Jack Francis’ life began in Greenland, Michigan in 1890. I don’t know that much about his growing up years… or his parents. I learned from my uncle that he was of Scotch-Irish descent.
A year after WWI began, he married Content Abbie Bottum. Somewhere along the line she had changed her name to Constance. However, to all who knew her, she was just Connie. They began their married life in Ashland, Wisconsin.
Jack worked for a time loading iron ore onto barges (probably in Michigan) during the war period. He was excused from military service due to an old football injury.
In the early 1900s, thousands of homesteaders came to live on the Plains. Just as in the previous two stories, settlers began the hard grueling life of “proving up” or turning the land they were given by the government into farms for permanent settlement.
My grandfather was one of these settlers, only he came to establish three hardware stores in nearby towns that supplied tools and materials to the farmers.
In 1919, Jack and Connie moved to Vivian, South Dakota, with their young son, John. Jack opened his first hardware store there. My father, William Francis, was born that same year. His Army separation papers list his birthplace as Presho, SD. The two towns are close together, so I guess he could have been born in Presho, though I don’t know what the circumstances would have been.
In 1921 the family moved to Murdo, SD, a distance of about forty miles, where Jack opened a second hardware store. South Dakota was just getting settled by farmers during this period. I was told that Jack shipped in barbed wire by the railroad carload to supply materials to farmers wishing to fence in their new places.
Three years later, their third son, Charles, was born at home in Murdo. Later, Jack sold the Vivian store and opened one in Kennebec, another nearby small town. I was told he owned a third hardware store in Westfield, Iowa, and that he hoped to have a store to leave to each of his three sons
When Jack and Connie were married, Connie had the word “obey” removed from their wedding vows. She was a strong, independent woman, which was a good thing because she became a young widow left with three boys, ages 2, 7, and 11, and three hardware stores. Jack Francis died in the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN, on November 22, 1926, at the age of thirty-six.
Though he died young, just think about the threads of his life that are woven into mine and that of my family and extended family. I was looking at the only good picture I have of my grandfather and noticed something very special. If I put my hand right under his eyes, I can see that my son, Mason, bears a strong resemblance to his great grandfather. He has the same eyes and eyebrows, and the same small ears and hairline. My other son, Craig, has his eyes, too, and so does my brother, Billy.
All three of the men, whose lives we are learning about were described as being small in stature and slender. They must have had little fear of the unknown, or they were afraid and forged ahead anyway. I was told that my Grandma Connie teased that when she arrived in Murdo and disembarked, the train was between her and the town. Had she been able to see the town before the train pulled out, she might have hopped right back on.
Small towners like to tell on themselves, but my Uncle Chuck said she really loved Murdo, as we all do. If it hadn’t been for these grandparents who moved there, I wouldn’t have had the joy of growing up in that wonderful little town.