the close of the war. I was wounded in 1864 again and transferred to the Veteran's Relief Corps, for wounds received in 1864. I was discharged by reason of the close of the war in 1865. I came to Nebraska in April, 1867, to Otoe county. I settled first in Otoe county. I went to Webster county in 1870, and to Red Willow county, 1872. It was my home then until 1895. Since then my home has been in Dawes county, Crawford.
I went to Red Willow county in June, I think, 1872. I don't recollect the date exactly, but I think it was the early part of June. I took a preëmption where the town of Bartley now is. A part of the town is on the preëmption. I was there during the organization of the county and the location of the county seat. In the fall of 1871 a colony had come out from Nebraska City, headed by Royal Buck, who had taken up land on Red Willow Creek, and went back to Nebraska City and issued a paper in the fall of 1871 and in 1872, called the Red Willow Gazette, which advertised that country extensively, and in 1872 a great many people went up there and were disappointed, because they didn't find things as they had been represented. That is, there was to be a mill built, and when all these men came they found there was nothing done. They had taken their claims and desired to have the county seat located on the school section near the mouth of the Willow, but early in the spring of 1872 a man by the name of D. N. Smith, who was secretary of the Republican Land Association, which is a corporation which was in connection with the B. & M. railroad, he came there and made arrangements with Hill [Edgar S.] and Hunter [George A.] to have them prove up on their preëmptions and get more land on Coon Creek, near the present site of Indianola; and when we had our organization and election there were two places and two sets of officers, one where Indianola now is, and the other up at Red Willow. The election was very close, and both places claimed they had secured the location of the county seat. We had two county organizations, and the party that had located the county seat where Indianola is organized, got a set of books, records, seals, and commenced to do business. An organized party from Red Willow came down and claimed they were the proper officers and took the Indianola people by surprise and took the records and seals and carried them off to Red Willow. They intended arresting the officers of that party. It got noised around, and the adherents of Indianola hunted up the sheriff, Hunter, and we ransacked that country up there and found the records and seals and arrested all the parties who came down there and got them and brought them down to Indianola and had them bound over by our judge, Hill, for appearance at the district
court; and we so continued until nearly all the people in the county were bound over to the district court by one county judge or the other. They were in court for several years.
Now we had rather dry years at first
there, and the settlers were nearly all people of limited
means, and the buffaloes, which were very plentiful at that
time through the country, were the main source of living.
The hides fetched all prices, from seventy-five cents to two
dollars apiece, and the meat was good eating, and the
settlers killed a few buffaloes and took the hides to the
railroad and would buy groceries. That was a great help to
the settlement of that country.
As ammunition was a little high and
guns scarce, we organized a company of militia to protect
ourselves from the Indians, which were around here, though
they never done any harm in Red Willow county that I know
of; but we needed the guns for killing the buffaloes. We
reported our dangerous position to the government, and we
got a provision of eighty needle guns and a lot of
ammunition, and that helped materially in supplying the
people of that county. That was a scare put up because
ammunition was scarce and guns were high, and we organized
and got a lot of government guns, and they killed a lot of
Now in 1874 there got to be a good many
people in there, and they had put out crops, as much as
their means would allow. It was a very dry year. I can't
think of the date, but along when we were in hopes of
raising something we got a swarm of grasshoppers in there
that cleaned up everything. So that in 1874 there was
absolutely nothing raised. Everything was destroyed by
drouth and grasshoppers together. In 1875 we had a
reasonable amount of rain, and we got a very fair crop. In
1876 we got grasshoppers again. We had a good prospect until
the grasshoppers came in. They destroyed everything again in
1876, and the prospects for making a living there were very
small. As that was about the time of the discovery of gold
in the Black Hills, I went on the Union Pacific railroad to
Sidney with teams and engaged in freighting from the
railroad to Fort Robinson and the Black Hills, and stayed
there until 1880. I was engaged in freighting there until
them understand it. I think in 1876 I had about 100 acres of corn, and in two hours after they commenced to light I believe they would average a depth of four inches all over the ground, and as much hanging to the stalks of the corn as could find holding places. A person who has never seen them, you can't make them understand it. I had a nice crop there in 1876, at ten o'clock in the morning, and at four o'clock in the afternoon there was absolutely nothing left on the place. I had an acre of onions, and every place there had been an onion there was a hole in the ground. You couldn't walk over a corn field any more than nothing. They would light on anything like a corn field or anything that was possible for them to eat, and they were thicker there than other places. They would gather in there.
In the summer of 1872 there was one company of soldiers camped on the Willow. Buck and some others represented they were necessary. They camped in tents. They had nothing permanent, and they did not stay very long. They left before cold weather. My recollection is there were not over fifty there all together. They camped right above where the old wagon road used to cross near where Helm lives now. It is quite a little ways farther north than where the railroad crosses--the old wagon road of the buffalo hunters. We had a bridge there. They camped right in the bend just above there. 12
Here is another little thing. They organized in 1873. This Buck party sent a man by the name of Wildman down to Lincoln to lobby the legislature to make the counties larger than they had been making them. Their custom had been to make the counties twenty-four miles square. They wanted to make Arapahoe and Red Willow the county seats, and so they lobbied the legislature to enlarge the boundaries of the counties, to make them thirty miles wide north and south, so it would throw Arapahoe and Red Willow a little nearer the center of the counties.13 This old man Smith, the agent of the Republican
12 The report of the adjutant-general, dated October 12, 1872, shows that there were then at Camp Red Willow, near the junction of Red Willow Creek and the Republican River, one company each from the Second Cavalry, Third Cavalry and Ninth infantry, under the command of Captain J. D. Devin of the company last named. Report of the Secretary of War, 1872, p. 104.
13 Furnas, Red Willow and Hitchcock were four townships wide and five long, and Chase and Dundy the same width but still another township long, to reach the Colorado line. They were all established by the legislature of 1873. Phelps, established by this legislature, was of the regular form and size. So all the counties east of Harlan, to Gage, were four townships, or twenty-four miles square.
Valley Land Association, that was the same as the Lincoln Land Company, had got hold of a lot of land right where Bartley is, expecting when the counties were organized that would be the center of the county, and they would get the county seat located there where Bartley is. They had got several quarter sections of land in there, so when the bill passed the legislature changing the size of the counties from what had been their size, that is what started him out here to get land where Indianola is so as to get near the center of one of the counties. The B. & M. Railroad Company was expecting to come up that valley, and the land association had their men out to get land where they expected to locate a town, and he had secured a lot of land where Bartley is, but when the legislature changed the size of the counties it threw it all over to one side.
The Pawnee came out there on a buffalo
hunt to secure some meat. They crossed to the south side of
the Republican River, way down below Red Willow county some
place, and went up the Beaver and Sappa. The buffalo country
was covered with them, and the Pawnee had pretty good luck,
and they came up and went to cross from the Beaver to the
Republican, near where Trenton is, and they met some buffalo
hunters who told them their old enemies, the Sioux, were
hunting on the divide between the Republican and the
Frenchman, and they said that was not right, that the white
men didn't want them to hunt, and they crossed the river and
went along a long cañon that comes in from the north,
now called Massacre cañon, and went up this
cañon eight or ten miles to get up near the top of
the divide; but the Sioux had seen them and knew they were
coming up that cañon, and they bid themselves back
from the banks of the cañon, on both sides, until the
Pawnee had got clear up in by them, and they came down on
them from each side and just massacred them. They killed 64
right there on the ground and killed a number of others that
died farther down. The Pawnee were not in any position to
help themselves, so they took right down the cañon. I
was there the next day. The Pawnee had put up their meat,
and they had all their horses loaded--everything they could
possibly cure, and it was nearly the whole tribe of Pawnee.
They had nearly all their household goods, and they cut
everything else from their ponies, and their meat and things
was piled up and strung along. They even lost their dogs,
hundreds of dogs and hides. The summer buffalo hides are no
good for robes, but the Pawnee had taken the hides off and
tanned them to do up their meat in and for other purposes in
camp, and they had
all those hides. A great many people went up there and gathered up those hides and made leather things of them. Taylor made a house of them. They had killed two buffaloes [for meat]. The squaws had commenced to skin them when the Sioux attacked them. It was in the early part of the day.
In those cottonwood trees along the river a great many Indians had been buried. They laid poles or something across, where there were forks, and they wrapped them [bodies] in hides to keep birds or animals from interfering with them. . . . 14
The land here in 1872 was out of the market, that is, you could not make filings until the land office was open and in running order at Lowell, which was the 8th day of August, I think. The other party had gone, but we stayed there to go to the land office and make our filings, and Hill came down and wanted to go with us. We told him we were out of grub. He said he was pretty nearly out. He had a little bit of flour and some molasses. We told him to bring it down and come on. He brought his stuff down, and we told him to put it in the grub box. We hadn't had any grub in it for some time. We had found several Indian skulls, and we had put them in the grub box for safe keeping, and when we went to put his grub in, he said, "My Lord, what are you fellows living on?" There was places where they were buried out away from the river, and they had put up forks and laid poles across, and they were buried on platforms of poles. But mostly they had put them up in trees there.
We were never troubled by the Sioux. The only Indians I ever saw in Red Willow county were the Pawnee, the Omaha and the Oto, that used to come up from their reservations hunting buffaloes. The only trouble with the Pawnee was their picking up and taking little things. Like one day I had been giving them some things, and I had a big sheath knife, and it was sheathed and thrown down on the ground by the wagon, and I looked and he had stuck his foot into the belt and walked away right straight. I hollered at him, and he just took his foot up and went right on. We were never in any danger from any Indians or anything of that kind.
I will tell you about a buffalo hunt. They were north of my place on Dry Creek, on the divide. A man by the name of Bill Berger, county commissioner, he had lost some horses, and heard that a party by the name of Clifford, a squaw man who lived on the Medicine, had found them, and Berger wanted to go over there and get them. He had no horses, so I took my
14 For further accounts of this battle see Nebraska State Historical Society, Collections, XVI, 165; ibid., XVII, 38.
horses to drive him over there, and when we got up on the divide between Dry Creek and the Medicine we ran onto an Indian, and he raised up and stopped us. They were surrounding a herd of buffaloes and didn't want us to drive over for fear we would stampede them. We wanted to go on, but they insisted--they wanted us to go down where the camp was and wait until they had the hunt, and as there were too many of them for us, we complied with their request. They kept riding around this bunch of buffaloes until they got them kind of working in. They were on horseback and on foot too, but if the buffaloes would start to get outside the lines, the Indians would show themselves and turn them back. There was a big flat there, and when they got them pretty well corralled up there, they kept riding right around and shooting. They had guns and bows and arrows and things of that kind. They didn't have much ammunition. They shot a great lot of buffaloes in there in that way and left it for the squaws to take care of and dress the meat. The men aimed to kill the buffaloes on a very hot day, and the squaws would cut it up and hang it up in the sun, and it would cure nice and sweet in that way. They never used any salt. They had ordinary canvas tents that had been furnished them by the government. Some of them had tepees made of hides and canvas. They put up a lot of poles and tied them together at the top, and the tent was sheeted over this. When they moved they took them down, and the poles were bunched together on the sides of the horse and run back, and then they just piled things on top of the poles behind and dragged them. We could always tell plainly where a camp of them had been moving, because there was the pony trail in the center, and the pole trail on each side, where they had been dragged.
The following letter from William H. Berger adds interest to the foregoing sketch
NEBRASKA, Aug. 10th 73.
We have had quite an excitement among the settlers lately. The Pawnees were up here on a buffalo hunt and went on up the river to the mouth of the Frenchman's fork 30 miles above where they were attacked by the Sioux in a large body and all cut to pieces. There are so many conflicting reports it is hard to tell how many Pawnees were killed but I think some sixty squaws and perhaps as many bucks. Besides they lost about 100 ponies. This happened on last Tuesday, on Wednesday morning they came down past our place crying and howling fearfully. At the time the Sioux went for them they were on the move having their ponies loaded down with the dried meat of about 1000 Buffalo. They cut the straps and lost all, meat, blankets, everything. There were two white men with them, one of which the Sioux took prisoner and let him go again. The Pawnees fought for two hours like devils, but the Sioux surprised them and were too many, completely surrounding the Pawnees who finally had to make a charge and cut their way out. Since the fight there have been quite a number of Pawnees come down the road on foot and alone, having been wounded and hid in the grass until the Sioux were gone.
A company of soldiers came over from Cottonwood to the battlefield to take the Sioux back to their reserve and protect the settlers. Quite a number of the settlers saw the fight. They say they fought well.
We organized a Grange here yesterday with 21 members. Welborns are all into it. Have you joined? I think it a good thing. I will have to go to Lincoln to attend the meeting of the State Grange in December when I will come down and see you if possible.
The brother to whom this letter was addressed was George L. Berger, who now--1918--lives in Elmwood, Cass county, Nebraska, and the sister, Mrs. J. D. Ferguson, now living in Lincoln, Nebraska. They lived in Louisville, Nebraska, when the letter was sent to them.
In a letter dated November 18, 1911,
the secretary of the Lincoln Land Company, whose
headquarters is now at Burlington, Iowa, informed me that D.
N. Smith and the Republican Valley Land Association were
joint owners with the Lincoln Land Company of about half a
dozen towns in the Republican valley and that Mr. Smith was
joint owner with the Lincoln company of the town of Cub bertson and a part of the town site of Orleans. "The Republican Valley Land Association, whose interest we afterwards purchased, were equal owners with us in the towns of Arapahoe, Indianola, Bartley and Republican City, together with quite a body of farm lands at these different points."
So the Lincoln Land Company absorbed the Republican Valley Land Association.
Under date of November 9, 1917, Mr.
John F. Cordeal wrote as follows:
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