Clara Couch Memory, October 31,
Couch, was born in North Carolina, Guilford County, August 12,
1849. My father, Bartlett Yancy Couch (1824-1881), was named after
the first Governor of North Carolina, and was nicknamed "B.Y.
Couch. My mother's name was Nancy Jane Little (1828-1903). They
were raised in the same neighborhood. There was a slight shadow or
feud between the Couches and the Littles over a tree being felled to
make shakes for a Couch roof. Being a misunderstanding, the old
feud lasted. Father and Mother became sweethearts and planned to
get married. Mother being a Little and Father a Couch, the Littles
resented them going together. Father told Mother that he would be
at the crossroads on horseback and signal her and for her to come.
Mother heard the signal and grabbed a sunbonnet and got on the horse
behind Father. They went to Grandfather Couches. They were
probably there for some time.
was a gunsmith and a finished mechanic. He finished stock barrels
and finished guns complete. Lock, stock and barrel the guns sold
for $100 when finished. Father had a home of two rooms on a
mountain. His shop was in one end of the house and we lived in the
other room. Grandfather Couch had four sons, my father, Uncle Mesh,
Milton and Jack. At that time, nothing was spoke of as North and
South. The boys wanted to go North and get homes. Grandfather
didn't want them to go until he passed on. Finally he passed on
with palsy one day (1853). I went in to see him, there was a man on
each side of him. I never knew much of Grandmother Couch because
she had passed on (1850) many years before. Her daughter, Aunt
Polly Ann, kept house for Grandfather. When Grandfather passed she
took me in where he was laid out and lifted a white cloth for me so
I might see him. They gathered for the funeral. Father brought a
buggy and put me, Mother and brother Jabez in it. In those days all
infants wore long dresses. Jabez' dress draped on the bottom of the
buggy. I told Mother Jabez' dress would get dirty.
passing of Grandfather Couch, the family scattered. My three uncles
bought land near Wichita, Kansas. Father and Mother went farther
north. Father took his bellows, anvil and axes with him. They had
a covered wagon. They were seven weeks on the trip. After they
were out a few days, one of the tires broke. We were in a wild
forest and didn't know what to do. They finally got out the bellows
and mended the tire.
in Illinois - don't remember the town. Brother Milt was born then
(January 15, 1854). Father was very sick while we were there. He
didn't like it so we started for Minnesota and landed twelve miles
from St. Paul, in a place called Forest Grove, and stayed there for
one year. Father wanted a home, so we moved to the Big Woods in
in LeSueur County, and in a swamp. It was almost dark and no sign
of life until a light shown in the distance. Father went to it. It
was getting dark and we waited for his return. On his return he had
a lot of brush that we put under the wheels and got out. We went to
the man's house. His name was Caldwell. Years later Father had a
mill and Mr. Caldwell was his sawyer. We passed over Cherry Creek
and Father pitched a tent and the snow was deep. The next morning
when he raised the flap of the tent, the snow went all over the
bed. Father wanted land and a home for his family. At that time
there was just an Indian trail from St. Peter to Faribault. He was
sometime finding a place. He found 160 acres. There was a squatter
on the place. Father gave him a gun for his right. There were
few whites in all that region. Don't know how long we lived in a
tent. Finally a few men came and helped us build a log cabin on one
room and one opening. St. Peter was ten miles from our place and
was the nearest trading post.
evening two Indians raised the flap of the door and came in. They
were singing their war song. "Hum, Hum, Hum, " Mother was setting
the table, and one Indian helped himself. Father grabbed him by the
collar and his rifle in the other hand and took him to the door and
said, "Pochachee," which means "go" and he did. I fully believe the
Lord had His eye on us, or we wouldn't have survived.
woods were full of Indians, the Sioux and Chippeway, and they were
fighting constantly. There might have been four or five families in
that settlement. There came a time when father came in one night
and told mother that we must get away early in the morning, saying,
"The Indians are on our trail."
morning they loaded the women and the girls in the wagon box. The
boys and men had to walk to St. Peter, the only place of safety, ten
miles away. It was a cold drizzly morning, and we had buffalo robes
thrown over us. We arrived at St. Peter at dark. At that time I
was seven years old (1856).
started a saw mill-got his machinery from St. Paul. The starting of
the mill was a great event and all the neighbors came to the
starting. The engine ran for a few minutes and then stopped.
Father didn't know what to do, as there wasn't enough water in the
well to furnish steam. The men packed snow and threw in the well to
melt. That didn't furnish enough water, so they had to move the
mill over to a swamp. They sawed a lot of lumber after that as time
later there was an Irish colony that moved in around us, who came in
dog sleds. Their dogs would go to the mill at night and eat the
rawhide strings off of the belts that ran the mill. One morning
Father found a dead dog in his yard and his mill was burned down.
He found another location and built another mill and ran it for
several years. There was another Indian scare and we had a crop
in. Father sent Mother and us children with a man to Faribault.
Father stayed to save his crop. We settled there and Father built a
new home. We finally lived in peace there.
school there in private homes. The first public school I attended
was three months. In the meantime St. Peter grew and so did Cherry
Creek. Father became Postmaster of Grandville. The mill was in
operation as long as I was there. I was eighteen years old when I
married Mr. Nichols. His family moved into our country and I met
Mr. Nichols during the Civil War, when he came to visit his parents
on a furlough. My husband attended school at Byron and Stratten, in
Chicago, Illinois, for six months. I was one of his scholars later
when he came home and taught school in our neighborhood. That was
in the years of 1872 and 1873.
came and warned the whites that the Sioux Indians were going to
massacre the whites in New Ulm. He gave the date and told our
people if they would follow him, he would guide them to safety. We
were among that bunch. I and Mr. Nichols were married prior to
New Ulm was
many miles from us, but Mankato was close. The massacre was
terrible. They tied women and children to trees and cleaned out
every one in New Ulm. The soldiers were sent out to capture these
Indians. They brought forty to Mankato to trial. There was one who
died, and one that favored the whites and was freed. That left
thirty-eight. They built a high platform, then dug a deep ditch.
They drew up wagon boxes. The Indians marched up on the platform
singing their war song. One man by the name of Ireland sprung the
trap that hung the whole bunch at once. They cut them down and
loaded the bodies in the wagon boxes and dumped them in the ditch
and buried them there. My father attended that hanging, and I have
a picture of it here at home. I now have a relative living in
Milwaukee, Oregon, who told me that they erected a monument on their
graves. After that time they never gave us any further trouble.
I and two
sisters and four brothers lived on the old home place until we got
married and moved into homes of our own. Father had a sawmill at
that time and my husband worked for him for a while. We started a
store and ran it for some year. Grandfather Nichols moved his
family back to Arkansas. He sent for us to come back there. We
sold out and went out to them. My husband went first. I had never
been away from home much. I had Lee, Maud, Bart and Sam at that
time. We got ready to go. Mother took me to St. Peter. We took
the Iron Mountain Railroad, the first railroad that connected the
North and South.
in Memphis, Tennessee, and went to the hotel to spend the night. In
the morning we took a boat for Helena. As I went down the trail to
the waters edge in the morning, there were great slabs of pork piled
up like slab wood on each side of the trail. I wondered what it was
for and found out later that it was to sell. There was a great
scarcity of meat at that time. We landed in Helena that night and
took the train in three days.
fashions came from Paris. Bart was six years old. It was a fashion
for little boys to wear white waists with lots of buttons around the
belt and a wide pleated skirt which buttoned on. Bart was standing
a few feet from us and the Negro porter tried to help him on the
train, but he threw his feet and did a dance. He didn't want the
Negro to touch him. He wore panties beneath the skirt.
We got off
the train for the night at a place called Marble. A Negro came in
to the room and said, "Missie, I came in to punch de'fire." Little
Maud came up and said, "Ma, he said, 'punch de'fire.'! " We found a
man with a team waiting for us to take us to the Nichols' home. We
found all well.
Nichols had three houses on his place. In those days they built
houses different from anything I had ever seen. There was two large
rooms connected with a passageway between and the kitchen was on the
back alone. In the front yard they had stiles instead of gates. We
could ride our horses up to them and step off. They had a
smoke house and another out-building, a kind of community house. We
moved into one of the houses and Mr. Nichols put in some cotton
which was the only crop and even that wasn't much. The seed was all
wasted. In those days, Mr. Nichols suffered with his feet as a
result of his service in the Army. We stayed there for several
years. Finally, mother Nichols passed on and shortly after, Father
Nichols died. Then, Maud was stricken with the chills and the third
one took her. We laid her by the side of her grandfather and
grandmother. We then moved into the big house. They had a post
office in our home. It was called Pine Ridge Post Office. Later
they built a railroad past us, they built a stopping place near us,
and we moved our store and post office there. It is now known as
Blackton, Arkansas. The boys and I still lived on the farm. We
left there and went to a place called Woodruff County. Our post
office was Duluth.
I got a
letter from mother in Minnesota. They outfitted a wagon to come to
us. They were there only a short time when Father passed on
(December 24, 1881). There was no cemetery there, so we laid him in
a shady spot and put a tombstone at his head. My brother, John,
made shakes and enclosed the grave. Mother stayed with us for
sometime and then went back to her home in Minnesota.
a covered wagon drove in with a son at the point of death. I gave
them clean sheets to lay him out on. They left in a day or two, and
I never heard any more of them. Times got hard and we moved in that
place in Arkansas. Our baby son, Conley, passed on. We laid him by
his Aunt Priscilla. My oldest son, Lee, left Montgomery County, and
took a homestead and got married. They were not pleased there and
went back to Washington--were living on what was called Rattle Snake
Flat, which is now called Ralston. He wrote to his father and said
they needed a teacher badly. Dear Sam went, but only lasted three
weeks and he passed. I was left alone with my three children in
I went out
to Washington--arrived in Ritzville, Washington at night. My
brother, Orrin, was there to meet me. He took me out to his home.
My mother was there, also brother John, and sister Lucy, and several
of his own family.
into a little house on his place. Bart helped a neighbor for a
while. The other boys were too young to work. My brother, John,
and Milt had a threshing machine and I ran the cook-house. One of
my nieces, Jeannie Wolf, of Cheney, Washington, was my helper. We
were there a number of years. I had some money. We moved to a
place called Cunningham. Here I bought a lot.
Lee had a
place near Pasco and Kenowick. The train stopped at night-one train
a day. I slept all the travelers that I could accommodate in a
two-room house. I took a homestead myself and being a widow, I only
had to stay on it one night. I sold out but didn't get much. I
raised nice wheat, but lost lots of crops on account of dust storms.
We built on my house and the boys started a store and restaurant
known as the Nichols Brothers. I was a silent partner.
son, Samuel, got out of the Army, he came home on the Deschutes
(River). He had a horse and saddle and went out to find work. I
gave him some money to go on and never saw or heard from his since.
left Cunningham, my mother died (July 29, 1903) and each of the
children received thirteen hundred dollars out of the estate.
Cunningham became quite a village. Bart took charge of a
warehouse. There was another warehouse there and they gave whiskey
to those that patronized them and Bart gave his customers cigars.
There was a lot of whiskey drunk there them days. My family and the
Postmaster's family was the only ones that didn't drink.
There was a
large wheat crop that year. Bart wasn't very well. I went down to
the warehouse and found Bart layed out on the floor. That night we
sent him to Spokane for an appendicitis operation. Bart got well
and got married and came back and lived there for quite a while.
Cunningham finally went out of existence on account of dust storms.
I sold my holdings there and moved to Central Oregon. About the
year 1907, we moved to Bend, Oregon. My mother died just before we
moved there. There was no cemetery there and we laid her to rest in
Ritzville, Washington. Bart had gone to Central Oregon before me
and we went to a small town near Bend called Laidlow.
was crowded with people. Mr. Davis and his wife were there. He had
a daughter and a son-in-law in Laidlow. He went to the register and
found out that he was going to the same place I was. It was late
Saturday night and people were standing up. Mr. Davis came to me
and introduced himself and asked me if I wouldn't rather travel than
to stay in that station. I said, "yes". He went out and hired a
two-seated buggy. It was very cold and I bought an overcoat. We
were several miles from Laidlow. We took a stage and the mountain
was rugged and dangerous. We drove until noon. Mr. Davis had
plenty of grub in two baskets. All at once we came to a camping
place. We stayed there and fed the horses and had a warm dinner.
Mrs. Davis was quite frail and sickly. I got a hot rock and put it
to her feet. We continued the journey until it was getting dark.
We landed in Laidlow.
me out to his tent. At that time there was a bank and a few houses
in Laidlow. Laidlow was named after a man by that name. I never
saw him, but after I saw his effigy one morning when I looked out
and a man's image was hanging on a telegraph wire. It was Laidlow's.
Sometime later they changed the name to Tumalow. There was a bridge
across the Deschutes River and a trail that led to Bend. I bought a
home on the Deschutes in Laidlow, three rooms on the ground floor
and an upstairs, a farm and a shed for my buggy, also a hen house
and a garden. The only way I had to go was by buggy but I went
where and when I pleased. I had Sam and Jay with me then. The boys
wanted to farm so I bought a piece of land west of my place. We
moved out there and lived there three or four years. Sam enlisted
in the regular Army. One night our house caught fire and we lost
most of our things with many keepsakes. I then moved back to my
home on the Deschutes. Jay still worked the land most of the time.
He finally got acquainted with a girl in Bend, and got married. I
lived there for a long time.
I done a
washing there one day, and as I finished, there came a rap on the
door, and there stood Mr. Davis. I asked where was Mrs. Davis. He
told me she had been gone a couple of years. The Davises had
holdings out West. They decided to go to Oklahoma. The people that
bought his place failed to pay, and he came back to settle up. I
asked him in and we talked a while. Then he said his children was
kind to him but it wasn't home and asked me to go with him and make
a home for us both. I almost jumped out of my chair and screamed I
hadn't thought of such a thing. I said, "Why, Mr. Davies, what
would our children say?” He said, "Well, I'm 21 years old, (he was
about 70 about that time) and my money is my own, and I have enough
for both of us." I couldn't accept his challenge so he went away.
I thought it over that night and met him again and accepted his
proposal. We were married at his sons' place in Bend and took the
train that night for Arizona. He wanted a home where he could have
a garden. We were in Arizona a couple of weeks, but didn't find
anything that suited him, so we took the train for Hitchcock,
there, I got acquainted with Senator Thomas. He had a sister that
called on me quite often. The blind Senator Gore lived on our
street also. That was the close of the Civil War (Audrey Kuhn: this
must be incorrect). It was a lovely home, but Mr. Davis sold out
and bought a place on the other side of the city. He wasn't pleased
with that either and we got a book telling of a home in Pittsburgh.
He went to Pennsylvania and told me to sell out. After a couple of
weeks he came back and we sold out and went to our new home in
home was 90 miles from Pittsburgh. I was amused at what I saw-nice
farms and houses deserted. Our home was on the highway. It was a
five-room house with an upstairs. The water came out of a rock in
the yard. We had a basement and a spring also came out of it. Back
of the house was a kind of ravine. There was a farm and 60 acres of
land. He cultivated the garden and trimmed the orchard. After we
had been there sometime a man came out from Pittsburgh and said he
wanted some apples from one tree. In the middle of the garden we
had a cucumber barrel that was lovely. Many people used to come out
for fruit and vegetables. We were there for three years.
day, when we were all alone, my husband took sick. I didn't know
what to do. I sent for his sister and a message to his daughters in
Bend. I also sent a message to his son in Oklahoma. After my
husband passed on my neighbors helped me away. I was two days and a
night on the train. I had a vault made when I arrived in Hitchcock
and met Mr. Davis' son. My supper was ready so I had a good night
of rest. We laid him to rest by his first wife. They wouldn't let
me start back for three or four days. They thought I should be
under the doctor’s care. They got me a lunch and put me on the
train. I got awfully sick in the night. I made my way to the rest
room. When I got to the door I fell and some woman took me by the
arm and helped me to the couch. She took me back to my bed and as
time went on, I landed home again.
night, there wasn't anyone who lived near me. I made my way to a
hunter's cabin, there happened to be a man there and he phoned to a
neighbor. The station that I got off at was out on a prairie. The
neighbor came and got me. I wasn't home long until someone rapped
on my door and it was my son, Bart. We settled our property and had
an auction. We bought a new suitcase and came back to Oregon City.
to work there in the paper mill. We were there during the summer.
I bought a home on S.E. 65th avenue, Portland, Oregon, where I lived
for about 12 years. During the depression, Jay came to live with
me. I traded my home there for a place on 108 Avenue, S.E. There
was one acre on Johnson Creek. It was covered with fruit trees,
flowers and vegetables. It had a large garage with a woodshed
connected and a large hen house and a rabbitry. We raised chickens
and sold fruit for a while, but finally there was no demand for
that. While living there Jay got acquainted with his wife and was
She owned a
home across the street. That left me all alone for two years. I got so I couldn't keep it up so I sold out. I made
a great sacrifice in selling and came to the Barton Home for Elderly
I was here
for two months and then went to live with my granddaughter, Zelma.
She had an apartment house. The work was too much and so I moved to
Bart's about two months. Bart had to go to the hospital, and his
wife wasn't well, so I came back to the Barton Home. My people were
kind to me and done all that they could for me, so here I am today,
this 31st Day of October, 1944. I am now 95 years old, and getting
around fairly well and expect to be here for at least five more
years and I feel so grateful to all my people for their kindnesses,
and may God bless them all.
(signed) Clara Emelin
Couch, Nichols, Davis
from Audrey Jackson Kuhn, for the reader:
Emaline Couch Nichols Davis died on April 7, 1949, in Portland,
Oregon. She was buried on April 10, 1949, in the Multnomah Park
Cemetery in Portland.
Nichols (1868-1958) and Joseph Bartlett Nichols (1873-1954) outlived
her. Clara Maud (1870-1879), Claude (Jan, 1870-April, 1870), infant
son (1871) and Samuel L (1884-1905) all pre-deceased her. I don’t
have death dates for Jay L. or Orin Conley.
Emaline Couch married Samuel Nichols November 30, 1867, in
Cleveland, Minnesota. They were married by T.P. Brown, Justice of
Nichols (Clara’s husband) died May, 1898, in Ritzville, WA.
Little Couch (Clara’s mother) died July 29, 1903, and is buried in
the Ritzville, WA, cemetery.
Yancey Couch (Clara’s father) died December 24, 1881, and is buried
in Woodruff County, AR).
Jackson Couch died July 12, 1932, in Minneapolis, and is buried in
Savidge Cemetery, Cleveland, MN.