MEMORIES IN FOCUS: Enjoying the fruits of a pioneer life years ago
The early 1910s were an era not just of gaudy wallpaper and rugs but also of transition, as many of the once-young men and women who tamed the frontier began reaching the ends of their lives.
One such pioneer was John A.O. Livoni, born in 1847 in Sonderberg, Germany.
Livoni came to the United States in 1868 and, after spending three years in Illinois, homesteaded a farm south of Peabody in 1871 at age 24.
In 1878, he moved his young family, including his wife, the former Ana Christina Clausen, and their 3-year-old son John P. and 6-year-old daughter Oline, to what he called Sunflower Ranch, 1½ miles south of Canada in Wilson Township.
Life was fragile on the pioneer prairie. Wife “Christine,” as she was known, died just two years later at age 28, when the couple’s children were but 5 and 8 years old.
Livoni married Dorothea “Dora” Horlick two years after that, but she died just four years into their marriage, when the children were not yet teenagers.
Despite personal tragedies in his life, Livoni was described in the Record of the time as a person of great determination, geniality, and influence.
In 1888, he sold sand and plaster in addition to feeding cattle shipped in from Texas. In 1895, he dammed the Cottonwood River, installed an irrigation engine and began extensive irrigation of this land. In 1899, he and partner George Hauser shipped six carloads of fattened cattle to market four times in a single year.
By 1908 he was one of the state’s most successful cattle feeders, feeding 1,000 steers each winter and erecting his own alfalfa mill during a corn shortage.
A founder of the Evangelical Church at Canada, he also was called upon to conduct services and to spread the word about the need for charity among members of the community.
In 1912, he sold his half-section Sunflower Ranch, deemed one of the finest in the county, to S.R. Woods of Kansas City for $120 an acre, a total purchase price equivalent to almost $1 million in today’s money.
He relocated to his other property, O.K. Ranch, six miles east and three miles south of Marion, or 4½ miles north of Florence.
Despite seeming to be in good health, he died there three years later. Scant months after that, his daughter, “Miss Lena,” as she was known, and his son, John P., and his family were injured in a buggy accident.
While driving home from church, a tree fell, frightening their horses and causing their buggy to overturn. “Miss Lena” was the most seriously injured, breaking both arms — one in two places — and suffering a gash on her forehead.
John P. soon afterward moved to California, where he became a Methodist minister. “Miss Lena” moved four years later to Sidney, Nebraska, where she married Robert Nelson.
She died was buried there in 1937 — the same year that her brother died and was buried in Stockton, California.
The father and both of his wives were buried in Marion Cemetery.
Last modified Nov. 8, 2018