I’ve been struggling to find an appropriate vein to tap with this week’s 52 Ancestor’s theme. In honor of the birthdays of Elvis and MLK, the theme is “Kings”. I had thought to look for a musician in the family a la Elvis – with no luck – or someone with a royal connection – again no luck. So then I thought of names – King = royal = Le Roy – get it – haha! I thought there HAD to be Leroy lurking amongst my tree branches somewhere.
LeRoy Forest Hillman is my 2nd cousin, twice removed. He was born in Gage County, Nebraska in 1896 to John and Leona (Fuller) Hillman.
The farming family relocated to Bourbon County, Kansas (near the Missouri border) in the mid-1910s. Leroy married Lillie Graham in 1919 and daughter Leona was born in 1923 followed by 3 more children, Forest, Orville and Marie. I imagine farming on the wild plains of Kansas was not an easy life and perhaps they had a chance to move to more arable land since by the 1940 census, they had moved west into Allen County, near Iola.
The great depression which began in the fall of 1929 affected Kansas just as it did every other part of the country, but on top of it there was superimposed almost a decade of drought and duststorms. In other words, Kansas and neighboring Great Plains states got a double dose of misery and calamity.
The decade of the 1920’s had been a rough one for farmers, although most of the rest of the economy was booming. It will be remembered as a time when all farm organizations were imploring congress to pass relief legislation in order to save farmers from bankruptcy.
The desperate situation of Kansas farmers in the 1930’s can be judged by the fact that the total farm value of Kansas agricultural production in that decade was only 63 percent of what it was during the very lean 1920’s.
Farmers in Eastern Kansas had plenty of trouble but they got off easy compared with those in the west. The dust storms which raged in the Great Plains from 1933 to the later years in the decade are perhaps among the best remembered happenings of that time. They received plenty of publicity and certainly will never be forgotten by those who lived through them.
–from Hope, Sr, C. (1970). Kansas in the 1930s. Kansas History: A Journal of the Central Plains, 36(1), 1-12. Retrieved from http://www.kshs.org
I’ve found several mentions of the Hillmans in the Iola Register “Happenings” section, as social doings were often recorded in small rural communities. These clippings illustrate how everyday details were noted and immortalized in print – it could either be seen as a nuisance or status, I guess.It seems Roy and Lillie were successful in farming enough (or tired of the Kansas weather) to retire to San Antonio, Texas as shown by another “Around Town” clipping from 1976: Leroy passed away in 1983 at the age of 86. His wife Lillie followed in 1993 at the age of 92. I didn’t have any stories or pictures or even any memories of my 2nd cousin twice removed, and I thank this exercise of 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks for allowing me to make his acquaintance and letting me peek a bit into his life. Who knows, perhaps one of his descendants will come across this post and reach out their branch to me.