Kremlin Homesteader Robert Howser, 1913

This history of Kremlin Homesteader Robert Howser was written
by his son, Ralph Howser.

Kremlin Homesteader Robert Howser was among the earliest arriving
Kremlin homesteaders in 1913.

This area of Montana was opened up for homesteading in 1909, but emigration did not really start until 1910. 1911 brought more settlers, 1912 was a big influx and by the end of 1913 there was very little free land left.

I don't consider myself one of the pioneers, but it was sixty-three years ago, the fall of 1913 that I came to Kremlin with my parents, Mr. and Mrs. Robert Howser, three sisters and a brother, from Lakota, North Dakota.

We had two emigrant cars, consisting of eleven head of horses, two cows, farming machinery, feed for the stock, household goods and many other items needed to start life in a new country. There were also other things we did not have, and one of them was money.

Getting Started

We stayed with Uncle Clarence Howser and his family who lived south of town until our house and barn was built. However, we moved into our new home before winter set in.

Water for the stock had to be hauled from Sage Lake and water for household use was hauled from Mr. Banks' well two miles away.

The winter of 1913 was cold and lots of snow but we survived and in the spring on March 16, 1914, we started to break prairie with five horses and a sulky plow. Two and one-half acres was a good days work.

This was my introduction into an area six and a half miles southwest of Kremlin, known as "Little Sweden". This community got its name from two brothers and their sisters, namely Oscar and Lenus Erlandson, Agnes Erlandson Johnson and Anna Erlandson Sorenson who originally came from Sweden.

The Ups

Many of these early settlers did not have as much as a horse for transportation but as more people came in the situation improved and as time went on it was the horse that broke the virgin soil.

There were a few tractors: Aultman Taylor, Twin City and Big Fours seemed to head the list, these were the larger tractors. Waterloo Boy, Hartpower, Titan, Case, Rumley and Allis-Chalmers were some of the smaller ones.

The crops were poor in 1914, but in 1915 and 16 the crops were very good, making as much as 44 bushels per acre. With good crops, money was plentiful and people began to buy automobiles and few of the things that took some of the drudgery out of life.

There were many makes of autos in those days, but the Model T Ford seemed to have the edge with Overland running a close second.

It was during this same period that the well drillers were doing a land office business. These wells ranged in depth from 100 feet to over 200 feet.

And the Downs

With the beginning of 1917 to 1923 the crops were poor. Some years it was dry weather, other years it was cut worms, and in 1923 the grasshoppers took everything. By this time most people were long ago out of money. Many banks closed their doors and foreclosure sales were a common thing.

Naturally many people left the country and moved to where the grass looked greener. Some of them returned a few years later hoping to start where they left off.

In the long run those lean years were a blessing in disguise. We learned that we had to farm better and to conserve the moisture if we wanted to stay in business.

The late John Reynolds is the father of summer-fallow in this area. He had been practicing this kind of farming for some time and the word got around. Now it is for the better.

The Price They Paid

However, in the early thirties it was the price of wheat that hurt, not the yield. Wheat sold for as little as seventeen cents a bushel in 1932.

Prior to 1940 land sold from ninety cents to five dollars per acre, since that time it has crept up in price and now some is selling for three hundred and fifty dollars per acre.

Many of the early-day settlers have passed away, and much credit is due them for making Montana what it is today.

It is hard for the younger generation to comprehend the hardships these pioneers experienced. For the early homesteaders there were no Cadillacs or four-wheel drives. If you needed groceries from town there was one way to get them -- walk. If you needed water to wash the dishes, you could take a pail and walk as much as two miles to get it.

Marriage and Family

On January 23, 1931, I married Miss Ella B. Smith who was a teacher in the Kremlin school. We made our home on the Padrick place which I was renting at the time and later bought. We lived there until the fall of 1950.

In May of 1950, we bought the Laurence Hiller farm which was formerly owned by Lewis Witt. We moved there November first of that year. This farm is one mile east of Kremlin on Highway 2.

We have one daughter, Dorothy May, married to Walford Gibson. They have three children, James, Cindy and Lorna.

A lot of water has passed under the bridge in these 63 years, I've seen the good and the bad, and the good far out weighs the bad. I just thank God that I've been able to have a small part in it.

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