NE History & Record of Pioneer Days
Vol VII, no 2 (part 3)
building a stone house. It was a big undertaking.
The stone had to be quarried and hauled 31/2 miles. A sand bank had to be
located and opened. It was necessary to burn stone for time. This entailed
the cutting of a large amount of wood. Mr. Filley and his father were quarrymen,
lime burners and masons. Mrs. Filley helped haul stones. Such small supplies
as had to be purchased were brought from Brownville and Nebraska City. One
room of the new house was ready for occupancy before cold weather. The house
as originally planned -- four rooms on the ground floor and three bedrooms
upstairs was completed the next year. Breaking prairie sod was one of the
first jobs of the Nebraska pioneer. As all who have used a breaking plow can
testify the sod was tough and the plow hard to pull. It was a gruelling job
for man and horses. Mr. Filley had brought with him two teams of splendid
horses. Before spring three of the four horses had sickened and died. He therefore
went to Nebraska City and bought several yokes for oxen. He purchased unbroken
oxen at Nebraska City and others near home. After returning home he had two
jobs; one was the securing of contracts for breaking prairie and the other
was breaking oxen.
When spring opened he put out 20 acres of spring wheat on land which he rented of Noah Norton. The ground was plowed, the wheat sowed broadcast by hand and covered with a brush harrow. He then started breaking land for his neighbors and afterward for himself. The oxen performed the heavy work much better than the light horses owned by the majority of the settlers. Nearly all the land broken in the spring and early summer was planted to corn. This was rather slow work. A hole was cut in the sod with an ax and two or three kernels of corn dropped in and covered. Fortunately sod corn requires no cultivation. The yield that first year was fairly good.
One of the big jobs of the summer was the breaking of 400 acres of prairie about five miles from his home for a man by the name of Newhall. For this he received $4.00 per acre.
Following the harvest he bought the first threshing machine ever owned in that part of the country and threshed all the grain raised for many miles in all directions from his home. He hauled the machine from one farm to another with oxen. The farmers for whom he threshed furnished horses for the power.
In the spring of 1869 Mr. Filley broke the rest of his own land, and set out a windbreak and an orchard. Walnuts had been gathered in the preceding autumn and planted ready for the cold of winter to crack their shells. The first planted on Cottage Hill Farm were gathered along the Missouri River in the autumn of 1867 and planted on a part of the first narrow strip of breaking that he turned over late that summer. Cotton woods were dug up on a sandbar in the Missouri River when they were only about a foot high and hauled the sixty miles by the wagon load. They were set out in rows alternating with the black walnuts. The early settlers had come from a timbered country and felt. the need of the protection that trees afford.
Mr. Filley wanted to raise cattle. To keep cattle in any considerable number meant either the expenditure of money for fencing or the payment of boys for herding. The purchase of boards for fences impossible, not only because of the cost at the lumber yard, but because of the distance they must be freighted. Timber was not plentiful enough to of the building of rail fences. Smooth wire will not turn cattle, and barbed wire had not yet been invented. The Osage hedge fence seemed to offer a solution, so a hedge was set entirly (sic) around Cottage Hill farm in the spring of 1868. As more land was purchased it
too was surrounded with Osage hedge. Miles of this fence is yet in use.
of the needs of every new community where there are children is a school house;
another need is a place to hold religious services and public meetings. Realizing
the need for school, Mr. Filley helped organize a school district in his part
of Gage County, District No. 9, and became one of the three members of the
first school board. Many men favored the building of a temporary structure
for a school house, as there were but few children of school age, and money
was not plentiful. Mr. Filley insisted that with the new settlers coming in,
most of whom had children, a large school house would soon be necessary, and
that in the long run it would be economy to erect a permanent building at
once. It would also give a place for Sunday School, church and community meetings.
His counsel prevailed, but a second difficulty arose. No one could be found
who wanted to take the contract to build the school house at anywhere near
what Mr. Filley thought should be the maximum cost. He, therefore, resigned
from the board, took the contract himself, and built a stone school house
in the summer of 1869. No bonds were issued because the advocates of a good
school house believed that each generation should pay for its own improvements.
There was no deeded land in the district and government owned land was of
course exempt from taxation. As a result the schoolhouse was paid for within
two or three years with funds raised by levying taxes upon buildings and other
personal property. As Mr. Filley had purchased a considerable number of cattle,
a threshing machine and had built a stone house he paid about one-third the
cost of the new building.
During those early years when Mr. Filley was not busy farming, running a threshing machine, building a school house or improving his own farm he was apt to be freighting. At one time he had fifteen yoke of oxen and three freight wagons and with them he and his hired men hauled many loads of freight from Nebraska City for the stores in the village of Beatrice. These same oxen fattened were the first loads of stock ever shipped out over the Burlington road after it reached Beatrice.
As has already been stated Mr. Filley came to Nebraska to live. He wanted a permanent home, which to him meant a good house, trees, orchard, shrubs and good barns and sheds as well as a school, church and the other things which make a desirable dwelling place.
A man who farmed extensively and kept many horses and cattle stood in particular need of a large barn. Mr. Filley decided to build a barn that would last for many years. It was constructed of stone and was ready for occupancy in the fall of 1874. It is still in regular use on the Cottage Hill Farm. It is a large barn for any farm and built so permanently in an early day it became one of the recognized landmarks in Gage County. Many is the wayfarer who has been directed to go by the "big stone barn."
Early settlers have told us many stories of the ravages of the grasshoppers which came in the summer of 1874; They flew in such numbers that at times the light of the sun was dimmed. They ate corn, vegetables, grass and even the leaves from many trees. Before them was hope, but behind them was despair and devastation. I have heard my mother tell that the only part of their growing crop not destroyed by the grasshoppers was a few small pumpkins.
Mr. Filley had 500 head of cattle that summer. When the pasture was destroyed he shipped them to Creston, Iowa, where he fed them until they were ready to sell. He shipped corn back to Nebraska to feed his horses and breeding stock and to supply his neighbors. Anticipating a good crop of corn, many of the settlers were raising hogs. The
destruction of the corn crop left them without feed. One
morning Mr. Filley found a neighbor out in his hog lot with an ax.
He had started to kill his hogs because he had nothing to feed
them and no money to buy corn. Here was an emergency that demanded
immediate relief. Mr. Filley's decision was quickly made. He asked
the neighbor to delay the killing operations and drove on to visit
other neighbors. He found that nearly all had hogs but little
feed. He bought these hogs by the thousand, shipped them to Iowa
where the corn was good, sold a part of them and fattened the
others himself. His personal profit on this venture was relatively
small, but the money which he paid for the hogs was of great
benefit to the distressed pioneers.
Mr. Filley fed cattle nearly every. winter for forty years. He was always ready to buy all the cattle and hogs offered for sale, and in the early years furnished the only local market for his neighbors. One year he fed 1800 head of cattle at different places. He had feed lots at his home farm, one near Wilber, one between Wymore and Blue Springs, one at Endicott and one at Reynolds. He sent train loads of fat stock to Chicago before there was a market established at South Omaha.
He was one of the first men in Gage County to own purebred stock. He recognized the difference in the feeding quality of cattle and was naturally desirous not only of producing good cattle himself but equally desirous that his neighbors should produce good cattle. His breeding of hogs and cattle was, however, of much less importance than his livestock feeding.
On the whole his farm and feeding operations were successful. His land holdinge (sic) grew until he owned 1.500 acres at Filley, 1,000 acres at Reynolds, 40 acres at Endicott and 20 acres between Blue Springs and Wymore.
The Burlington Road reached Beatrice in 1871 and was soon afterward extended south to Wymore. The branch line connecting Beatrice with Nebraska City was built in 1883. Mr. Filley owned land where the road wished to locate a town. The village of Filley was started. Mr. Filley built a new house within its limits and afterward directed his farm operations from that point. Incidentally he added the ownership of an elevator to his other activities.
From the time he first came to Nebraska Mr. Filley was constantly on the lookout for improved farm machinery, for better farm methods and for more productive crops and livestock. He wanted to decrease labor and increase profit. When he heard that a territorial fair was to be held at Nebraska City in October, 1868, he decided to attend. That would not necessarily mean much today. A man might go to the State Fair for a holiday, or for an auto drive or just to meet his friends. In pioneer days it was different. Travel was expensive, the methods of travel slow and tiresome and a recent homesteader could expect to find few acquaintances at a state wide gathering. A seventy mile journey was a serious business and could be undertaken only for justifiable ends. Mr. Filley went and derived such pleasure and profit that he attended every succeeding territorial or state fair up to and including 1918.
At these fairs he saw the latest models of machinery, and watched other men decide which hogs, cattle and horses were entitled to wear a blue ribbon. Perhaps best of all he met there the agricultural leaders of the state, -- Furnas, Morton, Thomason, Pollard, Bassett and a host of other men who like himself were energetic and ambitious and had come to Nebraska expecting to stay. All were anxious to learn, and to know men as well as crops and livestock.
Mr. Filley was one of the first Gage County farmers to try out listed corn. He experimented with subsoiling in 1895, following the precedent set by some agricultural colleges. At first the results seemed
to be fairly satisfactory and he made a favorable report at a
Farmers' Institute at Beatrice, March 12, 1896. Later trials
caused him to decide that the increased cost was not justified by
the returns. He sowed alfalfa before its possibilities were known,
and demonstrated to his own satisfaction that it was a wonderful
hay plant. It soon became one of his principal crops at
With the depression which began in 1920 not yet ended, we are in a position to realize the disastrous effects of the crisis of 1893 and the depression by which it was followed. It came unexpectedly. There were no popular forecasts of an impending and probable reaction as there was from 1918 to 1920. Nebraska had less reserve wealth than now. We were borrowing money from the wealthier East with which to make our improvements. Before the depression came Mr. Filley had placed more than 1000 head of cattle in his feed lots. They were fattened, and sold in the spring for less than the purchase price. The cost of feed, labor and freight was a total loss. The failure of a bank in Beatrice cost him heavily at this most inopportune time. The disastrous season of 1894 followed with its corn failure. Crops were but little better in Gage County in 1895. In 1896 the corn crop was large, but it could be sold for only about ten cents per bushel. The man who did the least during those years, lost the least. For once, men. of initiative were handicapped.
A friend of Mr. Filley's who knew something of the discouragements of farming under those conditions asked him how he was getting along. "I'm still hanging to the willows." was the answer. There was no complaint.
In 1900 Mr. Filley disposed of his land near Filley, and after a two years residence in Beatrice moved to his ranch at Reynolds. Here he farmed and fed cattle until 1912 when he sold out and retired from active farming. During the next few years he and Mrs. Filley traveled extensively, spending a major portion of the time with their daughter at Des Moines. He wished, however, for old scenes, the faces of lifelong friends and more activity. At a result he removed to Beatrice in the spring of 1919 where he lived until the end came. He was planning and improving, looking forward to, many years of activity. Only two or three days before his final illness, I found him in his backyard grubbing away at an old stump. It would have wearied a younger man, but nevertheless he removed the stump and leveled the ground.
In spite of all his other activities Mr. Filley found time to take an active part in public affairs. In 1871 he was elected county commissioner of Gage county, serving for six years. He was state representative in 1880-81 and state senator in 1882-83.
On January 20th, 1897, he was elected a member of the State Board of Agriculture, to which he was reelected in 1899, 1901, 1905, 1907, and 1909. He served as a member of the board of managers in 1901 and 1906 and was elected First Vice President in 1905, 1906 and 1907. He was superintender of cattle exhibits at the State Fair for many years. He resigned from the board in January, 1910, because he felt that the operation of a 1000 acre farm was about all that a man of 70 should attempt at one time.
Mr. Filley understood men. One reason for the success of so many of his varied enterprises was that his helpers were loyal. He never made unjust demands upon anyone. He expected his men to be systematic, to work to some purpose and to secure results. He knew from experience what constituted a day's work, and he quickly determined when the job was well done. There was never any quibbling or contention. If the man cared to maintain the very reasonable standard set, he was
retained at a satisfactory wage scale. The man who
failed to do his part when the employer was out of sight was very certain
to be told that his services were no longer needed. This same attitude of
fairness, of consideration for the rights of others, combined with a firmness
in stating his own position characterized his work as superintendent of cattle
at the State Fair. He took good care of exhibitors, and extended to them every
possible courtesy. The exhibitors understood that the superintendent's word
was final. They followed instructions. There was never any contention.
Six children were born to Mr. and Mrs. Filley. Of these only two survived Mr. Filley; Hiram of Mena, Arkansas, and Mrs. M. A. Scoular of Des Moines, with whom Mrs. Filley now makes her home.
It is a little hard for men who did not know Elijah Filley to understand just what he accomplished for agriculture or what he contributed to the development of Nebraska. He made no invention; he was not responsible for the introduction of any new variety of grain or grass or breed of livestock to the state; his livestock breeding activities were of less importance than the work of many other men; no important statute bears his name; the public offices that he held were not of primary importance; many other men have been fully as active upon the State Board of Agriculture; his contributions to the literature of agriculture were very slight; he did not accumulate great wealth. Notwithstanding his failure to do any of these things his contemporaries nearly all agree that he did leave his imprint upon agriculture and had an important part in the development of Nebraska. Why?
Elijah Filley possessed initiative. He had vision. He could see what needed doing without being told. His practical common sense enabled him to carry his ideas into successful execution. He had confidence in Nebraska and the future of her agriculture before his breaking plow had turned a single furrow of prairie sod. He built for permanence. He set out fruit trees, shrubs, and groves without waiting for someone else to experiment. He put his entire farm into cultivation. He provided a means of threshing his grain and also that of his neighbors. He insisted upon adequate school facilities. He did not invent new machinery but he was quick to try out the machinery invented by other men. If it lessened labor, or performed the work better, he had decreased his cost of production. His cattle grazed on blue grass pastures in summer and fed upon timothy and clover hay in winter, when it was popularly believed that cultivated grasses could not be grown in Nebraska. While other men were discussing the possibilities of Turkey Red wheat and alfalfa, he was trying them out. He led. Men who were less venturesome followed.
Pioneers always experience hardships. Many families find it difficult to adapt themselves to the new conditions and others lack capital. The man who has a start in a new locality always finds ample opportunity to extend a helping hand. Elijah Filley was ready with practical assistance to the limit of his ability. He furnished jobs for men who had come West without funds or whose crops had failed: he provided a market for grain and livestock. He loaned farm machinery, work horses and milk cows to homesteaders and tenants who needed assistance. Last but not least he supplied capital to his friends for various enterprises. Sometimes these men succeeded and the loans were repaid, but in many instancs (sic) Mr. Filley had to content himself with the thought that he had tried to help someone else. These unpaid loans, most of them outlawed years ago, aggregated many thousand's of dollars at the time of his death.
The generation of pioneers is passing. The men and women who were boys and girls in pioneer days are growing older and the memories
of the years when houses were small, when books were few, when the groves were being planted and large expanses of prairie were unbroken are each year growing dimmer. Unless the stories of the early years are told soon they must remain forever unwritten. Unless the part played by the leaders in those early years is recorded future generations will not know to whom credit is due for our rapid development. All must admit that so great a transformation has seldom been wrought in a half century as occurred in Nebraska from 1867 to 1917. Among the leaders in improved farming few men were more ambitious, more energetic, more far seeing or more practical than Elijah Filley.
One of the most industrious and
persistent explorers and students of prehistoric people in the
Nebraska-Kansas region is Mark E. Zimmerman of White Cloud,
Kansas. Mr. Zimmerman is between 60 and 70 years of age. He has
lived all his life in Northeastern Kansas. Here he found his wife
and his means of making a living, for he is a practical
horticulturist as well as farmer and has tilled the fertile loess
soil of the region all his life. For many years, also, he has been
exploring the remains of Indians and prehistoric peoples in the
Missouri river region.
He lives in a typical western farm house about three miles from White Cloud and not much farther from the Nebraska line. As much of his exploration has been made in Nebraska as in Kansas, so that he is really entitled, to a place among Nebraska investigators.
A large part of Mr. Zimmerman's house is occupied with his museum and his library. His museum is a dream of prehistoric revelation with its thousands of specimens obtained from all kinds of locations. His library includes the most important literature in the field of archaeology and prehistoric life. For a good many years Mr. Zimmerman has been a writer as well as an explorer in his field. He has a hobby. It is the European origin of some of the prehistoric people who occupy this region. For a number of years the Nebraska State Historical Society has enjoyed a correspondence with Mr. Zimmerman and felt the stimulus of his keen thinking and his pet theories. In September, 1924, two members of the Historical Society Staff, Mr. E. E. Blackman, and Mr. Ivan E. Jones, accepted the repeated invitations of Mr. Zimmerman and visit him at his home.
They were astonished at the evidences of his life work. At about the same time Mr. Zimmerman sent the superintendent of the Historical Society a manuscript on his favorite prehistoric theory. Extracts from the correspondence which followed the reading of this manuscript in the State Historical Society rooms are presented here as contributions to the story of prehistoric man in the Nebraska region.
Dear Mr. Zimmerman:
Your letter dated August 9, together with your manuscript entitled "Were the Tallegwe American Celtic Stock?" have reached my desk.
I have taken this occasion carefully to read your manuscript. I am writing you briefly upon the manuscript in order to make a record of my own impression.
I think you ought to reduce your arguments and reasoning upon the subject of the White Panis and upon the relation of any Indian tribes to European migrants into a condensed syllabus form. As it now stands it
makes a fascinating story. Your imagination and the wealth of
your reading carries one along on a powerful current of persuasive
plausibility. To my mind your conclusions are incorrect, that is
upon the main point of European origin of any of our tribes in
this region. I do not think your theory will bear the acid test of
any of these fundamental tests for such a theory:
1. The test of language.
2. The test of comparative anthropometric measurements.
3. The test of analytical study of traditions and aboriginal literature.
My time will not permit me to enlarge upon my discussion of your very interesting paper. I think your contribution upon the subject of the stone box graves is the important thing in your work. That stands a by itself and entitles you to rank among the origin students of American Indians.
So far as the Book of Mormon is concerned, it is to my mind a fabrication. I think the critics have fairly well established its origin., I think a reading of it (and I have read it at least four times through) shows to my mind that it was the work of a person have a smattering of ancient literature, and utilizing the absurd worship of the bible text current a hundred years ago to foist his composition upon the world as new revelation. I think the alleged text of Egyptian literature from which it was translated are disposed of by the criticisms of Professor Anthon, the eminent linguistic scholar, many years ago. I have recently had an opportunity of interviewing some of the most sensible and well educated men and women of the Mormon church in Salt Lake City. There can be no question of their sincerity, of their being scholars in their field, but I do not think they can ever convince the scientific world that they have any basis for their alleged "Revelation." worthy of belief by people not under the influence of Mormon propaganda.
I hope very much you may publish this article of yours. I wish I could offer to publish it for you but our money for publishing is so limited I cannot do it now. I think you should go over this text very carefully and prepare the syllabus which I suggest. The syllabus should give in outline the data for your theory and the reasoning by which you use that data. And finally let me urge you to take that part of your work relating to the stone box graves and put it into a form of a separate thesis with illustrations and maps and citations from the other authorities on the subject of the area in which these stone box graves are found.
ADDISON E. SHELDON.
My dear Mr. Sheldon.
Your letter of the 14th inst. was received. I am pleased with the way you regard my little paper. I have noted carefully what you suggest.
In regard to the tests that you speak of, I would say that the test of language does not apply. The Tallegwi-Panis language is extinct, like the "Old Mandan" and Mayan.
The anthropomorphical measurements of cranial cavities show, according to Doctor Alex Hrdlicka that, they were "similar to the Neanderthal chamaecephals of Western Europe." And that there are living types in Western Europe similar to the Nebraska loess man, and the Trenton Man, which were both Tallegwi Panis.
They were the long heads of Negroid characteristics.
The traditions and recent discoveries show that there were White Indians in North America.
You say that the important thing is the stone box graves.
Mr. Gerard Fowke and
Fred Sterns agreed with me ten years ago, that, the Clats, Mounds and Ground-houses
in Doniphan county were built by the Pawnees.
The Panis that I am discussing were the people from whom the Republican, Blue, Platte, and Loup river Pawnees derived their name.
The Caddoan family of "red" Indians were residents of Kansas-Nebraska territory, long before the advent of the Tallegwi-Panis and the organization of the Panis confederacy of ground-house tribes of Quivira and Harahey.
That little manuscript is only a sort of preliminary outline of what I intend to be the archaeological history of the Tallegwi-Panis, who built the first and last stone cists of Celtic type in America, south of the Great Lakes, and in Missouri and Kansas.
Come down and visit us. We are very common country people, who farm for a living, and ride the cist hobby for pleasure. When you have seen our prehistoric Indian artifacts and data, you will be better equipped to discuss the Madocian theory, whether you believe it or not.
With best personal regards,
John Hauser, 72, died at Fremont July 13, 1924. For fifty years Mr. Hauser successfully carried on a book and news store in Fremont. He spoke nine languages and had a remarkable memory so that he became an encyclopedia of local as well as general information, noted through the Elkhorn valley.
In the Falls City Journal of July 14, 1924, is an interesting historical sketch of Humboldt in that county. The town of Humboldt was platted in 1867 and named by E. P. Tinker, who was quartered at Humboldt, Tennessee while a member of the 5th Iowa cavalry during the war. Young Tinker liked the name and persuaded his father, who was the founder of the townsite in Nebraska, to give the name.
In 1884 there were in Otoe county 427 acres of winter wheat, 11,000 acres of spring wheat and 96,000 acres of corn. What a change in Nebraska agriculture in forty years!
A reunion of the children of early Virginia colonists who settled near Louisville, Cass county, in the sixties, was held in July at Louisville. Among those participating were Mrs. Chas. Kirkpatrick, of Alvo, Mrs. M. L. Thomas of California and others. Some of these were children of Young Dick Lewis, as he was called, one of the early Virginia settlers and a man of outstanding traits of character.
Mrs. Jens Christensen, 91, died at her home in the Rosenberg settlement of Platte county, June 30, 1924, on the evening of the 65th anniversary of her marriage. They settled near Lindsay in 1879 and used to recall when they took a whole day to make the trip to Columbus with an ox team and would buy a pound of sugar and half pound of tea to be used on special occasions.
Sarah Hummell Ziegler, 70, died at her home near Beaver Crossing, July 11, 1924. The family settled on the prairie southwest of Beaver Crossing in 1871. At that time the family of the editor of this magazine was living on a homestead in the same locality, and he remembers very well the flock of nine Ziegler children which hustled with their parents to make what finally became a beautiful home on the prairie.
Mrs. Hanna B. McMullen, of Fontanelle, known as "Grandma McMullen" celebrated her 100th birthday June 28, 1924, in the home of her son at Craig. There were present the one survivor of her four children, 28 grandchildren, 63 great grandchildren, 4 great great grandchildren. She and her husband were among the early pioneers at Fontanelle. She is a member of the D. A. R., and has a most interesting life to review as her descendants gather about her.
The Historical Society has just
acquired a most interesting document. It is a pamphlet of
sixty-two pages published in 1869 at Baltimore, giving an account
of a visit of a joint delegation appointed in that year by the
annual council of the (Friends) or Quaker Church to visit Indians
in Nebraska. At that time the Indian Agents of the different
tribes in Nebraska were all selected from the Quaker
This was in accordance with what was then called "General Grant's Quaker policy." The policy was violently denounced by a good many people on the frontier especially those who had suffered loss from Indian raids, but President Grant adhered to it. "Let us have peace" was his motto in dealing with Indians as well as with other questions. The delegation consisted of four members of the Quaker Church, Benjamin Hallowell of Baltimore, Franklin Haines of New York, John H. Dudley and Joseph Powell of Philadelphia. These persons met in Omaha, arriving on the 16th day of the seventh month and visiting the following agencies in Nebraska: Pawnee, Omaha Winnebago, Santee Sioux, Otoe, Missouria, Iowa, Sac and Fox, the Great Nemaha. The story told in the 62 pages of their experiences on the Nebraska reservations is full of interesting historical data.
For example their account of Pawnee Indians at Genoa as given on pages 6-10: "The squaws have a field of seventeen hundred acres of corn, in contiguous patches, cultivated by them entirely, with hoes, their hands, and a kind of scoop-tool made out of buffalo horn. It is of a kind called squaw corn or Pawnee corn, with a dark bluish grain.
The corn was perfectly clean, scarcely a weed or spear of grass to be seen anywhere, with eight to ten stalks in a hill, which is really what its name implies, being a pile of earth some six to ten inches high around the stalks, and eighteen inches in diameter. The growth of the corn was most vigorous, the ground being very rich. It is said they raise eighty to one hundred bushels to the acre.
"After tea we rode over to the two Indian villages, in which all the members of the four bands of the Pawnees reside, except about two hundred warriors, who are now out in the army on duty under general government. The villages are about a mile and a half from the school and agency, and about a mile apart, on a high, dry, piece of land. We never saw, nor could have imagined, such a sight as those villages presented. The Indians all flocked out of their lodges to see us, Some dressed in blankets, bright blue and red, some in buffalo skins, and the children (who were very numerous) in "nature's broad cloth," all the males under twelve years old having nothing whatever on. As we were going we met the head chief, "Big Eagle," of the Loup band, who occupy one village, and his "Queen," with his bright tomahawk, fine blanket, and other accoutrements indicative of his dignity, and they got in our wagon and rode back to the village with us. He took us to their "lodge" and introduced us to his four wives, all sisters, his queen being the oldest.
"We will endeavor to describe an Indian "mud lodge." A lodge is to contain from five to ten families, or from twenty-five to fifty people, sometimes we were told even a greater number. It is, in general appearance, like a magnified "heap of buried potatoes," and is made by placing poles some twenty-five feet long, with the lower ends in a circle some fifty feet in diameter, and the tops coming near together, say leaving an opening three or four feet in diameter at the vertex, and all kept in place by wattling with small branches of trees. This wattling extends down to near the ground. Upon these poles are
thrown some prairie grass, and then a thick coating
of earth. The "door-way", consists of an avenue or hall, some six feet high,
and the same width, and the one we measured extended twenty-four feet from
the great area within. A fire is kept constantly burning in the center of
the lodge, where a depression of about one foot in depth and four feet in
diameter, is made in the earth floor, and the smoke rises through the opening
at the top, except what gets flared out into the apartment, which sometimes
seemed a goodly proportion. All around the circular inside area, adjacent
to the poles, are sleeping places, like the berths in the side of a vessel,
wide enough to hold two or four or five persons side by side, and from ten
to twenty such berths in a lodge. In front of each berth is a kind of bench,
used as a "stow away" place for blankets, skins, and extra clothing of the
family occupying the berth, and under this bench, the remainder of the family
goods seemed to be put away. The inside of one of these lodges, was an object
of no ordinary interest and curiosity. The long inclined poles, constituting
the original frame work, afforded places for suspending and securing tomahawks,
pipes, bears' claws, elks' horns, wolfs' ears, and every imaginable acquisition
of Indian value, and we much wished we could bring a photograph of it for
our friends at home.
"The center area around the fire is thus left entirely clear. No light or air is admitted into the lodge, except from the distant door way, and the opening at the top of the lodge through which the smoke passes. Blankets and skins are sometimes laid on the earth floor around the fire, to sit or incline on. One of these lodges, as before remarked, accommodates from twenty-five to fifty people -- from five to ten families -- often, perhaps generally, those of relatives -- as a grandfather, his children and grandchildren. A vessel remains continually suspended over the fire in which are cooked provisions for the family as beef, pork, potatoes, beans, hominy, etc. The bread is made up in wooden trays manufactured by the Indians, and placed in a thinnish cake on a smooth board. A hot stone, several of which are continually in and around the fire, is then pulled out a convenient distance, and the board containing the bread, is leaned against it, and the bread thus exposed to the fire to bake.
"The Indians regard it unnatural that a whole family should be hungry at once; they cannot understand it, and they never set a table as is customary with the whites but each one, when hungry, helps himself or herself from "the pot and board."
In speaking of the Otoes, who then lived on the Blue river in Gage county, these inspectors say "The Otoes appeared to us more hopeful than the Indians on the Great Nemaha agency, which we had just visited, being willing to work, and free from the vice of intemperance.
If sufficient stock and farming implements are furnished, and an energetic efficient farmer secured, this Reservation might, in a short time, be made self-sustaining. With all their disadvantages, they have this year one hundred and fifty acres of corn, fifty of wheat, twenty of potatoes and ten of beans.
"We visited their grave-yards. They placed some of the boxes containing the dead in a tree, "so that the spirit of the departed can see around the big prairie to the Blue river." We saw a tree with ten or twelve such boxes among its branches, some of which we were told had been there for years. When an Indian man dies, they kill his pony and put it with its saddle and bridle, near its master's grave, or resting place, with some food for the pony, and bows and arrows a bottle of water, etc., etc., in the grave or coffin.
"Some little time ago, a child
died, and they buried its grandfather alive with the child in his
arms, at the grandfather's request, "In order that he might care
for it in the Spirit Land."
Further on concerning the Santee Sioux: "These Santee Sioux are the darkest, bravest, most Indian-looking people we have seen. We never saw or could have imagined such a set of countenances as were in council. We wished strongly for a photograph of them. Numbers, as is the case in most councils, sat on the floor. Some of these Indians are said to have engaged in the horrible massacre in Minnesota in 1862."
On page 29 the Quaker visitors describe their visit to the Omahas as follows: "On the morning of the sixteenth we held a council with the Omaha chiefs, and some braves, which was another occasion of great interest. These Indians are very fine, noble looking men, very intelligent, and mild countenanced and mannered. "Fire Chief" spoke twice, as did "Yellow Smoke," also "Standing Hawk," "Lion Chief," and "Gi-he-gah," all spoke with dignity and eloquence. They smoked most of the time, so that sitting in the council chamber, was like being in a cloud. Many of their tomahawks are constructed with hollow poll and handle, to form a pipe, and they use them as such, passing them around among them, as they sit on a bench or the floor indifferently. The bark they smoke is from a kind of willow, and they call it "Rin-ni-ri-ne," and sometimes, perhaps always when they have any, mix it with tobacco. The bark smoke is very fragrant, and much less unpleasant and irritating than that of tobacco.
"All the business before the council was concluded satisfactorily. Like all other Indians, these shake hands with those whom they particularly address, both before and after speaking.
"In the afternoon we rode about four miles to Joe LaFlesche's village," and to the Mission School, under the charge of Wm. Hamilton, a Presbyterian missionary, and Joel Warner, his son-in-law. The Mission building is quite large, on a high bluff, from which the Missouri river is visible for miles. They have about forty children boarding at the institution. Their exercises, particularly their spelling, writing, and singing, were very creditable, but there was a little want of requisite animation, which was perhaps, due, at least in a measure, to the presence of strangers. We think the school is doing a great deal of good, and wished those in charge of it to be encouraged in their arduous and responsible duties for the welfare and improvement of these wrongfully neglected people. We made addresses to the children which manifestedly interested them and their teacher."
In July, 1924, the editor of this
magazine visited the library a offices of the Historical Society
maintained by the Mormon Church a Salt Lake City. The work done by
these people is another Western wonder. Their library includes a
large amount of Western history material not found anywhere else
in the world. Their library of genealogy is one of the finest in
the United States. A group of very scholarly and able men and
women are constantly at work compiling and publishing the history
of the people of the Church of Jesus Christ of Later Day
Among the most active in this work is Andrew Jenson, a veteran scholar and speaker. He informed the editor of this magazine of the plans of their people to make a record of the journeys of the Mormon people from the Mississippi Valley to the Salt Lake Basin. The first regular wagon trail up the north side of the Platte was the one made by Brigham Young and a party of 140 people in the spring of 1847. The trail made by this party was followed by other Morman immigrants as well as by many not belonging to that church.
Some changes and cut-offs were made in this trail which has been called the Mormon Trail, the California Trail, the Military Road and even by some the "Oregon Trail." Many of the later immigrants to Oregon travelled this route up the north side of the Platte, but the original "Oregon Trail" started from Westport Missouri, (now Kansas City) and followed the south bank of the Platte as far as Big Springs where it crossed the South Platte and followed the south bank of the North Platte to the Wyoming line. This is the true "Oregon Trail." The trails on the north side of the Platte ought to bear a distinctive name to avoid confusion. The following letter received from Historian Jenson is of importance to all persons interested in Nebraska History:
Dear Mr. Sheldon:
Your kind favor of the 29th ult. received and contents noted. In answer I am pleased to say that we shall be perfectly willing to cooperate with you in every possible way to establish the exact route of the old Mormon Trail through Nebraska, but before we can finish anything that we should consider of sufficient importance to print, I feel, for one, that it would be necessary to go over the trail and at this late day tract it all through and locate camping places accurately according to government surveys, note the present location of towns in connection with the early trail and give a minute account of early travels.
Answering your question as to the perusal of private diaries, I will say that we are compiling a very complete and accurate history of the travels of the first company of "Mormon" pioneers who blazed the way from the Missouri river under President Brigham Young in 1847. As one of the sources of information we have the use of six distinct journals kept by six prominent men who crossed the plains in President Young's company. Based upon the information they give us, we shall be able to follow the trail without difficulty all the way across the plains and mountains.
I expect personally to make a trip over the old trail next spring and would be very pleased to associate myself with parties of your historical.
society who might be officially appointed for the purpose.
Sufficient time should be spent on the journey to make the
expedition a success.
Besides the diaries mentioned, we have perused scores of other diaries relating to the crossing of the plains by companies later than 1847, or up to the time the railroad was completed in 1869. We also have some sketch maps of the route, but they are not accurate.
I remember with pleasure your short visit with us quite recently. I trust that in the future we may be brought closer together, and that with our combined efforts we shall be able to locate the "Mormon," "California" and "Oregon" trails through the state of Nebraska.
P. S.--What chances would there be to secure a copy of your Nebraska historical publications, either by purchase, exchange, or both. We would like to own every volume that you have published which contain anything about the "Mormon" people especially.
The Lexington Pioneer of December 28, 1923, contains an interesting story relating to early practice of medicine in that story was related by Miss Laura MacColl to Mrs. M. C. Whitaker in 1910.
"The late John H. MacColl came to Dawson county in 1869 to benefit his health, but shortly after reaching here he had an attack of mountain fever that left his lower limbs paralyzed. The nearest medical aid he could get was from the army surgeon at Fort McPherson, forty miles to the west. He made a number of trips to attend Mr. MacColl and finally told him he would never be any better. An old Indian medicine man happened along about that time and he went to see Mr. MacColl. By curious signs, gesticulations, and grunts, he made Mr. MacColl understand that he could cure him and that he would be back the next day at the rising of the sun. True to his word, he came, bringing with him an interpreter who explained to Mr. MacColl that the medicine man could cure him if he would submit to his treatment. Mr. MacColl was desperate and willing to do almost anything, so he agreed. The patient was stripped and laid flat on a plank. The medicine man then took a sawedged knife and made no less than a hundred tiny gashes all over his patient's body. This done he produced a queer herb and began chewing it. Then he spun it in his hand, as needed, and rubbed it into each tiny wound. That was all and in three days Mr. MacColl could stand alone, and in a week he could walk."
village once prosperous as an Indian trading post and rich in Indian history
and tradition, may be wiped off the map if plans of the United States government
are carried out.
Six of the 35 buildings that comprise the town are to be offered for sale by the government. An announcement from Washington, residents say, said that the buildings to be sold range in age from 15 years 40 years and are crumbling away because they have been unoccupied with the exception of a school house and four houses occupied by a farmer, a physician, and two traders. Residents here, however, declare that families occupy most of the houses and are "fearful of what will happen under private ownership," they said.
Approximately 80 Santee Indians, a branch of the famous Sioux tribe, work farms in the county allotted them by the government. Santee originally was a large thriving reservation agency but when the Indians were given separate allotments of farm land the trading agency was discontinued,. The Indian population originally was more than 1,300 men, women and children when the government created the Santee reservation in 1866. Santee was a typical trading post and Indian agency town, but began deteriorating when the agency was abandoned. Old settlers tell many thrilling tales of frontier life.
In addition to the buildings, the government will offer for sale 440 acres of land adjoining, which is now under supervision of R. E. L. Daniel, superintendent of the Yankton agency. One of the buildings is an old dormitory. A half mile from the town is the Presbyterian and Congregational missionary school for Indian children.
The Santee tribe originally inhabited the lake regions of northern Minnesota and are said to have taken part with the Sioux against the whites in 1863. Accused of taking part in these uprisings the Santee were moved to Knox county the following year. -- Ponca Leader.
Monument to Col. William F. Cody.
At Cody, Wyoming, July 4, 1924, a monumental bronze equestrian statue of Colonel William F. Cody was unveiled. The Frontier Days Committee of Cheyenne states that it will send its Secretary, Joe Cahill, who will be present at the unveiling of the "Buffalo Bill" statue, not as the agent of a great "wild west" festival at an occasion of honor to memory of the original "wild west " showman, but as the representative of a civic enterprise devoted to the perpetuation of the spirit of the frontier west and a historic acknowledgement of the obligation of civilization to one in whom was incarnate that heroic spirit -- Colonel Cody.
The Daughters of the American Revolution are marking historical spots all over the United States and Ni-ku-mi Chapter is gathering data as to exact locations and dates of our historical spots with the idea of erecting suitable markers.
These markers will stand as a monument to the ambitions, perseverances and sterling qualities of our pioneers and will be an incentive to the present and future generations to think a little mor (sic) deeply and seriously of the things really worth while.
Paper read by Miss Grace Ballard
on WOAW radio program
July 3, 1924
Ni-ku-mi chapter, Daughters of
the American Revolution, of Blair, Nebraska, have taken up what
they consider a very important work, or, we should say, a duty,
that of marking the historical spots in Washington county, of
which there are a number. During the past year there has been
conducting a campaign for funds to be used for that purpose. We
believe that a very definite way of keeping alive the love of
country is through the preservation of historical spots.
In 1803 President Jefferson started an expedition to explore our newly acquired possessions, "The Louisiana Purchase," which was then vast region of country reaching from the Red river of the south to the British possessions, and from the Mississippi to the Pacific. His private secretary, Captain Lewis, and Captain Clark, both of whom were officers in the army, were detached for this perilous undertaking.
Not until July 30th, 1804, did the party reach the place on the Missouri river, now known as Ft. Calhoun, for their council with the Indians which was held on August 3. These were the first white men to be camped on Nebraska soil. At this point the government established Ft. Atkinson in 1819 which was abandoned in 1827.
It is the hope of Ni-ka-mi Chapter that in the very near future the site of old Ft. Atkinson may be preserved for future generations, and with the idea of attaining that end, some few weeks ago the Fort Calhoun Historical Society was formed at Ft. Calhoun; the object of the association being to preserve for future generations the history of Washington county, to receive donations and appropriations for a fund to be used for the acquisition of grounds for a park and for the erection of buildings, pavillions and monuments, for the use of the public and for the proper housing of relics from the old fort and other historical matter pertaining to the history of Nebraska.
The D. A. R.'s expect to ask the aid of every chapter in the state and to take the matter up with congress asking for an appropriation to establish at old Ft. Atkinson a state or national park.
Ft. Calhoun was taken as a claim by John Goss, sr., in the summer of 1854 and was soon after turned over to a company but was not laid out in lots and blocks until 1855.
In July, 1854, a party started from Quincy, In., to colonize Nebraska territory and reached Omaha, which had just been laid out by the Nebraska and Council Bluffs Steam Ferry Co. It is said that this latter company became alarmed at the advent of this company and a contemplated rival town, offered them one-third of the Omaha townsite if they would locate there; but they pushed on until they came to what is now Fontanelle in the western art of Washington county. This place they named after the Omaha Indian Chief, Logan Fontenelle.
At this point the Congregationalists established a college which flourished for a number of years. In order to reach Fontanelle it was necessary to cross a wide creek. One James A. Bell, a member of the party, was picked to cross the creek by crawling along on a tree that had fallen across it. Bell in crawling along lost his balance and fell in, hence Bell creek derived its name. Later, in 1872, and for several years after, the town of Bell Creek was one of the enterprising towns in the country.
Historic old DeSoto, once the metropolis of the county; was laid out in 1854. It was the steamboat landing in territorial days and a few miles away the Mormons had located in 1849 and were there for a number of years. Cuming City another of the historical spots. It was taken as a claim in September, 1854 and in 1855 it was a flourishing village. The first Fourth of July celebration in the county was held in a grove on north creek in 1869 and was a great event
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