The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa


September 11, 2013

Modoc Women

Picture: A July 4, 1876 celebration in Hauntown. William “Will” Struve, (Helen Cotton’s grandfather), is on the right -- as they are about to plant an Elm known as the “Centennial Tree,” in honor of the American Revolution


You’ve heard this line before, but reports of Carrie Helfert Oake’s demise really have been greatly exaggerated -- by me! Sorry for the error, but Carrie (96) is alive and well. When I visited her in Silvis last Sunday, she trilled “Yes, I’m still here!” One senses her Modoc spirit right away.


We talked about family life in days of yore -- all very vivid in her mind -- and I suggested that she sounded spunky in her youth. She appeared to disagree, drawling, “No-o-o… I wasn’t spunky,”.… then laughed, “I was REAL SPUNKY!!


Readers’ responses to the Hauntown and Modoc Hills articles are “coming out of the woodwork”-- or out of the hills, as the case may be. It seems these people’s lives are quite as colorful and compelling as those of their ancestors, who were this area’s pioneers. And listening to Carrie Helfert Oake, who wrote Footprints in the Modoc Hills, is particularly enjoyable.


I found folks from the hills quite fussy about distinct differences that just a few miles can make. Townspeople of Clinton tend to lump them all together, but for true “hill-dwellers,” you are from Hauntown and the “Hauntown Woods”, Almont, Sabula, Sybil, Midland Junction, Andover, Teeds Grove, or the Modoc Hills area east of Highway 67. Most knew of the Gomer area and remember skating there too.


Apparently, the Modocs were named after an Indian tribe not native to this area, although there are Indian mounds near the Fanger farm. Perhaps, as Mervin Helfert relates, it was also because they had to “mow (down) the docs” in the fields. - Docs were weeds which had to be eliminated.

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