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Claude Chittick Family
posted by the Odessa Digital Library - 1998
- sent to us from Susan Thompson, along with other valuable information. The following is an excerpt from a larger article about the history of the town of Wetonka, South Dakota.


That best portion of a good man's life--his little nameless, unremembered acts of kindness.
- W. Wordsworth -

At the time it seemed too bad that someone, some stranger from Leola eleven miles away, would get the mail carrier job which Mr. Earle had held temporarily. Just three men wrote the Civil Service examination and Mr. Claude Chittick had been second highest. Earle with his bookish, formal education and careful penmanship was understandably a high scorer, but he had not been able to prove United States citizenship so could not continue in the work. He sold his equipment; his mare, Pearl; her colt, and his buggy to the new driver. The Chittick family came from Leola and moved into Kindred's vacant house. It was 1914.

Claude, a Celtic type of Northern Ireland ancestry, had light skin, red hair and mustache. His own parents had lived in Ontario. His wife, Helen, was an artistic studious person with Scandinavian parents. She had been a rural teacher. Later she served Wetonka well as substitute teacher and school board member. There were three boys; Douglas, Ellsworth (Victor) and the baby, Malcolm.

I remember the proper, older boys calling on us their first Sunday in town. They wanted to do everything right so they did not come through the post office entrance, but went around the building and knocked on the rear door. It was the beginning of a long friendship that strengthened as the sterling qualities of the parents became known and the children grew up to resemble them. They have attained what seems like greater success than their parents but only commensurate with the training they received and the characteristics they inherited and developed in this-later period.

Claude's idea of Civil Service was just that--civil service. He had a true love of people and favors for friends were a matter of course. Probably few days passed without a patron on the mail route benefiting by his kindness in some form--a stamp supplied, a package brought to the door, a lift along the road, or a verbal message delivered between farms. I have not forgotten the good turns done for us when we as adolescents cooled at the temporary camps our dad set up where he put in crops. We'd take fresh meat, bread, and vegetables along with canned goods when we went out from town with our dad on Monday mornings, but Mother knew we'd need more bread and meat before the end of the week. She dutifully stamped her food packages since she as postmaster lived by postal regulations, but the regulations did not interfere with Claude and his ideas of service.

Without clocks at the camps we sometimes guessed the sun time right and got to the road to meet the mail. If not, the mail came down the pasture road to us. "We thought we still had time to get to the box," we'd apologize, but Claude brushed off the explanation and made light of his extra drive in and out from the county road, and the gate opening, "I didn't want to leave the meat at the gate on a hot day like this."

We always enjoyed seeing him but were especially glad one day when he drove in. My older sister had been "first cook" that week. Already a young teacher and no camper she had not got along well sleeping on the floor. She had developed sciatica along with stomach flu and appreciated getting a ride home "on the mail." Mother could square this with the postal rules because an "assistant postmaster" could ride and "inspect" the mail route even though passengers were not allowed. We girls were entered as assistants when Mother thought we were old enough to write out money orders, but this didn't mean we got paid!

At this time Mr. Chittick had a Ford touring car for normal driving but must keep the horses for storm weather and deep snow. He also needed the horses for substitutes like me. Sometimes I wondered if he laid off because he had a number of vacation days each year or because he knew how much I liked to earn money. Anyway I drove a few times, once with the oldest boy, Douglas, to show me the way, but other times with the map of the route. Once the map and my poor judgment got me and the mail service into trouble. The map indicated straight ahead, but the tall sunflowers and water on the grade suggested a detour. I continued on the grade until it was obvious there had been no traffic that way. Pearl's grown colt, Billy, objected when I descended from the buggy to turn him on the narrow road and a wheel scraped the body of the vehicle. With a bound Billy accomplished the whole maneuver but the buggy lay on its side in the sunflowers and Billy was out front and free. Immediately he was sorry so he stood by and waited for me. He and I and the mail walked over to Averill's farm to borrow a rig, but there were only women at the house and they had much more important business on hand than helping to get the mail around the north route. Threshers would be there for dinner and I must stay to eat. After that the daughter, Helen, would take me into town when she went in for supplies.

What a dinner! I really enjoyed it but I should have called home. When I arrived in mid-afternoon my mother had worried since a farmer came in to inquire what had happened on the mail route, "Chittick's buggy is overturned on the road." I was well fed and not hurt so Mr. Chittick qualified as the one person entitled to a grievance but he graciously explained that an attempt had been made to deliver the mail and therefore he would be paid and I should accept my substitute's voucher when it came. I wish I had been advised to return the money because there surely was expense in righting the buggy and getting it back to town and perhaps some harness repair. This, however, was typical of Claude--thinking the other person right and being overgenerous.

It didn't follow that he was over-lenient with his own boys. They received good training and expert counseling and had the ever present examples of good character in their devoted parents. Before Claude's death all three sons had finished college and were established in responsible jobs. There were also some grandchildren.

While still on the job Claude worked too hard one winter day getting his stalled car out of deep snow. In the evening the stroke came. When I saw him at Christmas he had not recovered his speech but had let Helen know he wanted the package sent to our nieces and nephews who had moved to Spearfish. He had started the annual gift giving when there were only two children and continued as the family grew to seven children and had moved across the state. He seemed to be improving and was able to be up in a chair when the second and fatal stroke ended his life. It was 1942.

This was, of course, a difficult time for Mrs. Chittick but fortunately (Victor) Ellsworth, the second son, still lived in Wetonka. He had given up teaching when a second mail carrier job became available. (Wetonka then had daily mail service on both routes instead of one carrier serving the two routes on alternate days.) Later when Ellsworth transferred to Aberdeen his mother found an apartment there which she enjoyed. During her senior years there was the long winter outing in Arizona where Ellsworth and his family were living. In the fall of 1967 she had gone with Douglas to Fremont, Nebraska, to the wedding of Malcolm's daughter, Nola. Douglas's daughters, Karen and Kay, were on the trip and then again with their grandmother when they returned to Brookings where Douglas has been on the faculty of the State University for years. For Mrs. Chittick the plans and talks of advanced degrees and professional work must have been very pleasing.

Shortly after her return to the Eastern Star Home in Redfield where she lived she excused herself from an evening meal. She said she felt ill and must return to her room. It was September of 1967 and she was eighty-two. For her death came gently and spared her the sorrow of her youngest son's death later that year.

Wetonka SD, 1978

Published by the Odessa Digital Library - 11 Mar 1998

Read the full article:

Enjoy the full article with more information about the Claude Chittick Family, and Wetonka, SD.
Wetonka, Little Town on a Railroad

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