LEWISTON — Anyone who lives nearly a century is bound to have a few stories but not everyone is a good storyteller.Margaret Nell Waters Longeteig, 97, is. Over her life she’s authored many books on local history. In “Margaret Nell: A Prairie Life,” the Camas Prairie native tells her own.
Longeteig was a “near-pioneer” born to a generation of homesteaders. At age 6, her mother walked 80 miles behind the family wagon from Moscow to their prairie claim at Nezperce.
Longeteig grew up hearing accounts of the Oregon Trail and the Klondike gold rush, along with more personal stories, like the time her great-grandmother and a group of women meted out “frontier justice” with a sharp pair of scissors to a man preying on young women. Some of the stories in the book are written by Longeteig, who now lives in Lewiston. Others were recorded by her daughter Karen Longeteig and family friend Paul Stewart.
Longeteig was born in 1918 on a farm outside of Nezperce. When she was 6 years old she rode a horse to a one-room schoolhouse. Her parents didn’t worry because as she passed neighboring farms the family phone would ring.
“They’d say, she went by and she was riding well,” Longeteig said with a laugh. “The horse was kind of trained. After it went to school for a week in the fall it knew what it was supposed to do. She’d have taken a sack of beans to school if they put it in the saddle.”
Neighbors are as much a part of Longeteig’s memoir as her own experiences. On the remote prairie people helped keep each other alive. Around 1928 the neighborhood women came to the aid of an elderly woman found paralyzed in her bed by a stroke. Her husband would do nothing for her so the women organized deliveries of food and clean linens and sent children to do chores. They wrote to relatives to help and they came briefly but left. The woman was Catholic and they
appealed to the local priest but he said he could do nothing. In winter the roads would be impassable, so neighbors formed a plan. They gathered at the woman’s home one night, fashioned a stretcher and put her in the back of a wagon hitched to a team of horses. Under the cover of darkness they drove 10 miles to town and tied the team to the door of the local convent and left. No one wanted to be seen. The nuns got a sick woman but they also got the team and the wagon, Longeteig recounts. The husband left town.
Longeteig learned to drive in a Ford Model T. She went on to attend the University of Idaho during the Depression, married and farmed on the Camas Prairie during the 1940s.
The book costs $18.99 and will be sold at And Books Too in Clarkston.
If You Go
What: Margaret Nell Longeteig signing “Margaret Nell: A Prairie Life”
When and Where:
10 a.m. to noon, Thursday June 23, at And Books Too, 918 Sixth St., Clarkston
11 a.m. Saturday, June 25 at Craigmont Community Hall during June Picnic activities