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Vol V, no 1 (part 2)



ter but Nebraska City was not enthusiastically friendly to Lincoln in 1870.
   It so happened that I had just made a call upon Mr. Silver the day his men fell through and two were killed. They were putting on the ceiling joists over the chapel and the roof trusses were not completed, only the stringers or tie beam were laid across and held up by shores of 2 x 4 pieces spiked together--30 feet long--and these swayed fearfully as the men walked carrying the joists. I called Mr. Silver's attention to this saying it was certainly dangerous but he only said "Waite is running that and he knows his business." Before reaching home I heard the crash and looking back saw the dust rising and knew what had happened.
   It was during the term of Gov. James that the foundation of the University building was repaired. Prof. Aughey first called my attention to the matter and after looking over I called upon the governor and at my request he went with me to look it over. The walls of the chapel wing were in the worst condition and, we entered this part through a window where the sash had been removed and a plank from the sill to the ground inside furnished easy access. The walls were built with rather thin ashlar courses 17 feet high on the outside, backed with very poor marble work inside and not being properly bonded they were parting company. I picked up a barrel hoop and passed it through the center of a pier from one window to another, and I will never forget how frightened the governor was. Shouting Hold! Hold! 'till I get out he jumped through that window like a rabbit. At call of the governor the regents met and let a contract to John McFarland of Nebraska City to put new walls under the chapel wing. Mac was a pretty fine old man, for one who had served a term in the pen, for murder, but he liked good whiskey and the work was left mostly in my care especially after an occurrence that I wish to relate because I have had men declare it could not be true. McFarland began work on N. W. corner pier and had completed that and the one next to it and was getting ready to take out the next (on the west side) when it was time to quit work on Saturday. That evening it rained hard. Prof. Aughey was the laboratory when he heard a noise and on examination found that the pier next to the new work had fallen completely out. He hastened to the residence of Chancellor Benton on H Street and together they came to my home on P Street and we all hurried to the building. On the way, however, I called at the St. Charles hotel where Mac and his men all boarded and got several of the men to go with me. We had only one lantern, and it was still raining. The brick pier three stories in height was still hanging, being supported by the brick that



extended across between the windows, but it was slowly giving way, as we could tell by the chunks of plaster that kept falling inside, some heavy enough to crush the chapel seats where they fell. There was no way to save the pier but by getting a "needle" under it supported by heavy blocking both inside and outside. To send men inside seemed too great a risk and yet if the pier should fall it would probably bring down the whole wing if it did not wreck the building for it was a wonder to all who saw the condition of the walls that they stood at all. I asked the Chancellor what to do, but he would not say--nor would Aughey, but as the pier had stood thus for an hour I took a chance. Calling for volunteers I held the light and stood by to give orders, and there was where old King Alcohol helped me. The men sprang to the work at the first word and exactly followed my orders. In a few minutes the needle was placed and jackscrews tightened. The pier was safe. What the result might have been had the pier fallen and dragged down, as it must the whole chapel wing, at a time when Omaha was raising hades to get the University can only be guessed. But I have always thought if the men had not been well fired with corn whiskey, they would not have risked going inside that dark basement with the bricks crushing and plaster crashing down above them.

Yours very truly,     


   (General Henry Atkinson defeated the Indians at the battle of Bad Axe, Wis., in 1832. Fort Atkinson, Nebraska is named for him. He was born in North Carolina, in 1782, became Brigadier General in 1821, and died in 1842. Colonel W. S. Hamilton, U. S. A., Lieut. Col. Rifles, resigned in 1817. The letter is characteristic of the "Old Army" and shows the then geographical distribution of Indian tribes, some now extinct.)

Louisville, Ky., Dec. 21, 1825.    

My Dear Colonel:
   I had the pleasure a short time since, to receive your friendly letter of the 2nd, Sept., written at the Bay of St. Louis.
   I will not attempt to describe the pleasure and the gratitude I feel impressed with by your kind remembrances and more kindly sentiments.
   Let it suffice for me to say that I reciprocate with them fully--yes as fully and as freely as you could wish in the heart of your old friend and Capt. I have, as you mention, for several years been called from point to point in discharge of various duties assigned me on the frontier, at St. Louis and at



this place, rendering my service more active than has fallen to the lot of almost any other officer, and of course more agreeable, and I have the consolation to believe that I enjoy the confidence of government and the esteem and respect of the officers under me and what is not least, your approbation--these things I would say only to a friend because they would otherwise savor of egotism, which in me God forbid, but they are reflections that gratify me when I think upon them, and when I converse with friends like you.
   The duties I performed last summer were both pleasing to me and of importance. In May, 1825, (1) Congress authorized the President to appoint commissioners to hold treaties of Trade and friendship with the Indian Tribes "beyond the Mississippi" and to employ a Military escort to accompany them. $10,000 was appropriated to defray the expenses of transportation, and $10,000. for expenses incident to holding treaties with and for presents to the Indians. Major O'Fallon and myself were appointed to fill the commission, and I was directed to select the troops to compose the escort and to decide upon its strength. The act passed too late in 1825 (1) to afford time to perform the duties, in that season. I, however, provided transportation and provisions and concentrated the escort, consisting of 500 men, at Council Bluffs that fall and early in May, of the present year, moved with this force from Council Bluffs and proceeded up the Missouri river to a point 120 miles above the mouth of Yellow Stone River. On our ascent of the river we held councils and made treaties with twelve Tribes and on our return to the Bluffs, with five other tribes.
   Those above the Bluffs were the:
   Poncans, 180 warriors; Yanktons, 600 warriors; Yantonais, 800 warriors; Tetons, 600 warriors; Siones, 800 warriors; Ogallalas, 300 warriors; Hunkpapas, 300 warriors; Cheyenne 600 warriors; Aricaras, 500 warriors; Mandans, 250 warriors; Minatarees 250 warriors; and Crows, 800 warriors.
   South of the Bluffs:
   Otoes, 300 warriors; Grand Pawnees, 1,100 warriors; Pawnee Loups, 700 warriors; Pawnee Republics, 300 warriors; and Mahas, 500 warriors.
   These tribes comprise all the Indians from Council Bluffs up to the Rocky Mountains that reside on the Missouri or ever visit it, except the Blackfeet Indians and the Assiniboins; the first of these reside at the foot of the Mountains on the head waters of the Missouri, too distant for us to have reached them. We could easily have reached the falls of the Missouri, but then they would have yet been 700 miles above us. The Assiniboins reside on the head waters of the Milk river, a branch of the Missouri. The Blackfeet, who are broken into



many tribes, are estimated at 5,000 warriors, and the Assiniboins at 2,000.
   We performed our trip with great facility and ease, owing partly to the manner our transports were propelled, that is by wheels, and it is remarkable that a body of more than 550 men should have encountered the dangerous navigation of the Missouri, ordinary casualties, etc., with out losing on the whole voyage a single soul, or meeting with any accident to our transports.
   On my return to St. Louis on the 19th, Oct., after a detention of two weeks there, I proceeded to this place with a view of prosecuting my journey to Washington City. I had felt a great desire for some time to visit the place and then spend a few months among my friends in North Carolina, but on my arrival I was detained in command of this dept., and General Scott departed for N. Y., and here I must remain, I suppose, till relieved by General Gaines, who is expected out in a month or less; and then, for the mountains. I don't know what I can say that would interest you about our army affairs.
   Bissell has gone to Washington with a full hope of being brought to fill the yet vacant Colonelcy in one of the Artillery regiments. It is thought, however, he will fail. General Scott and Gaines, are quarreling about their rank, and some serious notes have passed between them. How they will settle the dispute, I am unable to say, as to their rank, if there should be a doubt, a board of officers should be convened to settle it. Clinch, (2) our mutual friend, is and always will do well. He has a well-poised mind and a good judgment. I am afraid the habits of C____ will ruin him, poor fellow I mourn over his unhappy, propensities. Morgan is doing well, his habits are good and he has a fine intellect and a noble soul. I feel a determination to avail myself of those gifts Heaven has provided for us. I am strengthened with a hope of success from the circumstances of enjoying the best of constitutions.
   Let us, as you propose, write quarterly to each other, without awaiting answers. I beg of you to present me kindly to Mrs. Hamilton, and speak of me to your little boys.
   Yours aff'y and sincerely,


   (1) Obviously an error for 1824.
   (2) This was probably Gen. Duncan S. Clinch, for whom Fort Clinch Fla., was named. His daughter (d. 1905), married Major Robert Anderson, of Fort Sumter fame.

   Chris Tatge died at Norfolk February 4, 1922, aged ninety-one years; 11 (?) months. He was born in Germany and settled in Cedar County in 1887. He was an enthusiastic horticulturist, the originator of the Tatge (plum)? and the Randolph plum, varieties approved by experts in that field.




   Old-timers in the west are the only persons who can now appreciate the impenetrable mystery which surrounded the name "Black Hills of South Dakota" fifty years ago. The gossip of early trappers and plainsmen ascribe to that region marvels which made it a rival of Yellowstone Park. Old tales of Father De Smet relating how gold nuggets had been brought by Indians from that wonderful mountain area rising from the plains and badlands were current. The determination of the Sioux and Cheyenne tribes to keep white people from exploring there intensified the mystery.
   The earliest organized attempts to reach the Black Hills in order to explore for gold started from Sioux City.
   Charles Collins, editor of the Sioux City Times, and Jo Gordon were two of the earliest promoters of this expedition. In 1868 the United States by solemn treaty at Fort Laramie with the Sioux Indians agreed to keep white men out of the region. About 1872 agitation to open the region at Sioux City and continued. There were great profits to any city in outfitting expeditions of gold hunters. The business men of Sioux City were the first to start the movement for invasion of the Black Hills. Early expeditions started from Sioux City and followed the general coarse of the Niobrara river. One of these expeditions, known as the Gordon expedition, was halted near Boilling Springs, in Cherry County, May 13, 1875. Its outfit was burned and its members taken as military prisoners to Fort Randall.
   The interesting history of Nebraska, as well as Iowa, of this early Black Hills gold rush, is related by Dr. Erik M. Eriksson in the Iowa Journal of History and Politics for July 1922. The first expedition from Sioux City assembled three miles west of the Missouri river near Covington, Nebraska, October 16, 1874. Their wagon tops were inscribed "O'Neils Colonies" in order to give out the impression that their destination was the Elkhorn valley. This expedition fooled the military, reached the Black Hills December 28, 1874, built a stockade and made the first white settlement in the Black Hills. Next April a detachment of United States soldiers surrounded them and took them as prisoners to Fort Laramie, Wyoming.
   The best route to the Black Hills was from Sidney, crossing the North Platte about three miles above Bridgeport and passing by the Red Cloud agency near the present city of Crawford. The history of the Black Hills gold rush is so interwoven with that of the Nebraska region that no accurate account of it can be written which does not include the Nebraska movement. Professor Eriksson has rendered valuable service in compiling from newspapers and other sources reliable account of that part of the Black Hills movement.



By T. N. Bobbitt

   I remember the early state and local Grange well. It was born of a necessity.
   The agricultural interests of the nation were depressed. It was an effort to better conditions--which it did.
   It was a secret organization. Its founders were of the National Department of Agriculture at Washington.
   The Nebraska State Grange was organized at Grand Island in the summer of 1873. W. B. Porter, master; Wm. McCaig, secretary, both of Cass County; Mr. McThurson of Saunders County as treasurer (as I remember).
   In the fall of 1873 the Eagle Grange, Cass County, was organized. T. N. Bobbitt was master and Ed Post secretary.
   The purposes were social, educational and financial. Two of the offices of each Grange were filled by women of the Grange and the female patrons were usually present at all meetings and many were the times we had a splendid dinner and a fine social time.
   In April, 1874, as master of our Grange, I attended the first regular Grange meeting at Seward Nebraska. I think there were at least 75 delegates present, including several ladies. We had a profitable session of about three days.
   Seward did not have hotel accommodations for all and many of us had rooms at private homes. Many long time friendships were made at these meetings and I later attended a state meeting at Lincoln--there were many there. Gen. Van Wyck was there from Otoe county. There were dissentions there--I will not say more as it was inside the grange.
   Our grange adopted a system of wholesale buying, as did other granges by taking money belonging to the grange, buying in quantities the things most needed for cash. The master, or some one appointed to purchase and distribute these articles, returned the money to the grange treasurer, thus getting wholesale rates. Purchases were largely made of Lincoln wholesale houses.
   Subsequently I attended a county meeting at South Bend. The Granges near there were building a little elevator, holding about a carload of grain, using scoops to move the grain. This was the first grange elevator on the Burlington. Later a larger and better one was built at Greenwood. I was a stockholder. Later the enterprise failed and it cost me twelve times as much to get out as it did to get in.
   It has been said that politics killed the grange, which is largely true, but there were other reasons. The grangers undertook more things than they could carry through. Our Greenwood elevator failed. At Plattsmouth, the granges be-



gan manufacturing cultivators and failed. At Rock Bluffs they shipped grain by steamboats on the Missouri River, but lacked warehouses and thereby suffered loss. The grange movement was needed and accomplished much good. It lacked sufficient capital and in some cases men of ability and integrity to carry it through.
   Our state grange did much good during the winter of 1874-5, distributing supplies to needy grangers through Nebraska (after the grasshopper raid, July 26, 1874). W. B. Porter as state master was appointed on the state relief committee to receive from the granges over the United States the money and other supplies sent in and distribute the same. There are many granges yet in existence and still doing good in the world.


   Many of the most interesting glimpses of early Nebraska are found in the diaries and letters of early emigrants crossing the plains. In recent years there has been a flood of printed literature from these early lay sources. In the Washington Historical Society Quarterly, July 1922, is an account of crossing the plains from Princeton. Illinois, to Salem, Oregon, in 1852, by Clarence B. Bagley. The party left Princeton April 20, and reached Salem September 17.
   Some of the statements in this story are new to the editor. Among them are these:
   (1) That the hills across the river from Kanesville, (present site of Omaha) in 1852, were called Council Bluffs.
   (2) That a band of Pawnee operated a floating pontoon made of rushes across the Elkhorn in 1852.
   The interesting query, why a wagon jolts in driving across the sandy bed of a swift river, is this probably due to the current digging out the sand in the bed as the wagon travels
   The old controversy whether the Oregon Trail was on the north side of the Platte or the south, or on both, may be suggested by the account of large wagon trains going west on both sides in 1852. The undeniable truth about this is that the first trail across the continent started from Independence, Missouri, and kept on the south side of the Platte all the way to Fort Laramie. This trail was traveled by increasing numbers every year from 1822 on. It received the name of the Oregon Trail before there was any traveled road up the north side of the Platte. The north side road began with the Mormon migration of 1846-47. It started from Florence and kept on the north side of the Platte river all the way to Laramie. After the discovery of gold in California, the trail was extensively traveled by people from the northern



states who did not wish to go so far out of their way as required in order to start on the old Oregon Trail. This north road was sometimes called the California Trail. It was not generally called the Oregon Trail at any time, since that name had already been given to the road on the south of the Platte. The following extracts are taken from the Bagley diary:
   Our route lay through Oskaloosa and Des Moines in Iowa, and we reached the Missouri river on May 22, 1852, at or just below the Old Mormon town of Kanesville. On the opposite banks of the river were hills then termed Council Bluffs, I believe from the fact that it had often happened that treaties and "councils" with the Indians had been made there.
   It took us all day to cross, as there were many other wagons to be taken over and all of ours did not have the right of way at the same time. My recollection is that this ferryboat was operated by steam.
   We were now at the westerly limit of civilization. On the east bank of the river were a few small trading villages, but on the westerly bank the Indian country began. There were thousands of Indians camping on the river bottom and on the bluffs where Omaha now stands. We waited here over one day, Sunday, May 23, 1852, to get all ready for our real start for Oregon.
   The migration of 1852 was the heaviest of any to Oregon and California. It was then and always has been, estimated that it reached fully 50,000. On all our part of the trip we had no fear of the Indians except to protect ourselves from the pilfering of articles about camp and from stealing our horses at night.
   Among Father Mercer's papers I found, several years ago, his original list of the night patrol of sentries that went on guard each night with the stock, as most of the time they had to be taken quite a distance from camp in order that they might have sufficient grass to feed upon. This was a serious handicap all along the route and became much worse after the migration, on the south of the Platte crossed over to the north side, somewhere near Fort Laramie, I believe.
   At Council Bluffs, Thomas Mercer was elected captain of the company and directed its movements across the plains. It was a necessary custom to select a captain of each party, who directed the movements of the train about stopping for the night and starting in the morning; about "laying over," on Sunday or any other time it was thought best. Otherwise there would have been frequent disputes and disagreements about the movements of the company. The trip was on to bring out all the good qualities and the bad ones, as well, but I do not remember any serious disputes along the whole of the route.
   After resting over one day, we made our real start "across the Plains" on the 24th of May, 1852. This proved to be a comparatively early start as thousands came after us. We found better grazing in consequence and less dust, no small item in an alkaline country. About twenty miles out we had to cross a narrow, deep, slugging stream called the Elkhorn.
   Here we had our only dispute with the Indians. A band of Pawnees had constructed of rushes a floating pontoon or bridge that would hold a wagon and team. They demanded for each team and wagon five dollars. This our people felt was exorbitant and they offered to pay one dollar instead, which in turn was refused. Our men got their rifles and told the Indians that it meant a fight unless the lower offer was accepted. After a lot of loud talk matters quieted down and the Indians agreed upon the dollar and we came on our way.
   All through May and June we drove on up the Platte and its tributaries. For hundreds of miles the road was so level that but for the Platte running eastward no one could have told we were gradually assend-



ing toward the Rocky Mountains. In one stretch of two hundred mile we saw but one lone tree, a Balm of Gilead on an island in the river. Our fuel was called "buffalo chips," though I am sure that much of it was from the cattle that had preceded us, instead of buffalo. That year the migration was so large and close together that the buffalo were frightened away from our vicinity and we never saw one on the trip.
   For hundreds of miles we saw a constant procession of wagons on the south bank as well as on our own north side. We came to recognize some of the trains on the further side and, of course, on our own side. Years later I often heard father addressed by someone in Oregon who told of meeting our train on the Platte or on the Snake River. Along the Platte the most notable feature of natural scenery was "Chimney Rock," that was shaped like an immense circular chimney set on a hill. It was on the south side of the river, a few miles away from it. Its formation was of a soft rock, or indurated clay that in that arid climate was subject to slight erosion. It has been an object of frequent note for one hundred years, and in the years since we saw it has shown but little change in shape or height.
   We forded several streams so deep that blocks were put under the beds of the wagons so that the water would not damage articles in them. One of the large branches of the Platte, Loup Fork, was the most notable of these. It was necessary to drive very rapidly to avoid sinking in the quicksands all the way across, yet the wagons rattled and jolted as though the bottom was broken rock instead of sand. It greatly excited my curiosity at the time and I never have understood the peculiar formation that would let a wagon or animal settle in it and soon engulf it, and yet seem like rock when driven across. We took the precaution to have our horses drink all the water they would before driving into the stream that they might not try to stop on the way across. All little details of every day life had to be carefully thought out to avoid necessary delays and difficulties.


   The Minden News of June 1, 1922 has an interesting story of the beginnings of Minden. Minden was first an idea, then a survey, finally a county seat. The idea originated in a broom cornfield on the farm of Joel Hull in September, 1875. Five men were harvesting broom corn. There was not another house within four miles. Eating lunch at noon on the grass the five men made up the plan to buy a quarter section of land as near the center of Kearney county as possible, survey it into town site, offer it as the future county seat to the voters and if successful to turn the land over to the county at cost. In accordance with this plan Mr. Hull bought the southeast quarter of section seven, town six, range four, from the Union Pacific Railroad Company at $3.75 per acre The voters of Kearney County at a special election November 21, 1876, voted to locate the county seat on the tract almost unanimously. The quarter section was then offered to the county commissioners for the price paid the railroad company. The commissioners refused to accept it for lack of funds. Mr. Hull then organized the Kearney County Land Association which took over the tract and platted it into lots. The original plan of the founders of Minden became a reality. As the county seat was located at the center the prolonged and bitter county seat test which mars the history of so many Nebraska counties was avoided. When the Burlington railroad built across the county, Minden was a natural and convenient point and by construction of the railroad became not only the county seat but the chief town of the county which continued to be. Not many counties or county seats have had as smooth sailing and prosperous a voyage in their political and industrial development as Kearney county and Minden.


Made a State Institution February 27, 1883.

    An act of the Nebraska legislature, recommended by Govenor James W. Dawes in his inaugural and signed by him, made the State Historical Society a State institution in the following:

   Be it Enacted by the Legislature of the State of Nebraska:

   Section 1. That the "Nebraska State Historical Society," an organization now in existence--Robt. W. Furnas, President; James M. Woolworth and Elmer S. Dundy, Vice-Presidents; Samuel Aughey, Secretary, and W. W. Wilson, Treasurer, their associates and successors-be, and the same is hereby recognized as a state institution.
   Section 2. That it shall be the duty of the President and Secretary of said institution to make annually reports to the governor, as required by other state institutions. Said report to embrace the transactions and expenditures of the organization, together with all historical addresses, which have beer, or may hereafter be read before the Society or furnished it as historical matter, data of the state or adjacent western regions of country.
   Section 3. That said reports, addresses, and papers shall be published at the expense of the state, and distributed as other similar official reports, a reasonable number, to be decided by the state and Society, to be furnished said Society for its use and distribution.

Property and Equipment

   The present State Historial Society owns in fee simple title as trustee of the State the half block of land opposite and east of the State House with the basement thereon. It occupies for offices and working quarters basement rooms in the University Library building at 11th and R streets. The basement building at 16th and H is crowded with the collections of the Historical Society which it can not exhibit, including some 15,000 volumes of Nebraska newspapers and a large part of its museum. Its rooms in the University Library building are likewise crowded with library and museum material. The annual inventory of its property returned to the State Auditor for the year 1920 is as follows:

Value of Land, 1/2 block 16th and H


Value of Buildings and permanent improvements


Value of Furniture and Furnishings


Value of Special Equipment, including Apparatus,

     Machinery and Tools


Educational Specimens (Art, Museum, or other)


Library (Books and Publications)


Newspaper Collection


Total Resources


Much of this property is priceless, being the only articles of their kind and impossible to duplicate.

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