Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Anna Belle Irwin Moyer Ventures West to Idaho

Anna Belle Irwin married John Harve Moyer's oldest son, Oscar Edward Moyer in Nebraska. They were married 20 August 1887 in Nebraska City. According to the 1900 Federal census, they were living in Omaha City the same year before venturing to Idaho. Here is a picture of their family and a story about their adventure. At the time of Anna Belle's travels, six of the following children were accompanying her and the oldest, Ora May would have been 12 years old.

Top Row: Arthur Vernon, Ora May, Anne Gertrude, Harve Edward, Francis Olive

Bottom Row: Wilda Marie, Anna Belle Irwin Moyer, Lester "Buck" Melvin, Oscar Edward Moyer

As told by David C. Chandler, by cousin Dennis DeFord, April 3, 1988, relayed from Trudie Moyer, daughter of Anna-Bell Irwin Moyer.

Anna-Bell Irwin was born in Fremont County, Iowa 5 Feb 1871. Annie lived with her mother Maria (Reeves) and father Burwell Irwin, until his death about 1880. Annie at age nine and Maria and remaining children moved in with Maria's brother, Amos Reeves, in Riverton, Ross County, Iowa, until Approx. 1883, at which time Annie moved to live with her older sister Rachel (Ada) and Will Thompson in Nebraska City, Otoe Co. Nebraska for a period of three to four years, until her marriage to Oscar Moyer in 1887. Annie and Oscar lived in Nebraska City, Nebraska until 1891. In 1892 through 1894 they returned to "Plum Hollow," (see note)Fremont County, Iowa and then again returned to Nebraska City, Nebraska in 1895 thru 1897. In 1898 through 1900 they moved to Douglas County, south Omaha, Nebraska. In 1900 Oscar went to Grangeville, Idaho by himself looking for work. He stayed with his father who lived there in a two room cabin. Oscar found a job and sent for Annie and the children to come out west via railroad. As the story is told by "Trudy," Gertrude Moyer, one of Annie's children, in 1988, at the age of 93, this was an exciting adventure for the family as they were told by friends and neighbors that the territory they were heading for was Nez Pierce Indian country, and these Indians were most noted for stealing young members of white families. In any case Annie was still young and not quite fearless, but had a lot of determination. She and her kids proceeded off to Idaho, where Oscar would meet the train and bring his family to town of the Moyer abode. Everything went well, until the train stopped at what they thought was their destination. Annie and family departed the train virtually in the middle of no-where and sure enough Oscar was nowhere in sight. In fact nothing was in sight except the tail end of the departing train. After waiting around for a while, Annie took action. We somehow managed to obtain a borrowed horse, loaded children and baggage on and proceeded to walk in the directions given to her for the Moyer place. Going down a trail, Annie saw some lights in the distance, as it was getting dusk. This poor caravan was certain that behind every tree was a savage Nez Pierce Indian just waiting to grab them. In their haste to find sanctuary, one of the children fell off the horse and cut his head on a rock. Annie was frantic, but remained calm in the eyes of her children. She found some bushes, and instructed the kids to stay put and remain very quiet until she returned. When the door opened, Annie stumbled backwards, for what she saw was a very large Indian squaw. It turns out that the Indian woman was quite civilized and questioned Annie as to why she was out roaming around after dark alone. Feeling somewhat mullified and realizing there was no one else to turn to for help, Annie told her plight of heading down the trail to meet "many white men,” but unfortunately she had an accident with one of her children. They both hurried back up the hill with medicine and bandages and after cleaning up the injured child, they all returned to the Indians cabin. The squaw asked Annie to spend the night, but Annie remembering the stories told to her were sure the Indian braves would soon return and take her children from her. So Annie respectfully declined the offer again stating that there were many, many white men out looking for her, and that she had better move on. Moving much further down the trail away from the Indian's home, Annie found a place for her and the children to spend the night out in the open country. The next day heading out again, lo and behold she met up with good old Oscar coming up the trail, apparently not knowing he was a day late in meeting the train. Trudy says her mind must have blanked out the following scene and words as to what Annie had to say to Oscar. We do know that Annie was a spunky, spicy person, and it is supposed that after Oscar told her that the job he hired on for, was only for one day, the poor Indian's probably ran when they heard Annie's war cry.

This is such a fabulous story that needs to be passed on. I love the spirit of Annie and her courage in a scary situation. It sure paints a picture of the attitudes of the entering an unknown territory. Thanks for sharing this one with us Vivian!  Oscar and Annie ended up divorcing in 1912, but here is a picture of them in later years, also provided by Vivian.

Note: Plum Hollow. The same as the present town of Thurman. It began as Fremont City in 1856, and later for some years was called Plum Hollow, The post office being designated Plum Hollow from 1857 to 1885.


  1. I'm so glad I can do this and share it with anyone who is interested! Technology is so wonderful!