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Compendium of History Reminiscence & Biography of Western Nebraska

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Scotch-Irish ancestry. His grandfather, James, was born in Ireland and coming to America, he was a soldier in the Revolutionary war. Our subject's parents, Thomas and Catherine (Wright) Rankin, were farmers in Pennsylvania.

      Joseph Rankin was reared on a farm in his native state and was given good educational advantages. Later he entered Monmouth College, at Monmouth, Illinois, where he completed his junior year.

      When our subject was twenty-two years of age, in 1871, he came west to Nebraska and became one of the early pioneers of eastern Cass county. The entire family came at this time and our subject conducted his father's farm and business for years. He made trips to western Nebraska as early as 1882 and helped establish a large ranch in Blaine county. North Loup was the nearest railroad town at that time and Mr. Rankin had a long way to go for supplies and material, eighty-five miles. Many a night on these weary trips he has slept under his wagon in all kinds of weather and miles from the nearest habitation.

      Joseph A. Rankin and Miss Elizabeth Peart were married in 1891. She was the daughter of Samuel and Esther (Gibson) Peart, who were Pennsylvania farmers.

      After his marriage our subject spent one year in Cedar county. In 1900 he came to Blaine county and settled on his present ranch on the North Loup river, entering a homestead and buying other land. His good house, barns and other improvements, prove that he has laid the foundations of permanent wealth and prosperity. Mr. Rankin is a man of excellent business qualifications and education and wields a strong influence for public good.



     Prominent among the younger agriculturists of Kimball county is the gentleman above mentioned, who is owner of a well-improved estate in Kimball. His postoffice address is Crossbar, which is located on his farm, and Mrs. Johnson is the present postmistress, filling the office to the satisfaction of all.

      Elmer Johnson was born in Sweden, June 1, 1877, and at the age of three years came to America with his father, mother, three brothers and one sister. They first located in eastern Nebraska, arriving there in the spring of 1880, remained for six years, then moved to Wyoming. While living in Saunders county, Nebraska, the family suffered a sad loss in the death of one daughter and one son.

      In 1888 our subject came alone into Kimball county, and in 1899 filed on a homestead on northwest quarter section 26, township 13, range 58, proved up on it, and later took a Kinkaid homestead in the same section. He worked faithfully, and by good management and industry succeeded in building up a good home and farm. He now has sixty acres under cultivation, raises good crops of small grains, vegetables, etc. His place is well improved and equipped with first-class buildings. He deals in stock to quite an extent, running at the present time forty-five head of cattle and seventy-five horses. He has a fine property, and richly deserves his success and high standing.

      Mr. Johnson was married at Kimball, Nebraska, on February 6, 1901, to Lillian Deacher, who was born in northeastern Nebraska and reared there. Mrs. Johnson's parents are now living in Oklahoma. To our subject and his wife have been born the following children: Rena, Kenneth, Mamie and Andry, all bright and interesting youngsters, who bid fair to be a great help to their parents when they grow up. Portraits of both Mr. and Mrs. Johnson will be found on another page.

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     Mr. Johnson's father resides in Pine Bluffs, Wyoming, while his mother is dead. Our subject is a Republican in politics, and is active in local affairs, having served as county assessor for two terms, from 1901 to 1903, and in 1907 was elected county commissioner, entering upon his duties as such January 1, 1908.

     One brother of our subject, Eric Johnson, is also a resident of Kimball county, coming here in 1906, locating on a Kinkaid homestead on section 10, township 13, range 58. He is married and has three children, while another brother, Conrad, residing on section 22, township 13, range 58, is unmarried, and the possessor of a good farm. All are held in the highest esteem as worthy citizens and good neighbors.


     To the present visitor of the agricultural district of western Nebraska, a pleasant sight in the well improved farms and highly cultivated tracts, greets the eye, and it is hard to conceive of the transformation that has taken place in the country within the past quarter of a century. The gentleman above named, settled in Saunders county in 1871, and the following year homesteaded in Marshall town-

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ship, Clay county, taking up one hundred and sixty acres, also three hundred and twenty acres as tree claim, and on the latter planted 13, 778 trees, this being the third tree claim to be taken up in Nebraska. He has been one of the foremost men in the region and much of the prosperity which has come to the residents of the locality has been brought about through the efforts of just such men as Mr. Short; men who have given liberally of their time, money and influence in building up and developing the natural resources of the county.

     Mr. Short is a native of Leicestershire, England, and came to America in 1848, and after landing in New York spent two years there. He then came west and was educated at the schools of Chicago, where his parents settled. They took up their residence at the corner of Clark and Harrison streets, and the district, which is now one of the busiest and most closely congested spot in that city, was then occupied by small cottages inhabited by families from foreign countries who had settled there, and many of them laid the foundations of good fortunes.

      Our subject attended the public schools of Chicago, and early read law, as he was ambitious to make that his life work. He was admitted to the bar in Nuckolls county, Nebraska, in 1876, opened an office at Nelson, and practiced there for twenty-five years, up to 1903.

     In 1862 Mr. Short enlisted in the First Illinois Light Artillery and served in this in the Fifteenth Army Corps. He was with the Army of the Tennessee, and took part in twenty-two battles from Vicksburg to Nashville. His regiment lost one thousand four hundred and eighty-one men during the war. At the close of the war he was transferred to Bridges' battery.

      After the war he returned to Illinois. Mr. Short settled in Franklin county, Nebraska, in 1871. He organized the Alexander Guards and was captain of this company, called Company H. First Nebraska, until after the Pine Ridge and Wounded Knee Indian outbreaks, his regiment taking an active part in these wars.

      Captain Short's son, Ed. M., attended the state university of Nebraska and was admitted to the bar before he was twenty-one years of age.

      Our subject has a good practice throughout Franklin and the adjoining counties, and he is a well-read conscientious, safe and honest councillor (sic) and trial lawyer, gaining the confidence of all by his sound judgment and good advice.

     In 1865 our subject was married to Miss Fanny E. Smelt, of Ogle county, Illinois, and to them have been born the following children: Ed. M., now superintendent of schools for this county, this being his third term. He was formerly principal of the schools of Franklin for seven years, and also a teacher in Nuckolls county. The second son, Henry E., resides at Topeka, Kansas. Mary, wife of Rev. Keefer, was also a teacher before her marriage. George Ernest, of Nelson, Nebraska, is in the mail service at that place. Carroll W., a pharmacist, living at Los Angeles, California. Grace, wife of P. M. Snyder, of Burwell, Nebraska, now of Okanogan, Washington, formerly a teacher in this vicinity, and Leslie, a graduate of the Franklin high school, now at home.

      Captain Short is a prominent Grand Army of the Republic man, also an Ancient Order of the United Workmen and Woodman, and member of the Mystic Legion. He has been notary public for many years, and an active Republican, and is now serving his second term as city attorney.



     John K. Engelhorn, one of the best known early settler in western Nebraska, resides on his valuable estate in Hays township, Kearney county, Nebraska, retired from all active pursuits. Mr. Engelhorn has resided in this section for the past thirty years, and during this time has become one of the representative citizens of the community, highly esteemed by everyone.

     Mr. Engelhorn is a native of Baden, Germany, born in 1842. He came to America with his parents, Matthias and Anna Engelhorn, who settled in Allemakee county, Iowa, on a farm. There he was raised, and in 1863 enlisted in the Civil war, joining the Ninth Iowa Cavalry, Company E. He served as a private until February 4, 1866, and after the close of the war was on the detached service in Arkansas principally, and afterwards in Texas. Nearly all of the time he was engaged in the service of the government he was constantly in skirmishes, and never received a wound, but his health suffered from the rough life of a soldier and hardships to which he was exposed and he was unfortunate in having lost the sight of his left eye through an overdose of medicine. Two brothers, Matthias and Thomas, were also in the war, the former a member of the twelfth Iowa Infantry, and

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the latter in the navy. After the close of the war he returned to Iowa and engaged in farming for several years, then came to Nebraska, settling in Sherman township, Kearney county, in 1878. Here he homesteaded one hundred and sixty acres and broke this up, remaining on it for nine years, then moved to Minden in 1887, where he bought forty acres in Hays township. He sold this farm in Sherman township in 1895. While living there he was supervisor of his township, also served on the county board for many years, and since coming to Minden has acted in the same capacity for three terms, also held the office of assessor for two years.

     Mr. Engelhorn was married in 1867 to Miss Sophia Willch, daughter of Philip and Elizabeth Willch, natives of Hesse, Germany, and the parents never left that land. She came to this country in 1867. Mr. and Mrs. Engelhorn have no children.

     Mr. Engelhorn is a member of the Grand Army of the Republic post in Minden, and has passed through all the chairs of that society, now acting as assistant conductor. His wife belongs to the Women's Relief Corps here and both are members of the Lutheran church.


     Payson B. Bigelow, one of the best known residents of Harrison, Sioux county, Nebraska, is classed among the prominent old settlers of that region. Mr. Bigelow is an enterprising merchant of that town, carrying on a flourishing general merchandise business, and had built up an excellent trade throughout this locality.

      Mr. Bigelow is a native of Rock Island, Illinois, born in 1851. His father, Benjamin F., was from Vermont, of good old "Yankee stock," and he married Rachel Fairly, both being of American blood. When our subject was a boy of one or two years of age, the family moved to Iowa, settling in Davenport, where our subject grew up and received a good education. When Payson was fourteen yeas old, he went to Jasper county, Iowa, with his parents, where they lived up to 1880, and from there to Adair county, most of this time being spent in following farm work. In 1888 Mr. Bigelow came to Sioux county and filed on a homestead, pre-emption and tree claim, all located about six miles from the town of Harrison. His first house there was a log cabin, and there he worked hard to improve his property and build up a home. He had experienced all kinds of hard times during the early days in this section, losing crop after crop by the drouths (sic) and meeting with disappointments in plenty. He became pretty well discouraged, and was at times tempted to give up the struggle, but determined to stick to his farm, and so kept on improving his place, slowly at first, but gradually getting ahead a little. In 1893 he had the misfortune to be burned out, losing almost everything, so that he was obliged to start all over again.

     Mr. Bigelow was from the first quite heavily engaged in the cattle business, and in this way managed to make a living and lay by a little money after the poor years had passed. He lived on the ranch for about eleven years, then sold the place out and came to Harrison locating here in 1899. He established his present business, and has done well since starting here, in the nine years he has been operating, building up a good patronage and has gained an enviable reputation as a worthy citizen and good business manager.

      In February, 1892, Mr. Bigelow was married to Miss Emma E. Stewart, of Greenfield, Iowa, daughter of John and Minerva Stewart, both of American stock. They have no children. Our subject and his family occupy a pleasant and comfortable home, and are highly esteemed in their locality and liked by all who know them. He is prominent in local affairs, and has held office at different times, serving as village trustee for a number of years. He was one of the original organizers of the Republican party in this section, acting as chairman of the Republican county committee for several years.


     The office of county judge of Rock county, Nebraska, was bestowed upon this gentleman, and he discharged the duties of the position with rare fidelity and ever-increasing popularity. Mr. Hall was appointed in 1906, and was deservedly honored and esteemed by his fellowmen. He held the office until January, 1908.

     Mr. Hall is a native of this state, born in Blair, January 17, 1885. He is a son of James Hall, a contractor, farmer and ranchman, who settled in Nebraska in 1860 and built up a good home here. He located first in Washington and was in Omaha several years. He is of Irish stock, a native of Pennsylvania. His wife was Miss Lucinda Gorton, a descendant of English settlers who came to America during colonial times.

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     Our subject is the second member in a family of three children, and when he was seven years old his parents settled in Rock county, where they afterwards lived in different parts of the county, he receiving a good education.

      Mr. Hall, although a very young man to hold such an important office, gained the respect and confidence of the people by his strict integrity and sterling qualities, and bids fair to become one of the leading public men of this section of the country. He is now associated with his father in the contracting business and lives at Bassett, Nebraska. He is a Republican in politics, and fraternally, belongs to the Ancient Free and Accepted Masons, Independent Order of Odd Fellows, Ancient Order United Workmen, and Modern Woodmen of America lodges of Bassett.


     William H. Winterer was born in the city of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, December 11, 1858. His father was Anton Winterer, a native of Baden Baden, Germany, where he was reared to young manhood and then emigrated to America, while his mother, who was Barbara Hirsch in her maiden days, was a native of Bavaria. They were married in Philadelphia about 1852. The family came to Milwaukee in the fall of 1863 and later settled in the thick hardwood timber country in Vernon county, Wisconsin, and lived there during the civil war, in which the father served as a member of the Forty-seventh Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry during the last eighteen months of the war. He resides in Hillsboro, Wisconsin, retired from active life. They were among the very earliest pioneers in the locality where they settled. The woods were so thick that they had to cut a way through a mile of timber for the wagon to pass, there being only a footpath to their destination. Here our subject was reared on a timber farm. becoming inured to the hard work of grubbing and logging. Schools were few and far between, our subject being obliged to walk three miles to the school house and he therefore received only a limited common school education. In 1879 he went to Rollins county, Kansas, but that country was evidently not satisfactory, as the next year he came to the North Platte river region in Nebraska. He engaged to work with several "cow outfits" and was with M. Burk & Son, and also John Bratt & Company for some time. His duties brought him to the vicinity of Keystone, Nebraska, and being pleased with the country, he decided to locate on a farm and build up a home. The country was very new and crude, but our subject saw possibilities which he thought promised great things if one expended energy and industry to develop them. He spent several years roughing it over western Nebraska both winter and summer and had ample opportunity to judge the country. He saw buffalo roaming the prairie in 1881 and wild game was abundant.

      Mr. Winterer settled on his present farm in section 34, township 15. range 37, in 1883. He put up a sod house and a stable and made other necessary improvements. He worked out for the settlers, breaking prairie and putting up hay, thus earning enough for a living and a little more. He saved his money and bought fourteen head of cattle, which was his start in the cattle business. He has now a fine bunch of two hundred and twenty-five head of cattle and fifty head of horses. He took land that other settlers seemed not to want and has made a grand success, having three hundred and twenty acres in the North Platte river valley, and one thousand two hundred and eighty acres back in the hills where our subject's home is located. He has numerous fine trees, running streams of water, has a good orchard of apple and plum trees and a variety of small fruits. His buildings are good and he has a house and ranch of which he is justly proud.

      William H. Winterer was married December 10, 1889, to Miss Louisa M. Cantrill, a native of Menominee, Dunn county, Wisconsin. She was the daughter of William Cantrill, a ship carpenter and a pioneer of that state; he formerly resided in Halifax, Nova Scotia, and in New York.

      Our subject has had quite a varied experience since locating in Keith county. He has had many discouragements and losses; once he was burned out, losing barns, sheds, and out-houses, and then there were the panicy (sic) times of 1893 and later; also the years of drouth (sic), when the grass grew so sparsely that it took miles of range to support his bunch of cattle and horses. In spite of all these unfortunate events, however, he stuck to his business and has attained fine success as the result of his labors. Once, when he was out in the Dismal river country, McPherson county, he found the body of a Mr. Board, one of a hunting party, who had become separated from his party and had died from fatigue and sickness. He had been missing for ten days and much fruitless search had been made for

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him. The body was buried in a plain wooden box by our subject and a few others.

      Mr. Winterer has been most actively interested in the affairs of his community and helped to establish the first school district on his side of the river. He has held various offices of trust and responsibility and has proven a capable and efficient public officer. He is a Democrat in politics. He is a member of the German Evangelical church, the Modern Woodmen, the Odd Fellows and with his wife, of the Rebekah lodge. He is a man of strong characteristics and a worthy citizen of the state.


     Frank P. Fisher, one of the representative agriculturists of Keya Paha county, Nebraska, owns and operates a large farm in section 12, township 33, range 24, where he has built up a fine establishment and is recognized as one of the successful and prosperous citizens of the county. A view of the ranch house and numerous outbuildings, with grove and orchard are presented on another page of this volume.

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     Mr. Fisher was born in the village of Studena, Bohemia, June 20, 1846. The father, Joseph Fisher, was a tailor by trade and in 1856 the family sailed from Bremen in the ship Sophia, and after a voyage of thirty-eight days landed in New York. In October they reached Chicago, where the father sought in vain for work for some weeks and also had the same disappointment in Milwaukee. Returning to Chicago he secured a small amount of work, which was so well done that he was thereafter given only fine work to do. The next spring he removed with his family to Johnson county, Iowa, locating on a farm where he lived for twenty years and where our subject received a common school education until fifteen years of age, while assisting his parents in carrying on the farm. In 1884 he came to Nebraska, settling in Keya Paha county, where he took a homestead. He arrived, here in April, during a big snow storm, driving from Ainsworth, and his first impressions of his new home were not altogether favorable. Not being able to sell his quarter section in Iowa to advantage until 1886 the family did not come west until that year. However, he set to work at once putting up a frame house, and gradually improved his farm adding a timber claim, on which he also filed, proving up on both. He met with severe loss during the drouth (sic) periods, and two crops in succession were ruined in the years 1894-5. He went through hail storms when everything on his farm was beaten into the ground three different years. After these hard times he began to have good crops, and engaged in stock raising in addition to mixed farming, and eventually developing a fine farm and home, building a substantial two-story house, numerous barns, sheds and outbuildings. He has six hundred acres of land in one piece, one mile southwest of Norden, and one hundred and sixty acres in another piece located three miles northwest. He owns a house in the village where he has made his home for the past five years.

      Mr. Fisher was married in Johnson county, Iowa, October 19, 1871, to Miss Catherine Weyvoda, a native of Bohemia, whose father, Frank Weyvoda, was a weaver and mason by trade in that country, and who came to America with his family in 1866. Children were born to Mr. and Mrs. Fisher, who are as follows: Mary, married William H. Gunsul, and is living at Lake Andes, South Dakota, the mother of three boys, Harry, Frank and Ralph; the second son, Frank Fisher, is farming on the home place, is married, and has one child, Elinor; Emil, the third son, is a farmer living in Idaho, also married; Will, married, engages in farming on the home place with Frank; Libbie, now Mrs. John G. Betsel, her husband being a merchant of Norden; Francis and Edmund are living with their parents in Norden.

      Mr. Fisher has always been one of the public spirited men in his locality. He helped to organize the first schools in the neighborhood, and bought the logs and helped to build the first schoolhouse. He served as school moderator for several years, and was also justice of the peace for about nine years. He is one of the foremost men in all matters which tend to advance the agricultural and educational interests of his community, and lends his influence for the betterment of conditions wherever needed. Politically, he is a member of the Peoples Independent party and affiliates with the Royal Highlanders of Springview.




     Albert J. Gragg, who is among the old settlers in western Nebraska, owns a good ranch which he has improved in splendid shape during the past ten years, and he occupies a foremost position among the well-to-do and progressive farmers and ranchmen of Hook-

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