BY MRS. HARMON BROSS
An experience through which I passed in northwestern Nebraska in the early days comes to my mind very frequently.
When the railroad first went through that region to Chadron, Mr. Bross was general missionary for the Northwest, including central Wyoming and the Black Hills country.
When we first visited Chadron it was a town of white tents, and we occupied a tent for several days. Then the tent was needed for other purposes and Mr. Bross suggested that we find lodging in a building in process of erection for a hotel. The frame was up and enclosed, the floors laid, but no stairs and no division into rooms. The proprietor said we could have a bed in the upper room, where there were fifty beds side by side. He would put a curtain around the bed. As that was the only thing to do, we accepted the situation and later I climbed a ladder to the upper floor.
The bed in one corner was enclosed with a calico curtain just the size of the bed. I climbed on, and prepared the baby boy and myself for sleep. As I was the only woman in the room, and every bed was occupied before morning by two men, the situation was somewhat unique. However, I was soon asleep.
About three o'clock I was awakened by the stealthy footsteps of two men on the ladder. They came to the bed at the foot of the one we occupied, and after settling themselves to their satisfaction began discussing the incidents of the night. As they were gamblers, the conversation was a trifle strange to a woman.
Soon in the darkness below and close to the side of the building where we were, rang out several pistol shots with startling distinctness.
One man remarked, in a calm, impersonal tone, "I prefer to be on the ground floor when the shots fly around like that." The remark was not especially reassuring for a mother with a sleeping baby by her side.
As no one in the room seemed to be disturbed, and as the tumult below soon died away, I again slept, and awakened in the morning none the worse for the experience of the night.50
MRS. ANDREW K. GAULT
Third Vice-President General from Nebraska, National Society, Daughters of the American Revolution. Elected 1913
LEGEND OF CROW BUTTE
BY DR. ANNA ROBINSON CROSS
The early history of Crawford and its environment is replete with tales of Indian scares; the pioneer settlers banding themselves together and arming for protection against possible Indian raids, all presenting lurid material for the most exciting stories, if one could gather the accurate data.
The legend of Crow Butte is one of the most thrilling, and at the same time the most important, of the many tales told by the old settlers around the winter fireside.
In the early history of the Sioux and Crow Indians, much strife and ill-feeling was engendered between the two tribes by the stealing of horses. As no satisfactory settlement could be arranged between them, it was declared, after a solemn powwow, that a decisive battle should be fought, and the field for the said conflict was chosen on the land east of the present site of Crawford. The final stand was taken on one of the peculiar clay formations known as buttes, found in northwestern Nebraska. These eminences, dividing this section of the country into valleys and ridges of hills, add very much to the beauty of the landscape, by their seeming likeness to a succession of battlements and old castles.
This particular butte, standing like a sentinel about five miles east of Crawford, rises to a height of nearly three hundred feet on the east side, and is possible of ascent by gradual elevation on the west side. It appears to stand distinct and alone, forming a landmark on the horizon that has guided many a settler and traveler to home and safety. The writer is one of the number of travelers who, from bitter experiences in long winter drives over the prairie, has learned to appreciate the landmark of the old Crow Butte.
The Sioux, having driven the Crows to the top of this butte, thought, by guarding the path, they could quickly conquer by starving them out. Under cover of night the Crows decided, after due deliberation, that the warriors could escape, if the old
NEBRASKA PIONEER REMINISCENCES
men of the tribe would remain and keep up a constant singing. This was done. The young and able-bodied men, making ropes of their blankets, were let down the steep side of the butte, while the poor old men kept up a constant wailing for days, until death, from lack of food and exhaustion, had stilled their voices. As the singing gradually ceased, the Sioux, while watching, saw white clouds passing over the butte, having the appearance of large, white birds with outstretched wings, on which they carried the old men to the "Happy Hunting Ground." The Sioux, awed by the illusion, believed it an omen of peace and declared that forever after there should be no more wars between the Crows and the Sioux.
Through Capt. James H. Cook, an early settler and pioneer of this section, who has served as scout and interpreter for the Indians for years, I have learned that it was near this Crow Butte that the last great treaty was made with the Indians, in which the whole of the Black Hills country was disposed of to the white people. According to his statement, the affair came very nearly ending in a battle in which many lives might have been lost. The bravery and quick action of a few men turned the tide in favor of the white people.
The following original poem by Pearl Shepherd Moses is quite appropriate in this connection:
TO CROW HEART BUTTE
- Oh, lofty Crow Heart Butte, uprising toward the sun,
- What is your message to the world below?
- Or do you wait in silence, race outrun,
- The march of ages in their onward flow?
- Ye are so vast, so great, and yet so still,
- That but a speck I seem in nature's plan;
- Or but a drop without a way or will
- In this mad rush miscalled the race of man.
- In nature's poems you a period stand
- Among her lessons we can never read;
- But with high impulse and good motive found,
- You help us toward the brave and kindly deed.
LEGEND OF CROW BUTTE
- The winds and sunshine, dawns and throbbing star,
- Yield you their message from the ether clear,
- While moonlight crowns your brow so calm and fair
- With homage kingly as their greatest peer.
- A longing fills me as I nightly gaze;
- Would I could break your spell of silence vast;
- But centuries and years and months and days
- Must add themselves again unto the past.
- And I can only wish that I were as true,
- Always found faithful and as firmly stand
- For right as you since you were young and new,
- A wondrous product from a mighty hand.
LIFE ON THE FRONTIER
BY JAMES AYRES
Prairie Covered with Indians
In July, 1867, a freight train left the old Plum Creek station late one night for the west. As the company was alarmed for the safety of the trains, Pat Delahunty, the section boss, sent out three men on a hand-car over his section in advance of this train. They had gone about three miles to the bend west of the station when they were attacked by Indians. This was at a point nearly north of the John Jacobson claim. There are still on the South side of the track some brickbats near the culvert. This is the place where the Indians built a fire on the south side of the track and took a position on the north side. When the hand-car came along, they fired upon it. They killed one man and wounded another, a cockney from London, England, and thinking him dead took his scalp. He flinched. They stuck a knife in his neck but even that did not kill him. He recovered consciousness and crawled into the high weeds. The freight came and fell into the trap. While the Indians were breaking into the cars of the wrecked freight, the Englishman made his escape, creeping a mile to the north. As soon as morning came, Patrick Delahunty with his men took a hand-car and went to investigate. Before they had gone half a mile they could see the Indians all around the wreck. Each one had a pony. They had found a lot of calico in one car and each Indian had taken a bolt and had broken one end loose and was unfolding it as he rode over the prairie. Yelling, they rode back and forth in front of one another with calico flying, like a Maypole dance gone mad. When they saw the section men with guns, they broke for the Platte river and crossed it due south of where Martin Peterson's house now stands. The section men kept shooting at them but got no game. They found that a squaw-man had probably had a hand in the wrecking of the train for the rails had been pried up just beyond the fire. The smoke blinded the engineer and he ran into the rails which were standing as high as the front of the54
LIFE ON THE FRONTIER
boiler. The engineer and the fireman were killed. The engine ran off the track, but the cars remained on the rails. The Indians opened every car and set fire to two or three of the front ones. One car was loaded with brick. The writer got a load of these brick in 1872 and built a blacksmith forge. Among the bricks were found pocket knives, cutlery, and a Colt's revolver.
The man who had been scalped came across the prairie toward the section men. They thought he was an Indian. His shirt was gone and his skin was covered with dried blood. They were about to shoot when Delahunty said, "Stop, boys," for the man had his hands above his head. They let him come nearer and when he was a hundred yards away Delahunty said, "By gobs, it's Cockney!" They took him to the section house and cared for him. He told them these details. After this event he worked for the Union Pacific railroad at Omaha. Then he went back to England. The railroad had just been built and there was only one train a day.
Wild Turkeys and Wild Cats
Tom Mahum was the boss herder for Ewing of Texas and had brought his herd up that summer and had his cattle on Dilworth's islands until he could ship them to Chicago. He bantered me for a turkey hunt, and we went on horseback up Plum creek. He was a good shot and we knew we would get game of some kind. We followed the creek five miles, when we scared up a flock of turkeys. They were of the bronze kind, large and heavy. We got three, and as we did not find any more, we took the tableland for the Platte. As we came down a pocket we ran into a nest of wildcats. There were four of them. One cat jumped at a turkey that was tied to Tom's saddle. That scared his horse so that it nearly unseated him, but he took his pistol and killed the cat. I was afraid they would jump at me. They growled and spit, and I edged away until I could shoot from my pony, and when twenty-five yards away I slipped in two cartridges and shot two of the cats. The fourth one got away and we were glad to let it go. We took the three cats to town, skinned them, and sold the pelts to Peddler Charley for one dollar. Tom talked about that hunt when I met him in Oregon a few years ago.
NEBRASKA PIONEER REMINISCENCES A Scare
On another occasion, Perley Wilson and I took a hunt on the big island south of the river where there were some buffalo. The snow was about eight inches deep and we crossed the main stream on the ice. Before we got over, I saw a moccasin track and showed it to Wilson. He said we had better get out. "No," said I, "let us trail it and find where it goes." It took us into a very brushy island. Wilson would go no further, but I took my shotgun, cocked both barrels, and went on but with caution for fear the Indian would see me first. I got just half way in, and I heard a "Ugh!" right behind me. The hair on my head went straight up. I was scared, but I managed to gasp "Sioux?" "No, Pawnee. Heap good Indian." Then he laughed and I breathed again. I asked, "What are you doing here?" "Cooking beaver," he replied, and led the way to his fire. He had a beaver skinned hanging on a plum tree and he had a tin can over the fire, boiling the tail. I returned to Wilson and told him about it. He said, "It is no use to try to sneak up on an Indian in the brush, for he always sees you first." I could have shot the Indian, as he only had a revolver, but that would have been cowardly as he had the first drop on me and could have had my scalp. We got home with no game that day.
PLUM CREEK (LEXINGTON), NEBRASKA
BY WM. M. BANCROFT, M.D.
On April 5, 1873, I arrived at Plum Creek, now Lexington, with what was called the second colony from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Captain F. J. Pearson, who was in charge, later became editor of the Pioneer. Judge Robert B. Pierce and the Tucker family were also with this colony. On our arrival the only town we found was a mile east of the present site of Lexington. It consisted of a section house, a small shanty called the Johnson restaurant, one story and a half log house run by Daniel Freeman as a general store, and a stockade built of ties used as a place of safety for the horses and cows. The upper story of the Freeman building was occupied by the Johnson family, who partitioned it off with blankets to accommodate the immigrants, and the only lights we could depend on were candle dips from the Freeman store at twenty-five cents each. At this time bread sold at twenty-five cents per loaf.
There was also an immigrant house 20 by 40 feet located on the north side of the railroad nearly opposite the other buildings referred to. This house was divided into rooms 6 by 8 feet square with a hall between. The front room was used as Dawson county's first office by John H. MacColl, then county clerk. There was also a coal shed and a water tank on the south side of the track. The depot was a mile west on a railroad section where the town was finally built.
The reason for the change of townsite was a fight by Freeman against the Union Pacific company. Freeman owned the quarter section of government land, on which the buildings referred to were located.
The first house in Plum Creek was built by Robert Pierce, whose family got permission to live in a freight car on the sidetrack while the house was being built. While in the freight car the family was attacked by measles. In order to gain entrance to this temporary residence a step-ladder had to be used, and
NEBRASKA PIONEER REMINISCENCES
in visiting the family while in the car, I would find them first at one end of the switch and next at the other, and would have to transfer the ladder each time. Later on Robert Pierce was elected probate judge and served until by reason of his age he retired.
Tudor Tucker built the first frame house on Buffalo creek five miles northeast of town. The first store building in Plum Creek was built by Mr. Betz. The first hotel was built by E. D. Johnson, who deserves much credit for his work in building up Dawson county. In 1873 the population numbered about 175. The old townsite was soon abandoned and the town of Plum Creek on its present site became a reality.
The completion of the Platte river bridge was celebrated July 4, 1873, by a big demonstration. It then became necessary to get the trade from the Republican Valley, Plum Creek being the nearest trading point for that locality. Since there were no roads from the south, a route had to be laid out. With this object in view, Judge Pierce, E. D. Johnson, Elleck Johnson, and I constituted ourselves a committee to do the work. We started across the country and laid up sod piles every mile, until we reached the Arapahoe, 48 miles southwest. Coming back we shortened up the curves. This was the first road from the south into Plum Creek, and we derived a great amount of trade from this territory. It was no uncommon thing for the Erwin & Powers Company, conducting a general store at this time, to take in from one thousand to twelve hundred dollars on Saturdays.
The first church and Sunday school was organized Sunday, April 13, 1873, three and one-half miles north of town at the farm of Widow Mullen. Those present, including myself, were: Mrs. Mullen and family, Captain John S. Stuckey, afterwards treasurer of Dawson county, Joseph Stuckey, Samuel Clay Stuckey and wife, Edgar Mellenger, and one negro servant. Joseph Stuckey was appointed leader, James Tipton, superintendent of the Sunday school, and I took charge of the music. The first regular sermon was preached by a Mr. Wilson who came to Overton to live on a homestead. He consented to preach for us until we could fill his place by an appointment at general conference. We held the first regular service both of the church and the Sunday school in the old frame schoolhouse located in
PLUM CREEK (LEXINGTON), NEBRASKA
the east ward. We also held revivals in the Hill hall where Smith's opera house now stands.
On this Sunday afternoon about five o'clock the great April storm started with blizzard from the northwest. It was impossible for any of us to get away until Tuesday afternoon. On Monday night Captain Stuckey, Doc Mellenger, and I had to take the one bed. During the night the bed broke down and we lay until morning huddled together to keep from freezing. Mellenger and I left Tuesday afternoon, when the storm abated, and started back toward the old town. The storm again caught us and drifted us to Doc's old doby two and one-half miles north of the townsite. By this time the snow had drifted from four to five feet in depth. The horses took us to the dugout stable in which we put them. Then we had to dig our way to the doby where we remained from Tuesday evening until Thursday morning. We had nothing to eat during that time but a few hard biscuits, a little bacon, and three frozen chickens, and nothing but melted snow to drink. The bedstead was a home-made affair built of pine boards. This we cut up and used for fuel and slept on the dirt floor. The storm was so terrific that it was impossible to get to the well, fifteen feet from the doby. We became so thirsty from the snow water that Doc thought he would try to get to the well. He took a rope and pistol, tied the rope around his waist and started for the well. His instructions were that if I heard the pistol I was to pull him in. After a very short time the pistol report came and I pulled and pulled and Doc came tumbling in without pistol or bucket. It was so cold he had nearly frozen his hands. Thursday was clear and beautiful. One of the persons from Mullen's, having gone to town, reported that we had left there Tuesday afternoon. On account of this report a searching party was sent out to look for us.
Another item of interest was the Pawnee and Sioux massacre on August 5, 1873. It was the custom of the Pawnees, who were friendly and were located on a reservation near Columbus, Nebraska, to go on a fall hunt for buffalo meat for their winter use. The Sioux, who were on the Pine Bluff reservation, had an old grudge against the Pawnees and knew when this hunt took place. The Pawnees made Plum Creek their starting point across the country southwest to the head of the Frenchman
NEBRASKA PIONEER REMINISCENCES
river. They camped about ten miles northwest of Culbertson, a town on the B. & M. railroad. The camp was in the head of a pocket which led from a tableland to the Republican river. The Sioux drove a herd of buffalo on the Pawnees while the latter were in camp. Not suspecting danger the Pawnees began to kill the buffalo, when the Sioux came up, taking them by surprise. The Pawnees, being outnumbered, fled down the cañon. The Sioux followed on either bank and cross-fired them, killing and wounding about a hundred. I was sent by the government with Mr. Longshore, the Indian agent of Columbus, and two guides to the scene of the massacre, which was about one hundred and forty miles southwest of Plum Creek, for the purpose of looking after the wounded who might have been left behind. We made this trip on horseback. The agent had the dead buried and we followed up the wounded. We found twenty-two at Arapahoe and ten or fifteen had left and started on the old Fort Kearny trail. We brought the twenty-two wounded to Plum Creek, attended to their wounds and then shipped them in a box car to the reservation at Columbus.
My first trip to Wood river valley twenty miles north, was to attend James B. Mallott, one of the first settlers. They were afraid to let me go without a guard but I had no fear of the Indians, so they gave me a belt of cartridges and a Colt's revolver. Finally MacColl, the county clerk, handed me a needle gun and commanded me to get back before dark. I started on horseback with this arsenal for Wood river and made the visit, but on my return I stopped to let the horse rest and eat bluestem. Soon the horse became frightened and began to paw and snort. On looking back toward the divide, I saw three Indians on horseback were heading my way. We were not long in getting started. I beat them by a mile to the valley, arriving safely at Tucker's farm on Buffalo creek. The Indians did not follow but rode along the foothills to the west. A party of four or five from Tucker's was not long in giving chase, but the Indians had disappeared in the hills. A little later, Anton Abel, who lived a mile north of town, came in on the run and stated that a file of eight or ten Indians, with scalp sticks waving, were headed south a half mile west of town. A number mounted their horses and gave chase to the river where the Indians crossed and were lost sight of. We never suffered much loss or injury from the Indians. Many scares were
PLUM CREEK (LEXINGTON), NEBRASKA
reported, but like the buffalo after 1874-75, they were a thing of the past in our county.
My practice for the first ten or twelve years among the sick and injured, covered a field almost unlimited. I was called as far north as Broken Bow in the Loup valley, fifty miles, east to Elm Creek, Buffalo county, twenty miles, west to Brady Island, Lincoln county, thirty-five miles, and south to the Republican river. Most of the time there were no roads or bridges. The valley of the Platte in Dawson county is now the garden spot of the state. As stated before the settlement of 1872 was on the extreme edge of the frontier. Now we have no frontier. It is progressive civilization from coast to coast. I have practiced my profession for over forty years continuously in this state, and am still in active practice. I have an abiding faith that I shall yet finish up with an airship in which to visit my patients.
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