Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Pickering Family

“You have to know the past to understand the present.”, Dr. Carl Sagan

A few years ago I decided to put our family tree into a computer database and fill in some missing branches. The Batie family didn't need any more work since my uncle Russell had tracked the Baties back to Thomas Batie who was married in 1751 to Margaret Robson, but no idea where he came from. My Mom's side was tracked even further. John Burbank was in the American colonies in the 1660's. 


So I looked at Dad's mother's family, the Pickerings, which is appropriate since all the land we now own was previously owned at some time by one Pickering or another.  I knew that my great-grandparents James and Harriett Pickering immigrated to the United States and settled in the Plum Creek, Nebraska area.  Luckily we started having the oldest Pickering cousins start telling family stories at our annual reunions. What fun.

After much searching and looking at all kinds of websites and transcriptions of records this is some of what I now know about the Pickering family.

James and Harriet Pickering left Liverpool, England on April, 1873 on the steamship "Spain". James was a blacksmith in the coal mines around Hartshorne, Derbyshire, England. He probably had a drinking problem and Harriet thought the move would cure that. James' uncle Edward Pickering had earlier come to America and landed in Plum Creek, NE. Edward wrote to James to come to Plum Creek as the new town had no blacksmith. James sold everything and  came to America with Harriet and his two young sons, William and John. William turned 3 shortly after arriving in America and John had his first birthday on the ship coming across the Atlantic. Harriet told her grandchildren that the voyage was horrible and she never wanted to do that again. 

John had scarlet fever while on the ship and developed a high fever and lost his hearing and was deaf the rest of his life. They landed in New York City on April 14, 1873. They boarded a train for Nebraska. When they arrived in Plum Creek, Edward was gone! His son Frederick was killed in an accident involving a loaded gun and a wagon of firewood. James and Harriet stayed and filed a homestead on the SE 1/4 of 10-10-21 on April 26, 1873, having settled on the land on April 24, a mere 22 days after leaving England.

James & Harriet Pickering and family, ca. 1890

James worked as a blacksmith in Plum Creek and built a house and barn on the homestead. He had to walk the eight miles to town the first summer because he had no money for a horse. James was unable to make the final preemption payment on the entire quarter so he gave up the 80 acres with the frame house and built a sod house on the other 80 acres and paid for it.

In 1879 he filed for a tree claim on the NE 1/4 of 10-10-21. On February 2, 1892 he received the patent on that quarter. By now James and Harriet had three more children; Harry born 1874, Sarah Anne (Annie) 1877 and Jim 1879. James continued to buy adjoining land from the government, Union Pacific Railroad or neighbors. James purchased 80 acres in 1886, 160 acres in 1887, 80 acres in 1892, 80 acres in 1893 (the original homestead with the frame house) and his estate bought 80 acres in 1894, a month after he died. 


In 21 years James and Harriet had accumulated 720 acres of ground after arriving with little or nothing. A true American Success Story.

Four of the five children married and lived around the original homestead. Will moved to South Dakota. My grandmother Annie inherited the tree claim and then bought more land with her husband Kit Batie. Harry was a horse trader and kept trading one piece of land for another and finally traded for land in the Sandhills around Brewster. Jim bought another neighboring farm and lived there for awhile before trying out Oregon (didn't stay). John farmed north of the tree claim, but eventually lost his ground.


Plum Creek became Lexington in 1889, but that's another story.

Later I will post stories about the Pickering cousins who attended District 56, a rural school in the neighborhood.

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