Two thirds of would be homesteaders either gave up their claim or failed to meet the requirements of The Homestead Act. Cal Sutherland was nearly one of them.
Isaac Calvin “Cal” Sutherland was born about 1876, the fifth of seven children. The family consisted of five boys and two girls. His father was James Hiram Sutherland (1839-1915), the older brother of Charles Wesley Sutherland. Cal was born in Milo, Illinois shortly before the family moved to Iowa.
Homesteading was a promising venture for many young men in the midwest. With a little luck and a lot of hard work, a young man could own 160 acres free and clear. The question was – where? Louisiana was being heavily marketed by the Southern Pacific Railroad in the 1890’s. Cal grew up reading about men like S.L. Cary and Seaman Knapp, Iowans who had made their fortune in Calcasieu Parish.
Cal’s older brother, Lewis Harvey “Lue”, located land that was available for homestead just a few miles north of Lake Charles. The land had been “claimed” for homestead about twenty years earlier and abandoned after the timber was cut. It would take backbreaking effort to clear the stumps and recover enough acreage for crops or livestock. Lue filed his claim in April 1898. Twenty-one year old Cal filed a claim two weeks later.
The brothers, along with cousins Robert Clarence and Clinton Powell Sutherland, probably worked together to clear enough land in time for spring planting. Progress was painfully slow. When Lue gave his homestead proof in 1903, he had cleared only 10 acres out of 163. In her proof testimony, Ellen Sutherland stated that only 6 acres had been cleared.
Cal was lonely and far away from his friends in Iowa. It appears that he went back home for a while and lived with his brother, Arthur. Cal is listed in the 1900 Iowa census. He married sometime in 1901. His wife suffered from poor health while living on the farm so they rented rooms in Lake Charles.
His farm began to take second place to the other responsibilities in his life.