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Collection 54 - "Homestead Days," ca. 1959

Creator: Duffield, Jessie Howard, 1874-1964

Provenance Note: Typewritten reminiscence created by Jessie Duffield was donated to Special Collections in 1963 by Sara Kerr of Baker, Montana.

Historical Note: Jessie Howard Duffield was born on December 14, 1874 in Red Oak, Iowa. Her parents moved to a homestead claim near Parker, South Dakota in 1882, and Jessie worked on the family ranch while also attending school. She married Sam Duffield in Amboy, Minnesota in 1896, but when her parents and siblings decided to move to eastern Montana to again establish homestead claims in 1910, Jessie and Sam accompanied them. The extended family filed on several tracts in the Fertile Prairie area of Fallon County, Montana. Jessie and Sam moved to Oregon in 1921, but they returned to Fallon County in 1934 and lived on their son Forrest's ranch. Jessie became a handloom weaver and rugmaker, along with developing her talents as an amateur photographer and writer. She published at least one fiction piece in a national periodical, "Old Paint", in Ranch Romances, v. 134, no. 4, October (September 20), 1946, and many columns in the local newspapers. Towards the end of her life she wrote a short essay on memories of her life as a homesteader, and she died in Baker, Montana on February 24, 1964.

Content Description Note: "Homestead Days" is an eight page typewritten essay by Duffield describing her childhood experiences in South Dakota and her later homesteading experience in Montana. She describes her memories of the great blizzard of 1887-1888 and hardships in keeping the family cabin warm. When she turns her attention to her Montana experiences, Duffield describes farming, community activities, schools, and many local residents, some of which she identifies in a poem about a local dance held at Fertile Prairie on Halloween, 1914. The typescript has been corrected with pencil marginalia.

Updated: 8/13/09