Our Past | 1941: Birthday celebration for local homesteader

Selected by Karen Larsen
Empire Press Correspondent

This article from the July 19, 1941 edition of the Waterville Empire-Press tells of a community birthday party for a 75-year-old man who had come to Mold — a community in eastern Douglas County — to homestead when he was young.

Bill Lemley, 75 and Going Strong

Old homesteader at Mold asks no odds of anybody to put in his crops

MOLD (July 9) — A large crowd attended a picnic at the Grange Hall on the Fourth to celebrate that day, (which was) also in honor of William Lemley’s 75th birthday. A watch and chain was presented to him by his friends and neighbors. Marvin Aylward escorted him to the head of the table where an enormous birthday cake was awaiting him, and the watch was presented. After the singing of the “Star Spangled Banner,” all fell to eating the bounteous feed and topped it off with ice cream and the birthday cake.

William, or Uncle Bill, as he is familiarly known, was born in Cheboygan, Wisconsin, in 1866. From there he went to Iowa, thence to Washington (state) while it was still a territory. He homesteaded near Mold and has lived on that place ever since. He recalls many hardships of the early days — blizzards and windstorms, and snow high as the fence posts. There were no fences in the early days and getting lost was easy. Lots of geese and ducks, sometimes covering the sky, were a common sight. He is still hale and hearty, works in the field, disced 100 acres this spring in record time, and sowed 50 acres of rye. Uncle Bill says he “always voted according to the dictates of my own conscience, but always voted for a Democratic president.” He also states he always “ate sow-belly and beans, drank a little, and smoked all the time.” We all wish Uncle Bill many, many happy birthdays.