EARLY DAYS IN JEFFERSON COUNTY
BY MRS. M. H. WEEKS
When I look upon the little city of Fairbury and see the beautiful trees, fine lawns, and comfortable homes, it is hard to realize the feelings I had in July, 1873, when as a bride, coming from the dear old Granite state, we came to our future home. I wanted to "go on" somewhere else, for everything that is usually green was so parched and dreary looking and desolate. The only trees were at the homes of L. C. Champlin and S. G. Thomas.
We spent the night at the Purdy house, and the following day drove to our homestead; and in fording the river where the Weeks bridge is now, the water poured into the express wagon (finest conveyance in town) driven by Will Hubbell. At least two of the party were much alarmed - our sister Mary Weeks and the writer.
It was the first of many peculiar experiences, such as taking my sewing and a rocking chair, on a hayrack, to the hay field, rather than stay home alone for fear of the Otoe Indians. The first intimation of their presence would be their faces pressed against the window glass, and that would give one a creepy feeling.
I have ridden to town many times on loads of sand, rock, and hay; and when the ford was impassable with wagons, I would go on horseback, with arms around the neck of faithful Billy, and eyes closed for fear of tumbling off into the water. On the return trip both of our horses would be laden with bags of provisions.
In 1867 my husband went with a party of twenty-five on a buffalo hunt with a man by the name of Soules as guide. They secured plenty of elk, deer, and buffalo. The wagons were formed in a circle, to corral the horses and mules nights for fear of an attack by the Indians; each one taking turns as sentinel. The mules would always whistle if an Indian was anywhere near, so he felt secure even if he did sleep a little. They only saw the Indians at a distance as they were spearing the buffalo.
All things have surely changed, and now we ride in autos instead of covered wagons. What will the next fifty years bring?
LOCATION OF THE CAPITAL AT LINCOLN
BY JOHN H. AMES
By an act of the legislature, approved June 14, 1867, it was provided that the governor, secretary, and auditor of state, should be commissioners for the purpose of locating the seat of government and public buildings of the state of Nebraska, and they were vested with the necessary powers and authority for proceeding, as won as practicable, to effect that purpose, and required on or before the fifteenth day of July in the same year, to select from among certain lands belonging to the state, and lying within the counties of Seward, Saunders, Butler, and Lancaster, " a suitable site, of not less than six hundred and forty acres lying in one body, for a town, due regard being had to its accessibility from all portions of the state and its general fitness for a capital."
The commissioners were also required, immediately upon such selections being made, to appoint a competent surveyor and proceed to "survey, lay off and stake out the said tract of land into lots, blocks, streets, alleys, and public squares or reservations for public buildings"; and the act declared that such town when so laid out and surveyed, should "be named and known as Lincoln," and the same was thereby declared to be "the permanent seat of government of the state of Nebraska, at which all the public offices of the state should be kept, and at which all the sessions of the legislature thereof should be held."
The act further provided that the lots in the alternate blocks, not reserved as aforesaid, in said town, should, after notice thereof had been given by advertisement for the time and in the manner therein prescribed, be offered for sale to the highest and best bidder; and the commissioners were authorized, after having held the sale for five successive days, as therein provided, at Lincoln, Nebraska City, and Omaha, to adjourn the same to be held at such other place or places within or without the state, as they might see proper, provided that at such sales no lots should be sold for a less price than a minimum to be fixed on176
LOCATION OF THE CAPITAL AT LINCOLN
each lot by the commissioners, previous to the opening of the sales. All moneys received for the sale of said lots were declared to be a state building fund, and were directed to be deposited in the state treasury and kept separate from all other funds for that purpose. Notice was directed to be issued immediately after the sale of lots, asking from architects plans and specifications for a building, the foundation of which should be of stone, and the superstructure of stone or brick, which should be suitable for the two houses of the legislature and the executive offices of the state, and which might be designed as a portion of a larger edifice, but the cost of which should not exceed fifty thousand dollars. Provision was also made for the letting of the contract for its construction, and appointing a superintendent thereof, and also for the erection at Lincoln, as soon as sufficient funds therefor could be secured by the sale of public lands or otherwise, of a state university, agricultural college, and penitentiary; but no appropriation, other than of the state lands and lots as above described, was made for the aid of any of the enterprises herein mentioned.
What was the result of sending three men fifty miles out into an unbroken, and at that time, almost unknown prairie, to speak into existence simply by the magic of their own unconquerable, though unaided, enterprise and perseverance, a city that should not only be suitable for the seat of government of the state, but should be able, almost as soon as its name was pronounced, to contribute from its own resources sufficient funds for the erection of a state house and other necessary public state buildings, remains to be seen.
It appears from the report of the commissioners, made to the senate and house of representatives at its first regular session, held in January, 1869, that, having provided themselves with an outfit, and employed Mr. Augustus F. Harvey, as surveyor, to ascertain the location of the lines of the proposed sites, they left Nebraska City on the afternoon of the 18th of July, 1867, for the purpose of making the selection required in the act.
After having visited and examined the town sites of Saline City, or "Yankee Hill," and Lancaster, in Lancaster county, they proceeded to visit and examine the several proposed sites in each of the counties named in the act, in which occupations they were engaged until the twenty-ninth of the same month,
NEBRASKA PIONEER REMINISCENCES
when they returned, and made a more thorough examination of the two sites above referred to, at which time the favorable impressions received of Lancaster on their first visit were confirmed. Says the report:
"We found a gently undulating surface, it's principal elevation being near the centre of the proposed new site. The village already established being in the midst of a thrifty and considerable agricultural population; rock, timber, and water power available within short distances; the centre of the great saline region within two miles; and in, addition to all other claims, the special advantage was that the location was at the centre of a circle, of about 110 miles in diameter, along or near the circumference of which are the Kansas state line directly south, the important towns of Pawnee City, Nebraska City, Plattsmouth, Omaha, Fremont, and Columbus. . . Under these circumstances we entertained the proposition of the people residing in the vicinity of Lancaster, offering to convey to the state in fee simple the west half of the west half of section 25, the east half and the southwest quarter of section 26, which, with the northwest quarter of section 26 (the last named quarter being saline land), all in town 10, range 6 east; the whole embracing 800 acres, and upon which it was proposed to erect the new town. In addition, the trustees of the Lancaster Seminary Association proposed to convey to the state, for an addition to the site named in the foregoing proposition, the town site of Lancaster, reserving, however, certain lots therein which had been disposed of in whole or in part to the purchasers thereof."
After being satisfied of the sufficiency of the titles proposed to be conveyed to the state, and having carefully "considered all the circumstances of the condition of the saline lands, the advantage of the situation, its central position, and the value of its surroundings over a district of over twelve thousand square miles of rich agricultural country, it was determined to accept the proposition made by the owners of the land. "Accordingly on the afternoon of the 29th of July the commissioners assembled at the house of W. T. Donavan, in Lancaster, and by a unanimous vote formally declared the present site of the capital city of Lincoln, which action was first made public by a proclamation issued on the 14th day of August next following.
On the 15th of August, Messrs. Harvey and Smith, engineers, with a corps of assistants, commenced the survey of the town,
LOCATION OF THE CAPITAL AT LINCOLN
the design being calculated for the making of a beautiful city. The streets are one hundred and twenty feet wide, and all except the business streets capable of being improved with a street park outside the curb line; as, for instance: On the one hundred feet streets, pavements twelve feet wide and a park or double row of trees outside the pavement, and planted twelve feet apart so as to admit of a grass plat between, may be made on both sides the street. This will leave on the one hundred feet streets a roadway fifty-two feet wide; with pavements as above, and parks fifteen feet wide, will leave a roadway on the one hundred and twenty feet streets of sixty feet; while on the business streets a ninety-foot roadway was thought to be amply sufficient for the demands of trade.
Reservations of about twelve acres each were made for the state house, state university, and a city park, these being at about equal distances from each other.
Reservations of one block each were made for a courthouse for Lancaster county, for a city hall and market space, for a state historical and library association, and seven other squares in proper locations for public schools. Reservations were also made of three lots each in desirable locations for ten religious denominations, upon an understanding with the parties making the selections on behalf of the several denominations, that the legislature would require of them a condition that the property should only be used for religious purposes, and that some time would be fixed within which suitable houses of worship costing not less than some reasonable minimum amount, should be erected. One lot each was also reserved for the use of the Independent Order of Good Templars, and Odd Fellows, and the order of Ancient Free and Accepted Masons. These reservations were afterwards confirmed by the legislature, with conditions recommended by the commissioners, and religious denominations were required to build on their reserved lots previous to or during the summer of 1870.
In anticipation of the completion of the survey, due advertisement thereof was made as provided by law, and a sale of lots opened at Lincoln on the 17th day of September, for the purpose of raising the necessary funds for commencing the construction of the state house.
Owing to the unpropitious state of the weather but few bid-
NEBRASKA PIONEER REMINISCENCES
ders were present, and the results of the first day's sales were light and disheartening; during their continuation, however, circumstances were changed for the better, and at the end of five days $34,000 had been realized. Subsequent sales were held at Nebraska City and Omaha, which by the fourth day of October had increased that amount to the sum of $53,000. Sales were subsequently held at Lincoln on the seventeenth of June and September, 1868, from which were realized the sum of $22,580.
On the tenth of September, 1867, the commissioners issued their notice to architects, inviting, for a period of thirty days, plans and specifications for a state house; and upon the tenth of October, after having considered the merits of the several plans presented, they concluded to accept that of Prof. John Morris, of Chicago, whom they thereupon appointed superintendent of construction, and issued notice to builders, inviting proposals for a term of three months, for the erection of the work; Prof. Morris in the meantime commencing such preliminary work as excavations for foundations, delivery of material for foundation, and other arrangements as should tend to facilitate the progress of the work after the contract was let.
On the tenth of November the superintendent caused the ground to be broken in the presence of a number of the citizens of Lancaster, the removal of the first earth being awarded to Master Frele Morton Donavan, the first child born in, and the youngest child of the oldest settler of Lancaster county.
On the eleventh of January, 1868, the bid of Mr. Joseph Ward, proposing to furnish the material and labor, and erect the building contemplated in the contract for the sum of $49,0001 was accepted, and from that time forward the work steadily progressed, with the exception of a few unavoidable delays, until its completion.
On account, however, of the increasing wants of the state, the difficulties attending, the changes of material and increased amount of work and additional accommodation found necessary and advisable, the commissioners deemed it expedient to exceed the amount of expenditure contemplated in the statute; the additional expense being defrayed from the proceeds of the sales of lots and lands appropriated for that purpose.
It was originally intended that the walls of the building should be built of red sandstone, and faced with blue limestone,
LOCATION OF THE CAPITAL AT LINCOLN
but upon proceeding with the work the architect and builder found that the difficulties attending the procuration of the last named material would, unless the object was abandoned, result in an impossibility of the completion of the work at contract prices; and in so far retarding its progress as to prevent its erection in time for the use of the next session of the legislature. Its use, therefore, was accordingly abandoned, and it was decided to substitute in lieu thereof the magnesian limestone of Beatrice, which the experience of the architect had proved to be of far better character for building purposes than the blue limestone, it being less liable to wear or damage from frost or fire or any other action of the elements.
This change having been made, the work was pushed vigorously forward, and on the third day of December, 1868, was so far completed as to be ready for the occupancy of the state officers, and the governor, therefore, on that day issued his proclamation announcing the removal of the seat of government from Omaha to Lincoln and ordering the transportation of the archives of the state to the new capitol.
AN INCIDENT IN THE HISTORY OF LINCOLN
BY ORTHA C. BELL
On February 1, 1872, I arrived in Lincoln, the capital of the state. About the middle of January, 1875, the residents of Lincoln were greatly startled at seeing a man, shoeless and coatless, mounted on a horse without saddle or bridle, coming down Eleventh street at full speed, and crying at the top of his voice, "Mutiny at the pen!" The man proved to be a guard from the penitentiary heralding the news of this outbreak and calling for help. The prisoners had taken advantage of the absence of Warden Woodhurst, overpowered Deputy Warden C. J. Nobes, bound and gagged the guard. The leader, Quinn Bohanan, disrobed the deputy warden, exchanged his own for the clothing and hat of the deputy, and produced the effect of a beard with charcoal. This disguise was all so complete that the guards did not detect the ruse when the prisoners were marched through the yards, supposed to be in charge of the deputy. When on the inside of the prison they used the warden's family as hostages and took possession of the arsenal, and were soon in command of the situation.
The man on horseback had spread the news through the city in a very short time and soon hundreds of men with all kinds of guns had left their places of business and gone to the penitentiary, which they surrounded, holding the prisoners within the walls.
The governor wired for a detail from the regulars, stationed at Fort Omaha, and with all possible haste they were rushed to the scene. They were soon in charge of the situation, and negotiations were begun for a restoration of normal conditions, which result was attained in three days' time.
During all this time Warden Woodhurst was on the outside of the walls and his brave little wife, with their two small children, were on the inside. Mrs. Woodhurst used all the diplomacy at her command to save her own life and that of the two children. She and the children had served as shields to the prisoners, pro-182
LOCATION OF THE CAPITAL AT LINCOLN
tecting them from the bullets of the soldiers on the firing line around the penitentiary.
The incident closed without loss of life to citizen or prisoner, but has left a lasting impression on the minds of those who were present.
LINCOLN IN THE EARLY SEVENTIES
BY (MRS. O. C.) MINNIE DEETTE POLLEY BELL
In the spring of 1874 my father, Hiram Polley, came from Ohio to Lincoln, I being a young lady of nineteen years. To say that the new country with its vast prairies, so different from our beautiful timber country, produced homesickness, would be putting it mildly. My parents went on to a farm near what is now the town of Raymond, I remaining in Lincoln with an aunt, Mrs. Watie E. Gosper. My father built the barn as soon as possible and this was used for the house until after the crops were put in, then work was begun on the house that they might have it before cold weather.
The first trouble that came was the devastating plague of grasshoppers which swept over this section of the country in the years 1874 and 1875. Not long after this a new trouble was upon us. The day dawned bright and fair, became hotter and more still, until presently in the distance there could be seen the effects of a slight breeze; this however was only the advance of a terrible windstorm. When the hurricane had passed, the barn, which only a few months before had served as the house, was in ruins. Undaunted, my father set about to rebuild the barn, which still remains on the farm; the farm, however, is now owned by other parties.
In the winter of 1875 there was quite a fall of snow, and one of the funny sights was a man driving down 0 street with a horse hitched to a rocking chair. Everything that could be used for a sleigh was pressed into service. This was a strange sight to me, having come from Ohio where we had from three to four months of sleighing with beautiful sleighs and all that goes to make up a merry time.
During this winter many were using corn for fuel and great quantities were piled on the ground, which of course made rats very plentiful - so much so that when walking on the streets at dusk one would almost have to kick them out of the way or wait for them to pass.184
LINCOLN IN THE EARLY SEVENTIES
In the course of time a young man appeared upon the scene, and on December 10, 1874, 1 was married to Ortha C. Bell. We were married in the house which now stands at the northeast corner of Twelfth and M streets, then the home of my aunt, Mrs. Gosper. Four children were born to us: the first, a daughter, dying in infancy; the second, Jennie Bell-Ringer, of Lincoln; the third, a son, Ray Hiram Bell, dying at the age of three; and the fourth, a daughter, Hazel Bell-Smith. Two grandchildren have come to brighten our lives, DeEtte Bell Smith and Edmund Burke Smith. Our home at 931 D street, which we built in 1886, is still occupied by us.
A PIONEER BABY SHOW
BY (MRS. FRANK I.) JENNIE BELL-RINGER
I am a Nebraska product, having been born in the city of Lincoln, just across the street from the state university, on R street, between Eleventh and Twelfth.
When yet very young my proud mother entered me in an oldfashioned baby show which was held in the old opera house, known as "The Hallo Opera House." This show was not conducted as the "Better Babies" contest of today is conducted, but rather along the line of a game of chance. The judges went around and talked and played with the various babies. The baby that made the best impression on the judges, or perhaps, more correctly speaking, the baby that was on its good behavior, was the one that made the best impression on the judges.
To make a long story short, I evidently, at that tender age, knew when to put on my company manners, and when the prizes were awarded, I held the lucky number and rode away in a handsome baby buggy, the first prize.
The second prize was awarded to John Dean Ringer, second son of Mr. and Mrs. Bradford Ringer. The third prize was given to Harry Hardenburg; and an impromptu fourth prize was awarded to a colored baby.
The day I was married my newly acquired brother, in bestowing good wishes upon me, said there was only one fault he had to find with me, and upon inquiry as to what that might be, he answered, "You took the first prize away from me at the baby show.186
BOULDER AT FORT CALHOUN
Commemorating the Council of Lewis and Clark with the Otoe and Missouri Indians, August 3, 1804. Erected by the Daughters of the American Revolution, the Sons of the American Revolution, and the Nebraska State Historical Society
MARKING THE SITE OF THE LEWIS AND CLARK
COUNCIL AT FORT CALHOUN
BY MRS. LAURA B. POUND
Looking backward for thirteen years, it is difficult for me to realize that at the beginning of my fourth term as state regent, in 1902, there were as yet only two chapters of the Daughters of the American Revolution in Nebraska. From 1894 to 1902 there had been three other state regents besides myself; and it was surely through no lack of diligence or patriotism that the organization grew so slowly. Mrs. S. C. Langworthy had been appointed organizing regent at Seward in 1896; Mrs. J. A. Cline at Minden, and Mrs. Sarah G. Bates at Long Pine in 1897; and Miss Anna Day at Beatrice in 1899. The total membership in the state probably did not exceed two hundred and fifty, and these, with the exception of the regents already named, belonged to the Deborah Avery and the Omaha chapters.
In 1899, Mrs. Eliza Towle reported to the president general and the national board of management that the Omaha chapter had decided to place a monument at Fort Calhoun - undoubtedly at the suggestion of Mrs. Harriet S. MacMurphy, who was much interested in the early history of that place.
As the hundredth anniversary of the acquisition of the Louisiana territory approached, and interest began to center around the expedition of Lewis and Clark, it was found that the only point touched in Nebraska by these explorers which could be positively identified was old Council Bluff, near Fort Calhoun; and here the Omaha chapter had decided to erect a monument. At a meeting of the Omaha chapter in 1901, the state regent directed the attention of the members to this fact, and it was voted to enlarge the scope of the undertaking, to make the marking of the site a state affair, and to ask the coöperation of the Sons of the American Revolution and of the State Historical Society. This action was ratified at the first conference of the Daughters of the American Revolution held in Nebraska, the meeting having been called especially for that purpose, in Octo-
NEBRASKA PIONEER REMINISCENCES
ber, 1902. A committee in conjunction with the Sons of the American Revolution asked the state legislature of 1903 for a sum of five thousand dollars to buy the site of Fort Atkinson and to erect a suitable monument, under the auspices of the Sons and the Daughters of the American Revolution, the monument to be erected according to plans and specifications furnished by the two societies.
Disappointed by the failure of the legislature to make the desired appropriation but in no way discouraged, the Daughters of the American Revolution at the second state conference, held in October, 1903, voted to observe the anniversary of the first official council held by Lewis and Clark with the Indians in the Louisiana territory, and to commemorate the event by placing a Nebraska boulder upon the site. As chairman of the committee, it fell to my lot to raise the money and to find the boulder; and it is with pleasure that I record the ease with which the first part of my duty was accomplished. The Deborah Avery chapter gave seventy-five dollars, the Omaha chapter one hundred, and the two new chapters organized in 1902, Quivira of Fairbury and Lewis-Clark of Fremont, raised the sum to two hundred, each promising more if it was needed.
To find a Nebraska boulder was more difficult; and it was still more difficult to find a firm in Nebraska willing to undertake to raise it from its native bed and to carve upon it the insignia of the D. A. R., with a suitable inscription. Finally a boulder of Sioux Falls granite was found in the Marsden farm, north of Lincoln, and it was given to the society by the owner, who remarked that he was "glad to he rid of it." Its dimensions were 7 1/2x8 l/3x3 l/2 feet. Its weight was between seven and eight tons. The firm of Kimball Brothers of Lincoln took the contract for its removal and inscription. Through the assistance of Mr. A. E. Sheldon of the State Historical Society, the Burlington and Missouri railroad generously transported it to Fort Calhoun, where its placing was looked after by Mr. J. H. Daniels of the Sons of the American Revolution. As the project had drifted away from the original intention, and had become a memorial to commemorate an event rather than to mark a spot, the boulder was placed on the public school grounds at Fort Calhoun. At last, almost five years from the time of the broaching of the project, the wish of the society was accomplished.
LEWIS AND CLARK COUNCIL
The following condenses an account of the unveiling of the boulder, and the program, from the report of Miss Anna Tribell Adams of the Omaha chapter for the American Monthly of January, 1905:
"On August 3, 1904, the village of Fort Calhoun, fifteen miles above Omaha on the Missouri river, was the scene of the unveiling of a boulder commemorating the first peace council between the United States government and the chiefs of the Otoe and Missouri Indian tribes. The town as well as the school grounds were brave with bunting and flags. Everyone wore with a small flag the souvenir button on which was a picture of the boulder with a suitable inscription. As a matter of history it is a pleasure to record that the button was designed by Mrs. Elsie De Con Troup of the Omaha chapter. One worn by one of the speakers is in the collection of the Deborah Avery chapter in the rooms of the State Historical Society at Lincoln.
"Among those present were Brigadier General Theodore Wint, representing the United States government, Governor J. H. Mickey, Adjutant General and Mrs. J. H. Culver, Mr. J. A. Barrett and Mr. A. E. Sheldon of the State Historical Society, Senator J. H. Millard, ex-Governor J. E. Boyd, and others.
"The Thirtieth Infantry band from Fort Calhoun opened the program. Then came a brief reproduction, in pageant-manner, by the Knights of Ak-Sar-Ben of Omaha, of the Council of 1804, enacting the Lewis and Clark treaty. Mr. Edward Rosewater of the Omaha Bee extended the welcome of the day, and brought to the attention of the audience the presence of Mr. Antoine Cabney, the first white child born in Nebraska, whose birthplace, in 1827, was near the site of Fort Calhoun. The state regent, Mrs. Abraham Allee, introduced Governor Mickey, who spoke briefly. He was followed by J. A. Barrett of the State Historical Society, who gave an amount of the Lewis and Clark Council. Honorable W. F. Gurley of Omaha then delivered the address of the day. At the conclusion of the formal program the boulder was unveiled. In the presentation speech by Mrs. S. B. Pound of Lincoln, the boulder was committed formally, in the name of the Sons and the Daughters of the American Revolution and of the State Historical Society, to the care of the citizens of Fort Calhoun."
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