Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Amanuensis Monday- Hannah Lee's Overland Journal, Part 3

Milton and Hannah Lee's cabin: Albin, Wyoming

"The Sentinel of the Prairie"

As we join Hannah and Milton Lee, their group has just left the Green River area of Wyoming and are headed for Jackson Hole and Yellowstone Country. Hannah’s journal which has been transcribed from her own handwriting and in her own unique style gives a storied accounting of her second trip overland to Wyoming in 1895.


Mr & Mrs Hall & Grandpa Hall & 2 minors, Mrs Hall ashures me that she is not a bit a feard of Indians.  We go to bed at nite & send up a prayer for protection and we travel a few days & camp over Sunday on the Grosventure pronounced Grovont.  The men fish we get some nice trout.  Ill tell you said I to Mrs Hall & Mrs Williams we will have the men get the stove out & we will all Bake lite Bread tomorrow.  Mrs Williams said she would make her bread that nite & bake early and my bread next.  Mrs Hall comes to my wagon & sais come Mrs Lee & see my Bread  how nice.  We turn to go, she looks towards the Hill & said oh dear, see the Indians.  Coming over the hill there is a bout 30 & there is only eleven men in the crowd.  Well said I there is 4 wimen & several shot guns & if we get into a fight we will use the shot guns.  Why they have all stopt & are looking at us threw their field glasses.  They cant be Indians.  Mr Hall & Lee are looking threw their field glasses & finds it is white men.  Now they are scared and think we are Indians but come on.  They are Scouts & are out looking for Indians.  We told them that we had not seen any Indians since we left the Reservations. A hunter finds a reporter lost in the mountains & brings him in to camp.  Here he has a talk with the scouts & goes back to Lander.  The Scouts bids us good day & are gone. 
In the morning we start on & have a bad road threw the mountains & crossing cricks.  There is no bridges in country.  We are at Baken crick.  The road runs a round the side of the mountain we all walk but the drivers.  The wagons are rough locked & a good stout pole is put under the wagon box on top of the cupling pole on the upper side of the wagon & 2 men hold down on the pole while one holds to the hind wheel & around they go till 4 wagons are on level again.  Mr Williams said he can drive a round alone & finds his wagon turned over.  All hands are ready to assist & there was nothing broke.  Every thing is soon loaded & down the valley we go & come to a nice place plenty of water & grass & camp for the nite.  We are out of meet.  After supper Mr Hall takes his Winchester & goes up on top of the mountain.  We soon hear the gun.  One two shots & here he comes down the Mountain dragging a nice fat Antelope & the boys were soon on hand to help dress the game.  Now it is to be devided.  Mr Hall said Pete turn your back to this venison.  I am ready.  Well whose is this.  That’s Jims that’s yours and so on till we all had our shares.  We all get a good nites rest & drive about 12 miles & camp on Cristel crick at noon.  We eat dinner and are a bout ready to hitch up & we see a man on a saddle horse on the other side of the crick waving his hat for us to wate.  He has something of importance to tell us & we wait as he has to go a half mile around the mountain before he can cross.  Well here he…………

Author’s note: The journal of Hannah ended here in the original copy as the last page of her handwritten log has been lost to time. Some years later, a family member wrote to Peter Smith Lee who was the brother of Milton Lee and he was then living in Brigham City, Utah. Peter said that the man who had been approaching the group by horseback with his hat waving was a reporter that wanted to know if any of the people from the group of wagons had seen any Indians. Leila Ruth Harvey Douglass who was the Granddaughter of Hannah Lee read that journal over and over as a child and recounted the ending as to this:  We saw Mr. Spencer who was the son-in-law of Peter Smith Lee riding towards us and we knew that we were at journey’s end. 

The exact final words of the original journal will now never be known but this short re counting of the travels of our Great Great Grandparents is a treasured document and seeing it in the actual handwriting of Hannah helps to bring her story to life.

 The Lee’s left Wyoming for a second time before 1900 and again returned to Iowa but their stay there was short lived and they headed for Wyoming again in 1901. That was their third trip overland and west into Wyoming.

The third migration of Milton E. Lee and Hannah Hyndman Lee from Iowa to Wyoming, 1901:

The Lee’s along with their son, Peter Lee take up a homestead two miles east and two miles north of Albin, Wyoming and just a half mile south of their original homestead. Milton and  Pete erected a two room log cabin and Pete also filed on neighboring land.

When first living in Wyoming in 1889, the Lee’s remembered the blizzards they had endured and this time they set posts from the house to the barn with a wire attached so they would not lose their way to the barn to tend to the livestock if a blizzard ever came up.   This was good thinking on their part as this wire was used more than once to guide them back and forth.  The blizzards would be so fierce they had to walk backwards holding on to the wire and the wind so strong it took their breath away.

Milton and Pete broke the sod, plowed the land in strips and grew wheat and oats.
Jotted down in a number of memorandum books in Hannah’s keepsake box were these notes.

Nov. 21, 1905.  Milton Lee sent the money to Cheyenne to pay off the note given for one black horse bought of Alec Perry.  $100.00 plus $12.50 interest.
June 24, 1906.  Scott Brandon bought $7.00 worth of wheat of Pete Lee.
Oct. 19, 1906.  Pete took first load of oats to Pine Bluffs, 3470 lbs.
Oct. 29, 1906.  1515 lbs wheat.
Put horses in field December 26th.

Ginger Cookies.  1 C sugar, 1 C molasses, 1 C sour milk, 3 eggs, 1 tbsp ginger, 3 tsp soda beat in molasses till white, 1 c butter, flour to roll. 
Strawberry Shortcake.  Make rich biscuit dough adding an egg and 2 tsp sugar.  Roll as for cinnamon rolls and cover with sliced berries and sugar, roll up and cut, bake in hot oven.  Sauce.  Stew a few berries in water and sugar, thicken slightly and pour over rolls.

 Feb. 1909 Grocery Order.  116 lbs potatoes, 1 box mixt tomatoes and peaches,  25 lb. box dried peaches, $3.00 coffee.
March 8.  100 lbs. potatoes, 27 lbs. meat, $2.00 coffee, 10 lbs butter.

The Final Chapter in the Migrations and Lives of Hannah and Milton Lee
In 1910 both Pete and Milton sold their homesteads, each receiving $3000.00.  We believe Pete returned to the Jackson Hole area having been there on the former trip with his parents. Pete may have gone back to Wyoming for a short time after as he had a daughter who died in Albin, Wyoming. Milton and Hannah moved in with their daughter Fannie and husband James William Harvey who had followed them to Wyoming about 1904.  Hannah and Milton possibly lived in the dugout that James W. & Fannie first lived in before they built their house.

It is believed that Milton sent Pete $1500.00 to buy land in the Jackson Hole country and that Fannie and her daughter Mary Cunningham objected to this believing Milton and Hannah  were too advanced in years to go back to Jackson.  Milton became very stubborn about this and Mary Cunningham then decided he belonged in Evanston, Wyoming, a home for the insane.  A trial was held in Cheyenne, Laramie County, Wyoming concerning Milton’s sanity.  After hearing all of the testimony, a six man jury decided that Milton was not insane but very senile and recommended he be placed in the Old Folks Home in Lander, Wyoming.  Milton was taken there a day or so after the trial.  At the trial, Hannah stated that $1500.00 was all the money in the world she had and a lien was immediately attached to the property in Jackson.  This lien was sold to a prospective buyer of the property and the monies obtained were used to support Hannah in her last years. 

Hannah Lee died 7 November 1918 at her daughter Fannie Harvey’s home and was buried in the City Cemetery, Pine Bluffs, Wyoming. Milton Lee died 4 November 1920 in Lander, Wyoming.  His body was shipped to Pine Bluffs and he was buried in the City Cemetery on November 8, 1920. The stonemason got their death dates mixed up when carving their headstones. Milton’s death date reads 1918 and Hannah’s 1920.

The old hand hewn cabin stood as a steadfast sentinel in a lonely field near Albin, Wyoming for over a hundred years and was razed just recently. Many members of our family visited the site and were able to reflect on the lives of our loved ones. My husband and I are lucky to have in our possession a 6 inch long hand forged log spike as well as several photos of the old cabin of the Lees'.

A tribute to Hannah and Milton Lee by their Great Granddaughter

This poem was written by my mother-in-law in 1987 after she and her husband were visiting Wyoming and made the trip to Albin, Wyoming  and first located the cabin of Hannah and Milton Lee. Mom used as her inspiration a few words that her Aunt, Leila Ruth Harvey Douglass, had written in her Memoirs.

                                                Sentinel of the Prairie

Two miles east, then two miles north of a town named Albin, Wyoming,
                                        There to the left of a Wheatfield ripe,
Stands a cabin in the gloaming.

 The primitive road that leads to it no longer hears the plod of hooves,
Nor the creaking springs of a wagon bed
Under the weight of the sheaves.

The old log cabin my Great-grandfather built almost ninety years ago
Still stands on the windswept knoll he chose
Midst a wheat field golden yellow.

What courage it took to settle here…far from the busy street.
To snake the logs from the canyon floor
To me was quite a feat.

The logs were squared by adze and axe, then placed precisely so.
Shingles were hewn for the roof above,
Which covered the two rooms below.

These old log walls are sturdy yet…I can see the marks of the axe.
Overhead in the attic I can plainly view
Burlap tamped in the cracks.

The interior is littered with debris and dust, the ceiling is falling in,
And there I can see where the stove flu was placed,
The opening now covered with tin.

The panes in the windows are long since gone…the windows are
covered with boards.  The old door sags on hinges a-rust
to let in the winter storms.

What marvelous stories these old walls heard…in their golden days.
If walls could talk I’d record every word
to learn of my ancestors ways.

These walls shared their laughter; they shared their tears, and the joy
of a family reunited.  These walls were a haven for those homeward bound
where within stood a beacon lighted.

When the cabin was new, how did it look, here on this windswept hill?
And does it feel the regret that I feel,
That it now stands empty and still?

Twilight is drawing to its close so I must no longer tarry…
…yet I pause in the gloaming…for one last look…
At this Sentinel of the Prairie.

Kathleen Harvey Hopkins, 1987

 This article has been lovingly submitted in memory of Hannah Hyndman Lee and Milton Lee, our travelers of the western Prairie.

Hannah Lee's Overland Journal- PART 1 is here.
Hannah Lee's Overland Journal- PART 2 is here.

source: The original journal of Hannah Lee, © and owned by Kathleen Hopkins

Amanuensis Monday is a popular ongoing series created by John Newmark at Transylvanian Dutch Blog


  1. What a wonderful thing to have - an overland journal.

    This is a stellar post. I am now going to read parts I and II.

  2. We are so glad that you liked the story, Dee. We are proud of our Hannah. Thank you for the nice comment!