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History of Western Nebraska and Its People




     Before Cheyenne county came into existence, the western part of Nebraska was divided by an arbitrary act into counties. Two of these, Lyons and Taylor counties, and a part of Monroe county comprised the territory which in 1867, was made into Cheyenne county. These counties had no organization and no government was needed. Between 1867 and 1870, Cheyenne county was attached to Lincoln county for all revenue, administrative and judicial purposes. In 1870, Thomas Kane went to Lincoln, the state capital, to prevail upon Governor David Butler, to call an election for choosing officers for Cheyenne county, which was done by proclamation in August, 1870. The following officrs were chosen: Thomas Kane, treasurer; John Ellis, sheriff ; C. A. Moore, Fred Glover, and H.L. Ellsworth, commissioners, and H. A. Dygart, clerk. The latter served but a short time and D. A. Martin was appointed to succeed him. October 8, 1871, occurred the first, regular general election in the county when the following, officials were elected: George W. Heist, probate judge; George C. Cooke, sheriff; L. Connell, clerk; James H. Moore, treasurer; D. Cowigan, commissioner, but he resigned. George Cooke was removed and John Ellis was appointed in his place. George Heist refused to qualify but was later appointed and did qualify. James Moore's bond was not acceptable and Thomas Kane was appointed and qualified The commissioners elected were: Henry Newrnan and Joseph Cleburne. The coroner was P. Bailey, who refused to qualify. The super intendent of schools was George R. Ballou; county surveyor, John Griffin, who refused to qualify; while the justices of the peace were Thomas Kane and Frederick Glover.

     The early records of the county are very meagre. Some of the early officers performed very little service. Salaries were small, some officers serving without any recompense. The offices were not as attractive as they are now and not sought. A list of the officers of the county down to 1918, follows: 1872, the commissioners were Henry Newman, and Joseph Cleburne; judge, G. W. Heist; sheriff, J. J. Ellis; coroner, P. Bailey (refused to qualify); treasurer, Thomas Kane; superintendent of schools, George R. Ballou; surveyor, John Griffin (refused to qualify); justice of the Peace, Thomas Kane and Frederick Glover. Since that time the Cheyenne county judges have been as follows: D. Carrigan, George Darrow, C. D. Essig, Julius Neubauer, A. Pease, Robert Shuman, Leroy Martin, F. H. DeCastro, A. A. Ricker, M. J. Saunders, James Tucker, Henry E. Gapen and C. P. Chambers.

     Succeeding Moore, Glover, Ellsworth, Newman and Cleburne, commissioners serving have been as follows: J. J. McIntosh, H. V. Redington, James Callahan, Henry Newman, R. S. Van Tassel, Henry Tusler, J. F. Simpson, A. J. Walrath, Henry Snyder, J. W. Haas, T. H. Lawrence, Moritz Urbach, John Snodgrass, J. B. Stetson, August Newman, Frank L. Smith, Morris Davis, P. C. Johnson, A. H. Frame, E. S. Crigler, J. W. Vanderhoof, A. W. Atkins, W. R. Wood, J. W. Harper, Frank A. Rowan, Fred Lindburg, Robert Emanuelson, W. C. Dugger, Jerome B. Haiston, Louis R. Bareaw, J. B. Haiston, Lewis Brott, L.R. Barlow, Frank X. Rihn, N. H. Troelstoup, William Godings and J. L. Reed.



     A complete roster of the county officers has been hard to obtain. Some of the offices have been created since the organization of the county but the persons who have been trusted with the public funds are as follows: Thomas Kane, Henry Snyder, C.K. Allen, Carl E. Borgquist, James Sutherland, C.D. Essig, Adam Ickes, James L. McIntosh, A. Pease, Fred Lehmkuhl, A.K. Greenlee, J.S. Hagerty, W.R. Wood, Simon Fishman, Mabel Lancaster. The latter is the first woman to occupy this important position, and regrets have been expressed that her efficiency cannot be rewarded by more than two terms under the statute.



     H. A. Dygart was the first clerk to serve in the county, being named by the governor's proclamation in August, 1870. He has been followed by L. Connell, C.K. Allen, J.J. McIntosh, L.B. Cary, Dan McAleese, C.J. Osborn, William C. Bullock, James Burns, Robert F. Barrett, Henry T. Doran, F. N. Slawson, who splendidly assisted in the compilation of this data.



     The office of superintendent of public instruction

History of Western Nebraska and Its People


dates from the organization of the county and first election October 8, 1872. The first superintendent was George R. Ballou, being succeeded in September,1874, by L. Jenkins, then in 1875, by L.H. Bordwell. Since that time the following men have filled that office: Daniel Hirlihy, E.M. Day, Joseph Oberfelder, Leslie Stevens, Mrs. Julia Shelton, Mrs. E. 0. Lee, Mattie McGee, C. P. Chambers, Otis D. Lyon, Mrs. A. B. Knox, Minnie E. Chase, William Ritchie, Jr., Edith H. Morrison, and Anna McFadden. The records of the superintendent's office, and Mrs. McFadden assisted excellently in this work.



Old Court, Sheriff's Residence


     J. J. Ellis was the first sheriff of Cheyenne county; he was first appointed, then elected October 8, 1872, being followed in office by C. McCarty, John Zweilfel, F.R. Curran, Robert C. Howard, S.0. Fowler, W.T. Eubank, Charles Trognitz, John Daugherty, Daniel McAleese, Frank King, S. H. Babb, J. W. Lee, J. W. McDaniel, Adam D. Waggy, and then J.W. McDaniel, the present incumbent, returned to duty.

     In 1873, precincts for the first time took on importance and elected officers and from this time have continued to elect the necessary officers from time to time.

     The first county surveyor was elected in 1872, being John Griffin who refused to qualify; Joseph Callihan was elected in 1873, and, refused to qualify, since which time the surveyors elected have served. The first coroner was P. Bailey, who refused to qualify and was followed the next year by George Williams who also refused to qualify, but since that time the men elected have generally served.

     In 1881,occurs the first mention of a county attorney, when V. Bierbower's name is given at the returns of the November elections. He has been followed by W. C. Reilly, E.0. Lee, William P. Miles, Henry Gapen, Mark Spanogle, Henry Gapen, Leroy Martin, Robert W. Devoe, C.S. Radcliffe.



     William Gaslin,Jr., was the first district judge to sit in Sidney and Cheyenne county, and was the man who made much of western Nebraska bow to the law. He served from 1876 to 1880. Samuel Savage next sat upon the bench but his were not the years of stress that preceded or followed as he held office from 1880 to 1884.

     From 1884 to 1888, Francis G. Hamer, afterwards a member of the Nebraska supreme court, served in this district. His record is written in the hearts of the people whose homes he saved by delay of process of law in the interests of justice. In the end everyone was served well.

     From 1888 to 1892, A. H. Church was the judge presiding in the western end of the tenth district of Nebraska. Conditions in this section of the state were changing and he had difficulty in meeting the many new demands.

     William Neville, one of the best and most able judges that ever sat on a bench, presided over the destinies of Cheyenne county and those counties afterward carved from old Cheyenne, from 1892 to 1896. He then went to Congress.

     For fifteen years H.M. Grimes sat in this district, which was divided about ten years ago. By the creation of the new district, R.W. Hobart was appointed and took over the northern counties that had been carved from Cheyenne. Judge Grimes still presides when court meets in Cheyenne, Deuel, or Kimball counties. He starts now upon his twenty- fifth year as judge of the district in which Cheyenne county is located, which is evidence of a satisfied people.

     From 1868 to 1885, the statutes provided for the election of district attorneys. During those years one name stands alone to the credit of the Panhandle of Nebraska, that of Vic Bierbower,of Sidney, who was elected in 1880 and served one term.



     The present Cheyenne County Court House, is of Doric simplicity and is a constant source of pleasure to the eye and satisfaction to the people. It is a little more than a decade old, as $50,000 worth of bonds were voted for the erection of a court house March 21, 1911. On April 15, of the same year the contract


History of Western Nebraska and Its People

For the new structure was let to C. F. Goodhand of Ord.

     The building is sixty by eighty-four feet, exclusive of the portico and is built of white stone. The interior is finished in oak where wood is used and the walls are natural sand finish. The main entrance and rotunda are tiled. The stairway is of steel and brass. There are three full stories including the basement which is light and airy and contains the jail, the furnace room and two convenient rest rooms for the public.



Cheyenne County Court House, Sidney

The rest room in the northwest corner of the basement, maintained by the Woman's Club, is cozy, comfortable and convenient and is free to all the women of the county. The rest room for men practically duplicates this. A fine heating plant is in the basement so that every part of the building is well heated and also well lighted with electricity. All the county offices are located on the first floor and are equipped with every convenience including vaults for the records and county treasurer's papers. The offices include those of the clerk, superintendent, assessor, commissioners, surveyor and county judge, which includes an office and court room. The third floor or second story houses the district court room which is large and convenient. Connected with it is an office for the judge. On this floor are jury rooms, counsel chambers and the caretaker's apartments. The old county buildings were sold and wrecked when the new court house was placed in use so the grounds today are beautifully laid out in lawns, making the court house yard a real park for Sidney.



      As a result OF THE Congressional measure known as the Section Homestead Bill, passed in 1894, more than two million acres of land were thrown open to homesteaders under provision by which an entryman was entitled to six hundred and forty acres, and to such homesteaders under the old law, who had vacant lands adjoining, they could increase their acreage to a section. A thirty day preference was allowed in which to make filing. All the rest was open to the entrymen first coming. This caused a land rush into western Nebraska as hundreds of people wanted to make entries under the new law, Sidney displayed considerable activity some days prior to June 28, when the homestead law took effect. Many new settlers thus came into Cheyenne county who became permanent residents and aided in the further settlement of this section. The enlarged homestead was first introduced by Congressman Wm. Neville for two sections, the fruitful suggestion of Judge Homer Sullivan

History of Western Nebraska and Its People


of Broken Bow. Congressman M. P. Kincaid followed and reduced the acreage to one section. The law was then confined to Nebraska, but now includes all the western states.



     District No. 1, was organized in 1871, with C. E. Borgquist, moderator; D. Carrigan, director, and Joseph Cleburne, treasurer. It included Cheyenne county as it then existed, and unorganized Sioux county which then extended eastward to the present line of Holt county. In a period of less than fifty years twenty-three counties have been formed in this first school district, which originally included all northwestern Nebraska.

     The first teacher in this district was Irene Sherwood, who taught the school of twelve pupils at her home in Sidney, during the winter of 1871-1872. Ten years later there were four school districts in all this territory, located at Sidney, Big Springs, Antelopeville (now Kimball) and Lodgepole. Sidney reported one hundred and fifty pupils with a two room school. J.M. Brenton was principal and Mrs. N.L. Shelton, assistant.

     By 1884, nine districts lined the Union Pacific Railroad from Big Springs to Cheyenne and one district had been created in the still unorganized territory of Sioux county, near Fort Robinson on White river. Miss Mary Delahunty was the teacher, and Daniel Klein, director. The next year two more districts were organized in Cheyenne county; one on Pumpkin creek and the other on the North Platte river. Districts Nos.2 and 3 were organized in Sioux county with John Tucker and W.V. Pennington directors of the two districts, in the order named.

     There seems to have been no county superintendent in Cheyenne county until January, 1871, when George Ballou assumed the duties of that office. He was the first county super- int6ndent of a territory covering nearly a third of the state. On the first Saturday in February, 1873, he held the first teacher's examination at which Rose C. Michael and Mrs. L.M. Ballou were the only applicants and were granted certificates numbered one and two. School moneys available were appropriated for the use of district No. 1, there being only the one district. The board of directors then consisted of Thomas Kane, George W. Heist and John Ellis.

     L. Jenkins, the second superintendent, was elected September 1, 1874, and granted a second grade certificate to Miss Mollie A. Pressley, for one year. All moneys again went to the first district. On September 14, 1875, a second grade certificate was granted-to Miss Della A. Sharpless, and district No. 1 had all the school funds. February 19, 1878, County Superintendent L.H. Bordwell created district No. 2, at Big Springs and sent notice of its organization to John McCann. Election was held February 26, 1878, to elect school officers who were as follows: G. W. Banhart, moderator; R.A.J. Walrath, director; a man named Green was treasurer, but the district was abandoned as no school was held. On August 4, 1879, a petition for reorganization of district No.2,was filed and asked that the following officers be named: R.J. Coerdon, moderator; I.W. Ormsby, director; A.J. Walrath, treasurer. No. 2 district was created by E.M. Day, superintendent, who had been appointed to fill a vacancy July 8, 1879.

     District No. 3, at Antelopeville, now Kimball, was created August 8,1879, with J.J. Kinney, moderator; John J. McIntosh, director and William Gaw, treasurer. There was a contest of "School" and "No School," and it would seem that the "No School" faction had the best of it and had its board appointed. The first election overturned this and, in 1880, Thomas B. Evans, to which "taxable inhabitant" the notice of the district's organization had been sent, and James Lynch and Walter Derrig were elected members of the school board.

     The first school was held in a building made of railroad ties set on end, and had a dirt roof and dirt floor. Soon afterward a frame building was bought; it had formerly been used by J.J. McIntosh as a saloon. This served until the school grew and required more room and better quarters, which were provided. The old frame structure was sold to the Swedish Lutheran church and in 1920, was still used for church purposes though remodeled and with additions.

     District No. 4, was organized at Lodgepole, August 19, 1879, by E. M. Day, county superintendent. H. Barrett, was moderator; A.C. Drake, director; and James Green, treasurer

     S. V. Livingston became county superintendent in 1880, and no new districts were formed while he was in office. Only six certificates were issued during his term.

     Jos. Oberfelder was then elected superintendent, and assumed office in 1882. Eleven certificates were issued by him, and district No. 5, at Potter, came into existence September 8, 1883, when John O'Leary was selected as moderator; James Evans, director; and Adam Gunderson, treasurer.

     Leslie Stevens, who served as superintendent


History of Western Nebraska and Its People

after 1884, discontinued the record of certificates issued, except for the entry of the number, names and address.

     District No.6, at Bushnell, was organized September 26, 1884, with A.Tracy, Walter Derrig and S.A. Pierce the members of the board. March 7, 1885, district No. 7, was formed at Chappell, with Messrs. Johnson, Newman and McLoskey making up the board. Districts Nos. 8 and 9, were formed on the railroad at Bronson and Colton. District No. 10, the first organized away from the railroad in Cheyenne county, was on Pumpkin creek at the old Wright ranch, while Leslie Stevens was superintendent. It came into existence in March, 1885, and the district comprised practically all the present Scotts Bluff county. The taxable property consisted of some railroad land and ranch cattle.

     Lora Sirpless was the first teacher; John Wright was director, and, in 1887 L.D. Livingston and Hugh Milhollin became members of the board. A local contest appeared here, and the following years Mrs. Ellen Streeks, S.B. Shumway and Jacob Keleton were elected to the school board. The first school house in the district was made of logs with dirt floor and roof, but in 1887, a frame building about sixteen by twenty four feet was erected and Clara Shumway was selected teacher in 1888.

     Camp Clark district, No. 11, was organized the same month as district 10, being the second away from the railroad. After this, schools were organized thick and fast as the county was settling up by the autumn of 1888 there were a hundred and thirty-two districts in Cheyenne county. Julia Shelton was superintendent during this period of expansion. The first district organized and holding school in the present Scotts Bluff county was at Tabor, now Minatare, in August,1886. Basil Decker, Theodore Harsman and Wellington Clark, constituted the board. Horseshoe Bend had the first school in the North Platte valley. It was held in an old claim shack, with Gertrude Ashford as teacher. The district was organized March 7, 1886, wit George Williams as director. Cheyenne county has since been divided and retains only a small part of its original territory but the schools have maintained a high standard of efficiency in educational work.

     The first school in unorganized territory, later Sioux county, and now Sheridan county, was established by Jos. Oberfelder in 1882. It was located near Fort Robinson and Red Cloud Agency, and all the pupils were half breed Indians. There were forty-two of them, principally the children of Sioux women and white "squaw" men. We are told that the famous chief Red Cloud had descendants in this school. The children of Nick Janis and his Crow Indian wife were among them. Mary Delahunty was the courageous teacher to go into this wilderness to teach.



New High School, Sidney

     Cheyenne county as it now exists has seventy districts, which include several that are partly in Cheyenne, and partly in adjoining counties. According to the school census of 1920, there are two thousand seven hundred and forty-eight pupils in the county, ranging in age from five to twenty-one years. There are four accredited city and town high schools as follows. Sidney, with twenty-three teachers, Lodgepole, with nine; Potter, with seven; and Dalton with seven. There are consolidated schools at Sunol and Gurley, the first having five teachers, while Gurley has seven teachers and eleven grades.



Catholic Square, Sidney

     The rural schools, sixty-five in number do, not seem to be following the extreme consolidation plans of some other counties, it being the general opinion in Cheyenne county that schools of two or three rooms and a teacher's cottage are best. That teaching well all subjects up to the eighth and tenth grades meets

History of Western Nebraska and Its People


the most demands with the highest efficiency and economy in administration.

     There are four parochial schools in the county: The Catholic Academy at Sidney, and three others which are Lutheran; one at Sidney, one south of Sidney and the third at Gurley. Each of these three has but one teacher. There has been some friction to get them to qualify under the Simon law but not as much as in other counties. The main difference has been to get these schools to supply the required text books. Miss Anna McFadden is the present superintendent of Cheyenne county, and takes much interest in her work.



      Sidney possesses as good and cheap a water system as can be found in the state. The water is obtained from a well on the north side. This well goes down to second water and never lowers a foot. Its quality is of the purest. It is pumped to the reservoir on the hill and from there distributed to the town by a fall of a hundred and twenty feet. The reservoir will hold a hundred and twenty-five thousand gallons. The system is owned by the city and was put in at a cost of $25,000. Consumers get a water rate that is very reasonable. A sewer system has been a badly needed innovation and has improved sanitary conditions. This is also owned by the town. The lighting, heating and power plant, known as the Sidney Electric Service Company, is maintained as a private enterprise and its functions are as indicated. The entire town receives the light and power if desiring to and the business section is furnished with heat also. The service is excellent in each branch. Rose street is lighted by electroliers.



Birdseye View of Sidney

     This plant has a contract for pumping the city water and furnishes lights for the railroad yards and shops and power for the turn table. The Nebraska Telephone Company is located in the Cleburne Block and enjoys a large patronage. More than four hundred subscribers are served and have connections with about any place in the world. Four girls are busy throughout the twenty-four hours.

     Sidney has more than sixteen miles of cement sidewalks, much of it twelve feet wide. These lead to all the better portions of the town and take the pedestrian past houses that are a credit to any city.



Carnegie Library, Sidney, Nebraska

     Fire protection is as yet quite adequate with two volunteer fire companies, the Citizens and the Railroad Boys. Fire plugs are placed at frequent intervals over the town, the water supply is unlimited and the pressure great. The town has been remarkably free from fires and to the rare cases the firemen have given the highest degree of service. They are without a suitable home and in conjunction with the Village Board are planning to build a city hall with a fire department. They already have a considerable fund toward that end.



     As has been stated Sidney has railroads, the Burlington lying north and south and the Union Pacific traversing her length east and west. The Burlington has four passenger trains a day and two local freight carrying passengers. The U.P. has a division at this point and employs upward of three hundred men. The payroll for the current months has amounted monthly to $15,000. The round house, car department and coal heavers received $5,800, monthly, while the roadmaster's office and the five sections within the county total, $2,087.07 There are thirteen passenger trains on this road each day and at this point two local freights carrying passengers. An attractive depot of stone, steam-heated and with every convenience for travelers, is so exquisitely kept that strangers are often heard to remark


History of Western Nebraska and Its People

upon its unusual neatness. The windows look out upon a pretty and well kept park.

     In truth, the whole of the railroad property is so orderly and neat that the house-keepers could learn lessons by inspection of the buildings and yards, where conditions are so adverse to neatness. It will be readily understood that the Union Pacific railroad is a large part of Sidney.



     The first irrigation in western Nebraska was in the Lodgepole valley, and was practiced by the soldiers under the command of General Dudley of Sidney in 1871. A dam was built across the creek and the waters thus impounded were used to irrigate the tracts of land allotted to the companies. Rivalry existed between the companies in growing the best gardens, but the grasshoppers discouraged their efforts. The first produce was intended to supply two hundred and fifty enlisted men and their officers and finally ended in the addition of several hundred dollars worth of produce being sold in town.

     When the fort was abandoned in 1894, trees two or three feet in diameter were flourishing. After the valley was settled more densely, ditches were constructed until irrigation was practiced extensively along the borders of the entire creek. The dams averaged from three to ten feet in height, and seventy-five to one hundred feet in length, and were located from a half to three quarters of a mile apart along the course of the stream. The discharge of Lodgepole creek is small in comparison with many other streams thus utilized in Nebraska. This is explained by the fact that the stream is fed from numerous springs along its entire course and also by the fact that the valley being from one to three miles in width. The irrigation of such land thus being very close proximity to the stream that water reappears promptly, after being spread over the bordering land. It has been observed frequently that when all the flow was being diverted at one point the stream a half mile further down would flow again the same as if no water had been diverted above.

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Contributed by Sandy Smith

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