1890 Hall County History

"Biographical and Historical Memoirs of Adams, Clay, Hall and Hamilton Counties"
Published 1890 by the Goodspeed Publishing Co., Chicago, Ill.
(Note: Includes Hall County Only)




     HALL COUNTY is the name given to one of the fairest political divisions of Nebraska. When the spring sun of 1857 rose over this prairie there was not a white man within the boundaries of Hall. In May of that year a little band of thirty-five persons located in the great solitude--the rich soil and genial climate of which soon won additions to the pioneer circle. A year later the Legislature gave to the locality a name and local government, and the people realize how well the ill-paid author of The Columbian, poor Joel Barlow, prophesied the development of the West:

From Mohawk's mouth far westing with the sun,
Through all the woodlands recent channels run,
Tap the redundant lakes, the broad hills brave-
And marry Hudson with Missouri's wave.
From dim Superior, whose unfathomed sea
Drinks the mild splendor of the setting day,
New paths unfolding, lead their watery pride,
And towns and empires rise along their side,
To Mississippi's source the passes bend,
And to the broad Pacific main extend

     Years before the Civil War came to establish the Republic on a firm basis, the trails to California and to Colorado led travelers through this district, and before the echoes of civil strife had died away in the South the first locomotive of the Union Pacific signaled the great era of progress.

     The area is sixteen congressional districts. The population in 1860 was 116; in 1870, 1,057; in 1880, 8,572; while, in 1890, it is estimated at 18,000.

     The measured elevations above sea level, in Hall County and adjoining territory, are as follows: Grand Island, 1,860 feet; Kearney, 2,146; North Platte, 2,796; Columbus, 1,442; Central City, 1,697; St. Paul, 1,796; Scotia Junction, 1,905; Ord, 2,047; Hastings, 1,934; Clay Center, 1,687; Fairfield, 1,782; Wood River, 1,963; Alda, 1,913; Shelton, 2,060; Paddock, 1,760; Chapman, 1,763; Doniphan, 1,948; Hansen, 1,949; Glenville, 1,842; Alma Junction, 794; Edgar, 1,728; Verona, 1,776; Sutton, 1,680; Lyman, 1,645; Lushton, 1,678; McCool, 1,557; Spring Ranche, 1,717; and Holstein, 2,011.

     Prairie Creek's two branches afford drainage to the entire northern half of the county. Wood River, which enters the Platte at Alda, waters the west center; while the north and south channels

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of the Platte drain the southern townships and the east center. The waters of the Platte percolating through the sandy strata may be obtained in almost every section, at depths varying from five to sixty feet. In 1863 this river was completely dry on the surface for fifty or one hundred miles above and below Grand Island. The Platte has its sources in the mountains of Colorado and Wyoming; the south branch rising in the first-named State joins the north branch at North Platte, and flows into the Missouri at Plattsmouth. Its course through Nebraska is marked by a broad shallow channel, the waters flowing at random over a heavy deposit of sand, and sometimes, during the summer months, disappearing in the sand, to water north and south under the prairie, giving moisture to the thirsty soil. The water flowing from the snows of the Rocky Mountains is as pure as water may be, and even after its absorption and diffusion it may be obtained almost in its original purity in comparatively shallow wells, far north and a few miles south of the river's course. Floods in the Platte are contemporary with floods in the Missouri. In the days of the fur-traders flood time was looked forward to for shipping to the Missouri the product of the season's hunt; but the primitive navigators were not always fortunate enough to escape the thousands of sand-bars, and on more than one occasion saw the flood waters leave them forever. Grand Island, extending across Hall County, creates the south and north channels.

     The first reference to the Missouri and Platte country was written in 1673 by Father Marquette during his voyage down the Mississippi. When below the present town of Alton, Ill., he had his first glimpse of the Missouri, and described the river this: "We heard a great rushing and bubbling of waters, and saw small islands of floating trees coming from the mouth of the Pekitanoni. The water of this river is so muddy we could not drink it. It so discolors the Mississippi as to make navigation dangerous.  *  *  *   The Indians told us that by ascending the Pekitanoni about six days' journey from its mouth we would find a beautiful prairie country twenty or thirty leagues broad, at the end of which, to the northwest, is a small river, which is not difficult to navigate, and which, they said, leads to a deep river flowing into the sea!" This river can not be the Yellowstone. The description points out the Platte and head waters of the Columbia.

     For healthfulness this portion of the State is unsurpassed. Its ready adaptation to the various products which contribute to life and its comforts, fertility of soil and abundant yield, are materials features which are well known to the people who live here and enjoy them. The fall seasons of Central Nebraska are similar to those of sunny France. Up to Christmas of 1889 the August costumes of Illinois were sufficient here, and the people enjoyed more sunshine than did those of any State east of the Missouri River. This is not an exceptional case; such beautiful falls are common to Nebraska. Winter sets in about January 1, but the name only terrorizes the stranger; it is a dry, cold winter, bringing with it health. It is a season of social intercourse, bringing piece to all circles.

     There are times when the icy breezes of the North sweep over the prairies, chilling to death the unprotected. The blizzard, however, is not confined to Nebraska; it belongs to the country at large, but strikes the prairie with Canadian rigor oftener and more suddenly than it does the hills and valleys of other States. The country is free from malaria, and, indeed, it may be said that disease can not rest in the Platte valley.
     During the last thirty-three years only a few severe storms swept over the country, doing little damage to property when compared with the destructive winds of other states.

     On November 6, 1857, Lorenz Barnard and Henry Joehnk, of Grand Island, and William Roberts and Billy Painter, of Mendotte, went over to Prairie Creek antelope and duck hunting. When near the pond, due north of Grand Island, Lorenz Barnard and Roberts went up the creek, while the others hunted down the stream. In shooting ducks they crossed the creek several times, and when it began to rain that evening, all started for the settlement. Soon not a vestige of dry clothes remained on them, the wind changed to the north, and a heavy storm set in; it grew

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colder and colder. Barnard and Roberts found their way home, but Joehnk and Painter became lost in the storm, and after dark stacked their guns for the purpose of building up a shelter with the high slough grass. The wind swept away each bunch of grass, and to keep from freezing they had to walk round and round all night. Painter, becoming hungry, ate half a duck uncooked, but Joehnk would not touch the unsavory meal. At daylight they found the snow eighteen inches in depth and still falling heavily. So they set out for the settlement, whence some men went forth to search for them, only to be driven back by the storm. Early that morning Joehnk arrived, but so worn out that he could signify only by signs where Painter was. Men went forth in search, found the hunter, brought him in, but the hardships of that night proved too much for him, and November 7, 1857, the first death in Hall County was recorded.

     On April 13, 1873, the blizzard was introduced. It was preceded by heavy thunder and rain at 4 P.M. This changed to a terrific snow-storm, which raged for three days without abating. In the groves snow drifted to from fifteen to twenty feet in height, orchards and groves were damaged, many trees destroyed, farmers lost nearly all their stock--some losing from ten to fifteen head, another seventy-five, and a third 100 head of cattle. Deer were found lying dead after the storm, and dead birds were seen everywhere. the winter of 1875-76 was mild and free from snow, and plowing was done in December and January.
     In May, 1878, three houses near Wood River were damaged by lightning. Rupert Schwaiger and Elias E. Boodry were killed by lightning, while en route to the city.

     The hail-storm of July 8, 1878, originated in Sherman County. Forty-two Hall County farmers who were insured reported $20,000 loss, while the uninsured lost about $30,000. The hail-stones were not large; but owing to the velocity of the wind, their destructive power was terrible. The frame of the the Lutheran Church, just raised in the southeast part of town, and the old building on Front Street (P. Dunphy's) were leveled; several small buildings were blown down and the gardens of Grand Island destroyed. The quantity of water which fell in a few minutes was beyond the experience of every one, and the torrent which swept the main street of the town was two feet in depth.

     The hail-storm of July, 1884, destroyed some buildings and damaged the crops in parts of Hall County. The eastern wall of the Union Pacific car shop was blown in, destroying property valued at $10,000, a new building near the Burlington & Missouri River Railroad depot was moved three feet, and from a point north of Grand Island southeast to Doniphan, and beyond that village, growing crops, trees and small buildings, were pounded into the ground, broken or removed.

     The storm of June, 1885, destroyed $1,500 worth of window panes--the window-glass in the court-house, Koenig's block and Schaupp's mills being almost all broken. The new agricultural hall was twisted, so as to require rebuilding, the front of Hake's harness shop was blown in, and a strip about two miles in width, from the northwest to the southwest corner of the county, devastated.

     The blizzard of January 7, 1886, was very severe, eclipsing that of the first days of the year.

     The storm of November, 1886, is said to have been the most severe since the terrible blizzard of April, 1873. Men returning to their homes against the wind became dazed and almost breathless. David Alexander became lost and was nearly frozen before he found shelter. Judge Wilson also last his way; a herd of cattle drifted before the storm, the telegraph wires were torn from the poles, and several unfinished buildings wre damaged by the terrific icy wind.

     On January 12, 1888, snow fell steadily but quietly from early morning until about 3 o'clock in the afternoon. Then black clouds suddenly darkened the sky, the wind began to blow furiously, and through the evening and long night the thermometer dropped lower and lower as the gale continued to beat against the houses and howl through the prairies.

     On January 12, 1890, the mercury was very low; but it was only the second day since the end of

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summer that the traveler feared to encounter the north wind. The last days of January, 1890, were days of sunshine--a speck of June introduced into this magnificent winter.

     In former pages of this work, relating to the history of Adams County, references are made to the exploration of prairie and mountain by the Spaniards and French. Lewis and Clarke, who, on July 21, 1804, invited the Indians to the camp on the Missouri, thus speak of the Otoes: They were once a powerful nation and lived about twenty miles above the Platte, on the southern bank of the Missouri. Being reduced, they emigrated to the neighborhood of the Pawnees, under whose protection they are now living, on the south side of the Platte, thirty miles from its mouth. Their number is 200, including thirty families, or all left of the ancient Missouris. Five leagues above them resided the Pawnees. They consist of four bands, the first comprising 500 men, exclusive of the 250 Republican Pawnees, who joined the Band No. 1, on their removal from the Republican to the Platte; the third comprised the Pawnee Loups of the Wolf Fork of the Platte, 280 men; and the fourth, driven from the Missouri and Arkansas by the Osages to the Red River, comprised 400 men. Westward, along the Platte, were the Padoucahs and other small tribes.

     In 1819 Long's expedition arrived in Nebraska, and in May, 1820, is found on the Platte River, having moved from the Loup villages on May 13, to the valley on the north side of the Platte River, opposite Grand Island. In the Loup villages, the Pawnees had 6,000 horses and their settlements extended ten miles along the Loup Fork or Wolf River.

     In 1825 Benjamin O'Fallon, one of the principal partners in the Missouri Fur Company, and the most polished, courageous and upright agent of Indian affairs ever employed by the United States, negotiated a treaty with the Kansas tribe affecting lands on this section. On April 12, 1834, the treaty was proclaimed with the Grand Pawnees, Pawnee Loups, Republican Pawnees and Pawnee Tappee, then residing on the Platte and Loup Fork. This treaty provided for the cession of all their lands south of the Platte. Two years before this, small-pox reduced the strength of the Pawnees, and their village on the Republican was burned by the Delawares, and shortly after the Sioux fell upon them. On June 30, 1834, Nebraska was declared Indian Territory.

     The short war between the Pawnees, under Peter Washarrow, and the Kiowas and Comanches under Yellow Buffalo, was carried on here in 1857, the last skirmish taking place in Saline County later. The Pawnees were driven back to their reservation with but little loss.

     In September, 1860, a battle was fought on the Island between the Pawnees and Sioux, but so little did the settlers fear them that the work of hauling hay was not stopped. This feeling of security did not last long; for, when the troops were ordered east to participate in the Civil War, the officers advised the settlers to abandon their homes as the Indians would make a total clearance of the whites.

     It was February 5, 1862, when it became necessary to chronicle the first massacre of whites by Indians in Hall County. Joseph P. Smith and Anderson, his son-in-law, farmers on Wood River, about twelve miles west of Grand Island, went after some building logs to the north channel of the Platte, about two and one-half miles south of their claims. They were accompanied by William and Charles Smith, and Alexander Anderson, aged eleven, nine and fourteen years, respectively. Anderson, who had taken a load of logs home that morning returned to the woods, where he had left Smith and the boys and two teams, only to find all of them murdered. The old man Smith had seven arrows in his body, and was lying on the ice with his face down, holding each of his boys by one hand. His son, William, was living. He was shot by an arrow and one of his cheeks was cut open from the mouth to the ear. He soon bled to death after being carried home. The other son, Charles, had his skull crushed in and his neck broken, and

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young Anderson was found some distance off in the woods with his skull also broken; but the four horses were taken away. The Smith family came from Lake County, Ind., in the fall of 1861, and Mr. Smith had opened a small store in connection with his farm.

     On the news spreading abroad, the settlers armed and, jumping into the saddle, scoured the country. Jesse Eldridge and seven other settlers on Wood River captured seventeen Sioux, all armed with bow and arrow. This capture was made eighteen miles east of Fort Kearney , in a dry channel of the Platte, where the red-skins hovered by the high bank, evidently trying to hide from pursuers. They wre turned over to Capt. Johnson of Fort Kearney, who released the murderers, the captain remarking that he would rather see twenty settlers killed than to have Fort Kearney attacked by the Sioux. The rescue was timely, for it was shown subsequently that those red men were not guilty, at least of the Smith massacre.

     During the summer of 1864 the Sioux pursued Nat and Robert Martin to the George Martin ranch, eighteen miles southwest of Grand Island. The boys were mounted on one fleet pony and were making good their escape, when an arrow pinned them together. They fell near the ranch, and were about to be scalped when an Indian interfered, saying: "Let the boys alone." The ranchmen defended the house, drove the savages to flight, killed or wounded one, took the boys in and had the arrow drawn from their bodies. Both boys recovered and are still living.

     The attack on the Campbell ranch was made July 24, 1867. Peter, the Scotchman, lived ten miles south of Grand Island, on the south side of the Platte. No men being home, the house was captured, a woman named Mrs. Thurston Warren killed by a gun shot, and her son by an arrow. The two nieces of Campbell, aged seventeen and nineteen, were carried away with two twin boys four years old, and a German, named Henry Dose, was killed close by. The Indians robbed the house, killed some stock and escaped unmolested. Months afterward the government bought the two girls and the two boys from the Indians for $4,000, and, as an extra compensation, released a Sioux squaw, captured by Ed. Arnold's Pawnee scouts, at Elm Creek, the same season.

     The stories of Sioux vengeance led to almost the total evacuation of the Platte Valley. The Grand Island pioneers did not leave. A log house 24X24 feet, with twenty-five port-holes, had been erected previously by William Stolley, and named Fort Independence. Over this fort the First American flag floated in July of that year. Friends gathered in this building to the number of thirty-five, sufficient fire-arms (seventy-two shots without re-loading), about fifty pounds of powder and other ammunition, sufficient provisions and a well, gave courage to the defenders. An underground stable eighty-eight feet long was constructed for horses and cattle, the company was organized, and cartridge prepared to fit every gun in the rude armory.

     This fortification could only afford protection to a few of all the settlers, and the O.K. store of H.A. Koenig and F.A. Weibe (established in August, 1862) was converted into a fort. This old store stood one and a half miles due south of the present court-house. Dr. A. Thorspecken was elected captain and William Thavenet (a resident of Missouri in 1876) appointed engineer. Soon a strong sod breastwork surrounded the building. At each corner was a tower built of green cottonwood-logs, which projected out far enough to cover the line of works. Sixty-eight men and about 100 women and children found a temporary home here; squads were sent out daily to reconnoiter, and piles of bush were gathered here and there over the prairie to be lighted by the outposts as warning of the Sioux advance, and to warn those absent from the fort. The State furnished only seventeen muskets on which the settlers had to pay freight. On August 22, 1864, the First Volunteer Cavalry under Gen. Curtis arrived with one six-pounder. He praised the action of the settlers and their fort, and left them with the cannon, saying that such settlers could defend themselves against all odds. Soon after Capt. J.B. David and twenty men of Company E, Seventh Iowa Cavalry, took possession of this fort, but the wily Indians knew better than to attack it. The settlers suffered

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considerably from depredations by David and his command, and when Company E was ordered to Fort Desolution on the Loup, the people breathed more freely.

     Eight miles west of Grand Island, Squire Lamb, his son, Henry, and three other men held the stage station on Wood River and never feared the savages, being, it is said, always ready to exchange a shot with them

     Elsewhere in these pages the story of the California trail is told. Prior to the days of the argonauts the prairies of Nebraska were little known, and Fremont's references to them contributed much to make a closer acquaintance with the land of the buffalo and Indian undesirable. The fur company's men too, as it was their interest, decried the country. The hunters had some foundation for their tales of hardship and danger. On the evening of June 27, 1842, the Fremont expedition, halted in longitude 22, F`, 4`` west, and latitude 40, 39`, 32`` north near the head of Grand Island. On the 28th they met a small party of fourteen men under John Lee, making their way on foot, to the frontier. This party left Laramie's Fork sixty days before, in the American Fur Company's barges, to come down with the annual flood. The flotilla made rapid progress to Scott's Bluff, after which they encountered sand-bars and shallows, and were compelled to discharge the principal part of their cargoes 130 miles below Fort Laramie. They ventured forth again with the balance, and after twenty days struggle with 140 miles of the river, sunk their barges, made a cache of their remaining furs in the trees, and set out on foot for St. Louis.

     Some years later a party of Canadians moving across the plains reported unfavorably on the county. It appears that this party was made up principally in Middlesex County, Canada, and included, among others, one of the notorious Allen family. This Allen assaulted a squaw, and the Indian woman dying soon after as the result of his assault, was buried by Allen. The Indians missed the woman and coming down to the Canadian camp, asked for explanations. The members of the party pleaded ignorance, and the red chief gave them thirty minutes to give up to them the murderer of the red woman. Allen was given up and, in the presence of his friends, was skinned alive and the quivering body burned.

     This act of justice was described otherwise; the cause being withheld and the savage execution of Allen given as an every-day occurrence. Such stories retarded settlement, so that the pioneers of this central section of the State did not venture in until 1857.

     William Stolley, writing in centennial year, states: It was in the winter of 1856-57 when A. H. Barrows, of the branch bank at Davenport, Iowa, of Chubb Bros.. & Barrows, of Washington D. C., called upon me to participate in the location of a town somewhere in the central portion of Nebraska, in the Platte valley. Mr. Barrows alleged that influential and worthy parties, and among them members of Congress, would back this enterprise, with the expectation that sooner or later a railroad must be built up the valley of the Platte, crossing the continent, and that eventually the National Capitol would have to be removed from Washington to a centrally located point. The object of these speculators was to locate a town as near the center of the continent as practicable, there to secure a large tract of land and attempt, in the course of time, to have the capitol located here. They contemplated sending a surveyor and five others to locate and start the town. The surveys did not extend west of Columbus, and the country on the north side of the Platte had but recently been ceded by the Pawnees to the United States, while the Sioux claimed to be the owners of all lands on the south side of the river and along the Blues and Republican. While I declined to become a partner in the town company, I agreed to participate in making the settlement, and considering the dangers to which the pioneers would be exposed, I proposed that in addition to the four or five persons referred to, a body of twenty or thirty able-bodied men be engaged by the town company for self protection in case of Indian attack. This proposition was accepted by A. H. Barrows, W. H. G. Gurley and B. B. Woodward, who empowered me and subse-

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quently also Fred Hedde, to engage the number of men proposed. The condition of engagement was that the pioneers should claim and hold 320 acres each wherever the company's surveyor would direct, and the company was to furnish funds for the final payment of the land--the consideration being that the settlers should deed one-half of their claims to the town company. Persons who had no means were to be supplied with provisions during the first year, but were to re-imburse the company so soon as circumstances would permit.

    The first settlers comprised twenty-five Germans and Americans. The Germans were Fred Hedde, William Stolley, W. A. Hagge, Christ. Menck, Kai Ewoldt, Henry Egge, Cornelius Alexson, Hans Wrage, Anna Stier (unmarried), Peter Stuhr, Detlef Sass, Johan Hamann, Fred Vatge, Fred Doll, Marx Stelk, Nicholas Thede,* William Stier,* Henry Schoel* and Henry Joehnk,* all of Holstein, Germany; Christian Andreson,* of Schleswig; Herman Vasold, of Thuringen; Theodore Nagel, of Waldeck; Fred Laudman, of Mecklenberg; Henry Schaaf and Matthias Gries, of Prussia; R. C. Barnard, surveyor, and Lorens Barnard, of Washington, D. C.; Joshua Smith, David P. Morgan and William Seymour, of Davenport, Iowa. The surveyor's party consisting of R. C. Barnard, all the Americans, Fred Hedde and Christ. Menck, left Davenport a few days ahead of the main party with one mule team. William A. Hagge and Theodore Nagel were detailed to proceed by river to St. Louis and purchase a supply of provisions, fire-arms, ammunition, blacksmith tools, etc., and have them shipped up the Missouri River to Omaha in time for the arrival of the main party there.

    *In the list the wives of those men are not named or counted, the only female named is Anna Stier.

    May 28, 1857, five heavy loaded teams drawn by sixteen yoke of oxen, and with the remainder of the parties named, left Davenport in charge of William Stolley. After a pleasant trip, the train arrived in Omaha, on June 18, 1857, and form this the expedition proceeded westward, June 19, except William Stolley, who was compelled on account of business to return to Davenport. The little train passed Fremont June 23, which town had ten log houses, arrived at Columbus, with eighteen log houses, on June 26; crossed the Loup River June 27, at Genoa, about twenty miles up stream from Columbus, and on July 2, Wood River was reached over the wild prairie up the valley, where the pioneer train of Hall County made the first wagon trail. After reconnoitering the country for one day, the surveyor located the place on July 4, the train retracted about seven miles, and on July 5, stakes were driven as well for the town-sites as for claims. The town-site covered partially the present town-site of Grand Island, but the greater part of it was located due south and southwest form where the present town of Grand Island is located and between this and the north channel of the Platte.

    On July 7 the party feeling not quite sure of having made a judicious selection, divided into three parties and again reconnoitered. Some went over to Prairie Creek, the other on to what is known as Grand Island, and the third went up Wood River about thirty miles. By July 11 all had returned and the first location was confirmed. A meeting was then called and it was resolved that four log houses should be first built, each 14X33 feet, the inside divided by two partitions, thus making two rooms 14X15 each, and an entrance large enough to answer the purpose of a door. At the same time the breaking of the prairie land had to be attended to as the season was already far advanced. Only about 50 acres were broken the first season. On July 13 the work began in earnest. Some chopped logs, others hauled them out, others prepared wood for the bunging of charcoal for the blacksmith shop, and on July 23 a team was sent to Omaha for more provisions. Saturday, August 15, some of the settlers moved into their new houses, and, on the 27th, all the houses were occupied. These houses were built on the south half of the northwest quarter and north half of the southwest quarter of Section 14, Township 11, Range 9, which in 1876 was part of the Christ. Menck farm. In the meantime another town was located about seven mile west of the first, called Mendotte. Four houses were erected

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there by David Crocker, William Roberts, M. Potts and Billy Painter. This town was abandoned soon after, and the site was occupied by David Crocker, who later sold his claim and moved to Santa Barbara, Cal.

    On September 21, 1857, four teams were dispatched to Omaha after provisions and clothing expected from St. Louis. Water in the Missouri was so low as to detain the delivery of the goods; but they arrived and were loaded. On the return trip the ferry-boat at Columbus was found wanting, and the teamsters were detained four months there, subjecting the settlers at Grand Island to a severe spell of starvation. On November 10, 1857, a team was sent forward with hay for the provision train detained there, and arrived November 13. Two of the teamsters discovered the approaching team and crossed the Loup at great risk. Subsequently 2,000 pounds of flour was transported across the river and brought at once to the settlement, arriving here November 18, with two of the Columbus party suffering with fever. On January 25, 1858, the supplies arrived amid rejoicing. Meantime some Pawnee Indians visited the settlement, but seeing the destitute condition of the people left immediately. There were neither candles nor soap for a long time, therefore everyone went to bed early, and the washing of clothes was done with home-made lye. A few of the work oxen were killed and used for food. This meat, with the flour, saved the settlers that first winter. In June, 1858, the supply of provisions again failing, the settlers has to live for some time on half rations, besides being compelled to work very hard, as the spring season demanded. One of the early setters, now a well-to-do farmer (Cay Ewoldt) was, in consequence, so reduced that he was compelled to walk by the aid of a stick. On June 24, 1858, ample supplies arrived, and on July 5, more settlers arrived from Davenport, with a train of ten teams, bringing in nearly twenty persons, twenty yoke of oxen, besides a number of milch cows and young stock.

    On August 27 about 1,500 Pawnees passed through the settlement, but beyond taking some green corn and potatoes, did little damage.

    The day of terrors was January 18, 1859. Three men from Florence (near Omaha), on their way home from the newly discovered gold-fields of Colorado, threatened to burn up the Dutch settlement, and set fire to the prairie. The wind was blowing a perfect gale; the fiends carried out their threat, and in a few hours eight houses were destroyed and the entire settlement barely escaped. The miscreant made good his escape taking advantage of the consternation that prevailed. The principle sufferers by this fire were William Stolley, W. A. Hagge, John and Henry Vieregg, C. Menck, Marx Stelk, Fred Vatge, Hans Wrage, M. Gries and Rudolph Mathieson. The citizens of Omaha sent financial help to the people, but the messenger helped himself, and was never heard of again.

    In the fall of 1859 the settlers secured, through the good offices of William Stolley, a contract to supply Fort Kearney 2,000 bushels of corn, at $2 per bushel. Prior to this time corn was shipped from Fort Leavenworth, at a cost to the government of about $4 per bushel. This new system and the trade with the immigrants and California and Colorado travelers insured a good market to the settlers--a good sized cabbage bringing 50 cents, and a water-melon $1. Gold and silver were the only mediums of exchange. Large trains passed daily, and lame cattle or young calves were bought at very low prices by the settlers.

    In 1857 the panic swept away the Chubb Brothers' Bank. Difficulties sprang up between the Town Company and the settlers, and the former, after sinking $6,000 in the enterprise, surrendered it. Barrows and Gurley died years ago; B.B. Woodworth resided at Davenport in 1876; the Barnards, Joshua Smith, David P. Morgan and William Seymour left the settlement within a short time after it was formed. G. Schultz died a natural death. Fred Vatge committed suicide and J. Hamann was killed by a train on the Union Pacific track while crossing in his wagon, prior to 1876. Ten members left the settlement: Fred Hedde, Chris. Andreson and D. Sass, who returned prior to 1876; William Stier, N. Thede, F. Laudmann, M. Gries, Theodore Nagel, C. Alexson and H. Vassold, who had not returned up to July 1 of Centennial year.

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Fred Doll removed to Howard County, while the others continued to reside here from the beginning. Anna Stier married John Thompson; Mrs. H. Schoel died; Mrs. Doll removed to Howard County; Mrs. Joehnk and Mrs. Andreson were still residents. Nellie Stier, a daughter of William Stier, was born March 3, 1858

    In 1862 the Indian troubles hitherto referred to commenced. In the summer of 1864 the Sioux determined on a raid of murder and rapine along the Oregon trail from Fort Kearney to Omaha. They attacked George Martin's ranch, eighteen miles southwest of the Platte, near Grand River, form which his two boys, Nat. and Robert, had just escaped to convey the news of the Sioux advance to the soldiers at Fort Kearney. A party of Indians pursued the boys so closely that an arrow passed through the body of the younger boy and entered the back of the older brother. The remainder of the party killed one of Martin's men, and then moved a few miles east to massacre the Campbell family. In Adams and Clay Counties they carried on their heaviest deviltry.

    The first post-office was established in the spring of 1859, with R. C. Barnard in charge. The first weekly stage was put on the Omaha and Kearney route October 1, 1858. It was changed to a tri-weekly in 1860, and to a daily in 1864.

    In July and August, 1866, the United States surveys carried on work in this county. Under the act of February 13, 1869, permission was given by the Legislature to O. A. Abbott, H. A. Koenig, John Wallichs and William H. Platte, to dam the Platte River. Prior to this the river was most effectually dammed by the pioneers, who were compelled to cross it at intervals. On May 21, 1870, $15,000 bonds were issued for bridging the river, and the bridge built and finished in March, 1871, on Section 29, Township 10, Range 9. The first school was opened by Theodore Nagel in 1862, at a point one mile south of the present court-house. Six students attended. In 1860 the number of inhabitants was given at 116.

    In March, 1871, Charles Christiansen and Peter Mohr opened the first farms on Prairie Creek.

    Game was abundant when the county was first settled; buffalo, elk and antelope were to be found in large herds. Gray wolves, prairie wolves, re and gray foxed, wild-cats and badgers were numerous, while deer, hare, rabbit, chicken, turkey, partridge and quail were scarce. The deer were nearly exterminated by the deep snow and severe winters of 1856-57, but continued to increase in number up to 1876, on the numerous islands in the Platte. The abundance of wild meat was a great convenience to the early settlers, and, regularly every fall, mostly in the month of October, parties went out on a buffalo hunt and laid in a supply of meat for the winter. The rivers and creeks were well stocked with beaver, otter, mink and muskrat, while geese, ducks and other fowl swarmed here in the spring and fall. Large numbers of wolves were poisoned with strychnine and trapped with steel traps every winter, and the skins sold at from 75 cents to $3. In one instance I remember a party killed seventy-five wolves about his premises in one winter. One of them was a white wolf, measuring nine feet from nose to tip of tail. this party had lined his log cabin inside and outside with furs. The best of buffalo robes could be obtained at from $2.50 to $3.00 from the Pawnees, who visited the settlements twice annually, and as the roves formed the principle bedding for most of the settlers for a number of years, there was a demand for them.

    The winter of 1863-64 was very severe. Snow covered the ground from the middle of November until March. A great deal of corn was snow-covered before it was cribbed and had to be left in the field all winter. Many cattle were lost on account of the severity of the winter, several parties lost limbs, and one man was frozen to death. On August 29, 1863, a heavy frost killed all the corn and potatoes. June 16, 1869, frost damaged the crops.

    In 1863 the second saw-mill was built on Wood River; the first wind-mill in Grand River settlement was erected. Prior to 1876 several mills were erected--a grist wind-mill, a saw wind-mill, two water grist-mills, two water saw-mills and three steam saw-mills. In 1876 there were only two--one water and one steam grist-mill--in the county. In 1866 the timber on the islands was

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fraudulently withheld from market long enough to secure it for use by the contractors in building the Union Pacific Railroad.

    The first artificial grove of trees was set out in the west half of the northwest quarter of Section 28, and on the east half of the northeast quarter of Section 29, Township 11, Range 9, in the spring of 1860. By centennial year some of the trees were from sixty to seventy feet high. In the spring of 1863 the first fruit trees were planted, producing the first cherries in 1867, first peaches in 1871, and first apples and pears in 1872.

    In August, 1862, the first swarms of grass-hoppers were noticed here. On July 15, 1864, they destroyed all the buckwheat in the county to the exclusion of other crops, reappearing on August 1, 1864. Again, on July 8, 1866, though numerous, they did not do much injury. In 1868 they once more appeared, and in 1869 destroyed nearly all the corn-fields. On May 22, 1873, they came with a southwest wind, but did not effect much damage. On July 20, 21 and 22 and on August 5 and 6, 1874, they came in swarms, which sometimes shut off the sunlight, and ate nearly all the crops. A State aid society was at once organized, and also a State Grange relief society, subsistence and clothing were sent to the sufferers, Congress appropriated $150,000, and the State $50,000, for relief purposes. On June 24 and August 8 and 10, 1875, the hoppers did considerable damage, but some parties drove them from their fields by keeping up fires around their fields and using pulverized sulfur. It was discovered that this year a worm took possession of the hoppers, killing them.

    In May, 1876, ten English sparrows were released from New York by William Stolley, with the hope that they would increase sufficiently to prey upon the hoppers. Unfortunately the birds have so increased as to be as much of a nuisance as the hoppers.

    In the history of Grand Island City, many minute references to the pioneers are made. Besides that number are a few who escaped the notice in that chapter. John W. Monroe, who in 1869 became charge of Hall County, and was still supported by the county in 1887, was an express messenger between Omaha and Fort Kearney, in the early years of Nebraska; "Pap" Lamb another old resident of Hall, being his alternate on the route. He was born in New York about 1797. Mrs. Doel, who came with her husband in 1857, and aided in opening the farm, southeast of the city, died in January, 1886. Among the pioneers who attended her funeral were Fred Hedde, John Wallichs, Henry Joehnk, F. Stuhr, Peter Stuhr, M.Stelk, Chr. Menck, D. Sass, Henry Schoel, Kai Ewoldt and Theo. Sievers. William Stolley, though residing here then as well as now, is not named among the attendants. Hy. Schaaf, a member of the first Grand Island colony, died in January, 1885. He, with Pioneer Sass, lived for years in a dug-out on the Egge Farm, until he purchased land three miles east of the city.

    In 1866 George Francis Train became impressed with the idea that the capital of the United States should be somewhere on the Union Pacific Railroad, in the neighborhood of Columbus. He advertised the Platte valley so extensively that thousands came hither to buy his lots, which, fortunately fortunately for the immigrants, were only on paper.

    Grand Island became a colonizer at an early date in its history. So early as 1872-73, citizens of the village conceived the idea of settling in the middle Loup valley and acted at once on this conception. The great storm of April 13, 1873, caused some suffering and much inconvenience. It is related that sixty men were crowded into the little store building of Frank Ingram for three days. At this time there were only for women in the Loup Valley--Mrs. Al. Brown and Misses Clara and Alice Benschoter and Lizzie Hayes, all of Grand Island.

    In February, 1876, expedition parties for the Black Hills were organized at Grand Island, Wood River and other places. The Wood River party comprised Patrick Nevills, J. Nolan, C. J. S. Trout, P. Dugan, J. Dunn, A. A. Baker, J. O'Connor, George Williamson, John Lyons, Miles Lyons, Mark Lyons, J. Haverly and P. Brady. Maj. Foote, of the Grand Island party, returned in March and reported a route between Grand Island and the hills open and guide-boards erected.

Transcribed by Kaylynn

Chapter XXIV

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2000, 2001 © Kaylynn Loveland, Hall County, Nebraska AHGP