The Grand Army of the Republic in Nebraska
marches on with the flag, its ranks greatly diminished. State
Adjutant Harmon Bross gives the present members as 149 posts and
1,731 members. Thirty years ago there were 350 posts and nearly
10,000 members. During the year 1922 156 members passed on. Five
posts in the state disbanded during the year for lack of
membership. Under arrangements made by Adjutant Bross the original
records of posts now disbanded are taken in charge by the State
Historical Society and carefully preserved for future historical
use. A hundred years from now these records will be regarded as
treasures of the greatest importance, equal in interest and value
to those of the Revolutionary War. We are yet too near the period
of the Civil War to adequately to estimate the importance to
America and to the world of its results. One thought gives a clue
to this. America has become the strongest nation in the world, its
influence the most powerful in world councils. The influence of
America for the peace and good will of the nations is the great
hope of the world. How different all this if our great country had
been permanently divided by secession.
CHALK BLUFF OR HAPPY JACK
A Land Mark in the North Loup Valley
The Seventh Day Baptist people settled at
North Loup fifty years ago. They were an industrious, God-fearing
folk, intelligent, inclined to read, rather set in their religious
faith and willing to debate the subject with any one who was rash
enough to run the risk. They made a settlement that "stuck." The
beautiful farms were opened along the valley. The more adventurous
climbed the hills and made good there. Theirs was the common
experience of pioneers in Nebraska fifty years ago. The
grasshopper made his abode with them. The Sioux Indians
occasionally raided down the Loup. Dry weather and hot winds
encouraged religious zeal by removing the temptation of much
But the Seventh Day people stayed on, worshipping God after their own conscience and hanging out their washing Sunday morning. So they plan to celebrate their fiftieth anniversary at North Loup next August and expect to have a homecoming of the children and friends from the four quarters of the world and the seven seas. The Bulletin of Seventh Day Baptist Church at North Loup is an eight page periodical which brings this news to the Historical Society Library. It brings also on its front page a picture of Chalk Bluff or Happy Jack, which is a bold hill on the North river so chalky white that it may be seen for many miles. It tells this tale of the bluff:
"Happy Jack Swearenger, a trapper and government scout lived at one time in a dugout below this bluff, which gave it the name of Happy Jack. It is said that as Mr. Rood, pioneer Seventh Day Baptist, was hurrying back to camp after his initial trip to the top of the bluff, he stumbled over Happy Jack who was fast asleep on one of the cat steps on the side of the bluff. Immediately he found himself facing Happy Jack's gun but as soon as the scout saw the situation Mr. Rood was allowed to go unmolested."
The Bulletin further exhorts with the following invitation:
"Come and tell us of your experience with poverty , home-sickness, drouth, grasshoppers, blizzards, prairie fires, hunting, fighting, dugouts, leaky sod houses, and don't forget the fleas."
Freighting from the Missouri river to the
mountains was a favorits (sic) and almost universal means of
existence for Nebraska settlers in the territorial period. It was
the one occupation which brought in money to many a log cabin home
and enabled the family to stick by their land. One by one the old
Nebraska freighters pass on. Peace to their memory. Many a time
the writer of these lines has been given a free ride by the
bull-whackers of the freighting outfits on the old well-traveled
trail leading from Nebraska City to Fort Kearny and the mountains.
They were fast-disappearing from the trail then, as the railroads
pushed westward taking their job away from them. Often the writer
has listened to their complaint that the railroads were ruining
the Nebraska country, driving the freighting wagons off the trail,
taking away the market of the early ranchmen and--worst of
all--bringing in an alien population untrained in the fine art of
hospitality and fellowship which followed the overland trails from
the beginning. These musings and memories started by noting the
death of Jacob M. Epler at Julian, Nemaha county, November 26
1922, in his eighty-fourth year. Mr. Epler began freighting with
oxen from Nebraska City in 1859 and followed the freighting trail
for five years, most of the time in the government service. He
then settled upon a Nebraska farm and made an honorable record
throughout his successful career.
SKULL CREEK, BUTLER COUNTY
The story of Skull Creek in Butler County and
days of early settlement there is told in graphic tale by an early
Skull Creek is in the northeast corner of Butler County. Linwood is the principal nearby town. A great Pawnee village stretched along the bench land of the Platte valley there for many years. We have records of visits to this village in 1833 and at intervals thereafter by government agents, military officers and explorers.
The bluffs back of the bench land were graveyards of the Pawnee nation for many years. The editor of this magazine has paid several visits to this ancient cemetery. Everywhere the hills are dotted with sunken spots and the rank growth of sunflowers marking the graves of these early Nebraska people. Modern white settlers have shown no more respect for the dead than the explorers in Egypt have shown for king Tutank-ahmen. Everywhere the spade of the white man had dug into the graves, throwing out bones, beads, fragments of weapons, clothing. Many a Pawnee chief will wander empty handed across the fields of the happy hunting grounds for lack of the weapons his people placed with such loving care by his side.
Skull Creek received its name from an abundance of skulls washed out by the waters from the bluffs, or, as one tradition tells, left on the battle field in a great fight many years before. The writer of this story, whose family settled in Butler county in 1863 says:
"Once a year the Omahas, Otoes and Pawnees would come and spend several days in marching around these graves, singing and moaning for the loss of their honored dead. It was the delight of the settler to dig into these graves to see what might be found. Gun barrels, iron saddle stirrups, and bones were found. The finding of these things goes to prove the fact that when an Indian warrior is buried, that his horse, saddle, and gun, is buried with him as he is supposed to need them in the happy hunting ground where he is going. My wife can well remember of going up on this bluff when she was a girl, and picking up all kinds of beads in great quantities found on the ground around these graves.
"At the foot of this bluff was a field of about thirty acres surrounded by a wall of dirt, some eight or ten feet high, made by the Indians and used as a fort, or breastwork in time of battle. A great portion of this wall was made from dirt dug up near where the wall was built, yet not all, for a lot of it was brought from the 'catcher' holes that were dug in great numbers all over the field. These holes were very curiously,
made. They were dug round and not larger at the top than a wash
tub, and dug about that size down for some three or four feet,
then they were dug out inside just the shape of a jug. Some of
them were ten or twelve feet across and often ten feet deep. Into
these holes the Indians would place their corn and such things as
they had stored up for winter, so that when the enemy came upon
them, they could be driven off, and afterward come back and dig up
their stuff. The object of digging these holes in such a shape,
was to have as small a top as possible so that it could be covered
in such a manner that no one but the owner could find it. And so
the dirt from these holes was carried by the squaws in their
blankets and helped to build the wall around the field."
(Editor's Note: These holes were "caches," from the French word "cacher"--to hide or conceal.)
DEATH OF GOOD OLD MAN
One of the most interesting and probably the
oldest Indian died on the reservation near Walthill January 12,
1923. This was Ta-ou-ka-han, translated into English, Good Old
Man. Old Indians reckoned their age by the time when as they say
"the stars fell." This remarkable phenomenon, which filled the
night with blazing meteors from horizon to horizon, occurred in
1833 and impressed itself upon all the Indian tribes. Good Old Man
was nine years old at the time according to his story. Besides his
Indian name and its translation, Good Old Man was named Arthur
Ramsey by the white missionaries.
Good Old Man was born when the tribe lived on the Elkhorn river near Fremont. Later the tribe moved to a village site near the present town of Homer. Still later they moved to the Papillion valley, giving up that region by the treaty of 1854 and moving to the present location, then called Blackbird Hills.
Good Old Man told the story of the buffalo hunt on Beaver Creek, in what is now Boone county in the summer of 1855, when Logan Fontenelle was killed by the Sioux. Good Old Man was selected by the Ethnological Bureau at Washington as one of the typical Indians for a portrait in the Smithsonian museum. Some years ago the editor of this magazine secured records of Good Old Man's favorite songs in the Omaha tongue and very excellent photographs while singing these songs.
WHITNEY VILLAGE, DAWES COUNTY
A recent issue of the News, published at
Whitney, revives memories and historical recollections connected
with that village. The editor of this magazine first visited
Whitney in the summer of 1888 and for the next eight years in his
work as a Dawes County editor was a frequent visitor in that
The story of Whitney might well be entitled "The Rise and Fall and Rise Again of a Frontier Community.". The first white village in the neighborhood called Dawes City was located on the south side of the White River about a mile from the present Whitney. It was planned to be the county seat of Dawes County, but Chadron, the railroad division point, out-voted all other rivals for that honor. When the Chicago and Northwestern Railroad (then called Fremont, Elkhorn and Missouri Valley) built west from the White River in 1886 the walls of a large Sioux earth lodge were standing on the bank of the White River near the right of way. The station was christened Earth Lodge. A little later, when settlers came in and began to homestead and preempt the White river valley, there was objection to Earth Lodge as a name and the railroad company changed the name to Whitney, in honor of P. Whitney, whom many settlers of that time remember as a very active gentleman who handled the sale of town lots along the line of the railroad.
The village of Whitney enjoyed a boom in the years 1887-90. A continual stream of settlers poured in. Not only the White River valley, but the smooth "gumbo" prairie north of Whitney was rapidly claimed by the newcomers. Several store buildings went up in Whitney. A dozen business houses started, stores, shops, a hotel, churches. A mill located there and a newspaper started. Providence sent the rain just right for the rich gumbo land. Many fields of spring wheat yielded thirty and forty bushels to the acre in 1889. It seemed that nothing could stop the high tide of prosperity from filling the White River valley.
Then rapidly came the dry years, beginning with 1890. The financial panic came along in 1893. Settlers mortgaged their claims, and moved to the mountains, back east, down into the Ozarks. Whitney began to fade from the face of the earth. It was at this period that a famous political epigram was coined in Whitney. It was the hard times campaign of 1894--Silas A. Holcomb of Broken Bow running as populist candidate for governor against Thomas J. Majors of Peru, republican candidate. Joint debates were held between the populists and the republicans in the school houses. At a debate in Whitney George A. Eckles, Chadron lawyer, spoke first for the repub-
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