gas, an item from the store, or just wanted to talk, they were welcome at "Moomaw's Corner."
During their cash-strapped days, Leon and Minnie established a truck garden; where they grew tomatoes, onions, melons, cabbage and other vegetables they thought potential customers might purchase. Leon cultivated a produce route that extended north into South Dakota, and east of their homestead; where he sold produce to grocery stores and others. Moreover, when "Moomaw's Corner" became successful, Leon kept and expanded his produce route because his customers were friends, and he felt obligated to continue to serve them.
Leon and Minnie Moomaw willed, worked and survived the great depression, and "Moomaw's Corner" was a landmark of that effort.
Yes, those in the know realize "Moomaw's Corner" goes far beyond rundown buildings and weeds, because "Leon and Minnie Moomaw left a legacy
"They did the hard things.
They did not quit.
They made a commitment to homestead this very land, and they did it.
They made a commitment to each other in marriage, and remained faithful.
They made a commitment to God and His Son, Jesus Christ, and they lived throughout their lives in service to Him."
Three months after I wrote these articles, a bulldozer leveled what remained of "Moomaw's Corner." In a week, the site became a memory. However, the spirit of Leon and Minnie Moomaw continues to live in western Nebraska, and we are better for it.
I wish to thank the people who led me to information needed for the articles about "Moomaw's Corner." Melvin and Delores Hubbard invited me into their home and endured an interview. In addition, they allowed me access to their precious notebook of Moomaw family memories from this area. All quotes, along with references from Minnie Moomaw's diary, and general information, came from the notebook and the interview.
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Hugh Houchin is retired, but enjoys fulltime freelance writing. His publishing credits include articles and columns in western Nebraska newspapers and numerous websites.