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Autobiography – Kenneth Browning

Kenneth BrowningAutobiography As written by KB on February 20, 1968

I was born on the 16th of May 1906, in a small log house, on the south bank of Hadley Creek, about two miles N.E. of the town of Barry, in Pike County, Illinois. I was next to the youngest of nine children born to Jacob Albert and Mary Elizabeth Browning. There were six boys and three girls.

My four older brothers were named Oscar Leroy, Carl Reynard, Walter Oliver, and John Winifred. They have all passed on, but my youngest brother, Ronald Hugh is living near Dixon, Montana. My three sisters are living, they are, Mrs. Iva Pilling, Swan Creek, Ill., Mrs. Ruth Lundvall, Ronan, Montana, and Mrs. Lelah Mickelson, Dixon, Montana.

My father was born near Griggsville, Ill., in 1857, and my mother near New Canton, Ill. in 1868. My father died in 1945 and mother in 1953. Mothers’ maiden name was Smith and she was the daughter of John G. Smith who was born in England in 1839. Her mothers’ maiden name was Prudence Moss, and she also was from England, but I don’t know what year she came to the United States.

Grandpa Smith came to the United States when he was fourteen years old, with his folks. They came over on a sailing ship and landed at New Orleans. They settled near New Canton, Ill. He was in the Union army during the Civil War, was taken prisoner, and spent several months in Andersonville Prison.

Some of the stories he told, made my hair stand on end and my blood run cold. He spent some time on the Rio Grande River, during the trouble with Mexico. He was discharged at Brownsville, Texas in March 1866. After his discharge, he married Prudence Moss, either in Ohio or Iowa, I forgot which. They lived in the New Canton, and Barry vicinity for a number of years, then moved to Idaho, where they lived until the Flathead Reservation was opened for homesteading in 1910. Grandpa acquired 80 acres about two miles S.W. of Dixon, on the “bench”. He was past seventy by this time and was too old to fence the place, or put it in to cultivation, so he offered to give my folks a home on the place, if they would come to Montana. They sold out in Ill. and came to Dixon in November 1912, when I was six and one half years old.

We lived on the place as tenants  until grandpa died in 1929. (Grandma died in 1919). Grandpa had borrowed money on the place and it was still mortgaged at the time of his death, so the man who held the mortgage, took it over. We continued to live on the place and we finally raised the money to redeem it.

My father, mother, one sister, two brothers, and I lived there for some time, until my older brother died, and my sister and younger brother moved away, which left my dad, mother and I at home.

My dad died in 1945, so there was just mother and I left. She died in 1953, so I dug up the money to pay off the indebtedness against the place, and acquired it in my name.

I had started working away from home, for neighbors, at the age of twelve and received the huge sum of one dollar per day. Of course, a dollar would buy a lot of loot in those days. I started working for the Reclamation Service, on my sixteenth birthday and I worked for them off an on for quite a few years. I also started trapping when I was eleven or twelve and trapped every winter for about twenty years. I got practically all the wood for home use, from the time I was sixteen and it took a lot to keep that old house warm in the winter. Also, I sold wood in Dixon for nine winters.

School never appealed to me very much and when I had finally struggled through the second year of high school, I quit for good. I couldn’t keep my mind on school work in the spring when there were a lot of fish to be caught and thousands of squirrels and woodchucks offering themselves up as targets for my trusty .22 Stevens. In the winter, there were too many fur-bearers to be trapped, for me to get very excited about school.

I worked in the timber quite a lot, felling and swamping trees, setting chokers, etc. I worked up the Southfork of the Jocko one winter setting “chokers”, in five feet of snow. Another winter, I worked on the green chain at the “J” and “M” mill at Seeley Lake. The green chain was out in the open, and it was plenty cold. I stacked several hundred stacks of hay, and irrigated for a good many years. I built miles and miles of fence, built corrals, dug ditches for pipelines, and did most any ranch work that came along, also I worked on power lines.

I and my partners were mining for several years on Seepay Creek, seven miles back from the highway. We made many trips up there on snowshoes, with heavy loads on our backs. It was a lead prospect. We also had a copper prospect, just back of Perma. I worked for awhile at the Martin Mine, north of Nirada. I also worked for a man named Elmer Allen, at the old Teddy Mine, at the head of Vanderberg Creek. I went on a number of prospecting trips, but not as many as I would have liked.

I was always quite a gun “nut” and was never so happy as when I was out hunting. I still like to go big game hunting, and get a big thrill out of following fresh deer or elk tracks when there is a good tracking snow. I have never had the patience to stand or sit in one place and wait for the game. I always have to be on the move. I think I have gotten my share of game.

I have always liked to fish, mostly stream fishing, for trout, but I have caught my share of bass in the old Sink Hole west of Dixon. I also liked to go ice fishing for whitefish, and maybe a trout now and then. I have been out on the ice, fishing, when it was twenty below zero. I haven’t had the chance to do much fishing for several years now, but I hope to have a snug little cabin along a good fishing stream before too long.

I always loved horses and making a living with them. I made pets of most of them. I raised quite a few horses, and I don’t think there is anything cuter than a little frisky colt.

I had a few head of cattle at times and made pets of them also. I sold the last of them when I started mining. It was always hard for me to have to shoot a sick or crippled horse or cow critter, or one that was hopelessly old, but I have always managed to do it, I didn’t give the job to someone else.

I sold my place at Dixon, in the spring of 1965, sold the last of my horses (which I hated to do) and moved my few belongings to the “Spitfire Mine”, located about eight miles down the river below St. Regis, in Mineral County. I stayed there until fall, 1967, at which time I moved back to Sanders County. I am now living on the old Mercier place S.E. of Paradise, about three miles.

I have always liked to read, and would read most anything I could find to read. I prefer cowboy stories, northern stories, and detective stories, both true and fiction, also adventure stories. I especially like to read Early American History. I like to read poetry, and it wasn’t difficult for me to memorize.

The first poem I wrote was “Battle Solioqy”, which I wrote during World War One. It was printed in the Dixon paper at that time. I have added to it in later years. I have written some of the junk in this book when I couldn’t think of anything better to do.

I hope you have derived a little pleasure from reading it and that it has helped you while away a few idle moments.

Now I will say “Adios”

~Ken Browning
Paradise, Montana