Personal history from resident formerly from what used to be the town of Topbar

Dear Editor,

I am a former resident of Haakon County and read with interest the article of "Little House on the Prairie" told by Steve Clements.

I ... was born and raised at Topbar, S.D., where my uncle, Gilbert Durston, homesteaded in 1906 or 1907. His parents, my grandparents, Paul and Caroline Durston. and my Uncle Curtis, who was blind, and my parents, Herbert and Jane Durston, with my brother, Fred, and sisters, Dorothy and Emily, came in 1908.

I was born September 3, 1918, delivered by a midwife by the name of Stella Wells, a local neighbor. My grandparents are buried near Topbar on the prairie. The family of Oluf Hanson ran their cattle for grazing in that area. Oscar Hanson, while taking care of the cattle, found a horseshoe and he gave it to me as a keepsake.

As I've been told, we left the area around 1920 or 1921 when I was two and a half to three years old, buying a big house at Dowling area with 160 acres. In the fall, a teacher rented one room upstairs.

My mother was home alone, as my dad had gone to the brakes [sic] to get some wood. While gone, a fire broke out in what they called the separator room. She had no water available, only a 50-gallon barrel on a stoneboat. We had to haul all the water from the nearest dam. The only things she was able to save was me, wrapped in my father's leather coat, and a silver teapot from England with her wedding ring in it. The Dowling neighbors built us a two room tarpaper shack that we lived in during my growing up years.

The four youngest of the family, Beatrice, Rosie, Stella and Mary. Dorothy had gone to work for a family dairy by the name of Morrisons. Emily went to Philip to help care for our blind uncle, Curtis, who operated a popcorn business on the street at Philip. Also sold popcorn in the movie theater known as the Gem. I graduated with a friend Clements in 1938 from Philip High School. Steve must be one of the younger boys.

In 1936, the county offered county young folks to attend this hotel remodeled for living quarters. I attended and worked for my board and room in the kitchen with three older ladies. One I can't recall, but I do remember one was Mrs. Darmer and my sister Beatrice Durston Larson. I did the setting up of the tables, washed dishes and did some simple cooking and making chocolate pudding out of that horrible tasting dried powder milk.

I stayed two years and my folks sold the farm and moved into Philip. I married the 'love of my life" Gearhart (Gary) Linenko, in September 1938, just after graduation. We tried farming but with no success, like a lot of farmers and rancers did. We picked corn in Iowa some falls in order to live. Garry took a welding course in Omaha, Neb., and we decided to go west, ended up in Bremerton, Wash., where he took his test and passed in flying colors. He was a IA, but due to his workmanship he was deferred to work repair and built ships and submarines. We made Puget Sound area our home in 1942 ....

Would love to hear from some of my friends.


Stella Durston Linenko

Stafford Suites

1761 Pottery Avenue, Apt. #210

Port Orchard, WA 98366