Hebbe Walter Christopher Hebbe

The Children of William and Mattie Hebbe:



Walter Christopher Hebbe was born 23 March 1893 in Jefferson County, Kansas and died 24 July 1935 while harnessing his team of mules near Dover, Kingfisher County, Oklahoma.  He was the only grandson of Christoph and Sophia who carried the Hebbe surname. On 22 December 1914 he married Fern Alma Miller, who was born 19 Sept 1892 at Belle Plaine, Kansas, and died on 23 November, 1983 at Wellington, Kansas. Walter and Fern had two daughters:  Eileen June (1916-1998) and Glendon Jean (1918-2003).

one year old Walter and Ray

HSWalter was 13 when he and Irene (then 15) completed the 1906 school term at Potter Public School.  Walter worked toward his high school diploma at Dover High School where he was a lackluster student (as suggested by his poor handwriting and many spelling errors) but received awards for perfect attendance.  The qualifying test for his diploma was taken April 27, 1910; although he appears to have fallen short of the officially required average of 75 percent,  he did go on to business college that fall. We have exam papers from the Franklin Institute, a correspondence school; perhaps those studies were to bolster his academic credentials.

Just as we suspect Christoph pressured Will, unsuccessively, to become a full time carpenter, Glendon related that Will really wanted Walter to become a lawyer. Will saw the Business College in Guthrie as a step in that direction. Walter dutifully earned a diploma from the business college. However, “Dad loved the soil and all aspects of farming and he did not like some of the things [i.e., subjects] being taught him in Business College.  He had a distrust of lawyers which he carried all of his life. After he completed his courses, he still wanted to farm the land and asked his parents what they wished for him:  to become a crooked lawyer, or a farmer?”

We have no letters written by Walter, but do have several picture postcards. We suspect colorful postcards were the preferred medium in good part for their appeal to his little sister Delma, on whom the family doted. Walter wrote few specifics about his time in Guthrie to his mother and six-year-old sister Delma. September 1, 1910:  “I am getting along fine. Like bookkeeping best. I’ll be home in a month or two.”   September 29:  “are you going to school yet. write and tell me about your teacher. Have you rode old ladie much and how is the colt … tell me what you want when I come home.”   November 15, 1910:  “are you coming over with papa when he comes? Say Delma tell Mamma to send my Dictionery with Papa, be sure to come along with him.”  November 22:  “Why didn’t you come with Papa? How do you like school? I‘ll be home xmas. …  what reader you in this yer?” 

at Pfrimers Walter’s job or jobs took him around Kansas the next several months.  From Herington June 25, 1912:  “Dear Sister! How is everyone down there. I am feeling good … How is the colt? Everything looks good here. Has Mamma got any chickens big enough to eat.”  Belleville February 7, 1913:  “Dear Mother am feeling fine with a frozen chin. Got a card from Irene today I guess she thinks it is cold up here but is warmer now … I hear you was lonesome with us both gone. How about it?”    The stamped return address on the envelope reads  Rock Island Lines, Herington, Kans.  But Walter’s letter begins:  “Hyton Kans 3/27/13  … Dear Mother, I received your welcome letter … was glad to hear from you … How is Dad? Is he any better than he was? … am working all the time. Got myself some new cloths the other day got so many now don’t know where they all are. Guess I will save my money may need it some day if I don’t it is nice thing to have … I will make about $85.00 this month that is better lots of other jobs isnt? Think I will go back to Belleville this summer and stay there. What is Delma going to do with her day? … I will try and write oftener after this. W.C.H.”   Walter was back in the Dover area by Christmas that year. He and "Roscoe" (presumably Roscoe Pfrimer, and a friend) appear (top left) in a picture taken at the Pfrimers' holiday party.  The Pfrimers were neighbors “and just friends” according to Walter’s daughter Glendon.

buggy Glendon related how her parents met during the summer of 1914. Fern’s parents, William and Nannie Miller, rented the farm adjoining (on the east) William and Mattie Hebbe's farm. “Mom and a sister were hoeing cotton in one field while keeping an eye on the good looking boy doing the same chore in the adjoining field. Walter stopped hoeing long enough to pick a watermelon from a nearby patch and set it in a shady spot to cool down. When he was at the other end of the field, Mom and her sister sneaked over and took the watermelon.  Later when he searched for it, they called for him to come over and get it.  Instead, he turned his back on them and went home.  Later, when Mom apologized for their actions, he explained his reason for not coming on over was, he had a hole in the seat of his pants!"

It all worked out well, for the two were married December 22, 1914. We wonder, might he have courted Fern in this smart-looking buggy?

Glendon said Walter and Fern affectionately called their first farm “the sticks.”  The September 24, 1915 rental agreement reads in part:  “I will lease you my farm for 3 years, allowing you to make the repairs you suggest on the terms you mention.  …  requesting you be as economical as possible. Please send all receipts to me which you receive for the material you buy and pay for. The rent, always payable in advance, will be $150 cash. Of course, you will deduct first the cost of the repairs. I think it will be all right to line the inside with wide boards and paper over that as you suggest. This ought to make the house much warmer. By all means, have the well fixed. Also, please see that the windmill is protected, and secure a new sandpoint if one is needed. The house ought to be painted outside. … I accept your agreement to act as my agent. …  to care for the place as though it were your own, and pay my taxes in Kingfisher once a year.”  The "sticks" is where both daughters were born, but they moved nine days after Glendon’s birth. 

W and F F, G and E

On January 27, 1919 W. C. Hebbe and Walter Hebbe jointly purchased 160 acres from W. I. and Mary J. Loch for $7,000.  [Kingfisher Co. Deed Bk 58 page 518]  This was the same farm Fern’s parents had rented in 1914 and was where she was living when she and Walter met.  According to Walter’s daughter Glendon:  "This was co-owned by my folks and grandparents, but my folks did the farming and paid all the interest and taxes. They never were able to pay much on the principal.  Grandpa & Grandma received half the gross, but didn’t pay for seed & such."  The mortgage was renewed several times. In 16 years working the farm, Walter and Fern managed to pay only $2000 towards the principal.

Glendon wrote an article in which she recounted memories of her father:  “Dad loved animals and one of my earliest recollections of him was his tending to the needs of the livestock. He was always building sheds for them and in the winter months made sure they had plenty of straw to bed down in. He took good care of the animals but often became so fond of an animal, he couldn’t bear to sell it so kept it far past its usefulness. He chose mules instead of horses because he thought they made better workers. My grandfather had horses for he liked them better. There was a strong difference of opinion on this between the two.  Dad had only one tractor in his lifetime; when he sold it, he said:  I’m under it repairing it more than I’m on it.”  It seems he traded the tractor for mules. The ironic thing is, he usually finished working the fields before neighbors with tractors did.  Pictures of farm work in those years can be seen here.

on carHe was quite inventive and was always constructing something to make our life easier. We enjoyed a lot of conveniences that other farmers did not have. He was more inventive than he was mechanical-minded. He had one steam engine he bought to use to operate a threshing machine. He was going to thresh wheat for others to add to his income. This turned out to be a disaster. The engine was so large and cumbersome it traveled only five miles an hour and usually took a day to move from one place to another. 

The first car I can remember was a Model T Ford pickup. It had a fabric top, hand-operated windshield wiper, and isinglass curtains to put up in bad weather. … He drove this for a long time, its fabric top rotted and flapping in the wind. The truck had to be cranked with a hand crank and was hard to start. One time the weather was so cold and the motor so stiff he couldn’t crank it. He built a small bonfire under the motor to warm it and nearly burnt it up before we could push it away from the fire. … The next car he had was a new 1928 Pontiac. It was beautiful, but troublesome from the beginning. … It often died while driving down the road. He finally had the carburetor replaced with one from a Model T and that ended the trouble.”

[Note: the car pictured here is not a Model T; perhaps there was an old car Glendon was too young to remember.]

Walter’s sudden death was a shock to the entire community.  Glendon remembered:   “Harvest was just over and Dad wasn’t feeling well so I drove him to see the doctor. He told us the doctor said he almost had dust pneumonia from shoveling the wheat. Early the next morning he suffered a massive fatal heart attack."  The first news of his death, published in the Hennessey Clipper July 25, 1935, gave these details:  “He was stricken at 6:20 a.m. while preparing to hitch up his team to start listing at his place, one mile north and three-quarters east of Dover. His lifeless body was discovered by a daughter who had gone to the barn to summon him to the telephone.”

in death

By late August Fern, as administratrix of Walter’s estate, had filed an inventory of everything he owned at the time.  The value appears to be what the object sold for at the estate sale held that same month. His undivided ½ interest in the 160 acre tract was valued at $5000, which was the amount of the latest mortgage.  He had 23 head of cattle, 3 mules, farm machinery, household goods, 40 head of shoats, 500 bushel of wheat, 175 bushel of oats, hay and chickens.  Of those, the cattle and wheat were of greatest value.

Glendon related:  “It was a terrible shock and tragedy for all the family and Mom said she didn’t see how she could possibly carry on without him. She knew we couldn’t remain on the farm and she wanted Eileen and me to continue with our education. The farm was sold and there was a large farm sale. Prices were low in those days and the farm still had a large debt against it so not much money was netted from the sale. Late in August, Mom moved us to Stillwater, Oklahoma, where she had rented a house. She took in four “boarders” -- two to four students, and once it was two students and two businessmen. Eileen and I enrolled at Oklahoma A&M College.  This [first boarding house] wasn’t a paying venture so the next summer we moved into an even larger house and rented rooms to 6-8 students. [As fate would have it, one of them became Glendon's husband.] Mom worked at whatever job she could find. This still didn’t pay enough to meet all our expenses so she decided to move nearer her parents and siblings in Wellington, Kansas.  She rented out the upstairs of a large house and Eileen and I took whatever job we could find. Two years later Mom purchased an apartment house, moved into one apartment and rented out the other three. This was her home for the next forty years.”

home 1946

Fern worked outside the house as well as being a landlady. In wartime she worked at a defense plant. She was a long-time employee of the Wellington hospital. Her income was always modest, but she was frugal and managed her money well. Family helped with house repairs and improvements.

age 91 In Fern's last years she resided in an apartment in a high-rise for senior citizens. This arrangement eased the minds of her daughters, because Fern's heart trouble and other afflictions of old age were constant concerns. Fern enjoyed chatting with her new neighbors. The custom of the residents was to open their apartment doors in the morning as a sign they were all right. One morning Fern's door stayed closed, sparking worry among the neighbors. They found her slumped on the floor. This heart attack had been fatal.

The picture here was taken two months before her death.