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Compendium of History Reminiscence & Biography of Western Nebraska

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did very well, and returned in 1900 to Nebraska, bringing back with him quite a snug sum of money. He spent two winters and three summers in the Klondike, but has always retained this county as his home, and has now put him up a fine residence. George also spent about one year in Memphis, Tenn., in the street car business. His father died in 1899, and he then returned home and since that time has remained with his mother, carrying on the homestead. Their ranch consists of one thousand two hundred acres, one hundred and forty acres of which is under cultivation, all of it well fenced, and he is engaged in stock raising, dealing exclusively in cattle and horses. Mr. Fendrich's mother keeps house for him, and they have a pleasant and comfortable home, and are highly esteemed by their neighbors. The mother is about eighty years old, but is quite active in spite of her advanced age.

   Mr. Fendrich is classed among the oldest settlers in this part of the state, is one of the leading men of his township, and takes an active and commendable interest in public affairs.


   Ed. L. Willits, late of Alma, Nebraska, was a well known resident of Harlan county, and one of the leading citizens of the above city. He and his father, Wells Willits, were two of the first settlers in Alma, and foremost among its business men. Wells Willits came to Alma in July, 1878. At that time there were only two houses there, and he at once invested in property in the town site, purchasing two hundred and seventy-five lots in all, and in December of that year bought forty acres of land adjoining the town, and platted this. The following year he began to sell off these lots. During the spring the town began to boom and started to grow rapidly, and he was able to dispose of a great deal of his property at good figures. He took up a homestead near the town, and up to his death bought and sold property, and also farmed his ranch, and was counted one of the most prosperous and successful men in this locality. In 1879 Ed. L. Willits moved to Alma and established the firm of Willits & Co., and carried on a large general mercantile business until the time of his death. This was called "The People's Store," and was the pioneer store of town. In 1881 his father joined him in this enterprise, and they also started the Alma Creamery Company, and carried that on for many years. Ed. Willits was also the founder and first president of the Harlan County Bank, established in 1900.

   Wells Willits, our subject's father, was born in Wayne county, Indiana, in 1827, and at the age of twenty-one years located in Mercer county, Illinois. He attended Knox College at Galesburg, and in 1854 opened a general store in New Boston, Illinois, carrying on this business for twenty-one years, also operated a pork packing business for eighteen years. In 1878 he closed all his interests out and came to Nebraska, locating in Alma, and his son Ed entered his father's employ at an early age, and thus secured the training that fitted him for his successful career in later years. Eli Willits, his grandfather, was born on the Hocking River, in Ohio, and settled in Wayne county, Illinois, with his father, Jesse Willits, on a farm in 1812, and remained there up to 1833, when they removed to western Illinois, locating within four miles of the Mississippi river. Mr. Willits always took an active interest in public affairs, working hard in the early days to get the county seat at Alma, and also bent all his efforts and influence in trying to get all the rights and advantages for Alma during the railway fight. His widow and one son, John Metz Willits, reside on the homestead at Alma. His eldest son, Lee Conklin Willits, who lived at Los Angeles, California, died September 23, 1907.

   In May, 1882, our subject was married to Miss Blanche Conklin, of Alma, daughter of I. J. Conklin. She died in 1897, leaving one son, Lee C. Willits, above mentioned. Mr. Willits was married again in 1898 to Miss Rebecca Metz, daughter of Joseph and Mary Frances Metz, of Alma. One son, John Metz Willits, was born May 14, 1902. Mr. Willits, our subject, died October 8, 1903. The family is highly respected and esteemed in the community, and in his death had the sympathy of the entire population. Mr. Willits kept ad his business affairs moving during the hard years of 1894-95 and '96, giving employment and good wages to over thirty-five people in his store, creamery and bank, and also on his several large farms. He will always be spoken of as the best citizen and most capable business man of Alma's pioneer days. Mr. Willits was a Mason, and a prominent member of the order of the Eastern Star.


   Mr. Cowgill has one of the principal business enterprises in Holdrege, handling real estate, abstract and insurance, and is recognized as one of the leading men in this line in Nebraska. W. H. Cowgill established his business in 1888, and

Compendium of History Reminiscence & Biography of Western Nebraska

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has been at the head of it ever since. He has branch offices at McCook and Moorefield. W. H. Cowgill is the state agent for the State Insurance Company, and they have local agents covering every portion of Nebraska. This company does over $150,000 per year here, and the real estate end of Mr. Cowgill's business cannot be estimated, during the time that Mr. Cowgill has been in business.

   Mr. Cowgill is the owner of a goodly quantity of large farming interests in this and adjoining counties. He came to Nebraska thirty-three years ago, locating in David City, in November, 1874, where he engaged in the real estate business. In 1904 he was one of the organizers, and is now president of the Phelps County Telephone company, which has a capital of $50,000 paid in. This company took over the Independent telephone lines. The former company now have two thousand five hundred subscribers, and they are constantly improving the lines and service, and rapidly gaining in patronage. The company has exchanges at Holdrege, Loomis, Bertrand, Atlanta, Funk, Sacramento and Holcomb, besides fifty farmers' lines.

   Mr. Cowgill is also a prominent Mason, Knight Templar and Knight of Pythias. He was a candidate for railway commissioner on the Democratic ticket in the election November 3, 1908.


   August Baschky (deceased), who during his life time made an enviable record as a farmer and ranchman, the result of his own toil and economy, was born on a farm in Prussia, Germany, in 1846. His parents passed their lives in the old country, the father having been a prominent farmer. Our subject's early days were spent in his native country, where he received his education. Realizing the possibilities the new world offered the ambitious young man, he decided to seek his fortunes in this country, and in April, 1872, landed in America, settling in the state of Illinois. Here he employed his time tilling the soil.

   In 1876 Mr. Baschky was united in marriage to Miss Jessie Froelke, daughter of Jacob and Elizabeth (Becker) Froelke. Her parents were both born in Germany, the mother in Hanover, but came to this country before marriage. After his marriage, Mr. Baschky spent some time farming in Illinois, but in 1882 came to Madison county, Nebraska, and farmed there for two years. In 1885 he came to Dawes county, driving from Chadron, and at first locating four and a half miles northeast of Crawford. His first home in this part of the country was a dug out, his second a log cabin. During the years of hardships which confronted the early settlers in this western country he made his living logging and working out. His first years were trying ones indeed, he having had the misfortune of losing several horses and crops. In 1896 he moved his family to their present location in section 16, township 30, range 50, where he erected a substantial and commodious home and barns. Here he had three hundred and twenty acres of deeded land, although his ranch altogether comprised an area of 760 acres, containing several acres of good timber land, and 160 acres of which are under cultivation. Through years of adversity and prosperity he held the hands of the plow, working out for himself a comfortable home, and giving his energies to the upbuilding of the locality in which he lived.

   The marriage of Mr. Baschky was blessed with eight children, viz: Joseph, born December 8, 1876; Peter (deceased), born May 18, 1879; Louis, who follows the occupation of railroading, born March 3, 1882; Elizabeth (deceased), born March 9, 1884: Julius, born January 8, 1887; Edward, born January 26, 1889; Patrick, born February 13, 1894; and Veronica, born April 16, 1896. Joseph, the oldest boy, now runs the farm. A family group portrait will be found on another page.

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   During his life time Mr. Baschky enjoyed the respect and confidence of a host of warm friends, and his career will stand as an excellent example for any youth to follow. He passed away November 6, 1906.

   Jens Peter Krestensen, who came to Box Butte county, in the early days of its settlement, and who has striven through many failures and hardships to establish a home and accumulate a competence for himself in the new western country, is now proprietor of a valuable estate in section 7, township 26, range 50. He has always taken a commendable interest in local affairs, serving his township as road overseer, and lending his best efforts at all times to advance the best interests of his community.

   Mr. Krestensen was born in Denmark in 1860. His father was born, lived and died in Denmark, following the occupation of a farmer all his life, and our subject was reared on the home farm until he reached the age of twenty-two years, then came to America and settled in

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Omaha, Nebraska, where he remained for a year. He came to Box Butte county in the fall of 1889, and soon after coming here he started working on the new C. & N. W. railroad, which was being built through this section and into Wyoming. During the time he followed this work he had a good chance to become familiar with the rough life of a frontiersman, experiencing many hardships and privations in the thinly settled regions through which the road was to be built.

   After finishing his work on the road he returned to Nebraska and filed on a pre-emption in township 26, range 50, and while starting his farm, worked out a good deal of the time in different livery barns at Nonpareil and Alliance, constantly improving his place as he was able, and finally proved up on the land.

   In the fall of 1890 Mr. Krestensen made a trip to his native land, and while there was united in marriage to Miss Mattie Jensen, a native of that country. After spending a short time visiting in the vicinity of his boyhood home, he and his bride returned to this country, and came back to Nebraska and began farming in section 7, township 26, range 50. Their first house was a rude shack and they lived in it for about a year, then erected a comfortable sod house and occupied this for a good many years. Mr. Krestensen's farm now consists of over eight hundred acres of good land. He farms one hundred acres of this, raising fine crops of small grains, and the farm is all fenced and fitted with a complete set of good buildings. He is engaged principally in the stock business, raising cattle and horses for the market.

   Three children were born to Mr. and Mrs. Krestensen, who are named as follows: Magnus, Clara and Anene, all in school in this district at the present time.


   William E. Minshal, widely known in Cheyenne county, Nebraska, as a gentleman of first-class business ability and one of the foremost old settlers of that region, is proprietor of a flourishing meat, flour and feed store in Lodgepole, which enterprise he has carried on since 1903 with marked success. He has passed through all of the pioneer times in western Nebraska, and remained to see the prosperity which has come to those who came to the state in the beginning of its civilization, and is one of those who has aided materially in its upbuilding

   Mr. Minshal was born in Walworth county, Wisconsin, on June 17, 1840, remaining unto the age of seventeen years in that region. At that time the family moved to Johnson county, Missouri, and settled on a farm, where they resided until the spring of 1878. Our subject worked for the Union Pacific railway for about a year and a half, at Sidney, and then started in the grocery business, following that for over a year. He moved to Lodgepole in the fall of 1881, locating on a ranch in section 13, township 14, range 47, and there engaged in stock raising, building up a good ranch. He later took up a homestead in section 24 and owned this until a few years ago, when he sold it at a good profit, and purchased a good ranch of six hundred and forty acres, comprising section 14, township 14, range 47, devoting this to the raising of cattle and horses. Mr. Minshal was married February 21, 1875, in Missouri, to Rachel Brown. Mrs. Minshal was born in Keokuk county, Iowa. Five children have been born to our subject and his good wife, named as follows: Charles, married and living in Cheyenne, Wyoming, employed as a machinist in the Union Pacific shops. Bertha, married to Dave Douglas, now living in Denver, Colo. George, now residing in Cheyenne, Wyoming, while Mabel and Rachel, the last two daughters are living at home with the parents.

   Mr. Minshal takes an active interest in state and county affairs, and is one of the leading men of Lodgepole. Politically he is a Democrat and a member of the Methodist church.


   The management of an extensive tract of land has fallen to the lot of the lady above mentioned, and the prosperity apparent is evidence of her ability and good judgment. Mrs. Milks is one of the early settlers in Brown county, where she has spent the best part of her life in building up her farm and home. She has had the care of a family of children, and exerted her energies for their support and education, and is now the owner of a valuable ranch.

   Mrs. Milks was born in Olin, Jones county, Iowa, in 1864. Her father, John Bothwell, was a native of Scotland, and her mother of Yankee stock. She was raised and educated in Jones county, attending the common schools and later moved to Nebraska, locating in Cherry county in May, 1885. She married B. W. Milks. The home was ninety miles south of Valentine. Their first dwelling was a house built of sods, with a sod roof, and in this place all but their youngest child was born. They proved up on the homestead, remaining on it for twelve or thirteen years, and in 1899 moved to Lakeland, Brown

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county, settling on a ranch on Moon Lake, where their children would have a better chance to attend good schools. Mrs. Milks lived on this ranch until 1905, and she has had the entire management of the place, the ranch comprising one thousand one hundred and twenty acres, stocked with horses and cattle, and improved with good buildings. There was a fine grove of trees on this place, the grove including twenty-five acres, which added greatly to the value of the ranch.

   At first this place only contained three hundred and twenty acres, and it was added to gradually and improved, until a comfortable home has been built up, which at present is under the management of Mrs. Milks' son and daughter, she now living on three hundred and twenty acres of land located near Ainsworth, which she purchased after getting the ranch established and running in good shape. She has improved this property until it is now one of the most valuable in this locality, the farm being used for a dairy and hay farm. Mrs. Milks deserves much praise for the success which she has attained through her own unaided efforts, for many years doing a man's work in running the farm, besides raising her family of children and directing their education, few men have accomplished as much as she. Her family consists of eight children, as follows: Clyde D., Clarence L., Burney B., Gertrude May, Vera E., Lillian T., Percy L., and Gerald R.


   James H. Lyon, the popular and efficient postmaster of Harlan, Nebraska, is well known throughout Cherry county as a successful and prosperous farmer and business man. He is a man of sterling character and has an extensive acquaintance, universally esteemed and respected in his community.

   Mr. Lyon was born in Marion county, Ohio, April 7, 1847, of German descent. His parents were settlers in Virginia, and when our subject was eight years old came to Iowa with their family of ten children, where they farmed in Wapello county. In 1864 he enlisted in the army and served a year and a half under General Steele near Little Rock, Arkansas; he was mustered out at Duvall's Bluff and returned to his home and assisted his father in the farm work. In 1869 he started on a farm for himself in Wapello, renting land on which he lived for a number of years, He was a settler in Iowa long before the Burlington road was that section of the country. In 1883 he moved to Osceola county, Iowa, and farmed for two years, then came to Nebraska, driving through with a team and wagon. He stopped in Holt county from spring to fall and then came on and located near where his present home is situated, taking a pre-emption. When he had filed on his place all he had left was three dollars in money. They were about the only settlers in the locality, and from September 11th to November 16th, his wife never saw another white woman.

   He went to farming, breaking up his land and putting up a rough log shanty and had pretty good success until the dry years came along. He often had hard times through the drouth periods and at times both he and his wife were compelled to work out in order to make a living. Their house was shared with another family part of the time, and, all were obliged to pick up bones and haul them to Gordon, receiving eight dollars per ton, to obtain money with which to buy flour and other provisions. After the first few years they had better luck and raised good crops, sticking bravely to it through many discouragements and hardships. He and his son together own two thousand acres of land now, and run sixty head of cattle and about forty horses.

   In 1868 Mr. Lyon was married to Miss Esther J. Anderson, daughter of James M. and Nancy J. (Tilford) Anderson, both natives of Indiana, where Mrs. Lyon was born and reared. One child was born to them, Walter, who married Ida V. Miller, and is living on a homestead near his parents' home.

   Mr. Lyon was appointed postmaster of Harlan in 1905. He is one of the public-spirited citizens of his county, a Populist and Bryan man.


   Charles R. Russell, who is engaged in ranching on a large scale in section 11, township 23, range 28, is one of the pioneers of Thomas county, Nebraska. He has a wide acquaintance and is universally respected and esteemed.

   Mr. Russell was born in Sheridan, Lucas county, Iowa, in 1868. He is a son of Irvin W. Russell, of whom a sketch appears in this volume. Charles grew up in Iowa, reared on a farm, and in 1887 came to Nebraska with his parents, the father settling on a homestead, and for two years after coming here our subject helped him open his farm and ranch, the family going through the usual pioneer experiences. They came ahead of the railroad, and Charles Russell was one of those who saw the first

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