William & Essie McFarlen

William Henry McFarlen was born in 1880 at Hubel, Nebraska. Essie LeMaster was born at Center Point, Iowa in 1886.

William moved with his parents to Iowa by covered wagon when he was very young. He was raised in the country, where fruit and nuts were plentiful, there was a river nearby, and the family raised sweet corn, chickens, pigs and cows. William attended a music academy in Vinton, Iowa.

William McFarlen and Essie LeMaster were married at Vinton, Iowa in 1900. His bride was fifteen. Their first baby, who was born in Iowa, died.

William and Essie heard of land available in North Dakota through William's second cousin, Dan Sengers, who had written a glowing report from Granville, North Dakota.

William and Essie McFarlen came to Granville in 1901 to stake a homestead claim. After doing so, they returned to Iowa for their possessions, coming back to Granville in 1902 by train, along with everything the owned.

At first, the McFarlens lived with the Sengers, two miles west of Granville. A tar paper shack was built. At the time, tar paper was used almost extensively, as it kept in the heat well, and it also burned like kerosene. Water was obtained from a creek nearby. Drinking water had to be boiled.

The McFarlen claim was two miles south of the Sengers, or four and a quarter miles south of Granville. The creek ran between their two places.

William and Essie's second child was a girl. She also died shortly after birth. The baby was buried in the shade of a little cherry tree that was in the tree break, which included a row of currants that had been put in by William and Essie.

In the beginning, their diet often consisted of small potatoes supplied by the Sengers. However, the land was rich, and potatoes, gardens and trees grew readily; all that it took was ambition, hard work, and a desire to make it happen.

Another little girl was born to the McFarlens on March 2, 1906. She was named Jannie, after one of the Senger girls. Yet another daughter was born on November 17, 1907, and a baby boy, named Ray, was born on May 30, 1910.

Eventually, a country school was built a quarter of a mile north of their homestead. It was also used for elections. The school house became the location for social life in the community, including school programs, box socials, and shadow socials.

On November 2, 1913, another daughter was born.

The family came on hard times during World War I. Sugar was rationed, and prices went up while incomes went down. William McFarlen went back to Iowa to look for work, leaving Mrs. McFarlane to care for the farm and the children. He sent ten dollars at a time, which has to be carefully rationed. Due in large part through hard work and the generosity of neighbors, they got through it.

Mr. McFarlen returned in the spring, and it seemed that the worst was behind them. However, one day, while Mr. McFarlen was in town getting groceries, and Mrs. McFarlen was baking bread, a chimney fire broke out. No lives were lost, but tar paper burns readily and the house was destroyed, with everything in it.

Meanwhile, another child, Kenneth Ivan, was born on December 11, 1919.

The country school had been consolidated and closed, so the McFarlens purchased the school building. William tried to remodel it but he was not a carpenter and the family was not happy with the results.

The family decided to give up their homestead, and moving to a neighboring farm that already had a large house on a hill with four bedrooms upstairs, and a shed with an engine to pump water to the cows. When he gave up his homestead, Mr. McFarlen lost his interest in farming. He helped to organize the first Farmers Union in North Dakota, then took up an opportunity to help sell stock in the Pandolpho Health Doughnuts, made from whole wheat and honey. Later, the company went broke.

William Henry McFarlen died on December 9, 1943 at the age of sixty-three. Essie McFarlen died at the age of sixty-four in 1950.

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