The name of Shell Creek Precinct was first given to that territory which lay within ranges 1, 2, 3 and 4 east, township 18 north, being Colfax County. Later, in 1858, Shell Creek Precinct was created in Platte County and Michael Erb, Charles Reinke and Charles Held were appointed judges of election. As it now stands, it is composed of town 18, range 1 west, and is bounded on the north by Grand Prairie; on the east by Bismark; south by Columbus; and west by Lost Creek townships. It is a complete congressional township and has probably more fine farming lands and well improved farms than any township in the county. It is well watered by Shell Creek and its tributaries and Short Creek, which dips down into its northeastern corner and passes out on section 12. Two-thirds of its topography is level upland; one-third is of rolling, rich black loam.
The first settlers in this township were Michael Kelley, Thomas Lynch, Patrick Gleason and John Dineen. Kelley located on section 22, Lynch on section 28, Gleason on section 29. These pioneers came and took up claims in the spring of 1857.
Early in the year 1859, quite an Irish contingent set their stakes in Shell Creek Township for permanent homes. Among them were David, James and Henry Carrig, Michael Doody, Edward Hays and Patrick Burke. David Carrig located on section 20; Henry Carrig on section 30; James Carrig on section 22; Michael Doody on section 20; Edward Hays on section 29, and Pat Burke on section 24.
Carl Reinke came to Platte County with the Columbus party in the fall of 1856, and soon thereafter located in Shell Creek Township and was probably the pioneer settler of the community. With the small sum of $160, all that he possessed, Reinke purchased a wagon, two cows and a yoke of oxen, and located on a pre-empted claim of 160 acres. Here he remained until 1891 and accumulated, among other things, several hundred acres of land. He then took up his residence in Columbus.
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The first houses built by the settlers were of sod and it is not going too far in saying that these crude habitations were quite comfortable. The first prairie land broken was with ox teams, which cost about $200 a pair. Many were subsequently raised in the settlement. Poisonous reptiles were somewhat in evidence, but not much harm was suffered from snake bites. The winters were quite severe, the first two or three especially, when, it is remembered, blizzards continued from three to four days, which made it dangerous for travelers and very unpleasant for stock on the ranges.
In the '50s before the Rickly mill was built, the pioneers journeyed all the way to Fort Calhoun (Omaha) for flour and meal.
The first schoolhouse erected was a log affair and was located in district No. 4. John Kern was the teacher.
The first church was St. Patrick's, presided over first by Father Foreman, who, previous to the building of a church, in 1869, said mass in the homes of the settlers, first coming to the settlement in 1863. When the church was built Father Ryan was in charge.
About the year 1868 J. P. Becker built a grist mill on Shell Creek, and of this industry and other things, a correspondent of the Journal had the following to say, in the issue of that paper of June 3, 1874:
"The Valley of Shell Creek has wonderfully improved in the last year. From J. P. Becker's mill, two miles west, in the last year, the following persons have built fine brick residences: J. Held, Carl Reinke and H. Lusche, and E. Ahrens, Michael Erb and W. Weather have completed residences of wood, which look tasty and neat. J. P. Becker has also made many improvements, consisting of a purifier, manufactured at Quincy, Ill., and a conveyor, which enables the operators to have control of the bolting apparatus. They now make the very best of flour. Crops on the bottom look fine and promise an abundant harvest."
Jonas Welch, later proprietor of the mill, installed improvements by which "those going to this mill now with corn, can be accommodated either by receiving their grist meal, or exchanging their corn for meal. This will be convenient for those who like the strength giving flour of the corn." The foregoing is an extract from a letter published by the Journal in 1878.
The first church established in the township, and one of the earliest in the county, was St. Patrick's, which was organized about 1859 or 1860. Its first members were John Haney, James Haney, John Brown, Patrick Murray, Henry Carrig, David Carrig, James Carrig,
PAST AND PRESENT OF PLATTE COUNTY 313
John Dineen, Michael Dineen, Ed Hays, Thomas Lynch, Mrs. Dunlap, James Conway and Mrs. Brady. The church was a little log cabin and stood not a great distance from the cemetery. This church later became identified with St. John's at Columbus.
Early in the year 1870 Calvary Cemetery Association was incorporated by citizens of Shell Creek and Bismark precincts, whose names follow: John Held, Carl Reinke, H. Lusche, John Wurdemann, Henry Loseke, Herman Loseke, Herman Wilken, John Groteluschen, E. Ahrens, G. Loseke, J. H. Groteluschen, John Brock, Henry Rickert, Michael Erb, John D. Dicke, William Wetterer, August Runge, Josephine Lanning, William Schreiber, J. H. Loseke, H. Schutte, and H. Johannes. In September, 1873, the Shell Creek Lutheran Church was organized with fifty families, pastor, Rev. E. A. Freese. The church and cemetery are on section 2.
For many years the settlers were annoyed by the depredations of wild animals, principally wolves. These prowlers of the prairie when hungry were very dangerous, and did not fear to attack domestic animals and even their owners. Chicken houses in those early days were also made of the stiff, fibrous prairie sod and it is said wolves, when ravenous with hunger, often tore away the sod walls with their claws and helped themselves to the domestic fowls.
One mountain wolf, or lion, long had been the scourge of this section of the county. Chickens and pigs by the scores during the years of his sway, fell victims to his cunning and strength. He was so ferocious and fearless that men, women and children hesitated to leave their homes without weapons. Finally, James Carrig, father of Jerry Carrig, county register of deeds, determined to rid the community of the beast. The manner in which he accomplished his end is shown by the following article, which appeared in the Platte Journal, February 22, 1871:
DEAD AT LAST
"We are informed by Mr. Maher that the mountain wolf, or lion, that has been such an annoyance to the settlement on Shell Creek, killing calves, hogs, chickens, turkeys, etc., to the value of upwards of $300, has at last been compelled to succumb to the superior cunning and ingenuity of his fellow creatures of the genus homo in the person of our friend, James Carrig.
"It is said that the beast would not eat any meat that had been
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touched by human hands, else he would have ceased to breathe some time ago. Mr. Carrig took the head of a hog which the wolf had killed and slitting the scalp, placed poison therein, whereupon and in due time the aforesaid beast ceased to make nocturnal visits, contrary to the peace and dignity of the citizens of Shell Creek."
James Carrig, the pioneer, is now eighty-four years of age, and is well preserved, both physically and mentally. For some years past he has made his home at Kearney, Neb., with his son, C. C. Carrig, who is postmaster of that city.
Mr. Carrig says that after he had gotten the wolf's "goat," so to speak, the carcass was placed on exhibition and the people for miles up and down Shell Creek came to see him. In commemoration of the great victory over the ferocious demon of the plains, a large dance was held in the Carrig neighborhood, which was attended from far and near.
To give the names and detailed experiences of the men and women who opened up and settled Shell Creek Township would be a pleasant task to the writer of this history if the proper data was procurable at this time. Unfortunately, few are now living in the county who were here at its birth, or in years shortly thereafter. Those who do remain fail to impress their memories with early events relating to the county and still others avoid a statement on account of not having much dependence on their remembrance of things. However, most discrepancies in the way of personal mention in this volume will be more than made up in the second volume, as every family of consequence whose personal history co-relates with that of the county will have a place in that volume. It is known that Peter Myer, one of the first settlers in Platte County, who came to Columbus in 1857, moved to Shell Creek after a residence of three years in the county seat and remained here one year. He then returned to Columbus.
Andrew Mathis, a native of Switzerland, who immigrated to the United States in 1854, reached Platte County in 1861, and pre-empted 160 acres of land in section 19. In 1863 he took this same piece of land as a homestead and continued to live there until March, 1892, when he removed to Columbus. Mr. Mathis was a successful farmer for over thirty years and during that time passed through all the trials of pioneer life. He hauled grain to Fort Kearney and other far away places to get it ground, when streams had to be forded and wild savages encountered. His habitation for seven years was a sod house, after which he lived in a log house a number of years.
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REMINISCENCES OF SHELL CREEK
BY JOHN WALKER
In May, 1877, John Walker, a pioneer of Platte County, and after whom Walker Precinct was named, supplied the reading public with some of his recollections of Platte County as he first saw and knew it. The "promise," referred to below, related to a claim Walker had agreed to buy, and this part of his reminiscences begins with that subject:
According to promise Lyons came back to me, saying as he was going to leave the state he would ask the compensation I had heretofore proffered him for his claim, so I readily counted him out the "rhino" and he went off in the best of glee singing "The Auld Mare Maggi," that you would have thought it was Burns himself as he sat straddle of an old broncho of the Widow Brady's. I laughed as he started, thinking ere morning as he passed through the then lonely valley of Shell that some of the Welsh might have taken him for a second Tam O'Shanter. And now feeling satisfied that I was master of the arena and had full time to look around and study what was the best thing to do in dealing with Uncle Sam, and seeing myself surrounded by a large family I saw it was plain that I required more than 160 acres of land and in furtherance of this object, I concluded to start out in pursuit of more territory, knowing my family was safely anchored for the present.
I launched out into those dreaded wilds with my Winchester on my shoulder and my Colt at my side, saying as I left my wife that I had fought the Comanches on the frontiers of Texas for two years and being thus trained to Indian warfare and knowing how unerring were my trusty weapons, I determined to look up a home for my offspring, even should I encounter a legion of the scalpers, for, let it be remembered that in 1870, just after my arrival, the Sioux had shot and wounded Neil Nelson's wife and shot at Billy Menice and run him from his ranch and took all the available property they could lay their hands on. Nothing daunted by all these reports, I started up the valley, intending to go to its source. After traveling about ten miles I came to a dug out in the bank of the creek, in the midst of a grove of timber and on searching for a while to find an entrance I found an alley way leading into the main vault, which I entered, and by the dim light that protruded through a hole in the roof I discerned a spectacle lying on some wild hay in one corner apparently
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asleep. I said to this lump of humanity two or three times in a loud voice, "Stranger arise; be not afraid; thy sins are forgiven thee." But to all this humane language he seemed to pay no attention -never relaxed a muscle, but snored away. I took hold of him then and shook him, saying "The Indians are upon thee Sampson" -- not a move. I soliloquized for a moment, thinking, can it be possible that this is the abode of another Rip Van Winkle? I then roared in a stentorian voice to this mundane spheroid. At this he opened his eyes and when he beheld what he supposed was an apparition standing before him, he made one salmon leap and lit on his feet, asking me how I found ingress; I told him and asked him, if he was mortal, to tell his name, and how he came there. He told me that Scotland was the land of his birth and that he was no more nor no less than the veritable Johnny Smoker and a friend of the red man. At seeing this confusion I concluded if he was the friend of the red man I had better make myself scarce around those parts and on taking my leave he asked was I hunting for land? I spoke to him in the affirmative; he then wanted me to take land above him, that he would show me some. I thanked him, stating that I preferred locating my family near white folks, as I harbored no great love for the red man; here his brows knit and his face became contorted, and thinking he might be in the capacity of a Robin Hood in this embryo Sherwood forest and that from a blast of his bugle, or in lieu thereof, a war whoop signal might bring on his dusky hordes, I bade him goodbye, and taking the double quick on a bee line down the valley, I soon came in sight of the settlements. I saw some beautiful bottom land which has since proved to be equal to any in the state. So here I entered 400 acres of choice land, to which I have since added 160 acres of a timber claim and eighty of railroad land; by this time my brother came up the creek to look for land, he and his family having just arrived from Canada. I well knew the dread he and his wife harbored for the Indians. I wanted him to move farther up, but his wife remonstrated, protesting she would go back to Colorado if he insisted on an outside move. Right here I saw a chance for speculation so I gave him the Lyons claim -- that is, my title to it, for $50, and by going 216 miles farther got land for half the price, as it lay outside the railroad limits. I regretted to leave, but knowing I could purchase a farm for half the money I received, and double the amount of property, I pulled up my stakes once more, but this time to better my condition. I lived there alone that season and the next spring came along Peter Galligan and family, James Collins, Daniel
PAST AND PRESENT OF PLATTE COUNTY 317
Holleran, John Gogan, William Connelly, Michael Morrissey, Martin Bohen, Patrick Ducey; this after myself composed the second installment. I was first assessed by Joe Strother, of Monroe, as I was then tributary to that precinct. I went down to Columbus to get a new precinct laid out, and James E. North said he would call it Walker Precinct, in honor of the first settlers. Walker then composed Lookingglass, Pleasant Valley, Walker and Granville. Since they were divided I am in Pleasant Valley, Walker being west of me. After this the settlers came along pretty fast and now I can boast of quite a settlement of intelligent and industrious farmers.
One day in the spring of 1871, while my son and I were engaged in breaking prairie, I saw in the distance to the east of me, three men on horseback, coming towards me. As they neared me they discovered I was not alone and made a sudden oblique move and sheared off in the direction of Pat Ducey's, who was then encamped under a few boards and enjoying a bachelor's life, and which he has clung to to the present day; as they rode towards his camp I watched them to see how they would get over the creek and when I saw them plunge into the mirey bottom, unconcerned, I knew they were Indians; they shot for Pat's shanty on full lope, and he being out breaking prairie and all alone, they dismounted in a twinkling, broke in the door and made for his larder, which contained a loaf of bread, and a few pounds of bacon, bought at the grocery of J. P. Becker. Pat, seeing the party approach his domicile and fearing he might be put on short allowance, went to meet his callers; but oh, what a sight met his gaze as he crossed the threshold; enough to cause a nervous man to give up the ghost. But Patrick was made of the stuff to meet the emergency, as he saw one of the reds preparing to bag his bacon, and the other two dividing his last loaf; that was too much for a plowman to stand; there was no time to be lost if anything was to be saved, so with a bound he was on his dusky visitors inquiring in stern accents why they were robbing him of his last mouthful of food, for which inquiry, as they did not understand his dialect, he received a very unsatisfactory grunt from the one in possession of the meat, as he pointed to the bag containing it, which Pat at once seized with a powerful grip; at this danger the other two reds came to the onset and right here commenced a tussle for the necessaries of life. Just imagine a six-footer of an Irishman confronting three stalwart Pawnees; and all this to protect the inner man; there was a deadly struggle and terrific were the looks and gestures exchanged in this battle for life.
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But now these dangerous times have passed away and since the Poncas passed down last week under the vigorous Major Howard and Captain Walker, we feel at liberty to walk abroad on the prairies.
This settlement has increased second to none in the county since my advent in it. There is more deeded property in the high school district than any other in the county except two, Columbus included. There is strong talk of erecting a grist mill on the grounds that I first calculated to be my old cemetery. But there is many a slip between the cup and the lip and I shall forget all this if the mill will go up as the song of the burrs is sweet music to a hungry man.
Oconee is the infant township of Platte County. It was established July 15, 1908, upon petition of the electors of the villages of Monroe and Oconee and contiguous thereto. The new township organization comprises all that part of congressional township 17, ranges 2 and 3 west, lying north of the Loup River, and including the villages of Monroe and Oconee. A polling place was also established at the town hall in the Village of Monroe, and Murdock's store in the Village of Oconee.
Oconee Township is twelve miles wide in its northern part, but in the center it is only one township long. On its western border it is three townships in length and has the same length on the east. This formation is caused by the sinuous meandering of the Loup River, which forms its southern boundary line. It has but few more sections and they are: On the east, 1, 2, 3, 11 and 12; in range 3 west, sections 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 8, 9 and 10. The other territory within its limits consisting of parts of sections, are sections 6, 7,18,17,16,15 and part of 11, in range 3; 12, 7, 8, 9,10 and 15 in range 2,14 and 13.
The township has a superabundance of water. Lookingglass, coming down from the north and entering its territory at section 8, flows across both ranges and empties into the Loup on section 4, range 2. Lost Creek cuts across its northeastern border and a branch of the Sioux City & Columbus, part of the Union Pacific system, crosses the township and has its eastern terminus at the Village of Oconee. Here are some of the best lowland farms in the county and the prosperous, progressive citizens have the advantages of good schools and churches.
The present Town of Monroe developed out of that settlement known as the "old town" of Monroe, which was situated about two miles northeast of the present town site and was established by the
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Gerrards and others in 1857. Here was erected a log dwelling and the postoffice was established a few months later. This was about the time that the Mormon settlement was made at Genoa. Two years later the town had four log buildings and fourteen others, which never were completed.
As this was on the regular California stage line the building of a bridge or establishment of a ferry would have been of great benefit to the little colony located here, but money was scarce and the attempt to create an interest in that respect utterly failed. This worked to the advantage of Columbus, however, as a crossing and ferry were established on the Loup near that town. Monroe was the county seat of Monroe County and had elected a full complement of officials in 1858, but in 1859 Monroe was merged with Platte and lost its identity as a separate subdivision of the state.
The first settlement on the site of the present Town of Monroe was made by Joseph Gerrard, who homesteaded and built on the land in 1859. Soon thereafter he was made postmaster. His dwelling was built of logs, which had a basement or cellar, which was used both as kitchen and dining room. The building stood near the old Indian trail, was on the route of the Mormons, and for years remained a stopping place for those who happened along on their way between the Indian agency and Missouri Valley. On dark nights the Gerrards kept a light burning in the window and many a weary wayfarer thus was guided to a welcome resting place.
"The Omaha Indians usually camped here when on their way to visit with the Pawnees. One night in 1864 there were nineteen people sleeping in the lower room of the Gerrard house, when a rider brought news of a Sioux outbreak. Though the alarm was somewhat vague and lacking in detail, a close watch was begun and the settlers gathering in, a stockade was constructed in a semicircle between the schoolhouse and dwelling. This consisted of poles, set closely side by side and banked with sod. Though all the horses were later driven off by the hostiles, there was no fight."
The Gerrard family left Monroe Township in 1871, except Edward A. Gerrard, who found his way to Columbus in 1878. He returned, however, in 1889, and laid out the Village of Monroe on the old Gerrard homestead. Having an abhorrence of the liquor traffic, all deeds granted by Mr. Gerrard, who is still actively in the flesh, contained the following clause, which explains why no saloons have ever been operated in Monroe:
"It is expressly agreed between the grantors and grantee, and
PAST AND PRESENT OF PLATTE COUNTY 321
the heirs and assigns of said grantee, that intoxicating liquors shall never be manufactured, sold or given away as a beverage on the premises hereby conveyed, and that in case any of these conditions shall be broken or violated this conveyance and everything contained herein shall be null and void."
The first building erected in Monroe is a little frame structure, in which has been established all these years the office and printing outfit of the Looking Glass, a local paper, whose columns are chiefly devoted to the cause of prohibition. The paper was founded by E. A. Gerrard in 1889.
In 1879 came the railroad. Much grain was shipped from here before a side track was put in, but even after the town was laid out, the people had to bear the cost of building a side track, Mr. Gerrard paying one-half of the amount. In the fall of 1881, a grain elevator was constructed.
SOME OF THE FIRST COMERS
George Alexander came to Platte County in 1858 and lived on a farm north of Monroe. After the town came into existence he owned and managed a livery barn here for eight years.
P. H. Kelley was one of the pioneers, coming to this vicinity in 1867 and filing on a homestead. He removed to Monroe in 1900.
S. A. Dickinson and family located on a homestead near the Lookingglass, northwest of Monroe, in 1871. With them came Mrs. Dickinson's parents, Mr. and Mrs. Joel Day. Mrs. Dickinson, now a widow, is a resident of Monroe.
William Webster located on a farm in this township in 1875. He, with his father, organized the Bank of Monroe in 1892.
C. W. Hollingshead settled near the present Town of Monroe in 1876, and purchased school land at $7 per acre. He was one of the first to suggest the laying out of a town here and now has one of the finest homes in Monroe.
S. C. Terry took a homestead in Platte County, 8 1/2 miles north of the site of Monroe in 1878, his entire capital at the time being represented by a team of horses and $40 in cash. In 1892 he removed to Monroe and built a residence north of the school building.
S. F. Swanson came to Monroe in 1877 and two years later purchased the homestead rights to his first eighty acres for $200. The home place is situated two miles west of Monroe.
The home farm of O. L. Magnusson is a homestead taken in 1870
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by his father. The elder Magnusson was one of the first settlers in the valley.
Next to Columbus, this is the oldest settlement in Platte County. Here came Leander Gerrard in 1857, who soon had, with others, business interests established. However, the town was not platted and laid out until January, 1889, when John J. Truman, surveyor, established certain lines for streets, blocks of lots on section 1, in town 17, range 3 west.
A petition signed by A. Volz and fifty-nine others was presented to the board of supervisors at its meeting held November 9, 1899, praying for the incorporation of Monroe as a village, the same to be included in "the north half of the southwest quarter of section 6, township 17, range 2 west; and the northeast quarter of the southeast quarter of section 1, township 17, range 3 west, and eleven acres along the south line of the southeast quarter of the northeast quarter of said section 1, described as follows: Commencing at the southeast corner of the northeast quarter of section 1, township 17, range 3 west, thence running north along said range line 363 feet, thence running west 1,320 feet, thence running south 1,683 feet, to the southwest corner of the northeast quarter of the southeast quarter of said section 1, thence running east 3,960 feet to the southeast corner of the northeast quarter of the southwest quarter of section 6, range 2, thence north 1,320 feet to the northeast corner of the northeast quarter of the southwest quarter of said section 6, thence west 2,640 feet to the place of beginning."
A remonstrance to this petition was signed by E. A. Gerrard and nine others, but at a meeting held by the board of supervisors, December 22, 1899, that body found that the petition for the incorporation of the Village of Monroe should be granted, as all the requirements of the law in such cases had been fulfilled. The board also appointed G. L. Humphrey, R. G. Strother, Garrett Hulst, C. W. Hollingshead and W. E. Cole, trustees of the village, to hold their offices and to perform the duties required of them by law as such trustees until their successors should be elected and qualified.
Monroe is now a town of about three hundred population and is fourteen miles from Columbus, the county seat. The principal industries are general farming, stock-raising, the production of various kinds of seed and the culture of sugar beets. The village has a splendid system of waterworks, built some five or six years ago by the corporation and a little electric light plant, installed in a garage. The business center consists of a number of one-story buildings. There
HIGH SCHOOL, MONROE
NEW STEEL WAGON BRIDGE, MONROE
PAST AND PRESENT OF PLATTE COUNTY 323
is a bank, three general stores, a hotel kept by one of the Gerrards, a meat market, a millinery store, lumberyard, barber shop, seed establishment, hardware and implement store, a drug store, furniture store, two restaurants, harness shop, two grain elevators, two blacksmith shops, a livery stable, good schools, employing three teachers, comfortable church building, two newspapers, and a physician. There are also two long distance and one local telephone systems. The latter was organized here in 1903 and incorporated with a capital of $60,000. It has several exchanges and a long list of patrons.
In the old Village of Monroe, of which there is not a vestige in existence, was established a postoffice on May 3, 1858, with Robert P. Kimball in charge. This later was removed to the present town. The names of Mr. Kimball's successors follow: John Kelly, July 17, 1862; Joseph Gerrard, November 25, 1864; William T. Strother, December 7, 1870; Charles W. Zeigler, June 30, 1871; Barclay Jones, June 20, 1872; Cynthia N. Thurston, January 17, 1878; William H. Kellow, November 17, 1879; T. C. Kennard, September 16, 1881; John Swisher, June 29, 1883; George W. Alverson, June 16, 1884; L. J. Hollingshead, July 24, 1884; E. S. Osborne, August 29, 1888; C. C. Cummins, November 13, 1889; R. A. Vickers, November 2, 1893; L. J. Hendryx, November 25, 1895; R. G. Strother, May 22, 1897; C. W. Talbitzer, July 10, 1908; L. S. Wood, August 6, 1914.
THE BANK OF MONROE
The bank of Monroe has authority for doing business in a charter issued in 1892, with an authorized capital of $24,000, $6,000 of which was paid up. The incorporators were Joseph and William Dexter, of Monroe, and George W. Snow, Reuben Groot and Charles Hill, of Springfield, S. D. The bank opened for business August 15, 1892, with Joseph Webster, president, and William Webster, cashier. In 1894 the paid-up capital was increased to $10,000, and at that time the surplus was $4,000. Joseph Webster died in January, 1900, when William Webster succeeded to the presidency, and Howard J. Hill became cashier. Present officials: Rodney Hill, president and acting cashier; R. E. Wiley, vice president; directors, Paul Gertsch, William Kummer, G. S. Hill. Capital, $15,000; surplus and undivided profits, $6,.500; deposits, $128,000.
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Monroe has several strong church organizations, with auxiliary societies. The Monroe Presbyterian Church was organized and incorporated in 1890 with eleven members, Rev. Thomas L. Sexton, synodical missionary, presiding at the meeting. E. A. Gerrard was chosen clerk, Martin T. Strother, Martin A. Voorhees and John M. Kelley, trustees. The first meetings were held in a schoolhouse and the present building, costing about $3,200, was completed in 1893; the belfry was added in 1903.
At a conference of members of the Society of Friends, held in Platte County, near Genoa, on the fifth month, 26th day, of 1877, for the purpose of perfecting a religious organization, George S. Trueman was appointed clerk for the day. The following minute was on consideration adopted and directed to be signed by the clerk and forwarded to Prairie Grove quarterly meeting, and also file a copy thereof with the clerk, as required by law: "That, composed as we are in most widely scattered meetings and at the same time at too great a distance from any organized meeting, with the members of which we might possibly unite, in conducting the affairs of the society, but desirous of a close bonded unison, by which the more regular and fraternal spirit of right order may be maintained, we do therefore unite in the formation of a meeting for discipline, to be called Genoa Monthly Meeting of Friends, and to be held on the 7th day of each month, at 2 P. M., commencing in the eighth month next, together with a meeting for worship on first days at the same hour. That with the consent and approbation of Prairie Grove Quarterly Meeting, this meeting shall become auxiliary to that body and will be governed by the discipline of Illinois Yearly Meeting. And for the further carrying out of the object of this meeting, two persons shall be appointed to the positions of clerks and one as treasurer for one year, two persons to serve as trustees for the care of the property of the meeting, which may be committed to them and to hold this position until in the judgment of the meeting a change may be necessary." Signed, George S. Trueman, J. Z. Shotwell, William E. Walton, William B. Coffin, Barclay Jones, Mercy K. Cooper, Susan Y. Trueman, Nettie K. Trueman, Joseph L. Trueman. George S. Trueman, clerk.
The first meetings of the society were held in a schoolhouse near the location of the present meeting house, which was erected in 1887. Many of the most influential citizens of Monroe and vicinity became
PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH, MONROE
METHODIST CHURCH, MONROE
PAST AND PRESENT OF PLATTE COUNTY 325
identified with this church, of which there are but two organizations in the state one at Monroe, and the other at Lincoln.
The Methodist Episcopal Church was organized at Monroe in August, 1901, by Rev. H. H. Millard, presiding elder for the district. The first members were C. W. Hollingshead and wife, Mrs. Leuzena J. Hollingshead, Sarah A. Lenon, Rev. John S. Lenon, George Lewis, Jennie Lewis, Max Miller, Mary Miller.
Probably the first Methodist minister to preach in Monroe was Reverend Wilson. Then came Reverend Foote, who died before the end of the year. Rev. Moses Anderson took charge in May, 1902, and during his term $100 was subscribed for the church building. Rev. H. C. Preston was in charge here in 1903, and during his ministrations the construction of the present church building was begun early in the year, and on the 19th of April, 1903, the church was dedicated. Rev. A. J. Hutchinson followed, and his successor was W. J. Brient, who was here as late as 1909. Ward Morris then occupied the pulpit six months, when M. W. Rose took up the work and was here in 1912. Bert Hooper, a student, preached here about six months, G. H. Phillips followed him, also John W. Starr, who was here one year. The present pastor is William Gornal.
The Trinity Episcopal Church was organized here as a mission about the year 1899 by Rev. C. A. Weed, of Columbus. J. R. Smith, Sr., was the first warden. A very tastefully designed little frame church building was erected in 1900, on a lot donated by Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Hill. The completed building was dedicated June 18th of that year.
The Monroe Congregational Church was probably organized before any other church society existed here. The present church building was dedicated June 8,.1881, and stands about 7 1/2 miles northwest of town, on a high hill, near a very pretty cemetery.
THE SEED GROWING INDUSTRY AT MONROE
The industry of growing vine seed and select varieties of corn exclusively for seed purposes has reached large proportions in the United States, and one of the largest seed contractors in the West is authority for the statement that Nebraska has for some years shipped a larger share of the total production than any other state, a fact which is worthy a place in the memory of each of our readers.
Some ten years ago a farmer living south of Monroe planted an acre of ground to cucumbers, and when the crop was ripe and had
326PAST AND PRESENT OF PLATTE COUNTY
been gathered, by dint of much labor he separated the seeds from the pulp by washing them in a barrel, and the result netted about two hundred dollars from the single acre of ground. It is said that this experience marked the beginning of the seed business at Monroe. But the old way has now given place to labor saving methods, and seed crops are handled on a much larger scale than formerly. A few days ago one farmer brought six wagon loads of cucumber seed to town for shipment. The six loads represented a value of about three thousand dollars, and is but a small portion of that shipper's crop.
The seed business of this vicinity is really limited to three crops: cucumbers, squash and field corn, and of the three the first named probably yields the best profit to the grower. A conservative estimate of the local acreages indicates about 1,000 acres of field corn for seed, 300 acres of cucumbers and nearly 350 acres of squash. In large fields of squash an average yield of 230 pounds of seed per acre is considered very good. A field very seldom yields less than 100 pounds per acre, and some fields of a few acres are this year averaging over 400 pounds. Cucumbers yield more seed, usually from 100 to 500 and even as much as 600 pounds to the acre. The seed from Hubbard squash usually sells at about 25 cents per pound, and cucumber seed at from 20 cents to 23 cents, varying according to variety and the law of supply and demand. Basing our figures on this year's average yield of 300 pounds of cucumber seed and 225 pounds of squash seed to the acre, a conservative estimate of the value of these two crops this season is $22,500 for the former and $16,000 for the latter, or a total of $38,500 received in 1905 from the sale of squash and cucumber seed raised in this immediate vicinity alone. This means about eighty tons of seed. The business is each year assuming larger proportions.
The production of seeds on a large scale is a business of which the average layman knows about as much as most Nebraskans know about the production of cotton. To those whose experience with cucumbers has been limited to the gastronomic enjoyment of "One of the 57" or to the weeding of a few bug infested vines in the back garden a little description of methods may be of interest.
The soil is prepared for the crop in about the same way as for a crop of corn. The planting begins about the 20th of May, and is all done by the 10th of June. When the work is done with a corn planter the seeds are planted in hills or checks, about fifteen seeds to the hill, and covered with about one inch of soil. When the plants
VIEWS OF THE SEED GROWING INDUSTRY, MONROE
PAST AND PRESENT OF PLATTE COUNTY 327
are up and have reached a growth of about six inches, so that danger from beetles is over, they are thinned to about five or six of the stronger plants to the hill. Sometimes in large fields fewer seeds to the hill are planted and no thinning is done. The crop receives about the same cultivation as corn, and when the vines have spread so as to be damaged by the cultivators the crop is "laid by," and after that receives about one hoeing.
When the crop is ripe harvesting begins, usually about the 15th of September, and must be finished before any hard freezes, as the crop rots quickly. A machine is provided which is operated by horsepower and consists of a large wooden cylinder revolving rapidly at the base of a hopper into which the cucumbers are shovelled to be crushed by the cylinder, the product then passing into a long hollow cylinder covered with coarse wire screening, which is geared to revolve slowly, and as the mixture works gradually from end to end of this cylinder pulp and seed passes through the meshes of the screen and is gathered in the bottom of the machine, thence running through a spout into a pit which has been previously prepared and lined with burlap. The waste product passes out at the open end of the hollow cylinder and is carried off by a chain carrier. About six or eight gathering wagons and twelve or fifteen men are required to keep this machine going. Another machine built on the same plan is sometimes used, but instead of being stationary the mechanism is geared to the truck wheels. A large force of men and boys is engaged in gathering the cucumbers into buckets, which are filled and left in rows. Six horses are attached to the machine and as it is driven along these rows an assistant on a low platform catches up the buckets without stopping the machine, dumps them into the hopper, and as the pulp is separated from the coarser product it is gathered in a tank at the base of the machine. Each time the machine makes a round of the field it is stopped at a pit situated at one end of the field, and the pulp which has gathered in the tank is run off into this pit.
After fermenting in the pits for about ten days, during which time it is frequently stirred, the pulp is taken to the washer and the seeds are separated from the waste. After fermentation the waste is lighter than the seeds, and when stirred violently in water it rises and passes off, leaving the seeds. The washing is sometimes done in sluices placed in running water, but the most satisfactory work is done in a plant where the mixture is violently agitated by a large volume of water under pressure from a centrifugal power pump After being washed, the seeds are spread in burlap drying racks, and
328PAST AND PRESENT OF PLATTE COUNTY
when perfectly dry are then ready to be sacked and shipped to the mill, there to be scoured. There is a large drying plant west of town in which hot air from a coke furnace is fed to a huge blower operated by a twelve horsepower engine, the air being forced into a passage way about 24 feet long, 10 feet high and 2 feet broad. The sides of the passage are a kind of vibrating double lattice of metal, and into this lattice the seeds are fed from above, the warm air being forced from the passage way through the seeds as they work to the floor. In this plant about two thousand pounds of seeds can be dried each twenty-four hours by two men.
The squash harvest is handled similarly except that the pulp is scooped out by hand, and without fermentation is immediately run through a thresher cylinder with a mixture of water, and the seeds are then ready to be washed, dried and shipped. The shells of the squash make splendid feed for cattle and hogs.
VILLAGE OF OCONEE
Lost Creek, now Oconee, was first platted February 5, 1880. This plat was vacated and replatted May 21, 1883. It is a station at the junction of the two branches of the Omaha, Niobrara & Black Hills road, and within a few months after its first settlement had a grain elevator, hotel, general store, livery, blacksmith shop, a church and schoolhouse, and about fifty people. At the last census the population was seventy-one.
In April, 1882, the Lost Creek correspondent of the Columbus Journal spoke of this little village as follows: "During the winter an excellent school was taught in this district, where a lyceum occupied an occasional evening and some other literary entertainments were given. On each Sunday a sermon or two was delivered, pastors from Columbus officiating. A new church was organized, called the Christian, or Disciples Church. This is the junction of two important railroads, one of which, the Norfolk branch, connects with leading branches of the north and east, and the Albion branch is fast reaching out into the heart of the great Northwest, and the line which connects this junction with the Union Pacific and Columbus, ten miles to the east."
Oconee is the junction of the Spalding & Albion and Norfolk branches of the Union Pacific, and has by reason thereof better mail facilities than any other station on the branches. The village is nine
PAST AND PRESENT OF PLATTE COUNTY 329
miles from Columbus and is in a rich agricultural territory. It has two grain elevators, a small general store and a lumberyard.
A postoffice was first established here May 27, 1879, and called Lost Creek. It was presided over by Joseph Watts. The names of his successors follow: N. B. Olds, May 25, 1880; George F. Benedict, July 22, 1880; F. H. Gerrard, March 21, 1881; James Weatherbee, February 8, 1883; Mary A. Crookham, February 18, 1884. On the 10th day of September, 1885, the name of the office was changed to Dorrance. Mary A. Crookham remained in the office and on April 8, 1887, the name was again changed, this time to Oconee. On May 10, 1889, F. I. Colegrove was appointed postmaster. Then in their order came William D. Wilson, December 26, 1891; W. H. Murdock, May 3, 1894; Fannie S. Murdock, May 21, 1897; A. J. McDougall, May 5, 1902; Otto T. Weber, February 14, 1903; Daniel Murdock, July 3, 1903; Emma Souther, August 14, 1913.
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