Fremont was named for John C. Fremont, who was a candidate against Buchanan for president. The first stakes were set August 23, 1856, the boundaries being finished three days later. "The first habitation of any sort, was constructed of poles surrounded by prairie grass. It was built and owned by E. H. Barnard and J. Koontz, in 1856, and stood upon the site of the present Congregational church." In the autumn of 1856, Robert Kittle built and owned the first house. A few weeks later his house was occupied by Rev. Isaac E. Heaton, wife and two, daughters, who were the first family to keep house in Fremont. Alice Flor, born in the fall of 1857, was the first child born in Fremont. She is now Mrs. Gilkerson, of Wahoo. The first male child born in Fremont was Fred Kittle. He was born in March, 1858, and died in 1890. On August 23, 1858, occurred the first marriage. The couple were Luther Wilson and Eliza Turner. The first death was that of Seth P. Marvin, who was accidentally drowned in April, 1857, while crossing the Elkhorn seven miles northeast of Fremont. The Marvin home was a mile and a quarter west of Fremont and this house was the rendezvous of the parties who laid out Fremont. Mr. Marvin was one of the town company.

     The first celebration of the Fourth of July was in 1857. Robert Kittle sold the first goods. J. G. and Towner Smith conducted the first regular store. In 1860, the first district school was opened with Miss McNeil teacher. Then came Mary Heaton, now Mrs. Hawthorne. Mrs. Margaret Turner, followed by James G. Smith, conducted the first hotel situated where the First National bank now is. This was also the "stage house," and here all the traders stopped en route from Omaha to Denver. In the evening the old hotel resounded with the music of violin and the sound of merry dancing. Charles Smith conducted a drug store where Holloway and Fowler now are. A telegraph line was established in 1860. The first public school was held in a building


Picture or Sketch

Erected by Lewis-Clark chapter, Daughters of the American Revolution



owned by the Congregational church at the corner of Eighth and D streets. Miss Sarah Pneuman, now Mrs. Harrington, of Fremont, was the teacher. When court convened, school adjourned, there being no courthouse. In three years the school had grown from sixteen to one hundred pupils, with three teachers. The first public schoolhouse was built at the corner of Fifth and D streets. In 1866 the Union Pacific was built. The first bank was established in 1867. The Tribune, the first newspaper, was published July 24, 1868. "The Central School" was built in 1869 and the teacher, in search of truant boys, would ascend to the top, where with the aid of field glass, she could see from the Platte to the Elkhorn. To-day, can be seen on the foundations of this old landmark, the marks of slate pencils, which were sharpened by some of our middle aged business men of to-day.

     Mrs. Cynthia Hamilton, of Fremont, gives an interesting account of the early days. In June, 1857, she, with her husband, Mr. West, their daughter, Julia, Mrs. West's brother, the late Wilson Reynolds, and Mrs. Reynolds, reached the few dwellings then comprising Fremont, after an eighteen or nineteen days trip in moving wagons from Racine, Wisconsin. They first stopped at the house of Robert Kittle, corner Military and Broad streets. This house was made from trees grown on the bluffs southwest of town, and had a red cedar shingle roof, the shingles shaved from logs floated down the Platte. After two days, they all moved to a log house in "Pierce's Grove." While living here, Mrs. Hamilton tells of hearing a great commotion among the tinware and upon investigation, found it was caused by a huge snake. In August of the same year they moved to their homestead, northwest of town, on the Rawhide. It is now known as the Rohr place. Here they remained two years. In winter the men made trips to the river for wood, and the women must either accompany them or remain at home, alone, far from another house. Thus, alone one day, she saw a large band of Indians approaching. The chief, picking up an axe from the wood pile, placed it under the window where she sat, indicating that she must take care of it, else some one might steal it. He then led his band northward. During all the residence on the homestead the three members of the family suffered continually from ague. In the fall of 1859, Mrs. West and her child returned to Wisconsin, where they remained ten months. During



her absence, Mr. West became a trader with the Indians and once in Saunders county as he was selling a quantity of meat on a temporary counter, the Indians became rather unruly. His white companions fled, and Mr. West seizing a club, went among the Indians, striking them right and left. For this, they called him a brave and ever afterwards called him "Buck Skadaway," meaning curly hair. When Mrs. West returned from Wisconsin, she came down the Mississippi and up the Missouri to Omaha, then a small town. From there they drove to Fremont, with horse and buggy, via Florence. Mr. West now bought a cottonwood house, battened up and down. It consisted of two rooms, and stood on the site of the present residence of Thad Quinn. Wilson Reynolds bought two lots on the south side of Sixth street near the West home for twenty-five cents. Here he built a house made partly of black walnut taken from the banks of the Platte. In this house, was born our present postmaster, B. W. Reynolds. Mrs. Hamilton relates that the Indians were frequent callers at her home, one even teaching her to make "corn coffee," "by taking a whole ear of corn, burning it black and then putting it in the coffee pot." Food consisted of vegetables, which were grown on the prairie sod, prairie chickens, small game, and corn bread. Butter was twenty-five cents a pound. Syrup was made by boiling down watermelon. Boiled beans were mashed to a pulp and used as butter. "Everything was high and when the money and supplies which we bought were exhausted it was hard to get more. "Screens were unknown and the flies and mosquitoes were terrible. In the evenings everyone would build a smudge so that they could sleep. Not a tree was to be seen except those on the banks of the streams. Tall prairie grass waved like the ocean and prairie fires were greatly feared. Everyone began setting out trees at once.

     "In those days Broad street was noted as a racing road for the Indians and now it is a boulevard for automobiles," says Mrs. Hamilton. "Yes," she continued, "I well remember the Fourth of July celebration in 1857. There were about one hundred people in attendance. Miss McNeil was my little girl's first teacher and Dr. Rhustrat was our first physician." In 1861, after a short illness, Mr. West died. He was buried beside his infant daughter in the cemetery, which at that time stood near the present brewery. The bodies were afterward removed to



Barnard's cemetery and later to Ridge. The following year, Mrs. West, with her daughter, Julia, returned to her parents at Racine, Wisconsin, where she remained for many years. In 1876, as the wife of William Hamilton she returned and made her home on one of her farms near the stockyards. Twenty-five years ago this place was sold for $100 per acre while the old homestead northwest of town brought $25 per acre in 1875. After selling the south farm she and Mr. Hamilton, who died a few years ago, bought the present home on Broad street. Everyone should honor the early settlers, who left their eastern homes, endured hardships and privations that a beautiful land might be developed for posterity. They should be pensioned as well as our soldiers. And we, of the younger generation, should respect and reverence their memory.



     I came to Fremont, Nebraska, in May, 1870, and settled on a farm on Maple creek. In 1874 or 1875 we were visited by grasshoppers. I had never formed an idea of anything so disastrous. When the "hoppers" were flying the air was full of them. As one looked up, they seemed like a severe snow storm. It must have been like one of the plagues of Egypt. They were so bad one day that the passenger train on the Union Pacific was stalled here. I went to see the train and the odor from the crushed insects was nauseating. I think the train was kept here for three hours. The engine was besmeared with them. It was a very wonderful sight. The rails and ground were covered with the pests. They came into the houses and one lady went into her parlor one day and found her lace curtains on the floor, almost entirely eaten. Mrs. George Turner said that she came home from town one day when the "hoppers" were flying and they were so thick that the horses could not find the barn. Mrs. Turner's son had a field of corn. W. R. Wilson offered him fifty dollars for it. When he began to husk it, there was no corn there. A hired man of Mrs. Turner's threw his vest on the ground. When he had finished his work and picked up the vest it was completely riddled by the grasshoppers. I heard one man say that he was out riding with his wife and they stopped by a field of wheat where the "hoppers" were working and they could hear their mandibles working on the wheat. When they flew it sounded like a train of cars in motion. Horses would not face them unless compelled. One year I had an eighty acre field of corn which was being cultivated. The men came in and said the "hoppers" were taking the corn. They did not stay long, but when they left no one would have known that there had ever been any corn in that field. My brother from California came in 1876. On the way to the farm a thunder storm came up and we stopped at a friend's until it was over. My brother said, "I would not go through the ex-



perience again for $10,000, and I would not lose the experience for the same amount." The "hoppers" came before the storm and were thick on the ground. It was a wonderful experience. In those days we cut our small grain with "headers." The grain head was cut and fell into boxes on wagons. After dinner one day, the men went out to find the grasshoppers in full possession. A coat which had been left hanging was completely destroyed. Gardens and field crops were their delight. They would eat an onion entirely out of the hard outer skin. I had a thirty acre field of oats which looked fine on Saturday. We could not harvest it then and on Monday it looked like an inverted whisk broom. Some of the "hoppers" were three inches long. The backs were between brown and slate color and underneath was white. I think we received visits from them for five years.



     From the year 1856 until the beginning of the civil war in 1861 the early settlers of Nebraska experienced nearly all of the ills and hardships incidental to a pioneer life. Fifty years have passed since then and to one having lived through those trying days - or to a stranger who merely listens to the almost incredulous tales of a past generation - there arises a question as to why any sane person or persons should desire to leave a land of comparative comfort and plenty for one of deprivation and possible starvation.

     The early settlers of Fremont were for the most part young people from the eastern states, full of ambition and hope. There is in the youthful heart a spirit of energy, of doing and daring in order to realize, if possible, dreams of a perhaps glorious future in which may be won honor and fame and wealth. Then again the forces of nature are never at rest and man, being a part of the great whole, must inevitably keep in step with the universal law. A few lines written for a paper several years ago give the first impression of the landscape which greeted the eyes of a stranger on entering the valley of the Elkhorn river in 1858, April 26:

     "This is the picture as I see it plainly in retrospect - a country, and it was all a country, with a smooth, level, gray surface which appeared to go on toward the west forever and forever. On the north were the bluffs of the Elkhorn river, but the great Elkhorn Valley was a part of an unknown world. South of the little townsite of Fremont the Platte river moved sluggishly along to meet and be swallowed up in the great Missouri. Ten or twelve log cabins broke the monotony of the treeless expanse that stretched far away, apparently to a leaden sky. My heart sank within me as I thought but did not say, 'How can I ever live in a place like this?'" And yet the writer of the above lines has lived in Fremont for forty-seven years.

     The histories of the world are chiefly men's histories. They




are stories of governments, of religions, of wars, and only in exceptional instances has woman appeared to hold any important place in the affairs of nations. From the earliest settlement of the colonies in the new world until the present time, women have not only borne with bravery and fortitude the greater trials of the pioneer life, but from their peculiar organization and temperament suffered more from the small annoyances than their stronger companions of the other sex. The experiences of the home and family life of the early settlers of the great West have never entered into the annals of history nor can a truthful story be told without them, but thus far no doubt the apparent neglect has been due to woman herself, who until quite recently has felt that she was a small factor in the world's affairs.

     In the beginning of the new life in Fremont women had their first introduction to the log cabin which was to be their home for many years. It was not as comfortable as it looks picturesque and romantic printed on paper. It was a story and a half high, sixteen by twenty feet in size. The logs were hewn on two sides, but the work performed by the volunteer carpenters of that time was not altogether satisfactory, consequently the logs did not fit closely but the open spaces between were filled with a sort of mortar that had a faculty of gradually dropping off as it dried, leaving the original holes and openings through which the winter winds whistled and Nebraska breezes blew the dirt.

     The houses were made of cottonwood logs and finished with cottonwood lumber. The shingles warped so the roof somewhat resembled a sieve. The rain dripped through it in summer and snow sifted through it in winter. The floors were made of wide rough boards, the planing and polishing given by the broom, the old-fashioned mop, and the scrubbing brush. The boards warped and shrunk so that the edges turned up, making wide cracks in the floor through which many small articles dropped down into a large hole in the ground miscalled a cellar. It was hardly possible to keep from freezing in these houses in winter. Snow sifted through the roof, covering beds and floors. The Piercing winds blew through every crack and crevice. Green cottonwood was the only fuel obtainable and that would sizzle and fry in the stove while water froze standing under the stove. This is no fairy tale.



     The summers were not much more pleasant. It must be remembered that there were no trees in Fremont, nothing that afforded the least protection from the hot rays of a Nebraska sun. Mosquitoes and flies were in abundance, and door screens were unknown at that time. The cotton netting nailed over windows and hung over and around the beds was a slight protection from the pests, although as the doors must necessarily be opened more or less no remedy could be devised that would make any perceptible improvement. To submit was the rule and the law in those days, but many, many times it was done under protest.

     The first floor was divided or partitioned off, by the use of quilts or blankets, into a kitchen, bedroom, and pantry. The chamber, or what might be called attic, was also partitioned in the same way, giving as many rooms as it would hold beds. The main articles of food for the first two years consisted of potatoes, corn meal, and bacon. The meal was made from a variety of corn raised by the Indians and called Pawnee corn. It was very soft, white, and palatable. Wheat flour was not very plentiful the first year. Bacon was the only available meat. Occasionally a piece of buffalo meat was obtained, but it being very hard to masticate only served to make a slight change in the gravy, which was otherwise made with lard and flour browned together in an iron frying pan, adding boiling water until it was of the right consistency, salt and pepper to suit the taste. This mixture was used for potatoes and bread of all kinds. Lard was a necessity. Biscuits were made of flour, using a little corn meal for shortening and saleratus for raising. Much of the corn was ground in an ordinary coffee mill or in some instances rubbed on a large grater or over a tin pan with a perforated bottom, made so by driving nails through it. The nearest flouring mill was at Fort Calhoun, over forty miles away, which was then a three days' journey, taking more time than a trip to California at the present day. Nothing, however, could be substituted for butter. The lack of meat, sugar, eggs and fruit, tea and coffee, was borne patiently, but wheat flour and corn meal bread with its everlasting lard gravy accompaniment was more than human nature could bear, yet most of the people waxed strong and flourished on bread and grease. Oh, where are the students of scientific research and domestic economy?



There were possibly three or four cows in the settlement, and if there was ever an aristocracy in Fremont, it was represented by the owners of said cows.

     In 1858 a little sorghum was raised. "Hope springs eternal in the human breast." Men, women, and children helped to prepare the stalks when at the right stage for crushing, which was done with a very primitive home-made machine. The juice obtained was boiled down to syrup, but alas, the dreams of a surfeit of sweetness vanished into thin air, for the result of all the toil and trouble expended was a production so nauseous that it could not he used even for vinegar.

     Wild plums and grapes grew in profusion on the banks of the rivers. There was much more enjoyment in gathering the fruit than in eating or cooking it. The plums were bitter and sour, the grapes were sour and mostly seeds, and sugar was not plentiful.

     The climate was the finest in the world for throat and lung troubles, but on the breaking up of the soil malaria made its appearance and many of the inhabitants suffered from ague and fever. Quinine was the only remedy. There were neither physicians nor trained nurses here, but all were neighbors and friends, always ready to help each other when the occasion required.

     In 1856, the year in which Fremont was born, the Pawnee Indians were living four miles south across the Platte river on the bluffs in Saunders county. They numbered about four thousand and were a constant source of annoyance and fear. In winter they easily crossed the river on the ice and in summer the water most of the time was so low they could swim and wade over, consequently there were few days in the year that they did not visit Fremont by the hundred. Weeks and months passed before women and children became accustomed to them and they could never feel quite sure that they were harmless. Stealing was their forte. Eyes sharp and keen were ever on the alert when they were present, yet when they left almost invariably some little article would be missed. They owned buffalo robes and blankets for which the settlers exchanged clothing which they did not need, jewelry, beads, and ornaments, with a little silver coin intermixed. The blankets and robes were utilized for bedding and many were the shivering forms they served to



protect from the icy cold of the Nebraska winters. In 1859 the government moved them to another home on the Loup river and in 1876 they were removed to Indian territory.

     Snakes of many kinds abounded, but rattlesnakes were the most numerous. They appeared to have a taste for domestic life, as many were found in houses and cellars. A little four-year-old boy one sunny summer day ran out of the house barefooted, and stepping on the threshold outside the door felt something soft and cold to his feet. An exclamation of surprise caused a member of the household to hasten to the door just in time to see a young rattlesnake gliding swiftly away. In several instances they were found snugly ensconced under pillows, on lounges, and very frequently were they found in cellars.

     For more than two years there was no way of receiving or sending mail only as one or another would make a trip to Omaha, which was usually once a week. In 1859 a stage line was put on between Omaha and Fort Kearny. No one can tell with what thankfulness and rejoicing each and every improvement in the condition and surroundings was greeted by the settlers. Dating from the discovery of gold in Colorado the pioneer was no more an object of pity or sympathy. Those who had planted their stakes and made their claims along the old military and California trail were independent. Many of the emigrants became discouraged and turned their faces homeward before getting a glimpse of the Rocky Mountains. On their way home they sold loads of provisions for a song. The same fall the fertile soil of the Platte Valley, after two years of cultivation, responded to the demand of civilization. There was a market west for every bushel of grain and every pound of vegetables grown. So at least the patient and persevering ones received their reward.

     The sources of amusement were few, and yet all enjoyed the strange new life. A pleasant ride over the level prairie dotted with wild flowers, in any sort of vehicle drawn by a pair of oxen, was as enjoyable to the young people then as a drive over the country would now be in the finest turnout that Fremont possesses. A dance in a room twelve by sixteen feet in a log cabin, to the music of the Arkansas Traveler played on one violin, was "just delightful." A trip to Omaha once or twice a year was a rare event in the woman's life particularly. Three days were taken, two to drive in and out, and one to do a little trading



(not shopping) and look around to view the sights. A span of horses, a lumber wagon with a spring seat in front high up in the air, was the conveyance. Women always wore sunbonnets on these occasions to keep their complexion fair.

     Several times in the earlier years the Mormons passed through here with long trains of emigrants journeying to the promised land, and a sorry lot they were, for the most of them were footsore and weary, as they all walked. The train was made up of emigrant covered wagons drawn by oxen, and hand carts drawn by cows, men and women, and dogs. It was a sight never to be forgotten.

     This is merely a short description of some of the trials and sufferings endured by the majority of the early settlers of this state. Many of the actors in the drama have passed away, a few only now remaining, and soon the stories of their lives will be to the coming generation like forgotten dreams.

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