Interview with Edith Hansen
Oral History Item Type Metadata
Northwest Public Television | Hansen_Edith
Woman one: Always ready.
Man one: [INAUDIBLE]
Woman one: Sounds like my father-in-law.
Woman two: [LAUGHTER] We won’t go there, then.
Woman one: [LAUGHTER]
Robert Bauman: All right?
Man one: Nothing wrong in there. Feel free.
Bauman: All right. Okay. We're going to get started if that's okay. Can we start by having you say your name first and spell it for us?
Edith Hansen: Oh. Right now?
Bauman: Yes. Yeah.
Hansen: My name is Edith Hansen, and E-D-I-T-H, H-A-N-S-E-N.
Bauman: Okay. Thank you. And today's date is August 28 of 2013. And we're doing this interview on the campus of Washington State University--
Hansen: I'm a little hard hearing.
Bauman: Okay. Should I scoot closer? Yeah?
Man one: Yeah, absolutely.
Bauman: Okay. I'll scoot closer, if that's all right. How's that? Is this going to be better? Are you going to be better--?
Bauman: Okay, great. So let's start by just having you talk about your family and how and when they came to the area here.
Hansen: Well, I wanted to start back--[LAUGHTER]
Bauman: Go ahead.
Hansen: And in 1875, this was nothing but a cattle range. And there were just--nobody lived here, just a person who had a lot of cattle. And he was the postmaster for the whole area. And in 1878, Ben Rosencrance bought him out, or bought out the area around the mouth of the Yakima River. And he was a stock man, too. And he bought the 16 sections at $0.50 an acre. In 1883, the Northern Pacific Railroad completed their line from Spokane to Ainsworth. And Ainsworth was what they called Pasco at that time. Now the Federal Homestead laws were established in 1888. Now Ben and his wife married on November the 3rd, 1880, in Pendleton. And their honeymoon was the ride from Pendleton to the ranch.
Hansen: And they operated a stock ranch. And if they wanted any groceries, they had to go to Walla Walla for store. Coffee they bought in 50-pound sacks. And they went about once a year. And fabric was $0.05 a yard, and they bought it by the bolt. [LAUGHTER] And the missus--that was her honeymoon. [LAUGHTER] And there was no house. I don't know just what kind of a structure they lived in, but it was pretty minimum. And she never saw another white woman for six months. Now he--when that law went through, the Federal Homestead law went through, he filed for 1,700 acres. And he had timber claims and mineral claims. And [LAUGHTER] he just signed up for everything. Well, one man was unhappy with him and didn't think that that was fair because there was no timber in this area. And so he rode his horse over to Walla Walla to protest. [LAUGHTER] Well, Rosencrance found out that he was going over there and report him to the authorities because there was no forest--there wasn't no trees. So they went down to the river, and they dug up a bunch of willows and transplanted them. [LAUGHTER] And I don't know what kind of a housing arrangement they had, but it wasn't much. But they moved it up there and put those willow trees in there. [LAUGHTER] And they called that their forest. Anyway. [LAUGHTER] Oh, she washed clothes and draped them over the sagebrush. [LAUGHTER] They didn't have any clothes lines or anything. And so but anyway, they were set for when the authorities came down to see their forest, they could see the willow trees. And I never did hear just what kind of housing they had. But it was pretty minimum. Now after they'd been here a while, she said they should have a school. And she talked Mr. and Mrs. Harry Van Horn to come and homestead. And they picked out some land that they didn't build, or they gave it to them. I don't know. But anyway, she talked them into coming here because Mrs. Van Horn was a school teacher. And she thought there should be a school teacher in this area. And she was paid $1 a day to be a teacher. And the kids all came of their own expense, either with a wagon or a sled. In the wintertime they used a sled and came to her house. And they would bring their own chair or stool--whatever they were going to sit on [LAUGHTER] because she didn't have things for them to sit on while she was teaching them. Let's see. Oh, in 1883, the railroad was building the railroad bridge across the Columbia. And they had a lot of people here come in for construction of this bridge. It was a pretty big deal to put this bridge clear across the Columbia. And they were noted for gambling and saloons. And Pasco got a really bad reputation. [LAUGHTER] My mother's grandfather over in Germany heard about it. [LAUGHTER] And they didn't want him to raise his family near that Pasco [LAUGHTER] wild town. And now there was a family, and that was Amy and Alex McNeil. And they came in 1883, and they wanted to build a house with lumber. And they had to go to Bickleton to get lumber. There was nobody selling house lumber. But they built their house. And what they did were they were panning for gold. And by this time now, they could buy groceries in Ainsworth or Pasco--I mean all one place. But they didn't have to go to Walla Walla for their groceries anymore. Now the Clements came in early, too. That was an early family. And their daughter was married to a Bauer, and he died. But that's when the Clements settled in this area. Let's see. Oh, the post office was established in Richland in 1905. And in 1903, the Timmermans came here. And there was a--Walter Timmerman is the one who ran the ferry from Pasco to Richland. And his father and his uncle came and helped him set up the line over. So they had a ferry at that time. And they had rates to ride on the ferry. If you had sheep, they were $0.01 a sheep. [LAUGHTER] If you were having pack animals, they were $0.25 for a ride. If a person road on a horse, that was $0.50 from Pasco to Richland. And then a team in a wagon or a buggy was $1. And then later on they had automobiles and trucks. And they were $1 each. Now those were some of the earliest families that settled in this area. Now my grandfather Bremer was living in Seattle. And the only work he could get in Seattle was down on the waterfront. And so every morning, he would get up and go down to the waterfront and hope that somebody was unloading a ship or loading a ship. And that's where all the men were. And my grandfather quite often got work because he was a big man and strong. And that's what they wanted to load these ships up or to unload them. But he hated that rain. And standing in that rain, sometimes for quite a while before somebody chose him to work for them, was real disgusting. And so he read in the newspaper that there was a man over in Kennewick, and he wanted his family, who were living in Seattle. They had a wagon. They had a team and eight children. And they advertised for a driver. Now there was a really bad winter that winter. And there was no highway. And of course, there were no restaurants and no cafes or anything built along the way. And so they had the eight children in this wagon. And of course I imagine some of those older boys probably were walking because [LAUGHTER] I don't know that the team could handle everybody in the wagon. But anyway--and they had to stop and cook their meals for those kids and themselves. So Grandpa said he would do that. He wanted to see what was over here in eastern Washington. And so they started off. And he didn't keep a diary, or didn't write down just what they did every day. But the winter had been really bad. And the snow was melting, and it was making streams across the trail. And so they would have to stop and shovel in dirt so they could get the wagon through. And then once in a while there were trees that were down. And they had to cut limbs off and drag those tree limbs and get the road clear so they could get that wagon through. I don’t know how--it would've been interesting if he could have told us how long it took them. But you know, you have to feed those kids three times a day and then fixing the road on your way over--it wasn't easy. And then when he got up to the pass and he came over the pass, all the area around Ellensburg and that area, the farmers were out, and they were farming. And the sun was shining, and they were getting ready for crops and things. He said, this is heaven. [LAUGHTER] He's never going back to Seattle! [LAUGHTER] And things went much better once they got over the hill. And they got that family delivered to Kennewick. And then he got a hold of his wife, probably--I don't know whether they had telephones or not. But maybe they just wrote. But anyway, he got hold of her and said, you're going to buy tickets on the railroad, and you're coming in to Kennewick, and I'll pick you up in Kennewick. So then they came to Kennewick. And about that time, Rosencrance, the man who had bought all that land, he wanted to get some irrigation going because he knew this was good land and all he needed was water. So he put in the water wheel. And that was in 1894 that they built that water wheel. And Grandpa got a job on finishing it up. It was in construction when he arrived. But he worked to finish it up and then get the water--I don't believe I put down how much. But anyway--oh, what happened to my pictures that I brought?
Bauman: Oh, they're right here. I'll bring them. Oh, it’s okay.
Hansen: Thank you. Hmm. Now you've probably all seen the picture of the water wheel. That was the first irrigation in this area. And well, this is the original picture. And my mom had that. And a lot of people borrowed that, and they've enlarged it. And they're all over. You've probably seen a half a dozen pictures. But the people, when they enlarged it, they took all the people off. And I have here a list of all the people who are standing on this bridge. And by that time, my grandmother and her kids were all standing on the bridge. It was 16 feet wide and 32 feet high. And it had a capacity of 320 gallons per revolution. And so it dipped down in the water and get this 320 gallons and lift it up to the top and then put it into a ditch. And the ditch would take it to the farmers that were going to use it.
Bauman: And where was the water wheel?
Hansen: Now they quit being in the lady's house for school. There were more people moving into town--moving into the area and buying farms. And so they built a school. And it was located out--well, now the highway from Kennewick to Richland, just before you get the turnoff to Richland, it was in that area. And my mom went to that school. And they had school from October ‘til March because the kids worked in the fields the rest of the time. But they could be spared during the winter months. And if they got any kids that were graduating from 7th or 8th grade, then the school—I mean the state would send tests from Olympia. And they had to take those tests and see if they'd learned at this little country school enough to be ready for high school. Now about this time, there was a Thad Grosscup, who was a lawyer in Seattle. And somehow, he found out that this was really good country and good farming country. And so he was a lawyer for big railroads over there in Seattle and he had quite a bit of money. He bought 1,800 acres. It's about eight or nine miles out of Richland. And he wanted to build a canal. And I don't know who built that dam, whether he built that dam or whether—but anyway, the dam created the water to go in the ditch. And so he had people out there building this ditch because he wanted to irrigate those 1,800 acres. And my grandfather and his boys went out to make this ditch and to help with it--get this farm going. And my mother went to cook for the people that were working on this place--the farm. Now the railroad bridge was finished in 1889. And before that--before 1889, they didn't have a way to get the railroad cars from the Pasco area across the Columbia. And so they used a steam ferry. They'd run a few cars on the steam ferry, go across the river, put them off, come back and get some more. And so you could see that it was a real aggravation for the railroad [LAUGHTER] to move a whole train that way, but they did it. But then they finally got that bridge finished. And then they could run the cars across the Columbia. And that was a big deal. Now about this time, there were so many farmers coming in and buying up land, and, well, all along. And we were in Yakima County at this time. And Yakima County said, we're getting too big--too many people. And so we're going to divide it. And so they broke off a piece on the lower end here. And they were going to—they kind of thought of Benton. But they said they couldn't do that because the post office said, you can't--well, it was Benton for a couple of months. We became Benton County, and then they tried--anyway, the state said you couldn't have, because they had another section, and it was too close. And they said you couldn't name it that. But anyway, they had quite a time. They named it three different times. But it finally became Benton County. Let's see. Oh, in 1907, they decided that this was a good place to raise pheasants and quail. And so they brought in starters and turned them loose. And nobody was supposed to shoot them in 1907. But in 1908, they said there'd be foul for them to shoot. Now 1907 was the first automobile in the area. And the population had doubled. And they had more kids in the school. So they put in a second floor in the schoolhouse. In 1908, they got telephone service. In 1909, that was the first Richland Bank. And in 1912, they built the new high school. Now Amon came in about this time. And he bought most of the land from Rosencrance. Rosencrance had been running cattle and stuff. And Rosencrance is the one that built the big wheel and started the irrigation. And when that irrigation got started, why, then people came in to farm. And finally in 1905, they decided they could call it Benton County. [LAUGHTER] They had quite a time on the name. And there was a man named Raditz. And my grandfather was Bremer, and they built a hotel in Richland. And it had 20 rooms, and it was 30 by 60 foot. And they had a feed stable and a hardware store, and a post office was in the grocery store. And they bought bonds for a new schoolhouse. And the river traffic was lively. And they had daily service from Kennewick to Priest Rapids. Let's see. Amon bought Rosencrance out and sold ranches and stuff. And--oh, wrote my notes in a hurry and can't even read my notes.
Bauman: It's okay.
Hansen: [LAUGHTER] Anyway, Richland was growing. And I have a picture here of Richland about that time. And this was the John Dam Grocery store. And this was Murray's Hardware store. And this was Van’s, which was a confectionary--sold pop and ice cream in a little store. Now let's see. I think when Amon bought out Rosencrance, that was the end of the water wheel. They didn't use it after that. Amon, he went for gas pumps. I think I read we got our telephone in 1908, and the Richland Bank in '10. I think I read that. Now in 1915, oh, my dad came in here from Iowa. And of course, he wanted to farm and wanted to be with farms. So he got a job out at the Grosscup's ranch. Grosscup was the lawyer over in Seattle. And he had a son, but he wasn't a farmer. He came over here and lived [LAUGHTER] kind of to keep him out of his father's hair in Seattle. [LAUGHTER] But anyway, my dad got a job with him. And so he wasn't too long till he was managing the work crew that were farming out there. And Mom—they had asked her when they got the ditch built and all this farming under control, they asked her to stay on as cook. So she was the cook, and they built quite a large house for all the employees that were working with them. Thad and his family had a nice home. And Thad didn't do any farming. He just kind of--he was there. [LAUGHTER] He was out of the hair of the people in Seattle. But my dad was running the farm, and my mom was cooking for all these. And they got married. And they lived on in the big building. They had quite a few people working for them--working there. Now my dad worked for Grosscup for a number of years. And then he finally bought a piece of property. He bought, I think it was 60 acres. And then he started farming for himself. He took the lower 60 acres. And Grosscup was selling off to other farmers, too. He sold several pieces. Now I think that that was the things that I thought might be interesting to bring you up to when there were more people in Richland.
Bauman: [LAUGHTER] Right. Can I ask you, what kind of crops did your father grow on his land?
Hansen: Well, he raised hay. And that shows them putting the hay in the haystacks. And that's the way they did it. And they had these great big haystacks. And there were quite a few herds of sheep up the valley--oh, Lind or up in there. And they would take their sheep in the summer to the forest. And they could let them run in the forest. But in the wintertime, they would come down and bargain for the hay. And they would bring their herd in, and they would feed it right out of the haystack. And I don't know how my mother did it, but my mother could figure out how many tons of hay there was in a stack, so many feet long and so high, with an oval top. And they'd been in there. The hay had been sitting all winter, you know. And then they'd bring the sheep in there and feed them. And then you got the fertilizer on your land, too, because they'd eat the hay and leave the fertilizer on the land. It worked real well. And then when your hay was all gone, they'd go to another neighbor and buy his hay, and the same thing--they feed it there. So that's what a haystack looked like. And now my dad was from Iowa. So he had to raise corn. And he raised corn for his chickens. And you can see that the corn really did well. And then later, when asparagus came into this country, why, then he plowed up a lot of his land and put it into asparagus. We had 16 acres of asparagus. Now almost everybody in Richland had asparagus. But they had an acre or an acre and a half. And dad had 16 acres. But anyway, he'd go down to Kennewick and get some fellows that didn't have work and bring them out. And Mom would feed them. [LAUGHTER] And they would work for him through the asparagus season. Now you know we have good-looking buses now. And now this is the kind of bus that we had for when I started the school. I started in 1930 going to school. And this is the kind of buses we had.
Bauman: And where was the school? Where was the school?
Hansen: In Richland. We all came to Richland. And I think I have some pictures. Oh, this is a picture--this was when my mom was going to school. And this is the entire Richland school at the time my mom was going to school. And there was a vessel got frozen into the ice. And it was wintertime, and they couldn't get it out. And so the teacher thought it'd be a good trip for the school. And so this was the whole school. And you can see some of them are little, and some of them are big. And that's my mom in the plaid coat. [LAUGHTER] But that was their day tour. Now, I don't have a date on this. But my dad's brother is on here, and my mother's brother is on here. And this was the Richland baseball team. And this man bought land from Grosscup, and he lived across the street from us. And we knew everybody in Richland.
Hansen: Now, this is the school that I went to school in. This is Richland, and eight grades in this building. Now this picture, this shows the Methodist church. And this is the grade school, and this is the high school. And you can see, we didn't have fancy streets at that time. This was my graduating class, class of '42. Now there's 12 pictures. But two--the picture was taken before we graduated. When we actually graduated, there were 12 in my graduating class. Now this was the high school. And this was everybody that was in the high school at that time, and I don't see a date on there. But I think probably in the '30s, maybe '40s. Now and this is another one. And this was 1940. And this is the whole Richland school. And that were the things that I thought might be interesting. Now did you have some questions you were going to ask me?
Bauman: I do, yeah. I wanted to ask you about the school--going to school in Richland. What was it like going to school in Richland? And do you remember any teachers in particular?
Hansen: Oh, yeah. I should have brought the picture with the teachers.
Hansen: We had eight people in our building. And the eighth-grade teacher was the principal. So that was the staff. The complete staff was eight when I went to school.
Bauman: What about churches? What church did you go to?
Hansen: I showed you the picture of the Methodist church, and that was the big church. We were Lutherans, and we had a little bitty church. And [LAUGHTER] they were teaching--having the minister in German and things in connection with the church in German. But my mom just really worked it over with my grandfather. [LAUGHTER] She said, you ought to be teaching in English. And then the kids would get something out of it because they were getting English in school. And but anyway, it was a tiny church. And I really think the Catholics all went to Kennewick. And I think that that's about what we had in the way of churches.
Bauman: I asked you about your farm. Did you have electricity on the farm or a telephone?
Hansen: We got electricity in 1938. Before that, we had carbide. Do you know carbide?
Hansen: Well, it's a gas. My dad went down to Kennewick. And the man said, now, don't let anybody touch this but you. You need to do this. [LAUGHTER] And my mother run it all the time. But you put this product in water, and it created a gas. And we had three bedrooms upstairs. So we had three gas deals up there. And we had a light in the living room and the dining room that was with the gas. [LAUGHTER] But they didn't think a woman could handle the—[LAUGHTER] But they didn't know my dad. My dad was a farmer. He wasn't [LAUGHTER] a gas man. Mom took over the gas. But in 1938, the electricity came in. And that was wonderful. We started off with, we bought a refrigerator. And then we had, of course, the electric lights. And then we got other appliances after that.
Bauman: And what about a telephone? Did you have a telephone at all?
Hansen: [LAUGHTER] Well, they put in a telephone back many, many years ago. But when my dad would want to call—make a phone, there would be some neighbor women visiting on the telephone. And he got so mad, he took it out.
Hansen: We only had it for a year, I think. And he got so mad at the women visiting on the telephone [LAUGHTER] that we never had a telephone until later on, my older sister had problems. And she moved in with her two children. And of course, she put in a telephone, so that they had it. That would have been in the '40s.
Bauman: Uh-huh. And when you were growing up on the farm, did you have any particular chores or responsibilities?
Hansen: Oh, we all--when we hayed, we all hayed. Mom ran the team. And well, Dad mowed it and got it raked into shocks. And then when it was the way he wanted it to be in the haystack, he'd give it a few days to cure in this shock. And then we would bring the team out. And Mom ran the team. Mom had the team. And dad would put his fork in the shock and put it on the sled. And then we kids, 7 and 8, we had our own little rake. And if he didn't get all of the little pieces picked up, we would pick them up and put them on the sled, too. And then Mom would drive it to the haystack. And Dad would crawl up on the top of the stack. And Mom ran the derrick--ran the team--hooked the team up to there. And then there were chains on this sled, and they would, when she ran the derrick, the chains would come up together. And then they'd swing it up there on the top of the haystack. And then when Dad got it just where he'd want it, then he would call her to stop the team. And then we kids would pull the--there was a rope came down. And when he got it where he wanted it, then we'd pull on that rope. And then the chains would come off and it would drop on the top of the stack. And then we'd go get another load--another load, another load. [LAUGHTER] And then, of course, we fed the chickens and took care of the chickens. And we had turkeys. I mean, we'd just have ten or 12 turkeys and just let them run loose.
Bauman: Do you remember any community events--picnics, special community celebrations or gatherings at all?
Hansen: Well, there was the Grange in town. And a lot of people went to the Grange. But my dad was not much of a joiner. And so he didn't ever join the Grange. But we had friends that would come. And we would go up to the dam when they were fishing. And he would spear fish. And then we'd can the salmon. And we bought an old house. I think it was built in about 1902 or '04--something like that. Wasn't much of a house. But anyway, one of the first things they did was they built a great big concrete porch. And Mom bought a piano for the girls to learn to play the piano. And we had a lot of dances at our house. The porch was wide enough and long enough you could get three square dances going--circles going on the porch. And the piano was in the living room. And we opened the door so they could hear the music. And then they did other dances, too and played cards--lots of cards. Had neighbors in lots of times for cards.
Bauman: Now you graduated high school in 1942? You graduated high school in 1942? Is that correct?
Bauman: And then the Federal government came in the following year to build the--
Hansen: Yeah. We hadn't heard one word about it. But I guess they'd already picked the location. But anyway, when we graduated, we didn't know anything about the Project. And so it was when we went to college that we got letters. And it was at Valentine's Day when all the farmers got--the farmers were out there preparing their land, making ditches, planting stuff when they got the notices to move out. And that was a real jolt when they moved the people out. But my dad didn't have to move because he lived eight miles out. And that was the Grosscup Ranch. And Grosscup was the lawyer from Seattle. He had it all worked out. And [LAUGHTER] they said it would take them too long to go through the rigmarole that the lawyer would put them through. So they just left that, and anybody that had bought land from him got to stay.
Bauman: And so your parents stayed there on their land through the war and all that?
Bauman: And where were you in college?
Hansen: I went to college in Ellensburg to be a teacher. And I graduated--well, I didn't graduate. They had lost so many teachers in the Army that they would take us at three years. So I went out to teach at three years of college. And then I would go back summer school to finish up. So I got my degree. But the war was over by the time I got my degree.
Bauman: And how long did your family stay on their farm?
Hansen: Lyle? When did we sell the farm?
Lyle: Well, [INAUDIBLE], early '70s, I think--early to mid '70s.
Hansen: What did he say?
Bauman: He said, early to mid '70s--1970.
Hansen: Well, [LAUGHTER] I was the seller.
Hansen: But I didn't even remember what--but anyway, Dad got bad and died. And Mary moved in with her kids and took care of Mom. And then my mom had to go to a nursing home. Mary had stayed for a couple of years. That was my older sister. Anyway, we finally decided that [LAUGHTER] my husband and my sister's husband had to keep going down and things kept going wrong with it. And so we talked my sister into moving into town--the third sister. And we sold it.
Bauman: Who were some of the people who lived nearest you? Who were some of your neighbors when you were growing up?
Hansen: Well now, I pointed out, the McCarthys. They lived right straight across from us. Now they just bought a little place. They must have had five or ten acres. But my dad had about 60, didn't he, Lyle?
Lyle: Yeah, that's what you said.
Hansen: Anyway, he really farmed. But McCarthy was kind of retired. The Grosscups--they lived on their place for quite a while. And he became a county commissioner, I think. He wasn't a farmer. But he knew a lot of people. And they sold a big piece of land to--well, they sold off several pieces of land. Anyway--
Bauman: So how would you describe Richland as a place to grow up?
Hansen: Oh, it was great. Yeah. We had a real good time. And we knew everybody. Anyway, when the farmers had to leave, a lot of them were really upset. I mean, they had put money into their homes and built their farms up. And they had asparagus planted. And they had cherries planted and everything, and they had to leave it all. And they looked for farms, but farms were pretty hard to come by. An awful lot of people were unhappy. But they thought it'd be nice if we could get together and see our old neighbors. So we arranged with Prosser. Would Prosser let us use their park as a get-together? So for several years, anybody who had lived in Richland could come to up there. And they sent out letters so people could visit with their old neighbors and tell about their new farms. But they were all over the state of Washington, and some went in to Oregon. But anyway--
Lyle: Mom, tell them about--
Hansen: --after four or five years going to Prosser, Richland decided that it'd be okay for us to come down and stay in one of their parks. And so then we had these get-togethers. And in fact, we still meet. But now [LAUGHTER] we're down to about eight.
Bauman: Yeah. I spoke with Bob Fletcher.
Hansen: Oh, you talked to Bob?
Bauman: Yeah. And he talked about you getting together, yeah. Did you have a--
Lyle: That's what I was going to bring up.
Bauman: Oh, okay.
Lyle: That it was still going on.
Lyle: Old Richland.
Hansen: Yeah. I see Bob once in a while.
Bauman: Yeah. I want to thank you very much for coming today. I really appreciate it, for coming and sharing your memories. Thank you.
Hansen: Did you have any other questions you wanted?
Bauman: I think I'm good. Do you have anything else you want to add--anything--
Hansen: Well, that's all the notes. I made those notes this morning. And [LAUGHTER] I didn't get everything in.
Bauman: Well, thank you very much.
Hansen: But I mean, I think probably my family is about the only one, you know, way back.
Hansen: Because my mother was only about four years old when they came from Seattle. But there were a lot of people came in the '30s. And then there were a lot came in the '40s, too.
Years in Tri-Cities Area
Mr. and Mrs. Harry Van Horn
Amy and Alex McNeil