Written by Angie Debo, Ph.D.

(From the Angie Debo Collection, Box 7, Folder 59. Originally published in The Logan County History, 1889-1977: Logan County, Oklahoma [Guthrie, OK:History Committee, Logan County Extension Homemakers Council, 1979].)


The Debo family settled on their Logan County farm near Marshall on November 8, 1899. Edward Peter Debo (born in Peru, Illinois September 7, 1862) and Lina Elbertha Cooper (born in Kankakee, Illinois September 27, 1865) met in the Beattie, Kansas community, were married on February 19, 1889, and began their life together on a succession of rented farms in the vicinity. There their children were born: Angie Elbertha on January 30, 1890; and Edwin Forrest on October 24, 1891. In 1895 the family moved to a farm in the rural community known as Welcome in Geary County, about fifteen miles south of Manhattan, where they lived until they made the trip to Oklahoma.

During all these years the industrious young couple were accumulating cattle and other property looking forward to buying a farm of their own. The tract known as “Old” Oklahoma opened in the Run of 1889 offered them the opportunity. By the time they were ready this land had been patented, and Mr. Debo sold his cattle and bought a farm there (the NE ¼ of Sec. 20, Twp. 19N, Range 4W I M) for $1400. The couple disposed of everything that could not be carried in two wagons – kitchen stove, bedsteads, chairs, the heavier farm equipment – and Mr. Debo converted his farm wagon into the famed “prairie schooner” of Western settlement.

He set the “top box” in place, and above this he fashioned the “overjets” – an extension on each side formed of a foot-wide board supported by brackets, and another board at each edge extending upward at right angles. The bows were then fastened to this second board. Mrs. Debo then stowed her canned fruit, the family clothing, books and keepsakes, her sewing machine and dresser, the table with its leaves folded, and her best dishes and cooking utensils in the bed of the wagon, fitting all so effectively that it formed a compact load level with the top box. Over the bows was stretched the oblong piece of canvas that formed the cover. This was pulled over at both ends and puckered by drawstrings. The back was tightly closed but a circular opening was left in front for the convenience of the driver, who would sit on the “spring seat” (standard equipment of all farm wagons), which rested on top of the wagon box.

In the extra width permitted by the overjets Mrs. Debo spread a “straw tick,” a feather bed, and plenty of comforters and blankets. The “straw tick” was the early day equivalent of a matress [sic]. It had a buttoned-up opening through which the housewife could reach to stir up the straw each morning in making up the beds and replace it with a fresh supply at house cleaning time. Thrifty Mrs. Debo, however, regularly filled her “straw ticks” with the more resilient corn husks instead of straw.) Here the family was to sleep in comfort during the journey. Then under the seat Mrs. Debo placed the “grub box” with the utensils and supplies needed for preparing and serving the meals.

Meanwhile Mr. Debo spread a thick cushion of hay on his hayrack, and upon it he set his walking plow, his mower, and other small pieces of farm equipment. When all was ready he hitched Old Fred and Old Bill to this load and moved out. Mrs. Debo, with the two children beside her, followed in the covered wagon, driving Old Nell and Old Topsy. She shed a few tears as she took her last look at the familiar scene, but the thoughts of the others ranged ahead.

It required about a week to make the journey. It involved a hard pull for the horses and responsibility for the adults, but to the children it was an unmitigated pleasure – to see new places, to jump down and walk two miles at a time beside the wagons, to eat meals cooked over a camp fire, to sleep under a roof of canvas. The camps were regularly made close to farm houses so that water was accessible and feed could be purchased for the horses. (The established settlers of that time were friendly to “movers.” A few of the women even invited Mrs. Debo inside their houses to cook on their stoves.) Except for one cold day the weather was ideal. Angie has never forgotten the warm, golden day on which the wagons lumbered past the lively, five-year-old town of Marshall and the level fields of greening wheat to the new home. While the parents unloaded, the children ran to the creek and picked out a location for their playhouse.

The years that followed were uneventful, but productive. Mr. Debo immediately bought lumber and enlarged the one-room shack of the original homesteader into a three-room shack. In the spring he set out a large orchard, which soon came into abundant fruitage. He built a barn and other outbuildings. Mrs. Debo raised turkeys to buy a reed organ and gave Angie music lessons. After a few years the couple replaced the shack with an adequate dwelling. Mr. Debo increased his land holdings. The family formed new friendships and new associations in church and community.

The children entered into new relationships, walking two miles to attend the one-room rural school. Eventually they passed a territorial examination (Angie at the age of twelve; Edwin, whose schooling was interrupted by farm work, at the age of fifteen), and received common school diplomas making them eligible to enter high school. Then they waited around on the farm until a high school was finally established in the growing town of Marshall, from which Angie graduated with the first class in 1913, Edwin two years later.

By this time the family had moved to town. They had prospered on the farm, but in 1912 Mr. Debo sold out and invested in a hardware store at Marshall. This proved to be a disastrous venture, but he continued in various business activities. Still young and energetic he was operating a produce house when he died after a brief illness on May 15, 1944. He was buried in the North Cemetery at Marshall. Mrs. Debo became so feeble in her later years that she spent her last months in a nursing home at Stillwater, where Angie was employed on the library staff of Oklahoma State University. She died there on June 11, 1954.

[An autobiographical note from Angie Debo:]

Kansas was a pioneer state and the town of Beattie was only twenty years old when I was born there on a farm in 1890. When I was five and my brother, Edwin, was three, our family moved to a rural neighborhood south of Manhattan, where some former railroad land was offered on easy terms to settlers. In the fall of 1899 we came in a covered wagon to a farm my father purchased from the original homesteader near Marshall, Oklahoma Territory, arriving on November 8. How well I remember the warm, golden day, the lively little town, and the green wheat stretching to the low horizon, the setting of my life for over seventy years.