NEGenWeb Project
Resource Center
On-Line Library



A Quarterly Devoted to the Early History of Nebraska.

Vol. 3.


No. 4.

     We heard an old settler say the other day those pioneer days that are being held in different localities are a good thing; I always attend them when I can." For several years a great deal of enthusiasm has been expended upon the children and days have have (sic) set apart for their benefit while the old people have been comparatively neglected. It is a good thing that people's attention is being turned in the direction of the old folks as is indicated by the old settlers' picnics and the pioneer days being established everywhere.

     We are in receipt of the names of a number of soldiers who are buried in the cemetery at Rulo whose names have not been published before. We give the list below:
     Dr. J. S. Jones, Cyrus Whitzel, Randolph Randal, Luther Forbes, William Pratt, Michael Randolph, William Dribbles, Martin V. B. Secrist, John Hanslip, Almerin F. Phinney.

     MARTIN V. B. SECRIST was born in Bedford county, Va., in 1840. He enlisted June, 14, 1869, in Company K, 1st Regiment United States infantry. He died March 30th, 1878. aged 37 years and 9 months.

     ALMERIN E. PHINNEY, an early settler in Nebraska, was born in New York in 1843. In early childhood he moved with his parents to Franklin county, Ia. When he was 17 years old his father died and two years later Almerin enlisted in the 32d Iowa Regulars. In the battle of Pleasant Hill, La., April 9th, 1864, he lost an arm and on the following October was discharged. Mr. Phinney with family, consisting of his widowed mother. two younger brothers and two sisters then moved to Richardson county, Neb., where he and his widowed mother homesteaded 200 acres of land eight miles west of Salem. On December 25, 1871 he was married to Marietta F. Andrews who lived with her brother-in-law A. E. Rogers, in the Phinney neighborhood. Mr. Phinney was the first telegraph operator at Saltillo, Neb., and also the first one at Rulo, to which place he moved in April 1876 when the depot was at Rulo Y. Here he died March 10, 1878.

     May 12, 1896 was the 66th birthday of one of Tecumseh's old settlers, Mrs. Mary Bivens, the widow of Alex. Bivens. A number of friends gathered in the evening to help commemorate the occasion while old-time gentlemen friends of her deceased husband sent a handsome present accompanied by a note expressive of their regard. Mrs. Bivens came to Tecumseh with her husband in 1859, when the number of houses in the place numbered but three. The lack of houses made it necessary for them to occupy their covered wagons the first summer. They purchased the Sherman house from its builder and one of their daughters, the second child born in Tecumseh, was born there.

     The first school house erected in Pawnee county, afterward known as, "Rosin Weed Seminary." was in a district west of Pawnee City. The first teacher was Miss Sarah Bell now Mrs. Jos. L. Edwards.








The First Homesteader.


Icon or letterANIEL FREEMAN, the first man in the United States to take advantage of the homestead law, was born in Prebble county, Ohio, April 25, 1826. He has been twice married and has eleven children, five of whom are married. Mr. Freeman's stay in the state where he was born was a short one, covering but one year. Instead of going west he went east, with his parents, to New York, where they lived for nine years. The next move was to Illinois where the parents died and where the subject of our sketch was first married. When the war broke out Mr. Freeman enlisted in Company A, of the 17th Infantry, and fought at Fredericktown, Mo., the capture of Fort Donaldson, Tenn., and Pittsburg Landing. It was not long, however, until he was transferred to the secret service, and while serving in that capacity he came to Nebraska in 1862. The story goes, that during the winter of '62-'63, Freeman was home on a furlough. On the night of Decmber (sic) 31, he attended a dance; and as the homestead law went into effect the next day the party stopped dancing at midnight long enough to accompany Freeman to an office where he took the homestead now on the records at Washington as number 1, book 1, page 1.
     During the first years of Mr. Freeman's residence in this state the Indians were very troublesome, especially in Nuckols county, and he was one of a squad of soldiers to engage in a fight with the natives at. Elk Creek near the present town of Nelson.
     Like all other settlers in those early days they suffered the inconvenience of having no near trading or milling point. While the people in the eastern counties went to Missouri for their supplies, those in Gage county went to Kansas, and Mr. Freeman took many a trip to the mill at Leavenworth.
     Since the year '65 Mr. Freeman has continuously held some political office, and for the last twenty years he has figured as justice of the peace. The subject of our sketch is a man of strong political convictions and he should be for he has imbibed all the good there is in the Abolitionist, Republican, and Prohibitionist parties, and finally at the age of seventy we find him a staunch Populist. Mr. Freeman still lives on the place whose occupation gave him the title of "The First Homesteader."
     We close this sketch with a clipping from the Beatrice times



regarding the recent celebration of our subject's birthday. "Dr. Daniel Freeman celebrated the 70th anniversary of his birth, at his home west of the city, April 25. The happy affair was confined to his relatives and descendants and a few immediate neighbors. A grand feast followed, and the event will be long and happily remembered by all whose good fortune it was to be there. The doctor was at his best and full of reminiscent memories of the early days in Gage county, when he took up the first homestead under the homestead law. Many changes have occurred since then, but excepting his whitening hair, Dr. Freeman is still young in heart, and good humor, and among the best loved of Gage county pioneers' May he live to celebrate his 100th anniversary is the wish of his friends everywhere."

The First Election in Nemaha County,

     The first election held in Nemaha county was at Brownville, in December. 1855; previous to this time its officers were those appointed by Governor Cumings. Although Johnson county was then included within the boundaries of Nemaha county there was but one precinct and Brownville was the sole voting place. The election took place in a storehouse belonging to Richard Brown, the first white settler in the place, and for whom the town was named. The voters were few in number, probably less than a a (sic) score of names were recorded; that of a man named Fitzgerald being the first. Nearly all of the men were Missourians and several of these could claim but a very brief residence in the new territory. One of this number, it is said, had been but six hours on this side of the Big Muddy.
     At that election Richard Brown, Allen L. Coate, and Israel Cuming were judges, and A. J. Benedict and Stephen Sloan were clerks. Of those men Allen Coate and A. J. Benedict are dead: Richard Brown lives in California; Israel Cumings in Missouri, and Stephen Sloan (to whom; with Judge Wheeler, of Auburn, we are indebted for information,) in Verdon, Nebras[k]a.
     It is said that this first election did not end without the proverbial row. Two of the number present who had taken on a sufficient cargo of whiskey to make them excitable, grew angry over some imaginary difficulty and one threw an axe at the other; but as he fortunately missed his aim no damage was done.
     After this year the elections occurred at the usual time in November and twenty-seven voters we recorded in '96.




The First Survey at Omaha.



Icon or letterHE laying out of a town on the western bank of the Missouri river was first suggested by myself to a ferryman named William D. Brown whom I assisted to run a ferry between what is now Omaha and Council Bluffs. Iowa. He took a claim on the east bank of the river and put on the stream a fiat ferry boat to be propelled by oars. There was in the river a long island covered with a growth of willow and cottonwood trees which greatly obstructed his passage, consequently he crossed but a few times. A company was then organized to run a steam ferry across the river and at my suggestion, included the laying out of a town on the west hank where Omaha now stands. The newly organized company crossed the river and walked around the proposed townsite. The location seemed a favorable one as they determined to lay out a town there, although no survey was at that time made. Not long after I made a claim, the first regularly defined boundaries in this part of the country if not in the territory. My claim included a portion of the proposed town claim which was the second regularly defined claim in this vicinity. About the middle of November, 1853. Thomas and William Allen with myself crossed the river in an old leaky scow; one of us rowed, another steered, while the third bailed the water out to keep the boat from sinking, with much difficulty we finally made a landing on the western shore. We waded through the water and crawled over the fallen trees that filled the bottom between our landing place and the plateau where we camped for the night. We gathered wood and bursh (sic), made a fire, ate what corn bread we had in our pockets for our supper then laid down for the night with fallen logs for pillows. We did not sleep much, however, for it grew quite cold and we were obliged to take turns in hunting fuel for the fire we kept burning for warmth the entire night. Another cause of discomfort to one of our number at least, was fear of the Indians. We were on their territory and one of the three campers became greatly alarmed at what he thought was the approach of a large body, of Indians horseback. It was not until he was fully persuaded that the Indians were nothing but the tall grass burning in a prairie fire that his fears were allayed.
     In the morning we marked out our claims, then started for



our boats. We found the river full of floating ice which made re-crossing the stream an exceedingly difficult and even dangerous task. But we had nothing to eat and must return or starve. After some consultation we hauled our small craft opposite the head of the Island and struck out through the floating ice which came near carrying us past the foot of the island. Had we missed it our destination would have been certain for we could not at that time pass the floating ice. We pulled our craft to the east side of the head of the island, and by hard work finally reached the Iowa side. Thus were the first regular claims laid out where the future city of Omaha was destined to stand.

The Record Endorsed by the Historical Society.

     Hereafter THE PIONEER RECORD will be used for reporting the meetings of the Historical society, and the publications of that Society will be issued as formerly in bound volumes. The librarian of the Society will frequently make communications through these pages, directed to the members of the Society and to the settlers of the State. It may not be in fact a state publication, but it has all the indorsement that can be given it through its use by the society. A publication is needed that will go out to the newspaper men oftener than once a year, as the bound volumes do. So, in reverting to the bound volume plan, a shift is made to use these columns for notices of various kinds. With the help of all who desire to see the annals of this state gathered and written, THE PIONEER RECORD can be made a monthly in a short time. This will be done as soon as possible, I am sure. There seems to be no reason why THE PIONEER RECORD should not grow steadily, with the growth of a desire to gather and publish the material for the history of Nebraska.


     At a place near Plattsmouth. known as Eight Mile Grove, four graves may be seen that are said to be the burial place of four persons hung by a vigilance committee for stealing horses some time early in the 60's. It was afterward proven that one of the men was innocent.

     August 29, 1854, Richard Brown of Missouri settled in what is now known as Brownville.




The Legislature of 1855.


Icon or letterHE program of the State Historical Society for 1887 will be devoted to the pioneer legislature of the Territory of Nebraska. This first legislative assembly convened at Omaha, the territorial capital, January 16, and adjourned March 16, 1855. The papers of the coming meeting of the Historical society will be given, as far as possible, by the surviving members of that famous body. It will take much time and writing before it is ascertained definitely just how many of them are still living. Out of thirteen members of the Council, twenty-six of the House, and eight employees, a total of forty-seven, I can not yet find out for certain that more than nine are now living. Of the Council, A. D. Jones and Samuel E. Rogers are in Omaha; H. P. Bennet is in Denver, and G. L. Miller, the chief clerk, is in Omaha. Of the House, A. J. Hanscom and A. J. Poppleton live in Omaha; Williams Clancey, perhaps, in California; William Kempton in Glenwood, Iowa, and William Maddox in Falls City.
     Some of the members died soon after the session, and the years between then and now are marked all along with the marble slabs erected to their memories. The many interested people who read this number of the RECORD can render great aid in gathering information about the families of members. I wish very much that information about members and their connections be sent in to the Historical society. The smallest things are of importance. Personal anecdotes, genealogies, photographs, etc.
     The following is the list of members, with the information so far as has been learned at the State Historical Society office:
     Joseph L. Sharp, president, representing Richardson county as it was then; died in Tennessee.
     B. R. Folsom, Burt county.; died in Tekamah. Widow lives in Los Angeles. Children were Henen Folsom Ferris, Niles R. Folsom, and Benjamin Folsom:
      J. C. Mitchell, Washington county; dead.
      M. H. Clark, Dodge county; died before 1860.
      T. G. Goodwill, Douglas county; dead.|
      A. D. Jones, Douglas county; living in Omaha.
      O. D. Richardson, Douglas county; dead. Son, Lyman Richardson, lives in Omaha.



     Samuel E. Rogers, Douglas county; lives in Omaha.
     Lafayette Nuckols, Cass county; died in Mills county Iowa, in 1859.
     Henry Bradford, Pierce county; died in Colorado.
     Hiram P. Bennett, Pierce county; living in Denver.
     Charles H. Cowles, Pierce county; dead (1893).
     Richard Brown, Forney county (now Nemaha); California. (?)
     G. L. Miller, chief clerk; living in Omaha.
     O. F. Lake, assistant clerk; dead.
     N. R. Folsom, door keeper; living in Los Angeles.
     S. A. Lewis. sergeant-at-arms; dead.
     Andrew J. Hanscom. Douglas county. speaker; living in Omaha.
     William N. Byers, Douglas county; Denver. (?)
     William Clancey. Douglas county; California. (?)
     Fleming Davidson. Douglas county; dead.
     Thomas Davis. Douglas county. dead.
     Andrew J. Poppleton, Douglas county; living in Omaha.
     Alfred D. Goyer, Douglas county. (?)
     Robert B. Whitted. Douglas county; dead.
     John B. Robertson, Burt county; dead.
     H. C. Purple. Burt county; dead.
     Anselin Arnold, Washington county; dead, (?)
     Andrew J. Smith, Washington county; dead.
     Eli R. Doyle, Dodge county; dead.
     J. W. Richardson. Dodge county; dead.
     John M. Latham, Cass county; dead.
     William Kempton. Cass county; living in Glenwood, Iowa.
     Joseph D. N. Thompson, Cass county; dead.
     Gideon Bennet. Pierce county. (now Otoe); dead 25 years.
     James H. Cowles, Pierce county; dead.
     James H. Decker, Pierce county; dead.
     William B. Hail, Pierce county; dead. Killed, Nebraska City, 1893.
     Wilson M. Maddox, Pierce county; living at Falls City.
     William A. Finney, Forney county; dead. Had been in Montana. (?)
     Joel M. Wood, Forney county; dead. (?)
     D. M. N. Johnston. Richardson county; really lived in



Kansas; said to have been a preacher; Johnson county was named for him; left the Territory soon after the adjournment of the legislature.
     John A. Singleton. Richardson county.
     J. W. Paddock, chief clerk; dead.
     G. L. Eayre, assistant clerk. (?)
     Isaac L. Gibbs, sergeant-at-arms; removed to Washington, D. C.; died there.
     B. B. Thompson, doorkeeper; dead.

Librarian of Nebraska State Historical Society.

Lincoln, May 5, 1896.


"Old Setlers' Cabin."

     The old settlers in the vicinity of Nebraska City have an association which meets each summer at Morton Park, adjacent to that place, in a cabin built of logs hewn from trees which the pioneers themselves planted. With them, "Plant trees!" is a decalogue, in one command, for the guidance of all home-makers the world over.
     Among the most fervid and enthusiastic of these "old settlers" is Mr. James Fitchie, now more than 80 years of age. He was present as the painter finished lettering "Old Setlers' Cabin" upon that primitive domicile. Driving up at that moment I remarked;
     "But Mr. Fitchie, in "Settlers' there should be two t's and on the sign you have only one."
     With quick Irish wit he responded;
     "But as more than half are dead, one t will do well enough,"
  --J. Sterling Morton in Youth's Companion,. April 30.
     When the City of Omaha was laid out in '54, Florence, seven miles north, and Bellevue were .dangerous rivals. The former place is no more; the latter is an unimportant village.
     Table Rock opened the first freighting road west and sent the first load of grain to Ft. Kearney.




     This is an organization for the purpose of registering those who came to, or were born in, Nebraska before March 1, 1867; also for the purpose of preserving historical data and person l (sic) reminiscences. The officers receive no salary.
     Each member who is fully registered by or before August 15, 1896, (not later,) will receive a ticket of admission to the Nebraska State Fair, and its amphitheatre and quarter-stretch, on Tuesday, September 1, 1896. At one o'clock that day there will be a reunion of the pioneers on the State Fair grounds.
     Herewith is an approximate list of members on March 31,
     1896, as complete as the present secretary has been able to obtain data. A list with fuller data will be published in a month or two. He should be advised of any errors in the present list, and as to data left blank.
     The fee for registering is fifty cents, which should be sent by draft, postal order, or express order; don't send currency, because it isn't safe; and don't send check, because it costs considerable to cash same.
     Cards for registering and further information may be obtained from the secretary.

ROBERT W. FURNAS, President,
WM. R. BOWEN, Secretary,     
1608 Capitol Ave., Omaha.

Prior page
Next page

© 2002 for the NEGenWeb Project by Pam Rietsch, Ted & Carole Miller