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Compendium of History Reminiscence & Biography of Western Nebraska

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Fleming are the parents of two daughters, Ida and Maggie, both pupils of the Holdrege High School. The family are members of the M. E. church of Holdrege, of which Mr. Fleming was a trustee for a long time.

      Mr. Fleming is an active Republican, and has been a delegate to state and county conventions at different times. He is a man of wide experience, and takes an active interest in all local affairs.


     Harry V. Downing, one of the prosperous ranchers of township 29, range 37, owns a fine ranch of seventeen hundred acres on section 30, and adjoining section, and is a progressive and industrious member of his community.

      Mr. Downing was born in Jones county, Iowa, in 1868. Henry A. Downing, the father of our subject, was an old settler in Cherry county, Nebraska, and a prominent veteran of the civil war, passing through the state of Nebraska and other western states with the United States troops during the early days on Indian campaigns, and was one of the leading old-timers of the region. He passed many years in Iowa, where Harry was reared and educated, and when he was a lad of twelve the family came to Butler county, Nebraska, where the father homesteaded and proved up on his claim, and after a short residence there returned to Iowa. In 1888 our subject come (sic) to Cherry county, traveling by way of a covered wagon from Iowa, spending six months on the trip, camping out along the way, their first location being twenty-two miles east of the town of Gordon. Mr. Downing first worked all over that country as a cowboy, and finally took a homestead, "batching it" for several years, and proved up on the place, and established his first ranch.

      In 1894 Mr. Downing came to his present location, this ranch having been established in 1888, which was the property of Mrs. Jasen H. Cole, who was an old settler in the county, she owning part of the ranch in her own right. This has been improved in splendid shape by our subject, all fenced, and a fine set of buildings which he has erected. He has bought other land from time to time and now the place contains about one thousand seven hundred in all. He cultivates twenty acres only, using it almost exclusively as stock ranch, and has met with splendid success along these lines. At times since locating here Mr. Downing has suffered severe losses caused by blizzards, his greatest loss being in 1892, when property and stock destroyed amounted to 40 per cent. In May, 1809, Mr. Downing purchased the Gates & Ganow ranch, containing one thousand six hundred acres joining his present ranch on the southwest, one of the best hay ranches in the county, yielding about one thousand to one thousand one hundred tons each season.

      In 1897, Mr. Downing married Mrs. Sadie Cole, widow of Jasen H. Cole, whose maiden name was McCawley. By her first marriage she was the mother of two children: Jay and Ray Cole, now attending the high school at Hastings, Nebraska. Jay expects to graduate this session; and of her second marriage two children have been born, George, now aged eight years, attending school at Kings, Cherry county, Nebraska; and Doris, aged three years.

      Mr. Downing is identified with the Republican party politically, and is one of the leading mean in local affairs.


     The gentleman above named, living a retired life in Minden, Nebraska, is one of the oldest settlers in Nebraska, having come to Richardson county in 1876 where he bought a farm for five dollars per acre, and after farming it for one year sold it for one thousand four hundred dollars, an advance of over six hundred dollars over what he paid for it. He then bought another farm, for which he paid two thousand dollars, improved with house, and after keeping this for four years and adding some improvements, disposed of the place at a profit of four thousand dollars. He was most successful in every undertaking, and everything he touched seemed to turn to money. In 1883 he came to Hastings, where he purchased three hundred and twenty acres, paying for this land five thousand eight hundred dollars, and after holding it for a year sold it for eight thousand, then came to Kearney county two years later and bought a farm of one thousand and eighty acres in May township which he used for a stock ranch. He also bought one hundred and sixty acres at Hartwell, and made that his home for several years, engaged in the cattle feeding and shipping business, with Omaha as a market. He left there in 1893 and moved to Perkins county, then returned to Kearney in February of that year and has since that time farmed in this locality. In 1901 he came to Minden and has resided in that town since that time. He owns a farm in Phelps county, also one in Clay county and one hundred and sixty acres which adjoins Clay Centre.

      Mr. Messner was born in Dauphin county, near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, and is a son of John Messner, who came to Ogle county, Ill-


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nois, in 1847, from Dauphin county, Pennsylvania.

     Before coming to Nebraska Mr. Messner farmed in Henry county, Illinois, and states that a man can make more money here than in that state, considering the amount invested. He raises fully as good crops here and the yield is as large and prices obtained equally as good.

     While living in Illinois Mr. Messner enlisted in the 92d Illinois Infantry in 1862, and served up to May, 1865, participating in the battle of Cumberland and in all of the battles of that regiment until after the fall of Atlanta, and was discharged at St. Louis on account of sickness. He was at Chattanooga, Chickamauga, Lookout Mountain, the Resaca raid around Atlanta, and many other famous battles, and during all that time was never wounded.

      In 1903 Mr. Messner was married to Mrs. P. J. Merrill, who came with her first husband, P. J. Merrill, from Bradford county, Pennsylvania, settling where Newark now stands in Kearney county, in 1878. Mr. Merrill was engaged in the grain business at that place. He was county commissioner about 1888 and Democratic candidate for county clerk previous to 1883. He died in 1893 at the age of forty-two years, leaving a widow and four children, Lena, Reye, Scott and Mason. Her maiden name was Hattie Sinsabaugh, all of her relatives residing in Pennsylvania, when she came west, and after coming to Nebraska, she saw the first house ever erected in Minden, which was moved here from Lowell.

     Mr. and Mrs. Messner are members of the M. E. church and he is one of its trustees. He is also a member of the G. A. R. post at Minden.


     Dan W. Hughes, one of the well-known citizens of Box Butte county, Nebraska, is a prosperous and well-to-do business of Alliance, where he had lived for many years.

      Mr. Hughes was born in Youngstown, Ohio, in 1865. His father, James Hughes, was born in Wales, and followed the occupation of miner and farmer. He married Lydia H. Jackson, of English descent, after settling in America, and when our subject was seven years old, the family moved on a farm in Ohio, where he was reared, and in his boyhood attended the same school that our late President William McKinley did when he was a boy. He later attended the Ohio State University and received a good education. In 1886 he came to Box Butte county, driving out from Hay Springs, and took up government land located two miles south of the site of Alliance, and put up his first building, which was a sod shanty. Here he "batched it" and worked out, later taking up a homestead west of Broncho Lake, and proved up on it. He was in this part of the state for about eight years, then went back to Ohio where he worked his father's farm for four years, when the latter died, then returned to Nebraska. During the year 1898 he worked for his father-in-law, who was in the ice business at Alliance, and the following year he bought the business and has run it ever since, and has an extensive trade. For one year he was in the livery business here, also spent a short time railroading. He a man of industrious habits and good business ability, and has been successful in his different enterprises, always giving his best efforts to whatever he has in hand, which is the secret of success in any line of work.

     In June, 1894, Mr. Hughes married Miss Mary Fenner, daughter of Rosell Fenner, one of the pioneers of Alliance, settling in the town in 1888. His family came in on the first emigrant train that came here, and he took up government land which he afterwards proved up on. Mrs. Hughes' mother was Miss Merica E. Chritton, and the family were originally from Illinois. To Mr. and Mrs. Hughes one child was born, Estelle.

     Mr. Hughes is a Republican, takes an active interest in politics and for the past several years has served as a delegate to different conventions and on the central committee. He is a member of the school board, and has the distinction of being the youngest and oldest member of that board. Mr. and Mrs. Fenner, parents of Mrs. Dan. Hughes, have been married forty-two years and are still quite active at their present advanced age. Mr. Rosell Fenner served about four years in the civil war.


     Jackson Billeter, long familiar to the people of Ainsworth, Brown county, where his fortunes have been cast for many years, is a striking representative of those sturdy qualities and manly virtues that somehow peculiarly marked the pioneer settlers of Nebraska. His career demonstrates the value of persistent and well directed effort and the competence which he has ac-acquired (sic) stands for hard and faithful work. Mr. Billeter was born on a farm in Clay county, Indiana, April 25, 1851, and comes of a family in whose veins flow mingled English, Irish, Scotch and Welsh blood, and the combination in part may account for the vim and energy he is wont


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to display. His father, Penthus Billeter, was a farmer, and died in Iowa, after having tried settlement in Nebraska in 1855, but remaining here only a year. Indians were then at the height of their insubordination, and in 1856 he betook himself to Harrison county, Iowa, and the year following to Shelby and for more than thirty years was identified with Iowa interests and occupations.

      Jackson Billeter found life on an Iowa farm full of hard work, and grew to manhood familiar with toil. He was married May 11, 1874, to Miss Sarah E. Kniss. She was a native of Wabash county, Indiana, a daughter of Abraham and Margaret (McMurlen) Kniss, the former born in West Virginia, the latter in Pennsylvania. They have two children, William E. and Orval K., born in Nebraska.

     For some two years after their marriage, the Billeters pursued farming in Iowa, but in July, 1877, came into Cass county, Nebraska, on their way to Texas. Mrs. Billeter however, was in such poor health that they could not continue the journey, and stopped in Cass county, making their home with relatives for a time. Mr. Billeter came into Brown county in 1882, reaching Ainsworth on the twenty-fifth day of April of that year. The long journey from Cass county across country was made in a covered wagon, and required some six weeks for its completion. There were four families who came together, and thus formed a company that relieved the trip of much of its tedium. Mr. Billeter made a homestead entry in section 8, township 30, range 22, where he constructed a shanty, which the following year gave place to a sod house, much more roomy and comfortable.

      Good fortune has waited on honest effort and Mr. Billeter has acquired title to a half section of land, of which about two hundred and twenty acres are under thorough cultivation, improved with a good farm house, barns and sheds.

      The good character, integrity and industry of the subject of this article have won him the kind opinion of the public. In politics he is a Democrat.




     Benjamine E. Brothers, one of the influential stock growers of Kimball county, resides on a fine ranch in section 28, township 16, range 53. Mr. Brothers was born September 18, 1852, in Richland county, Illinois, and was the third of eleven children in his father's family. Three sisters are living, the others are now dead.

      When our subject was about seven years of age, the family removed to Logan county and from thence to Dewitt, Illinois, remaining there until the spring of 1888. At that time Mr. Brothers came to Cheyenne county, Nebraska, locating in what is now Kimball county, arriving here at 9 o'clock February 18, 1888. He took a pre-emption in the southwest quarter of section 8, township 16, range 53, and located a homestead on section 22 in the same township, and now has land in section 28 of this township. He has a splendid ranch of four hundred and eighty acres, cultivating 65 acres and using the balance for hay and grazing purposes. The farm contains good improvements and is well-equipped for stock raising. He runs about one hundred head each year. He also runs a good bunch of horses.

      Benjamine E. Brothers was married August 16, 1874, to Miss Lizzie L. Henderson, a native of Dewitt county, Illinois, where the wedding was performed. Mr. and Mrs. Brothers have five children: William, now married and living on the northeast quarter of section 8, township 16, range 53; Minnie, now Mrs. D. K. Atkins; Charles, single; Cora L., single; and Emma, now Mrs. Charles Stanton, living in Cheyenne county.

      Mr. Brothers is a Democrat in politics and is active in public matters. Mrs. Brothers is postmistress at Bethel postoffice (sic). This office was located on our subject's farm in 1906. He cast his lot here on wild prairie land, and with but a small start succeeded in building a comfortable home and farm. Many antelope were to be seen in this region in those days and at times bothered to such an extent that he had trouble in keeping them out of the garden. Mr. and Mrs. Brothers have witnessed the hard time of those early days and know well by experience the hardships of frontier life. Mr. Brothers had to be away a good part of the time, as he was engaged in railroad work, and at these times his wife had the care of the place alone.


     Enos R. Barnes, a prominent stock raiser of Cherry county, Nebraska, was born on a farm in Fillmore county, Minnesota, September 30, 1860. His father, Alvah E. Barnes, was a farmer, and his mother was Miss Cornelia McMillan, both of good old American stock.

      Enos. R. Barnes was the second in a family of five children. When our subject was 11 years of age the family settled in Butler county, Iowa, where he was raised and educated, and there learned to do all kinds of hard farm work. At

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