Nora M. <I>Harris</I> Edwards

Nora M. Harris Edwards

Outagamie County, Wisconsin, USA
Death 1953 (aged 86–87)
Burial Ritzville, Adams County, Washington, USA
Memorial ID 40649872 · View Source
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Mrs. Nora Edwards, Ritzville Pioneer, On Of The First Residents of Community--Funeral services were held here Saturday for Mrs. Nora Harris Edwards an 86-year-old pioneer who came west in a covered wagon. Mrs. Edwards came to Ritzville as a 13year-old girl in 1880. At that time her family and three others were the only residents of Ritzville. It was not until the following year that grading was begun through this area for the Northern Pacific railway.

Mrs. Edwards could remember horses freezing in the howling blizzard. She could remember hauling green willows from Cow Creek to use as fuel and the big washboiler kept on the family stove to melt snow for water. She lived here when Adams County was nothing except an unbroken prairie of bunchgrass occupied by a scattered handful of cattlemen. Her early life was a grim, unceasing struggle of the pioneer against distances and elements which broke the backs of all except the strongest.

Married in 1883, Mrs. Edwards and her husband lived in Ritzville, Walla Walla and Milton, Oregon, before settling permanently in Ritzville in 1898. She has lived here continously ever since. During recent years she occupied an apartment in the Hotel Davis basement. She lived alone but was visited almost daily by her sons, S. E. (Skee) Edwards and R. E. (Skinny) Edwards or by their wives or other close friends. In failing health only recently, Mrs. Edwards was taken to the Adams County Memorial hospital late in January. She died there last Thursday, Feb. 5.

Her funeral was held in the Danekas and Duncan funeral home chapel with the Rev. Alfred Carter of Trinity Methodist church officiating. Burial was in the Ritzville Memorial cemetery. Besides her sons, Mrs. Edwards was survived by a sister, Mrs. Nettie Pertain of Seattle; a brother, Clifford Harris of San Diego, Calif., four grandchildren.---

Mrs. Edwards was born in Outagamie county, Wisconsin, on Sept. 9. 1866. Her father Jared M. Harris, a veteran of battles of Gettysburg and Lookout Mountain. The Harris family traveled by covered wagon to Canton, S. Dak., in 1869. After eight years in South dakota the family headed westward again in a covered wagon to Walla Walla, where they arrived on Aug. 21, 1877. Harris met Philip Ritz, regarded as the "founder" of Ritville, in Walla Walla. He helped Ritz build the first house in this area in the fall of 1878. The following year, Harris took up a timber claim just below the butte, lying behind the present airport and now part of the Marcus Thom ranch. He build a one-room house there in 1879 and on Nov. 13, 1880 moved his familly from Walla Walla to Ritzville.

"Three day after we reached Ritzville a terible blizzard blew up," Mrs. Edwards recalled for the Journal-Times several years ago. "It lasted for three days. We were completely snow bound. We had no barn and our horses and livestock were at the mercy of the blizzard. One horse wandered away and was frozen. Another kept begging at the door for something to eat. My mother baked bread to feed the horse. She shook the straw out our ticks (mattress) to keep the cattle alive and we all slept on the floor."

"That first winter, the only four families living in Ritzville were Mr. and Mrs. Harris and their four children; Mr. and Mrs. McKay and child; Mr and Mrs. James G. Bennett and two children; and Mr. and Mrs. D. Keller and four children. A blacksmith, Henry Horn, also lived here. They were the only residents between Cow creek and Carb Creek." The Bennetts and McKay had come with the Harris family from South Dakota. At this time Walla Walla and Spokane were the closest trading posts. The 60-mile trip to Walla Walla on the back of a cayuse to return with supplies and mail, was on made about twice a year.

The Harris family hauled their drinking water from Sheeps Springs and later from another spring at Paha. Once the family lived for a week on beans and fruit, which they kept in a hillside cave to prevent freezing. These early settlers had wheat on their minds, for most of them had been wheat farmers back east. In 1879 Harris broke a small plot of Ritzville land and sewed it to wheat, the firt wheat sewed in Adams county. An army of squirrels devoured the grain. The next year Bennette harvested the first crop in the county's history about 2 1/2 miles north of the present site of Ritzville. In 1881, Nora Harris helped her mother cook for an 80-man construction crew which arrived to build a grade for the Northern Pacific railway.

Nora was one of the 10 students enrolled in Ritzville's first school, a 12 by 12 shack hauled in from the county in 1892. Miss Roxanna White, the teachers, sat on a kitchen chair behind a drygoods crate, which was used as a desk and use the blackboards made of to 10-inch planks stained with oil and lampblack. School was held for three months during the years. Also in 1882 the first child was born in Adams county--Nettie Harris--Nora's younger sister, who was born April 23. and is now Mrs. Nettie Pertain of Seattle.

As a pioneer settler, Nora Harris experienced many of the same heartaches young girls of today are familiar with. She recalled recently "The first store in Ritzville was operated by William McKay in a small house near the railroad tracks. He carried groceries, a few bolts of cotton cloth, overalls and men's shirts. His supplies were very limited." "A fourth of July celebration was being planned and my mother bought a few yards of cotton pattern and we made me a new dress. White with red polka dots and trimed with ruffles." "I was very proud of my dress and fairly pranced in it to the celebration." "A neighboring family arrived at the same time. I could not believe my eyes. Every woman and girl in the family was wearing a dress made from the same white and red polka dot material-only they had run short when they reached their mother, so she had only a blouse in white with red polka dots, with blackskirt." "After that, I didn't care much for my new dress."

Nora a Harris was the first girl in the Ritzville settlement be married, although she was not wed in Adams county. A contemporary account reports: "Miss Nora Edwards, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. J. M Harris and Samuel Edward left Ritzville at 3 a.m. on an accommodation (Mixed) train for Cheney April 10, 1883, to get married." "Arriving in time for breakfast at the hotel they had trouble locating a minister so were married by a justice of the peace in the hotel lobby at 2 o'clock in the after noon." The bride wore a dress of dark brown wool made with a polonise and trimmed with satin and button. Friends invited them to supper and they waited until 3 the next morming for a train back to Ritzville."

Mrs. Edward first child, Bessie Erma Edwards was born June 12, 1892, in a house on Second Ave. In Nov. of that year the young Edwards family move to Walla Walla. A son, Ray Ellsworth was born on a small farm near Walla Walla in 1895. Later in that same year the family moved to Milton Oregon where Edwards work as a bookkeepr for the Stewart Flouring Mills, A second son, Samule Everett was born in Milton in 1898. In March of '98 the family returned to Ritzville. The lived with Nora's parents until September when they bought a one-room house on East Third avenue, where the Bill Sickmann residence is now located. They lived their until a new home on Fourth in 1916-1917 was built. Edwards was postmater in Ritzville for many years. He died in June of 1926.

Ritzville Journal Times February 12, 1953 Sue Gardner & gapwork90

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  • Created by: Scott Bolliger
  • Added: 13 Aug 2009
  • Find a Grave Memorial 40649872
  • Find a Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for Nora M. Harris Edwards (9 Sep 1866–1953), Find a Grave Memorial no. 40649872, citing Ritzville Memorial Cemetery, Ritzville, Adams County, Washington, USA ; Maintained by Scott Bolliger (contributor 49600767) .