Marrs Tabor Wagontrain

Contributed by, Sandra Sanchez
Lucy Ann Marrs 1875-1956

In the spring of 1885 a wagontrain consisting of forty people left the Forks of the river, northwest of Trenton Missouri bound for the Prairies of Nebraska. The families all related either by blood or marriage carried or were descended from the following surnames: Marrs, Tabor, Maxson , Bushong , Collins and Runyon. Among this party was my Grandmother 9 year old Lucy Ann Marrs. When I was a child I well remember her stories of the trip and years following as they homesteaded and forged a new way of life. The following account was writen after an interview with Johnny Marrs by his Grand niece Sletha Ann Marrs in 1945. Most of the original members of this wagontrain as well as many of their descendants are buried in the Arnold Cemetery of Custer County Nebraska where they arrived on April 12, 1885 six weeks after beginning their journey.

An interview with John Wesley Marrs in 1945 by Sletha Ann Marrs

Mr. Steveson, land promoter and guide, and kin to most of us led us on our adventure, he rode at the head of the train. Next came "Pap" (Wesley Price Marrs, age 51, )and "Mam" (Sletha Ann Tabor age 48,) with the youngest children riding on top of our household goods that was loaded into two wagons. Pap reckoned he was leading us to free land. And thought he would end his days with all his younguns nearby.

Mam was not happy makin the move. " Only a fool would leave a good farm in Missouri for bare prairies where you used cow dung for fuel" she said. She had dearly loved our place back home content to spend her days on our tree shaded farm.

It had not always been easy for Mam and Pap. Not in the beginning back in 62, when she and Pap had loaded their wagon and toting 3 year old Riley and baby Sarah they and a tasle of other Marrs, Runyon and Tabor relatives left Tazewell County, West Virginia and moved to Missouri. They weathered the ruckus of the war between the States. There had been so many "lasses lickers" around them. People hard pressed for a living, that Pap sold cord wood in Trenton for a $1.00 a cord. Wood that had taken him a full day to cut and another to haul the eight miles to market.

Mam wasn't sure she was up to it. She freted about school for us younguns. There was Alice 15, me 13, Bartley 10, and Fanny 5 who were not done schooling sides all the grandchildren, neices and nephews. But since "Pap" thought it was the thing to do, she went along and tried to make the best of it.

When we stopped the heavily loaded wagons to rest the teams "Pap" would walk back to see how the others were coming. Riley always rode behind "Pap" with his neice's and nephew's , the orphaned Collins children William,John, Coldon, Mattie and Euphemia . Riley's wife Mary Jane and baby son Walter would join them after they were settled.

Next came cousin Rufus and his wife Mary Ann (Bushong)and their younguns Millie Elizabeth 13, Quinton Martin 11, Lucy Ann 9 and Cosby Augusta 4. Cousin Newton drove one of Rufus's wagons.

There was Ben Ervin who was husband to Aunt Mary(Tabor) and their kids Frank and Mason who we called "Peck": Timothy Maxsom and sister Sarah. Let's see there was Uncle Joseph (Tabor) with his wife and son William: Uncle Carr(Tabor)who had just married the widow Blue, she was "expectin" so she was going to come later on the train.

Always before "Pap" climbed back into his wagon he checked on his mule team "Rabbitt and Ribbon", hitched to his second wagon driven by Cousin Charles (Marrs).

Besides the teams we had twenty-seven head of livestock including our milk cow "Frosty Bell" I herded the livestock with cousin Bennett. Mam cherished the milk from "Frosty Bell" and gave it to young Bartley who was just geting over ague, and little Fanny, and the other youngest younguns.Ever morning Ma filled our wooden churn with cream and hung it on the back of the wagon. Left to jostle all day with the constant rocking of the wagon by nightfall a good supply of butter would be ready.

Underneath most of the wagons hung a chicken coop with a rooster and a few hens, broods with which they would start flocks in their new homes.

The trip wasn't to bad. Most nights we'd visit with one another around an open fire. Sometimes other travelers would stop by and sit a spell. I always told folks we were from the forks of the river and was always surprised they didn't know that meant the area between Thomas and Weldon Creeks in Missouri.
It tooks us about six weeks or there abouts to get here. Most of us younguns always said we walked most all the way from Missouri on account of the heavy load of the wagons. We played tag and blind man's bluff as we went. Anyhow we made it.

On April 12, 1885 just as the new Sod Methodist Church was having its first meeting our wagontrain reached Mills Valley, in Custer County Nebraska.

Pap sold his team of mules for $400.00 and bought a 160 acre farm from Mr. Fowler. The farm had a one room soddy , shed and a dugout chicken house.

That fall two more of my sisters , with their husbands and children, settled in the Valley Virella and James Ratcliff and Martha and Bill "Dad" Maxson.

Cousin Rufus and Mary Ann homesteaded 160 acres south of Arnold building a soddy and dugouts for out buildings they settled in and began planting.

Times were hard the first few years. There was no well and water had to be hauled from the South Loop River, blizzards came and grasshoppers, rains didn't come. John and Virella pulled up stakes and went back to Missouri.

One day me, Bennett and Bartley loaded two hogsheads onto the running boards to haul water from the river for the Mam. As we rode along we sang to the tune of "Beulah Land"!

"Oh, Nebraska land, Poor Nebraska land.

Here on the highest hill I stand

And look away across the plain,

Wondering will it ever rain,

'Til Gabriel comes with trumpet sound

And says the rain has passed around."

We had the barrels almost filled when we saw billows of dark smoke across the river, to the northwest.

"Prairie Fire!

Bennet said "We gotta go!"

So, unmindful of Mam and Pap, we high tailed it to our horses and rode across the fields to where smoke-blackened men were fighting the fire it lasted three days and a night.

They sure wer glad to see us when they say we had water barrels. They passed a pail of water down the line, to cool their parched throats and dipped cloths to fight the leaping flames.

We left Bartley to mind the team, and me and Bennett tore wrappings from around the barrels to fight flying embers along the fire guard.

It was well after daybreak before we felt the danger passed , and tired and hungry went toward home.

"We stopped at the river, washed the hogsheads and filled them with clean water before heading home." "Mam and Pap scolded us for worrying them so, and taking Bart along. But I think they were proud of us."

Cousin Rufus and Pap were great hunters, they would hitch a team to the Spring wagon and along with a couple of quilts and some cornbread , drive to the Dismal river where they would shoot deer and elk , the only meat the we would have for months at a time. On other days they took wagons and cut cedar poles along the dismal to sell at Callaway for fences and railroad ties to make a little cash money.

The summer of 87 Pap took a job herding 800 head of cattle on the open range along the Dismal. I took his place late in the summer where I lived in a dugout roofed with hackberry branches. One Morning a rattler dropped from the roof nearly striking me but for my quick senses and nimble feet. I never slept peacefull again in that place.

That fall Pap and Mam added two more rooms to the soddy and hired a school teacher Mr. Pinckney to hold school in one of the rooms. This school was used until a frame school was built in 1892 called Mills Valley School.

Mam began commenced to complain that the glare of the treeless prairie hurt her eyes, in truth she was going blind. Still she ran the house by keeping everything in its place . Our home was the stopover for settlers going to the Dismal to hunt . There was always some sort of stew on the fire and coffee to drink even if it was only roasted rye laced with molasses.

Sister Martha Grissella was also feeling poorly. Aradella and sister Alice, then about eighteen, went to stay with"Griss" and help her care for her new baby Bertha. It was near Christmas when they felt it was time for them to go home. I went to get the girls and to visit "Bill Dad" and "Griss" of whom I was very fond.

On the way home we were caught in a sudden blizzard, that blocked the road and made it sos I couldn't see the trail. I was smart enough to give the team their lead, knowing that they would find their way home if it were possible. I wrapped buffalo robes around the girls and several times got out and walked beside the horses to keep my own body from freezing. We got home at 2 a.m. when we should have been home by nine p.m. at the latest.

Sister Sarah died the year after reaching Nebraska her husband Timothy took their younguns back to Missouri where he married Rebecca Watkins in 1892 then brought her back along with her three children Anna, Nettie and Thomas to share his lot .

I always wanted to be a Preacher like Uncle Harvey Tabor so I went to live with him in Thedford and went to school for a time but after a few months I got an urgent message that Mam was sick. I wnt home quick and me and Bart tended her for six weeks. She died in January 1893. A blind and toothless old woman at the age of fifty-six, her health and life given to her family.

The school year was almost over and I was worn out. I did not return to school. I got a job as a mail carrier on a sub-contract for $20.00 a month, and board, carried mail, passengers and meat from Arnold to Callaway in an open topped spring wagon. I managaed to save enough to go into farming for myself, on a rented farm in the upper Loop Valley. Often sister Fannie came to the farm to stay a week or two and "clean up".


The year after Mam died Pap married Anna Kaster who gave him three more sons Everett, Ernest and Bert.

Sister Martha died in 1894 a few years after birthing her fifth child.

I felt very sorry for "Pap". He had led a big caravan from Missouri in 85 hoping to better the lot of his children, grandchildren, neices and nephews . But one by one they had slipped away. Riley and Martha died in Nebraska, Tim had taken his family back to Missouri, brother Dave , who had married his chilhood sweetheart , had stayed in Missouri, and Aradella had married a young Irishman and moved to Iowa. Alice married Walter Price and moved to Montana and Fannie who married Coldon Collins was planing to join them.

"Pap, moved to make opportunities for his children," I swore "I'll never leave Nebraska as long as he lives". Yet circumstances forced me to move to Colorado leaving "Pap" without a son or daughter near when he died in 1911.

How sad that at the time of his death in 1911, not one of the ten children he had brought to Arnold was near. He died of smallpox at his farm, there was no funeral, just two old friends and nephew Rufus to take his body to the cemetery and lay him away.



JOHNNY married Bessy McGuire and moved to Colorado,ALICE married Walter Price and moved to Montana, VIRIALLA moved to Missouri none of these left descendants in Arnold.

ARDELLA married James Crogham and moved to Iowa, they did return to Arnold but not until 1912 one year after Wesley's death.

BARTLEY married Eva Simpson and was the father of Zoid and Clarence Marrs Barbers in the town of Arnold.

Of the four orphaned COLLINS children who had come on the wagontrain with Riley Marrs , the oldest COLDON married the youngest daughter of Wesley and Sletha Ann ,FANNY. MATTIE Collins married Phil Houghton, Arnold Real Estate man. EUPHEMIA Collins married Thomas Ricketts. JOHN Collins married Fanny Hoffman.


Preacher HARVEY TABOR'S son WILLIAM married Ella Robison . RILEY the oldest son of Wesley and Sletha homesteaded northwest of Arnold his son WALTER stayed in Arnold for many years.

As for RUFUS and Mary Ann's children, MILLIE ELISABETH married Elmer Twist and was the mother of three children , QUINTON married Mary Kinnard and was the father of four sons, LUCY ANN married Thomas Newman they had four children FLOY EMMALINE, LORAN, VERN EMERY and JESSE BUD, MARY EMALINE married twice first to Harry Judkins, they were the parents of Milton, then to Joseph Alexander , Mary Emmaline and Joseph had ten children.

Children of Timothy and Sarah Marrs MAXSOM were DAISY who married Ayer Youngs, EFFIE who married a Kinney and DORA who married a Argo.

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Copyright (c) 2000 by Sandra Sanchez

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