52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks: Week 1: My Grandma Olive's grandmother: Nyda Denese Beliel

Nyda Beliel
Nyda Denese Beliel was born on 18 Dec 1859 in Washington Iowa, a first generation American.  Her parents immigrated from Quebec,Canada in 1856.  She was the fourth of thirteen children.  I imagine that their household was bilingual, French and English.

She grew up in Washington, (1860, 1870 census) and then she went to college and lived with her aunt in the neighboring town of Delta. Both she and her aunt were listed as milliners.  (1880 census)

She wrote a letter documenting her adventures in 1883 (when she was 23 years old).  Here are a few excerpts:

In March of 1883 I left college and joined two friends in Minneapolis.-Mrs. Axtel and daughter Margaret, and came to Dakota (Territory) with them.

...Then we made our first trip by compass to the Missouri river, where they had filed homesteads without seeing them. They wished me to file a pre-emption.

...Early the next morning we went on our way, traveling several miles before eating our breakfast.  We reached a tent hotel about noon where the town of Rosco is now located.  We got a very good dinner.  There was a crowd of young men there waiting to file on claims.  They apologized for staring at us so much, as they said they had not seen any women for over three months."

...So just before reaching Capitol Hill, which was very steep and rocky, we saw coming toward us what we thought was an Indian on horseback.  Miss Margaret Axtel got her revolver out and loaded it.  When he rode up to us, he said that Captain Houser had sent him to pilot us in.

...We found our claims and returned to Aberdeen for me to file.

...I had only one day left to establish my residence. A Mr. Merin, who is still residing in Walworth county and one of its prominent citizens, had promised to plough fifteen acres, but had not yet arrive. So Mrs. Axtel took me down to my claim, which was two miles away. I took a lunch and a spade and some lath. She left me there. I dug a well down by the creek six feet deep, as deep as I could, as I was only five feet five. I put lath all around it so nothing could fall in. Then I walked back. I had no fear of directions. I was very happy as I was greatly fascinated with this whole country. When I reached home there was fear on their faces, as they said I was taking a great risk to try and find my way back.

...We then went into LeBeau, where Miss Margaret had bought eleven hundred dollars worth of lots. They built a nice cottage and I got a position as assistant in the post office, which was a distributing office. There were four stage coaches coming in twice a week from Bismark, Blunt, Pierre, and Aberdeen. One was a Concord coach. The winter was a severe one and often the stages did not get in until dark. So we had to stay up until eleven or twelve at night to get the mail ready to be taken just at day break. The post office was then a good frame building with a general store connected to it.

That was a never to be forgotten winter. All the people there were wonderful. All happy, expecting a railroad in the spring. We held Sunday school and church services in a log building with board put across empty nail keys for pews. I never got so much enjoyment out of church work as I did there. This same log building was also used for a school building, and we organized and held a literary society there, which was the envy of all along the different stage routes. We had college women, lawyers, a major, a colonel, an ex-governor and many other people of note, who gave us their very best productions. That winter was an enjoyable one. I'm sure it lives in the memories of all who were there.  

Mrs George Peck, since 1884, former Nyda Beliel.

Age 24: She married John George* William Peck, on 16 Nov 1884 in Le Beau, Dakota Territory (now South Dakota).

They had 4 children.
Age 25: Grace Lucille Peck b. on 26 Oct 1885 in Le Beau, Dakota Territory.
Age 28: Flossie Gwendolyn (Ann) Peck b. on 11 Jun 1888 in SD.
Age 36: Raymond Tom Peck b. 11 Feb 1896 in Selby, SD.
Age 41: Margaret Elizabeth Peck b.19 Mar 1901 in Edmunds, SD.

Age 50-70: She shows up in the 1910, 1920 and 1930 census living in Isabel, SD.  (where my grandmother was born)  My grandmother remembers going to her house after school to read the bible to her.  She was blind.  That was probably in the late 1920s.

Age 71: She was widowed.

Age 72: She died 6 months after George on 18 May 1932 in Perkins, SD.


  1. What a lady! I told my husband about the 52 ancestors challenge and read your story to him. He wanted to know if you would win a prize. Good idea!

  2. How awesome that she wrote a letter documenting her experiences - and that you have it! Great story ~ thanks for sharing it.

  3. Great story! Welcome to blogging; look forward to seeing more from you.

  4. Hi,

    I want to let you know that your blog is listed in today's Fab Finds post at http://janasgenealogyandfamilyhistory.blogspot.com/2014/01/follow-friday-fab-finds-for-january-10.html

    Have a wonderful weekend!

  5. What a great story! How wonderful that she left behind her memories like that!


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