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NE History & Record of Pioneer Days
Vol IV, no 1 (part 2)



growth of the Mormon church remains one of the remarkable social and religious phenomena of the past century.


We talked about the dugout days
The other night around a blaze
Of chunks chopped from Nebraska trees
We planted back in sixty-eight;--
The twisted hay fire's smoky tease,
The dirt floor rug beneath our feet,
The shingled sod, the worn tin plate,
Came back their story to repeat
When we set out to build the state.

A pioneer rose up and, said:
"Jest skelp fur me my old gray head
"Ef I'd a-ever held my claim
"Except fur my Almiry Jane;
"She kep' the county taxes paid,--
"She" held the fort that Injin raid,
"She argid in the days of drouth
"That luck would turn as sure as Fate,
"That God would fill His children's mouths
"And give us help to build the state."

A homesteader (his eyes were wet,)
Spoke next: "I never shall forget
"The hard times that we struggled through,
"The sickness and the mortgage too:--
"Nor, when the welcome children came
"And played about our sod house claim
"Who fought for our first dictrict school
"And held her own in joint debate
"Till neighbors said, "That them should rule
"'As raised the children for the State':

So first one, then the other 'greed
That women folks had done the deed;
Had held the homestead on the plains
Through years of drouth and years of rains;
Had given men the grit to stay
When they would rather run away;
Had planted church and public school,
Had raised the children, strong and straight;
So we're all headed fur Home Rule:
Let the women vote who build the State!

   There was a Fort Atkinson in Wisconsin, one in New Mexico, one in northeastern Iowa, and one in Nebraska. The Nebraska Fort Atkinson has by far the most important place in the history of the West. it was for seven years the farthest western post of the United States army. More important events connected with the early exploration of the west centered at the Nebraska Fort Atkinson than at any other point. An article in the Palimpsest, published by the Iowa Historical Society, tells the story of the Iowa Fort Atkinson which has now been made a State Historical Park. There are ten important reasons why the Nebraska Fort Atkinson site should be made a permanent historical park to one for any other Fort Atkinson.



 Picture or sketch

W. F. Lillie demonstrating use of his corn husker--from cut used in his advertising literature.


By Samuel C. Bassett

   Homesteaders in Nebraska had many new wrinkles to learn in methods in agriculture, few more important than growing and harvesting corn.
   In the eastern states , from whence came most of the homesteaders, com was not tile important crop that it has always been in. Nebraska.
   On an average farm in New York, for illustration, only from three to five acres were devoted to corn production. The corn was cut and shocked in advance of frost and later husked and thrown on the floor in the corn crib where it was sorted, the soft corn separated from the mature, every husk and all silk removed in order to prevent the corn from molding and rotting while drying in the crib. As the corn was husked the corn fodder was bound in bundles and stored in the barn for fodder.
   In Nebraska, from the beginning to the present time, the value of the corn crop, each year, has exceeded the total valve of all wheat, oats, rye and barley raised on our farms. In the early years, and largely even at the present, corn matures on the standing stalks and when dry is husked and stored in



cribs, in many instances piled on the ground, often remaining in such piles during the entire winter or until shelled for market. In Nebraska it is the exception and not the rule that all husks and all silk are removed from corn when being husked. In New York, for illustration, a farmer would average to husk twenty shocks of corn, yielding twenty baskets of ears, (ten bushels of shelled corn) in a day.
   A homesteader who settled in Nebraska in 1871 made a visit to his old home in New York. It was in the fall of the year, in the early 80's, and eastern farmers were busy husking their corn.
   Traveling east from Buffalo, the homesteader visited with a group of farmer people on the train and naturally boasted of conditions in Nebraska. He stated that in Nebraska no corn was cut and shocked. That com was husked from the standing stalks and the ears thrown directly into a wagon box. That a good husker would husk and crib an acre of corn a day, and that it made little difference whether the corn yielded fifteen or seventy-five bushels per acre. That it made no difference whether all husks and all silks were removed from the corn or not, and that corn would keep all winter on the stalks in the field, or in piles on the ground.
   When the homesteader had finished his "spiel," a New York farmer, one of the group, took off his hat and tendered it to the homesteader remarking, "take the hat, it is yours and welcome. I have heard a good many yarns about the west but yours is the biggest lie of all!"
   When more than one-half of the cultivated land was, and is, devoted to corn production, as in Nebraska, it will be seen that corn husking, one ear at a time, with cracked and bleeding hands, is a well nigh never ending and unpleasant task in the late fall and winter months.
   The first invention used to assist in corn husking was the husking peg, described briefly as a small, round piece of hard wood sharpened at one end, some six inches in length, held in the hollow of the right hand. Attached to the husking peg was a loop of buckskin or other soft leather, the loop passing over the middle finger, holding the husking peg in place. The sharpened end of the peg was thrusted thru the husks at the tip end of the ear, enabling the operator to husk the ear quickly and easily and the husking peg at once came into universal use.
   In the year 1890 was invented the Lillie corn husker or corn hook as it is often called, by W. F. Lillie of Rockford, Nebraska, the invention being brought about in a manner described by Edgar Rothrock of Holmesville, Nebraska, as follows:



   George F. Richards, (father-in-law of Mr. Lillie) lost his right thumb at the second joint in 1886 and lamented that he could no longer husk corn. To help him out Mr. Lillie cut from an old scoop shovel his first corn husker or corn hook. Mr. Richards found with its use he could husk corn as well as ever. Mr. Lillie then realized the value of his contrivance and cut out many more (corn hooks) of different shapes, from old shovels. Mr. Lillie secured his first patent on this invention September 26, 1893. Mr. Lillie owned only forty acres of land and had a large family to support. He spent a great deal of time in working on his corn husker and getting it ready for market. His means were very limited and he sacrificed nearly everything he owned. The invention made him no money and he always claimed he was beaten out of his rights by designing partners, and old settlers think so too.
   Mr. Lillie traveled widely thru Nebraska, Kansas, Illinois and Iowa introducing his invention. He gave many demonstrations. His son, H. D. Lillie, who accompanied him part of the time tells of one method: Two men would hold a newspaper above Mr. Lillie's head. A third would hold an ear of husked com under the paper while Mr. Lillie held in his left hand an ear of snapped corn. At a given signal Mr. Lillie would begin to husk the ear and the man to drop the ear of husked corn, held under the newspaper. Mr. Lillie would husk his ear (the operation passing it, of course, to his right hand), and catch the dropped ear as it reached the level of his hand and hold the ears side by side in his right hand.
   William F. Lillie evolved his perfected corn husker (corn hook) after much thought, labor and expense. A poor man, he attempted to manufacture them and create a market under great difficulties. He succeeded in every way excpt (sic) financially. A grateful posterity will see that he is given the credit he deserves.
   The Lillie corn husker, invented and placed on the market in the early 90's is still in use. A Nebraska hardware dealer in business in the early 70's, states that he placed his first order for Lillie corn huskers, September 22, 1893. His successor in the same line of business, continues to handle them and states that he sells ten times as many Lillie corn huskers as of husking pegs.

Picture or sketch 

The hand that husks Nebraska's Corn



   Editor's Note: An important question is this: How much has the invention of the husking hook increased the efficiency of the corn husker? Mr. J. C. Morford, of Beaver Crossing, Seward County, successfully farms 320 acres of Blue river bottom. His three sons and himself are all expert huskers. They agree that the modern husking hook with cot and plate doubles the husker's production as compared with the old fashioned husking peg. Two motions strip the ear. The editor would be glad to have the estimate of other experts.


   The following items are a few of the titles recently acquired by this library by gift; exchange or purchase. Most of the genealogical books were obtained by exchange for the Nebraska Historical Collections and other duplicates from Mr. Frank J. Wilder of Somerville, Mass. Mr. Wilder is a life member of this Society.

Mayflower Descendants in Cape May County, New Jersey
Old Families of Salisbury and Amesbury, Mass.
Scituate Second Church Records
Early Connecticut Marriages, 7 volumes
Memorial History of Hartford, Conn.
Commodore Barney
Colonial Records of Rhode Island
Collections of Rhode Island
Proceedings of Rhode Island
American Indans, Chained and Unchained
The Great American Desert
The World War, Saunders County
Records of the World War, Field Orders
Land Evidences in Rhode Island
The Blanket Indian
Hurd's History of Essex County, Mass.
History of Farmingham, Mass.
History of Middlexex County, Mass.
History of Miford, Mass.
History of Norfolk County, Mass.


   Curator E. E. Blackman furnishes the following notes upon recent additions to our museum:
   As the years go by the public appreciates more and more the importance of preserving the evidences of our rapidly changing conditions of life. So our museum grows. The pressing problem is where to place the constant valuable gifts.
   The tractor is now turning over the sod on our western plains, and where once grew the curly buffalo grass, now are seen whole sections of ripening golden grain. The tractor has ceased to be a curiosity--but the little "grasshopper" breaking plow is a thing of the past. You need not be very old to remember when this "square cut, rod plow" was found on every homestead, you can remember when it was a curiosity because it was new and simple in construction. Now it is a curiosity because it is ancient. Mr. Jack Hurst of Trenton has presented a genuine "grasshopper." Grandchildren of the present day will look with wonder on this implement.
   Before the days of the victrola, was occasionally seen a "Swiss music box." You wound up a spring which rendered a number of tunes by the action of a brass cylinder set with steel pins. In 1885 D. E. Thompson, former minister to Mexico and Brazil, purchased a Swiss music box for $1,000 and presented it to his sister, Miss Eva Thompson of Lincoln. This music box is an elaborate instrument. It has six cylinders and each cylinder carries six tunes, with the organ accompani-



ment and a bell ringing attachment. Miss Eva Thompson has presented this Swiss music box to the museum, where it will teach coming generations the process of mechanical music before the days of the victrola. She also presented a Mexican mill, a water jar and a huge key from Mexico.
   Mr. Thurlow Lieurance presented to the museum a Chinese harp made in a crude way by stretching shark skin over a wooden frame. Cords are attached and it resembles a huge banjo.
   Possibly the most interesting addition to the photograph department is the work of Arthur L.Anderson of Wahoo. It consists of three huge albums containing the full and complete World War activities of Saunders county in photographs, fully named and described. Mr. Anderson has produced a work of great artistic merit as well as a very valuable historical record, which should be seen to be appreciated.
   Small donations, each of which is interesting and instructive, have been received from time to time; a wooden -"brace" used by carpenters when Nebraska was being built, by J. C. Hurst, of Trenton, a facsimile of the Seal of Nebraska by Hodge White of Beaumont, Texas, a watch from the Chicago fire by George Klein of Lincoln; a scabbard from Custer battlefield by A. N. Keith of Kaycee, Wyoming; an Indian bow from the McKenzie battlefield, Wyoming; a unique wooden saddle found on the plains and other specimens by Mr. Keith. A complete set of Lillie corn husker books from Rev. Edgar Rothrock of Homesville; a number of documents and bills from the Castetter bank at Blair.
   While at Decatur, Miss Martha Turner secured for the museum an Omaha "Medicine Man's Cap." This cap was placed as a loan by Mrs. Theresa T. Milton, daughter of Mrs. Mary Fontenelle Tyndall. This head dress was the property of "Hetheneka" who was a Medicine Man in the Omaha tribe. He died in 1888. It was the property of his forefathers, having passed to the eldest son, from generation to generation. Henry Milton inherited it on the death of Hetheneka in 1888, but he has no sons, so it is placed in the Historical Society for safe keeping.

   There is no better friend of historic research in the Nebraska region than George J. Remsburg, now of California. Not a month goes by that he does not send some interesting item of early days in the Nebraska region to our Society. Among the latest is a story of an incident in Richardson county in the fall of 1860. It was called "Stealing a Grist Mill" and is unique in Nebraska history. The story condensed is that early in 1860 A. M. Hamby who was running a saw mill at Falls City induced W. C. Foster of Kansas to go into partnership. Mr. Foster had a grist mill consisting of a run of bearings, the frame supporting them and the necessary cog-wheels to run it.. These he removed to Falls City and attached to Hamby's saw mill. Differences arose between the partners and Mr. Foster finding himself at a disadvantage in a Nebraska law suit resolved to help himself to his own property. At night with two heavy lumber-wagons and four good horses his forces gathered in Falls City. After spying out the land, about midnight they moved into the mill yard and began action. The frame of the mill was bolted firmly to the sills of the building. A heavy wrench had been brought along and as the nut turned on the rusty bolt the creaking sounded like filing a saw, and caused all to start with the fear that they would be discovered. Industriously they worked and in a few minutes it was carefully lifted from its resting place and laid upon the saw dust. A span of horses was soon brought up and hitched to the mill. It was dragged over the soft ground a quarter of a mile or more to where the wagons had been left. In a few minutes it was carefully taken apart and placed in the wagons and the party were as anxious to get out of Nebraska as they were a few hours before to get in. Quietly they pursued their journey until just as the day was dawning, they came in sight of the timber near Mr. Foster's Kansas

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