A Memoir to a Family and Their Land

Jeanne Tyree and Joyce Russell are sisters; unmistakably and relationally intertwined through looks, voices, physiques and inquisitive minds. Together, they continue to seek knowledge about their families’ origin in western Nebraska.

When I interviewed them about their ancestors, questions begat questions because they still seek complete explanations about a few junctures, fissures and fusions in their ancestry. Even though some of what they expounded was difficult for me to envision, or comprehend, of this I’m certain: In 1909, Bessie McRae, Jeannie and Joyce’s mother, was a year old when her parents, Eugene and Florence Fiscus, homesteaded 160 acres northeast of Bayard.

Before then a few minor twilight zones exist, but undeniably; the hale and hearty, adventuresome, pioneering spirit of the Fiscus clan is worth revisiting, even if every minute is not accounted for,

As far as this expertise, it begins with Adam Wilson and Emma Dean Fiscus, who married in 1868 and lived in Owen County, Indiana. In 1872, Wilson, who chose to use his middle name, moved his family to Marshall County, and then to Audubon County, both in Iowa, where he farmed and raised livestock.

In 1869, Wilson and Emma had a son, Eugene Walter Fiscus. Gene, the name he preferred, grew up at his father’s side learning the finer points of farming and raising livestock, just as Wilson had with his father. As a result, Gene loved farm life and while in Audubon County, he and Wilson expanded their farming expertise purchasing a threshing machine, and threshed grain in the area. In addition, while in Audubon County, Gene Fiscus and Florence Fiscus became husband and wife on September 1, 1900.

Shortly thereafter, the enterprising spirit that seemingly inbred Fiscus genes prompted them to move to Cedar County, Nebraska, where they again farmed and raised livestock, and threshed grain. From there, the nomadic and productive family moved to Woodruff, Kansas, for a year, before, again, moving to greener pastures further west.

The lure of land and adventure in Wyoming prompted Wilson and Gene to consider moving their families from Kansas. Their hardiness, pioneering spirit and dedication to dreams prompted them to pull a buckboard, with a team of horses, from Woodruff, Kansas, to Wyoming, to investigate the validity of the rumors they’d heard.

Although their mindset was Wyoming, they had to pass through western Nebraska. Going through the Bayard area Wilson became ill, and their pilgrimage took a pit stop while he recuperated. It so happened that at that time land agents roamed the Bayard area, and one of them suggested that Nebraska’s panhandle would be a fine place for the Fiscus’ to settle. They agreed with the agent and the Fiscus clan moved to the Bayard area.

An interesting sidelight: When the Fiscus families made their decision to move their industrious spirits from Woodruff, they decided to transport much of their equipment and livestock to their destination. It’s recorded Wilson paid the railroad to haul three milk cows, a registered short-horn bull, four horses, Daisy, Dolly, Dude and Nell, two dogs, Old Bird and Shep, chickens, household goods, harnesses, machinery, and of course his family to their destination.

Likewise, Gene entered that picture and transported one red pole heifer, a big grey team, and one buckskin saddle mare, named Babe. Equally important, Gene transported two bay mares, a Morgan stallion, a shepherd dog, chickens, household goods, farm machinery, a saddle and two daughters.

However, as expansive a venture transporting their lives was; they decided to leave part of them behind. To facilitate the move they sold the threshing machine, which took with it their threshing business, but left the memories necessary to rebuild, if necessary.

Was the move to western Nebraska enough to render stationary their nomadic life? Find out next week in part II of A Memoir to a Family and Their Land.

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