Getting the Wilson Kids to School was a Lot of Responsibility for a Young Boy

Clabe and Leora Wilson were tenant farmers from 1923 until 1926 for B.C. Hemphill. The house was a couple of miles southeast of Dexter.

Delbert and Donald rode the landlord’s gentle horse Nancy to school, after their dad Clabe saddled her. They housed Nancy in Mr. Hemphill’s barn in town during the day. Delbert was 8 years old.

Delbert and Donald, just arrived home from school. Donald’s 7th birthday, September 14, 1923, SE of Dexter

When Doris started first grade in 1924, Clabe taught Delbert, age 9, to drive Nancy with a buggy.

This 1924 photo shows Nancy with Delbert, Doris, and Donald, with part of the house.

Twins Dale and Darlene began school in 1926, so the “Wilson school bus” got larger. Delbert, just 11 years old, was in charge of making sure that all five of them got to school and back home safely.

Do you know of grade-school children who have been entrusted with so much responsibility?


Junior Wilson was the only one of the seven children born in Dallas County, at this place in 1925.

Because Dad’s sister and her family lived there during the 1950s, I knew the house from staying overnight with cousin Susan. Aunt Nadine hosted a bridal shower for me in that house, and invited Guy and me for supper right before he left for Vietnam in 1969.

The house and out-buildings have all been torn down, but I can visualize many of my mother’s stories about living there. I’d played on the same stairs where Doris, as a small child woke, had tiptoed partway down and watched her parents turning eggs to hatch in the new incubator in the living room.

The Wilson “school buses” show up in the last chapters of Leora’s Early Years: Guthrie County Roots, due out this summer.


  1. I always enjoy seeing the mules/horses of those by-gone years. As for the responsibilities, I think kids back then were expected to take on responsibility as a matter of course, a natural thing, part of the process of growing up. That’s lacking today. Kids who are busy with responsibilities, they’re less likely to get into trouble and end up becoming responsible adults.

    • I wonder how they would have handled things if the landlord hadn’t owned that handy barn near the school. He would have probably helped Delbert get Nancy saddled again and hitched to the buggy. I’ve also enjoyed watching Clabe’s care and patience with his children, especially later on teaching the boys to hunt and trap.

    • Liz, you are so right! Leora’s mother Laura knew when she married in 1890 that Sherd Goff was had wanderlust. Laura said she’d live anywhere with him as long as it was still in the US and there was a school for their children. (Sherd was the one who eventually said no to high school for the oldest ones.)

  2. I agree it was a big responsibility – horses, no matter how tame, can be unpredictable. Also agree that have responsibilities when young is important for a successful life.

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