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Spear, like his late father, is a Republican. The latter took a great deal of interest in political matters and was always anxious for the success of his party because he believed in its principles, but would never accept any public office except in connection with the public schools. He was active in the cause of religion and was a member of the Methodist Episcopal church at Hull, which church he had helped to organize and build.
WILLIAM McCOMBER, who is one of the representative men of Banner county, has been interested here since the spring of 1887, a homesteader in that year. He has been variously engaged in this section as farmer and rancher, and for years has been connected with development work in the irrigation areas.
William A. McComber was born in Lenawee county, Michigan, May 26, 1862. His parents were David and Rachel (Shippy) McComber, the former of whom was born in Rochester county, New York, and the latter in Vermont. Both have been deceased for many years. Of their eight children, William H. is the only one in Nebraska. He had common school training in Michigan and then helped on his father's farm.
Mr. McComber was married January 22, 1885, to Miss Ella Nelson, who was born in Michigan, where her people had settled early. Her father died in 1904 and her mother lives with Mr. and Mrs. McComber. The latter have had three children: Bertha, who is the wife of Ray Holt, of Laramie City, Wyoming; Irene, who is the wife of Alvin Plaga, of Sibylee, Wyoming; and Averil, now deceased, who was the wife of George Phillips, of Laramie City.
Mr. and Mrs. McComber came to. Banner county in April, 1887, and still own their homestead, on which they lived over five years. Their first home was a sod house, not to be compared to their present handsome, comfortable residence, but is served its purpose well as long as they needed it. Mr. and Mrs. McComber were both musicians, and when they started for Nebraska she could not think of leaving her organ behind. It had been a gift from her parents and she was an expert performer on organ and piano, while Mr. McComber is a master of the violin. He attended a dancing party given at the home of Mrs. Lynch, at Kimball, a few nights after coming to. the county, and after that, for two years, he and wife were engaged as musicians at every dance for forty miles around, Mrs. McComber's organ being hauled from place to place. Their earnings from this source were not inconsiderable and wherever they went made friends.
After leaving the homestead Mr. McComber bought other land and they lived in the north part of the county for several years, when he accepted employment with the Swan Land and Cattle Company, on what was called the 2-Bar ranch, and he had charge of this ranch for five years. Then he went to the Rock ranch and from there to Sebylee river, and worked there for over ten years. Mr. McComber then was engaged by the Wyoming Development Company on construction work, largely cement work, in the irrigation project areas and for five years rode the ditch at Wheatland, Wyoming. He then went to the Laramie Water Company and was engaged in construction work for that organization for five years, also riding ditches. In 1917 Mr. McComber came back to Banner county and now owns and operate four hundred and forty acres on which he farms and raises hogs. He has a well improved farm, well stocked as a first class farm should be and his buildings are adequate and substantial.
Mr. McComber was reared in the Methodist Episcopal faith. Mrs. McComber belongs to the Christian church. She and daughter are members of the Eastern Star, of which she was local treasurer for three years. For many years Mr. McComber has been a Mason and in his home lodge has held all the offices except master. In his younger days he was a Republican in politics but at present casts an independent vote. He has never found time to serve in public offices even if he had had the inclination.
ERNST ZEHNER is a broad-minded Scottsbluff county farmer of retiring disposition, who shrinks from undue publicity but whose story, nevertheless, should be recorded in a history of the county for the benefit of his children and also for the purpose of demonstrating to others the advantages that America has over European countries.
Ernst Zehner was born in Germany, February 24, 1860, being the son of William and Catharine (Maar) Zehner, both of whom were born, reared and married in the German Empire, where the father was a general farmer all his life, passing away there some years ago. They were sober, industrious and thrifty people who spent their lives in the quiet routine of agricultural life in their native land. Ernest received his practical education in the excellent public schools of Germany which are main-
tained by the state and to which children must go for the required amount of study, and thus he laid the foundation for the broad and liberal education which he gained for himself through wide reading upon the subjects which interested him and also those connected with his business, for all his life Mr. Zehner has continued to keep abreast of the questions of the day, both financially and politically, and today is regarded as one of the broad, liberal, wide-visioned men of the western section of Nebraska, where be has made his home for so many years. As a youth he was ambitious and was far-sighted enough to see that class distinction and Junkerism in Germany would keep him from ever becoming a land owner or give his talents a fair opportunity. While still a youth he began to read of the "Land of Promise" across the seas and before attaining his majority was brave enough to sever all the home ties that bound him to the old farm and the Fatherland and made the long ocean trip to America determined to carve a career and gain fortune for himself in the new world. In 1880 Mr. Zehner landed on our shores and though he was not well acquainted with the English language was nothing daunted by this great handicap, but started for the middle west where he knew that some of his countrymen had settled. For a time he lived in Iowa, becoming versed in English and learning the customs of the country. While there he engaged in general farming, the profession which he had learned on his father's farm in the old country and one which he was well adapted to carry on in the new. Iowa was already well settled up at this time and the boy had a spirit of adventure which comes to every youth, so in 1886 he started for the west of which he had heard so much. In the early eighties the great cattle barons were ranging their vast herds from the Pecos in Texas, to the Yellowstone in Montana, and Mr. Zehner went to Wyoming to learn the cattle business by joining a cattle outfit. Two years later he decided he wanted some land for himself and in 1886 took advantage of the offers made by the government to settlers and took tip a homestead, also filed on a tree claim in Scottsbluff county, where he soon established a home, made good and permanent improvements on his land and was known as one of the younger and progressive men of the section. He soon found that cattle was one of the paying industries and at times worked for the different companies who owned or rented range in this county and gained a wide and favorable reputation as one of the cowboys of the high prairies. After the heigh-day of the cattle barons was past Mr. Zehner engaged in general farming and livestock raising on his own account, and was accounted one of the most substantial operators in his county due to his practical experience on the range. He was a close buyer, watched the market and usually disposed of his stock at a high price; he introduced modern methods in his agricultural industries and became one of the substantial men of the section. For many years lie was interested in the irrigation projects inaugurated by the government and private enterprise in the Platte valley and when lie determined to retire from the active management of his business, bought a seventy-acre tract of irrigated land in Scottsbluff county where he now resides. Mr. Zehner is essentially the architect of his own fortunes and can look with pride over the wide acres which he has won by his own unaided efforts as he owns 762 acres of fine land in Banner county which is well adapted to stock raising; has 160 acres in Laramie county near Horse creek, and the homestead in Scottsbluff county where he lives. All these varied tracts make him one of the largest landed proprietors in the Panhandle in addition to which he has considerable other financial resources.
Mr. Zehner married Cora Carter, a native of Scottsbluff county, born there May 9, 1879. Her parents were natives of Idaho, who are farmers of that state at the present time. By former marriage Mrs. Zehner has five children: Minnie, the wife of J. Dickson, a farmer of the state of Oregon; Luty, deceased; Austin, Mottie and Twyla, all of whom have been given the best of advantages in schooling and who will have the advantages of practical experience in business. Having worked out his own career and been independent since a young man it is but natural that Mr. Zehner should be independent in his way of thinking; and in his political views he is an independent, being bound by no strict party lines when he casts his vote, but throws his influence toward the man best fitted to serve the people in whatever office is to be filled. He is recognized as one of Scottsbluff county's public spirited citizens and in every relation of life measures up to the full standard of American citizenship, being a willing contributor and hearty supporter of every movement for the uplifting and improving of communal civic affairs.
OWEN W. LANGMAID, who is a representative of, perhaps, the oldest pioneer family of Banner county, has spent almost his entire life here and is one of the county's substantial and highly respected citizens. He was born in Jasper county, Iowa, January 2, 1877.
The parents of Mr. Langmaid were Solomon
W. and Eva (Badger) Langmaid, the former of whom was born in Caledonia county, Vermont, February 18, 1851, and the latter September 4, 1853. In his younger days the father was both carpenter and blacksmith, and after moving to Iowa, in 1876, he located on a farm on which he also had a blacksmith shop, and by working in the shop was able to add considerably to his income. After ten years in Iowa, Mr. Langmaid came first to Banner county, Nebraska, homesteading in the fall of 1884 and as far as recorded, he was the first homesteader in the county. On three different occasions he visited his land and remained three months at a time, but in the spring of 1886 decided it was time to settle on it permanently. Therefore a start was made from the Iowa home and after a tiresome journey by wagon, Kimball was reached on April 30, more than one remarking on the day of fine weather. The family decided to rest over night at Kimball and start on the next long ride across the country refreshed by the night's sleep in comfortable surroundings. Nature has a way of interfering with plans, sometimes, and on awaking the next morning the travelers found the ground covered thickly with snow and a blizzard raging, and conditions continued so bad that they were not able to leave Kimball for a week.
At last, when the claim in Banner county was reached, the little family found a wide expanse of improved land and a dugout for a home. It was not very inviting to the careful, tidy mother of the family, but she concealed her distaste as mothers often do, for a few days, but when she found a rattlesnake had claimed hospitality in the little home, she made her protests audible. Fortunately they had brought a tent with them and this was set up in a convenient place and the family lived in it for almost a year, by which time the father had succeeded in erecting a log dwelling. This first log house is still in use on the farm of J. V. Brodhead, a short distance southwest of Harrisburg. At that time there was but one family living between them and Kimball, their house being located a mile east of the main road between Harrisburg and Kimball. The parents of Owen Langmaid continued to live on this place for five years, then moved to Harrisburg, where the father operated the St. James Hotel for two years, and another hotel for the next six years. In 1900 the parents sold out and returned to North Danville, Vermont, where the father resumed farming on the old homestead of his grandfather, which farm has been in the Langmaid family for over one hundred years. He continued on the old place until his death, which occurred December 15, 1918. In January, 1919, the mother returned to Banner county and now lives with her son Owen W., who is the eldest of her three children, the others being; Georgia, who lives in Canada; and Burl, who married and lives on the old homestead in Vermont.
Owen W. Langmaid went to school for a short time before leaving Iowa and later had some advantages at Harrisburg. He remained with his parents until they returned to Vermont and then lived by himself on the homestead for a time. On many occasions in early days he cut and hauled wood to town and exchanged it for flour. Sometimes in boyhood he did not make a very profitable bargain, but money, in payment for work or service was gladly accepted instead of the universal trade. He tells that on one occasion he was engaged to drive a team home from Kimball, a distance of twenty-five miles, but after he accepted his employer decided that he would ride and the boy drive the cattle. It took until nine o'clock at night with nothing to eat all day, and the youth was expected to be grateful for the wage of twenty-five cents he received for the job.
On October 14, 1903, Mr. Langmaid was married to Miss Iva Bolen, a daughter of Dorsey and Nettie (Helmick) Bolen, early pioneers in Banner county. The father died in 1894 and the mother of Mrs. Langmaid married second, Jerome S. Rice, another old pioneer, who died in March 1909. Mr. Langmaid was county assessor for five years and is in his second term as precinct assessor. He owns twelve hundred and eighy (sic) acres, one hundred and ten of which is farm and alfalfa land. He lives on his well improved place of six hundred and forty acres which he homesteaded in 1905.
GEORGE NOYES, who is one of Banner county's prosperous farmers and ranchmen, left his eastern home for what was then considered far West, when twenty-four years old. He was born in Wyoming county, New York, December 9, 1954, the only son of Leonard and Demis (Bailey) Noyes. His mother died when he was six years old, a life long resident of Wyoming, New York.
Leonard Noyes, father of George, was born in Vermont and was five years old when his parents settled on a pioneer farm twenty-five miles from. Buffalo, New York. Very often during his lifetime he told his children of early hardships, such as having to travel over an
uncleaned country for sixteen miles to reach a corn mill, and working for fifteen years for a wage of eleven dollars a month. Father Noyes lived on one farm in southwestern New York, for seventy-five years. After the death of his first wife, in 1860, he married again and two daughters were born to him, one of these now living in New York, while the other died in 1915, in Oklahoma.
The district schools of his native state provided Mr. Noyes with a fair education. He was a well trained farmer when he came west to Kansas and followed agricultural pursuits in Brown county for the next twelve years. In 1889, he took up a claim in the Cherokee Strip, in Oklahoma, having been in the Sac and Fox opening, but after looking the claim over decided some years later to give it up. For eleven years, however, Mr. Noyes and his family lived in the strip, in Garfield county. The greater number of settlers had come there very poorly provided for farming, having no money and no farm utensils. Some of his neighbors carried on their farm work with a team made up of a bull and mule harnessed together. Mr. Noyes worked with a yoke of oxen but became discouraged when his sowing of wheat only returned him five bushels of grain to the acre and this he had to sell for thirty-five cents a bushel. Every family felt the pinch of poverty and for weeks the regular diet would be Kaffir corn and sorghum molasses, with coffee (so called) brewed from the dried peelings of sweet potatoes.
On May 22, 1909, Mr. Noyes and his family came to Banner county and bought land on section twenty-five town six, on which they yet live. In partnership with his sons, Mr. Noyes owns over four thousand acres of land here, ranching the most of it, breeding Hereford cattle. He has a fine well improved place and has prospered ever since coming to Banner county.
Mr. Noyes was married in September, 1879, to Miss Louise Shearer, who is a daughter of Joseph and Emma (Rickords) Shearer, residents of the state of New York. Mr. and Mrs. Noyes have had the following children: James A., who lives in Mitchell, Scottsbluff county, married Louise Frane; Nellie, who lives at Flowerfield, Nebraska, is the wife of Lester Van Pelt; Ralph, who lives at home; Clifford J., who lives near the home place, married Janette Angel; and Lottie, whose home is at Pine Bluffs, Wyoming, is the wife of Charles Van Pelt. Mrs. Noyes is a lady of much force of character and mental capacity. In 1904 she was appointed postmistress of the office at Hull, Nebraska, and continued in that office until she sent in her resignation in 1918. In politics Mr. Noyes is a Republican and as an upright citizen exerts considerable influence in the county.
WILSON MITCHELL, who came to Banner county in October, 1887, has lived here ever since and now is one of the county's substantial men. He has identified himself with all movements promising to permanently benefit the county, particularly in relation to church and schools, and his reputation as an honorable, trustworthy man and good citizen is universal.
Wilson Mitchell was born in Saline county, Illinois, December 26, 1866. His parents were Robert and Lydia A. (Gaskins) Mitchell. They came to Illinois from Kentucky, and both died in the former state, the mother in 1871 and the father in 1883. On account of the family records not having been preserved, Wilson Mitchell knows little more of his ancestry. He is one of a family of six children, and he and a brother, Levi, were the only members to come to Nebraska. They reached Banner county in October, 1887, and homesteaded in 1888. Wilson Mitchell still owns his homestead but lives on the adjoining one that belonged to his brother, the latter going to Colorado in 1896.
Mr. Mitchell was married November 18, 1891, to Lila *Michell, who is a daughter of Joseph and Julia (Covington) Mitchell*, who were then residents of Illinois. The mother of Mrs. Mitchell died May 16, 1900, but the father survives and lives in Oklahoma. Mr. and Mrs. Mitchell have the following children: Lavina, who lives at Flowerfield, Banner county, is the wife of Arthur Warner; Sylvia, who is the wife of Roland Warner of Banner county; and Frank, Joseph, George and Rosamond, all of whom live at home.
With the help of his son, Mr. Mitchell now operates a large ranch. He has been a breeder of Hereford cattle and Poland China hogs from the first and believes these breed do best in Banner county. A busy ranchman finds little time to be very active in politics or to serve in public office and this is Mr. Mitchell's attitude, but he is a sound Republican in his views and keeps well informed as to passing events. He has a comfortable, well ordered home and interesting family. All attend the Methodist Episcopal church, Mr. Mitchell
* Surname spelled two ways between the asterisks.
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