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Andreas' History of the State of Nebraska

Adams County
Produced by
Diane Dietl and Connie Snyder.


Adams County | Early Settlement | Indian Troubles | Organization
Criminal | First Things | Railroads


Manufactures | County Seat Removals | County Poor Farm
Grasshoppers | Agricultural Society | Farmer's Alliance
Public Schools | Towns

Hastings:  Banks | Manufactures | The Press

Hastings (cont.):   Societies | Religious | Liberal Hall | Schools
Fire Department | Telephone Exchange

 5 ~ 8:

Biographical Sketches:


Juniata:  Banks | Flouring Mill | Societies | Religious
The Press | Schools

PART 10:
Juniata:  Biographical Sketches
PART 11:
Ayr:  Biographical Sketches
PART 12:

Kenesaw:  First Things | Religious | Educational | The Press
Biographical Sketches
Hansen:   Biographical Sketches
Other Towns

List of Illustrations in Adams County Chapter
Adams County Names Index

Part 1

   ADAMS County lies about one hundred and twenty miles west of the Missouri River, and twenty-four miles from the south line of the State. It is bounded by the county of Hall on the north, Clay on the east, Webster on the south, and by Kearney on the west.

   The county lies upon the vast plain that regularly ascends in almost unbroken gradation from the valley of the Missouri to the Rocky Mountains. The elevation above sea level is about eighteen hundred feet, and rises gradually to the westward.

   The surface of the county is very regular, being an almost level plain, broken only by low bluffs along streams, and sufficiently rolling to afford good drainage.

   It is abundantly watered with a number of streams, which become confluent, forming the head-waters of the Little Blue River; also by a number of creeks, the principal being Thirty-two Mile and Pawnee, together with others of less importance, and numerous smaller tributary streams.

   The soil, from two to six feet deep, is of a loose, friable and porous character, and is of that peculiar mixture which absorbs and retains moisture. The fertility of the soil has been fully tested in the production of large crops of grains, vegetables, etc., and, with proper tillage, is capable of marvelous production--sure to yield bountiful harvests, the result of patient and honest labor.

   The peculiar under-drainage of this land baffles almost philosophy itself. While the soil is extremely loose and porous for considerable depths, and surface water does not accumulate from rainfalls, but sinks away readily, leaving the surface, in a few hours afterward, perfectly dry, yet the moisture is sufficient for the speedy growth of vegetation, and is capable of enduring drouthy seasons with less serious results than are the Eastern States, where the rainfall and moisture are more abundant.

   The rainfall, however, in most seasons, has been sufficient for the production of reasonably abundant crops, realizing to the farmer ample recompense for the bestowal of his labors.

   The natural growth of timber in this, as in most all counties of the State, is limited, and is continued to narrow belts lying along the banks of the water-courses. This want, however, while to some extent a drawback to the country, is being supplemented by the artificial growth of forests. This branch of husbandry has been undertaken with excellent success, and will prove, in a few years, a source of very great value to the county.

   Taken as a whole, the county is one among the best for farming in the State, and offers inducements to settlers that are unexcelled by any others.

   The county contains an area of 576 square miles, or an acreage of 368,640 acres. The amount of the land granted to the Burlington & Missouri River Railroad in this county was over twenty thousand acres, and to the Union Pacific Railroad about fifteen thousand acres. There are now no lands in the county belonging to the Government and subject to the rights of settlement by pre-emption or homestead. Neither are there any waste lands in the county to speak of, nearly the whole being susceptible of easy and profitable cultivation.


   The first permanent settlers to locate in Adams County were Mortimer Kress, alias Wild Bill, and his partner, Jerome Fouts, or California Joe, whose careers on the plains have been attended with numerous thrilling experiences and narrow escapes. Kress was born in Williamsport, Penn., in 1841, and came to Nebraska in 1865. For four years, he led a migratory life on the frontier, experiencing many thrilling encounters with both the Indians and border ruffians, in which he showed himself to be possessed of that bold and fearless spirit that afterward led him through his most eventful course.

   Kress and his partner, Fouts, came into the county in 1869, and located claims, on March 5, 1870, at a point near where the Little Blue River enters Clay County. During their stay of three years together on their claims, they followed the occupation of trappers and hunters. After this, they struck out for wider and more romantic and dangerous fields. For some years, they figured prominently in the wild and sensational occurrences of the mountains and plains, experienced many thrilling adventures with the Indians, with narrow escapes amid exciting and almost hopeless contests.

   After scouting for some years through Western Kansas, Indian Territory, Texas, New Mexico and Colorado, they returned to more peaceful quarters, settling down to quiet lives on their claims in Adams County, and are now numbered among the best and most peaceable citizens of the county.

   But the settling of Kress and Fouts was but the van guard of the host. The summer and fall of 1870 witnessed the influx of other settlers. Those coming in during the year were: Charles Mont (known as "Dutch Charley"), James Bainter, Charles Bird, W. S. Moot, J. W. King, John Ovary, Charles Janes and Volney Janes, Isaiah Sluyter, S. L. Brass, Isaac Stark, Titus Babcock, W. M.. West, W. W. Selleck.

   In April of 1871, a colony of Englishmen came in and settled upon the land upon which the town of Hastings was laid out. Among this colony were Walter M. Micklen, Thomas Johnson, John G. Moore and Thomas Watts. It was the homestead taken by Micklen that embraced the original town site. Other settlers continued to come in, until, in the latter part of the year 1871, the county contained a voting population of twenty-nine.


   The first settlers seem not to have suffered molestation from the Indians, who at that time kept scouring the country round on their hunting expeditions, and in keeping with their wandering and nomadic natures. Not a solitary instance occurs of their ever having committed any atrocities upon any of the settlers, their depredations being confined to petty thefts. This may be accounted for, however, by the fact of the hostile tribes having been brought into subjection before the settlement of the county was made, and, perhaps, the nearness of Government forces, being stationed at Fort Kearney, in the county next west, had its influence to terrify and keep in subjection their savage propensities. The thoughts of Spencer balls and drilled soldiery was rather too formidable for the bow and arrow and the undisciplined squads of the plains.

   The only instances of massacre of any sort occurring within the limits of the county were upon parties of emigrants, who, at that time, were making their way in various sized trains across the plains and over the mountains to the gold-fields of California. The old emigrant trail passed through the county, entering it at the southeast, passing up the water-courses, along Thirty-two Mile Creek, in a northwesterly direction, and leaving the county near the northwest corner.

   At a point on this trail, about four miles south of the present site of Juniata, were discovered traces of what evidently was a massacre. There were traces of graves and remnants of articles of hardware, showing that, in all probability, parties had been murdered, and the articles they had with them, such as were considered useless to the assailants, were burned.

   At another time, in the fall of 1870, a party consisting of five emigrants, on their way to California, were overtaken by a band of treacherous savages, and, being few in number compared with their enemy, were unable to defend themselves, and four of the party were fiendishly slaughtered, one having, by some means, made his escape and returned to Spring Ranch to relate the sad fate and experience with which they had met.

   A single instance of attack upon settlers took place in the summer of 1870, on some parties near Kiawa Ranch; but it was not long until a company of United States regulars, under Capt. Spalding, came to the rescue.

   The troops, after a brief contest, put the band to rout, without serious results on either side, only one soldier receiving a wound from the encounter.

   Five of the soldiers were afterward awarded medals from the Government for feats of meritorious soldiery on this occasion. Scares of Indian outbreaks were numerous, but not extensive.

   The tribes which made Adams County part of their hunting-grounds were the Sioux, Cheyennes and Pawnees; of these, the Sioux tribe were the most vicious and dreaded.


   By a proclamation issued by Secretary of State W. H.. James, then Acting Governor, an election for the choosing of a board of county officers, and also for the location of the county seat, was called, to take place on the 12th day of December, 1871, the election to be held at the residence of Titus Babcock. The officers to be chosen were three Commissioners, Clerk, Judge, Treasurer, Sheriff, Surveyor, Superintendent of Schools, Coroner, Judges and Clerks of Elections. The election was held on the day appointed, resulting in the choice of the following officers: Commissioners, S. L. Brass, Edwin Allen and W. W. Selleck; Titus Babcock, Probate Judge; R. D. Babcock, County Clerk; J. W. Stark, Sheriff; J. S. Chandler, Treasurer; W. W. Camp, Coroner; Adna H. Bowen, Superintendent of Schools.

   The choice of seat of government for the county was made in favor of Juniata. But, as is the case in the selection of a location for the county seat in most new counties, this was the result of political chicanery and wire-pulling. At that time, the law required that all voters should have their names registered in the proper record in order to entitle them to the exercise of the right of suffrage. On the day of election for the organization of the county and fixing the county seat, there were about twenty-two, otherwise legal voters, coming from southern and central part of the county, who naturally desired the county seat to be located in that section. But these, who were overwhelming in the majority, were disqualified on account of failing to register, and their votes refused. The following are those who have been elected to the office of Commissioner since the organization of the county:

   1873, Edwin M. Allen, S. L. Brass, W. W. Selleck; 1874, S. L. Brass, W. W. Selleck, R. S. Langley; 1875, W. W. Selleck, R. S. Langley, A. D. Yocum; 1876, A. D. Yocum, R. S. Langley, J. R. Ratcliff; 1877, A. D. Yocum, J. R. Ratcliff, Edward Moore; 1878, J. R. Ratcliff, Edward Moore, A. D. Yocum; 1879, Edward Moore, A. D. Yocum, C. G. Wilson; 1880, A. D. Yocum, C. G. Wilson, A. V. Cole; 1881, C. G. Wilson, A. V. Cole, W. W. Hopper; 1882, A. V. Cole, W. W. Hopper, G. H. Edgerton.

   The following are the Clerks who have held office during the respective dates, the term of office being two years each:

   R. D. Babcock, 1871; A. H. Cramer, 1873-75-77; R. B. Tussey, 1879-81.

   Probate Judges--Titus Babcock, 1871; Benjamin Smith, 1873-75-77-79; George F. Work, 1881.

   Sheriffs--Isaac Stark, 1871; James B. McCleary, 1873-75; S. L. Martin, 1877-79; George Hutchinson, 1881.

   Treasurers--John S. Chandler, 1871; W. B. Thorne, 1873-75-77-79; E. Steinan, 1880; W. S. Crow, 1881.

   Thorne, who held the office of Treasurer of the county for nearly four terms, was discovered to be a defaulter to the amount of $52,000, and was expelled from office. The case, however, is still undecided, and is in process of litigation. After the expulsion of Thorne, Steinan was chosen to fill the unexpired term of office.

   Superintendents of Schools--Adna H. Bowen, 1871; A. H. Brown, 1873; A. L. Wigton, 1875-77; (L. Darling was appointed to fill the unexpired second term of Wigton, who resigned to accept a seat in the State Senate); Miss Lucy A. McFadden, 1879-81.

   Surveyors--William Scott, 1873; William Van Allen, 1875. Jasper N. Smith was elected in 1877, but never qualified or took charge of the office, and Van Allen held over till 1881, when T. E. Farrell, the present incumbent, was elected.

   Coroners--H. C. Humbert, 1873; C. M. Wright, 1875; W. Ackley, 1877; William H. Lynn, 1879; Josephus Williams, 1881.

   Adams County, with its first organization, fell within the Third Judicial District, into which the State was divided and courts were held, presided over by Judge Daniel Gantt, Jr., one of the Associate Justices of the Supreme Court of the State. The State was re-districted in 1875, and six judicial districts created, in each of which a Judge was elected. Adams County then formed a part of the Fifth District, and in the fall of 1875, William Gaslin was elected Judge for the district, and again re-elected in the fall of 1879, the term of office being four years.

   By legislative act, all counties having a population of 8,000 and over were entitled to a District Clerk. Previous to the attainment of this number of population, the Clerk of the county was, ex officio, Clerk of the District Court. In 1879, Adams County attained the requisite number, and the office of Clerk of the District Court was created as a county office. A. H. Cramer was elected to the office the same year, and holds for a term of four years.

   Since the organization of the county, several important cases have come up for trial before this court. Most of these, and all the leading ones occurring in the county, are detailed elsewhere in these pages. But by far the most important case tried before the court was that known as the "Olive trial," which took place in April, 1879. Although the act was done in Custer County, yet, that county not being organized, the Judge appointed that the trial be had in Adams County. The trial lasted about two weeks, at an expense to the State of about $10,000.

   There were several parties implicated in the offense, which was of the nature as follows:

   It appears, from the facts in the case, that two parties, Luther Mitchell and one Ketchum, had been charged with stealing cattle, and warrants were issued for their arrest. A brother of Olive, the man on trial, was detailed by the officers to assist in making the arrest. The parties were found in Mitchell's house, and in the attempt to make the arrest, resistance was made by Mitchell and Ketchum, and in the melee that followed, Olive was fatally shot, and the attempt at arrest became ineffectual. This act on the part of Mitchell and Ketchum called for revenge from the friends of the unfortunate man Olive, whom they had killed. Accordingly, a part organized, with I. P. Olive, brother of the murdered man, at its head, for the purpose of meting vengeance upon the perpetrators of the deed. The party was formed by I. P. Olive, John Baldwin, William H. Green, Frederick Fisher, Barney J. Gillan, Pedro Dominicus, Dennis Gartrell. After capturing their victims, they subjected them to excruciating torture, hanging them up for short times, and then again letting them down, pouring coal oil on their clothes, to which they set fire, roasting the men alive, almost, the bodies, when found, being partially burned up.

   For this act of extra judicial vindication of justice, the party were indicted by the Grand Jury and held for trial. The trial came off, and two of the party, Olive and Fisher, were found guilty of manslaughter, and sentenced to ten years in the State Penitentiary. The trial was carried to the Supreme Court on a technicality of law, and, after being reviewed by that tribunal, was returned with instructions for a new trial, and the prisoners remanded to the Sheriff of Custer County to be held for trial. The trial has never come off, and the parties are now at large, and the whole matter has been dropped.

   Baldwin and Green were tried, but the jury disagreed, and the prisoners were held in the Kearney County jail to await a second trial. In the meantime, the prisoners succeeded in breaking jail and made their escape, and have not since been heard from. Brown gave State's evidence and was released, and the others effected escape and were never tried, and, to all intents and purposes, the trial was dropped, and all parties concerned have their liberties.


   The catalogue of crime of a revolting character in Adams County is comparatively blank. But two instances of homicide have occurred up to this time. One of these was the murder of Henry Stutzman, by a young man by the name of John McElvoy, in the year 1879.

   McElvoy, a boy about twenty years old, was on a journey on foot, going, as he represented, to where some of his relatives were living in some part of Northwest Kansas. Toward nightfall, he went to the house in which Stutzman was living and procured lodging.

   Stutzman, being limited in accommodations, gave him a berth in his own bed, the two sleeping together. During the night, it appears, McElvoy shot Stutzman with a pistol he had upon his person, presumably to get possession of Stutzman's money. After taking what money he could find about the place, McElvoy went out to the stable, taking the two mules belonging to Stutzman, and proceeded to abscond with his booty. His scheme, however, was soon discovered, and he was captured before he had gotten out of the county.

   His trial came on, and he was found guilty of murder in the first degree, and sentenced to be hanged. Through the efforts of the attorneys who appeared in his defense, he was granted a new trial. Upon the second trial coming on, he appeared, plead guilty to the charge of murder in the second degree, and was sentenced to imprisonment in the State Prison for life, at hard labor. Thus does he pay the penalty of his crime in the forfeiture of his liberty in the prison cell of shame.

   During the same year occurred another murderous tragedy. A man by the name of Baldwin, a night telegraph operator in the office of the Burlington & Missouri River Railroad depot at Hastings, murdered one Alfred Yocum. After killing Yocum, he set the depot building on fire to cover up, as he thought, all traces of his terrible crime. He was arrested and arraigned, tried, found guilty and sentenced to ten years' confinement in prison. Although the evidence was sufficient to settle the guilt upon Baldwin, yet the cause of purpose which led to the commission of the crime has never been discovered.

   With these two instances, and excepting, also, less important offenses and deeds of villainy, ends the story of crime in Adams County.


   The first religious service held in the county was on the third Sunday in January, 1871, in the residence of William Kress. The services were held by the Rev. J. W. Warwick, a Baptist minister. Meetings were afterward held in residences and such places as were found convenient.

   The first death was that of William Akers, in the fall of 1871. The first child born was Helen Lucey, the daughter of Francis Lucey, a Frenchman, who settled in the county in 1870. The first couple in the county who resolved to join together their lives and fortunes in the holy bonds of matrimony were Roderick Loomis and Miss E. K. Warwick.

   A Fourth of July celebration was held, in 1871, at Liberty farm, and was participated in by the settlers of Adams County, although the place of celebrating was situated a short distance into Clay County. There were about one hundred and fifty people present on the occasion, which was a creditable number for the time and place.

   The Rev. J. W. Warwick was the orator of the day. A bountiful repast was served to those present, and the celebration enlivened in spirit by music, vocal and instrumental. The dance, also, as on all such gala times, could not be omitted.


   The railroad facilities possessed by Adams County are superior to most others in the State. The advantages also in the settling up and developing of the new country are due largely to the establishment of these roads. The ready and easy communication to the leading markets, thus giving the farmer an outlet for his grain, his pork, beef and mutton, and manufacturer easy means of transportation for his manufactured articles, is an advantage too great for estimation or calculation.

   The inducements to attract the tide of emigration hither, and to bring in settlers to fill up and develop those broad fertile prairies, is thus the work, mainly of the railroads, which, in reality, may be considered the pioneers of the Great West.

   Contemporaneously with the early settlement of the county was the construction of the railroad through it. The line of the Burlington & Missouri River Railroad, crossing the county from east to west, in the northern part, was graded in 1871, and in 1872, the county was crossed by the iron rail and locomotive. The St. Joseph & Denver City Railroad was also built during this year.

   Thus Adams County, even when her settlements were few and far between, boasted of two lines of railroad. These advantages gave the county extensive popularity abroad, and brought in scores of settlers. In 1878, a branch of the Burlington & Missouri River road, called the Republican Valley road, was constructed, leading from the city of Hastings, on the main line of the road, southward through the county, and connecting with an east and west line of the same road.

   During the following year, a branch road was built by the Union Pacific Company from Hastings northward to Grand Island, on the main line of that road.

   This gave the county fifty-seven miles of railroad, running north, south, east and west, and centering at the town of Hastings. The valuation of the railroad property in the county, in 1880, was $317,275. Of this amount, the share of the Burlington & Missouri River road, with about twenty-four miles of road, was $193,245. The St. Joseph & Western, formerly called the St. Joseph & Denver City, with fifteen miles of track, was $51,680; and the Republican Valley, having about seventeen miles, was $72,350. No bonds were issued by the county in aid of the construction of these lines. The only aid given them in the county was that given by Denver Precinct, which voted bonds in aid of the building of the Republican Valley Railroad to the amount of $20,000. It will thus readily be seen that the construction of these several lines of road could not but prove of inestimable value and advantage in the development of the county. The railroads, owning great quantities of the land, procured by the grant to them by the United States Government, exerted a wide influence in advertising the sale of these lands and inducing settlers to locate upon and improve them. As a factor in the development of the county, as, in great measure, is true of the entire State, the railroads performed the largest part.

   The growth of the county in population may be seen by a comparison of the populations at various intervals. In 1870, the county contained but 19 people; in 1874, 2,694; in 1875, 3,093; 1876, 3,940; 1878, 5,583; 1879, 8,162; 1880, 10,239. From only 19 in 1870, the population increased in ten years to 10,239 in 1880, the average ingress of settlers of settlers being about 1,000 annually.

   The increase in the valuation of the taxable property of the county has been equally great. In 1872, the value of taxable property was $957,153; in 1875, it was $1,117,328.50; 1876, $1,048,913.60; 1877, $923,594; 1878, $1,289,658; 1879, $1,734,848; 1880, $1, 943,060; 1881, $2,234,579.

   There were in the county in 1880, 124,740 acres of improved land, valued at $545,748; and in 1881, the number of acres was increased to 136,251, and the valuation was $504,414. The unimproved land in 1880 was $155,890, valued at $422,213, while in 1881 it was 149,436 acres, with a value of $360,860. The total value of the farm property in 1881 was $865,274.

   The number of town lots in the county in 1881 was 462, valued at $136,823; in 1881, the number of lots was increased to 902, with an assessed value of $154,378. The total value of all the property in the county for the same year was $2,234,579.

   The increase in the acreage of cultivated crops is only equaled by the growth of the county in population and productions, live stock, etc. For a period measured by only ten short years from 1869, when not a foot of the wild prairie sod had been turned by the plow of the husband-man, and not a grain planted, as seen, in 1879, a wide breadth of land cultivated and planted to the various grains and cereals. In the year 1880, there were cultivated in wheat 57,809 acres; in corn, 31,276 acres; oats, 5,793 acres; barley, 4,433 acres; broom corn, 571 acres; rye, 295 acres; potatoes 58 acres; meadow, 353 acres.

   In 1879, there were of fruit trees: 18,364 peach, 17, 627 apple, 9,839 plum, 1,814 cherry, 529 pear, 3,574 grapevines. In 1880, the number of fruit trees was 82,493; forest trees, 923,456; grapevines, 6,237.

   The number of live stock of the different kinds in 1879 was: Horses, 2,510; mules and asses, 572; cattle, 4,071; sheep, 977; hogs, 8,166.

   In 1880, there were of the same animals: Horses, 4,219, valued at $94,298; mules and asses, 744, value, $21,610; cattle, 4, 938, value, $41,077; sheet, 321, value, $209; hogs 9,023, value, $6,677. The amount of merchandise was $54,473; the amount invested in manufacturing was $5,350; value of agricultural implements employed, $50,240.

   In 1881, there were 4,121 head of horses, valued at $92,234; 722 mules and asses, value, $18,520; 5,718 head of cattle, value, $40,552; 673 sheep, value, $649; 8,669 hogs, value, $9,066; the amount of merchandise on hand, $78,815; amount invested in manufacturing, $6,184; value of agricultural implements, $36,406; From these figures and facts may be gathered an idea of the material growth of the county in a real improvement, production of grains, live stock, etc.

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County Index    Table of Contents

Index of Illustrations in Adams County Chapter
  1. [Hastings from the Southwest.]
  2. [First Ward School Building.]
  3. [Third Ward School Building.]
  4. [Interior View of Gazette-Journal Printing House and Book Bindery.]
  5. [Residence of D.S. Cole.]
  6. [Badger Lumber Yard, C. N. Paine & Co.]
  7. [City Livery, Phillips Bros. Proprietors.]
  8. [Millinery, Dry Goods and Notion Store.]
  9. [Residence of Jacob Wooster.]
  10. [Residence of A. Yeazel.]