Silas Strong, Master Builder in the early days of the Panhandle

Ed. Note: This article was taken from the Special Magazine Edition of The Herald-Democrat, October 1929.) (Ed Note. We have typed the manuscript in its entirety including the mistakes in spelling from the original.)

To my many friends of Beaver City and Beaver county. I have been asked to give a write up for the Hospital edition which is now going thru the press at The Herald-Democrat office.

I canít think of a better or more important subject than the possibilities of the future. This has been instilled in me all my life.

Pictured above is Silas Strong and his wife Maggie in the 1940s.
Mr. Strong built many schools, courthouses, churches and homes
in the early days in Beaver County. Photo courtesy Peggy Morrison.

My ancestors had a vision of the future for them, when they were still in Holland. My motherís parents came to Pennsylvania before her birth, later to Clinton Co., Indiana, when my mother was only 16 years old. My fatherís parents came to Maryland from Holland, lived a long life and died on the same land. A railroad came through his land in an early day and the village of Beyelston was located on his place. He was knows as Squire Strong as he filled that obligation for 21 years straight up to the time I was 7 years old. 10 years before my birth my parents left their old home in Clinton Co., Indiana for the Colorado gold fields about Breckenridge near Denver. This was 1880 when they crossed the plains with cow and ox teams, and in what was called trains Indians were raging on these plains. The train two days ahead of them was completely massacreed(sic). Wagons were still burning dead still lying, still they were striving for the great imagined future. One night their train camped on the Platt river, after supper the cattle were grazing along the river and some got across to the wrong side, and were spied by the scout Indians. The Indian war whoop was given by the Indian Scouts and the boys were guarding the cattle just did manage to get their cattle on the side of the river when the red warriors made their appearance. By this time every man was at his post and ready for the attack, but the reds did not cross the river. About the next day one of the train scoutsman came riding up, dragging the head of an Indian scout he had killed. This alarmed the entire trainment and expected an Indian attack any moment, but not attack was made, and they got across without any more trouble. My father secured thirteen gold claims but never developed them and after staying on the Bradford ranch near Pikeís Peak for some two years they started back for Indiana, and only stayed home for three years, took another notion to come west again, at this time the state of Nebraska was open to settlement. Going there by team and wagon my parents came to Nebraska., five miles from Salem. Father homesteaded on 80 acres of land near the Nehiha stream on this homestead. I was born on July 11, 1871. Father was running a horsepower threshing machine at the time. It was an Altman an Taylor threasher. In the course of two years another brother was born and the course of two more years, my parents again returned to Indian this time only staying a few months then going to Texas to the great cotton fields. I remember this trip. I picked cotton and my sack was a little flour sack, and the younger brother played in the cotton, stringing it on a stick. I remember the wagon wheels being a solid mud bail. I always have remembered the Texas mud, my other sister took the chills, then another sister and this started father toward home again. On our return, water was hard to get and I remember father stopping at a farm house trying to get water to use to get supper with as it was near sunset. The farmer and wife had gone to town and had given the hired girl orders not to sell any water but she told father of a pond on down the road. We camped near the pond. I remember of going with father to water the horses and get a pail of water, by this time it was dark. I well remember what fine biscuits mother had the night for supper and again the next morning, baking them in a dutch oven, seems as though I have never seen such large biscuits since. It was getting up in the heat of the forenoon before we started on our journey next day, and I well remember the pond was standing full of cattle, and my parents laughing why the biscuits had raised so. Great swarms of prairie chickens were in the Indian Territory at that time and father was a real shot with his rifle, and always had plenty of wild meats, but again returned to Indiana, and in a few years again returned to his homestead in Nebraska. All former traveling was done by wagon. This time father and the homestead and all his horses and wagons so this move was made on the train, coming to Polk County, Missouri. Here he bought another, some 15 miles away,. Here I grew to manhood, father was always looking into the possibilities of the future.

My early school months were short. 4 months was the length of the term, later we had 6 months of school, then at the age of 19, I entered the 8th grade at the Bolivar school. In the year of 1890 I was deprived of town school as the farm duties were such that I had to be about home, but made the best of country school I could. In 1882 I entered the Morrisville College, preparing myself to be a doctor. At this time I could analyze a person perfectly from the hair of the head to the sole of the foot, making a grade of 98 1/2. In the elocution class my class mates always depending on me taking the lead. My next term of school would have been the medical college.

The official campaign was on and as a political picnic I met the blue eyes bashful girl, Maggie M. Painter who won my affection and whom I married before the school year was over. I then continue the farm duties, and doing some carpenter work. I bought 70 acres of the old home place and cleared it out of timber, cutting it into saw logs, rails, posts and cordwood. Those days we were ready to go to work as soon as day break showed the least bit and worked until good dark. I got 60 cents a day, at that I got 10 cents ore than the other men, because I took the lead.

In 1900 I saw a chance for a future for me. It was reported that the Kiowa and Commanche reservation was going to open, so I sold my farm and headed toward the new country, by wagon. I had two new wagons and them well loaded. Wife drove one and I the other, when we got to Ponca City we learned that the reservation was not going to open until the next fall, so we went to Pryor and rented a body of land in a large ranch. This was 1901 when the country was burned by three days of hot winds. Later I moved to the town of Pryor. Built a home and taking up the carpenter work as a trade now getting $1.50 per day for 10 hours. It was not long until I contracted a severe case of lagrippe, also the paralytic rheumatism. This came near getting me. After several months I began to gain and came on a visit to see my brother-in-law in Beaver Co. I saw a great future in the country then called "No-Manís-Land" so on January 10, 1907 I staked my tent 14 by 16 feet on a homestead near Beaver City, Okla.

By this time all my past earnings were exhausted, and all I had was the tent, about one weeks provisions, a very few household good for the tent, by me making bedsteads out of boards, and only 5 cents in my pocket.

Mrs. Frank Laughrin loaned me the first $10.00 I borrowed in Beaver. He was in the banking business at that time. I bought my first groceries of the Roberts-McGallup store. I had a contract to work for Contractor Cliff in the first construction of the courthouse. In May I went to Liberal, Kansas, soon went to contracting some good residents, later coming back to Beaver, and have continued contracting to the present time. About 16 years ago I built the first high school for Beaver: 1922, Dr. L. L. Longís $15,000.00 home. The present high school, $35,000.00: Manter Kansas school, $24,000.00: Hooker school, $29,000.00 and at present an addition to the same Hooker school of $11,000.00

In 1925 I built the Laverne high and grade school at a cost of $29,000.00; Stanton County, Kansas court house, $36,000.00: the reconstruction of the Beaver County court house, $75,000.00 The Mason Hall, $9,000.00: Knowles, Okla., school, $24,000.00; Woodward Presbyterian Church, $25,000.00; Presbyterian church, $25,000.00; Present Beaver hospital, completed cost $50,000.00. Many other building I have built, but space will not permit making mention of them. I see in the near future a new wind that will have to be added to the hospital. Also a $45,000,00 to $50,000.00 Hotel. Better streets and more good buildings. Our country demands a better built Beaver City. Good farm homes are being built all over the country. I want to call your attention to the planting of the Chinese Elm and the Bermuda grass. You will note the large bodies of my 2 year trees, and the large growth of my Bermuda grass has made. The grass or trees have had no artificial water. I think it is principally due to the preparation of the soil more than anything. If other farmers would will take interest it wonít be far in the future until the prairie country will be dotted with groves. Only think back a few years of the condition of our country and see the gigantic advancement that has been made. It only seems a few months since I use the scythe to mow our hay, Cut our wheat and oats with a cradle as well a little later the dropper, then came the binder, now today the large combines cutting from fifty to eights and one hundred acres a day. 35 years ago I had out from 15 to 25 acres of oats and thought that was a big crop. The last two years, we have had out 1100 acres of what and have been done sowing for over two weeks with the ground prepared in fine shape. All was gone over with various tools three times, 3 to 4 men with 2 tractors have done the work., today the wheat is almost ready for pasture. At present I have some over 150 head of Hereford cattle to graze the wheat. Most of them throughbred (sic) 30 years ago this would have seemed an impossibility, today many men have doubled and even trebled this amount of wheat out in this section of the country.

Large cement stock tanks are now being built, and a large supply tank 10 by 20 by 25 feet high is now under construction this will be used mainly for irrigation of the garden, lawn, and trees for the coming season and the cattle during the winter.

Arrangements and plans are underway for a large machine building 35 by 85 feet for the housing of the various machines, such as trucks, tractors, combine binders, discs, plows, and such other tools are used on a farm of this class. Besides this there is to be a mechanics shop in this building, material is being placed on the ground at present.

My hen house is 20 ft. by 60 ft., built of 8 inch tile cement plastered on the inside, modern equipped inside. My garage buildings are brick, tile and concrete, making them fireproof. My home is a 10-room house, besides, bath room, large pantry, and large closets for each bed room.

Basement is under the house, in this the furnace, coal room, storage tank, frigidaire (sic) motor and laundry.

In this home I have every modern convenience to be had in the cities, even to an electric dishwasher. My power is a 4-cylinder 110 volt Delco. All the water for the house is pumped by an electric motor. At present I own in this farm 1,800 acres of land, situation of the main highway, six miles south of Beaver, Beaver County, Oklahoma.

A small Federal farm loan is all I have in the way of indebtedness, no notes or chattels of any description, and have a bonding ability of $400,000.0 with the surety company.

Friends I attribute what success I have to the obedience to the great ruler of the universe and am true to my convictions, for which I prase His name.

Friends set a goal ahead and work to it. I did this 35 years ago. My goal was this: I said I hoped that by the time I was 50 years old, I would have my future lifeís support. This was my goal. Clouds will come in your way, but if you will press the battle in an honest and upright way the sun is sure to shine.

I further want to give praise to my good wife and family, in winning the goal. Friends it means a great deal when we say good wife or good husband. Wife has been a great stay to me in many ways. No matter what kind of a home we had from a dirt floor to what we now have, it was always clean, her cooking well done and clean with it, and was saving in every manner, and her life has been proven to be a real wife and mother, a mother that is dearly loved by the entire family.

My children are all married, three daughters and three sons. Clarence R. Strong, the oldest son is foreman of the carpenter work: Chalmer S. Strong, the second son is foreman of the brick and plastering work. I pay bother of these sons the highest wages. Loren H. Strong, who is the youngest son is foreman of the farm and ranch. He is a real mechanic with the latest class of machinery used on a farm of this class. He and his wife make their home with his parents. Each of the three sons now own a 160 acre farm near their parents. Clarence, the older son also owns a section of land in Colorado, which he proved up. My three daughters as well as wife worked in the field as a man only a few years ago.

Friends only a few years ago, financially I was hanging in the balance, and I make it known to my financiers that if I went down I still had my nerve to try again as I had done once before. These men were Frank Laughrin of Beaver and Otto Barby of Knowles, Okla. They struck to me, and I will say that by me selling some cattle and from my contracting business that I cleaned the slate and paid my obligations to these gentlemen, in the next two years. These men I hold in high esteem today. Square dealings and uprightness is sure to win.

As I have said set a goal and work to it. This is what the inventors have done all along from the grinding of the wheat with two stones to the great mills of today, from the reap hook to the combines. In my early days I have used the cradle and scythe a great deal, then the binding behind the dropper, then the grade binder, and not the big combine.

A decent buggy was a luxury, then the automobile, now the flying machine, crossing the waters with no stop, and now planing around the world flights. This invention will be improved on until we will flying from planet to planet some day.

The telephone one time seemed an impossibility. Now the radio, and in the future something greater. I have begun to believe there is no end to future inventions. When my parents crossed these plains in 1860, I donít imagine they ever thought of it ever becoming the great golden wheat field it is today, or the great oil fields of today and this industry is in its infancy today, soon it will be flowing in Beaver county, as well as near by.

When I was a boy on the farm near Springfield, Missouri, working for 60 cents a day, I did not realize that I would gain the point of becoming a contractor that is now classes as one of the master builders of the state of Oklahoma, Kansas and West Texas. But this I have gained.

The main reason I have chosen this subject (The Possibilities of the Future) was to arouse the energy of some that think sometimes they are down and out, that there is no future for them, now friends take on new courage, there is success for all who strive.

Yours Truly.

S. S. Strong

Box 155

Beaver, Oklahoma.