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Dexheimer, Florence Chambers, 1866-1925 / Sketches of Wisconsin pioneer women
([1924?] )

Gottschalk, Mabel
Susan Bender McFarland,   pp. 69-71 PDF (618.1 KB)

Page 70

   The Bender family were devout Methodists and every
Sunday drove six miles to the nearest church in a lumber
wagon drawn by oxen. The children were educated in
a pioneer school house built of slabs, furnished with
slab benches. As soon as the road was built through to
Centralia, now Wisconsin Rapids, Mr. Bender did some
of his trading there, bringing his daughter Susan with
him on many trips; Susan often remained for an ex-
tended visit at the home of her sister Jane, the wife of
P. J. Johnson, who owned and operated a sawmill eight
miles north of Centralia. It was on one of these visits
that she met Rufus McFarland who was buying shingles
and lumber to transport by raft to St. Louis and other
southern cities.
    Susan Bender and Rufus McFarland commonly
known as Centralia's Poet Laureate were married Febru-
ary 1, 1874, at the home of the bride's brother, B. F.
Bender, in Centralia, by Rev. Jesse Cole, pastor of the
M. E. Church. They boarded for a time but moved into
their new home before the doors were hung or windows
placed. The home still stands and is one of the land-
marks of the city, located just south of the Lowell School,
but has been remodeled into a comfortable and modern
    When first built the land around it was used as
camping ground by the Indians, who often kept up their
whooping and savage yells the whole night through.
The house was surrounded by a dense woods, filled with
bears, wolves and other wild animals.
    Mrs. McFarland was one of the few women who
rode the rapids of the Wisconsin River on a raft; her
husband being a pioneer riverman. Besides lumbering
he later became interested in real estate and the cultiva-
tion of cranberries.
     Having attended the Cook Family Reunion in New
York in 1906, Mrs. McFarland kept urging that a Wis-
consin Branch be formed with the result that in 1921
such organization was perfected.
     For many years as a practical nurse she ministered
to the ills of many friends and neighbors and through-

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