George T. Edson, editor off the Spotlight at
Filley, in sending the Historical Society the most complete file
of that publication in existence takes occasion to add a few
remarks of general interest to the public and of special interest
to newspaper publishers in Nebraska. From it we quote.
"The Filley Spotlight was established in November, 1915, but the files for the first two years were burned with the printing office in March, 1918. The paper was again started August 18, 1918, and the files are fairly complete from that date. A few are missing, but none are to be supplied from this office.
"I will entrust them to your care, hoping that in future years something may be found in them of interest or value. The editor has been careful in the collection of vital statistics and has endeavored to give a good deal of information in the obituaries. I have often inquired the name of the father of some aged resident, and thus recorded a generation of the family which will be unknown in our next generation. The earlier copies are poorly printed, owing to the handicaps under which the publisher worked after the fire which cleaned out his plant. In the interim between November, 1917 and March 1918, I was in Mexico, and from March, 1918, until the following August I was figuring on how I could resume publication and trying to earn enough money to buy a junk plant.
"Hereafter I shall mail the Historical Society regular numbers of the Spotlight, which may be added to the file I am sending you. I am a well wisher of the Society and hope to see it housed in commodious quarters some day with ample facilities to care for its collections."
Set to Music and Dedicated to
The Order of Patrons of Husbandry
In the United States
The above lines represent the title page of a gift to the Historical Society by D. A. Young of Plattsmouth. This particular copy was used by the old Rock Bluff Grange of Cass county. The songs sung by the grangers in those years were a great influence in that society which did the first work in the field of farmers' organization of Nebraska. The tunes in many cases are familiar. The words breathe a high type of fellowship and motive. Among the hundred songs of this book, one stanza may be quoted as a sample of its sentiments:The farmer's the chief of the nation
The oldest librarian in Nebraska (perhaps in
the world) is Rev. Joel Warner of Hooper, now in his eighty-fifth
year. He is still actively and keenly interested in the
development of the public library there. Mr. Hooper has been a
resident of Nebraska for years, most of them spent as minister of
Presbyterian churches. He has been candidate on the Prohibition
Party ticket for governor and has lived to see a dry nation--once
regarded as an impossible dream. In the winter of 1865-6 Mr.
Hooper taught school at Bellevue and organized there the first
literary society in the state so far as his information goes. His
active memory recalls the great prairie fire which swept over Elk
Hill at Bellevue, afterward the site of Bellevue College. It was
like a scene from Dante's Inferno. Mr. Warner writes: "In those
years as soon as the grass was dry in the fall, the great fires
would sweep over the prairie and destroy all vegetation, leaving
the roots exposed to the sun's rays, the winter's frost, and
fierce winds. It was no wonder that emigrants who passed over the
country late in the fall or early in the spring pronounced it a
desert land, since far as the eye could reach nothing was seen but
the blackened prairie."
Tom Powers, one of the old time cattle men of
the North Platte Valley, was recently telling stories of the old
time which are printed in the Scottsbluff Star-Herald of November
7, 1922. His stories relate to both Nebraska and Wyoming and
belong to a period when the state line cut little figure for the
frontiersmen. Among other stories of Mr. Powers were these:
"We killed buffalo on the Cheyenne river as late as 1888. I saw as many as five thousand antelope in one drove in those years. Herman Lippold and myself killed seventeen gray wolves by poisoning them with strychnine one night. We put the poison in the carcass of an antelope and received $37.50 bounty for each wolf scalp.
"The coldest day I ever saw in Wyoming or western Nebraska was in January, 1898. I drove a team from Rawhide to Mitchell, on account of a jumping toothache, and the thermometer registered fifty-six below at five p. m.
"Wild geese were in abundance along the Platte river all the time and their music could be heard for miles. The Sioux Indians came down here frequently and some of the cowboys used to get stuck on the good-looking squaws. I never did myself, for they didn't like the Irish very well and we didn't get along. They seldom caused us trouble as they were afraid of the cowpunchers who were quick to draw their guns, but they dealt out misery to the emigrants by running off their horses and cattle. We had a great many dances in the country. People went more than a hundred miles to dance at a ranch. They did not dance just one night but took pack horses and their beds, stayed three or four nights and had a good time.
"In the spring of the year there were always many cattle in the valley that had drifted in during the winter. In the spring of 1887 on the general round-up there were twenty-seven round-up wagons and each wagon represented a different outfit and averaged at least fifteen men to the wagon. Each man had a string of at least nine horses, so you can imagine how many saddle horses there would be in one round-up, more horses perhaps, than many of the residents of the valley will ever see. The largest round-up I ever saw was in the spring of '87 on what was known as below the sinks of Sheep creek on what is now Pete Vomberg's place, about two miles west of Morrill. On the drive it was estimated that there were over 40,000 head of cattle. They had to be cut up in 17 bunches and it took two days to work the drive. Every outfit of any size for over three hundred miles from the north and west had cattle in that round-up.
A PIONEER'S EXPERIENCE IN BUTLER COUNTY
In 1869 I settled on this place in Butler
County, Nebraska, on the west line of Richardson Township,
adjoining the east line of Plumcreek township. Not far to the east
in Richardson township the table land broke off into hilly land of
small creeks and small patches of timber along the creeks. In
Richardson township there were then five settlers. To the west,
Plumcreek township was a tall, grass covered plain, where no white
man had ever made his home. What tame crops could be grown here
was then only a conjecture and people's opinions differed on that,
so try was the only way to know. I did not have much money, but
good ability and will to work. Days those times were from dawn to
dark, so a strife for a home began.
At the end of the first summer, I had a well, a small log house, a shed for stock, guards to protect against wild fires that burned off the dead grass of the plains once a year. About ten acres of the wild sod was broken out and most of it, planted to vine crops, such as squash, melons and beans. A hole was chopped in the new-turned sod, the seed dropped in and the hole tramped shut was all that was needed until harvest, as no weeds grew on sod the first year. Turnips, we sowed and harrowed well on the new broke sod. They all did well. I had never seen such do better than they did. I also planted corn, but it did not make a very good crop on such new land. Fuel was gathered from creeks. Wild hay was plenty everywhere just for the cutting. The winter was a little harder than an average Nebraska winter, but we got through it passably fair for such a new country.
In the spring of 1870 I began planting trees. Osage orange seed was planted. Plants grew well, those not needed for myself were sold to neighbors. People twenty miles away were called neighbors in those days. Fence rows of osage died in places. Honey locust for fence proved hardy, but when barb wire came into use demand for hedge plants ceased. I planted a few apple trees, a few currants, peach seeds and wild fruits from the creeks. Of the wild fruits the raspberry and plum were the most worthy. The rest of the plowed land was put to wheat, corn and potatoes. All made fair crops. More sod was broken and as many vines and beans as could be used planted on the new sod. More new settlers mov-
ed in. I would break sod for them when needed. When the plow
got dull there was a blacksmith shop and store where Seward is now
and an angling road there. We called it thirteen miles. I would
let the team rest and take the shares on my back and walk. If I
did not have to wait long I would get home by noon. If I did have
to wait it only made dinner that much later. Early June when I was
at the blacksmith shop the seeds were ripe on the wild maple trees
on the Blue river. I got two sacks and some boys to help me to
gather seeds, carried them home and planted them. They grew well.
The young trees were in good demand.
In 1872 I went to Missouri and got plants of fruit and flowers such as I thought would be most desirable. There was a nursery started east of Seward. I got some stock of them. I planted wind breaks, mostly of cottonwood, gray willows, elm and maple about the house. I got more new sod broke. New settlers were still coming, which made a market for surplus crops and kept money in circulation. Everybody worked with a will, filled with elation and hope of having a home in so fertile and healthful a country.
In 1873 the Midland Pacific, now the Burlington, railroad, was built to Seward. Two brothers, named Spears, each started a nursery. I got stock of each of them. Both died within a few years. The first nursery there had quit. There were hardly enough sales of the nursery stock for a man to live on that alone, but so many new farms were being opened that the prospects for the business in the near future looked good. Mr. Jobes, near Seward, started a nursery. I got stock of him. He quit the business a few years later. The spring of 1874 opened with all good prospects of the past seasons. July 31 was a calm, clear, hot day. I was going with a crew heading wheat when a dark cloud came. We did not know what it was or could be until it hit us. It was grasshoppers that darkened the sun, that made the light look like moonlight. They were eating all green vegetation, except the wild grass. We kept on working, the hoppers going with the heads of grain into the stacks. The next day was Saturday. My turn to get my wheat headed would not come until the middle of the next week. The crew said if I would have my grain cut on Sunday (that was the next day) they would help. I told them I would rather take chances of some being left. When my regular turn did come the hoppers had gone to hunt new pasture. All my oats and smooth wheat were entirely ruined. Ten acres of barbed wheat that was dead ripe and dry was not harmed. it was enough for our bread and seed and some to sell, and to this day when I think of it I feel glad that I did not harvest it on Sunday. But I hold a kindly feeling to those that kindly made the offer. All other crops were gone.
All leaves were eaten from the trees and
plants, except a few plants that I covered with dirt. The larger
trees leaved again and most of them survived the winter, but were
in a weak condition. European larch never leaved again. William
Griffin, who was helping me Saturday, told me after he had
thrashed his wheat that the upper joints of the hoppers legs where
broke off, were small enough to go through the riddle and too
heavy for the fan to blow them out, so they went in with the
thrashed grain and as near as he could tell by looking at it it
was half grasshoppers' legs.
The grasshoppers were a burden for a few years, but never again were they so bad as in 1874. If the hoppers had only eaten our crops and if that had been all it would not have been so bad, but they gave the country a bad name. Immigration here ceased. Many settlers sold such property as they could not take with them for what they could get and went away.
Those that remained, with great economy and hard work, managed to live until prosperity returned. I raised garden truck and sold it in the new towns that had been started to help keep up expenses. The grasshopper damage got less every year. We raised fair crops each year, but the prices were low for what we had to sell. In 1877 the U. P. railroad built through where Brainard is now and immigration began again.
Those that moved away began to return and prosperity was again in the country. Some years were better than others, but it has been onward and upward all the time. I put in more trees and plants each year, trying to keep even with the demand. At first the demand was greater for forest than for fruit trees and after the tree claim act passed the demand for forest tree plants was great. We could sell native ash and boxelder plants; boxed for less than one dollar a thousand as they were taken in such large quantities. Mulberries, locust, catalpa, walnut and oak were higher prices. Several large nurseries were established in the state to supply the demand. This great demand lasted only a few years until the tree claimers were all supplied. After that there was only local demand for forest trees.
In 1887 the Northwestern railroad was built through where Dwight is and part of the old homestead was taken in the townsite of Dwight. This made it more convenient for all kinds of business. The demand for fruit trees and plants, ornamental plants, shrubbery and evergreen trees, both for ornamental use and windbreaks, has greatly increased. The country has gradually settled until all the lands are occupied by good homes, sheltered by trees and supplied by fruits from their own orchards. In planting trees I wanted to plant enough of all kinds that was needed, but if I planted more of
one kind than I could sell the surplus was a loss and if I did
not plant enough of any one kind there would be a shortage and I
would have to buy to fill the deficiency. There were insects and
dry spells in summer and snow drifts and rabbits in winter and all
plants did not do well alike. So as long as I was in the business
I was not able to make very good guesses as to the proportion and
amounts to plant. Our children grew up and went to homes of their
own, and I got so that I could not work very much, so I closed out
my nursery business in 1912.
I will give name, age and size in circumference (in feet and inches three feet above the ground) of the biggest trees of their kind of a few kinds that I have grown on this, the old place, on the table land by Dwight. All of the trees had a fair amount of space except the bur oak. It was crowded on one side. Perhaps it is the best native timber tree to plant on the high land here. In the grove all are much smaller of their kind and age than those given here. The Minkley apple tree is nearly dead. The cottonwood is forked and one fork was struck by lightning ten years ago. The Wisconsin weeping willow is showing age. All of the others are healthy. The native maple grew by a slough. The Burkett pear produced twenty-two bushels of pears last year. The other trees stand near the house.
© 2000, 2001 for NEGenWeb Project by Ted & Carole Miller