By Philip L. Gerber, Wayne Franklin, Paul Corey
In July 1909 twenty-one-year-old Elizabeth Corey left her Iowa farm to stake her declare to a South Dakota abode. Over the following ten years, as she endured her schoolteaching profession and carved out a house for herself during this inhospitable territory, she despatched a gradual move of letters to her family members again in Iowa. From the sting of recent the US, Bess wrote lengthy, gossipy accounts—"our personal carrying on with experience story," in keeping with her brother Paul—of frontier lifestyles at the excessive plains west of the Missouri River. Irrepressible, independent-minded, and obviously fearless, the self-styled Bachelor Bess provides us a firsthand, nearly day-by-day account of her homesteading adventures. we will all stake a declare in her lively letters.
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Additional resources for Bachelor Bess: The Homesteading Letters of Elizabeth Corey, 1909-1919 (American Land & Life)
Holm, who apparently was widowed, was typical of one kind of settler, family members who traveled together and settled close to one another but alone on individual homesteads. Employing her father's homestead as a central point of reference, Holm locates her grandmother on a claim two miles north, her aunt two miles east, and her own land one mile south. "4 Such publicity could be highly persuasive. Surely it worked its magic upon Elizabeth Corey, who in 1905 at the age of seventeen had begun a career as a rural schoolteacher near her home in western Iowa.
The Missouri valley was then the domain of the Arickaras, who cultivated the fertile bottomlands and lived peacefully in their willow-pole lodges over which earthen insulation was heaped for protection from the elements until the more warlike Sioux drove them out. The Sioux lived more like nomads, camping in portable tepees and depending for food upon the immense herds of buffalo and other wild game then inhabiting the vast mid-continent grasslands. Lucrative trading in furs, especially buffalo robes, led to the establishment of a stockaded trading post: Fort Tecumseh, built by the French Fur Company and located where the Teton (later known as the Bad) met the Missouri.
But I never remember Bess being sick with anything more than a cold. In those days of dirt roads and horse-and-buggy travel, it was difficult for her to get home over weekends. But from wherever she was teaching she wrote letters, and those letters became the high point of our mid-day meal. As soon as I was old enough to walk out to the intersection of our roads, it was one of my daily chores, when school wasn't in session, to fetch our mail. From the road side of the wheel of boxes, I couldn't reach our own.
Bachelor Bess: The Homesteading Letters of Elizabeth Corey, 1909-1919 (American Land & Life) by Philip L. Gerber, Wayne Franklin, Paul Corey