Uriah W. Oblinger and Mattie V. Oblinger

Excerpts from texts at the Prairie Settlement website of American Memory at the Library of Congress.
Original texts are available here and here.

NB. Paragraph numbers apply to this excerpt, not the original source. The text has been edited slightly for clarity (with minor changes in punctuation and capitalization).

In the first years of their marriage, Uriah and Mattie Oblinger farmed on land they rented in Indiana. In 1872, Uriah moved to Nebraska with Mattie's brothers Giles Thomas and Sam Thomas. Each man filed a claim for land under the Homestead Act of 1862. (The government granted 160 acres of public land to the head of a family if he lived on it and improved the land for farming.) Mattie stayed in Indiana with their toddler daughter until spring 1873, when she joined her husband and brothers in Nebraska.

Uriah wrote the first letter excerpted below while he was waiting for Mattie to join him. In the second one, Mattie writes from Nebraska to her family back in Indiana. The Oblingers seemed to have a hard but happy life together until 1880, when Mattie died in childbirth at the age of 36.

For more on the Oblinger family, see "About the Letters from the Uriah W. Oblinger Collection" at American Memory and "Mattie's Story" at the Autry National Center. -smv

Uriah W. Oblinger to Mattie V. Oblinger and Ella Oblinger, February 9, 1873

Fillmore Co Neb
Sabbath Feb 9th 1873
Dear Wife & Baby

{1}I have just been looking over all or nearly all the letters rec'd since we separated & it seems as though today we ought to be together talking instead of using the silent but ever faithful pen but so it is Ma. We are apart & the pen will ever do its faithful work [whether] to record blessings or curses but thank high Heaven ours does not record anything but love & blessings for one another, & may it never be otherwise. . . .

{2}Ma & baby both must take good care of themselves so that they will be in good health & able to stand the trip when the time comes for you to start. For I think the looks of this country will be an agreeable surprise to you -- to see the beauties of it in the spring. Ma I would love to be with you & baby & go to church today, but our lot is cast otherwise. It seems as though we are destined to help make (what was once called the great american desert) blossom as the rose.

{3}Within the memory of men now living, all this vast extent of land from the Missouri River to the foot of the Rocky Mountains was covered with nothing but what is called buffalo grass & inhabited by nothing but wild beasts and wilder men. But now for nearly 200 miles west of the Missouri River the occasional spot of buffalo grass is pointed out by the pioneer as the waymark of a vegetation that but a few years ago flourished luxuriantly but now is being replaced by that more useful prairie grass called bluejoint, which is the pioneers hay & fodder. And the wild animals & wild men that but a few years ago reigned supreme all over this beautiful extent of country are fast passing away before the approaching civilization of the 'pale face' (as the red man is wont to call him) and in a few years will be numbered among the things that were. And what was once known as the great 'American desert' will blossom as the rose. Surely the hand of Providence must be in this, as it seems this desert as it has been termed so long has been specially reserved for the poor of our land to find a place to dwell in and where they can find a home for themselves & families and where they can enjoy the companionship of their loved ones undisturbed by those that have heretofore held them under their almost exclusive control.

{4}But enough of this, and we will now set about answering some of the questions I can remember of your asking in your previous letters. First neither of the Van Doren girls are married, and drawing water out of the well is accomplished just as it is in Ind [Indiana] in the absence of pumps. If it is a well that has been bored, it is drawn with a rope & windlass & a galvanized Iron bucket about 5 in' wide and 2 ft long that will go inside the tubing conveniently. If a dug well it is drawn with a rope passing over a pulley with a bucket fast to each end just as you have seen many a one in Ind. This is much the best we have of drawing water [so far --] until we get further along so we can afford to get wind mill pumps. There is a great many of them on the prairies but I suppose you never seen one. well when you start out here next spring just watch and you will see one at almost every water station along the rail road as they use them very extensively. You will see a large wheel mounted high up in the air on a large frame and when you see one of them just set it down it is a wind pump.

{5}As to Indians there is no more danger here in this locality than there is at your fathers. For they never pass nearer than six miles of here on their hunting trips & when they get this far into settlements they are afraid to bother any one. Beside it is only those living on reservations east of here that ever pass this way. The wild Indians is not nearer than 150 mi west of here. . . .

{6}Did I tell you in my other letter that I traded Jenny so that I could get her colt the first of Sept[?] Well if I did not you know it when you read this. I felt like taking a good boo hoo when I let her go but I could not help myself. My Wife & Baby were dearer to me than Jenny was & I could see no other way of raising the money to get them here & take care of them after they were here so I guess it was for the best. And you know I dont want to go in debt any more if it can be helped for then a person is a slave. Ma have you sold your chickens yet if so what did you get for them. . . .

{7}Oh! yes Ma I attended a meeting of a farmers Club yesterday of my township and I tell you there are sharper people here than some of our eastern friends would like to give us credit for. . . .

{8}Got a letter from Jeff Burch. He talks as though he would like to come out here and I think it the best thing he can do. I think a person just starting in life had better come here and grow up with the country.The man that I traded Jenny to came here five years ago with himsef and wife and had but 50 cts left when he got here. And now he has 80 acres of good land 3 children & team beside 6 head of cattle and 4 or 5 hogs and owes no one a cent. This is only one of a hundred such cases now they are independent & dont have to rent.

Your loving Husband

Uriah W Oblinger

Mattie V. Oblinger to George W. Thomas, Grizzie B. Thomas, and Wheeler Thomas Family, June 16, 1873

Fillmore County Neb
June 16th 1873

Dear Brother & Sister & all of Uncle Wheelers

{9}Thinking you would like to hear from us and hear how we are prospering I thought I must write you a letter and to fulfill the promise I made when I last saw you. . . .

{10}We have a good sunday school in progress now. I suppose there must be about fifty enrolled. We have not the means yet to carry on sunday school as they do in older settlments but we have our bibles and hymn books and we all gather together and read a lesson and then ask questions and sing and offer prayers and I think we do about as much good as any sunday school. I know it is not quite so interesting as if we had money to buy papers and books. I think we have Just as enterpriseing people here as any where. . . .

{11}so you see we are not entirely out of civilizatian. I know if you was here you would not think so. I have just as good neighbors as I ever had any where and they are very sociable. I was never in a neighborhood where all was as near on equality as they are here. Those that have been here have a little. The most they all have cows and that is quite a help here. I get milk & butter from Mrs Furgison who lives 1/4 of a mile from [us. We] get the milk for nothing and pay twelve cents a pound for butter. She makes good butter. Most all of the people here live in Sod houses and dug outs. I like the sod house the best. They are the most convenient. I expect you think we live miserable because we are in a sod house but I tell you in solid earnest I never enjoyed my self better but George I expect you are ready to say It is because it is somthing new. No this not the case. it is because we are on our own and the thoughts of moveing next spring does not bother me and every lick we strike is for our selves and not half for some one else. I tell you this is quite a consolation to us who have been renters so long. There are no renters here. Every one is on his own and doing the best he can and not much [ahead] yet. For about all that are here was renters and it took about all they had to get here. Some come here and put up temporary frame houses[. They] thought they could not live in a sod house. This fall they are going to build sod houses so they can live . . . comfortable this winter. A temporary frame house here is a poor thing. A house that is not plastered the wind and dust goes right through and they are very cold. A sod house can be built so they are real nice and comfortable build nice walls and then plaster and lay a floor above and below and then they are nice. Uriah is going to build one after that style this fall. The one we are in at present is 14 by 16 and a dirt floor Uriah intends takeing it for a stable this winter. It will be a nice comfortable stable. A little ways from the door is a small pond that has watter the year round we use out of it for all purposes but drinking and cooking. We have the drinking water cary about 1/4 of a mile and the best of water We have two neighbors only 1/4 of a mile from us.

{12}I must stop and get supper.

{13}Supper is over and dishes washed. I wish I had a cow or two to milk. I would feel quite proud then. think will get one after harvest. Uriah is going up near Crete to harvest. The wheat and Oats looks well here but there is not so much sown as in older settlements. each man calculates to do his own harvesting in this neighborhood. this year there is several men going from this settlement in to older ones to get harvesting. Mrs Elliot and I are talking of staying together while our men go harvesting. Almost every man here does his own work yet [because] they are not able to hire. I think it will be quite different in a few years. Uriah has 23 acres of sod corn planted it looks real well I tell you it is encourageing to have out a lot of corn and all your own. We have a nice lot of Squashes and Cucumbers & Mellons & Beans comeing on. There was a striped bug worked some on our squashes but did not bother our other vines. We have our Potatoes and cabbage up at Giles as they do not so well on sod. I set a hundred & thirty cabbages last week they are every one growing. . . . I have nice Tomato plants comeing on. I want to set more Tomatoes and Cabbage this week. I get Garden vegetables in Giles garden. I could not make garden here as we had no sod subdued and I have such good neighbors they said they would divide their garden vegetables. I planted a lot of beet seed in Mrs Alkires garden. they look real nice. Uriah is breaking sod to day he will soon have 40 acres turned over then it will be ready to go into right next Spring. It looks like it was fun to turn the sod over here there are no roots or stpumps to be jerkinking the plows out . . . .

{14}Sam has sold out to Mr McClain. He had not improved as much as the law requested he should and he was afraid some one would jump his claim and then he would be out. He sold very cheap only got fifty dollars. I ask him if he was going back with out secureing a peice of land. He said no I'll bet I dont go back home with out owning some of this nice prarie. He said he was bound to have land here. He is going to buy RR land and then he will not have to stay by it. . . . Uriah Cook started for Minnesota last monday. He bought eighty acres one mile east of us paid one hundred & twenty five dollars. he has a very pretty 80. . . .

{15}Now Geo I send this in your name but I want you to besure and give it Uncle Wheels too as postage is scarce I thoughgt this would do all I want you all to be sure and write soon. We send our love and best wishes from

U W O & M V Oblinger

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