The North Bend Eagle

McVicker sod house stoneDan and Doug McVicker pose with the rock that tells of the McVicker family beginnings in the Purple Cane area northwest of North Bend in 1869.

Remember the original old settlers:
Sod house marker relocated

by Mary Le Arneal
Published 6/24/15

Walter McVicker never forgot his early years in the sod home on the plains of Nebraska where he was born in 1871. At age 59 in 1929, after many years of being one of the country’s most noted stationary engine and tractor engine designers and builders, he selected a 750-pound boulder from the Indian battlefields of western Minnesota, had it moved and engraved in Minneapolis where his engineering company was located, and shipped it by rail to Rogers, Nebraska. There it was picked up by his brother George McVicker, who lived on the family homestead northwest of North Bend.

The inscription reads, “Here stood the home of James G. McVicker and wife Martha Jane Mitchell, built of native sod, 1869.”

In 1930 George and sons Mitchell and Wendell placed the boulder where James and Martha McVicker’s sod home had stood in section 30 of Union Township, some 60 rods (990 feet) northwest of the 1878 frame home which still stands on what is now the farm of Jeff and Deanna Mitties. There the marker remained in the field for many years. Once farming equipment advanced to where it covered more than two rows at a time, the marker became a hindrance and needed to be moved from tillable ground.

Mitchell’s children had all grown up on the homestead and they felt that the boulder they had grown up with needed to be preserved for family, and Purple Cane community history, but the question was where?

They considered a number of different sites. In 2014 they approached the Purple Cane cemetery board with a request to have the boulder moved to the McVicker family plot where five generations of the family were buried. At its April 2015 meeting, the board approved the move providing that a plate be placed on the boulder to identify where it had originally been located.

The brass plate placed on the cement base of the boulder reads, “In 1930, George McVicker and sons, Mitchell and Wendell, placed this 750-pound boulder 1.4 miles south of this cemetery. It set 13 rods west of Purple Cane Road in section 30, just east of an arm of Rawhide Creek. It was relocated to the McVicker plot, by Mitchell’s descendants, in 2015.”

With the help of McVicker cousins Gary and Jeff Mitties and Jeff’s equipment, the boulder — now weighing 1,500 pounds with its concrete base — was set in its final resting place in late April.

Dean McVicker remembers hearing stories of the ancestral sod house when he was growing up. There was one about his great Uncle Walter as a three-year-old playing with his mother’s wedding ring and losing it in the rough flooring of the sod house. The story goes on that he and his mother would go back to the site of the sod house to pick berries and always sifted through the sod looking for her ring. Three years ago Dean McVicker and a friend went through the site with a metal detector.

“We found an 1867 nickle with a hole in it,” he said, “and a lot of other items, but no ring.”

Dean McVicker is glad that with the placement of the boulder there is a more public presence of the marker.

“(The family is) really pleased with this,” McVicker said. “It is some place anyone in the family can see for generations to come.”

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