A PIONEER NEBRASKA TEACHER
BY MRS. ISABEL ROSCOE
In 1865, B. S. Roscoe, twenty-two years of age, returned to his home in Huron county, Ohio, after two years' service in the civil war. He assisted his father on the farm until 1867, when he was visited by F. B. Barber, an army comrade, a homesteader in northwestern Nebraska. His accounts of the new country were so attractive that Mr. Roscoe, who had long desired a farm of his own, decided to go west.
He started in March, 1867, was delayed in Chicago by a snow blockade, but arrived in Omaha in due time. On March 24, 1867, Mr. Roscoe went to Decatur via the stage route, stopping for dinner at the Lippincott home, called the halfway house between Omaha and Decatur. He was advised to remain in Decatur for a day or two for the return of B. W. Everett from Maple Creek, Iowa, but being told that Logan creek, where he wished to settle, was only sixteen miles distant, he hired a horse and started alone. The snow was deep with a crust on top but not hard enough to bear the horse and rider. After going two miles through the deep snow he returned to Decatur. On March 26 he started with Mr. Everett, who had a load of oats and two dressed hogs on his sled, also two cows to drive. They took turns riding and driving the cows. The trail was hard to follow and when they reached the divide between Bell creek and the Blackbird, the wind was high and snow falling. They missed the road and the situation was serious. There was no house, tree, or landmark nearer than Josiah Everett's, who lived near the present site of Lyons, and was the only settler north of what is now Oakland, where John Oak resided. They abandoned the sled and each rode a horse, Mr. Everett trying to lead the way, but the horse kept turning around, so at last he let the animal have its way and they soon arrived at Josiah Everett's homestead shanty, the cows following.
The next day Mr. Roscoe located his homestead on the bank of Logan creek. A couple of trappers had a dugout near by
A PIONEER NEBRASKA TEACHER
which they had made by digging a hole ten feet square in the side of the creek bank and covering the opening with brush and grass. Their names were Asa Merritt and George Kirk.
Mr. Roscoe then returned to Decatur and walked from there to Omaha, where he filed on his claim April 1, 1867. The ice on the Missouri river was breaking though drays and busses were still crossing. Mr. Roscoe walked across the river to Council Bluffs and then proceeded by train to Bartlett, Iowa, intending to spend the summer near Brownville, Nebraska. In August he returned to his homestead and erected a claim shanty. The following winter was spent working in the woods at Tietown. In the winter of 1869 fifty dollars was appropriated for school purposes in Everett precinct and Mr. Roscoe taught school for two months in his shanty and boarded around among the patrons.
EXPERIENCES OF A PIONEER WOMAN
BY MRS. ELISE G. EVERETT
On December 31, 1866, in a bleak wind I crossed the Missouri river on the ice, carrying a nine months' old baby, now Mrs. Jas. Stiles, and my four and a half year old boy trudging along. My husband's brother, Josiah Everett, carried three-year-old Eleanor in one arm and drove the team and my husband was a little in advance with his team and wagon containing all our possessions. We drove to the town of Decatur, that place of many hopes and ambitions as yet unfulfilled. We were entertained by the Herrick family, who said we would probably remain on Logan creek, our proposed home site, because we would be too poor to move away.
On January 7, 1867, in threatening weather, we started on the last stage of our journey in quest of a home. Nestled deep in the prairie hay and covered with blankets, the babies and I did not suffer. The desolate, wind-swept prairie looked uninviting but when we came to the Logan Valley, it was beautiful even in that weather. The trees along the winding stream, the grove, now known as Fritt's grove, gave a home-like look and I decided I could be content in that valley.
We lived with our brother until material for our shack could be brought from Decatur or Onawa, Iowa. Five grown people and seven children, ranging in ages from ten years down, lived in that small shack for three months. That our friendship was unimpaired is a lasting monument to our tact, politeness, and good nature.
The New Year snow was the forerunner of heavier ones, until the twenty-mile trip to Decatur took a whole day, but finally materials for the shack were on hand. The last trip extended to Onawa and a sled of provisions and two patient cows were brought over. In Decatur, B. S. Roscoe was waiting an opportunity to get to the Logan and was invited to "jump on." It was late, the load was heavy, and somewhere near Blackbird creek the team stuck in the drifts. The cows were given their32
EXPERIENCES OF A PIONEER WOMAN
liberty, the horses unhooked, and with some difficulty the half frozen men managed to mount and the horses did the rest - the cows keeping close to their heels; and so they arrived late in the night. Coffee and a hot supper warmed the men sufficiently to catch a few winks of sleep - on bedding on the floor. A breakfast before light and they were off to rescue the load. The two frozen and dressed porkers had not yet attracted the wolves, and next day they crossed the Logan to the new house.
A few days more and the snowdrifts were a mighty river. B. W. was a sort of Crusoe, but as everything but the horses and cows - and the trifling additional human stock - was strewn around him, he suffered nothing but anxiety. Josiah drove to Decatur, procured a boat, and with the aid of two or three trappers who chanced to be here, we were all rowed over the mile-wide sea, and were at home!
Slowly the water subsided, and Nebraska had emerged from her territorial obscurity (March 1, 1867) before it was possible for teams to cross the bottom lands of the Logan.
One Sunday morning I caught sight of two moving figures emerging from the grove. The dread of Indian callers was ever with me, but as they came nearer my spirits mounted to the clouds - for I recognized my sister, Mrs. Andrew Everett, as the rider, and her son Frank leading the pony. Their claim had been located in March, but owing to the frequent and heavy rains we were not looking for them so soon.. The evening before we had made out several covered wagons coming over the hills from Decatur, but we were not aware that they had already arrived at Josiah's. The wagons we had seen were those of E. R. Libby, Chas. Morton, Southwell, and Clements.
A boat had brought my sister and her son across the Logan - a pony being allowed to swim the stream but the teams were obliged to go eight miles south to Oakland, where John Oak and two or three others had already settled, and who had thrown a rough bridge across.
Before fall the Andrew Everett house (no shack) was habitable - also a number of other families had moved in on both sides of the Logan, and it began to be a real neighborhood.
One late afternoon I started out to make preparations for the night, as Mr. Everett was absent for a few days. As I opened the door two Indians stood on the step, one an elderly
NEBRASKA PIONEER REMINISCENCES
man, the other a much-bedecked young buck. I admitted them; the elder seated himself and spoke a few friendly words, but the smart young man began immediately to inspect the few furnishings of the room. Though quaking inwardly, I said nothing till he spied a revolver hanging in its leather case upon the wall and was reaching for it. I got there first, and taking it from the case I held it in my hands. At once his manner changed. He protested that he was a good Indian, and only wanted to see the gun, while the other immediately rose from his chair. In a voice I never would have recognized as my own, I informed him that it was time for him to go. The elder man at last escorted him outside with me as rear guard. Fancy my feelings when right at the door were ten or more husky fellows, who seemed to propose entering, but by this time the desperate courage of the arrant coward took possession of me, and I barred the way. It was plain that the gun in my hand was a surprise, and the earnest entreaties of my five-year-old boy "not to shoot them" may also have given them pause. They said they were cold and hungry; I assured them that I had neither room nor food for them - little enough for my own babies. At last they all went on to the house of our brother, Andrew Everett. I knew that they were foraging for a large party which was encamped in the grove. Soon they came back laden with supplies which they had obtained, and now they insisted on coming in to cook them, and the smell of spirits was so unmistakable that I could readily see that Andrew had judged it best to get rid of them as soon as possible, thinking that they would be back in camp by dark, and the whiskey, which they had obtained between here and Fremont, would have evaporated. But it only made them more insistent in their demands and some were looking quite sullen. At last a young fellow, not an Indian - for he had long dark curls reaching to his shoulders - with a strategic smile asked in good English for a "drink of water." Instead of leaving the door, as he evidently calculated, I called to my little boy to bring it. A giggle ran through the crowd at the expense of the strategist but it was plain they were growing ugly. Now the older Indian took the opportunity to make them an earnest talk, and though it was against their wishes, he at last started them toward the grove. After a while Frank Everett, my nephew, who had come down to bolster up my courage, and the children went
EXPERIENCES OF A PIONEER WOMAN
to bed and to sleep, but no sleep for me; as the gray dawn was showing in the east, a terrific pounding upon the door turned my blood to ice. Again and again it came, and at last I tiptoed to the door and stooped to look through the crack. A pair of very slim ankles was all that was visible and as I rose to my feet, the very sweetest music I had ever heard saluted me, the neigh of my pet colt Bonnie, who had failed to receive her accustomed drink of milk the previous evening and took this manner of reminding me.
This was the only time we were ever menaced with actual danger, and many laughable false alarms at last cured me of my fears of a people among whom I now have valued friends.
RECOLLECTIONS OF WEEPING WATER, NEBRASKA
BY I. N. HUNTER
Mr. and Mrs. L. D. Hunter were pioneer settlers of Nebraska and Weeping Water, coming from Illinois by team. Their first settlement in the state was near West Point in Cuming county where father staked out a claim in 1857. Things went well aside from the usual hardships of pioneer life, such as being out of flour and having to pound corn in an iron kettle with an iron wedge to obtain corn meal for bread. When the bottom of the kettle gave way as a result of the many thumpings of the wedge, a new plan was devised - that of chopping a hole in a log and making a crude wooden kettle which better stood the blows of the wedge. This method of grinding corn was used until a trip could be made with an ox team, to the nearest mill, forty miles distant; a long and tedious trip always but much more so in this particular instance because of the high water in the streams which were not bridged in those days. These were small hardships compared to what took place when the home was robbed by Indians. These treacherous savages stripped the premises of all the live stock, household and personal effects. Cattle and chickens were killed and eaten and what could not be disposed of in this way were wantonly destroyed and driven off. Clothing and household goods were destroyed so that little was saved except the clothing the members of the family had on. From the two feather beds that were ripped open, mother succeeded in gathering up enough feathers to make two pillows and these I now have in my home. They are more than a half century old. A friendly Indian had come in advance of the hostile band and warned the little settlement of the approach of the Indians with paint on their faces. His signs telling them to flee were speedily obeyed and in all probability this was all that saved many lives, as the six or seven families had to keep together and travel all night to keep out of the reach of the Indians until the people at Omaha could be notified and soldiers sent to the scene.36
RECOLLECTIONS OF WEEPING WATER
On the arrival of the soldiers the Indians immediately hoisted a white flag and insisted that they were "good Indians."
As no one had been killed by the Indians, it was the desire of the soldiers to merely make the Indians return the stolen property and stock, but as much property was destroyed, the settlers received very little. A number of the Indians were arrested and tried for robbing the postoffice which was at our home. My parents were the principal witnesses and after the Indians were acquitted, it was feared they might take revenge, so they were advised to leave the country.
With an ox team and a few ragged articles of clothing they started east. When he reached Rock Bluffs, one of the early river towns of Cass county, father succeeded in obtaining work. His wages were seventy-five cents a day with the privilege of living in a small log cabin. There was practically no furniture for the cabin, corn husks and the few quilts that had been given them were placed on the floor in the corner to serve as a place to sleep. Father worked until after Christmas time without having a coat. At about this time, he was told to take his team and make a trip into Iowa. Just as he was about to start, his employer said to him: "Hunter, where's your coat?" The reply was, "I haven't any." "Well, that won't do; you can't make that trip without a coat; come with me to the store." Father came out of the store with a new under coat and overcoat, the first coat of any kind he had had since his home was invaded by the red men.
An explanation of the purpose of the trip into Iowa will be of interest. The man father worked for was a flour and meat freighter with a route to Denver, Colorado. In the winter he would go over into lowa, buy hogs and drive them across the river on the ice, to Rock Bluffs, where they were slaughtered and salted down in large freight wagons. In the spring, from eight to ten yoke of oxen would be hitched to the wagon, and the meat, and often times an accompanying cargo of flour, would be started across the plains to attractive markets in Denver.
Father made a number of these trips to Denver as ox driver.
The writer was born at Rock Bluffs in 1860. We moved to Weeping Water in 1862 when four or five dwellings and the little old mill that stood near the falls, comprised what is now our beautiful little city of over 1,000 population.
NEBRASKA PIONEER REMINISCENCES
During the early sixties, many bands of Indians numbering from forty to seventy-five, visited Weeping Water. It was on one of their visits that the writer made the best record he has ever made, as a foot racer. The seven or eight year old boy of today would not think of running from an Indian, but half a century ago it was different. It was no fun in those days to be out hunting cattle and run onto a band of Indians all sitting around in a circle. In the morning the cattle were turned out to roam about at will except when they attempted to molest a field, and at night they were brought home if they could be found. If not the search was continued the next day. Some one was out hunting cattle all the time it seemed. With such a system of letting cattle run at large, it was really the fields that were herded and not the cattle. Several times a day some member of the family would go out around the fields to see if any cattle were molesting them. One of our neighbors owned two Shepherd dogs which would stay with the cattle all day, and take them home at night. It was very interesting to watch the dogs drive the cattle. One would go ahead to keep the cattle from turning into a field where there might be an opening in the rail fence, while the other would bring up the rear. They worked like two men would. But the family that had trained dogs of this kind was the exception; in most cases it was the boys that had to do the herding. It was on such a mission one day that the writer watched from under cover of some bushes, the passing of about seventy-five Indians all on horseback and traveling single file. They were strung out a distance of almost a mile. Of course they were supposed to be friendly, but there were so many things that pointed to their tendency to be otherwise at times, that we were not at all anxious to meet an Indian no matter how many times he would repeat the characteristic phrase, "Me good Injun." We were really afraid of them and moreover the story was fresh in our minds of the murder of the Hungate family in Colorado, Mrs. Hungate's parents being residents of our vicinity at that time. Her sister, Mrs. P. S. Barnes, now resides in Weeping Water.
Thus it will be seen that many Indian experiences and incidents have been woven into the early history of Weeping Water. In conclusion to this article it might be fitting to give the Indian legend which explains how the town received its name of Weep-
RECOLLECTIONS OF WEEPING WATER
ing Water. The poem was written by my son, Rev. A. V. Hunter, of Boston, and is founded on the most popular of the Indian legends that have been handed down.
THE LEGEND OF WEEPING WATER
- Long before the white man wandered
- To these rich Nebraska lands,
- Indians in their paint and feathers
- Roamed in savage warlike bands.
- They, the red men, feared no hardships;
- Battles were their chief delights;
- Victory was their great ambition
- In their awful bloody fights.
- Then one day the war cry sounded
- Over valley, hill and plain.
- From the North came dusky warriors,
- From that vast unknown domain.
- When the news had reached the valley
- That the foe was near at hand,
- Every brave was stirred to action
- To defend his home, his land.
- To the hills they quickly hastened
- There to wait the coming foe.
- Each one ready for the conflict
- Each with arrow in his bow.
- Awful was the scene that followed,
- Yells and warwhoops echoed shrill.
- But at last as night descended
- Death had conquered; all was still.
- Then the women in the wigwams
- Hearing rumors of the fight,
- Bearing flaming, flickering torches
- Soon were wandering in the night.
- There they found the loved ones lying
- Calm in everlasting sleep.
- Little wonder that the women,
- Brokenhearted, all should weep.
NEBRASKA PIONEER REMINISCENCES
- Hours and hours they kept on weeping,
- 'Til their tears began to flow
- In many trickling streamlets
- To the valley down below.
- These together joined their forces
- To produce a larger stream
- Which has ever since been flowing
- As you see it in this scene.
- Indians christened it Nehawka
- Crying Water means the same.
- In this way the legend tells us
- Weeping Water got its name.
INCIDENTS AT PLATTSMOUTH
BY ELLA POLLOCK MINOR
Mr. and Mrs. Jacob Vallery were living in Glenwood, Iowa, in 1855, when they decided to purchase a store from some Indians in Plattsmouth. Mr. Vallery went over to transact the business, and Mrs. Vallery was to follow in a few days. Upon her arrival in Bethlehem, where she was to take the ferry, she learned that the crossing was unsafe on account of ice floating in the river. There were two young men there, who were very anxious to get across and decided to risk the trip. They took a letter to her husband telling of the trouble. The next day, accompanied by these two young men, Mr. Vallery came over after her in a rowboat, by taking a course farther north. The boat was well loaded when they started on the return trip. Some of the men had long poles, and by constantly pushing at the ice they kept the boat from being crushed or overturned.
Mrs. Vallery's oldest daughter was the third white child born in the vicinity of Plattsmouth. And this incident happened soon after her arrival in 1855. Mrs. Vallery had the baby in a cradle and was preparing dinner when she heard a knock at the door. Before she could reach it, an Indian had stepped in, and seeing some meat on the table asked for it. She nodded for him to take it, but he seemed to have misunderstood, and then asked for a drink of water. While Mrs. Vallery was getting the drink, he reached for the baby, but she was too quick for him and succeeded in reaching the baby first. He then departed without further trouble.
At one time the Vallerys had a sick cow, and every evening several Indians would come to find out how she was. She seemed to get no better and still they watched that cow. In the course of a week she died, evidently during the night, because the next morning the first thing they heard was the Indians skinning the cow, out by the shed, and planning a "big feed" for that night down by the river.
The late Mrs. Thomas Pollock used to tell us how the Indians
NEBRASKA PIONEER REMINISCENCES
came begging for things. Winnebago John, who came each year, couldn't be satisfied very easily, so my grandmother found an army coat of her brother's for him. He was perfectly delighted and disappeared with it behind the wood pile, where he remained for some time. The family wondered what he was doing, so after he had slipped away, they went out and hunted around for traces of what had kept him. They soon found the clue; he had stuffed the coat in under the wood, and when they pulled it out, they found it was minus all the brass buttons.
Another time one of Mrs. Pollock's children, the late Mrs. Lillian Parmele, decided to play Indian and frighten her two brothers, who were going up on the hill to do some gardening. She wrapped up in cloaks, blankets and everything she could find to make herself look big and fierce, then went up and hid in the hazel brush, where she knew they would have to pass. Pretty soon she peeked out and there was a band of Indians coming. Terrified, she ran down toward her home, dropping pieces of clothing and blankets as she went. The Indians seeing them, ran after her, each one anxious to pick up what she was dropping. The child thinking it was she they were after, let all her belongings go, so she could run the better and escape them. After that escapade quite a number of things were missing about the house, some of them being seen later at an Indian camp near by.
FIRST THINGS IN CLAY COUNTY
BY MRS. CHARLES M. BROWN
The first settler of Clay county, Nebraska, was John B. Weston, who located on the Little Blue, built a log hut in 1857 and called the place Pawnee Ranch. It became a favorite stopping place of St. Joe and Denver mail carriers.
The first settler of Sutton was Luther French who came in March, 1870, and homesteaded eighty acres. Mr. French surveyed and laid out the original townsite which was named after Sutton, Massachusetts. His dugout and log house was built on the east bank of School creek, east of the park, and just south of the Kansas City and Omaha railroad bridge. Traces of the excavation are still visible. The house was lined with brick and had a tunnel outlet near the creek bottom for use in case of an Indian attack. Among his early callers were Miss Nellie Henderson and Capt. Charles White who rode in from the West Blue in pursuit of an antelope, which they captured.
Mrs. Wils Cumming was the first white woman in Sutton. She resided in the house now known as the Mrs. May Evans (deceased) place. Part of this residence is the original Cumming home.
At this time the population of Sutton consisted of thirty-four men and one woman. In the spring of 1871, F. M. Brown, who was born in Illinois in 1840, came to Nebraska and settled on a homestead in Clay county, four miles north of the present site of Sutton. At that time Clay county was unorganized territory, and the B. & M. railroad was being extended from Lincoln west.
September 11, 1871, Governor James issued a proclamation for the election of officers and the organization of Clay county fixing the date, October 14, 1871. The election was held at the home of Alexander Campbell, two miles east of Harvard, and fifty-four votes were cast. Sutton was chosen as the county seat. F. M. Brown was elected county clerk; A. K. Marsh, P. 0. Norman, and A. A. Corey were elected county commissioners. When
NEBRASKA PIONEER REMINISCENCES
it came to organizing and qualifying the officers, only one freeholder could be found capable of signing official bonds and as the law required two sureties, R. G. Brown bought a lot of Luther French and was able to sign with Luther French as surety on all official bonds. As the county had no money and no assessments had been made all county business was done on credit. There was no courthouse and county business was conducted in the office of R. G. Brown, until February, 1873, when a frame building to be used as a courthouse was completed at a cost of $1,865. This was the first plastered building in the county and was built by F. M. Brown.
In May, 1873, a petition for an election to relocate the county seat was filed, but the motion of Commissioner A. K. Marsh that the petition be "tabled, rejected and stricken from the files" ended the discussion temporarily. In 1879 the county seat was removed to Clay Center. Several buildings were erected during the fall of 1873 and Sutton became the center of trade in the territory between the Little Blue and the Platte rivers.
Melvin Brothers opened the first store in 1873 south of the railroad tracks, now South Sanders avenue. At that time it was called "Scrabble Hill."
In 1874 the town was incorporated and a village government organized, with F. M. Brown as mayor.
Luther French was the first postmaster.
Thurlow Weed opened the first lumber yard.
William Shirley built and run the first hotel.
L. R. Grimes and J. B. Dinsmore opened the first bank.
Pyle and Eaton built and operated the first elevator.
Isaac N. Clark opened the first hardware store.
Dr. Martin V. B. Clark, a graduate of an Ohio medical college, was the first physician in the county and opened the first drug store in Sutton. In 1873, during the first term of district court, he was appointed one of the commissioners of insanity. In 1877 he was elected coroner.
The Odd Fellows hall was the first brick building erected.
The Congregational church, built in 1875, was the first church building in the county.
William L. Weed taught the first school, beginning January 20, 1872, with an enrollment of fourteen scholars.
FIRST THINGS IN CLAY COUNTY
In 1876 the Evangelical Association of North America sent Rev. W. Schwerin to Sutton as a missionary.
In the early seventies the Burlington railroad company built and maintained an immigrant house on the corner south of the present Cottage hotel. This was a long frame building of one room with a cook stove in either end. Many of the immigrants were dependent upon a few friends who were located on the new land in the vicinity. Their food consisted largely of soup made with flour and water; any vegetables they were able to get were used. Meat was scarce with the immigrants. They had considerable milk, mostly sour, brought in by their friends. The immigrants remained here until they found work; most of them moved on to farms. The house burned about 1880.
In the early days Sutton was a lively business place with all the features of a frontier town. Now it is a city enjoying the comforts of modern improvements and refined society.
REMINISCENCES OF CUSTER COUNTY
BY MRS. J. J. DOUGLAS
In July, 1888, I arrived at Broken Bow, which is situated geographically about the center of the state. That village looked strange to me with not a tree in sight excepting a few little cuttings of cottonwood and boxelder here and there upon a lawn. After having lived all my life in a country where every home was surrounded by groves and ornamental shade trees, it seemed that I was in a desert.
I had just completed a course of study in a normal school prior to coming to Nebraska, and was worn out in mind and body, so naturally my first consideration was the climatic condition of the country and its corresponding effect upon the vegetation. I wondered how the people stood the heat of the day but soon discovered that a light gentle breeze was blowing nearly all the time, so that the heat did not seem intense as it did at my Iowa home.
After I had been in Broken Bow about two weeks I was offered a position in the mortgage loan office of Trefren and Hewitt. The latter was the first county clerk of Custer county. I held this position a few weeks, then resigned to take charge of the Berwyn school at the request of Mr. Charles Randall, the county superintendent. Berwyn was a village situated about ten miles east of Broken Bow. It consisted of one general merchandise store, a postoffice, depot, and a blacksmith shop. I shall never forget my first impression on arriving at Berwyn very early on that September morning. It was not daylight when the train stopped at the little depot, and what a feeling of loneliness crept over me as I watched that train speed on its way behind the eastern hills! I found my way to the home of J. 0. Taylor (who was then living in the back end of his store building) and informed him that I was the teacher who had come to teach the school and asked him to direct me to my boarding place. Being a member of the school board, Mr. Taylor gave me the necessary information and then sent his hired46
REMINISCENCES OF CUSTER COUNTY
man with a team and buggy to take me a mile farther east to the home of Ben Talbot, where I was to stay.
The Talbot home was a little sod house consisting of two small rooms. On entering I found Mrs. Talbot preparing breakfast for the family. I was given a cordial welcome, and after breakfast started in company with Mrs. Talbot's little girl for the schoolhouse. The sense of loneliness which had taken possession of me on my way to this place began to be dispelled. I found Mrs. Talbot to be a woman of kind heart and generous impulses. She had two little girls, the older one being of school age. I could see the schoolhouse up on the side of a hill. It was made of sod and was about twelve by fifteen feet. The roof was of brush and weeds, with some sod; but I could see the blue sky by gazing up through the roof at almost any part of it. I looked out upon the hills and down the valley and wondered where the pupils were to come from, as I saw no houses and no evidence of habitation anywhere excepting Mr. Talbot's home. But by nine o'clock about twelve children had arrived from some place, I knew not where.
I found in that little, obscure schoolhouse some of the brightest and best boys and girls it was ever my good fortune to meet. There soon sprang up between us a bond of sympathy. I sympathized with them in their almost total isolation from the world, and they in turn sympathized with me in my loneliness and homesickness.
On opening my school that first morning, great was my surprise to learn how well those children could sing. I had never been in a school where there were so many sweet voices. My attention was particularly directed to the voices of two little girls as they seemed remarkable for children of their years. I often recall one bright sunny evening after I had dismissed school and stood watching the pupils starting out in various directions for their homes, my attention was called to a path that led down the valley through the tall grass. I heard singing and at once recognized the voices of these two little girls. The song was a favorite of mine and I could hear those sweet tones long after the children were out of sight in the tall grass. I shall never forget how charmingly sweet that music seemed to me.
I soon loved every pupil in that school and felt a keen regret when the time came for me to leave them. I have the tenderest
NEBRASKA PIONEER REMINISCENCES
memory of my association with that district, though the school equipment was meager and primitive. After finishing my work there I returned to Broken Bow where I soon accepted a position in the office of J. J. Douglass, clerk of the district court. Mr. Douglass was one of the organizers of Custer county and was chosen the first clerk of the court, which position he held for four years. I began my work in this office on November 16, 1888, and held the position till the close of his term.
During this time many noted criminal cases were tried in court, Judge Francis G. Hamer of Kearney being the judge. One case in which I was especially interested was the DeMerritt case, in which I listened to the testimony of several of my pupils from the Berwyn district. Another far-famed case was the Haunstine case, in which Albert Haunstine received a death sentence. To hear a judge pronounce a death sentence is certainly the most solemn thing one can imagine. Perhaps the most trying ordeal I ever experienced was the day of the execution of Haunstine. It so happened that the scaffold was erected just beneath one of the windows of our office on the south side of the courthouse. As the nails were being driven into that structure how I shuddered as I thought that a human being was to be suspended from that great beam. Early in the morning on the day of the execution people from miles away began to arrive to witness the cruelest event that ever marred the fair name of our beloved state. Early in the day, in company with several others, I visited the cell of the condemned man. He was busy distributing little souvenirs he had made from wood to friends and members of his family. He was pale but calm and self-composed. My heart ached and my soul was stirred to its very depth in sympathy for a fellow being and yet I was utterly helpless so far as extending any aid or consolation. The thought recurred to me so often, why is it men are so cruel to each other - wolfish in nature, seeking to destroy their own kind! And now the thought still comes to me, will the day ever dawn when there will be no law in Nebraska permitting men to cruelly take the life of each other to avenge a wrong? I trust that the fair name of Nebraska may never be blotted again by another so-called legal execution.
It was during the time I was in that office the first commencement of the Broken Bow high school was held, the class consist-
REMINISCENCES OF CUSTER COUNTY
ing of two graduates, a boy and a girl. The boy is now Dr. Willis Talbot, a physician of Broken Bow, and the girl, who was Stella Brown, is now the wife of W. W. Waters, mayor of Broken Bow.
We moved our office into the new courthouse in January, 1890. Soon after we saw the completion of the mammoth building extending the entire length of the block on the south side of the public square called the Realty block. The Ansley Cornet band was the first band to serenade us in the new courthouse.
Mr. Douglass completed his term of office as clerk of the district court on January 7, 1892, and two weeks later we were married and went for a visit to my old home in Iowa. Soon after returning to Broken Bow we moved to Callaway. I shall never forget my first view of the little city of which I had heard so much, the "Queen City of the Seven Valleys." After moving to Callaway I again taught school and had begun on my second year's work when I resigned to accept a position in the office of the state land commissioner, H. C. Russell, at Lincoln, where I remained for two years. During the time I was in that office Mr. Douglass was appointed postmaster at Callaway, so I resigned my work in Lincoln and returned home to work in the postoffice. We were in this office for seven years, after which I accepted a position in the Seven Valleys bank. After a year I again took up school work and have been engaged in that ever since. We have continued to reside at Callaway all these years and have learned to love the rugged hills and glorious sunshine. The winds continue to blow and the sands beat upon our pathway, but we would not exchange our little cottage in the grove for a palace in the far East.
© 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001 for the NEGenWeb Project by Pam Rietsch, T&C Miller