Brown County NEGenWeb Project ©  2000-2008
No unauthorized commercial use may be made of this material © 2000-2008 DJH


Amos Harris Wedding Picture

Amos Harris-Nebraska's First Black Cowboy

Amos Harris, more affectionatly known as"Big Amos" or "Nigger Amos", is said to have been Nebraska's first negro cowboy. He was reported to weigh between 250 pounds and 300 pounds, and was 6 foot 3 inches tall. He spoke 5 languages and it was reported that he was born south of Galveston, Texas, on the Brazos River, the son of freed slave parents. He was known as "One of God's True Nobelmen". He carried a raw-hide rope which he, himself, had braided. He was considered to be one of the best ropers in the Sandhills.

Legend has it that he drove 5 herds of cattle up form Texas over the Chisholm Trail to Nebraska in 1878 as a member of the famous Olive crew. He was reported to be only 15 when he started this trade. It is reported that they dorve over 15,ooo head of Texas cattle to the open range in Custer county and along the Dismal River. From here, Amos Harris began his colorful careet as a cowboy in the central counties of Nebraska. It was on one of these trips, that he brought and sold cattle to the Ed Cook and Tower Ranch at Ainsworth.

On the 1880 census he was listed as being in the household of Ed Cook, for whom he was working at the time around Ainsworth, Brown county and around Blaine and Loup counties for various other ranchers. It lists his birth year as 1852,and his parents as being born in Tennessee. His birthdate is questionable, unknown even to himself. It was known to be between the 1840's to the 1860's. He was a very cheerful and happy man. The people of the times, bankers, lawyers, lumbermen, editors, farmers and other people with whom he had a working relationship remembered his as picturesque, courteous, friendly and happy.

In 1897 he married a negoues, with whom he had corresponded, Miss Eliza Young, daughter of R. Young of Bollus, Nebraska. They started their married life on a ranch 18 miles north of Brewster on the Calamus River. They remined on this ranch until the turn of the century when they moved to Valley county where Eliza passed away in February of 1903. Mr Harris later remarried to Elizabeth Jane Fears in 1908. He was 38 and she was 20. She later died "under the surgeons knife". Amos was devastated.

In 1904 Amos went to Wheeler county and took a 400 acre claim west of Lake Erickson. He eventually lost his ranch to a homesteader.

When Amos would come to Brewster Cafe to eat, he always came in the back door and ate with the cook at the kitchen table. Meals were twenty five cents. Amos had been brought up in this tradition from the South.

No information is readily available just how Amos met his death, but with violence being such a part of the west, it is rumored that Amos may have died of "lead poisoning".One source states that he died of natural causes. He started suffering small strokes and was in ill health. He died 02-23-1911 at about 65 years of age.

He is buried at the Grand Island cemetery. A tombstone, donated by the black people of Grand Island was erected at his gravesite.

Amos Harris

This information is a compilation of information from Pat Ash, Nebraska coordinator for Loup and Blaine Counties, and theSettlement of Loup and Blaine Countie book.