EARLY HISTORY OF LINCOLN COUNTY
BY MAJOR LESTER WALKER
(Late captain Fifth U. S. Cavalry and brevet major U. S. Army)
It is supposed that the first white men who visited Lincoln county were the Mallet brothers, who passed this way to Santa Fe in 1739. Pierre and Auguste Chouteau were sent out from St. Louis to explore the northwestern country in 1762. In 1780 another expedition was sent to explore the country between the Missouri river and the Rocky Mountains.
After the expedition of Lewis and Clark, which followed up the Missouri river, the first government expedition was made in 1819, under Major Stephen H. Long, who traveled up the north side of the Platte and crossed just above the forks of the two rivers, then going up the valley between the two streams to the site of the present town of North Platte.
Titian Peale, the naturalist of Philadelphia, was with this expedition and the Peale family living at North Platte, are relatives of his. In 1835, Col. Henry Dodge visited this section of the country in the government employ to treat with the Arikara Indians.
In 1843, Col. John C. Fremont, making his expedition up the Platte, celebrated the Fourth of July of that year, in what is now Lincoln county. During the year 1844 travel up the Platte river became quite heavy and the first building in the county was erected by a Frenchman (name unknown) near the present residence of Mrs. Burke at Fort McPherson, and was used as a trading ranch, but was abandoned in 1848.
In 1852, a man by the name of Brady settled on the south side of the island now known as Brady Island. Brady is supposed to have been killed some time during the following year by the Indians.
In 1858, the first permanent settlement in the county was made at Cottonwood Springs and the first building was erected in the fall of the year by Boyer & Roubidoux. I. P. Boyer had charge of this ranch. In the same year another trading ranch190
EARLY HISTORY OF LINCOLN COUNTY
was built at O'Fallon's Bluffs on the south side of the river. In 1859 Dick Darling erected the second building at Cottonwood Springs. This building was purchased by Charles McDonald for a store, and he stocked it with general merchandise. In 1860, Mr. McDonald brought his wife from Omaha, she being the first white woman to settle in Lincoln county. Mrs. McDonald lived here about three years before another white woman settled at Cottonwood Springs. Mr. McDonald is now living at North Platte, engaged in the banking business. Mrs. McDonald died in December, 1898, and is buried at North Platte.
In the spring of 1860, J. A. Morrow built a ranch about twelve miles west from Cottonwood, to accommodate the great rush to California. To give some idea of the extent of the freight and emigrant business along this route, it was no uncommon thing to count from seven hundred to one thousand wagons passing in one day.
During the year 1861, the Creighton telegraph line was completed through the county. In June, 1861, the first white child was born. His name is W. H. McDonald, son of Chas. McDonald, now of North Platte, Nebraska.
In the spring of 1860, W. M. Hinman removed from Fort Laramie to Cottonwood Springs, and opened up a farm, trading with the emigrants and Indians. In November, 1863, Fort McPherson was established by the government at this settlement of Cottonwood Springs. This military post was first commanded by Major George M. O'Brien.
Fort McPherson was established none too soon, for it was in the following year, 1864, that the war with the Sioux and Cheyenne Indians commenced. This war continued for over five years and many emigrants and soldiers were killed.
What is now known as Lincoln county, was first organized as a county under the territorial government of Nebraska in 1860. Cottonwood Springs was made the county-seat. The following officers were elected: County commissioners - I. P. Boyer, J. C. Gilman and J. A. Morrow; judge - Charles McDonald; treasurer - W. M. Hinman. Instead of calling the county Lincoln, it was named "Shorter." Nothing, however, was done under this organization. Judge McDonald qualified and the only business was the marriage ceremony.
On September 3, 1866, a meeting was held and arrangements
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made to reorganize Shorter county under the name of Lincoln county. Under the reorganization, the following officers were elected: J. C. Gilman, W. M. Hinman, and J. A. Morrow were elected county commissioners; S. D. Fitchie, county judge; Wilton Baker, sheriff; and Charles McDonald, clerk. The county seat was at Cottonwood Springs. W. M. Hinman built a sawmill near Cottonwood Springs and did a large business. The Union Pacific rairoad [sic] was then being constructed through this county and the cañons south of the Platte abounded with cedar timber, furnishing an abundance of material.
During November, 1866, the Union Pacific railroad was completed to North Platte and a town was laid out by the railroad company. The plat of the town was filed with the clerk of the county on January 31, 1867; a military post was established, and a garrison of soldiers was stationed here.
In 1867 the Union Pacific railroad began the erection of shops and roundhouse, North Platte having been designated as a division station. During the year 1867, a freight train was wrecked by the Indians. Several of the trainmen were killed and the train plundered and burned. In September, 1867, the Indian chiefs were all called to assemble at North Platte, where they were met by the commissioners appointed by the government to treat with them. These commissioners were General Sherman, General Harney, and John P. Sanborne, and a treaty of peace was entered into. During the stay of these commissioners, they were well entertained by the citizens of North Platte. The county-seat was moved from Cottonwood Springs to North Platte at an election held October 8, 1867. A total of twenty-one votes were cast. The officers elected were B. I. Hinman, representative; W. M. Hinman, county judge; Charles McDonald, clerk; O. O. Austin, sheriff; Hugh Morgan, treasurer, and A. J. Miller, county commissioner. There was no courthouse, and the records were kept at the home of W. M. Hinman, who had moved from his farm to North Platte. The first county warrant was issued in 1867. The first term of district court was held at North Platte in 1867, Judge Gantt then being the circuit judge for the entire state. July 1, 1867, the first levy on the Union Pacific railroad in Lincoln county was made on an assessed valuation of $49,000.00.
During this year, there was an Indian scare and settlers
EARLY HISTORY OF LINCOLN COUNTY
throughout the county thronged to the military parks at McPherson and North Platte, taking refuge in the railroad roundhouse at the latter place.
The first money collected from fines was that paid into the county treasury on February 1, 1868, by R. C. Daugherty, a justice of the peace, who fined a man $21.50 for stealing an overcoat.
The first school in the county was taught at North Platte during the summer of 1868. Theodore Clark was the first teacher. The next term of school began November 30, 1868, and was taught by Mary Hubbard, now Mrs. P. J. Gilman.
The first Sunday school in the county was at North Platte, and was founded by Mrs. Keith, Mrs. Miller, Mrs. Cogswell, and Mrs. Kramph. There were only three children in attendance.
During the year 1868, troubles with the Indians were on the increase. On one occasion, "Dutch" Frank, running an engine and coming round a curve with his train, saw a large body of Indians on each, side of the road, while a number were crowded on the track. Knowing it would be certain death to stop, he increased the speed of his train and went through them, killing quite a number.
In May, 1869, the Fifth U. S. Cavalry arrived at Fort McPherson under General Carr. Eight companies were left here and four companies went to Sidney and Cheyenne. The government was surveying this county at that time and the troops were used to protect the surveyors. Large bands of Indians had left the reservation and were killing settlers and stealing horses. During the summer of 1869 the order from General Auger, commanding the department, was to clear the country of Indians between the Union Pacific and the Kansas Pacific. I was an officer of the Fifth U. S. Cavalry and was in command of the post at North Platte in 1869 and 1870, and was in all the Indian campaigns until I resigned in 1878.
The first bank in North Platte was started in 1875 by Walker Brothers and was later sold to Charles McDonald.
GRAY EAGLE, PAWNEE CHIEF
BY MILLARD S. BINNEY
It is not often that one sees a real Indian chief on the street's of Fullerton, but such happened in June, 1913, when the city was visited by David Gillingham, as he is known in the English tongue, or Gray Eagle, as his people call him, chief of the Pawnees.
Gray Eagle is the son of White Eagle, whom the early inhabitants of Nance county will remember as chief of the Pawnees at the time the county was owned by that tribe.
Gray Eagle was born about three miles this side of Genoa, in 1861. He spent his boyhood in the county and when white men began to build at the place that is now Genoa, he attended school there. When he was fourteen years of age he accompanied his tribe to its new home at Pawnee City, Oklahoma, where he has since resided. The trip overland was made mostly on horseback, and the memories of it are very interesting as interpreted to us by Chief Gray Eagle, and John Williamson, of Genoa, one of the few white men to make this long journey with the red men. Gray Eagle made one trip back here in 1879, visiting the spot that is now Fullerton - then only a few rude shacks.
Uppermost in Gray Eagle's mind had always been the desire to return and see what changes civilization had brought. In 1913 he was sent to St. Louis as a delegate to the Baptist convention, after which he decided to visit the old scenes. From St. Louis he went to Chicago and from that city he came to Genoa.
"I have always wanted to see if I could locate the exact spot of my birth," said Gray Eagle, in perfect English, as he talked to us on this last visit, "and I have been successful in my undertaking. I found it last week, three miles this side of Genoa. I was born in a little, round mud-house, and although the house is long since gone, I discovered the circular mound that had been its foundation. I stood upon the very spot where I was194
GRAY EAGLE, PAWNEE CHIEF
born, and as I looked out over the slopes and valleys that had once been ours; at the corn and wheat growing upon the ground that had once been our hunting grounds; at the quietly flowing streams that we had used so often for watering places in the days so long gone by; my heart was very sad. Yet I've found that spot and am satisfied. I can now go back to the South and feel that my greatest desire has been granted."
When asked if the Indians of today followed many of the customs of their ancestors, he answered that they did not. Occasionally the older Indians, in memory of the days of their supremacy, dressed themselves to correspond and acted as in other days, but the younger generation knows nothing of those things and is as the white man. In Oklahoma they go to school, later engage in farming or enter business. "Civilization has done much for them," said Gray Eagle. "They are hard workers and have ambitions to accomplish great things and be better citizens. Only we old Indians, who remember the strenuous times of the early days, have the wild blood in our veins. The younger ones have never even seen a buffalo."
Then he told of his early life in the county and related interesting stories of the past - Gray Eagle, the Indian chief, and John Williamson, the pioneer, talking together, at times, in a tongue that to us was strange, but to them an echo of a very real past.
The Loup he called Potato Water, because of the many wild potatoes that formerly grew upon its banks. Horse creek he remembered as Skeleton Water, the Pawnees one time having fought a band of Sioux on its banks. They were victorious but lost many warriors. Their own dead they buried, leaving the bodies of their enemies to decay in the sun. Soon the banks of the creek were strewn with skeletons and ever after the creek was known to the Indians as Skeleton Water. The Cedar was known as Willow creek, Council creek as the Skidi, and the Beaver as the Sandburr.
BY MRS. A. P. JARVIS
- I pause before I reach the verge
- And look, with chilling blood, below;
- Some dread attraction seems to urge
- Me nearer to the brink to go.
- The hunting red men used to force
- The buffalo oer this frightful steep;
- They could not check their frantic course;
- By following herds pressed down they leap,
- Then lie a bleeding, mangled mass
- Beside the little stream below.
- Their red blood stained the waving grass,
- The brook carnation used to flow.
- Yet a far more pathetic tale
- The Pawnees told the pioneer
- Of dusky maid and stripling pale
- Who found in death a refuge here.
- The youth had been a captive long,
- Yet failed to friendly favor find;
- He oft was bound with cruel thong,
- Yet Noma to the lad was kind.
- She was the chieftain's only child,
- As gentle as the cooing dove.
- Pure was this daughter of the wild;
- The pale-face lad had won her love.
- Her father, angered at her choice,
- Had bid'n her wed a chieftain brave;
- She answered with a trembling voice,
- "I'd rather lie within my grave."
- The day before the appointed eve
- When Wactah was to claim his bride,
- The maid was seen the camp to leave --
- The pale-face youth was by her side.
- She led him to this dangerous place
- That on the streamlet's glee doth frown;
- The sunlight, gleaming on her face,
- Her wild, dark beauty seemed to crown.
- "Dear youth," exclaimed the dusky maid,
- "I've brought thee here thy faith to prove:
- If thou of death art not afraid,
- We'll sacrifice our lives to love."
- Hand linked in hand they looked below,
- Then, headlong, plunged adown the steep.
- The Pawnees from that hour of woe
- Have named the place The Lovers' Leap.
EARLY INDIAN HISTORY
BY MRS. SARAH CLAPP
In 1843 Mr. and Mrs. Lester W. Platt were first engaged in missionary work among the Pawnees, and in 1857 the government set aside a tract of land thirty miles by fifteen miles, in the rich prairie soil of Nance county, for their use; and when the Indian school was established at Genoa, Mrs. Platt was made matron or superintendent.
My mother taught in this school during the years 1866-67. She found the work interesting, learned much of the customs and legends of the Pawnees and grew very fond of that noble woman, Mrs. Platt, who was able to tell thrilling stories of her experiences during her mission work among the members of that tribe.
At the time my mother taught in the Genoa school, the Sioux, who were the greatest enemies of the Pawnees, on account of wanting to hunt in the same territory, were supposed to be friendly with the settlers, but drove away their horses and cattle and stole everything in sight, furnishing much excitement.
My father, Captain S. E. Cushing, accompanied my uncle, Major Frank North, on a number of expeditions against the hostile Indians, during the years 1869 until 1877. He was with Major North at the time of the famous charge on the village of the Cheyennes, when the notorious chief, Tall Bull, was killed by my uncle.
In 1856, when Frank North came to Nebraska, a young boy, he mingled fearlessly with the Indians along the Missouri in the region of Omaha, where our family first settled, learning their mode of warfare and living, and their language, which he spoke as fluently as his mother tongue. In 1861 he took a position as clerk and interpreter at the Pawnee reservation and by 1863 he had become known as a daring scout.
The next year the building of the Union Pacific railroad was started, and as the work progressed westward the fierce Arapahoes, Cheyennes, and Sioux began attacking the laborers, until198
EARLY INDIAN HISTORY
it seemed deadly peril to venture outside the camps. It was useless to call on the regular troops for help as the government needed them all to hold in check the armies of Lee and Johnston. A clipping from the Washington Sunday Herald, on this subject, states that "a happy thought occurred to Mr. Oakes Ames," the main spirit of the work. He sent a trusty agent to hunt up Frank North, who was then twenty-four years old. "What can be done to protect our working parties, Mr. North?" said Mr. Ames. "I have an idea," Mr. North answered. "If the authorities at Washington will allow me to organize a battalion of Pawnees and mount and equip them, I will undertake to picket your entire line and keep off other Indians.
"The Pawnees are the natural enemies of all the tribes that are giving you so much trouble, and a little encouragement and drill will make them the best irregular horse you could desire."
This plan was new but looked feasible. Accordingly Mr. Ames went to Washington, and, after some effort, succeeded in getting permission to organize a battalion of four hundred Pawnee warriors, who should be armed as were the U. S. cavalry and drilled in such simple tactics as the service required, and my uncle was commissioned a major of volunteers and ordered to command them. The newspaper clipping also says: "It would be difficult to estimate the service of Major North in money value." General Crook once said, in speaking of him, "Millions of government property and hundreds of lives were saved by him on the line of the Union Pacific railroad, and on the Nebraska, Wyoming, and Montana frontiers."
There is much to be said in his praise, but I did not intend writing a eulogy, rather to tell of the stories which have come down to me, with which he and my other relatives were so closely connected.
During the many skirmishes and battles fought by the Pawnees, under Major North, he never lost a man; moreover, on several different occasions he passed through such hair-breadth escapes that the Pawnees thought him invulnerable. In one instance, while pursuing the retreating enemy, he discovered that his command had fallen back and he was separated from them by over a mile. The enemy, discovering his plight, turned on him. He dismounted, being fully armed, and by using his horse as a breastwork he managed to reach his troops again, though
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his faithful horse was killed. This and many like experiences caused the Pawnees to believe that their revered leader led a charmed life. He never deceived them, and they loved to call him "Little Pawnee Le-Sharo" (Pawnee Chief), and so he was known as the White Chief of the Pawnees.
The coming of the railroad through the state, bringing thousands of settlers with household furnishings and machinery for tilling the soil, was of the greatest importance. It was concerning the guarding of that right of way that a writer for the Horse World has some interesting memories and devotes an article in a number in February, 1896, to the stories of Colonel W. F. Cody, Major Frank North, Captain Charles Morse, Captain Luther North, Captain Fred Mathews, and my father, Captain S. E. Cushing. The correspondent was under my father, in Company B, during one of the scouting expeditions, when the company was sent to guard O'Fallon's Bluffs, west of Fort McPherson on the Union Pacific. He tells much more of camp activities and of his initiation into border life than of the skirmishes or scouting trips. He was fond of horses and tells of a memorable race in which a horse of Buffalo Bill's was beaten by my father's horse "Jack."
My uncle, Captain Luther North, who also commanded a company of scouts at that time, now resides in Omaha.
While yet a boy he freighted between Omaha and Columbus and carried the mail, by pony, during a period when my grandmother felt that when she bade him good-bye in the morning she might never see him again, so unsettled was the feeling about the Indians. He was intimately acquainted with every phase of Indian life. He knew their pastimes and games, work of the medicine men and magicians, and especially was he familiar with many of their legends. I am happy to have been one of the children who often gathered 'round him to listen to the tales of his own experiences or stories told him by the red men.
One personal experience in the family happened before the building of the railroad, probably in sixty-one or sixty-two. A number of men, accompanied by the wives of two of them, went to put up hay for the government, on land located between Genoa and Monroe. One night the Indians surrounded their camp, presumably to drive away their stock. Naturally the party rebelled, and during the melee which followed Adam
EARLY INDIAN HISTORY
Smith and another man were killed and one of the women, Mrs. Murray, was wounded but saved herself by crawling away through the tall grass. The recital of this trouble grew in magnitude the farther it traveled, until people grew frantic with fear, believing it to mean an uprising of the Sioux. The settlers from Shell creek and all directions, bringing horses, cattle, and even their fowls, together with personal belongings, flocked into the village of Columbus for mutual protection. My mother, then a young girl, describes the first night as one of much confusion.
Some of the fugitives were sheltered with friends, others camped in the open. Animals, feeling as strange as did their masters, were bawling or screeching, and no one could sleep, as the greatest excitement prevailed.
"They built a stockade of upright posts about eight feet high, around the town," says my uncle Luther, thinking that as the Indians usually fought on horseback, this would be a great help if not a first-class, fort.
They organized a militia company and men were detailed for guard duty and stationed at different points along the stockade, so serious seemed the situation. One night Luther North and two other young men were sent on picket duty outside the stockade. They took their horses and blankets and went up west of town about half a mile, to keep an eye on the surrounding country. A Mr. Needham had gone up to his farm (now the John Dawson farm) that day, and did not return until it was getting dark. The guards thought it would be great fun to give him a little scare, so as he approached they wrapped themselves in their blankets, mounted, and rode down under a bank. Just as he passed they came up in sight and gave the Indian war whoop and started after him. He whipped his team into a run; they chased him, yelling at every step, but stopped a reasonable distance from the stockade and then went back. Mr. Needham gave graphic description of how the Indians had chased him, which so upset the entire population that sleep was out of the question that night. Moreover he cautioned his wife in this wise: "Now, Christina, if the Indians come, it is everybody for, himself, and you will have to skulk." This remark made by Mr. Needham became a byword, and even down into the next generation was a favorite saying and always provoked a smile.
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The young guards had no fear whatever of marauding Indians, and, blissfully unaware of the commotion they had aroused, went back up the road to a melon patch, ate a sufficient amount of the luscious fruit, picketed their horses, wrapped themselves in their blankets, and lay them down to pleasant dreams. The next morning they rode into town and reported no red men in sight. After a few weeks, when there was no further evidence of trouble from the savages, the people gradually dispersed to their homes and farms which were, by that time, much in need of attention.
MRS. OREAL S. WARD
Ninth State Regent, Nebraska Society, Daughters of the American Revolution.1909-1910
THE BLIZZARD OF 1888
BY MINNIE FREEMAN PENNEY
On January 12, 1888, the states of Nebraska and South Dakota were visited by a blizzard so fierce and cruel and death-dealing that residents of those sections cannot speak of it even now without an involuntary shudder.
The storm burst with great suddenness and fury, and many there were who did not live to tell the story of their suffering. And none suffered more keenly than did the occupants of the prairie schoolhouses. Teachers and pupils lost their lives or were terribly maimed. The great storm indicated most impressively the measure of danger and trial that must be endured by the country school teacher in the isolated places on the frontier.
Three Nebraska country school teachers - Loie Royce of Plainfield, Etta Shattuck of Holt county, and Minnie Freeman of Mira Valley, were the subjects of much newspaper writing.
Miss Royce had nine pupils. Six went home for luncheon and remained on account of the storm. The three remaining pupils with the teacher stayed in the schoolhouse until three o'clock. Their fuel gave out, and as her boarding house was but fifteen rods away, the teacher decided to take the children home with her.
In the fury of the storm they wandered and were lost. Darkness came, and with it death. One little boy sank into the eternal silence. The brave little teacher stretched herself out on the cold ground and cuddled the two remaining ones closer. Then the other little boy died and at daylight the spirit of the little girl, aged seven, fluttered away, leaving the young teacher frozen and dumb with agony. Loie Royce "hath done what she could; angels can do no better." Miss Royce lost both feet by amputation.
Etta Shattuck, after sending her children home (all living near) tried to go to her home. Losing her way, she took refuge in a haystack, where she remained, helpless and hungry Friday,203
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Saturday, and Sunday, suffering intensely and not able to move. She lived but a short time after her terrible experience.
Minnie Freeman was teaching in Mira Valley, Valley county. She had in her charge seventeen pupils. Finding it impossible to remain in the schoolhouse, she took the children with her to her boarding place almost a mile from the schoolhouse.
Words are useless in the effort to portray that journey to the safe shelter of the farmhouse, with the touching obedience of the children to every word of direction - rather felt than heard, in that fierce winding-sheet of ice and snow. How it cut and almost blinded them! It was terrible on their eyes. They beat their way onward, groping blindly in the darkness, with the visions of life and death ever before the young teacher responsible for the destiny of seventeen souls.
All reached the farmhouse and were given a nice warm supper prepared by the hostess and the teacher, and comfortable beds provided.
Minnie Freeman was unconscious of anything heroic or unusual. Doing it in the simple line of duty to those placed in her care, she still maintains that it was the trust placed in the Great Spirit who guides and cares for His own which led the little band --
- "Through the desert and illimitable air,
- Lone wandering, but not lost."
Written to Miss Minnie Freeman in 1888 by Mrs. Ellis of St. Paul, Nebraska. Mrs. Ellis was then seventy-eight years old - now deceased
- 'Midst driving winds and blinding snows,
- Impending dangers round her close;
- No shelter from the blast and sleet,
- No earthly help to guide her feet.
- In God alone she puts her trust,
- Ever to guide the brave and just.
- Fierce and loud the awful storm,
- Racking now her slender form,
- Eager to save the little band
THE BLIZZARD OF 1888
- Entrusted to her guiding hand.
- Marshalled her host, see, forth she goes
- And falters not while tempest blows;
- Now God alone can help, she knows.
- See them falling as they go;
- Angry winds around them blow.
- Is there none to hear their cry?
- Now her strength will almost fail;
- Tranquil, she braves the fearful gale.
- Preëminent her name shall stand,
- A beacon light o'er all the land,
- Unrivalled on the page of time;
- Let song and story swell the chime.
© 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001 for the NEGenWeb Project by Pam Rietsch, T&C Miller