William Greenleaf Colton

Biography of William Greenleaf Colton

--Audrey Asmus

I am writing about my great-grandfather, who was one of the early pioneers in the Sheyenne Valley.

Grandfather William Greenleaf Colton was born November twenty-third, 1824, in Antwerp, Jefferson County, New York, and so was a citizen of the United States. At the age of twenty-four he was married to Miss Polly Stockwell. This occurred November twelfth, 1848, in Russell, St. Lawrence County, New York.

Grandpa was induced to leave his home in New York by his younger brother, Joseph Colton, who had previously settled in Dakota Territory, where the present city of Lisbon is now. Joseph Colton was the first pioneer to settle in that vicinity. Other settlers soon followed, and the town of Lisbon was started. Joseph was so attracted by North Dakota that he wrote home urging his older brother to come to Lisbon, He told Grandpa-how productive and fertile the soil was and how land could be secured by homesteading. He said a cheaper living could be obtained in Dakota, Territory than elsewhere.

Consequently Grandpa filed a homestead consisting of one hundred and sixty acres. He proved up this homestead in 1897. His certificate states that his farm was situated in Ransom County in the northeast quarter of section thirty four, in township one hundred and thirty five, north of range fifty six west of the principal meridian of North Dakota. Besides this Grandpa purchased a quarter of land. With his family he moved to North Dakota in 1881. Their first house was a frame building made of lumber, twelve by fourteen, consisting of two rooms. Their furniture was shipped from their old home in New York to Tower City, North Dakota and then freighted to Lisbon. Grandpa came before his family so as to have everything ready on their arrival. He traveled by train until reaching Tower City which was thirty-five miles from Lisbon. Wagons and sleds were then used to carry passengers, freightage, and provisions between the two towns. Being short of money Grandpa could not hire a vehicle to carry him to his destination. During the whole thirty-five miles he saw not a farm nor a place to obtain a drink. When his family arrived he met them at Tower City. They made the journey to their new home in a wagon drawn by oxen.

The chief crop raised was wheat. The yield was bountiful, with the exception of three years, though Grandpa always had plenty for seed and flour. After the grain was threshed the necessary quantity was taken out for seed. The surplus grain was hauled to Tower City to be ground into flour.

Though Grandpa, could secure provisions in Lisbon, all his shipping and important business was done at Tower City, until some years later when the railroad was built into Lisbon. This helped to make it a prosperous town. It could now furnish all the needs of the farmers.

Machinery used at that time was different from that which we now see.

All the plowing was done by walking plows. The harvesting machines used then would now make an up to date farmer smile. They needed three men to operate, two to catch the grain and one to drive the team which was usually oxen as horses were too expensive. In later years Grandpa purchased three horses which were all he needed to run his simple machinery. Every fall prairie fires were of frequent occurrence. Fire breaks were ploughed around buildings and haystacks to protect them. There was one hailstorm on a fourth of July that damaged the crops considerably and injured some people who had happened to out in it.

Grandpa had very accommodating neighbors. The nearest lived about ten rods away, the next nearest a mile. Two of his neighbors were Abe Johnson and Thomas Wells, but I am not sure whether they were the nearest. His neighbors settled there before Grandpa came.

Grandpa has a great many living descendants. He was blessed with six children, who are all living at present with the exception of Adelbert. His eldest child was Melvin, next Adelbert, Elmer, Alice, Martha, and Adelia. Grandpa's eldest son, Melvin, married Miss Eurilla Stockwell. They had four children, Leona, and William the only surviving ones. His daughter, Leona, married Frank Wilcox. William lives at Houston, Texas, while Melvin lives at Alvin, Texas. Adelbert died January tenth 1902, leaving his wife, Asenoth, and their four children, Earnest, Grace, Alice, and Stanley, three of whom are now married. Miss Grace Colton married W. P. Cooper and Miss Alice Colton married H. S. Prosser. The family is now living in Salmon, Idaho. Grandpa's youngest son, Elmer lives at Banish, North Dakota, with his four children, Martha, Alfred, Marion, and Edna, all unmarried with the exception of Martha, who wedded Mr. Hove And now lives at Detroit. His eldest daughter, Alice, married Avery Town. They had four children, Ida, Addle, Ada, and Nelly. Ida died but the others are living in South Russel, New York. Grandpa's second eldest daughter, Martha, married Mr. Charles Barton of Cory, Pennsylvania. They had one child, Arthur Barton, who is now married. Grandpa's youngest child Adelia, married twice. Her first husband was Samuel E. Mullin of Bellingham, Washington. To this union was born two daughters, Zoe, and Mabel. Her second husband was Mr. George C. Wilson of Kittitas, Washington. By this marriage she had seven children. They are Howard, Elmer, and Floyd of Vidora, Saskatchewan, Canada; Harold of New Castle, California, and Elery, Verna, and Max with her at Kittitas. Of her two daughters by first marriage, Mabel wedded Samuel Prigmore of Ellensburg, Washington. They had five sons, two of whom died in infancy. The elder boy Arthur Prigmore is now in Ellensburg; Vernon is in the United States navy, while Eugene, the youngest, is with his mother at Bellingham. Zoe Mullin married Mr. Henry Asmus of Binford, North Dakota. They have seven children, six girls and one boy. The eldest child is Edna, next myself (Audrey), Dorothy, Shirley, Maxine, Donald, and Geraldine.

Grandpa and his wife were affectionately called Uncle Will and Aunt Polly by everyone who knew them. In later years they built a fine house and barn on their farm. They sold it after they grew too old to do the work on the farm and retired to Lisbon where they lived until Grandpa's death. Grandma then moved to Binford and made her home with her granddaughter, Mrs. Henry Asmus. She died May twenty-fifth, 1926, being ninety three years old at that time.

Grandpa died Monday, September twentieth, 1909. He was buried in the beautiful cemetery at Lisbon, North Dakota. Rev. A. J. Brasted conducted the services and delivered the funeral sermon. Grandpa's death was a great shock to the deceased ones family though in the nature of things expected.

Grandfather Colton was loved and respected by all his acquaintances. He was a true Christian gentleman, one who lived what he professed. I am proud to sign myself as his great grand-daughter.

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