Early Family History- Coming West

Like many people in the USA, my family on both sides, seemed to be in constant transition as they moved from the Eastern United States with the growth of the West. As land became available for settlement, they went west to find their destiny.

I cannot imagine going to Kansas back in the 1800's like they did and looking at that endless sky and saying, "this is home". But to understand the willingness to take the risks involved, one must uderstand the times they lived in.

The East had become crowded and families being large, quickly outgrew the land's ability to produce enough to support all of them. Without adequate sanitation rules, outhouses or lack there of had leaked into all the streams causing sickness to be prevelant due to a bad water supply. The creeks and streams were also seen as a dumping ground for all the dead livestock and trash as they thought that the running water would cleanse the pollution. Little did they realize that they were polluting themselves to sickness and death.

Swamp fever was also prevalent due to mosquitos and other vermin that inhabited the wetter and damper east. So people found the clean and unspoiled West to be inviting and a lot less risky than actually staying where they were born.

A series of depressions also fueled this westward expansion. At one point, hogs were so cheap that they used their carcasses to burn in the steam boats on the Mississippi. A farmer often had tp PAY the market to take the pigs he raised.

My great grandfather on my mothers side came from Missouri as a young man and homesteaded south of Dodge City. This was land the govt gave to people to encourage them to go west. You could get 160 acres per person and all you had to do was live on it and improve it for a number of years and then it became yours. There was quite a market for people to file on land, spend the minimum amount of time on it then sell the land when it became theirs to do so.

He had come west from Arkansas or Missouri as we really dont quite know. His father was a full blooded Indian and he told my grandmother, his daughter, of taking his new bride to see his dad once. Her mom said that the old man was friends with all the Indians who came around raiding and never suffered any loss. But in the time they were there, they never saw his wife or heard what had happened to her. Their name was Gillette and we have to assume that my great great grandfather, being a native american, took his wifes name as that is an English name in origin,

My family has some very dark complexion folks in it and so you can see the heritage still showing up after several generations.

My great grandfather lived south of Dodge City his entire life and raised a large family of good christian folks. They were all devout and loved the Lord and i recall many a time they would sit around and sing the old hymns.

Dodge City played a huge role in the development of the West and history and my other great grandfather was one of its founding fathers. More on him later of course.


Great grandad Gillette on the far right. Bert, son on far left, twin Bill, 4th from left. Daugher Alice 6th from left, My grandfather who married into the family, 2nd from left, My grandmother Mabel Gillete, behind the baby's head peering over, My mother center first row seated, her sister big smile, second row 3rd from right, Glen Burnett, 3rd from left, married Mary Alice Gillette a daughter,