Early in 1907, after the Fiscus families settled in the Bayard area, Wilson Fiscus purchased 80 acres 2 miles east of Bayard, and 40 acres 8 miles southeast of Bayard. Included in the transaction was a prefabricated Sears and Roebuck home, which remains on the property today. Later, after World War I land prices rose, and Wilson saw an opportunity to make money by selling the two acreages, which he did.
Subsequently, in 1909, Gene and Florence Fiscus homesteaded 160 acres, just 2.5 miles from the land Wilson purchased in 1907. After the building of their new home on the new homestead, Gene and Florence moved to the 160 acres. Until then, they lived on the 40 acres 8 miles southeast of Bayard.
Interestingly, Gene and Florence Fiscus, and Roy and Bessie Fiscus, homesteaded those properties that were 2.5 miles from each other, on the same day. Not only that, but Gene and Bessie were brother and sister as were Roy and Florence, which made their respective 10 children double cousins.
Even though the Fiscus', for them, were in uncharted territory old memories die hard, and when fall came to western Nebraska it kindled memories of the threshing business for Wilson and Gene. In short, they purchased another thresher, this one a steam-powered unit, and rejuvenated their business, this time in the Bayard area.
In a memoir, Bessie McRae, Joyce Russell's and Jeannie Tyree's mother, wrote:
"Because Dad stayed with the (threshing) machine all week each fall, we three girls, (Bessie and her two sisters Dema and Elva) and Mama, learned to take a lot of responsibility. We always milked cows, fed hogs, and other chores. The worst job we had was hauling water, both for the house, and the hogs and chickens. It was the same well that is down on the creek now, north of the buildings here." (parenthetical mine)
In other words, daily, the four women filled barrels with water, put them on a wagon, or sled, and horses pulled them to the house. Indeed, genetics play a role in industriousness.
The nomadic lifestyle of this branch of the Fiscus family tree ceased when they settled in the Bayard area, but the pioneering spirit that drives people onward survived.
Today, Joyce Russell and her husband Lew, along with their daughter Sherri, husband Lee Eads, and their children, live on the 160-acres Gene and Florence homesteaded. The Eads live in the original house Gene and Florence Fiscus occupied back in 1909, and their children are the fifth generation to live on that homestead.
Moreover, on the property sits a restored bunk wagon, with a recently replaced canvas cover. It's believed, while living in Iowa and eastern Nebraska, Wilson Fiscus used that bunk wagon in his threshing business. Likewise, the well Bessie McRae referred to in her memoir (above), is still in working condition.
On September 15, 2010, Joyce Russell and Jeannie Tyree received the AK-SAR-BEN Nebraska Pioneer Farm Award; commemorating the land they live on has been in their family100 years. I congratulate them for their perseverance and thank them for their time, patience, and transcribed family memories, which made it possible to relate their family history for your enjoyment.
Scottsbluff, NE, US
Hugh Houchin is a freelancer who's been writing professionally for six years. Houchin's been published in three Nebraska newspapers and on numerous websites. You may read more of his articles at:
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