NEGenWeb Project
Resource Center-
On Line Library


Compendium of History Reminiscence & Biography of Western Nebraska

Horizontal Bar
page 230

the age of twenty he came to Niobrara City, Nebraska, and made settlement, taking a homestead in Holt county. His first house was a dug out, and here he "batched" it for four years, his experiences being many and varied, handling ox teams, and meeting with all the phases of life on a range.

      Mr. Barnes proved up on his homestead, and in 1886 was married to Miss Fluttie Sherman, a native of Mineral Point, Wisconsin. Her father, Theodore Sherman, was a farmer and old settler in Holt county, Nebraska, who was married to Mary Galbraith, a native of Ohio. To this union five children have been born, who are named as follows: Elmer, Myrtle, wife of Walter Gooden, Howard, Alvah (now dead), and Eva.

     In the spring of 1887 the family moved to Cherry county, locating on the Snake river, thirty miles from a railroad, and there went through hard times and the usual pioneer experiences. Much of our subject's time was spent in cutting fence posts which he hauled to Cody and sold for eight cents each, or collecting bones from the prairies and selling at the same place. This was their only source of "grub stake."

     Mr. Barnes started in life with a very small amount of capital, but with a strong constitution and any amount of energy and perseverance. He encountered many obstacles in his struggle, was often compelled to camp out doors nights, and may times found himself without even the necessaries of life. His first habitation in Cherry county in 1894, was built of logs with a dirt roof, and was made without a nail. A better house was later constructed in which the family lived until the fall of 1905, when he took Kinkaid homestead of four hundred and eighty acres, located in section 2, township 30, range 34, of Cherry county, Nebraska. which is his present home. He now has fifty acres of cultivated land, and altogether owns nine hundred and sixty acres. He is engaged principally in stock raising, having a herd of Aberdeen Angus cattle, and has met with great success in this direction.

      Mr. Barnes is considered one of the successful men of the county, and enjoys the esteem and respect of all who know him. In politics he is a Democrat, and a member of the Cody lodge, Modern Woodmen of America.

      A view of the family residence will be found elsewhere in this work.

Picture button



     For many years past the gentleman above named has been a part of the growth of the commercial and agricultural interests in that part of Grant county near and in the town of Whitman, and has been largely instrumental in the success of that thriving town, where he now makes his home, engaged in the lumber and general merchandise business, and is one of the prominent men in the place, giving his personal aid and influence in every movement which is started for the advancement of the locality.

      Lester B. Weaver was born in Winnebago county, Illinois, in 1857. His parents settled in that state in 1852, the father, George, following farming all his life. He was a native of New York state, of Holland Dutch stock. He married Mary E. Moore, of English descent, born in Massachusetts, and her ancestors were of that distinguished colony who came to America in the Mayflower in 1620. Lester was raised in Illinois, spending a part of his boyhood on the farm, and the balance in the city of Rockford, working at the carpenter's trade. When he was twenty-three years of age he left home and worked as a carpenter, following that trade for seven years. He came west in 1887, driving through different parts of Nebraska looking over the country in search of a desirable location, finally pre-empting a claim on June 1st, of the latter year, situated seven miles northeast of Whitman, at that time Weir being the nearest shipping point. When he came into the vicinity there were seven cars of immigrants, whole families coming to make settlement, scattering all over this region. Our subject started to do carpenter work and built up many homes in and around Hyannis and Whitman. In the fall of 1898 he secured employment as a clerk in a general store and continued in the work up to 1901, when he was appointed postmaster of the Whitman village. During that time he also purchased a drug stock and carried on the business for a time, disposing of it in 1902. In the latter part of 1901 he bought an interest in the Whitman Lumber Yard and soon added to this coal, builders' hardware, farm machinery, barbed wire, etc., and has developed a splendid trade. He has lately established a general store, has a big stock of goods, representing about eight thousand dollars worth, and is doing a large business.

      Mr. Weaver was married in 1879, to Miss Viola Phipps, whose parents were old settlers in Michigan. Three children were born to this marriage, but they all died of diphtheria within a week in November, 1889. Their names and age at death were as follows: Emma, aged nine years; Mena, aged six years; and Sadie, aged three years.

      Mr. Weaver is one of the leading citizens in local affairs, having held different offices for many years past, serving as county judge, jus-public. (sic) He has taken an active part in establish-tice (sic) of the peace, and for eleven years as notary


Compendium of History Reminiscence & Biography of Western Nebraska

Horizontal Bar
page 231

ing (sic) and building up the schools in his section, and by his deep interest in the welfare of his community holds a high place in the esteem of his fellowmen. He is a prominent member of the Modern Woodmen of America Lodge, and has been clerk of that organization for the past eleven years. He is also an I. O. O. F. and has held office in that lodge since 1900.


     Among the energetic and prosperous business men of Harrison, Sioux county, Nebraska, none stands higher in the estimation of his community than John I. Davis, who has devoted many years of his career to the pursuit of agriculture and helped develop this section of the state into the fertile farming community it now represents. He has met with pronounced success in the ventures he has made along all lines, and is now in a position to enjoy the results of his hard labors.

      Mr. Davis was born in Washara county, Wisconsin, in 1860. His parents were both of old American stock and were early pioneer settlers in Minnesota, where they spent about fifteen years. They then came to Valley county, Nebraska, in 1877, where they bought land and started to build up a farm. Later they moved to Sioux county, arriving January 3, 1887, and filed on a homestead near Harrison, the county seat. Our subject's father was an old soldier in the Civil war, enlisting in Minnesota in 1862 and seeing hard service up to 1865. His hard campaigning left him in bad health and never afterwards was what you could call a well man. He ran the Commercial Hotel in Harrison at one time, and was postmaster under the Harrison administration up to the time of his death, which occurred in 1891.

      He went through all the pioneer experiences in this section, having a hard time to get his farm started, and during those days worked as a clerk in different business houses in Harrison. He held the office of county treasurer for one term, receiving the election in 1901. In 1903 he began in the mercantile business in Harrison, purchasing the business from Marsteller Bros. The business was established in 1886 by D. H. Griswold. Mr. Davis carries a full and complete line of goods, conducts his store on strictly business principles and has one of the best houses of its kind in Sioux county, enjoying a very lucrative patronage from all over the county. He handles furniture, dry goods and all kinds of merchandise.

     In October, 1885, Mr. Davis was married to Miss Alice Hutchins, who shared with him the early hardships and privations they met with on first settling here, and together they have enjoyed the prosperity which has come to them in later years. They have an interesting family of three sons and three daughters, namely: Archie, Dan, Edna, Rosseta, John and Wanda.


     Hon. J. A. Wilcox, who occupies a prominent place among the worthy citizens of McCook, Nebraska, is one of the best known men in this section of the country.

      Mr. Wilcox is a native of Canaan, New York, his father, Sylvester C. Wilcox, having been a practicing physician in Columbia county, New York, for over forty years, and his brother, Joseph Wilcox, was a soldier in the War of 1812, having participated in the battle of Sackett's Harbor. Our subject has always been a Republican, and his first vote in 1864 was cast for Abraham Lincoln. At this time he was serving in the Army of the James. He had enlisted in Company A, One Hundred and Twenty-eighth New York Regiment, at Hudson, New York, in 1862, and served in the same up to 1864, when he was promoted to first lieutenant of the Thirty-eight colored troops and went with his company to Texas, where he was adjutant of the regiment for ten months, and was mustered out at Richmond, Virginia, about January 13, 1867. He was provost marshal and aide de camp, Second Brigade, First Division, Twenty-fifth Army Corps; also commanded the company about ten months under Sheridan.

      After the war closed he moved to Gillman, Illinois, and in 1870 entered the mercantile business there. He came to McCook in 1884 and opened a mercantile and grocery business, and has been in this ever since under the firm name of Wilcox Bros., or Wilcox & Fowler, or J. A. Wilcox & Son, the latter, E. J. Wilcox, now being clerk of Redwillow county, serving his third term. In 1888 our subject was elected a member of the Twenty-first session of the Nebraska legislature, and it was in that session the law was passed to amend the constitution so as to submit liquor licenses to be voted on by the people, which was carried in the legislature but lost in election. E. J. Wilcox served as city clerk, and also as city treasurer of McCook for many years, and in the year 1894 was a candidate before the state convention for secretary of state.


Compendium of History Reminiscence & Biography of Western Nebraska

Horizontal Bar
page 232

     Mr. Wilcox was married in 1882 to Miss Callie Smith, of Washington, Illinois, and they have two children, E. J., above mentioned, and one daughter, now Mrs. C. R. Woodruff, of McCook.

      Mr. Wilcox is a prominent member of the Blue Lodge, Chapter, Council and Commandery; belongs to the Woodmen, Ancient Order of United Workmen and the Maccabees. He is a member of the Methodist Episcopal church, and president of the board of trustees, which office he has held since its organization in 1884. This was the first church built in western Nebraska, and cost nearly twenty thousand dollars. He is also first commander of the Grand Army of the Republic post of this district, and past commander of the district and post.

      He takes a general interest in all matters of national, state and local affairs, and is a man of much activity of mind and a citizen of true worth. He has two brothers also living here, both successful stock and ranchmen, a sketch of F. S. Wilcox appearing on another page of this volume.


     Benjamin F. Ray, one of the prominent business men and deservedly esteemed citizens of Rushville, Nebraska, is a man of exceptional business capacity, who has met with a great measure of success as an artist and photographer. He established his present gallery, in May, 1900, and is thoroughly competent in this line of work.

     Mr. Ray was born in Rushville, Indiana, in 1858. His father, William H. Ray, now seventy-five years of age, was a carpenter by trade, and his family of nine children, of whom our subject is the eldest, were raised in their native state. At the age of twenty-one he came to eastern Nebraska, where he lived for three years and followed the profession of a teacher in the Saunders county schools. From there he went to Ottertail county, Minnesota, and after taking up a homestead continued teaching and remained until he proved up on his farm, then went back to his old home in Indiana.

      In 1891 he came to Crawford, Dawes county, Nebraska, and taught school for eight years. During these years he devoted a great deal of time to the study of photography, and spent some time in Chicago learning retouching and becoming familiar with all branches of the work. In 1893 Mr. Ray took a special course while residing in Chadron attending the Chadron Academy.

      In 1881 Mr. Ray was married to Miss Harriet Rowe, whose father was a farmer of German descent, an old soldier in the Union army and an ardent Republican in politics, who used to say "he always voted as he shot." Two children were born of this union, Ernest and Erwin, and the mother forfeited her life in giving birth to them.

      Mr. Ray married again in 1898, this time to Miss Amy Leek, whose father was Rev. William Leek, a minister of the Baptist church of Missouri and one of the pioneers of that state. This marriage occurred in Chadron, Nebraska, where Mr. Ray met Miss Leek. She was also a school teacher in Dawes county. Three children have been born to them, namely: Dorothy, Harold and Margaret. The family have a pleasant and happy home and are popular residents of the town.

      Mr. Ray has always taken an active interest in politics in the county and is classed among the public-spirited men of his community. He is now serving as one of the deputy assessors of his district.


     Sheridan Williams, one of the prominent early settlers of Harlan county, Nebraska, resides at Alma, where he has a comfortable home and a large circle of friends and acquaintances. He is widely known in this section as a successful, prosperous farmer and stockman.

      Mr. Williams is a native of Illinois, and was born in 1867. His father, Weyman W. Williams, came to Nebraska from Adair county, Missouri, locating in Harlan county with his family in 1886. He served for over four years during the war in the Sixty-fourth Illinois Volunteer Infantry, Company D. This regiment was made up from volunteers of Hancock, Illinois, and saw hard service in Kentucky, Tennessee, Mississippi and Georgia, and was with Sherman in all his campaigns. Mr. Williams was in many battles, including the battles of Vicksburg, Shiloh and Corinth, also at Atlanta and other famous actions, and never received a wound. The Williams family originally came from Kentucky, settling in Illinois in the pioneer days of the state. Our subject's mother was a Miss Annie Fortney, native of Pennsylvania.

     In 1886 Mr. Williams came to Nebraska and settled in Harlan county. He first rented land, and later bought a farm in Eldorado


Compendium of History Reminiscence & Biography of Western Nebraska

Horizontal Bar
page 233

township, consisting of four hundred and eighty acres, selling off three hundred and twenty acres after a short time. In 1904 he moved to Alma, purchasing ten acres on Cook creek, an ideal feeding place. This is supplied with plenty of water and many trees, and is a very valuable piece of property. On this stands the remains of Cook's log house, where one of the first terms of court in the county was held.

      Mr. Williams is starting a herd of purebred Poland-China hogs, and is now feeding three hundred and twenty head of cattle. He also keeps a thoroughbred jack and has a McLaughlin Brothers imported horse worth three thousand dollars.

      In 1892 our subject was married to Miss Dora Keiser, daughter of Elijah Keiser, who settled on a homestead in Harlan county in 1872, and still lives on the farm he homesteaded then. The Keisers originally came from Ohio. Mr. and Mrs. Williams have a family of four sons, namely: Howard, Harry, Lawrence and Paul.

     Mr. Williams has been a member of the county board for two terms, and was candidate for sheriff in 1905, representing the Independent party, but lost out and has taken more or less active part in politics ever since.


     The gentleman whose name heads this personal history is one of the prominent residents of Rock county, Nebraska. Mr. Davis was born in Corning, Adams county, Iowa, on September 5, 1879. His father, Harry P. Davis, was a contractor and builder at Corning, still maintaining that business and address. He is of American stock, and married Miss Josephine Ritchie, of English descent, American-born, whose family was among the pioneer settlers in Adams county. There was a family of six children, and of these our subject was the third in order of birth, reared and educated in his home town. In the summer of 1899 he came to Newport and became cashier of the Rock County State Bank, remaining in that position for five years.

     In 1903 Mr. Davis was elected county clerk and was re-elected in 1905. On completing his second term in 1907 Mr. Davis opened a real estate office in Newport, in which he is prospering. In politics he is a Democrat, and has always taken an active interest in party politics, being recognized as a man of superior intelligence and judgment, and commanding the respect of all with whom he comes in contact in a business or social way. Mr. Davis owns a three hundred and twenty-acre farm in this county, most of which is in hay land.

      In 1902 Mr. Davis was married to Miss Cora Berry, daughter of John H. Berry, a prominent resident of Newport. To Mr. and Mrs. Davis have been born the following children: Gerald and Glenn. Mrs. Davis was a music teacher prior to her marriage, and had a large class of pupils from both Rock and Holt counties. Mr. Davis is a member of the Masonic fraternity, with lodge affiliations at Bassett, which he has served as master.


     The subject of this sketch, John D. Hopken, is an example of what German thrift and perseverance will accomplish. He was born in Germany, in the northern part of Oldenburgh, February 16, 1853. His father, Johan Herman Hopken, was a baker and merchant, and his mother was Elizabeth Knudson, both born in Germany. Mr. Hopken's youth was spent in the old country in various occupations. He followed the occupation of farming for a time and served in the German army during the war with France and was with his command on French territory for twenty-three months. After leaving the army he was foreman on a government farm for about seven years, and five years were spent as foreman in a coal mine.

     Our subject came to America in 1883, sailing from Havre on the "Elbe," and after a voyage of eleven days landed in New York City on February 17. He came direct to Lincoln and thence went to Seward county, where he remained for two years, farming on rented land. He came to Ogallala in 1885 and took a homestead southeast of Ogallala, building a frame shack on the homestead. He had five dollars and one horse when he settled on his homestead, and from this small beginning he has built up the success which is now his. In 1893 he was in good circumstances, but in the big fire of that year he lost twenty-nine head of cattle, his home, barn, granary, harness and furniture and was obliged to borrow money to start anew. He also worked out by the day. So complete was the loss that they used pine sticks in place of forks for a meal or two after the fire; everything was destroyed except their potatoes. Their crops were failures for several years, but Mr. Hopken, although greatly discouraged, did not give up, and when, in

Compendium of History Reminiscence & Biography of Western Nebraska

Horizontal Bar
page 234

1907, he sold out, he had a ranch of seven hundred acres on the South Platte river, all finely improved with good buildings and machinery. He received ten thousand dollars as the price, and with this he bought his present livery business and a residence in Ogallala, and also has sixty head of horses and one hundred head of cattle.

      Mr. Hopken's first wife died some time ago and left one son, J. H. Hopken. Mr. Hopken was married a second time in 1907 to Mrs. Mary Kildare, a native of Ireland, who came to America with her parents in 1883, sailing from Liverpool to Boston. She owns a fine ranch of five hundred acres, with sixty head of horses and a hundred cattle.

      Our subject is one of the oldest settlers of Keith county and has done his share in making the county what it is. He has had many discouragements, but, in spite of all, he has persevered and attained his present wealth. He is a member of the Lutheran church, while Mrs. Hopken is a Catholic in faith.


     Carl A. Johnson, when but four years of age, settled with his parents in Nebraska in 1879, locating in Colfax county at that time. His father was one of the prominent pioneers of that county. He has gone through all the experiences of the old timers in western Nebraska, and has watched its growth and progress through the different stages of its development, lending his aid willingly and liberally at all times for the bettering of conditions in his locality. Mr. Johnson now resides on section 8, township 22, range 15, Garfield county, where he has a well developed farm and comfortable home one mile east of Deverre postoffice.

     Mr. Johnson was born in 1874 in Wisconsin. He came of Norwegian stock, his father and mother having come to this country from Norway in 1867, settling in Wisconsin, where their family of eight children were born. They all came to Nebraska in 1879. The father bought one hundred and twenty acres in Colfax county and started to develop a farm there. He met with good success and then came to Garfield county, Nebraska. In 1901 our subject left home and settled in Garfield county on a homestead of one hundred and sixty acres, where his father owned a farm adjoining. Mr. Johnson has always employed progressive methods in his operations, has all of his land under cultivation, raising wheat, oats and corn principally, running only enough stock for his farming and domestic purposes. During 1906 Mr. Johnson raised ten hundred and eighty bushels of oats from thirty-five acres of ground, and thirteen hundred bushels of corn from forty acres, and states that this is much better than could be done on any land in the eastern part of the United States, and it is only a fair average for Nebraska. He is of the opinion that a poor man's chances are the same as two to one between this country and the east. Mr. Johnson came here with but very little capital when he first started out for himself and has built up a good farm and valuable property in a very short time. His place is well supplied with good water, supplied from deep wells with windmills and supply tanks. The place is situated on the tableland and he has no cause to worry about floods, and has never had a water spout or cyclone since living in this region.

      Mr. Johnson is a bachelor, a worthy citizen and good friend, belonging to the Lutheran church Burwell. Politically he is a Republican, but has never aspired to office.


     William Weygint, retired, of McCook, Redwillow county, Nebraska, came to the county in 1872, in April of that year, accompanied by Lewis Korn, Judge Hill and George Hunter, the last mentioned three all coming from Tabor, Iowa, and our subject from Vernon, Oneida county, New York. During the first year Mr. Weygint squatted on land here, and in 1873 he took up a homestead where Indianola now stands. There he had one hundred and sixty acres, and he was the first white man to plow a furrow in this region. He had good luck with corn and potatoes on the sod, having a yield of forty bushels per acre. He built a dugout for a house on Boone creek, and in 1874 his wife joined him, also the families of the other men who came here with him, and the four families all settled near together, forming a sort of protection for each other. Soon afterwards ten other families came in, and there was quite a settlement made up. Mr. Weygint lived on that place for twelve years, then the B. & M. Railway came in and cut his land in two pieces, so that part of it was inside the corporation of Indianola, then the county seat. He then sold out the place and moved to Frontier county, locating on a ranch of six hundred and forty acres, and went into the stock business.

Horizontal Bar

Prior page
Name index
Next page

© 2001 NEGenWeb Project Resource Center, Marilyn J. Estrada, T&C Miller