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Past & Present of Platte County, Nebraska - Volume I

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CHAPTER XXI (continued)



we began to visualize our library there, but our hopes were shattered. A vote of the people defeated this proposition. Then a woman came to our rescue, and Mrs. Leander Gerrard began to look around for a suitable lot for our new home. We followed her in her search from the corner north of the opera house to the vacant lot between the postoffice and the Congregational Church, then north of Doctor Allenberger's residence, but always, like the dove sent out of the ark, only to hover and again return. After many months of weary waiting and searching, she finally decided upon this location and generously gave us a deed to this beautiful spot as a memorial to her husband, Mr. Leander Gerrard, one of the pioneers and founders of Columbus. Our dream has come true after so many years of patient and persistent endeavor. We have a permanent home. The Woman's Club first gave the institution vitality enough to withstand all criticism; a woman made it possible for us to claim Mr. Carnegie's offer. This library is here to stay, and can claim the support of all the taxpayers and citizens of the town. This is your institution; we are only acting as your servants. By your patronage you can make it grow into what it should be in the years to come.

  We have grown from a list of 1,192 to 3,912 volumes; from a circulation of 5,226 to one of 16,540 from June, 1913, to July, 1914. The largest monthly circulation was in March, 1914, when it reached the member of 2,300. We have 138 German books.


  Wildey Lodge No. 44, I. O. O. F., was organized March 5, 1874, with the following charter members: G. W. Davis, Gus G. Becher, William Cornwell, William Bloedorn, Augustus Smith, Abram Friedline, Herman Gross, Charles A. Speice, W. G. Whittaker, C. H. Davis, H. D. Caan. This lodge is now one of the strongest fraternal organizations in point of numbers and financial conditions in the state. Columbus Encampment No. 9 was organized August 14, 1875, by D. D. Wadsworth, H. J. Hudson, E. C. Pinckney, H. C. Preston, Michael Schram, Francis G. Becher, F. Brodfuehrer, E. J. Baker, Gus G. Becher. Columbus Rebekah Lodge No. 11 was organized February 18, 1876. The charter members were D. D. Wadsworth, H. J. Hudson, John Huber, Nancy Huber, C. D. Clother; Eliza Clother, H. D. Caan, Francis I. Caan, Mattie J. Wadsworth, Joe Gross, Annie Gross, Charles A. Speice, Kate Speice and John Stauffer.



  On the 10th, 11th and 12th of November, 1874, the Odd Fellows held a festival, concerning which the Journal had the following to say: "Early on Tuesday afternoon the Columbus Brass Band played some excellent music and people crowded the hall of the Odd Fellows Lodge to its utmost capacity. At the time the officers of the lodge were dressed in their regalia. The chief attractions of the evening were essays upon Odd Fellowship, by Dr. T. A. Pinkney and Hon. H. J. Hudson. Maj. William Burgess read an original poem on the motto adorning the lodge room -- 'Friendship, Love, Truth.' The exercises were closed when Vice Grand Speice announced the exercises on the evenings of Wednesday and Thursday, at the town hall, would be a complete change of program. Hundreds of the citizens of Columbus occupied both upper and lower floors of the hall. There was music by the Columbus String Band and dancing continued until midnight."

  Another item clipped from the Journal of date June 6, 1877, may be of interest in this connection: "For some time Marshall Smith has had in contemplation the erection of a new business house to accommodate his increasing business as grocer. He recently entered into an arrangement with Odd Fellows and Masons of this city and together a large building is to be erected on lot 2, block 84, Thirteenth Street. This is in the same block as the postoffice and northeast of it. Ole Olson will do the carpenter work and Thomas Flynn and son will furnish the brick. The building is to be 25x90 feet and two stories with basement."

  Lebanon Lodge No. 58, A. F. & A. M., was organized in Columbus, June 24, 1875. The charter members were Marshall Smith, Henry P. Coolidge, Robert H. Henry, John M. Kelley, George E. Drake, William Hunneman, Charles H. Davis, Albert J. Arnold, Orson E. Stearns, Adam McPherson, Samuel A. Bonesteel, John G. Compton, Julius Rasmussen, John W. Early, Ole Olson, Joseph A. Baker, and Augustus Lockner. Harmony Lodge No. 13, Eastern Star, was organized June 19,1876, by Emily P. Hood, Agnes Smith, Eunice Baker, Kitty L. Bonesteel, Theda M. Coolidge, Josie M. Compton, Celia L. Stillman, Louisa Bonesteel, Mary E. Becher, Minnie Drake, Mary A. Early, Kate Hunneman, Maggie Meagher, and Jane A. North. Orion Chapter No. 18, R. A. M., was organized December 17, 1879. Its charter members were Gustavus G. Becher, John P. Becker, Loran C. Clark, Albert W. Crites, John W. Early, Robert H. Henry, William Hunneman, James R. Meagher, Adelbert L. Nickerson, James E. North, Alfred M. Post, Julius Rasmussen, Thomas H. Saunders, Fritz M. Sackett, Marshall Smith and



Charles B. Stillman. This lodge met in what was known as Masons and Odd Fellows Hall, which was built in 1877 at a cost of $2,050, being the upper story of a business block on Thirteenth Street. Soon it will move into handsome new quarters, now in course of construction, being the second story of the new Ragatz Building on West Thirteenth Street, just off of Platte Street. The lodge is in a very flourishing condition.

  January 16, 1878, Division No. 1 for Platte County, of the Ancient Order of Hibernians, was organized at the courthouse by the election of the following officers: M. T. Kinney, president; M. Morrissey, treasurer; E. D. Sheehan, financial secretary; T. C. Ryan, recording and corresponding secretary; Daniel Condon, county delegate.

  The Knights of Pythias organized a lodge in Columbus in 1876. This lodge is in good running order and has quite a large membership. In the month of February, not very long after its formation, the lodge held its first annual ball and of that function the Journal had this to say: "The first annual ball of the Knights of Pythias last Wednesday night in Music Hall was not in most respects equal to the Odd Fellows festival of recent date, but all things considered, it was equally enjoyable. The organization is of recent date and the roll is less than a score, yet fully forty tickets of admission to the hall and as many to the table were distributed. Music was furnished by the three Schroeder brothers and Mr. Gores, who were occasionally relieved by Mr. Phillips and Mr. Burgess. The instruments were two violins, and an immense bass viol and a cornet."

  The Modern Woodmen and its auxiliary lodge, Royal Neighbors, have long been established in Columbus, and have a strong aggregation of members. This also may be said of Platte Aerie No. 1834, F. O. E.

  There are a number of other fraternal bodies organized in Columbus, as follows: Mystic Council, Royal Arcanum, July 25, 1878; charter members, Will B. Dale, Albert A. Smith, Will J. Collins, C. B. Stillman, H. J. Hudson, E. L. Siggins, I. J. Slattery, A. E. Young and George Clother.

  Fidelity Council No. 228, Legion of Honor, July 1, 1880. Original members, John Tannahill, T. B. Mitchell, D. T. Martin, Guy C. Barnum, A. A. Smith, Carl Kramer, Jacob Schram, William B. Dale. The members of the associate lodge, Knights and Ladies of Honor, when organized were Charles Wake, Emma Wake, R. B. McIntire, Flonella McIntire, A. A. Smith, A. M. Jennings, Sarah J. Jennings, John Wiggins, Rose D. Wiggins, George W. Clother, Lizzie Shan-



non, Jennie H. Small, Theda M. Coolidge, Henry P. Coolidge, Moses K. Turner, Henry L. Small, David T. Martyn.

  Friendship Council No. 14, Home Circle, March, 1880. Charter members: Mrs. Crew, Mrs. Davis, Mrs. Dale, Mrs. Becher, Mrs. Rickly, J. Gregorious, Mrs. J. Gregorious, Joe Gross, Mrs. Joe Gross, Herman Gross, Mrs. Herman Gross, Mrs. Snell, J. H. Galley, Albert Smith, Howard Smith, Mrs. Albert Smith, Dr. E. L. Siggins, W. T. Rickly, Will McAllister, I. J. and Mrs. Slattery.

  Monitor Lodge No. 879, Knights of Honor, February 5, 1878. Charter members: Robert Uhlig, D. C. Loveland, W. J. Collins, C. B. Stillman, Albert A. Smith, Arthur M. Jennings, Frank F. Sanborn, William B. Dale, Henry P. Coolidge, John Wiggins, Lewis M; Saley, James R. Meagher.


  Baker Post No. 9, Grand Army of the Republic, was organized in 1876, and before the expiration of a year its members had so increased that a hall became necessary. From the fact that but a corporal's guard from Platte County served in the Civil war, there were but very few Nebraskans in this number. Among them were James H. Galley, W. A. McAllister, who joined the post after his return from Europe, H. T. Spoerry and a few others. Most of the comrades were members of military organizations of other states. Arrangements were made with the Knights of Pythias, but recently organized, for the use of their hall in the State Bank Building, also a new institution, where meetings were afterwards held for some time. The post's headquarters are now in the upper story of a business building on Eleventh Street.

  Baker Relief Corps was organized May 5, 1891, at Maennerchor Hall, by Mrs. Eliza Pillsbury, of Grand Island. The following were elected and installed as officers: Mrs. M. Hensley, president; Mrs. M. L. Hockenberger, senior vice president; Mrs. E. D. Davis, junior vice president; Mrs. L. L. Butler, treasurer; Miss Jennie Tannahill, conductress; Mrs. Ida G. Meaghet, assistant conductress; Miss Minnie A. Meagher, guard; Miss Lillie Tannahill, assistant guard; Mrs. A. Andrees, chaplain. Since the first meeting the Relief Corps headquarters have been with Baker Post.

  Quite a number of years ago members of Baker Post circulated subscription papers in Columbus and throughout the county for the purpose of raising funds to build a monument to the soldier dead. In this movement every success anticipated was realized and a sum of



money verging around $2,000 was donated by the loyal people of Platte County, with which a tastefully designed granite shaft was purchased and erected in the center of the city park. On the four polished faces of the pedestal are the names of the fallen heroes of the Civil war who became citizens of Platte County. At the top of the monument is a majestic eagle whose protecting wings are wide spread and give a most desirable finish to the general design of the stone.


  In its issue of June 3, 1874, the Journal had this to say, in speaking of the men and women who first came to Platte County and turned the prairie land into productive fields, built towns, established free institutions and left to their own and generations unborn a grand heritage: "Eighteen years ago last Friday, the first settlement was made in Columbus, Neb. It has been the custom for the past few years for old settlers to meet at the house of some of their number and celebrate the anniversary. On Friday last a few of the old settlers met at the house of J. Rickly and had a good social time. These old settlers are dropping away and new men are taking their places. Soon they will all be gone. We hope they may live long to enjoy these happy reunions."

  At a meeting held in the office of Speice & North, on Jan, 29, 1882, for the purpose of organizing an old settlers' association it being the twenty-sixth anniversary of the settlement of Platte County, John Rickly served as chairman, and H. J. Hudson, secretary. A motion was made that the name of the society be Platte County Old Settlers' Association, and that persons who came to the county prior to 1861, should be admitted as members. At another meeting held July 1st, at the courthouse, the organization of the Old Settlers' Association was completed. Quite a number of the men and women whose names early appear in this history, became members of this association, and from year to year their reunions were held at some stated place, at which time the experiences of the venturesome spirits who came to this wild, unsettled country, were graphically and interestingly told. Good things of the table were also discussed and a real old-fashioned, comfortable, enjoyable time passed.


  Prior to the formation of the Old Settlers' Association, the pioneers had organized a club, which met at least once a year, as a



rule on the anniversary of the founding of Columbus, that being the first settlement in Platte County. On one of these pleasant occasions H. J. Hudson was present and wrote of the things that took place, not forgetting to mention some of the men who were there. He had this to say:

  June 8, 1869 -- Last Saturday was the thirteenth anniversary of the location of the Town of Columbus. An impromptu meeting was gotten up by the old settlers, when, by a singular coincidence, it was found that only thirteen of the pioneers of Columbus were alive to commemorate the thirteenth annual meeting of the Old Settlers' Club.

  Just as the sun had sunk below the horizon in all his gorgeous splendor, the Platte County brass band, but recently organized, discoursed sweet music. Soft and mellow as it floated on the evening breeze, "Auld Lang Syne," ever welcome because so familiar, was the signal for the pioneers to assemble in Kummer's Hall, opposite the American Hotel, whither we also repaired, in search of an item for the (Omaha) Herald. We found the hall tastily decorated with green boughs of the cottonwood, taken from trees planted by V. Kummer, on the town site, that now measure eighteen inches in diameter.

  The table, constructed of rough planks, was set off with huge branches of prairie bowers, set in oyster and fruit cans, to retain as much as possible the scene of thirteen years ago, when gathered around the wagon boxes, improvised into tables, the pioneers partook of their evening meal, after the labors of staking out and locating the boundaries of the Town of Columbus. Cold boiled ham, dried beef, croached butter on platters made of shingles, with a few bottles of Catawba standing as pickets on the outer edges, made the tout ensemble complete. V. Kummer, our county treasurer, was called to the chair, and John Browner, our late sheriff, was voted clerk of the Platte County Old Settlers' Club. The roll being called, was responded to by ten of the old thirteen, three being unavoidably absent.

  H. J. Hudson and Hon. C. A. Speice were invited to address the club. Elder Hudson carried us back with his peculiar powers of illustration and description to the times that tried the patience of ourselves and wives; when with handmills they had to prepare the bread stuff for the morning and evening meal, dinner being dispensed with both from economy and necessity; how with anxious watching we alternated as guards to protect our stock and sleeping families



from the prowling Indians, if not directly hostile, none the less treacherous.

  So vivid was the retrospect, pungent the delineations, that it were a study to observe these upturned faces, bronzed by the sun and the winds of a northern clime, swayed from smiles to tears at the checkered scenes of their frontier life.

  Hon. C. A. Speice, our representative in the State Legislature, followed the elder in a most happy vein, taking up the present prospect of our town and in pleasing contrast to the speaker preceding him, portrayed the sure and speedy development of our railroad advantages, when the vast trade of Idaho, Montana and the Loup Fork Valley would center in Columbus, situated as she was at the mouth or outlet of this vast section of country, the mighty resources of which have been imperfectly explored.

  The toils, privations and sacrifices of the past were soon sunk into oblivion by the magnetic fervor of the speaker, who gave ample proof how earnestly he had studied the subject of railroads as the great civilizers of Nebraska during the next decade.

  A general congratulation, with the usual recognition, took place; genial and pleasant were the interchanges of the old settlers, John Rickly, J. P. Becker, C. B. Stillman, Charles Beemer, Jacob Ernst and others.

  We could feign linger around these old settlers' gatherings as a bond of union and general leveler of feeling. May the next anniversary of the old settlers of Platte County find their mystic number of thirteen unbroken and unsevered.


  The very popular German musical and social society, the Columbus Maennerchor, was organized by seventeen persons and now numbers over one hundred and fifty. It was incorporated August 3, 1877.

  In 1912, the society erected a handsome hall of brick construction, on East Eleventh Street; on the lot east of the old hall, at a cost of $12,000, which was formally dedicated, Tuesday evening, October 23, 1912. August Boettcher, president of the society, was master of ceremonies. Of the exercises, an overture, by the Maennerchor orchestra, was the opening number; then the president welcomed the large audience to the beautiful hall, and graciously stated that each guest was an honorary member of the society for the evening. The entertainment was further composed of vocal and instrumental



selections, an address by August Wagner, a delightful banquet and a dance.

  The hall is a model of its kind. Its ground dimensions are 44 by 90 feet and the main hall covers a space 42 by 50 feet, with a balcony over the north end, or entrance, and a stage at the south end, 14 by 20 feet. To the right is a smoking room and on the left, a reception room for ladies. The basement is given over for banquet hall, club room, furnace and storage apartments.

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Past & Present of Platte County, Nebraska - Volume I

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  Omaha, the chief city of Nebraska, was the first capital of this great prairie state, but was unable to retain the distinction after the state had been admitted and Lincoln, then a little straggling town, was selected and is today the capital of the state. But it was not to retain that honor undisturbed by other cities of the state, who set up claims of their own and made vain efforts to have the location of the capital changed. The question was quite freely discussed in the press during the year 1874 and the City of Columbus took no small part in the controversy. At that time she had a population of about three thousand souls, and was one of the busiest trading points on the line of the Union Pacific -- the great transcontinental railroad, which was opening up new countries to settlement very rapidly. Columbus had become a great outfitting point for immigrants who necessarily made this a stopping place on their journey westward. The leading men of the town were encouraged to believe that Columbus had a great future and from her geographical position, was more greatly to be desired as a location for the state capital than Lincoln, or any other place. The interests of Columbus in this relation were well served by certain of her citizens, particularly one, the author of the editorial given below, who was none other than M. K. Turner, editor of the Journal:

  "We have hitherto stated our reasons for believing that the capital of Nebraska should be removed from Lincoln and established at Columbus, but it may not be amiss now to review the same, since the Legislature will shortly meet and this will be one of the chief subjects for consideration. The capital would probably never have been removed from Omaha to Lincoln had not the voting power of the south and southeastern portions offset their balance from other sections at that time and we presume that any intelligent man cognizant of the situation who has given the subject any thought has ever supposed that Lincoln could possibly remain as the capital. Its




geographical position -- in one corner of the state -- was and is against its continuance as the capital.

  "Nebraska is 429 miles in length, east and west, and 198 north and south, Lincoln being only 45 miles west of the Missouri River (the eastern boundary) and 57 miles north of Kansas, the southern boundary of the state. Lincoln is the geographical center of about one-eighth of the state, and that the southeastern corner. None can gainsay the fact that the location of the capital at Lincoln has tended towards the settlement and development of that portion of Nebraska, naturally influenced by the rapid growth of a city such as Lincoln has become in a very few years and it is far from our purpose to detract anything from the enterprise of her citizens and indeed her wideawake neighbors of all that portion of the state. They have done well, exceedingly well, and are now in such a position that the removal of the capital will not injuriously affect their future welfare.

  "But the time has come when a change is demanded by the greater portion of the people of the state, as we believe. So far as we can learn there seems no doubt as to this.

  "The northern, western and northwestern portions of the state are situated at a great distance from the capital, their population is now such that their influence in legislative matters can be felt and there is an almost universal demand on their part for the removal to a more central locality, where, in the growth of a capital city, the greatest portion of the state will grow up with it.

  "We have every reason to suppose that the location of the capital at Columbus will tend directly to this effect and it is the one important matter that should not be overlooked. This reason is, doubtless, the main one which will influence legislators and as they are men of intelligence, living in a country where the importance of this is well known and duly appreciated, it is a peculiar force.

  "In the last four years there has been an immense immigration in the state, all organized counties receiving a share of the same. None can complain. But the unprecedented growth of Lincoln, our present capital city, and the marvelous settlement and cultivation of the country tributary to or influenced by it, have been remarked by all observing men. Omaha has been heard of by every civilized man the world over, and scarcely less noted is Lincoln.

  "Now, what the location of the capital at Lincoln has done for the southeastern corner of the state, the establishment of it at Columbus will do for the entire remainder of our extensive commonwealth. The fact of removal will be heralded wherever the telegraph clicks



and newspapers are published; men and wealth will be attracted hither; the vacant lands will be occupied and tilled; houses will dot the prairie far and wide; thousands of herds of cattle and flocks of sheep will convert the grass to gold all over the vast extent of central western and northwestern Nebraska. The natural resources of this immense region will be developed; manufactures will spring up and flourish, utilizing our surplus products, establishing a home market and drawing hither instead of sending abroad the golden blood of commerce; and such we predict will be the impetus given that future historians of our state will point to this event as marking the greatest epoch in her former career.

  "When we remark that Nebraska would make two states, each equal in extent to Ohio or Maine, and that it is equal to all New England, with 14,000 square miles added, we cannot too strongly emphasize the importance, to ourselves and children, of its rapid settlement and consequent development in all that constitutes the power and glory of a commonwealth such as ours is destined to be.

  "The location of the capital at Columbus would benefit the state at large, as it is centrally situated. It is not, indeed, the geographical center of the state east and west, though nearer to it than any other city. Columbus is ninety-nine miles from the northern and southern limits of the state (being the exact center north and south) and is ninety-two miles from the eastern boundary, being in the center or very nearly so of the agricultural portion of the state. It is near the confluence of the Platte and Loup rivers and on the line of the Union Pacific Railroad--the world's great thoroughfare across the continent -- thus readily accessible from every point of the compass and its situation as above described will secure for the capital a location where suitable buildings creditable to our great state can be permanently located; besides, there is perhaps no better site in all the state for capitol buildings than can be had here and with the dense settlement of our agricultural and grazing lands, the utilization of our immense water power for the purposes of manufacture and the radiation of railways to all parts of the state, there are no better prospects than here for the upbuilding of a permanent capital city which will be an honor and a blessing to the entire state."

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