|GEORGE WILLIAM (BILL) GILLETT FAMILY HISTORY||
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Homesteading in Montana
(2nd & 3rd generation
Morlan and Curry familes)
Adaline (Curry) Morlan
by her Montana Home(about 1914)
Same structure (about 1923)
being used as a school house
Sometime between 1896 & 1900, William and Dora (Curry) Carr went to live and ranch near Whitewood, South Dakota. Whitewood is near the Montana / South Dakota border in Lawrence County, the northern part of the Black Hills.
Dora (Curry) Carr was the sister of Adaline (Curry) Morlan, Bill Gillett's great-grandmother. Their home was the starting point for most of the Curry homesteaders going to Montana.
A friend of the Curry's from their days in Lamar, Missouri, Charles Harrington, had gone to Carter County, Montana, to homestead in 1897 and had kept in touch with the Currys. They were probably the biggest factor in settling in Carter County, Montana.
This was the start of the movement by the Currys and Morlans to homestead in Montana.
About 1908, Joseph and Ada (Short) Curry and William and Sarah (Curry) Keltner decided to take the challenge and homestead in Montana. Joseph Curry and Sarah (Curry) Keltner were also the brother and sister of Adaline (Curry) Morlan. At the time, Joseph was about 34 years old and Sarah was about 47 years old.
In the spring of 1908, after shipping their belongings to Belle Fourche, South Dakota, Joseph Curry and the Keltners took a train to the South Dakota town. The family of Joseph Curry stayed in Barton County, Missouri, until their home was built.
The families filed their homestead papers in Carter County, Montana, for 160 acres each on April 11, 1908, and shacks were built to live in. The shacks were built as close together as possible but later, when the surveyor came, the Keltner home was required to be moved as it wasn't on their property. The homes ended up being about half a mile apart.
In May of 1908, Ada (Short) Curry, the wife of Joseph Curry, with her three daughters ranging in age from three to seven years old, took a train to Whitewood, South Dakota. They stayed with the Carr family until Joseph Curry could pick them up. About mid-June they were settled in their new homes. Leta (Curry) Taylor later told the following stories and problems they had in their travels by wagon from Whitewood to the Belltower area of Carter County.
To compound their weight and space problems, when passing thru Belle Fourche they had to purchase a sheep wagon stove to cook on. One night while camping on the Little Missouri River their horses, although hobbled, strayed away. It took over half a day to find them. They also had problems with the rain and mosquitos. They had to eat their meals in a large netting type tent to protect themselves from the mosquitos. The trip was over 100 miles and probably took 3 days.In 1909 they were joined by the family of their brother, James W. Curry. That family didn't stay very long as they didn't care for Montana and the problems associated with homesteading. They left within the year.
About 1910 they were joined by their sister's family, John and Maude (Curry) Hepburn.
Sometime after December 29, 1910, when my great-grandfather, Erwin C. Morlan, died, Samuel (Fred) and Sylvia (Saunders) Morlan, George's brother's family, also went to Montana to homestead with their mother, Adaline (Curry) Morlan.
The country was in a deep depression. George Morlan was only getting work three days a week while working on the railroad in Fort Madison and less was visualized. Therefore when Lyda (Kelly) Morlan's mother, Sarah (McClane) Kelly, died September 23, 1912, the George Morlans decided to join their relatives in Montana.
So in the dead of the winter of 1913
They lost several head of horses on the way. They took with them a upright piano. This piano had a lot of miles on it -- from Iowa -- to Montana -- to Southern Missouri -- to Oklahoma -- to about six locations in Kansas City -- before being damaged in a fire in 1937.
The driving distance today is about 1,000 miles; but, in those days, it was probably 1,200 miles. Since they were in a horse-drawn covered wagon, they probably only traveled 20 to 30 miles a day. As it was in the dead of winter, there were probably a number of days they could not travel because of the weather. It amazes me they could find the Belltower area because the roads were all dirt and unmarked. They may have done a lot of back tracking
All the families settled in the Belltower area of Carter County, Montana. Carter County is located in the extreme southeast corner of Montana with Belltower about 25 miles southeast of Ekalaka. Actually when the Currys and Morlans moved to Montana it wasn't called Carter County but Fallon County. The county split into two counties in 1914 with Ekalaka becoming the county seat for Carter County.
The George Morlans arrived in Montana in the spring of 1914, just in time to plant a crop on his mother's place. They found a place of their own about 4 miles east of their mothers and just south of his brothers. There they built a home of part dug-out and part lumber and started their life of homesteading.
George, like most of the other men homesteading, besides working on his own farm also worked in the wheat harvest and on other ranches in the area. Most of their lives the George Morlan family and their mother had lived in or near cities where supplies and services were available. This made it harder for them to adjust to the new life.
Their land was mainly flat with slightly rolling hills. Per Erwin Morlan, their son, the George Morlan home was not nearly as nice as Adaline (Curry) Morlan's home pictured above.
Their daughter, Atha (Morlan) Gillett, (Bill Gillett's mother) was born there October 4, 1914. The nearest doctor was in Ekalaka, Montana, about 30 miles to the north.
Land patents that were issued were normally issued for land up to 160 acres but sometimes greater. They were required to live on the land for 5 years, grow crops or make improvements. The land was free but a filing fee was charged. Both Fred and George Morlan had 320-acre patents. About once a year the families were required to go to South Dakota for supplies.
Status of their homesteads
Joseph C. Curry and Ada (Short) Curry
They obtained an 160-acre patent in sections 23 & 24 of range 59-E plus a lot in the town of Belltower, Montana. Their land was northeast of where the George Morlans ended up homesteading.James W. Curry
About 1909 James Curry and family came to Montana to homestead. They filed on a 160-acre site just east of the Joseph Curry ranch. He was about 50 years old at the time. They left Montana that same year as he and his wife, Sally, did not care for Montana or the problems associated with homesteading. They moved to Perry County, Alabama.Sarah Elizabeth (Curry) Keltner and William E. Keltner
In 1908, like the Joseph Currys, they obtained a 160-acre patent in sections 25 & 26 of range 59-E plus a lot in the town of Belltower, Montana. Their lands were next to each other.Maude (Curry) Hepburn and John Hepburn
After arriving in Montana in 1910, the Hepburns obtained a 160-acre patent in sections 23 & 24 of range 59-E. Their property also adjoined the Curry property.Adaline (Curry) Morlan (My great-grandmother)
She obtained a 160-acre patent in sections 13 & 24 in range 59-E about 1911 or 1912 about 4 miles west of her sons' and brothers' ranches. She was about 58 years old at the time.George E. Morlan and Lyda May (Kelly) Morlan
& her father, Freeman Kelly
About 1914 they obtained a 320-acre patent in sections 27 & 34 in range 60-E. They did not receive the official papers until after they left the area (August 22, 1918).Samuel F. (Fred) Morlan and Sylvia (Saunders) Morlan
About 1911 or 1912 they obtained a 320-acre patent in section 27 in range 60-E. They did not receive the official papers until after they left the area (June 12, 1918).In 1917 all the Morlan clans had left the area mainly because of World War I and because of the hard work and bitter winters. Adaline (Curry) Morlan went back to Marceline, Missouri, to live with her daughter, Cora (Morlan) Waller. She died there September 19, 1937, at the age of 84. Samuel (Fred) Morlan and his family went to live in Kansas City, Missouri. George Morlan and his family (with Freeman Kelly) went to southern Missouri to live on a 40-acre farm in Mountain View, Missouri.
Changes in the area:
The population for Carter county in 1920 was about 3,000 and rose to 4,100 in 1930 but has declined since to 1,500 in 2005.One other sister of Adaline (Curry) Morlan homesteaded -- this time in South Dakota.
Dora (Curry) Carr and William Carr
They obtained two 320-acre patents for a total of 640 acres in sections 20, 21, 26 & 27 in range 5-E of Butte County, South Dakota, plus a lot in the town of Newell. This is just north of the Black Hills. Their relocation was between 1896 and 1900 as their third daughter was born in February of 1896 in Barton County, Missouri, and then they appeared in the 1900 census for South Dakota.