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HISTORY of SEWARD COUNTY, NEBRASKA
by W. W. Cox
Excerpts by Alice Stipak, email@example.com
27 Mar 2000
I now have a copy of Cox's History of Seward Co. Nebraska (1888). I was very pleased to find biographies and new details of several of my 2nd and 3rd-great grandparents in the book. I am starting to post a few excerpts, but it is slow going. I'll do lookups if you're patient. -- Alice
"It is a matter of dispute whether Thomas West, who located on the South Blue at what is known as West Mills, or Daniel Morgan, who settled on the North Blue about four miles north of Milford, were the first permanent white settlers. We think it very doubtful if either party kept the right date of their settlement. Mr. Morgan claims to have made his settlement as early as 1858. Mr. West also claims to have made his in 1859. We think Mr. West is much nearer correct. At a very early day it was our understanding that Mr. West was the first permanent settler, and that he dropped out of the throng of gold [p. 27] seekers that were on their way to the mountains in 1860. Tradition tells us that a Mr. McKinley and a Mr. Morton lived on the North Blue, near where Ruby station now is, for a little time in about the year 1858, and that they got into trouble with the Indians and killed two of them, and were compelled to vacate.
"The graves of these Indians (or the supposed graves) have been pointed out to us on the side hill near the old Morgan settlement. J. L. Davison opened a ranch one mile west of the old Camden bridge in the autumn of 1862, and W. J. Thompson opened one about the same time near the mouth of Walnut creek."
"Father Dunaway, as he was familiarly called, settled on his homestead in section 3, township 11, range 3, about three miles north of the site of Seward, in July, 1864. His family had not yet arrived. He had made a small lumber shanty and was making other improvements. In the month of September, the writer, being yet a resident of Lancaster county, was here putting up hay preparatory to moving later in the fall.
"Grandfather Imlay was taking a stroll for recreation, and made it a point, as had been his custom, to call on Father Dunaway and have a chat. He went to the shanty, but the old man was not to be seen. He supposed the old man was hunting his oxen. He sat down and read a book that his eye chanced to meet. Waiting awhile, he went out and hallooed, but heard no response. He then began a search, and a little way to the south of the shanty he found the tall grass wallowed down. His suspicions being aroused, he continued the search, and following a slight trail further to the south, he found the old man dead and cold, in the midst of a large patch of wallowed grass.
"He hurried home and told his son, David P. Imlay. Dave mounted a horse and hurried to Lincoln creek (the land that is now Lewis Anderson's farm), where R. T. Gale, William and Joseph Imlay, and the writer, were putting up hay.
"What shall we do? was asked by one and all. It was suggested that Mr. Cox, being a justice of the peace for Lancaster county, would probably come nearer having a coroner's jurisdiction than any other available person, there being no officers yet in Seward county. Where can we get enough men for jurors? was the next question. Mr. Gale thought they could be found at the Morgan settlement, about six miles down the river. A venire for a coroner's jury (the first, last, and only one ever issued by this officer) was issued (in rather a crude form, we expect). Mr. Gale was sworn in as a special constable, with power to fill in names as occasion might require. All was hurry, and horseflesh was not spared, and just as the sun was setting behind the western hills that beautiful September evening, the little company arrived at the scene of the death of their friend and neighbor. Parties present were: R. T. Gale, special constable, David Imlay, Sr., D. P. Imlay, William Imlay, Joseph Imlay, Job Reynolds, Thomas Morgan, William Morgan, and W. W. Cox.
"It was a solemn scene. A little meadow nearly surrounded by a fringe of beautiful timber, a calm autumn evening, a sad stillness in the presence of death. With uncovered heads and uplifted hands the jury took their solemn oath, which, considering all the surroundings, made a deep impression upon all present. The inquest resulted in finding a verdict that the death of Father Dunaway was caused by cramp colic, as they verily believed.
"A rough board coffin was improvised from lumber of the shanty, and we buried him beneath the waving branches of sturdy oak, there to rest until called on the morning of the resurrection, and we returned to our homes sadly, because the death angel had so early visited our little settlement. The goods and chattels of the deceased were properly cared for and turned over to the widow upon her arrival."
On the morning of the last day of November, 1864, we loaded up the remainder of our earthly goods, assisted by our old friend and neighbor, Hon. William Imlay, and started for our new home in the wilderness, where we arrived on the first day of December. The
day we reached the homestead was a cold and gloomy one, and the sight of our beautiful grove made our hearts glad. We hastily built a huge fire of dry wood at hand, and while the north wind whistled around, making a melancholy sound, rustling through the timber, we rejoiced in the pleasant comfort of a good fire at our own home. Our little cabin with its huge fire-place was a home of comfort and many pleasant memories.
We must return to Lancaster county and relate a little incident which secured to Seward county her first representative in the legislature of 1865. As before stated, Seward was attached to Lancaster for judicial and legislative purposes. The writer was a delegate to the Lancaster county convention in the autumn of 1864, and we urged upon the convention the propriety of giving Seward county the float. It was conceded. William Imlay was nominated and elected without opposition. We were somewhat chagrined, however, when we learned that at the election in Seward county (held at the house of R. T. Gale) there were only seven votes cast. This election was held near the house, in a wagon belonging to Mr. Wooley. A cigar box served for a ballot box. Fred Wooley, then a lad, held the box while the men voted. They were all for Mr. Imlay, and he made a good member. The Lancaster fellows felt rather cheap that Seward county, without a delegate in their convention and only seven votes at the polls, should furnish a member to help represent them.
There were four families of us in our neighborhood. We put in the time as best we could during the winter. Mr. Imlay put in most of the winter at Omaha.
For the benefit of modern legislators we would remark, our member walked from his home to Plattsmouth and thus squarely earned his mileage.
Inasmuch as we were to blame for his election he required of us that we should do his chores, chop the firewood for the family, etc. We did it like a little man. Indians were strolling through continually, and were a great annoyance. They were intolerable beggars. During the early part of the winter the first white child was born in this settlement to Mr. and Mrs. Gale, viz., Miss Clara Gale, now a resident of Oregon.
March 16, 1865, our son, Lincoln W. Cox, was born, and was the first boy born in the north half of the county.
SEVENTH DAY ADVENTISTS CHURCH
organized a class May 23, 1875, near Ruby station, which was named Seward church. Local elder, Mathew Hackworth; first deacon, Alexander Hackworth; first secretary, Ella L. Hackworth. Organizing members in addition to the above officers were: Francis Morton, Drucilla Morton, Martha Rider, Alice Rider, Rebecca Hackworth, Abiatha Kennison, and Anginette Morgan. Present membership about twenty. Prominent members that have died are: Abiatha Kennison, who died Jan. 26, 1877; E. D. Hoagland, in 1884. The denomination design to build a house of worship as soon as they feel able to do so. They have an active missionary and tract society of fifteen members; also a Sabbath-school of full fifty scholars, which is in a prosperous condition.
Mary H. Johnson was born Jan. 3, 1834, in Fulton county, Illinois. Was married to Abram Wallick, July 26, 1850. Moved to Iowa in 1853. Joined the Baptist church in 1858. Moved to Seward county in 1868, where she died in February, 1871.
Mrs. W. was the mother of thirteen children, as follows: Elizabeth V. Smith, now dead, Christian J., John F., Ellen, Abram M., Martha N., Elvira, Melville, Wallace, Mary L., Henry C., Ada, and Jane.
Mrs. Wallick is remembered by all the older settlers as a very worthy Christian lady, who went through great tribulation to her brighter home in the skies to receive her crown.
William Hageman was born November 6, 1805, in Somerset county, New Jersey; was married at his native place to Miss Nettie A. Quickstriker. To them six children were born, viz., Maria, now Mrs. M. Young, of Raritan, Ills.; John S., now dead; G. Vandvere, now of Milford, Neb.; Jane N., now dead; Abraham V., of Seward, and Miss J. A., now the wife of Gus. Brokaw, of Ruby, Neb. The family removed to Fulton county, Illinois, in 1839, where he buried his wife, January 19, 1850. In the year following, he returned to New Jersey, and married Mrs. M. V. Skillman, a young widow, and the sister of his former wife. He brought her to the Fulton county home, where were born to them, Miss Helen V., now Mrs. F. Garner, of Ruby, Neb.; Chris. S. and Simon P., now of Seward, and Wm. W., now of Lincoln county, Nebraska. He removed to Seward county and settled on a homestead four miles south of Seward in the spring of 1866, where he lived until 1880, when he made his residence in the city of Seward, residing there until his death, which occurred November 15, 1882, at the advanced age of seventy-seven years. Mr. Hageman united with the Dutch Reformed church in his early life, and was an exemplary Christian through all the changeful scenes of a long life. His aged widow, a large family of children and grandchildren, together with a host of friends, mourn his loss. He was buried in the Hageman cemetery, near Ruby station.
MRS. JANE SNODGRASS
The mother of Rev. E. W. Johnson, was born Aug. 4, 1812, in North Carolina. She was the daughter of Elijah Wilcoxsen. When she was eighteen her parents moved to Kentucky, from thence to Fulton county, Ill., and located near the present town of Lewistown. Here she married Moses C. Johnson, in 1831. In 1851 her husband was killed by a runaway team. She was the mother of nine children; two sons and seven daughters. Among these children were Rev. E. W. Johnson; Mrs. Abram Wallich, now deceased, and Mrs. Thomas Skillman. In 1853 she was again married to Mr. James Snodgrass, and by him had one daughter. The old lady died at Seward, Oct. 16, 1874. Her death was caused by injuries received from a fall from the car steps at Seward depot one dark night. She suffered much pain for several months from the injuries. When death came to her relief it found her ready, and she quietly fell asleep in the arms of her Savior.
ELISHA L. ELLIS.
Was born in Henry county, Indiana, in 1834. Was raised a farm boy. Came to Lancaster county, Nebraska, in 1858. Made choice of a claim (the farm near the iron bridge, owned by Mr. Castle) on the 25th of June, 1858, and entered the same in 1860, it being the first land entry in Seward county. He returned to Missouri in 1864, and married Miss Artemesia Harrison. Returned to Seward county with his young wife in the spring of 1866, and took a homestead (his present farm). We quote in another chapter sketches from his memorandum kept from 1858 to 1864 of scenes and incidents on this wild frontier. Mr. and Mrs. Ellis have raised four children, all girls, viz., Mary L., now Mrs. B. F. Hickman; Nancy E., now Mrs. J. I. Hickman (she was born here); Effie E. and Lilly E., both with their parents. Mr. Ellis has had quite an important part in the development of our county and city. He was ever watchful and earnest in all matters where Seward's interests were at stake. At one time he saved Seward from ruin by detecting a fraud in a railroad bond proposition, where it was designed to have the people of Seward sign her own death warrant, by leaving such a loop-hole as would permit the railroad to cross Blue river four or five miles south of the present city, and thus have ruined our city forever. He was ever ready to dare and do anything for Seward, and is entitled to much credit for the energy displayed. He is a kind neighbor and a good citizen, somewhat odd in his manners, but a good, whole-souled man for all that.
REV. E. W. JOHNSON
Was born in Fulton county, Ill., Oct. 8, 1838. Was raised a farmer boy. While young was in poor health, and for some time it was thought that he would not live to become a man. His school privileges were meagre. His father was killed by accident when the lad was but twelve. At fourteen he resided with his grandparents at Lewiston. At eighteen commenced teaching in his native county, and until he was twenty-six he taught and went to school alternately, at the Lewiston Seminary. His health failing, he was compelled to abandon teaching. Married Miss Jane Street, in October, 1861. Shortly after their marriage they were both converted, under the pastorate of Rev. J. V. B. Flock, of the U. B. church, at Johnson school-house in Fulton county. He soon became impressed with the idea that it was his duty to preach the gospel. Was licensed in August, 1864. His health was so very poor that a change of climate was a necessity, and in 1866, May 13th, the family settled in Seward county. For six years his health was so poor that he could do but little preaching. He organized the first U. B. class at the residence of C. J. Neihardt. Commenced his regular work in the ministry in 1872 and 1873. Organized several churches in the county in the years 1874 and 1875. Conducted some revivals, in which a hundred or more were converted, and seventy-five were organized into classes. Was elected presiding elder in 1875, and was appointed to the south-east district of Nebraska. His labors were very successful, and during that year over four hundred were added to the church. Was re-elected in 1876, and sent to Fairmont district. This embraced Polk, York, Seward, Saline, Jefferson, Fillmore, and part of Hamilton counties. Overcome with labors, he rested during 1877, but was in the pulpit nearly every Sabbath. Was again elected elder in 1878, and sent to Omaha district, but was compelled to resign on account of ill health, but did service on West Blue circuit in York county. His labors were blessed, witnessing fifty conversions, and under his leadership Bethel church was erected. In 1879 was assigned to Lincoln creek circuit, and labored in Seward county and this year organized Seward church. In 1880 was appointed to Seward circuit, and that year their church was built and witnessed a revival. Was again elected presiding elder in 1881, and was assigned to Omaha district, but was unfortunately compelled again to resign. In 1882 was sent to Crete circuit, and labored with success, witnessing forty conversions.
Remained in charge of Crete circuit during 1883. In 1884 was again elected presiding elder, and sent to Plattsmouth district, where he remained in that honored position until the present. Was elected for fifteen consecutive years as corresponding secretary of the conference. Mr. Johnson has now regained his health and is quite rugged. His life has been thus far a very useful one in spreading the gospel in this new land.
Was born in Vermilion county, Ill., in 1833. His parents moved to Green county, Wisconsin, when Frank was but ten years old. Here he became a playmate of the author of this book. Was raised a farmer boy until he was seventeen years old, when he was taken violently with the gold fever, and in company with many of the neighbors made an overland trip to California, where he remained three years. Saved and brought home some money. Married Miss Drucilla Divan in 1854. Lived in the old neighborhood until their removal to Seward county in 1872, when they settled on a homestead about five miles south-east of Seward. Mr. and Mrs. Morton helped organize the Seventh Day Advent church at Seward. Mr. Morton enlisted in Company D, Wis. Vol., and served until wounded at Cedar Mountain. Was in Banks' famous retreat from Winchester, and had several close calls. Is now a member of Seward post. To Mr. and Mrs. Morton were born ten children, nine now living, as follows: Lucinda, now Mrs. A. Skillman, of Seward; Catherine, now Mrs. Alex Hackworth; Mary, now Mrs. John Hand, of Seward; Urias, now of Wray, Col.; Francis, Jr., of Ruby, Neb.; Thomas, of Wray; Ada, now Mrs. M. Boyes, of Wray; and Charles and Ira, of Ruby.
The first settler in F precinct, was born in New Jersey on Nov. 1, 1843. His widowed mother moved to Fulton county, Ill., in 1851, where Thomas was a resident until the spring of 1865. Married Miss America Johnson in December, 1864. The young couple moved to Seward county the following spring, and Mr. Skillman made his claim (the present farm) on Lincoln creek, and was for a time our most western settler. These young people had many hardships to endure, as they were just beginning life and had but little means, but by perseverance and energy they have succeeded in making for themselves a pleasant home and are now quite independent. They have only one child (a son), Jerry T., now past twenty-one, and is one of the few grown men that were born in this settlement.
For additional information on several of these people, please view Alice Stipak's research on the following genealogy pages -
Our Nebraska HAGEMAN Family Homepage:
Our Maria HOAGLAND Research Homepage:
Our John Domenicus STRYKER Research Homepage:
Our Maria VANDERVEER Research Homepage:
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