Morrison recalls pioneer heritage
By Sandy Bond
The eyes of the windowless panes in the old clapboard stagecoach stop mirror its soul. This centenarian has had quite a life. It has seen joy and despair, and if it could talk, it would have quite a few stories to tell.
Certainly this must have been a grand home.
Legendary KOLY sports commentator Pat Morrison’s grandmother, Mary Edna McBride, once owned the former stagecoach stop and Pat got to spend summers away from the city of Mobridge on the windswept prairie.
“As I recall it was probably built in the 1890s,” he said.
Set several hundred yards back from U.S. Highways 12 and 83, “It’s probably one of the most photographed places in South Dakota, save Mt. Rushmore,” Pat said.
Lois Wolf of Java now owns the land, but for those who once received permission to enter, it was an expedition back in time. Travel was entirely by train, if the rails ran that far, horseback, and stagecoach. Still called the “Payne place,” Bill Payne and his mother lived in it for many years. After her death Bill married Edna McBride of Mobridge, Pat’s grandmother.
One of the first things one would notice is that just beyond the threshold two flights of stairs ascended, one to the east and another to the west.
In early fall wheat stretches as far as you can see. Some travelers since its abandonment have sought refuge from the dark of night and the elements and have written poetry and immortalized their thoughts and sonnets of love are etched on the walls.
Pat said his grandmother lived to the west portion of the building and the passengers on the stagecoach would have overnight accommodations to the east.
The once gorgeous piano has collapsed into the basement as the elements rotted the wood and undermined the floor.
“I always kinda wondered what happened to that piano,” Pat said.
Mr. Payne was reportedly a man of wealth and generosity and Pat’s father, Pat Morrison, Sr., was a well-known lawyer.
“He defended the bartender that shot Dode McKenzie and got him off,” Pat said. “And I think I know why. The jury was comprised of farmers. You know the farmers and the cowboys never did agree on anything.”
The cowboys thought the homesteaders were breaking up their land with their barbed wire and fences.
In response to his acquittal, the father of Dode McKenzie stopped sending his cattle to South Dakota to fatten up. This caused the death of the thriving little town of LeBeau. It was virtually a dying town when the Corps of Engineers inundated what remained of the town when the dams were built on the Missouri River in the 1950s.
“I absolutely loved visiting my grandmother when I was a child,” he said, “because I was allowed to ride these huge, gentle draft horses they used for harvesting when they returned from the field.”
When young Pat and Otto Muller, now 100 years old, first met, Otto said he was just a kid, helping his dad with a cistern on the Payne place.
“His grandmother was feeding baby Pat from a commercial jar of baby food,” he said.
The first canned baby food was made in the 1930s, Pat said, “so Otto must have been right!”
It’s a small thing to remember, but it did leave an impression on young Otto.
His parents, Pat said, lived in a grand house near the Mobridge Park and his grandmother stayed in a smaller house, an empty lot today, right next door.
His grandmother never remarried, but after her death her daughter, Bess Bunker, became owner of the smaller home in 1933.
The Payne’s biography wouldn’t be complete without mentioning O.D. Buchecker, who had a perceived rivalry with the Paynes. The grand Buchecher three-story home plus attic was believed to have been a better-built house. Many old-timers recall that when Payne put up a structure Buchecker would retaliate by putting up a bigger one, Pat said.
“When one put up an enormous windmill,” Pat said, “I recall hearing that the other put up an even larger windmill.”
Otto recalls meeting Buchecker in the general store when he was quite small and thought he was quite an imposing man.
“I still recall he would wear a buffalo head as a hat, complete with horns,” he said.
Both houses were homes to subsequent families, according to recorded history. After Edna’s daughter sold out, Harold Nies farmed the place for a while, as well as Rudolph Weiszhaar.
The Buchecker house was lived in by the Case Noteboom family after Buchecker left. It was later sold to the Fred Seyer family, and then Earl Roebuck. Several buildings on the place were torn down and the lumber used for other buildings.
Several years ago a fire destroyed the house and all that remains is some of the outbuildings-and the memories on the long-grass plains.