Their Descendants...Their Stories...Their Achievements

Lifting the Mists of History on Their Way of Life

By: Ethelene Dyer Jones

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Continuing the saga of Vandiver's life in the West

On May 3 my column focused on the memoirs of John Joseph Vandiver who left Union County, Georgia with his parents, John Floyd Edward Vandiver and Lucinda Souther Vandiver in 1895, making a stop for awhile in Drake's Creek, Arkansas, and then moving farther west.

By way of explanation, I wrote about this family in February, 2005. This is not an effort to repeat that story, nor is this account written in exactly the same manner. Then, this column was not available online to many who have since "found" the weekly "Sentinel" newspaper online. I have had numerous requests from descendants of the Vandiver family to repeat those stories. That is why, almost two and one-half years later, in modified format, the memoirs of John Joseph Vandiver again appear in this column.

Between 1895 and 1898, jobs were scarce for a young man of nineteen in Drake's Creek, Arkansas. John Joseph Vandiver worked on his father's farm at the "Old Lollard Place" and supplemented his farm earnings by cutting railroad crossties and transporting them eight miles across a mountain to sell them for $1.10. In 1898, John Joseph's father bought his son a ticket to Greeley, Colorado. John's older brother, Bill, was already there. They worked for awhile at Charles Robinson's farm for $20.00 per month. Then the brothers launched northward to Laramie, Wyoming, where they heard "big game" was available for the hunting. Circumstances turned them in another direction.

At the Kuster Hotel in Laramie, the Vandiver brothers learned that a Mr. Thornton had been in town looking for ranch hands. Traveling 60 miles west of Laramie to the Thornton Ranch at Rock River, the Vandiver lads were hired and worked herding cattle and sheep.

Then it was off to become hands on the Union Pacific Railroad survey party, where they worked the whole winter of 1898-1899. In the spring of 1899, John Floyd Edward Vandiver sold out in Arkansas and moved his family to Rock Creek, Wyoming. Prospects for making a living seemed better there. In 1900 the Vandivers moved again to Little Medicine and the John J. Burnett Ranch. John Joseph Vandiver wrote in his memoirs: "It was hard going in those times. About all the work that could be had was herding sheep. I spent two winters making railroad ties in southern Wyoming near the Colorado line in about three feet of snow. I went down the Medicine Bow River on the tiedrive in the spring of 1902."

In June of 1902, John Joseph Vandiver went to Seattle, Wash., where he found work in a brick yard, at Moran's Sawmill, and at a logging camp at Moon's Canal.

In the fall of 1902, when it was too cold to continue outside labor, John found a job at the Fry-Brulm Packing House, driving a meat wagon, remaining there until spring.

In April, 1903, he made another move to Yakima, Washington where he signed on as a hand at the Bear Ranch. In the fall of 1903, he went to Okanogan, Washington.

John Joseph Vandiver's parents sold out at Little Medicine, Wyoming and went to Okanogan, again joining their son already there. The elder Vandiver paid $800 for some land in Pleasant Valley near Malott, Washington. The family lived in a log cabin on the land. In another log cabin, built for a schoolhouse, the Vandiver children still at home were enabled to attend school. One could wish that John Joseph had written more in his memoirs about who taught the school. He wrote only that those younger siblings still at home at the time were Sarah, Nell, Hartwell, Calla and Jess. In the fall and winter of 1903-1904, both John Joseph and Bill were at Pleasant Valley with their parents.

Then came "Last Chance." With a name like that, one would think "desperation!"

John Joseph and Bill Vandiver worked at the Last Chance mine about ten miles from Pleasant Valley. There they cut firewood for the mine, working about two months, a job that paid them about $3.00 per day.

When spring planting time came, the Vandiver brothers returned to Pleasant Valley. They helped their father on the ranch during 1904 and 1905, and got additional work at their neighbor's ranch (Mr. Malott) at hay harvest time.

By the spring of 1906, no doubt thinking that if he ever landed a significant career, he would certainly have to launch out on his own, John Joseph Vandiver went back to Seattle, Washington.

The remainder of his story will be told in the next episode of this Union County native's call to the west to live and work.

[Source: John Joseph Vandiver's Memoirs written in 1959 and published in Watson B. Dyer's "Souther Family History," 1988, pages 266-268.]

c 2007 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published May 10, 2007 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

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