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Merriman Area Recollections.
Taken from the Memoirs of Charles Edward Hagel.

The following information provided by his niece in 2003,
Marie Jean (Leahy) Knudtson.

In 1901 we disposed of the farm and moved back into Rushville where Dad rented a place for us to live. It wasn't much of a house but it had a good roof. Dad got a job cooking in a restaurant for a man by the name of Burnamizer . . .

Two weeks later Dad wrote me that Mr. Burnamizer his boss, had some cattle at the Mission Ranch that is located several miles northeast of Rushville that he wanted to drive from there to Irving Nebraska to the Ross ranch.
For some reason we were held up for a week at Irving which consisted of section house, and Post Office. I had to room and board with the Postmaster who was a Civil War Veteran who had a craving for cooked raisins. We had raisins for breakfast, dinner and supper every day while I was there and I am just getting so I can like them again.

From Irving I went to Merriman, Nebraska to help Dad in the restaurant. The night before I arrived in Merriman there was an Indian half-breed that had killed another half-breed, the dead man was lying in the office in the livery barn, where the law had him until his relatives could come to take him back to the Reservation, where his home was.

It seemed like the Restaurant where Dad did the cooking had the train men's business especially during stock shipping time. A stock train usually consisted of five and six men. The Conductor would wire ahead for so many dinners for his crew at a certain time, and that the train would arrive in Merriman and we would have them ready for them.

One day Dad decided to move the family from Rushville to Merriman and left me to run the Restaurant. Two days later I got orders for thirty-five dinners in seven hours. I had no help, the owner was off to a poker game somewhere. I cooked the meals, waited tables and washed the dishes, got sick and went to bed.

Dad rented a place two miles north of Merriman where the folks lived until they rented the Greene Hotel in town.

Mother always bought her camphor in the gum form and mixed it with alcohol. She didn't think the ready mixed was strong enough. One day while we were still living in the place north of town, she sent me to the drug store for some gum camphor and a two ounce bottle of alcohol. When I was a short distance from the drug store, a gang of boys, including the town bully decided they wanted the alcohol, which they knew I had, because one of them saw me buy it. I had the bottle in the inside pocket of my coat which was a lightweight one.

Merriman I think has more sandburs than any town in the world, and the gang had me down on my back in a batch of sandburs. If you never had a fight, just let someone bigger than you sit on top of you in a bed of burrs and I'll bet you will fight.
The fellow on top of me was George Boesl, whose father was the Government Farmer as they called the men who had charge of the different districts of which there were five. Mr. Boesl had charge of the one at Allen, South Dakota. George and I fought for about two blocks, then when I got in a good hard lick and broke some of his teeth out, he ran for home. I got a pretty sore hand from the cut on my knuckle. Other than that and a bloody nose and a black eye I wasn't too bad off. Mr. Boesl, having charge of Allen district had a position where he was able to, if he cared to do so, direct quite a bit of the Indian trade to Merriman, which the businessmen appreciated. Therefore they had a lot of respect for him.

Two days after the fight, I was called before the School Board and told I had to pay the Dentist bill for Bosel or go to jail in Valentine Nebr. Since there was no jail in Merriman, I told the School Board I had no money to pay the bill, that I had never been in Valentine, and wouldn't mind going there. I didn't pay the bill nor did they send me to Valentine.

Not long after, the folks moved to Merriman where they rented the Greene hotel, which Dad's friends renamed one day and painted a big name on the front of it. It was called" HER VON HAGEL HOTEL". At that time Merriman was divided into two parts by the Railroad. This Hotel was on the north side of the Railroad and there was a drug store, livery-barn, barbershop and a store and Post Office combined. The south side was about the same. In addition, it had a saloon, but no Post Office. It did however have a church and the School House.

Merriman had a mixed population of Indian and Whites and we all got along well together, except when there was snow on the ground. We would choose up sides for a snowball fight. It seemed like every time we chose up sides, Boesl and I were always on opposite sides. He or I could see no one to throw at except each other, until we got too close to throw, and then we would have to be parted.

I think I learned more from the Teacher we had in Merriman than from any other. He never spoke to the pupils except in class.

The tap of the bell on his desk did everything. At class time he would tap the bell, we would get our papers ready, he would tap the bell again and we would turn in our seat, he would tap it again, and we would stand up, another tap and we would go forward to the recitation bench. After class it was the same, he would tap the bell, we would rise, he would tap it again, we would go back to our seat, then it was taped again for each movement.

The Teachers name was Mortgage. He had a bad temper and was just as apt to throw an eraser or inkbottle at a pupil if he caught them doing something as not. There was a Minister's son in our room and he was a tall slim boy, overly tall for his age. I do not know what he did and no one else seemed to know, but it was quite a sight. The boy wore knee pants, which was usual for a boy of thirteen years. He evidently had done something and the Teacher must have seen it. Any way, the boy made a run out of the front door for home and the Prof took out after him. The boy kept ahead of him until they reached the door of the boys home, where the Prof got him by the collar and marched him back into the School Room, put him back into his seat and went back to teaching. When school was out that evening, everyone went home but the boy stayed in. I never found out what started it or how it all came out. I don't think anyone else did either. I think the out-come is a secret between the two of them.

I never was a fellow to look for trouble, but it seems trouble had no trouble finding me. One day while I was sweeping the walk in front of the Hotel, I saw a fellow bigger than I slapping two of my younger brothers and I went over to protect them. That was one time I was praying some one would stop to help us. I got no help from my brothers, and the boy and I wound up in the livery stable where the half-breed got killed the night before I arrived in Merriman. We both had bloody noses, and shirts. I don't know what did it, but we both quite for a breather for a minute. We then walked over to the watering tank and washed our face, and went our way. Maybe it was the thought of what happened to the Indian had something to do with it.

There was a fellow with a family about the size of ours, with boys our ages, who was Section Boss. His boys were ornery little devils, and would steal caps with some kind of explosion in them, that were used to warn the engineer when there was danger ahead. The cap has a spring that clamped over the rail. When the Engine ran over one of them they would explode making a noise loud enough so the engineer would hear it and he would slow down or stop. The boys used to get axle grease and grease the track at the water tank where the engines would fill up with water. That would make the train slide past the tank, and the men would have to sand the track, so the engine could back up again, to fill up. Those days we had real train service. We had two passenger trains running east and west daily.

There is or was a nice lake about two miles east of Merriman where we had some good hunting in the fall, and a lot of hunters came there to do their hunting. I talked a young man into buying me a shot gun but I didn't get to keep it long, Dad made me take it back, because I was a little too young. I had a 22, which he said would have to do me until I got a little older.

Genealogy Note: Charles Edward Hagel was born January 12, 1889 in Rushville, Sheridan County. Nebraska to Carl Otto and Bertha Hanna (Bartz) Hagel (emigrated from Pappelhof Germany, May 1885). He married Charlotte Elizabeth Wing on September 24, 1913 at Rushville. They made their home in Pine Ridge, South Dakota, where he owned a general mercantile store for years. Ed died September 14, 1971 in Hot Springs, South Dakota. He is buried in Custer, South Dakota

Anyone wishing to share Hagel family history, please contact: Marie Jean (Leahy) Knudtson.
P.O. Box 2484,
Scottsbluff, NE 69363-2484