Ezra Babcock’s Letter


The Vinings and Babcocks were plentiful in the Thayer area of Kansas around 1910 – 1920s. In searching old newspapers, I frequently find mentions of their socializing, marriages, mishaps, and deaths.

ezrah hall babcock from jatpainter1

Photo posted to Ancestry by JatPainter1 – Ezra Hall Babcock

One item caught my eye, a letter from Ezra Babcock from South Dakota that was published in The Thayer News (Thayer, Kansas) 21 Oct 1910, Fri • Page 1. Since he mentions his two sons by name, I could tell it was Ezra Hall Babcock, my first cousin, 3x removed. Ezra was a name recycled among the Babcocks quite frequently.


A couple of weeks ago, the News sent out a number of cards to former Thayer people, asking for a letter from them for publication. Following is the first one received. Others are arriving and we hope to publish, one or two such each week for a while.

Sturgis, S. Dak. Oct 12, 1910.

To the Thayer News, 

I received your card and will endeavor to give you a brief sketch of South Dakota life and my experience since coming to this state. 

My two sons, Elias and Harvey and myself, filed on our homesteads in the fall of 1908, about twelve miles east of Sturgis and have been living on those claims since that time. Elias and I proved up on our claims the 21st of September 1910 by commuting and paying  $1.25 per acre for the land. We had to live on our claims constantly for fourteen months before proving up. Harvey will homestead his claim and will have to live on it for five years, but will get his land free.

All claims of any value are taken here. Anyone desiring claims would have to go out about 90 miles northeast of Sturgis. There is considerable good land but it is quite a distance from town. This has been a very dry year here and crops have been nearly a failure. Hay is very high, from $15 to $20 per ton, corn is $1.50 per hundred, oats are $1.85 per hundred, potatoes are $2.25 per hundred, eggs are 35 cents per dozen, butter is 35 to 40 cents per pound.

This is a great country for stock, and it does fine here. Horses are very plentiful and bring top prices. I have not seen a sick horse since I came here. Cattle are good prices and find ready sale. My son Harvey sold about two thousand dollars worth of cattle last fall and yesterday sold forty-two steers at thirty-seven dollars a head. There was thirty steers two years old and 12 three years old and fattened on grass. That makes a total of over $3500 for his cattle in the past year. He has around fifty head left to winter.

This climate is very healthy and a prosperous country, only the water is very poor in most places. 

Harvey has a fine spring on his ranch and good water.

I have been working part of this summer for the government at Fort Meade and some in Sturgis. Have also been appointed as supervisor of my district and have been working the roads quite a good deal. I have received three to five dollars a day for eight hours work but have made a flying trip to Deadwood, Lead City, and Rapid City. I find Deadwood to be a very lively mining town of about five thousand inhabitants. Lead City has a population of about ten thousand and the great Homestake mine is located there.

I expect to return to Kansas about the middle of Nov. and will be at my old home and can give all my friends a hearty handshake and tell them all about the country. Better than with my pen. 

I will bid you adieu, till we meet again, with best wishes to all enquiring friends. 

Sincerely yours,

Ezra Babcock


Ezra Babcock letter from S. Dakota

Letter of a South Dakota homesteader 1910

Ezra Babcock letter from S. Dakota Fri, Oct 21, 1910 – 1 · The Thayer News (Thayer, Kansas, United States of America) · Newspapers.com

Just the Facts – Ezra Hall Babcock

Ezra Hall Babcock was born August 31, 1853, in Monticello, Illinois. His father Elias Babcock was 35 and his mother, Laura Keziah Hall, was 28. Ezra married Olive Ellen Dixon on November 14, 1884, in Wilson, Kansas. They had four children in 15 years. He died on August 18, 1931, in Neodesha, Kansas, at the age of 77, and was buried in Wilson, Kansas.

  • Ezra Hall Babcock lived in Chetopa, Kansas, in 1870
  • His wife, Olive Ellen Dixon, had a sister Rachel Dixon who was married to his brother, Samuel Ouberry Babcock
  • Son J Harvey was born on January 6, 1877, in Thayer, Kansas
  • Daughter Rachel was born on August 28, 1885, in Wilson, Kansas
  • Son Elias was born on July 4, 1888, in Wilson, Kansas
  • Daughter Cynthia was born on November 5, 1892, in Chetopa, Kansas
  • In 1900, Ezra was living in Louisburg, Kansas
  • His wife, Olive Ellen died in 1906
  • In 1910, Ezra and 2 sons were homesteading near Sturgis, South Dakota
  • In 1920, Ezra was living in Chetopa, Kansas
  • In 1930, he was living in Thayer, Kansas
  • He died at age 77 on August 18, 1931, in Neodesha, Kansas
  • He is buried at Harrison Cemetery in Wilson County, Kansas