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Written by Mrs. John Campbell of Wynot. Published in the Cedar County News on June 06, 1924
The government appointed as temporary Seat of Justice St. James, lying below Bow Creek, on the Missouri. The First settlement was in 1857 when Henson Wiseman came from Sioux City and located on land about what is now known as Brooke Bottom. With his wife, he had come from Virginia in 1838 and located in Iowa. In 1850 they had come to Sioux City, then a mere village of log houses and worked as a carpenter. He was said to have shingled the first roof in Sioux City. Others followed soon, among them were O.C. Van, James Hay, O.D. Smith, Saby Strom, John Andrews, Henry Earnest, Gus and Herman Ferber and their father Paul Ferber, coming from Harrison county, Iowa.
The following spring the settlements of Waucapona and St. Helena were organized and land taken up under the "squatters sovereignty". About this time a few settlers located in the northwest corner of the county nearly opposite "Strike the Rees" camp which is now Yankton, and was then inhabited by Yankton band of Sioux Indians.
For many years the country progressed very slowly. One of the drawbacks of the early settlers of Cedar County as well as the surrounding counties was the dread of hostile Indians. One of the massacres of which we are most familiar was that of the children of Henson Wiseman, who were brutally slaughtered on July 24, 1863.
In the summer of 1864 the great stampede took place. News was brought by refugees who were fleeing as was then supposed before 10,000 warlike Indians. The inhabitants of the country west of Cedar County were seeking safety by flight. The few families at St. James and St. Helena fortified themselves as best they could. The families in St. James fortified themselves in the temporary courthouse by throwing up sod embankments. Although the attack was never made, for some reason unknown, the early settlers had reason to fear the Indians, which fear greatly retarded immigration to this part of the state.
The first county seat, St. James, was considered the legal place to do business until the people voted to move it to St. Helena, as the old St. James had been entirely abandoned by its inhabitants with the single exception of D.C. Smith and family who kept a general store and post office. The first meeting of the county commissioners took place there on the fourth day of October, 1858. The first county treasurer was George A. Hall, first county clerk was George L. Roberts.
The first mail was carried on horseback. Travel was by ox team or stage. The first newspaper of the county was the Cedar County Advocate, and then the St. Helena Gazette.
Wheat flour could not be obtained any nearer than Sioux City and it was brought from St. Louis by steamboat.
In 1858 the second sawmill was brought into the county by Louis E. Jones and located in St. Helena. In the spring of 1860 it was destroyed by fire and during the same summer was rebuilt. It later was moved to its present site on the Bow Creek near Wynot where the Jones mill is a familiar sight to all.
The river community has the honor of nearly all the historical places in the county. Bentz Hill, formally known as the Callumet Hill, is one such spot. This is the spot were Lewis and Clark on August 27, 1804, made the first treaty that was ever entered into by the Federal government with the Sioux Indians. This place is located about four miles northwest of the town of St. Helena.
The Wiseman homestead is another such spot, in a lonely little clearing above the stretch of flatland known as Brooky bottom. It could be found in the year 1857, on the log cabin which was the home of Henson Wiseman, his wife and six children, five boys and one girl. No churches, no schools, no neighbors, such was the life of the early pioneer settlers. Game was abundant. A frontier man with a good gun could get meat, a little patch clearing gave vegetables and sometimes a little corn. Fort Randall, about 80 miles up the river, had a military post and a few traders where skins and furs could be swapped for frontier necessities. An occasional trip through the woods ordown the river to Sioux City put the settler at least in contact with the primitive needs of life, powdered lead, bacon, coffee and sometimes flour. It was the life the pioneers had, and the hardships they endured to change this country from a wilderness to a land of plenty.
St. James landing is a third historical spot. The site was fixed by the territorial Legislation of Nebraska as the seat of government for Cedar County. The act was passed in 1857. The territorial legislature provided that the seat of government for Cedar County should be at the conflicts of the Missouri river and petite arc. (petite arc means, in French, Little Bow, and is now known as Bow Creek.)
St. James is also of historical interest. That was the first real town organized in Cedar county. A few boards put up was the first county seat. St. Helena was the next county seat. The first public school building in Cedar county was located a short distance south and east of where the Jones Mill now stands.
The first military post was Fort Jackson, and the only one in this part of northeast Nebraska was located about 3 mi. northwest of the old town of St. James. The site is now known as the Harder farm. This was the only military post established by the Federal government in this part of northeast of Nebraska.
The first church was known as the Lammers-Suing chapel. It was a log building erected in 1861 about two and a half miles southwest from the town of St. Helena where the Catholic cemetery for the St. Helena parish is now located. First intent to build a railroad was in 1865 when a narrow gauge railroad was perfected from Sioux city to Niobrara. A grade was constructed in Cedar County from the county line on the east to within a half a mile of where the Bow Valley Church now stands.
Andreas' History of the State of Nebraska - Cedar County
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