From 'Fanning the Embers', published 1971, Range Rider Reps, Miles City, Montana
I was born in Lewis County, Mo., June 21, 1889. My parents were H. W. (Ham) and Mildred Ann Zimmerman Ewalt. I had a brother Guy who was two years older than I and a sister Laura (Dot) who was four years younger.
My parents came to Montana in 1982 and I lived in and within 40 miles of Ekalaka since that time.
I learned to ride when I was about four years old. We had a gentle mare, Polly, that Guy and I rode. We didn't have a saddle so we would climb up her neck when she was grazing, then turn around after we got on her back.
My father worked in a sawmill camp, working oxen to skid and haul logs. He often let me ride one of the oxen.
We moved from the sawmill camp in 1897 to a place on Dugan Creek, about 2 1/2 miles from Ekalaka. The next year we went to work for Walt Maxwell on O'Fallon Creek where Pat Labree now lives. That summer we put up 100 tons of hay. Guy did the stacking. Of course this was all done with horses, as we hadn't heard of all this machinery at that time. Guy and I did most of the riding for Maxwell who had a herd of about 100 cattle that we watched. We also had a few of our own. In 1899 we moved back to our place on Dugan Creek.
In 1900 we went back to Missouri. We had four horses pulling a covered wagon in which we took all our necessary belongings. We took 18 other horses to sell, hoping to get a better price there, but we were disappointed about that. We drove the loose horses -- Guy and I doing most of the riding. Dot rode whenever she wanted to. We started in August and were eight weeks on the way. We arrived safely and the home of one of my aunts, with all but one of the horses that we had started with. It was a yearling colt that got sick and we had to leave it. We crossed the Missouri River on a pontoon bridge.
We came back to Montana in April of the next year, but we came back on the train.
Until I was ten years old, my father taught us at home. After that we attended school in Ekalaka, but our attendance was never regular. I finished the eighth grade in the spring of 1905. We moved to Box Elder then and none of us had a chance to go to school any more. But our education continued. We enjoyed reading and read a great deal.
When we came here there were a number of families scattered up and down the creek. There were the Harringtons, Johnstons, Thompsons and Lefors, to name a few. At this time I am the only one of these early settlers still living on a ranch.
In May, 1915, Guy was drowned in Box Elder while trying to ride a horse across; the horse also drowned. My parents made their home with my family for several years. My father died in 1924. Mother returned to Missouri to spend 11 years with her mother and sister and brother. He mother lived to be two months more than 100 years old. After Grandma's death in 1935, my mother came back to live with us. She was in very poor health but was not bedfast much of the time. She passed away in 1944. My sister, Dot McVicker, is living near. We see each other often and her spirits are still high even though her health is poor.
I met Carl Burch in January, 1906, and we were married Sept. 1907, in the Ekalaka Hotel by Justice of the Peace Tom Martin. We homesteaded on the land where I still live in 1908. That fall Carl built a two-room house in which we lived for 21 years. He later added a storeroom and a porch the length of the first two rooms. As our family grew larger we made a bedroom out of the storeroom and a summer bedroom on the porch.
We had a few cattle and horses and Carl worked away from home part of the time. For a few years he was deputy assessor under George E. Robbins of Miles City, as we were in Custer County at that time. Later he worked as deputy assessor under George Cleveland.
Our first child, Wilson, was born in March, 1909. We lost him in March, 1920, from appendicitis. The traveling was so bad that it took us all day and until 9 p.m. to get to Camp Crook to Dr. Sherrill, our nearest doctor, and it was too late to save him. We had five daughters from 1911 to 1923.
A schoolhouse was built in 1912. We also organized a Sunday School about that time and for many years everyone attended, with no thought of denomination. We had one Catholic family who were interested as well as the rest.
Through the years we were busy with our cattle, horses, haying and gardening. We also had sheep after 1919. 1 rode after stock, helped with the haying and whatever else I could help to do, whether it was in the house or outside. We raised a big garden every year that we could and canned a lot of vegtables. We also canned lots of wild fruit so we did not have to buy many groceries-mostly flour, sugar, coffee, dried fruit, honey and some canned goods. We usually raised our own hogs, so we had meat and lard, and chickens for fried chicken in the summer time and for eggs. We always milked cows and had plenty of milk and butter.
We always worked hard, but we enjoyed life. We went to nces, Sunday School, baseball games, or just visiting the neighors. We sometimes went visiting and stayed overnight, and our neighbors visited us the same way. Carl played old-time music on his violin and many times we drove miles with a team so he could play all night long. One time we drove about 40 miles in a sled when it was 30 below zero. I had a nursing baby we had to take along, but we made it there and back again with no serious consequences.
In 1929 we built the house where I still live and moved into it in December. Carl passed away with a heart attack in December, 1953. I have continued to live here and run a small bunch of cattle. I had some sheep that I sold in 1961 as it was harder to care for them and almost impossible to get help. My oldest daughter lives within half a mile of my house so someone from her home feeds my cattle in the winter time. My oldest grandson comes every summer and puts up the hay, repairs the fences and does the necessary upkeep on the place.
I was very proud that I was invited, and able, to lead the parade in the "Days of '85" the summer of my 80th birthday.
There have been many hardships in the 65 years I have lived on Box Elder -- we have had drouths, hard winters, depressions. But in spite of the hardships, my roots grew deep. There's a steadying influence in the Big Sky Land -- an influence which I pray may be passed to my children -- and their children's children -- as they branch out into more troubled areas and more troubled times. It has been a privilege to live in a land where honest and straight-forward people are the rule and not the exception, a land where the door is always open to a neighbor-or a stranger passing throughwhere peace of mind comes from trust in other human beings, and not from "lock and key."