[For an introduction, please read The Hattie Diaries. Photo by John Nelson: Muddy commercial street with wagons, Spalding, Nebraska about 1920 (Public domain), via Wikimedia Commons.]
In January of 1920, Harriet and Will Whitcher had been married just two years and, because of Will’s military service, had spent much of that time apart. The oldest of ten children and ten years older than her husband, at age thirty-eight Hattie had grown used to an independence of both movement and mind, but she also was very close to her family and social by nature. Their farm was one and one-half miles from the town of Spencer in Boyd County, Nebraska, close enough for Hattie often to walk or catch a ride in a wagon to visit her parents, Ed and Mary Whiting, who lived in town, visits of which Will did not always approve.
Like all married couples, Hattie and Will were getting used to each other. They had not yet finished breaking sod on their farm and were struggling to make a living at a time when several Boyd County families were selling their land. Hattie was also still getting used to being simultaneously a wife and daughter when, in the span of two months, both of Will’s parents died in Wichita, Kansas, the first telegram arriving on January 30, 1920.
The following inventories, measures, and diary excerpts tell the beginning of the story of Hattie’s married life.
Inventories and Measures:
January 1918, 1919, 1920
January 1, 1918: Inventory, W. J. Whitcher
- 80 acres land … $6000.00
- Farm buildings … $1000.00
- 3 horses, 3 colts … $525.00
- 1 cow from Floyd Wood … $75.00
- 9 hogs … $180.00
- 12 hens, 1 rooster … $14.00
- 50 bushels oats & 200 bushels corn … $240.00
- 7 tons wild hay, 3 tons alfalfa … $150.00
- Seeds, grain & vegetable … $35.00
- Household Goods … $200.00
- Farm Implements … $300.00
- Cash in Bank … $545.00
- Total … $9264.00
- Outstanding Indebtedness … $1650.00
- Net Worth … $7614.00
January 16, 1918: Marriage of Harriet Elizabeth Whiting and William J. Whitcher
January 1, 1919: Inventory, W. J. Whitcher
No inventory taken on account of W. J. Whitcher being in the army at Gilmerton, Virginia. Our cow died of Alfalfa poison. We sold nearly all hogs on account of no house for them. We got a $2000 loan on farm to pay for house and other implements. W. J. came home Feb. 27th, 1919, discharged from Army.
January 1, 1920: Inventory, W. J. Whitcher
- 4 Horses, each $125 … $500.00
- 2 Horses, each $65 … $130.00
- 1 Horse … $50.00
- 1 Cow and Calf … $210.00
- 1 Boar … $30.00
- 1 Fat Hog … $35.00
- 23 Fall Pigs, each $10 … $230.00
- 8 doz. Light Brahma Chickens … $100.00
- 2 1/2 Sets Harness, Single Harness, 2 sets Fly Nets … $150.00
- 1 Heavy Stock Saddle … $50.00
- Farm Machinery … $150.00
- 2 Wagons, $25 each … $50.00
- 200 bu. Oats … $150.00
- 300 bu. Corn … $390.00
- 12 bu. Rye … $15.00
- 25 Tons Hay … $375.00
- 2 Tons Alfalfa … $40.00
- Corn Fodder … $40.00
- Household Goods & Separator … $300.00
- TOTAL … $3120.00 [See note 1, below]
January 1920: Groceries and Dry Goods Bought
- Suspenders … $0.75
- Syrup, 1 gal. … $1.10
- Apples … $0.50
- Jello … $0.45
- Bananas … $0.25
- Oranges … $0.35
- Cheesecloth … $0.30
- Coffee, Butternut … $0.50
- Shoe Strings … $0.15
- Onions … $0.25
- Ivory Soap … $0.10
- Sugar … $0.50
- Tobacco … $0.15
January 1920: Paid Out for Sundries
- Shoe Repair on Army Shoe … $0.10
- Gasoline for Smoking Meat … $2.10
- To Robert Jewelry Store for bridge for my glasses … $0.75
Diary Excerpts, January 1920
New Year’s Day, 1920: This was a fair day but cold. Will husked corn but wasn’t very well. We had a good supper consisting of fresh roast pork, gravy, potatoes, cranberry and apple sauce, fresh butter, bread, cream and coffee. I got 6 eggs.
January 11: Willie K. came about 4 p.m. and Will went with him to crossing under Railroad bridge where they tried to cut out ice. In the evening, 3 teachers and a little boy called for a drink while out for a walk. I helped Will with chores. We got 7 eggs and one double yolk egg. It was a nice warm day.
January 12: A letter from Rose and Mother is very sick.
January 13: I put seed-corn and pumpkins away and got 6 eggs, 1 double yolk.
January 15: A fair day. Will went to Carl Ferris sale south of Spencer on Sidell place. I made Harold William Whiting 2 small dresses from Will’s old shirts. Got 7 eggs. Gathered cobs.
January 19: Will got Eugene at Knolls in forenoon and went to Andrew Clausen’s sale in p.m. Was cold. Uncle Jim took me to Spencer. I measured Papa’s leg, the left one for a limb at A. Marks, New York City. [See note 2, below]
January 20: Will bought an eli at sale, paid $50. [See note 3, below]
January 24: We got 1,000 lbs. coal for $5.00 on track.
January 30: A cold and stormy day, mostly sleet. Got a telegram that Will’s mother at Wichita, Kans. was very sick. Left on 1 p.m. train for Wichita. Uncle Jim went to Uncle Chris’s when they took us to depot. H. Bradstreet was helping Will haul fodder when Telegram came. Got to Omaha Nebr. at 11 p.m., left for Kansas City, Kans. at once, traveled all night, had supper in Norfolk, Nebr.
January 31: Had Breakfast in Kansas City. Still cloudy and damp. Had dinner at Emporia, Kansas at $1.00 a plate. Arrived at Wichita, Kans. at 6 p.m., walked several blocks, took street-car, arrived at folks and found Mother very sick. The sun was shining this evening.
- Actual total for 1920 inventory is $2995.
- Read A. A. Marks’ Manual of artificial limbs copiously illustrated … an exhaustive exposition of prothesis, 1914 by A. A. Marks
- “An Eli was a cultivator to use on corn. It had shovels and disks. People used listers to plant corn. The lister made a furrow and the corn was planted in it. This resulted in a ridge between the corn rows. The Eli could be set to take the weeds from the side of the ridge. Later the disks would be reversed and the ridge would be placed next to the rows, leveling the field. This was called ‘throwing the corn in’. Another name for the Eli was ‘go devil.’ Why, I do not know.” (Harley Furrey, Hattie’s nephew, email message to author, Feb. 10, 2008). One version of a “go devil” was patented by Edwin F. Cheney of Ainsworth, Nebraska, who sold it to John Deere in 1906.