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Upper row: John C. Becker, John C. Wolfel, Mrs. (Dorothy) Wolfel, Charles Bremer, John Browner
Middle row: Jacob Guter, Jacob Louis, Anthony Voll, Michael Smith
Lower row: Fred Gottschalk, John Rickley, Vincent Kummer, Henry Lusche, Carl Reinke
Missing: Adam Denk, John Held, George Rausch

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Chapter I


Wagon       Back of the present vast agricultural business of the State of Nebraska lies a tale of adventure and romance such as is known to but few of our own people. Steeped in the rush of the great industry on the Plains, the old pioneers are apt to forget, and the younger generations are liable not even to be told of the stories of the days when "men were men and a good horse was worth a fortune."

That period of Nebraska is gone, never to be lived again. We have securely entrenched ourselves in the marts of the world. Barbarianism is no longer rife; the farmer no longer bars his huge door and loads his musket for the anticipated early morning attack of the Indian. He is today awakened by the roar of the transcontinental air mail plane and the rumble of the giant stock truck, hauling cattle to the Omaha market.


Like his city cousin, many a Nebraska farmer enjoys blessings which his father never dreamed would ever materialize. His milk is picked up every morning by the delivery truck from the local cheese factory or creamery; other produce is dickered on by enterprising men from town, who bid and pay good American dollars for chickens, eggs, butter and cream. Wide-awake tradesmen offer free rural delivery, if certain rules are complied with; the farm implement dealer is building up his business by giving quick service right to the fields.


Sixty years have elapsed since Nebraska was admitted to the Union. In these three-score years the great expanse of wild plain leaped from the commonplace hunting-ground of the Indian to an empire worthy of the name. Where once the elk and buffalo grazed, now wave millions of acres of grain; where once thousands of wild fowl habitated, are now found meccas for the State's pleasure-seekers, securing joy and rest in beautiful city and state parks. With the rapid transmission of news and entertainment made possible by the automobile and aeroplanes, the popularization of the radio, the rural free delivery, the already old postal delivery of parcels, the rivalry of oil and gas companies, even down to the peddlers of stock powders and household necessities, the Nebraska farmer and his wife can keep in excellent touch with the world and yet frequent their trading center no oftener than before.


In 1857 and years after the pioneers hauled grain forty miles to the frontier settlement located at the headwaters of a river or junction of two streams. They purchased supplies for one, two and three months. They signed papers at the Land Office and secured their allotment of virgin soil. They built the skeletons of their communities, instituted townships and county plans, worked and suffered through the hard, lean years. Today, as their just reward, many are sending their sons and daughters to study scientific farming at the state college of agriculture or to fit themselves for higher positions by frequenting high schools, colleges and universities.


This is the Modern Mid-West. It is true that the craving to create a fortune has dealt the blow to romance. We would like to think not. But the West is in its larvae state. It is progressing, expanding, by leaps and bounds. And while it is, there is the constant danger that the early traditions, for a time, will be passed over lightly, and the call of the wild, the adventures of the stout-hearted souls, who braved the perils of a great new country and conquered it for themselves and their posterity, be forgotten by those who are living amid the comforts of the modern day. Let us then delve a bit into the past, and revive a little of the early life of Nebraska in the hope that it may ever so lightly, create a warmer feeling for those who have gone 'before us and by so doing, increase the love we harbor for Nebraska--OUR STATE!


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Before the white men came to the Plains, Nebraska and surrounding States were sparsely populated, save occasionally when an entire Indian tribe would gather together in one spot for several months, chiefly for the purpose of raising some vegetables and grain, where the hunting and water were good, and where better shelter from the winter's chilling blasts and the summer's glaring heat could be found. The Indians were (always) fundamentally hunters. Their spirit was too excitable and shifty, and the traditions of the tribes too deeply rooted to allow any brave to settle down alone with his squaw and fashion their lives like most of the world was doing. The squaws had to do all the menial labor, such as tending the fields, tanning hides, providing shelter, fuel and the rough comforts; the braves lived to hunt and fight. The lure of the buffalo was the main reason why the Indians frequented the Plains at all. Their crops never being greater than to balance their meals, such as corn, beans and watermelons, and the meagre shelters made from the tenting being insufficient to withstand either the intense heat of the long summer or

Pict. writing

Picture Writing in Black Bird Ravine, Omaha Indian Reservation. Elkman, Horse
and Thunder Bird. Courtesy Nebraska State Historical Society.

the bitter cold of the blizzard-filled winters, the tribes living in Nebraska were mostly very poor. When a tribe unfortunately fell prey to the ravages of a stronger enemy, things went very hard, indeed, for the vanquished; for reserve food seldom kept, was an object of plunder.


The first white man known to have visited Nebraska was Francisco Vasques de Coronado, commander of the Spanish expedition during the Sixteenth Century explorations. It so happened that an Indian who had attached himself to the Spanish army was very insistent that a wealthy prairie tribe resided several hundred leagues to the north. Rumors had so often drifted into the Spanish camp concerning this fabled tribe and the Indian appeared so sincere in his information, even professing to know the easiest route thither, which lay all along level country with no mountain ranges to cross, etc., etc., that Coronado's heart was finally won over to the proposal to search for this rich people. With a picked band of thirty soldiers Coronado, retaining the wily Indian as his guide, set out for the Quivira.


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Week after week the scout led the Spanish riders through vast plains and valleys. Finally the band, weary from the strain of constant marching, reached the banks of the Republican River, which flows through the southern part of Nebraska. Here the Spanish commander met with a very great disappointment. Instead of the large rich city and the wonderful dwelling housing the king, Coronado found a series of twenty-five villages, all within a few miles of one another and filled with grass huts sheltering a half-starved people. Corn, beans, melons and buffalo meat were their only subsistence. In high dudgeon Coronado extracted a confession from the Indian to the effect that he had woven the story in the hope of luring the Spaniards to certain death in the desert. That very night the soldiers strangled the treacherous red man and, as the sun arose over the Eastern horizon, the disgusted Coronado planted a huge cross, proclaiming the King of Spain ruler of all the country and abruptly turned his horse southward and homeward. In the report to his superior, Coronado declared that all of the country north of the fertile land along the Gulf of Mexico was a worthless waste and unfit for more exploration.


     Coronado's report was far-reaching in its effects. For when the news was noised about in Europe, other nations' hopes of founding a great empire were considerably dimmed. It was the first of such reports to reach the Old World and, together with later confirmations, was directly responsible for the tardiness of overcrowded Europe to send her surplus population to the virgin country of Nebraska, etc. Everyone believed that the millions of acres now

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Buffalo Head--Picture Writing in Black Bird Ravine, Omaha Indian Reservation.
Courtesy Nebraska Historical Society

stretching from the Missouri River to the Rocky Mountains and from Canada to the Gulf formed but a giant desert, comparable only to the trackless wastes of Siberia. It is remarkable that as late as 1850 thousands of people still adhered to this erroneous belief of the Great Inland Desert.


The first great servant of Mars in Nebraska that we have knowledge of is Blackbird, chief of the Omaha Indian tribe about 1800. His exploits against the weak Poncas, living along the Elkhorn river, have been recorded principally by early missionaries of various denominations. who braved the terrors of contact with


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the then warlike tribes for the purpose of spreading Christianity among them.


The Omaha nation, at one time Nebraska's most aggressive tribe, was visited by a wave of smallpox in 1800. Fully two-thirds of the people, together with Blackbird himself, fell victim to the plague. The great warrior was buried with the pomp of a monarch on a huge hill overlooking the Missouri River north of Omaha. To this day it is known as Blackbird Hill and commands a magnificent view of the meandering river for a radius of thirty miles.


Manuel Lisa, an immigrant from New Orleans, who had moved to St. Louis and pledged his allegiance to the new American nation, made Old Nebraska history. Lisa soon became the most powerful fur trader operating along the Missouri. His business dealings were usually fair, and it was not long before the Indians began to swear by Lisa as an honest and good friend. Lisa's boats were on every navigable dream and the merchant himself boasted that he had spent twenty years sleeping in a flat river boat with the sky for his canopy.


During the War of 1812 Lisa proved his patriotism for his adopted country. Incited by the British from the Northwest Territory and: from Canada, Tecumseh, great chieftain of the Central West, visited all the prairie tribes and induced them to take up arms against the struggling forces of the United States. Tecumseh was on the verge

Pict. writing

Wild Cat--Picture Writing in Black Bird Ravine, Omaha Indian Reservation.
Picture courtesy of Nebraska Historical Society.

of uniting many powerful tribes, when Lisa heard of the proposed plan. In person he made journeys through parts of what are now Nebraska, Iowa, Missouri, Kansas, and South Dakota. Coming in ahead of Tecumseh, Lisa affected a union of forty Indian chiefs, using his former prestige among the red men in persuading them to remain quiet, or, at least, not to ally themselves with the British.


Recruits were secured from every Indian village, companies were formed, and drill masters trained the red men on the Nebraska side of the Missouri River. An expedition was formed which engaged the British Indians in a skirmish fought on Iowa soil. "Mad Anthony" Wayne, the intrepid American general, met Tecumseh in the memorable battle on Raisin River and shattered that chieftain's dreams of a great


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Western federation. The tribes that had aligned themselves with the British soon lost their ardor. Had the war continued in the West, however, it is certain that Lisa's Indian army would have played an important part in winning the conflict. The Battle of New Orleans occurred a few months before the Indians were ready to take the field, and accordingly they were soon discharged.


Manuel Lisa was the first white farmer in Nebraska. He tilled land along the west bank of the Missouri, at about the place where the city of Omaha now stands. He married into the Omaha tribe also, and became a great leader among the Indians. Later on, however, Lisa's Indian prestige was marred by a tragedy in his marriage, for he was shown to be unfaithful to his Indian bride. Lisa brought the potato, squash, lima bean and turnip to the Indians.


The first battle fought on Nebraska soil between the pioneers and the red men was the Arikara War of 1823. A party of trappers had been attacked and twenty of their number killed. General Leavenworth, commandant of Fort Atkinson, near Omaha, retaliated by securing the services at four hundred Sioux warriors and with his command of two hundred soldiers embarked on the Missouri in pursuit of an Arikara band, known to have been the murderers. After a northward journey of almost a month, they landed on a bluff overlooking the Arikara villages and opened cannon and musket fire on those below. Totally unaware of the enemy's presence, forty of the Ankara braves, including their chief, fell. Finding themselves; far outnumbered, the tribe sued for immediate peace. The Arikara Indians remained reasonably docile ever after.

Dirt lodge

Pawnee Dirt Lodge. Photo courtesy of the Nebraska Historical society.


     Seventy-six years ago occurred what was destined to be one of the greatest military mistakes ever made. In 1854, a party of Mormons was crossing Nebraska on their way to the new home along Great Salt Lake in Utah. Near the Wyoming border they lost a lame cow, which they later saw enter a large Sioux camp. Concealing themselves, the Mormons observed the cow being killed. Fearing to demand immediate redress of the Indians themselves, the Mormons sought the intercession of the commandant of Fort Laramie.

     Lieutenant Grattan, a young inexperienced Yankee, was sent with twenty-nine men to the Sioux camp to obtain the surrender of the culprits. The cow-killer was soon singled out, but; refused to give himself up. Grattan demanded the man at once, but the Sioux chieftain, known; as "The Bear", seeing the high tension of his


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followers, promised instead to deliver the rascal in the morning. In vain the Sioux leader reasoned with Grattan. The Lieutenant flew into a rage, declared that he did not believe the sincerity of the chieftain, and swore that if the man was not brought forth at once he would order his men to fire. The "Bear" argued the folly of the course, as the Sioux far outnumbered the little band, but without more ado, Grattan ordered "Fire"! "The Bear" and many of his men fell; but before the unlucky Americans had time to reload, a rain of Sioux arrows riddled their bodies. All thirty men were instantly killed.


The sight of their dead chieftain and the first taste of white blood electrified the Sioux nation. The cry of war ran to every village, and the entire Plains rose in arms. The vast space between the Missouri River and the Rocky Mountains was turned into a lurking theatre of battle. A great carnage lasting thirty-five years ensued, and Lieutenant Grattan's mistake cost the lives of thousands, white as well as red men, not in Nebraska alone, but in all the bordering States. The Sioux nation never negotiated peace. Their marauding bands, instilled with a deep hatred for the oncoming stream of white settlers, kept up a constant warfare upon their natural enemies; they harassed the white men until they were relegated to the background simply by overwhelming numbers. In justice to the red man, however, we must concede that the pioneering policies of these early settlers often were not without grave fault. There were stout hearts and false hearts on either side.


The one central proof of this last statement was the shabby treatment meted out to the Pawnee nation. From their earliest contact with the white men, the Pawnee Indians had assumed a friendly attitude. By nature, the Pawnees were the most civilized of all the Plains tribes. Residing in the heart of Nebraska and numbering 10,000 in their prime, the Pawnees have almost certainly been identified as children of the famous Aztec tribe of Mexico, believed to have been the most cultured of all the red tribes in America. Legend says that a band of Aztec migrated across the Rio Grande, through the wastes of the Arizona Desert in order to found a peaceful home on the wide northern prairies. Far from the rocky fastnesses of their mother country they found a new life under the vast sky and carved out a simple life on the hunting grounds of the new country.

Through the centuries preceding the advent of the white man the Pawnees became the prey of the Spartan-like Sioux, who were aggressive and warlike by nature. The two tribes were born enemies. After the upheaval caused by the Mormons' luckless lame cow, the Americans looked askance at the Pawnees and Sioux alike. For many years the early settlers branded the Pawnees as a lazy and treacherous people. The Pawnee Campaign of 1859 was argued by the white men as proof of their contentions.


The Pawnee lie was nailed by a stalwart Nebraska patriot, General John M. Thayer, director of the militia of Nebraska Territory from 1855 to 1801, and later Governor of the State. Addressing the Nebraska Historical Society in 1900, General Thayer revealed the entire truth about the campaign and placed justice where it belonged.

According to the General, many reports of thievery and atrocities had drifted into Omaha from settlers along the Elkhorn River as far northwest as the present site of West Point. Disgusted and frightened, these settlers came to Fontenelle, to which point General Thayer hastened. Here he was able to collect a band of 200 volunteers and set out against the marauders. Several days of marching brought them to a Pawnee encampment of 1,400 men, which force they surprised at daybreak. Credit is due to General Thayer in clearing the trouble without firing a shot. "Old Peter", the Pawnee chieftain, true to the policy of his tribe, surrendered at once, despite the fact that his own command far outnumbered that of General Thayer.

A council was held and it developed that an unruly band of Pawnee young men had been committing these acts of depredation, always against the wishes of the tribe itself. "Old Peter" acted in good faith. He turned over the culprits, and offered to cover all losses caused by members of his tribe. The guilty men were taken to Omaha and lodged in jail there for some time. A nominal reparation was extracted from "Old Peter", and with that turn of affairs the only breach between the Pawnees and the white men was closed.


A glorious chapter of Nebraska romance entwines itself around Frank North and his Pawnee Scouts. They were, perhaps, the most widely known of any purely Nebraska troops to engage in warfare in times past. It was in the early years of the Sixties when the United


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States was fighting the bloodiest war in the nation's history. The North was hemmed in, gasping for its very life. Available able-bodied

Pawnee village

Pawnee Village at the Forks of the Beaver Creek and Loup River near Genoa, Nebr.
Photo courtesy of the Nebraska State Historical Society.

men were away, fighting for Old Glory in the South. Nebraska, true to the Union, sent its small quotas to the Federal Army until the Plains were practically destitute of military men, or even of civilians, for that matter. The nation was hard pressed. Lee and Jackson, both wonderful leaders, were delivering blow after blow against every new Federal Army placed in the field. The two terrible battles of Bull Run, the horror of Fredericksburg, the utter annihilation of Chancellorville, left the breach wide open. Rebel cavalry actually entered the city of Washington. Demoralization spread all through the North.


     Suddenly, the terror of a fresh Sioux War loomed across the troubled horizon. The war

Hunting buffalo

Hunting Buffalo. The Indians are shown disguised as coyotes.
Photo courtesy of the Nebraska Historical Society.


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like tribes of the west central Plains, sensing the profound weakness of the settlers left on the prairie, decided to strike at this most opportune time. The War Department could spare no men, it seemed, but something had to be done. General Samuel R. Curtis, then in command of the Western Division of the United States Army, conceived the idea of enlisting the young Indians of the Pawnee nation to help defend the flag. In the fall of 1864, General Curtis himself came to Columbus for the purpose of obtaining some Pawnee Indians from Genoa to help guard his command in a trip he was making to Fort Kearney. White at Genoa, he met Frank North, who was then a clerk at the trader's post. He induced North to make the Fort Kearney trip with him in the role of interpreter. On the way back to Columbus General Curtis gave North a recruiting commission to enlist a company of Pawnee Indians. This was done, and the Pawnee soldiers, with Captain Frank North at their head, did invaluable work in guarding the Western frontiers. North was a Captain until 1866.


The Pawnee Scouts were then enlarged to four companies and Frank North was commissioned Major in the United States Army. Major North's young brother, Lute, became identified with the Pawnee Scouts about this time. Lute North, before that time, had lived an interesting life. At the age of 16 he enlisted as a private in the Second Nebraska Cavalry, under the command of Colonel Robert W. Furnas. That was in the fall of 1862. The second Nebraska Cavalry was mustered out of service in December 1863. When the Pawnee Scouts were enlarged, Major Frank North, himself only 26 years old, secured a Captain's commission for his brother, Lute, who was then 20.

The Pawnee Scouts did gallant work. The rallying of these red men to the Stars and Stripes worked despair and demoralization into the hearts of the hostile Sioux and Cheyennes. Neither horse nor man was spared by North in his determination to rid the West of the red fear and terror must be ground into the enemy and his red soldiers were not long in instilling that into their old foes. March after march carried his little band of Indian cavalrymen forth and back across Nebraska until the men literally knew every inch of the way. The Sioux War, after months of Pawnee watchfulness and strategy, dwindled into insignificance and the four companies of Pawnee Scouts then did much valuable service in guarding several hundreds of miles of freshly-constructed Union Pacific road-bed across Nebraska. That work also completed and the fear of Sioux and Cheyennes' invasion utterly wiped out, the Pawnee Scouts were disbanded in 1870.


The terrible massacre of General George Custer and his command at the hands of Chief Sitting Bull occurred in 1876. At that time Frank North was doing government work at Fort Russell and his brother, Lute, was in business in Columbus. The famous Civil War General, Phil Sheridan, telegraphed to General George A. Crook, then commanding the troops in the West, ordering him to organize an expedition at once to pursue Sitting Bull. General Sheridan also telegraphed to Frank North and asked him to make a trip at once to the Indian Territory, now Oklahoma, and secure 100 Pawnee braves to do guard duty for General Crook. Frank North again organized his Pawnee Scouts, being fortunate in securing many of his old warriors. The expedition consisted of about 1,400 men and all went into the Black Hills in pursuit of the Cheyennes. On Thanksgiving Day, November 26, 1876, a body of cavalry under General Roland MacKenzie met the foe at a fork of the Powder River in the rough country of the Big Horn Mountains. A very intensive fighting occurred all day in the mountains, neither side winning any ground. The wily Indians, despite the efforts of the Pawnees under the direction of the two North brothers, made a get-away. However, the winter camp of the Cheyennes had been totally destroyed, the weather turned bitterly cold, and fifteen inches of snow fell that night. A scouting party sent out to follow up the fleeing Indians found pitiable sights in the snow. Starved and frozen bodies were found in rapid succession. Some of the more sturdy managed to make their way to Canada and the West, while many others dragged their starved bodies into Fort Laramie to seek the protection of the army. The Pawnee Scouts came back to Sidney, where they were mustered out of service for the last time in the spring of 1877.


Captain Lute North, still living in Columbus, has recounted the details of an epoch of Western history that electrified the entire Plains country, the discovery of gold in the Black Hills. Frequent stories told by the Indians who were living on the wild land in the Black Hills led many to believe that there was more to that worthless country than was commonly believed. Accordingly, General George Custer, then stationed at Fort Abe Lincoln near the present site of Bismark, N. D., organized an extensive exploration party in 1874, including many scien-


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tists, prospectors, photographers, professional men and newspaper men, to make a survey of the Black Hills. The Yale College Museum sent out its assistant, George Bird Grinnell, who was instructed by the Museum to hire Captain Lute North as his aide. It was in this capacity that Lute North went with the famous expedition. The miners and prospectors with the group were constantly on the lookout for gold. The regiment camped for many days here and there, gathering valuable information of different natures. One day they happened to he encamped on the place where Custer City,

Indian chiefs

Indian Chiefs. 1--Pes-ke-le-cha-ce. 2--Peta-ha-sha-ra. 3--Te-la-wa-hut (Ray Chief). 4-Dick
Photos courtesy of the Nebraska State Historical society.

South Dakota, now stands. Miners Ross and McKay, after their usual method, had dug a hole and were panning for gold. The other attaches of the party, including Lute North, were watching. McKay was in the hole and had handed out a panful (sic) to Ross, who proceeded to wash the dirt and rock. The residue held GOLD--a very small portion of it--worth a quarter or so, but nevertheless, REAL GOLD. The camp was electrified. The main question which Custer's regiment had taken the body of scientists into the Hills, had been accomplished. General Custer delegated his favorite Scout, Charley Reynolds, to ride through 200 miles of wild country, infested with hostile Indians, to Fort Laramie, and then to Cheyenne, where the wonderful news was put on the Union Pacific trains east and west. The newspaper men in the party at once set to thinking and writing sensational reports and before many days the whole world knew of a great new gold field. An invasion similar to that of California in 1849 was started and civilization followed the pickaxe. The Indians were parcelled (sic) off into special townships in the Bad Lands of Dakota and extreme Northwest Nebraska. The dry year, 1890, led the starving Sioux of Pine Ridge Reservation, etc., to despair. The last Indian war ensued. Colonel Forsyth, the hero of Beecher Island in 1869, commanded the United States troops. While Spotted Tail and Sitting Bull commanded the Sioux. The hostile forces met on Dec. 3, 1890, in a valley of the Bad Lands. Thirty-two soldiers and 156 Indians were slain. The battle ended as suddenly as it had commenced. The Indians were disarmed and hurried back to their reservation.

With the dawn of the Twentieth Century the Indian lost his heritage to the Plains. His significance in the life of America is gone. He is nearly forgotten. What part of his descendants are still alive have been relegated to the background and no importance is placed on his once proud head. A tear of sorrow is to be let fall on the passing of the Indian. His day is gone. Practically he is no more.

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© 2004 for the NEGenWeb Project by Sherri Brakenhoff, Ted & Carole Miller