J. Sterling Morton and O. H. Irish were young lawyers commencing their careers, and they were just building the first Methodist church at Nebraska City.
So many people froze to death that winter - it was bitter cold. I remember seeing a man standing on the street as though he did not know just what to do. He finally started for the place now known as Dunbar. He was frozen to death.
We lived in Nebraska City until 1858. My husband took a pre-emption on the south branch of the little Nemaha thirty miles from Nebraska City and we moved there that spring. Our nearest neighbor was about four miles from us.
Fed Nine Indians
We had been there about two weeks when one evening nine Indians came to the house and wanted something to eat. I had our supper ready. I told my husband to let them set down and eat, and I would get supper again. They sat down and ate everything on the table but the dishes. They saw some potatoes we had hauled from Nebraska City, and wanted some to take along. They wanted something to cook them in, and we gave them one of the stove pots, which they said they would bring back.
Their horses had been left at a deserted house down the creek, they said. I had washed at the creek that day. We had a spring near the house but it was a very steep hill to carry the water up, so when it was nice I washed in the creek.
There was a light shower of rain and the clothes did not dry, so I had to leave them on the bushes. One of the boys had gone to the settlement up the creek to get some of the men to come and help watch our horses, for fear the Indians would steal them. We did not have a gun or any fire arms in the house, nor a stable for the horses.
Watched By Turns
The boys took turns but the Indians did not come. When daylight came they went down through the timber and saw white things hanging on the bushes. They looked to see what they were, and found them sheets and pillow cases.
The Indians had gone in where I had washed and stolen my clothes. What they could not use they hung on the bushes. They stole nine of the menís shirts and a dresssing sacque of mine. Four of the shirts were just new. I had no sewing machine, and had to make them all by hand. The Indians had gone leaving the stove pot in the vacant house.
We stayed that year on the farm. We had the fever and ague all that fall and winter, and sometimes we were hardly able to get each other a drink of water.
Gold had been found in the west and the Pike's peak excitement started that spring. My husband had been in California and had the gold fever and insisted on going west. We still had the house in Nebraska City. He rented the farm and we moved to the city, and he and the two older boys got ready and started for the gold field, leaving me with five children, a load of corn cobs, and a few pennies. They said they would get rich and send me a lot of gold.
Came Right Back
Well, they were gone ten days and came back. They had met others that had been out there and said there was no gold. We hardly knew what to do. The man we had rented the farm to had left it on account of Indians, so the best we could do was to go back on it, and back we went.
It was to late to plant corn so we sewed the ground to buckwheat. It was a good crop that year, but before harvest we had eaten what provisions we had.
When some corn our renter had planted was hard enough to grate, my husband made us a grater of a piece of tin, and we had corn bread three times a day. When the buckwheat was ready to cut, they thrashed it with a flail, and one of the boys took a load of it, with some corn to Nebraska City to get it ground. They wouldnít grind it because it would dirty their mill stones. It was taken to Wyoming, the same excuse was put up there. Then it was taken down river, I donít remember the name of the place, and we were able to get it in two weeks.
Used Coffee Mill
When my husband came home from the last trip we had to qrind buckwheat in the coffee mill three times a day for bread. Luckily we had a double-geared mill that would grind it fine and sift it. We had buckwheat three times a day for about three weeks, and then we began to get tired of it.
I remember two men that came to our house. They had been out with a company of surveyors, and had started to walk and got lost. They stayed all night, and one of them ground wheat so he could have that fact to write about in his diary. His name was Bolt.
I remember another scare we had while we lived in Nemaha. Word came that the Indians were on the Little Blue river, and they had killed several people. They were at Beatrice, it was reported, and on their way to our part of the country.
Fled The Indians
As we had only an ox team to travel with we thought we had better start in time. Others were leaving. We hid what things we could in the hazel brush and loaded the rest of our belongings in the wagon and went to the home of our son-in-law, Fred Wood, who lived near Dunbar. It was he who helped build the the first court house in Nebraska City. We stayed with him two or three weeks, and not hearing of the Indians approach, I told my husband we would go back to our home. If the Indians came we would do the best we could. We went back and found everything as we left it, the Indians never came.
Well, we lived there about eight years. These days people know nothing about hard times that the settlers underwent. One dry year we raised nothing but a little wheat. We had thirty acres of corn, but never got even a nubbin. We did not know what we were going to do, but we put our trust in God and we got through all right.
My husband had a turning lathe that he sat up in a shop we had built. We went to Nebraska City and bought some lumber, turned bedsteads, and took them back to the city and sold them. There is always a way, if we trust in God and do the best we can.
Copyright 2001, Virginia A. Cisewski