Neva Churchyard's Trip Notes

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2 November 1995                134                           C8.3

My great-aunt Neva Nohl Churchyard was born 31 October 1898 to Frederick Churchyard and Clara Anna ("Kittie") Nohl, of Fairmont, Minnesota. She later married Carl Frank Rowley (who lived from 15 July 1897 to 10 March 1967). Sometime in the early 1920's, she and a friend of hers (one Jo Edgbert) went on a long hiking and hitchiking trip together -- as documented in the following clippings from her local small-town newspaper, the Fairmont, Minnesota "Sentinel".



Miss Neva Churchyard, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Fred Churchyard of this city and her chum, Miss Jo Edgbert of Mountain Lake, are taking a real hike. They started Monday from Mountain Lake to Spooner, Wisc. on foot. The distance by wagon road is about 250 miles.

Word from the girls on Tuesday stated they were making good time. While they are making the trip on foot, they do not refuse rides offered by passing autos and teams, and thus far have been given some substantial lifts.

The young women expect to sleep out of doors whenever the weather and fancy suits them. They feel reasonably able to take care of themselves, as Miss Edgbert, who is a night telegraph operator at Mountain Lake demonstrated her ability with a "gat" when about six weeks ago she pulled her six-shooter and held three burglars at the depot till officers arrived. The men were all armed but made no attempt to draw their weapons in face of the ugly looking gun in the hands of the unterrified and determined young lady, who admitted she would have liked to had them make some break so as to give her a chance to shoot.



Neva Churchyard, who with a girl friend, Jo Edgbert, hiked from Mountain Lake to Spooner, Wis., 280 miles, has reached her destination and tells incidents of this unusual jaunt in a letter to The Sentinel.

The two young women were on the road five days, traveling on foot and catching rides when they could. They carried a light camping outfit and slept out of doors, preparing meals at the road side. The girls felt no fear in the unusual undertaking for they both carried revolvers and know how to use them.

Here is Miss Churchyard's account of the trip:

"We had a perfectly wonderful trip. Of course we caught lots of rides. We only hailed one car and there was a reason for that. We were standing under some trees trying to keep dry when along came a great big truck. We hailed it and got a ride clear into Minneapolis, with a stop in Farmington for breakfast. That ride surely helped us out but it was rougher than any Ford ride I ever had.

Got Wrong Road

"We left Minneapolis quite early the next morning. Minneapolis was out of our way, but Jo's sister lives there so we didn't think it broke our bargain to pay carfare to St. Paul. Then we got transfers that took us to the city limits, where again we hit the trail. We got on the wrong road and asked some fellow where we should go and he gave us a bum steer, told us to take the first cross road and we'd come to the main Stillwater road. We landed in a farm yard. We cut across country then and finally reached the Omaha track and walked the ties to Lake Elmo, camping there for dinner.

"We started out early in the afternoon and had splendid luck catching rides and got about two miles beyond Turtle Lake, Wis., before we made camp. Here we had the best camping spot of the trip, on a hill right across the road from a cemetery. Very few mosquitoes. It surely is great sleeping right under the stars -- when the mosquitoes let you sleep.

Start at 4 am

"We were on the trail again at four o'clock. Had dinner at Cumberland, only catching one ride all morning and it was so hot we had to stop often for rests. We had dinner along the railroad track. There were about six other road agents camping there too. Guess they took us for brothers of the road. One man -- he looked like a professional tie-walker -- met us just as we walked up. He asked how far it was to St. Paul. It quite amused us to be taken for real bums. Guess that with our packs, we looked the part.

"Well, our luck improved in the afternoon again and at 5 o'clock we walked up to the house -- Jo's home in Spooner. We had been on the road not quite five days and have covered about 280 miles.

Lots of Fish There

"Have been having a peacherino of a time here. Went swimming at Shell Lake Sunday with Jo. Her dad and cousin caught scads of sunfish. Honestly, there were so many of them there and the water was so clear that we could see them fighting for our bait and it was seldom that we could get our hooks out with less than three fish on them. We used angleworms. The smallest fish caught weighed 1 1/2 pounds. We only fished about half an hour as we had so many we were afraid the boat would sink.

"The only use I have had for my artillery so far is shooting bullfrogs that sounded like a herd of cattle. They just sit still to catch the bullets and then pass them on to next one. The only trouble was that we couldn't get out to get them all. We got enough for breakfast, though, and let me tell you that properly cooked frog legs can't be beaten. Of course we had to lock them in the refrigerator last night and chase them all around the house this morning. They surely have the kick.

To Walk from St. Paul

"Today we are planning a drive that will take us around Long Lake, Cameron, Chetek, and the seven adjoining lakes, returning by Barron, Cumberland, and Shell Lake, a trip of about 150 miles. Just Jo and I are going in the Ford and expect a big time. Jo's dad left the flivver here and we are not letting it rust from disuse. We expect to drive it to St. Paul and Jo's sister will drive it here. We will take up the hike again from St. Paul, starting back Wednesday or Thursday. Can tell you lots more when I get home."



Bronzed as an Indian and carrying her pack like a veteran, Neva Churchyard swung in the front door of her parent's home, 215 South Park Street, Friday evening, having completed her hike from Spooner, Wis., in less than three days, thanks to liberal "lifts" by passing autoists.

Attired in her nobby hiking costume, Neva called at The Sentinel office this morning. She wore an army O.D. shirt with collar turned back and sleeves rolled up, khaki breeches and high topped walking boots. With her hair concealed by a man's straw hat, she could easily pass for a husky young soldier, and says that in fact she and her companion, Jo Edgbert, of Mountain Lake, were taken for young men most of the time during their trip.

The girls hiked from Mountain Lake to Spooner, Wis., in five days. The distance is 280 miles.

"We certainly had the time of our lives and it was the greatest lark imaginable," said Neva. "We didn't have an unpleasant experience, if you except the attacks of mosquitoes when one sleeps out in the fields and haystacks.

"We were frequently taken for boy scouts and one man thought we were escaped National Guardsmen from the encampment at Fort Snelling. I think he had a notion to turn us in as deserters.

"We took many of our meals at the roadside, cooking our grub on an open fire. People were awfully good about giving us rides. Hardships? Shucks! there weren't any. It was fun every minute and greatest vacation one could possibly have.

"The cost of the whole trip was almost nothing. We traveled over 500 miles and only spent about $13. Part of this was for shoe repairing and other articles of clothing. It's the real way to see the world."

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