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Compendium of History Reminiscence & Biography of Western Nebraska

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ed when the dry years came and all his crops were lost. He was compelled to work out by the day to make a living for his family, and was employed on a ranch for five years near his farm. These were his hardest times. All he was able to earn by working on farms in the neighborhood was twenty dollars per month and the work then was much harder to do before the farms were equipped with all the modern machinery which is in use today. His farm of eight hundred acres, which is located in section 31, township 33, range 37, is well improved and well stocked. He has erected all good farm buildings, and enjoys a comfortable and pleasant home, and is classed among the leading agriculturists of his township.

   Mr. Goucher was married August 7, 1877, to Miss Ida Zerbe, born in Ohio in 1862. Her father. William Zerbe, is a native of Pennsylvania, engaged in farming and stock raising, and her mother, who was Mary Gilbert, was born in Ohio of English-German descent. Ten children have been born to Mr. and Mrs. Goucher, nine of whom are living, namely: Nora E., wife of William Kyte; Floyd H., Roby W., Zora Etta, wife of Bert Nichols; Ora Ocy Belle, Meda M., Leona Pearl, Bert and Berlie.

   Mr. Goucher has never sought political preferment, but attends strictly to his farm duties, and is known as a gentleman of good citizenship and honest principles. He is a Republican.


   Merlin D. Barnes, a progressive and intelligent young business man of Cody, Nebraska, has become one of the well known and highly esteemed citizens of that place.

   Mr. Barnes was born in Butler county. Iowa, February 25, 1882. His father, Moses Barnes, came to Cherry county with his family in 1900, where he in partnership, with his son, our subject, established a hardware and furniture store in Cody, of which the latter is now sole proprietor, the former having returned to Iowa, where he now resides. Mr. Barnes is the eldest of two children, and was raised and educated at Dumont, Iowa, where he worked on a farm while still a boy. Since opening up his present establishment in Cody he has built up a large trade and made a success of the mercantile business. He has a store 48x60 and carries a complete stock of hardware, furniture and machinery, and is recognized as one of the enterprising and progressive merchants of the town. While his father lived here he was active in commercial and political affairs and served for a time on the town hoard.

   Mr. Barnes was married September 27, 1903, to Miss Florence Jackson, daughter of Joseph Jackson, a prominent ranchman of Cherry county, who owns and operates a large ranch two miles southeast of the town of Cody. Mr. and Mrs. Barnes have one child, Rena. Mr. Barnes is a member of the Cody camp, Modern Woodmen of America.


   The gentleman whose name heads this view is a typical western rancher and farmer, genial and generous in disposition, and he has been most successful in his career, gaining a comfortable fortune, and building up a good home in the region to which he came many years ago. He resides in section 36, township 14, range 47, Lodgepole precinct, and is well and favorably known throughout Cheyenne county.

   Henry H. Libby was born at Gardiner, on the Kennebec river, Maine, May 7, 1852. His parents moved to Massachusetts when he was an infant, and he was reared and educated in the public schools of Amherst, remaining there until he was twenty years of age. He then came to Sidney, Nebraska, and engaged in the meat business, following that work intermittently for about ten years. During the early days in this section he also freighted through the country, making numerous trips into the Black Hills during 1876-77. He finally drifted into ranching, and cattle raising in 1879, purchasing his original ranch of six hundred and forty acres in section 36, township 14, range 47, and still occupies this place. The ranch is known as "The Meadows," and when first purchased there was not a tree on the place; now it is splendidly improved with good buildings, wells, windmills, fences and groves, being beautifully situated on Lodgepole creek. It is one of the most valuable properties in the county. He runs about two hundred cattle and sixty horses, and has been for many years past one of the largest dealers in stock raising and shipping, principally cattle, out of Cheyenne county.

   Mr. Libby has made many visits back to the east, both on business and pleasure trips, but is loyal to the home of his adoption, and is one of the few men left in this vicinity whose

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residence in this region dates back as far as his own.

   In 1886 our subject married Miss Mary Bull at Amherst, Massachusetts, who was a native of Pittsfield, that state. Both her parents and her husband's are now deceased. Two children have been born of this union, namely: Roy H., now attending school at Council Bluffs, Iowa. He is in his senior year and has merited the first lieutenancy of the Cadets. The daughter, Barbara, is the life and delight of her fond parents. The family enjoy a pleasant home, and it is one of the bright spots in the traveler's itinerary.


   D. C. Bliss, engaged in the nursery business, occupies a fine residence surrounded by beautiful grounds which adjoins the town of Minden. He has been in the nursery business since 1883, at which time he moved to Minden, and grows and handles all kinds of trees, and deals only in the very best varieties. He is well known all over Nebraska, and the products of his nursery are shipped to every part of this state as well as through the adjoining western states. He is a thorough judge of his business, and any one obtaining plants and trees from him is sure to receive the very best that it is possible to get.

   Mr. Bliss was born in Jefferson county, New York, in 1843. His father, David B. Bliss, came to Wisconsin in 1845, traveling by way of the Great Lakes, the journey consuming four weeks, and reached Sheboygan on July 4, of the latter year. At that tire our subject was two years old, and he grew up there, following teaching for some years, in 1864 enlisting in Company G, Second Wisconsin Cavalry, serving up to the close of the war, and was mustered out at Madison, Wisconsin. He located in LaSalle county. Illinois, shortly after this, where he engaged in teaching and farming, remaining there up to 1874, then came west, settling in York county, Nebraska, and lived there until 1883, then moved to Minden, where he has remained ever since.

   Mr. Bliss was married in LaSalle county, Illinois, in 1868, to Miss Sophia C. Hart, and they have a family of three children, who are named as follows: Dr. H. O. Bliss, practicing dentistry at Bridgeport, Nebraska; Jennie M., now engaged in photography, running a studio at Minden, Nebraska. She is a graduate of the College of Photography at Effingham, Illinois; Dr. R. W. Bliss, practicing physician and surgeon, connected with the Omaha Medical College, also on the staff of two hospitals in Omaha and a graduate of Rush Medical College, Chicago, class of 1903, and also a graduate of the Nebraska State University. He has practiced at St. Luke's Hospital, Chicago, for some time, and later at the Cook County Hospital of that city, and is a physician of prominence and a skillful surgeon. Mr. Bliss and his family are members of the Presbyterian church here, and highly esteemed as worthy citizens and good neighbors.

   Mr. Bliss traces his ancestry to English extraction. All the Bliss families in America sprang from three brothers and one sister, who came to this country previous to 1640: Thomas Bliss was born at Belle Stone Parish, Devonshire, England, 1580; John Bliss, of Longmeadow, Massachusetts, was born in Hartford, Connecticut, in 1640; Ebenezer Bliss was born in Longmeadow, Massachusetts, in 1693; Ebenezer Bliss was born in Longmeadow, Massachusetts in 1725; Rev. Enos Bliss, born in Longmeadow, Massachusetts, in 1763; David B. Bliss, born in Watertown, New York, in 1808; and David Cleveland Bliss was born in Loraine, New York, in 1843.

   David C. Bliss, our subject, has two sons, Dr. Harley Orin Bliss, who was born in York, Nezraska (sic), in 1875, and Dr. Rodney W. Bliss, who was born in York in 1878.

   A daughter of Thomas Bliss was tried for witchcraft in 1645. Margarette Bliss, the wife of Thomas Bliss, was a very remarkable woman. After her husband's death she supported a family of twelve children. She owned a small tract of land about a mile square. That tract is now in the center of Springfield, Massachusetts, and worth millions of dollars.


   Charles H. Gay, one of the earliest settlers in western Nebraska, resides on his large ranch in section 18, township 31, range 39, Cherry county, and is classed among the leading citizens of this region.

   Mr. Gay was born in Cleveland, Ohio, May 22, 1837, and was reared in East Randolph, Orange county, Vermont, where his parents moved when he was a small child. His forefathers were among the early settlers in America, a-great-grandfather was a soldier in the Revolutionary war and a grandfather, Captain Bradford F. Story, served in the Mexican war. Charles H. Gay was the oldest of his parents' seven children, and at the age of fourteen

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years started out for himself, firing on a switch engine, and for two years followed this work. Later he fired in Wisconsin for several years, and at the age of eighteen was an engineer on the railroad. He continued at railroading for twenty years, then quit the business and came to Nebraska, settling in Holt county, where he stayed for four years. He next went to Sheridan county, taking up a tree claim in 1883, moving onto the claim May 31, 1884. There he started a farm and ran it for four years, then moved to near Irwin and remained for a few years. During the dry years he sold this place and in 1900 settled on his present home, where he has a range four miles long and about two miles wide, keeping about two hundred head of stock and one hundred and twenty-five cattle and seventy-five horses. Mr. Gay drove through from Holt county when he came here, as this was before the railroad was begun west of Valentine, and the entire country around was in a wild state. He was a soldier in the late war, enlisting in 1864 in Minnesota, and served four years and four months.

   In 1874 Mr. Gay was first married to Rachel Comers. Three children were born to them, namely: Frank E., William B. and Henry W. Mrs. Gay died in 1872 and he was married the second time, to Alice Sutcliffe, they having the following children: Geneva M., Ellen E., Sarah E. (dead), Edward Joseph and Edna Josephine (twins), and Maude (deceased), all of his second family growing up in Nebraska.

   Mr. Gay is a Republican and takes an active part in politics. A view of the residence and surroundings will be found on another page of this work.

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   The gentleman whose name heads this review is one of the earliest settlers in the western part of Nebraska, and who came to this region when the country was practically a wilderness, when Indians and tough characters were thick here and he has seen the development of the agricultural and commercial resources from the very beginning. Mr. Butler resides in section 33, township 33, range 47, Dawes county, and is well-known and highly respected as a good neighbor and worthy citizen.

   Mr. Butler was born in Gentry county, Missouri, in 1858. His father. Madison Butler, was a pioneer in northwestern Missouri, a southerner by birth, from old Virginia, and a man of superior intellect and ability as a farmer and citizen. He married Miss Eliza Brown, of Kentucky, and of American ancestry. Our subject was reared and educated in Missouri, remaining at home up to the time of his twenty-sixth year. His father died about the year 1882, and the mother and children kept up the home farm from that time on. He then came to Nebraska, freighting from Valentine, arriving in Dawes county, April 19, 1884, and settled here, locating on a homestead on Bordeaux creek, camping out on the ground for a few days after landing here. His wife was with him, also their child and a younger brother and for several months they all lived in a tent. Shortly after coming here Mr. Butler made a second trip to Valentine. His first crop was corn, oats and potatoes; which yielded a fine crop the first year, but on a small scale. He kept steadily building up his place, putting up a log house, and the farm buildings which he erected twenty years ago are still in good condition; of late he has built a fine frame house near them. He has gone through many hard times since coming here, and often met with discouragement and loss, but stuck to it, and has built up a fine farm and good home, the farm now containing four hundred and eighty acres, one hundred of which is in a high state of cultivation, and the rest in bottom land and pasture. He has it all fenced, plenty of natural timber, and raises nice crops of wheat and corn the latter in some seasons running fifty bushels to the acre. He has fine alfalfa fields, also a fine young orchard coming along nicely.

   Mr. Butler was married, in 1881, to Sitha J. Wilson, daughter of an early settler in Dawes county. Mr. and Mrs. Butler are the parents of seven children, namely: Edward, Pearl, Ella, Thomas J., Sally, Naomi and Bessie.

   Mr. Butler has always been active in school and local affairs, has served as school treasurer for about fifteen years. He was also census taker in 1900 and constable some years ago. He is a Republican in politics.


   Mathias Hedlund, residing on section 31, Divide township, is the owner of a fine four hundred-acre farm, splendidly improved with good buildings, and his grove of shade trees is one of the finest in the section. Mr. Hedlund was born in Jafleborgs Lane, Sweden, in 1832. He was reared there, never attending any school, his mother taught him his letters and how to read and write. His father and mother, Olaf and Elizabeth (Johnson) Hedlund. never left the land of their birth, the former dying there in 1844.

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   Mr. Hedlund came to America in 1837, settling in Knox County, Illinois, later moving to Henry county, where he farmed for some time. He had no capital to start with, but worked hard and through industry and perseverance gained a large measure of success. He had worked on farms in Sweden, and so was familiar with that work, although the methods of doing the work are widely different in the two countries. In 1896 he sold his farm in Illinois and came to Nebraska, and his verdict is that this is a better country all around for a poor man than Illinois. He has helped and encouraged many Swedes who were rich men's tenants in Illinois to come here, and although they went through many hard times in the early days, both they and their children are now well to do, and own fine estates. When Mr. Hedlund first settled in Illinois the settlers went through the same struggles and adversity that they have here. He was the first of the Swede settlers to invest in land in Phelps county, purchasing his present farm for three dollars per acre from the railway in 1876, ten years before he finally came here to live. A brother, Olaf Hedlund, came to this county in 1876, taking up a homestead and tree claim, and held it up to three years ago, when he sold it at the high prices now prevalent in this vicinity. He now resides at North Platte, and is well known all over this section of the country, being prominent in the Lutheran church, the only ruler in the county, and in all church matters is the leader. He has preached as a local preacher all these years, and now at the age of seventy-six years the people flock to hear him as they did years ago. He has always taken an active part in relieving the poor and oppressed, and is beloved by all. His son, P. O. Hedlund, was for many years the foremost man in Phelps county in public affairs, and at different times has held office, serving as county treasurer, county clerk and county surveyor. At the present time he holds an important position in the land department of the Union Pacific railway.

   Mr. Hedlund has done a great deal toward introducing thoroughbred draught horses here, bringing in a number of imported sires, and he now owns Nebraska Chief, one of the best animals in the country and a prize winner at the Holdrege Jubilee in 1906. He has also a fine herd of thoroughbred cattle, and takes a great deal of pride in his stock. Mr. Hedlund has done remarkably well since locating here, and although he lost $25,000 through the misdeeds of others he has paid every dollar of the money and is still a rich man, happy and contented, aiming to do right in every way, and still helps those who need it in every way in his power. He is now seventy-six years of age, hale, hearty and cheerful, well liked by everyone. He now rents out his farm and with his wife is enjoying the evening of their days in peaceful quiet on the homestead place.

   Mr. Hedlund was married in Illinois, in 1859, to Miss Betsy Auckrland, who was born in 1830, in Sweden. Two children were born to Mr. and Mrs. Hedlund, namely: Emma, now Mrs. Westberg, of Holdrege, and Mrs. Ida England, of Osborn, DeKalb county, Missouri.

   While living in Illinois Mr. Hedlund helped to organize the Lutheran church, and was a deacon in that church the entire time of his residence there. He is now a deacon in the Holdrege church. Politically, he is a Republican.


   Horace Homer Heath, one of the leading and responsible residents of this region, is an early settler in Dawes county, Nebraska, where he has accumulated a competence through honest industry and perseverance, coming to western Nebraska when the country was new and watching its development and growth from the earliest days.

   Mr. Heath was born in McHenry county, Illinois, in 1845. His father, Elisha Heath, was a farmer of American descent, and our subject was reared on the homestead in his native state where he learned to perform all sorts of hard labor as a boy. He lived at home until he reached the age of twenty-two years, then started out for himself. working out on farms in that vicinity until he was sixteen years old, his work consisting of breaking up wild prairie land and clearing up new country. He then went into Iowa where he followed the same line of work, and later owned a farm in that state up to the time of coming to Burt county, Nebraska. He first settled in the latter county, but only lived there a short time, then came to Dawes county early in 1888, taking up a pre-emption and beginning in a very small way, as he had not much capital. He put up a rude shanty on his preemption and began to build it up, purchasing his present farm soon after, which is located in section 15, township 32, range 52. He has spent most of his time since then on this farm, and has built up a nice home, erecting a good set of buildings, fences, etc. He raises and ships stock, and also engages in mixed farming. Eighty acres of his farm is irrigated land. While living in Burt county he had the misfortune to be burned out twice, both times losing everything except a part of his household goods, and this was a severe loss to him, as he had a hard time in

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