EARLY DAYS IN NANCE COUNTY
BY MRS. ELLEN SAUNDERS WALTON
In 1872, after passing through a great sorrow, a longing came to me to enter the missionary field among the Indians. At that time the Pawnee tribe was located on their reservation, now Nance county, and I was sent to work among them. It was interesting, at the same time sad and depressing, to witness the degeneration and savagery of tribal life; and ofttimes it was seemingly hopeless to civilize and christianize them.
In 1874 the Pawnees were removed by the government to Indian territory, now Oklahoma, and the reservation was thrown on the market. This became Nance county, and a new order of things followed. Settlers came to the little hamlet of Genoa, that had been first settled by the Mormons in 1857, and though later given over to the Indians, it was one of the oldest towns in Nebraska.
A church was established under the care of the New England Congregational Mission and Rev. Charles Starbuck was put in charge. A small farmhouse where travelers could be accommodated, and a few homes of those who had bought land, comprised the village life. This freedom from restraint was indeed new to one accustomed to the rush of busy life in New York. Daily rides over the prairie on my pony were a delight.
It was wonderful how many cultured people drifted into the almost unknown western country. It was not infrequent to see in humble sod houses shelves filled with standard books and writings of the best authors. This was the second wave of population, and though many things had to be sacrificed that in the old life were considered necessary to comfort, pioneer life had its happy features. One especially was the kindly expression of helpfulness in time of sickness or sorrow. The discomforts and self denials and the longing for dear ones far away grow dim and faded! only memories of pleasant hours remain. Then came the third wave of men and women settling all around,206
EARLY DAYS IN NANCE COUNTY
bringing fashion and refining influences, and entertainment of various kinds. Churches, elevators, banks, and business houses were built and Nance county began to show the march of civilization and progress. Where first we knew the flower-gemmed prairie, modern homes spring up and good roads follow the trails of the Indian and the hunter.
THE PAWNEE CHIEF'S FAREWELL
BY CHAUNCEY LIVINGSTON WILTSE
- As I strolled alone, when the day had flown,
- Through the once Pawnee reserve,
- Where the memories keep of the brave asleep
- By the winding Cedar's curve --
- Methought the leaves of the old oak trees
- 'Neath the sheltering hill-range spoke,
- And they said: "It's here that hearts knew no fear,
- Where arose the Pawnee smoke!
- "In the eventide, when all cares subside,
- Is the hour the tribe liked best;
- When the gold of day crossed the hills away,
- And, like those who tried, found rest.
- O'er this Lovers' Leap, where now shadows creep,
- Strode the chief, in thought, alone --
- And he said: 'Trees true, and all stars in view,
- And you very winds my own!
- "'I soon shall pass, like the blades of grass,
- Where the wandering shadows go;
- Only leaves will tell what my tribe did well
- But you Hearts of Oak --- you know!
- To those Hunting Grounds that are never found
- Shall my tribe, in time, depart;
- Then it will be you to tell who were true,
- With the dawn-song in their heart!
- "'You will sing a song, with the winds along,
- How the Pawnee loved these hills!
- Here he loved to stray, all the wind-glad day ---
- In his heart the wind sings still!
- You will whisper, too, how he braved the Sioux,
- How life's days he did his part;
THE PAWNEE CHIEF'S FAREWELL
- Though not understood, how he wished but good,
- With but love within his heart!
- "'The White Father's call reaches us, and all
- To his South Wind land we fly,
- Yet we fain would stay with you hills alway ---
- It is hard to say good-bye!
- You, our fatherland, we could once command,
- We are driven from, so fast;
- But you hills alway in our hearts will stay
- And be with us at the last!
- "'Here we took our stand for our fatherland,
- Here our sons to manhood grew;
- Here their loves were found, where these hills surround ---
- Here the winds sang to them, too!
- By this Cedar's side, where the waters glide,
- We went forth to hunt and dream;
- Here we felt the spell of you oaks as well,
- And felt all that love may seem!
- "'Here we felt the pang of the hot wind tang,
- Here we felt the blizzard's breath;
- Here we faced the foe, as the stars all know ---
- Here we saw the face of Death!
- Here we braved the wrath of the lightning's path,
- Here we dared starvation's worst;
- Here tonight we stand, for our fatherland,
- Banished from what was ours - first!
- "'Bravely we obey, and will go away;
- The White Father wills it so;
- But our thoughts will roam to this dawntime home
- Where our fathers sleep, below!
- And some shining day, beyond white mens sway,
- We will meet our long-lost own --
- Where you singing winds and the dawn begins,
- One will say, "Come in --- come home!
- "'Just beyond you hills, the Rest Land still
- Is waiting for us all;
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- At earth's sunset hour One will wake each flower,
- And us home will softly call!
- Trees and stream, good-bye! Now our parting's nigh;
- Know you memory's sweet to me!
- Though our footsteps go, you may always know
- You've the heart of each Pawnee!'
- "As the chief passed by, stars filled the sky,
- And the moonlight softest fell --
- But the night winds said, 'Peace is overhead!'
- And the hills said, 'All is well! '"
MY TRIP WEST IN 1861
BY SARAH SCHOOLEY RANDALL
In 1857 my brother, Charles A. Schooley, landed at Brownville and soon after purchased several tracts of land near there, one being the old home of Church Howe and adjoining the present site of the village of Howe. Incidentally, my husband's father, N. G. Randall, three years later purchased land within three miles - known later as Bedford.
In 1860, while my brother was visiting his old home, White Deer Valley, near Williamsport, Pennsylvania, the smoldering flames of adventure were kindled in my mind which nothing but a trip west could quench. On March 1, 1861, we left Williamsport by train from Pittsburgh and on arriving there went to the Monongahela hotel, then a magnificent building. Abe Lincoln had just left the hotel, much to our disappointment. After a few days we engaged passage on the Argonaut to St. Louis via the Monongahela, the Ohio, and the Mississippi rivers. Our experiences were varied and exciting enough to meet my expectations. During one night we stood tied to a tree and another night the pumps were kept going to keep us from sinking. Small consolation we got from the captain's remark that this was "the last trip for this old hulk." We had ample time for seeing all the important cities along the shore - Cincinnati, Louisville, etc.
Arriving at St. Louis we took passage on a new boat, Sunshine, and set sail upstream. Perhaps we felt a few pangs of fear as we neared the real pioneer life. We changed boats again at St. Joe and then our trip continued, now up the treacherous Missouri. Every now and then we struck a snag which sent the dishes scurrying from the table. I am reminded that this trip was typical of our lives: floating downstream is easy but upstream is where we strike the snags.
Of our valued acquaintances met on the trip were Rev. and Mrs. Barrette, the former a Presbyterian minister coming to Brownville, and our friendship continued after reaching our destination.211
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Arriving in Brownville, we went to the McPherson hotel, where we continued to hear disturbing rumors about the coming civil war.
After a few days we took a carriage and went west ten miles over the beautiful rolling prairies to our ranch. I was charmed with the scene, which was vastly different from the mountains and narrow winding valleys of Pennsylvania, and was determined to stay, though my brother had lost his enthusiasm and gave me two weeks to change my mind. Many a homesick spell I had when I would have very quickly returned to my father's home of peace and plenty, but the danger of travel detained me. I assured my brother that if he would only stay I would be very brave and economical. I only wanted five small rooms plainly furnished and a horse and carriage. When the place was ready we left Brownville in a big wagon, drawn by oxen, and fortified by a load of provisions. When we came in sight of our bungalow it proved to be a one-room, unpainted and unplastered edifice, but I soon overcame that defect by the use of curtains, and as all lived alike then, we were content with our surroundings. Our first callers were three hundred Indians on an expedition. I had been reading extensively about Indians, so knew when I saw their squaws and papooses with them that they were friendly --- in fact, rather too familiar.
My brother fenced his land and planted it in corn and all kinds of vegetables. The season being favorable there was an abundant crop, both cultivated and wild. The timber abounded with grapes, plums, nuts, etc., and strawberries on the prairies. We had a well of fine water, a good cellar or cave, and a genuine "creampot" cow. Instead of a carriage I had a fine saddle horse (afterwards sold to a captain in the army), and how we did gallop over the prairies! One of my escapades was to a neighbor's home ten miles away for ripe tomatoes. In lieu of a sack we tied together the neck and sleeves of a calico wrapper, filled it with the tomatoes, then tied the bottom and balanced it astride the horse in front of me. Going through the tall slough grass in one place near Sheridan, now Auburn, the horse became frantic with heat and flies and attempted to run away. The strings gave way and the tomatoes scattered. Finally the saddle turned and the well-trained horse stopped. An inventory revealed one sleeve full of tomatoes remaining.
MY TRIP WEST IN 1861
Among our near neighbors were Mr. and Mrs. Milo Gates and family, and Mr. and Mrs. Engle. Mrs. Gates's cheerful optimism made this pioneer life not only possible but enjoyable.
After five months, my brother joined the army and went south as a captain; was several times promoted, and stayed all through the war. A year after I went back to Brownville to stay until the war was over, and there made many valued acquaintances: Senator Tipton's sister, Mrs. Atkinson, Judge Wheeler, H. C. Lett, the McCrearys, Hackers, Whitneys, Carsons, Dr. Guin, Furnas, Johnson, etc. About this time the citizens gave a party for the boys who enlisted, and there I met E. J. Randall, whom I married soon after he returned from the army. Of the four Randall brothers who enlisted one was killed, one wounded, and one taken prisoner. Two of them still live, Dr. H. L. Randall of Aurora, forty-seven years a practicing physician in Nebraska and at one time surgeon at the Soldiers' Home, Grand Island; and A. D. Randall of Chapman, Nebraska, who enlisted at the age of sixteen and served all through the war.
After a college course of four years my husband entered the ministry and served for twenty-five years in Nebraska, except for one year of mission work at Cheyenne, Wyoming. The itinerant life is not unlike the pioneer life and brought with it the bitter and sweet as well, but the bitter was soon forgotten and blessed memories remain of the dear friends scattered all over the state of Nebraska, and indeed to the ends of the earth.
Dr. Wharton said when paying his tribute to my departed husband, "He still lives on in the lives of those to whom he has ministered." Our children are Charles H. Randall of Los Angeles, California, member of congress, and Mrs. Anna Randall Pope of Lincoln, Nebraska.
STIRRING EVENTS ALONG THE LITTLE BLUE
BY CLARENDON E. ADAMS
Painting a Buffalo
The following narrative of Albert Bierstadt's visit to what is now Nuckolls county, Nebraska, was told to me by Mr. E. S. Comstock, a pioneer of the county. Mr. Comstock made his first settlement in this county at Oak Grove, in 1858, and was in charge of the Oak Grove ranch when this incident took place.
In 1863 Mr. Bierstadt returned from the Pacific coast via the Overland stage route, which was then conducted by Russell, Majors & Waddell, the pioneer stage and pony expressmen of the plains. Arriving at Oak Grove ranch, Mr. Bierstadt and his traveling companion, a Mr. Dunlap, correspondent of the New York Post, decided to stop a few days and have a buffalo hunt. In company with E. S. Comstock, his son George, and a neighbor by the name of Eubanks, who was killed by the Indians the next year, they proceeded to the Republican Valley and camped the first night in the grove on Lost creek, now known as Lincoln Park. The following morning the party proceeded up the river to the farm now owned by Frank Schmeling. Here they discovered a large herd of buffalo grazing along the creek to the west and covering the prairies to the north for several miles. Mr. Comstock says that it was one of the largest herds of buffalo he had ever encountered and that Mr. Bierstadt became greatly excited and said, "Now, boys, is our time for fun. I want to see an enraged wounded buffalo. I want to see him so mad that he will bellow and tear up the ground." Mr. Comstock said they arranged for the affray: Mr. Bierstadt was to take his position on a small knoll to the east of the herd, fix himself with his easel go that he could sketch the landscape and the grazing bison, and when this was done the wounding of one of the buffalo bulls was to take place.
Bierstadt was stationed on a small knoll in plain view of the herd; Mr. Eubanks was stationed in a draw near Bierstadt, in214
EVENTS ALONG LITTLE BLUE
order to protect him from the charges of the buffalo, if necessary. George Comstock was to select a buffalo bull from the herd and wound him and then tantalize him by shaking a red blanket at him until he was thoroughly enraged, then he was to give him another wound from his rifle and lead out in the direction of Mr. Bierstadt.
The wounded buffalo became furious and charged Comstock's horse repeatedly, but Comstock, being an expert horseman, evaded the fierce charges and was all the time coming nearer to Bierstadt. When within about three hundred yards Comstock whirled his horse to the side of the maddened monster. As a buffalo does not see well out of the side of his eyes on account of the long shaggy hair about the face, Comstock was lost to his view. The infuriated animal tossed his head high in air and the only thing he saw was Bierstadt. Onward he rushed toward the artist, pawing the ground and bellowing furiously. Bierstadt called for help and took to his heels. The buffalo struck the easel and sent it in splinters through the air. Onward he rushed after the fleeing artist, who was making the best time of his life. Mr. Comstock said he was running so fast that his coat tails stuck so straight out that you could have played a game of euchre on them. The buffalo was gaining at every jump.
At this point in his story Mr. Comstock became greatly excited. He was standing on the identical spot telling me the story, and was living the exciting scene over again. "Why," he said, "I thought Eubanks never would shoot. I was scared. The buffalo nearly had his horns under Bierstadt's coat tail. He was snorting froth and blood all over him, but the gun cracked and the buffalo fell and Bierstadt was so overcome he fell at the same time entirely exhausted, but saved from a fearful death." When he recovered sufficiently to talk, he said, "That's enough; no more wounded buffalo for me." Mr. Bierstadt was several days recovering from his fearful experience, but while he was recovering, he was painting the picture. "Mr. Dunlap, the correspondent, wrote a graphic and vivid pen picture of the exciting scene," said Mr. Comstock; "but when Mr. Bierstadt finished his picture of the infuriated charging buffalo and the chase, the pen picture was not in it."
This was the painting that brought Bierstadt into prominence as an artist. It was exhibited at the first Chicago exhibition and
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was sold for $75,000. 1 saw the picture in Chicago before I heard Mr. Comstock's narrative, and as I was one of the owners of El Capitan Rancho, the landscape of the famous painting, I fixed his story vividly upon my memory. Mr. Mike Woerner now owns a portion of El Capitan Rancho, the landscape of this famous painting. A portion of this original painting is embraced in Mr. Bierstadt's masterpiece, "The Last of the Buffalo."
An Indian Raid
The settlement of the section now included in Nuckolls county was attended with more privation and suffering from Indian raids and depredations than any other county in the state of Nebraska. The great Indian raids of August 7, 1864, extended from Denver, Colorado, to Gage county, Nebraska, at which time every stage station and settlement along the entire line of the Overland trail was included in that skilfully planned attack. A certain number of warriors were assigned to each place and the attack was simultaneous along the line for four hundred miles in extent.
The Oak Grove ranch was among the most formidable in fortifications and a band of forty well-armed braves was sent to capture and destroy it. On the day of the attack G. S. Comstock, owner of Oak Grove ranch, was away from home; but besides his family there were five men at the stockade. The Indians came to the ranch about midday in a friendly attitude. They had left their ponies about a quarter of a mile away. They asked for something to eat and were permitted to come into the house with their guns and bows and arrows on their persons. They finished their dinner and each received a portion of tobacco and some matches. Then without any warning they turned upon the inmates of the ranch yelling and shooting like demons, and only for the quickness and great presence of mind of one of the Comstock boys the whites would all have been killed or taken away captives to submit to the cruelty of the savage foe.
A Mr. Kelly, from Beatrice, was there and was the first to fall pierced with an arrow. He had a navy revolver in his belt. The Indians rushed for it but young Comstock was too quick for them and seized the revolver first and shot down the leader of the braves. Seeing the fate of their leader, the Indians rushed to the door in great fright. The revolver was in skilful
EVENTS ALONG LITTLE BLUE
hands and three more of the braves went down under the unerring aim of young Comstock. Kelly and Butler were both killed outright. Two men by the name of Ostrander and a boy were wounded. All the other occupants of the ranch had their clothes pierced with arrows or bullets.
The Indians ran to their ponies, and while they were away planning another attack, the wounded were cared for as best they could. The doors were securely barred and the living were stationed in the most advantageous places for defense. The friendly game of the Indians had not worked as they expected, but they were not daunted and soon they encircled the house, riding, shooting, and yelling. This fiendish warfare they kept up all the afternoon. They tried several times to set the buildings on fire but shots from experienced marksmen, both men and women, kept them at bay.
The new leader of the Indians rode a white pony and seemed at times to work his warriors up to great desperation, and young Comstock made up his mind to shoot him the next time that he appeared. It was now too dark to distinguish one man from another. Mr. Comstock, senior, was mounted on a white horse and he was enroute home about the time the Indians were expected to return. The vigilant son raised his gun, took aim, and was about to shoot, when one of the girls, remembering that her father rode a white horse, called out, "Father, is it you?" An affirmative answer came back just in time to prevent the fatal shot which would have followed in an istant [sic] more. Mr. Comstock had ridden through the Indian lines, while returning to his ranch, unmolested. He said to me he believed the Indians spared his life that evening on account of favors he had always granted them.
Five miles east of the Comstock ranch that day a boy eighteen years old by the name of Ulig was met by two Indians. One of them shook hands with him while the other pierced his body with a spear and then scalped him and left him writhing in the broiling sun to die on the prairie. This savage and brutal act was followed by others unparalleled even in savage warfare. Four miles above Oak Grove at a place called the Narrows on the Little Blue river, lived a family of ten persons by the name of Eubanks. They were from the East and knew nothing of Indians' cruel warfare and when they were attacked they left
NEBRASKA PIONEER REMINISCENCES
their cabin and ran for the trees and brush along the river banks. Nine of them were murdered in the most brutal manner: scalped and stripped of their clothing. Two of the women, Mrs. Eubanks with a young babe in her arms, and Laura Roper, a school teacher who was there on a visit, were the only ones who arrived at a place of concealment and would have escaped had not the babe from heat and fright cried out. The practiced ear of the Indians caught the sound and they were made captives and subjected to the most inhuman and beastly treatment by the horrible savages. After the mother was made a captive the baby cried from hunger. The mother was so famished she could not nourish the babe but held it fondly in her arms trying to soothe it; and one of the merciless savages stepped up and brained it with his tomahawk. No pen or brush can tell the horrors of this diabolical deed.
The two women were subjected to six months of bondage impossible to describe. I was telling this story one day to the late Captain Henry E. Palmer of Omaha, and learned from him that he and his command of soldiers and Pawnee scouts followed these inhuman wretches over the plains trying to bring them to bay, and finally down on the Solomon river in Kansas captured some of the Indian chiefs and succeeded in exchanging them for the two women captives.
This is one of the terrible chapters in the early settlement of Nuckolls county and was graphically detailed to me by Mr. Comstock soon after I settled in the county.
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