submitted by George Klein
Benton County, IA and Wheatland County, MT
The following is an account of a family who lived in very difficult times, copyright by George W. Klein, 2014
Memories of Emma Reiss Robinson & Sherman Robinson as told about 1982-1986 to Patricia Wiff by Elizabeth Klein Canfield and Sherman Klein (brother & sister). Elizabeth & Sherman (who was named after Sherman Robinson) were the children of Emma’s twin sister, Anna Reiss Klein. Emma & Sherman Robinson was their Aunt and Uncle.
Born on Dec. 23, 1873, in Ashton, Illinois, Emma Reiss was one of a set of twin girls who weighed in at about 2 & ½ lbs. each. The twins had shoe boxes padded with cotton as their beds, and their incubator was the oven door of a wood burning kitchen stove.
Due to crop failure and drought, about 1886 the Reiss family moved to Garrison, Benton County, Iowa. The Tilford Academy was operating in Vinton, Iowa, so when the twins were out of 8th grade, they were sent to this institution of higher learning. It took them to 10th grade. There they both met their future husbands, Sherman Robinson and William Klein who were also students.
Emma, Sherman & Anna were all school teachers. They taught terms of 3 months in the winter and three months in the summer because the boys usually had wood to cut or other seasonal farm work to do. Uncle Sherm (Sherman Robinson) was Superintendent of Schools in Benton County, Iowa until about 1898.
In 1898 Sherman Robinson joined the 19th Iowa Regiment of the U. S. Volunteers and served in Cuba during the Spanish/American War. After that service ended, he and Emma lived in Van Horne, Iowa for awhile. About 1908 homesteading laws were passed to open Montana to farmers and Sherman and Emma went west to settle. Their land was located at Judith Gap or near there.
Aunt Emma Robinson ran the Post Office at Judith Gap for many years. After about 15 years of marriage, son George was born at Great Falls, Montana, April 7, 1913. Aunt Emma was 37 years old at the time. The birth of that son was her greatest happiness.
Life in Montana was never easy. One crop failure after another kept them very poor. Their nearest neighbors were quite far away. I remember her telling of walking 4 miles to visit her neighbors and of carrying food with her as the neighbors were just as poor as they were as far as a ready food supply was concerned. Still, she and Sherm loved Montana and always believed that the next year would bring a good crop and a successful season.
At Judith Gap they had 10-12 cows and a flock of chickens. Sherman Klein (nephew) said he was there when he was 22 years old (about 1920). A blizzard came up and Uncle Sherm said, “put on your coat, we must catch the chickens.” So they went out in the storm. The chickens had been blown against and into the fence corners so they caught and carried them back to the rickety hen house. Sherm also said Uncle Sherm would carry his milk stool into the yard and milked the cows wherever they were. They separated the cream and shipped it into Great Falls via the Burlington which ran very close to the little house. A grain elevator was located near their home and the horses ate enough of the grain to stop the train.
Sherm says that when they were threshing a wind would come up that was fierce enough so that everyone had to go home. It would blow the wheat right out of their wagons. A five bin granary stood near the house. It also served as the extra bedroom space for Sherm and the other hired help.
When son, George, was 15 years old, he was badly injured in a high school basketball game. It seems he either fell into or slid into a bench and received a severe head injury. He went home and suffered from a severe headache. The doctor came from 40 miles away. The pain was so intense that he was walking around on his bed. The doctor called a specialist from Helena, but George was dead when he arrived. The boy’s body was brought back to Vinton, Iowa and buried there. (George died of meningitis, Nov. 20, 1928 in Judith Gap., MT)
Emma and Sherman came back to Vinton, Iowa in the fall of 1930 and lived there until they both died. Emma died of a heart attack in 1936 at the age of 66 years, and Sherm died of cancer in 1939.
All in all, they had no simple life, nor an easy one, especially those years in Montana.
copyright 2014 George Klein