Happy Birthday, Captain Grigsby

This story, reported in the January 3, 1907 Skidmore New Era, brings us birthday wishes for Captain John Grigsby and gives us a bonus – a glimpse into the memories of a few early Skidmore settlers, including W. L. Ruddell, Bruce Walker, and Samuel Bender.

Celebrate 80th Birthday

Nobody under three-score years of age was considered as anybody at a birthday celebration held December 16 at the F. C. Barber home, five miles northwest of Skidmore.

Notwithstanding this age limitation, however, a number of the guests were able to qualify as people of much importance, and these speedily set about telling of things which used to occur in Nodaway county before the most of the other persons present had arrived in the world.  Among the aged ones were W. N. Ruddell, Samuel Bender and Bruce Walker and their wives.

The birthday celebration was in honor of Captain John Griggsby, the day being the 80th anniversary of his birth.

Dinner was served to all the guests by the Barbers and it was during the meal that the old time recollections were served between courses of turkey and other kindred dishes.  Despite their years the old settlers were felt to be as able to give a good account of themselves at the table as were their more youthful friends, and the heartiness with which each partook of the meal was the subject of much joking by the others.

Captain Griggsby and his wife first arrived in Nodaway county from Bladinsville, Ill. in the fall of 1858.  They went back to Illinois that year, but the following spring returned here, being accompanied this time by a number of relatives.

A log hut was built by the captain within 100 yards of where his home now stands, and where he has lived ever since.  The prairie was unbroken by a plow at that time.

In 1860 Captain Griggsby bought coal at Rustleville, now known as Quitman, and hauled it to Forest City, which at that time was a good sized town.  The coal was dug from the sides of the bluffs along the river, the veins cropping out and being mixed with much stone.  At Forest City the coal was traded for crockery and this the captain later traded to people near Amity for whatever they had to offer.

It was necessary in crossing the Nodaway river on the trip, for him to go to Quitman and take a ferry.  Afterward he and another man established a ferry at a point near where Skidmore now stands.

When preparing to start from their Illinois home to Missouri the captain and his fellow movers had built a number of wagons in which to haul their earthly possessions.  Arriving here Captain Griggsby was offered 500 bushels of corn for one of the wagons, but the offer was refused.

In 1866 the captain built a more modern residence, much of the lumber used being hewn from walnut logs.  The walnut finish as well as the inch and a half “tongue and groove” flooring, all of which was cut by hand, can be seen still in the Griggsby home in fine condition.

Land was selling in Nodaway county for from two to five dollars an acre the year that Captain Griggsby came here.  He has never since the first year of his coming to the county experienced a total crop failure.  The nearest to a failure was one year when a drouth cut short the yield of everything.  He had a fiar crop in the grasshopper year although he harvested it late in the season.

W. L. Ruddel, who is 90 years of age, came to Nodaway county in 1865.  He traded at St. Joseph in thos early days, the town being then about the size of Maryville today.  Only a few houses could then be seen between Burr Oak and St. Joseph, and even the ones which were there were built of logs.  For years Mr. Ruddel drove his live stock to Savannah to sell it.  He and Captain Griggsby rode into Savannah a number of years ago, just as the robbers who had held up a bank there rode away from town.

Samuel Bender came to Nodaway county in 1852, settling near where Maitland is now located.  Oregon was his nearest post office, twenty miles away.  There was no rural delivery in those days, so Mr. Bender got his mail once a month – by going after it.  There were no fences anywhere and one could ride or drive over the country anywhere without keeping to the road.  In almost any direction from which Maryville was approached the traveler would see no houses.  The population of Maryville at that time was about 200, and these people lived in a few scattering houses.  A small log building was used as the jail and court house.

In crossing the Nodaway river near where he lived, Mr. Bender always used the White ferry, just north of the present site of Maitland.

Bruce Walker became a resident of Nodaway county in 1872, and since that year has lived on the farm he then purchased.  It is situated five miles west and a mile south of Skidmore.  The lumber used in building his home was hauled from Forest City, which in 1872 was considered one of the most important towns in this part of the state.  In 1873 he paid only 12 cents per bushel for corn but a year later the price was 25 cents.

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