Saturday, June 29, 2019

A Kansas Farm Before the Dust Bowl

While scanning a stack of old family photos that belonged to my great-grandmother Nevella (Benedick) Lumpkins, I came across a picture of a farm. The back of the photo was labeled the Walbridge Farm in Russell County, Kansas.


I couldn't immediately pinpoint the importance of the farm, but the Walbridge name was familiar.

Because it was among photographs belonging to my great-grandmother, I pulled an old family history book published in the 1990's. The volume detailed the life of my second great-grandmother Minnie Hawks who was born in a dugout on the Kansas prairie near the town of Cuba. She was married twice - first to John Lumpkins who died young and then to Joseph Barber. Between those two marriages, she had eight children who lived to adulthood.

Thumbing through the family history, I found a passage that explained the Walbridge farm's link to my family:

"In 1922, when Vernon [Minnie's youngest child] was old enough, Minnie and Joseph Barber and their children, Roy Lumpkins - age 18, Marion Lumpkins - age 15, John Lumpkins - age 12, Vuferd Barber - age 7, Virgil Barber - age 5, Joe Barber - age 2, and Vernon Barber moved to the Walbridge place which is located one mile east and four miles north of Gorham, Kansas in Russell County. They lived there until 1927."

Joseph and Minnie Barber with their sons Vuferd (back, left), Virgil (far right)
Joe (front left) and Vernon (front right). Taken about the time they lived on the
Walbridge farm.

Living on the farm for five years between decennial census enumerations, the family was documented only once on the property in a 1925 Kansas state census.


Joseph Barber was renting from an L. C. Walbridge who owned the land and was its namesake.

Although the photo doesn't ID any of my ancestors (and I can't make out any of the men - surely one of them must be Joseph), it provides a glimpse into what life was like for my Kansas kin in the years just before the Dust Bowl. It's the next best thing to having a time machine and experiencing it for myself. 

8 comments:

  1. The next best thing...what a treasure. Thanks for sharing.

    ReplyDelete
  2. What a great family photograph. It itself tells quite a story, but adding the farm to it further enriches the whole story.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I’m fortunate someone thought to take a picture of the farm and grateful they labeled it too!

      Delete
  3. Great sleuthing. I'm working on my mother's stash of photos and as you say, unfamiliar names on them take some searching to put them into the family context.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I’m looking forward to working my way through more photos and unfamiliar names. There’s nothing better than being able to put faces (and farms) with names. Brings the family history to life.

      Delete
  4. Thanks for posting about a family that rented a farm, rather than renting one. Most of my ancestors were also renters, and it has made me wonder whether they were able to settle down in one home for many years, or whether they had to move frequently. Some were also farm workers who may have been hired for a season or less. They seemed to stay in the same neighborhoods, so it's difficult to tell whether they were changing houses, because the census didn't have a road name or house number until the later ones, and sometimes not even in 1940.

    ...Marian

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I have a sense that this particular line of my family moved fairly regularly in the early 20th century. I often hear about relatives being born on a specific family farm, like the Walbridge place. The different farm names suggest the family was quite mobile, perhaps because they were renters at the mercy of the success of the crop or needs of the landowner.

      Delete