Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Freddie and Henry Fent

It is already December, in a year that has flown by.

It doesn't take much to remind one of the brevity of life - the thinning calendar, the cold grey weather on a December morning, the kids who are growing up and moving on in life. "Damn it," the old man would love to stop the flow of time for a moment, but that won't happen. It just keeps rolling along like the keys of the computer as I write these words.

A month ago, or a lifetime, I took a trip along Highway 177 to Cottonwood Falls. There was no special reason other than a desire to get away and enjoy some peace and quiet with the dogs, Sammy and Toby. Along the way I stopped at Matfield Green. There I parked the car and got out to stretch my legs and let the dogs wander. We visited the well-maintained Matfield Green cemetery.

Among the many beautiful limestone headstones was this one for Freddie and Henry Fent, children of Elam and Lucinda Fent. Freddie, age just shy of 2 years, and Henry, 3 years and 3 months, died within 2 years of each other in 1882 and 1881.

Freddie and Henry Fent
What story lies behind the brief lives of Freddie and Henry and the tragedy their parents suffered I do not know. We do, however, have a bit of a peak at what life in Kansas was like from this article in the Chase County Leader, Cottonwood Falls, May 26, 1881:

What a wonderful change for the May of 1881 over the same month one year ago? Then dry, and the wind hurled the dust in drifts. The little, pale wheat, oats, rye and corn thirsted for water as an Arab would in the desert, and with hope deferred again and again the heart grew sick. Our clouds were clouds of dust, carried about by the tempest. How often came the husbandman from the field, righted things and made ready apparently for a heavy rain. Although the clouds appeared dark and heavy, the wind and thunder all indicated rain; a light shower, the clouds broke, the wind ceased; still hope deferred. Our season, this month, all that man could wish: wet enough and not too much.

Dust Storms of Kansas, Kansas Historical Quarterly

"Stupendously suffocating" clouds of dust, drought, heat, and the coming of grasshoppers in biblical proportions, this was often the fate of the Kansas farmer. But through it all, the farmer and his family struggled on for another day might bring fair weather and a bountiful crop.

Freddie and Henry, children of Elam and Lucinda Fent

What of the history of the Fents? Grandfather William Fent (1817 – 1884) and his wife, Eliz­a­beth Trim, came to Kansas from Iowa after 1870 and home­steaded land on Lit­tle Cedar Creek, east of Matfield Green in Chase County, Kansas. Father Eleanor  "Elam" T. Fent and his wife Lucinda stayed on the farm after his parents' death.

Found in the Chase County Historical Sketches, Vol. 1, and online history of William Fent.

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