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previously by William Stolley, for the protection of his family, in case of an Indian attack. The first star-spangled banner that ever floated in the air in this County was raised over this fortification, which the inmates chose to call thereafter "Fort Independence." Friends gathered in, and soon thirty-five persons had found a place where the scalping-knife of the savage was not very likely to reach them. Sufficient fire-arms (seventy-two shots without re-loading), about fifty pounds of powder, and other ammunition, besides an ample supply of provisions, were stored within the Fort, and a well was dug in one corner. Other precautionary measures were taken, such as the building of a stable eighty-eight feet long, under ground, for horses and a cattle-yard within range of the Fort.

     But the fortification afforded protection to only a small portion of the then already numerous settlers; therefore it was resolved to fortify the "0. K." store, established in August, 1862, which was about one and a half miles due south of the Court-house in Grand Island. Mr. Thavenet engineered the work, and Dr. A. Thorspecken was chosen captain. The combined force at this place soon erected a formidable breastwork of sod, which surrounded all the buildings. This breastwork was provided on each corner with a tower, built of green cottonwood logs, projecting out far enough to permit the shooting of any person who should venture to crawl under cover of the breastwork from outside. Sixty-eight men and about one hundred women and children gathered into this fortification, and found there a safe place of refuge.

     August 22, 1864, Gen. Curtis arrived here with the First Regular Cavalry, bringing with him one cannon--a six-pounder. The General inspected both fortifications, and praised the settlers for the efficient measures adopted by them for their self-protection. He left the cannon with them, and continued his march the same day to reinforce the garrison at Fort Kearney.

     Soon afterwards, Capt. J. B. David, and twenty men of Company E, Seventh Iowa Cavalry, were stationed at the "0. K." store fortification. The Indians, however, never ventured an attack.

     In 1863, the second saw-mill was built on Wood River, and the first windmill erected at the Grand Island settlement. A large number of windmills have since been erected in the County, also several steam and water-power grist and saw mills.



     The Government Survey of the public lands in this County took place in July and August, 1866.

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     The first artificial grove--6,000 trees--was set out in the spring of 1860, on the west half of the northwest quarter of section twenty-eight, and on the east half of the northeast quarter of section twenty-nine, town eleven north of range nine west, and consisted of cottonwood, black locust, ash and black walnut. Some of these trees are now from sixty to one hundred feet high.

     The first settlers on Prairie Creek opened up farms in March, 1871.



     On the 21st of May, 1870, bonds were voted by the County to the amount of $15,000 for the purpose of bridging the Platte River. The bridge was completed early in March, 1871, in section twenty-nine, town ten, range nine west.

     An election for Court-house bonds was held February 15, 1872. The Court House was completed as it now is, June 28, 1873.

     PUBLIC SCHOOLS.--The first school taught in the County was in 1862. It was located one mile south of the Court House, Grand Island--Mr. Theodore Nagel, teacher; pupils, six. The present number of school districts in the County is sixty-one; school houses, fifty-one; children of school age--males 1,150, females 1,139; total, 2,289; number of qualified teachers employed--males, forty-one, females, forty-eight; total, eighty-nine; amount of salary paid teachers for the year--males, $6,143.72, females, $4,717.57; total, $10,861.29; value of school houses, $41,825; value of sites, $3,523; value of books and apparatus, $2,057.81.

     TAXABLE PROPERTY.--Acres of land, 257,959; average value per acre, $3.51. Value of town lots, $178,225. Money invested in merchandise, $58,812; money used in manufactures, $9,172; number of horses 2,736, value $97,939; number of mules 360, value $14,850; number of neat cattle 8,668, value $82,546; number of sheep 1,409, value $1,411; number of swine 5,134, value $4,401; number of vehicles 1,156, value $28,349; moneys and credits, $50,028; mortgages, $10,323; furniture, $27,852; libraries, $1,623; property not enumerated, $66,388; railroad, $265,369.60; telegraph, $2,176. Total valuation, $1,815,280.60.

     RAILROADS.--The County is traversed from east to west, through the central portion, by the Union Pacific Railroad. The Grand Island and Hastings Road, opening up communication with the Republican Valley Counties, was completed in 1879, and is now in running order from Grand Island southward. Bonds have been voted to the Union Pacific Company, to aid in the construction of a branch running from Grand Island up the Valley of the Loup; and the road bed is now being graded between Grand Island and St. Paul, Howard County. The road is to be in running order between these points by June, 1880. Other lines are also contemplated through this County, and the surveys have been made.



     LANDS.--There are no desirable government lands left in the County. The Union Pacific Railroad owns a large amount here, for which they ask from $3 to $6 per acre.

     POPULATION.--The following are the names of the Precincts of the County, and the population of each in 1879: Grand Island, 2,200; Prairie Creek, 506; Alda, 913; South Loup, 832; Wood River, 949; South Platte, 704; Mariansville, 271.

     Total population of County, 6,375, of whom 3,465 were males and 2,910 females. In 1878, the population was 5,119; increase in last year, 1,256.


The County Seat, is a beautiful town of 2,200 inhabitants, located on a high plateau overlooking the Platte River and surrounding country, in the eastern part of the County. It derives its name from a fertile island in the Platte, about two miles distant, which is sixty miles long and averages three miles wide. The town occupies one of the most desirable locations on the line of the Union Pacific Railway, and here are found the first round-houses and repair-shops of that Company west of Omaha. During the present year, the St. Joe & Denver Railroad was extended to this point, from Hastings, opening up communication with the Republican Valley Counties; and a branch from the U. P. is now being rapidly constructed from here to the Loup Valley Counties. During the past few months, new freight depots, a rolling-mill, an engine-house, large elevator and other improvements have been made, to the estimated value of $300,000.

     The first train of cars on the Union Pacific track passed through Grand Island, July 8, 1866, and was drawn by engine "Osceola." A Postoffice was established in November, 1866, with George Schuller, postmaster; and about the same time several stores were opened. The old "O. K." store was removed to the town proper, in 1867. Dec. 6. 1869, the U. S. Land Office for this District was opened here, January 1, 1870, the Platte Valley Independent, the first weekly newspaper, was established by Mrs. M. T. G. Eberhart and Seth P. Mobley, and is still conducted by tile same parties, under the firm name of Mr. & Mrs. S. P. Mobley. The Times was established July 16, 1873. The Democrat was started the present year, and both are large, excellent papers.



     The city was incorporated in the spring of 1873; R. C. Jordon, first Mayor. The State Central Bank was established in 1871, with a capital of $45,000. The Catholics erected the first Church in the city. It was blown down by a hurricane in 1870. The city now has several handsome Church edifices. Masonic and Odd-Fellows' Lodges were established in 1871, and since then, the Knights of Pythias, Sons of Temperance, Leiderkranz, and numerous other secret and benevolent Societies have been organized. In 1874, a fire company and hook and ladder company were organized.

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     Grand Island to-day is an excellent business point, and offers great inducements to capital and enterprise. It has several fine hotels, an excellent graded school, stores of various kinds, exten-



sive lumber-yards, and one of the largest Steam flouring mills in the State. The Platte is crossed here by a series of bridges from island to island, and a good bridge across the Loup gives easy access to the farmers of Howard County and the country on the north.

     ADA, WOOD RIVER and DONIPHAN are shipping stations on the railroad, and rapidly growing towns.

     Martinsville, Orchard, Junctionville, Zurich, Cameron, and Runelsburgh are villages of recent birth located in different parts of the County.


     Hamilton County was organized in May, 1870, by proclamation of Governor Butler. It is located in the southeastern part of the State, and is bounded on the north by the Platte River, which separates it from Merrick County, east by Polk and York, South by Clay, and west by Hall County, containing 560 square miles, or 358,400 acres, at an average elevation of 1,800 feet above the sea level.

     WATER COURSES.-- County is watered by the Platte and Blue Rivers and their tributaries. The Platte, flowing in a north easterly course, forms the northwestern boundary of the County, a distance of about thirty-five miles. The West Blue flows from west to east through the lower tier of townships, and furnishes good mill privileges. Lincoln Creek, the North Fork of the Blue, Beaver, and several smaller streams water the central and northern portions of the County.

     TIMBER.--The number of forest trees planted up to date, is 2,157,259. Large, thrifty domestic groves may now be seen on many sections of land, and fuel is abundant. The streams furnish a small amount of natural timber. Forty-three miles of hedge fencing have been planted in the County.

     FRUIT.--The number of fruit trees reported under cultivation, in 1879, was as follows: Apple, 9,778; pear, 243; peach, 4,684; Plum, 8,246; cherry, 1,792; besides 395 grape vines. There are several very large orchards, and many of them are in bearing.




     Limestone abounds in the vicinity of the Blues.

     PHYSICAL FEATURES.--The surface consists principally of rolling prairie and nearly level plains, which have a gradual rise to the westward. In the western part of the County, where the Blues and several of their tributaries have their sources, the land is considerably broken, but affording the finest advantages for stock. The Blues and School Creek have fine valleys and wide, rich bottoms.

     CROPS.--Acres under cultivation, 83,230. The yield of the principal crops, reported for 1879, was as follows: Winter wheat, sixty acres, 681 bushels; spring wheat, 42,278 acres, 470,250 bushels; rye, 1,938 acres, 21,765 bushels; corn 11,106 acres, 291,644 bushels; barley 6,016 acres, 99,496 bushels; oats 5,095 acres, 117,076 bushels; buckwheat, sixty-five acres, 102 bushels; sorghum, one acre, 106 gallons; flax, forty-five acres, 399 bushels; broom corn, seventy-three acres, 443 tons; potatoes 392 acres, 33,528 bushels; onions, three acres, 502 bushels.

     The soil is very productive, and ranges from eighteen inches to two feet deep on the uplands.

     HISTORICAL.--The first permanent settlements of which there are any records, were made in 1867 and 1868, by J. D. Wescott, Jarvis Chaffee, John Brown, James Rollo, John Harris, N. M. Bray, John Laurie and Robert Lemont, on the West Blue River.

     John Harris, J. T. Biggs, and a Mr. Millspaugh kept ranches on the Overland Freight Road, long before Hamilton County was organized, when the buffalo, elk, deer and antelope roamed the prairies undisturbed.

     Lincoln Creek was first settled in October, 1869, by Martin Werth and family, and William and August Werth. In the spring of 1871, a Postoffice was established at Spafford's Grove, on this Creek, with S. W. Spafford as Postmaster.

     Beaver Creek was settled, in 1870, by R. M. Hunt, Samuel Yost and S. B. Chapman; and shortly afterward J. W. Jones, H. M. Graham, Henry Newman and Franklin Jacobs arrived.

     The Big Blue, in the northern part of the County, was settled in 1871 by B. F. Webb, of Missouri, who located on section twelve, town twelve, range five. W. L. Whittemore settled on section two, town twelve, range five. T. W. Manchester, M. Vanduzen, and others, settled in 1872.



     John Danhauer settled in the South Platte Precinct in 1871, and Stephen Platz and James Odell in 1872. About the same time, Mr. Hewitt settled in the extreme northeast corner of the County, and soon afterward J. W. Ward, C. Thurman, James Foster and C. Foster settled in the Bluff Precinct.

     Among the older settlers on the extreme western side are Charles Tompkins and family and Mrs. Charlotte Ward, who arrived on the 22d of July, 1872, and located claims on section four, town ten, range eight, and at once began the erection of sod houses.

     Hamilton Precinct, which was formerly a part of Deepwell, was settled in the spring of 1872, by G. K. Eaton.

     Settlements were made in the central portion of the County, in 1871-72, by James Faris, W. S. Strain, and the Libott family. The southwest part, including Scovill and Union Precincts, was settled about the same time.

     The first Church Society was organized at Father Hunt's house, in Beaver Creek Precinct, on the 12th of August, 1871, and was known as the Aurora Baptist Church. Since then, the Farmer's Valley Baptist Church has been organized, also one in the southwest corner, and another in the northeast corner of the County, making four Baptist Churches in all. The Methodists, Presbyterians, Congregationalists, United Brethren, Catholics and other denominations have organized Societies, and hold stated services.

     The first sermon preached in the County was by Rev. S. W. Spafford, in the summer of 1871, in the sod house of J. P. Elliott, which stood on the present site of the town of Hamilton. The first Sunday School was organized in this house at the same time. There are at present six Churches in the County.

     The first frame house in the County was built in 1870, by T. H. Clark, on the Blue, the lumber being hauled from Grand Island.

     The first birth was Orville Westcott, son of C. O. Westcott, after whom Orville City was named. The first death was that of the wife of J. D. Westcott. The first marriage was that of Philip Hart to Elizabeth Ellen Verley, on the 21st of August, 1870, by Robert Lemont, Probate Judge. The first Fourth of July celebration was held in 1870, in a beautiful grove on the west side of the



West Blue, belonging to J. D. Westcott. The oration was delivered by B. D. Brown. The first case tried in the District Court, held at Orville City, in May, 1870, with Hon. Geo. B. Lake as presiding Judge, was a suit for divorce, Mr. E. W. Denio for plaintiff. Mr. Denio, Mr. Darnall and A. Poston were the first practicing lawyers.

     The first election was held on the 3d of May, 1870, at the house of John Harris, on the West Blue, eighteen voters being present. The following County Officers were elected: Commissioners, Wm. D. Young, Norris M. Bray, Alex. Laurie; Clerk, Josias D. Westcott; Treasurer, Clarence O. Westcott; Sheriff, Geo. F. Dickson; Probate Judge, Robert Lemont; Surveyor, John E. Harris; Superintendent Public Instruction, John Laurie; Coroner, James Rollo.

     PUBLIC SCHOOLS.--Number of districts, eighty-two; school houses, seventy-one; children of school age--males 1,224, females 1,040, total 2,264; number of qualified teachers employed--males, forty-eight, females, sixty-two, total, 110; wages paid teachers, for the year, $11,704.95; value of school houses, $21,203.62; value of sites, $722; value of books and apparatus, $1,316.61.

     TAXABLE PROPERTY.--Acres of land, 256,954; average value per acre, $3.22. Value of town lots, $32,381. Money invested in merchandise, $14,955; money used in manufactures, $1,872; number of horses 3,567, value $132,786; mules 405, value $20,526; neat cattle 4,258, value $47,799.00; sheep 720, value $967.00; swine 7,027, value $6,670; vehicles 1,346, value $31,935; moneys, and credits, $11,157; mortgages, $9,934; stocks, etc., $50; furniture, $26,169; property not enumerated, $62,841. Total valuation for 1879, $1,228,792.

     RAILROADS.--During the present year, 1879, the Nebraska Railway, under the control of the B. & M., has been extended westward from York County to Aurora, the County Seat of this County. The Omaha & Republican Valley Railway is also heading this way, and is now in running order to the County Seat of the adjoining County on the east.

     LANDS.--Improved lands are worth from $6 to $18 per acre. The U. P. and B. & M. Railroad Companies each own a large amount here, for which they ask from $4 to $7 per acre.



     POPULATION.--The County is divided into fifteen precincts, the population of each in 1879 being as follows; Bluff, 342; Monroe, 474; Scovill, 404; Farmer's Valley, 498; Beaver, 628; Hamilton, 372; Union, 455; Valley, 514; Orville, 450; Platte, 304; Otis, 405; Deepwell, 347; Aurora, 796; Cedar Valley, 76; Grant, 418.

     Total population of County, 6,478; of whom 3,527 were males and 2,951 females.


The County Seat, is pleasantly located near the center of the County, in the midst of a fertile farming section. It was recorded as a town on the 21st of December, 1872, and became the County Seat, January 1, 1876. The first house on the town site was a dugout, erected in August, 1871; the next was a frame building, built by David Stone. The first child born in the town was Abbie Aurora Goodman, on December 24, 1871. The first death was a. daughter of David and Mary E. Stone, February 14, 1872. Aurora at present contains 800 inhabitants, a $5,000 Court House, an excellent School House and neat Churches, two newspapers, Republican and News, and business establishments representing all lines of trade. Within the past year, its population and business have about doubled; and now that it has railroad connection, it must become the shipping point and chief business center of the County.


Located on the West Blue, was surveyed and recorded in 1870, and was selected as the County Seat, at the general election held the 3d of May, 1870, which honor it retained until January 1, 1876. It is surrounded by a thrifty farming community, and has several stores, mechanical shops, etc. A first class flouring mill is located in the vicinity, and all the streams are well bridged.


Located on the prairie, seven miles southwest of the County Seat, was surveyed in 1874, and the plat filed for record on the 19th of April, 1875. It has about 200 inhabitants, and was a lively contestant with Aurora, in 1875, for the honors of the County Seat.

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