From the collections at the Leavenworth County Historical Society and Museum. Reprinted with permission from The Leavenworth County Historical Society and Museum and the Leavenworth Times. Donated by Debra Graden.

Pioneer woman, children face hardships

Leavenworth Times, Thursday, March 23, 1988

by Earl Schenck

EDITOR'S NOTE --This is the last in a series of articles on local family histories being prepared for the "Leavenworth County History Picture" published by the Leavenworth County Genealogical Society. Kenneth Schenck, rural Leavenworth, was the great-grandson of Olive Dixon, an early day settler of Leavenworth County. Her grandson, Earl Schenck, wrote a letter April 20, 1933 to his brother clarence, who was Kenneth's father, about the story of their grandmother. The original homestead where Olive and her children settled is near McLouth and still occupied by the Schenck family.

I remember that you asked me one time about some of the history of our grandmother's life. I will tell you as best I can recall what she has told me.

Olive Dixon was born Sept. 20, 1822. She moved to Indiana with her parents when a small child, I think eight years old. That was the western edge of civilization in those days. It was a long and tedious journey by covered wagon with no roads nor bridges most of the way.

They built a home in the heavy timber made of logs and cleared a farm there. They saw many hardships. I have forgotten how many brothers and sisters she had. She was married very young to John Hatchel, whose only earthly possession was an axe. He had no known relatives. John Hatchel died at the age of 32 years leaving grandmother with eight small children (the oldest 14 years).

Our mother was the youngest child, born the day before or the day after her father died. Grandmother told me how they carried the casket to her beside that she might have a last view of grandfather. He died of what the doctors called Erysipelas (a streptococcus infection). Doctors then knew but very little as compared with the present modern doctors.

Grandmother's family consisted of six small daughters and two sons. They had acquired an Indiana farm and improved it, cutting it out of the timber. She struggled along and raised those children; just how we cannot comprehend. She has told me how she worked in the field while the children slept or played in the corner of an old rail fence at the end of the corn row. They wore clothes made of wool which she cut from the backs of the sheep, carded and wove into cloth. All from the raw material to the finished product, with the labor of her own hands.

One of the girls died at the age of 20 years. She had managed to educate her to the extent that she was teaching school when she died. Thus faded another hope for some financial support. Within a year, I think it was, another gird died. All of this added to her grief.

Then the Civil War came. Her son, Eli, then 18 years of age, wanted to go to his country's defense. On account of his age, he was not accepted without the consent of his mother. This she gave. In so doing, she gave up her only hope of any means of support. She told me in her old days, how fresh her memory was, the incident of his leaving home the last time. It seemed as if but yesterday; her way of expressing it. She stood in the doorway of her home and watched him go down the road, walking and disappearing over the hill in the distance.

Eli did service in an Indiana Cavalry regiment, and went through the war to the end. He went with Sherman on his march to the sea. The last time she heard from him he was ready to start home. The next news she got was that he died on a boat coming up the Mississippi River with some kind of a fever. They were dying by the wholesale from disease. He was buried somewhere in the south along the Mississippi in a trench with a lot more. Where his burial place was, she never knew. That was the reason for her small pension. It was called a Mother's Pension.

By that time, two of her girls were married. She sold her farm and gave them their share of what the farm sold for. She took her smaller children and started for Kansas (Leavenworth County) which was then the far west. She was a pioneer for the second time. The doctor advised her not to start, telling her that our mother, then 16 years of age, would never live to make the trip to Kansas. She had the courage to start out again in a covered wagon.

Our mother's health improved all the time on the journey. After arriving in eastern Kansas, she bought the 80 acres which she afterwards divided between the remaining three children and where our parents settled, spent all the years of their married lives and died, and where we were born.

Grandma died Sept. 17, 1907, lacking three days of being 85 years old. She was always mighty near and dear to me. I do not wish to detract any credit from our mother, she had all her frail hands could do incident to raising a family on a farm with the meager conveniences that they possessed in my childhood days, but my grandmother had as much to do with my raising and early training as my mother had. I always look back upon her life as being a wonderful example of faith, hope and courage.

I can remember our parents in their younger days when they were in mighty limited circumstances. How little we got along with. How they worked and managed to acquire what they did have in order to enjoy life in their old days, which never materialized.

Our mother told me how she had worked to raise us kids and got the last one through school, and how she would like to be spared a few years more to enjoy the fruits of their labors. But she realized that it was not possible.

Here are the birth and death dates. John C. Hatchel was born 1817 and died 1854. Olive Hatchel was born 1822 and died 1907. Martha (the school teacher) was born 1840 and died 1860. Lucinda was born 1842 and died 1869. Jane was born 1844 and died 1888. Eli was born 1844 and died 1888. Ichabod was born 1846 and died at the close of the Civil War in 1865. Virena was born 1850 and died 1852. Rosana was born 1852 and died 1924 and Kesiah (Clarence and Earl's mother) was born 1854 and died 1913.

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