St. Helena, the county seat, is located in the northern part of the county on a bluff of the Missouri. The highest point of the bluff is about 140 feet above the river, and descends perpendicularly to it. The surface slopes gently to the south, and to the south and west, at the distance of about half a mile, is a range of hills about fifty feet high and of easy ascent. St. Helena is 120 miles above Sioux City and three miles below the mouth of the James River in Dakota.
The place was selected for a town by Carl C. P. Meyer, who, with some others, arrived here in 1858, and named by him St. Helena before any settlement was made. The site was pre-empted by John H. Meyer and sold by him to a town company, consisting of Lewis E. Jones, President; Michael Jones, Secretary; Daniel H. Collamer, Treasurer; J. Myron Collamer, Charles B. Evans, Augustus Nette and John H. Meyer. Early in 1859, two log houses were built in St. Helena, one by Peter Jenal, the other by P. C. Nissen, and four frame dwelling-houses were erected by Henry Felber, who had moved up from St. Louis in the spring. Mr. Felber built the present Felber House, which was the fifth frame house erected. It was originally a two-story building, but, being somewhat torn to pieces by a tornado, in 1860, it was rebuilt as well as could be out of the same material. P. C. Nissen, who had arrived here in 1858, built the first store in 1861. The next store was built by Henry Felber, in 1868, and a blacksmith shop was started by Peter Johanson the same year. A three month's school was taught in 1859 in a log house by Dr. Bunting, the first school in the county. In 1869, one of the first four frame houses built in the town was converted into a schoolhouse and has been thus used ever since.
The Catholic Church was organized in 1864, Rev. Father Daracher, a Catholic missionary from Council Bluffs, being the first priest. In 1872, the Catholics, aided by the Protestants, built a fine large frame church edifice, at a cost of about $4,000.
The Presbyterians also have religious services, but neither organization or church building.
The first birth in St. Helena was that of Julius Ferdinand Jenal, December 28, 1860; the first marriage that of P. C. Nissen, to Ulila Feanto, September 3, 1862, and the first death that of a child of Abraham Haling.
St. Helena now contains three general stores, one hardware store, two drug stores, two hotels, two agricultural implement dealers, one lumber yard, one harness shop, one shoeshop, one furniture store, one brewery, three blacksmiths, one brick yard, one schoolhouse, one church, six lawyers, two doctors, one newspaper and about 250 inhabitants.
St. Helena was incorporated in 1871, and has had several Boards of Trustees, but recently, looking upon such bodies as expensive luxuries, has ceased to elect them.
In 1869, an election was held to relocate the county seat, the result of which was to confirm the transfer of it from St. James to St. Helena, made by a special act of the Legislature, passed in 1865. The buildings occupied as a court house are two small, commodious, frame ones, purchased for the purpose by the County Commissioners. There is also a jail adjacent to the court house, which, though small, serves all the purposes of such an institution; and also a city hall. St. Helena is connected by flat-boat ferry with the Dakota side and has a daily mail to Gayville. The post office was established in 1858, Michael Jones, first Postmaster.
The Cedar County Advocate was started in St. Helena in 1874 by L. W. Chandler, and, after about eighteen months, moved by him to Vermillion, D. T. In the fall of 1875, the Cedar County Bulletin was started by J. W. Sheppard and sold by him to Lewis E. Jones, about January 1, 1877, who changed its name to the Cedar County Nonpareil. This paper passed into the hands of several parties, until, on March 8, 1882, it was purchased by J. H. Felber, its present publisher. Mr. Felber was born March 28, 1843, in Switzerland; came with his father to America in 1852; to Nebraska in 1859; followed his trade as carpenter in 1868; carried the mail between Sioux City and Niobrara until 1870. In 1873, he opened a general merchandise store, which business, together with the publication of the Nonpareil, he still continues.
WILBUR F. BRYANT, attorney at law and Postmaster, is a native of Coos County, N. H. In 1875 and 1876, studied law in Lebanon. In the fall of 1876, came to Yankton; completed his law studies with Mr. Gamble; was admitted to practice in April, 1877; has also been engaged in teaching school in Green Island; was County Attorney in 1879 and 1880; was appointed Postmaster January 17, 1881. Married, October 1, 1881, to Miss Katy Saunders, of Cedar County, Neb.
E. P. DRAKE, firm of Drake & Lemon, real estate and implement dealers, is a native of Addison County, Vt. Came to Winnebago County, Ill., in 1857, with his parents. This firm was established in August, 1880. They are the largest dealers in their line of any in the county. Their trade is rapidly increasing.
THOMAS EBINGER, County Treasurer, is a native of Switzerland. In 1864, came to Bond County, Ill. Followed merchandising for two years. In 1866 came to Hancock County; engaged in vine culture. In 1870, came to St. Helena, and has since been largely engaged in the culture of grapes. Was Assessor four years; was clerk in the Treasurer's office eight years. In the fall of 1881, was elected to this office. Married in 1864 to Mina Fleishhauer, of Reutlingen, Germany. They have one daughter--Bertha, born in 1865, in Illinois.
C. T. EVANS, proprietor of the St. Helena House, was born in Saratoga County, N. Y., in 1837. Came to Alton, Ill., with his parents, in 1838; returned to Alton in 1854, and in 1855 moved to Leavenworth, Kan. In 1856, removed to Council Bluffs, Iowa. Ran the Waverly House for about two years. Came to Cedar County, Neb., in 1858. His father took a claim of 320 acres where St. Helena is now situated. In 1860, he removed to Omaha. Returned to Cedar County. In 1869, he opened this hotel, which he owns, also 320 acres of land. Married in 1865 to Miss M. E. Kincaid, of Omaha. They have three children--Ada F., Anson W., Dora A. His father has held many important offices in this county; represented this county in the Legislature in 1870 and 1871; County Judge in 1871. He is now a resident of Omaha; moved there in 1873.
P. C. NISSEN, hardware and agricultural implements, was born in Schleswig, Germany; in 1855, came to St. Louis, Mo.; was employed in the State and county offices and City Assessor's office about three years. In the spring of 1858, came to St. Helena, Neb. The following year, he opened a general store and sold the first goods in Cedar County; was also Postmaster eight years; was elected County Clerk in 1863; held the office until 1879. He closed out his store in 1865. This was the only store in the county for several years. His present business was established in the summer of 1880. Married, September 3, 1862, to Ulila Feauto, of Dubuque, Iowa. They have four children--one son and three daughters.
REV. HENRY SCHOOF, pastor of St. Mary's Church, was born in Westphalia, Germany. At the age of sixteen, he entered the gymnasium at Attendorn, where he remained three years. He then entered the Gymnasium of Brilon; continued there two years. He then entered the University of Muenster; continued his studies there three years. In 1877, came to Milwaukee; attended the St. Francis Seminary. December, 1877, came to Omaha. Was ordained by Bishop O'Conner. December, 1879, came to Fremont, Neb.; was assistant of St. Patrick's Church. In the summer of 1879, came to St. Helena. Since then he has had charge of St. Mary's Church, St. Helena; also of St. Boniface Church, at Antelope Creek, until April, 1882.
J. C. STRATMAN, general merchandise, was born in Prussia; at the age of six years, he came to Cape Girardeau, Mo., with his parents, and assisted in farming. In 1861, he came to Dyersville, Iowa, also engaged in farming. In about 1864, he came to Cedar County, Neb. In 1874, he went to Portage Lake, Mich. In the fall of 1874, he returned to Cape Girardeau, and clerked for his uncle in his wholesale grocery store three years. In 1877, he returned to St. Helena, and engaged in business with H. B. Suing two years; sold out his interest and went to Maryville, Mo.; soon after, he returned and bought out M. M. Palmer; has since been carrying on this business. He is also largely engaged in live stock, has just made a shipment of thirteen cars to Chicago.
H. B. SUING, general merchandise, was born in Dubuque, Iowa; at the age of five years, he came with his parents to Cedar County, Neb.; assisted on their farm until he reached the age of seventeen, when he went to Yankton; was a clerk there in a general store three years. In 1878, he came to St. Helena and opened this store; after running it one year, Mr. Stratman became a member of the firm, and continued so two years. Since this time Mr. Suing has been alone in this business.
DR. H. V. VAN VELSOR, physician and surgeon, was born in Ontario, Canada; at about the age of twenty-one, he took up the study of medicine and graduated, in 1876, from the medical department of the University of Michigan. He then commenced the practice of his profession at Burnside, Mich., and continued there till the winter of 1879, when he came to St. Helena, where he has since resided, and engaged actively in his profession.
GUY R. WILBUR, County Judge, is a native of Boone County, Ill., and came to Dixon County, Neb., with his parents in 1858. In the winter of 1877, he commenced the study of law with Judge Barnes, of Ponca. He was admitted to practice in 1879, and was Deputy County Clerk of Dixon County from 1877 to 1879. In September, 1879, he came to St. Helena and was elected County Judge in the fall of 1881, is also Notary.
St. James is located in the Bow Valley, about three miles from the Missouri, and eight miles southeast from St. Helena. This valley is exceedingly fertile, has many fine farms and is here about a mile wide. The town was originally laid out about a mile northwest of its present location, by Col. C. C. Van and Moses H. Deming, who arrived here from Des Moines, Iowa, in 1856. In 1857, twenty families moved in from Harrison County, Iowa, the heads of some of these families being James Hay, Mr. Wadsworth, John McCoubray and O. D. Smith. About the same time, Henson Wiseman moved in from Sioux City. Mr. Wiseman now owns the farm once owned by William Thompson, who moved into Cedar County from Sergeant Bluffs, Iowa, and who was the first permanent settler, planted the first corn and made the first land entry in the county. The first habitation in St. James was a cavern dug into the hillside by some of those who first arrived, which they named the "Arcade." A log house was built by Marshall Townsley in 1857; other log houses were built the same year, and, by a special act of the Legislature, St. James was made the county seat. In 1858, Col. Van built a saw-mill about a mile east of the then town site, and a few frame houses were erected. A court house was also built that year, thirty feet by forty-five, and two stories high. In the fall, Erastus Meech opened a store, the first in the town; a blacksmith shop was started in 1859, and Moses H. Deming opened a store and was appointed Postmaster. At this time, and for a year or two afterward, St. James contained a population of about fifty inhabitants. In 1861, the first school under the present State school system was taught by Miss Bell Hay, subsequently Mrs. O. D. Smith. The first natural death in the vicinity was that of Benjamin F. Wiseman, in 1859.
In 1864, the flouring-mill at the present site of St. James was commenced, and, in 1868, it was completed by Henry Hoese, the entire cost of building it having been about $6,000. It is a large two-story mill, with four run of buhrs, on Bow Creek. After it was completed, the town gradually was moved to its immediate vicinity.
St. James now contains two general stores, one drug store, one blacksmith, a schoolhouse, two doctors, two hotels, a Methodist Church, the mill and about 100 inhabitants.
About one and a half miles below St. James, on Bow Creek, is Bow Valley Mill, built by Lewis E. Jones in 1867. It is eighty feet square, three stories high, contains four run of buhrs and cost about $8,000. Attached to it is a circular saw-mill. There is also a flouring-mill about ten miles above St. James, on Bow Creek, called Paragon Mills. It was built by M. M. Palmer & Co., of Yankton, costing about $25,000. It is sixty feet square, three stories high, and contains two run of buhrs.
P. W. BROWN, general merchandise, is a native of Highland County, Ohio. In 1861, he enlisted in Company E, Fourteenth Iowa Volunteer Infantry, and served eighteen months; discharged on account of a wound received in 1863. He re-enlisted in the Eleventh Ohio Volunteer Cavalry; he served to the end of the war. In the spring of 1866, he came to Dakota Territory; in 1867 he engaged in farming. In February, 1881, he came to St. James, and has since been engaged in merchandising. Has been Postmaster since coming here, doing a business of about $18,000 a year.
JAMES HAY, general merchandise, was born in Pittsburgh, Penn., where he learned the carpenter's trade, and where he worked about fifteen years; he then started a boot-tree and last factory; carried on this business about seven years. In the spring of 1856, he came to Calhoun, Iowa; in the fall of this year, he came to Bow Valley, Cedar Co., Neb., and is one of the first settlers of the county. He entered 160 acres of land and engaged in farming. In 1874, he removed to St. James and opened this store, which he owns; also one-half of the town site of St. James and a farm of eighty acres. He has been School Director and Probate Judge. He married in 1839, to Margaret Stewart, of Allegheny County, Penn.; they have four children--Isabella C., now Mrs. Smith; Robert, who served one year in the late war; Charlotte, now Mrs. Ferber; and Oello, now Mrs. Taggart. They are members of the church of the United Brethren.
OTTO F. HOESE, proprietor St. James Mills, was born in Prussia. At the age of four years, came to Dixon County with his parents. In 1867, they removed to St. James. His father put up this mill, which has since been rebuilt and has been kept constantly running; is supplied with four run of buhrs, with excellent water-power. In 1878, he bought his father's interest in this mill; has since been alone in the business, having worked at this trade since the age of fifteen years.
LEWIS E. JONES, proprietor Bow Valley Mills, P. O. St. James, is a native of Wales. In his early years followed the sea, having made several voyages to to the Baltic, Mediterranean and Black Seas, also made several between different ports of Great Britain and those of the United States. After leaving the sea, he worked on several newspapers in New Orleans. In 1848, he came to St. Louis, Mo.; published the St. Louis Christian Advocate for six years, having formerly worked on the Missouri Republican. In 1858, came to Cedar County; laid out the town of St. Helena and published the St. Helena Gazette. This paper, however, was of short duration. He built a steam saw-mill, which he ran about ten years. This mill is now the property of J. J. Felber. In 1869, he removed to his present locality, and built these mills, consisting of a grist and saw mill. These mills are run by water and are the finest in Northern Nebraska. Mr. Jones represented this county in the Territorial Legislature; has also been County Commissioner most of the time since coming to the county. He owns several hundred acres of land and formerly owned the land where St. Helena is now located.
COL. C. C. VAN, farmer, was born about twenty-four miles east of Montreal, December 13, 1814, and at the age of fourteen years, he went to Montpelier, Vt. There he was apprenticed to the carriage and blacksmith trade; worked there about fourteen years. In 1834, came to Lockport, N. Y.; was foreman in a blacksmith shop about six months. He then bought out the shop on credit; ran it about three years. In 1837, he took a sub-contract on the canal in Coshocton County, Ohio; worked about six months; lost in this transaction all he was worth. In the fall of 1837, came to La Salle County, Ill.; rented a blacksmith shop, and carried on this business three years, and cleared $2,700; then sold out his business. In 1841, came to Fairfield, Jefferson Co., Iowa; invested this amount in land, which he subsequently lost. He then, with Mr. Crocker, started a blacksmith shop; carried on the business seven and a half years; cleared about $6,000. In 1849, came to Des Moines, and , in company with B. F. Allen, built a steam saw-mill, which they ran a short time, afterward sold; was admitted to the bar in March, 1853; soon after went to Council Bluffs, and opened an office for the sale of Mexican Land warrants. May 16, 1853, left for Wood River, Neb., to purchase live stock. An acquaintance whom he had met on his journey stole from him $1,050 and went to California. He followed in pursuit of the robber; returned to Des Moines in April 1854; soon after went to Harrison County, Iowa, and engaged in laying out town sites, additions to the town of Calhoun and Magnolia. He also laid out West Point, and with others laid out Cincinnati, Iowa, and assisted in laying out Cuming City, Neb.; in 1855, he opened a store in Calhoun, Iowa; ran it about three weeks; sold out to his partner; two weeks later opened another store, ran it about six months, then sold out; about two months later, bought another stock of goods. This he sold before opening. In the fall of 1856, he, in company with Deming & Son, came to Sioux City to buy property which they thought too high. There they met William Thompson, whom they hired as a guide to take them to Bow Creek, Neb. They came by New Castle, theirs being the first wagon that was driven south of New Castle. They located at St. James. His residence had always been in Des Moines till 1871, when he removed to St. James. He now owns 1,300 acres of land in this locality, 280 acres at Running Water, D. T., about 360 acres elsewhere. June 4, 1846, he was commissioned Adjutant of the Iowa Militia; afterward commissioned by Gov. Chambers Colonel of the Third Regiment, Second Brigade, First Division Iowa Militia. August 11, 1862, was commissioned as a recruiting officer of Polk County, Iowa, by N. B. Baker, Adjutant General of Iowa. Was two years Director of the State Fair; the past two years President of the County Fair. He has planted a large variety of forest and other trees, embracing 4,000 walnut trees, bearing the past two years 2,000 maple trees, from which his is now making sugar, and 2,000 box elder and cottonwoods. The water-power in this locality is unsurpassed. A large number of mills could be run at little expense.
HENSON WISEMAN, farmer, Section 8, P. O. St. James, was born, November 5, 1817, in West Virginia. Mr. Wiseman came to Iowa, in 1839; he worked at various kinds of labor; removed to Fort Des Moines in 1850, where he remained several years. In 1856, came to Sioux City and shingled the first house there. In the spring of 1857, he came to Cedar County, where he now resides. Located in this precinct. He owns 240 acres of land, which he improved with a good house, barn and other improvements. He is engaged in bee culture--by far the largest in the country. He enlisted, in 1862, in Company I, Second Nebraska Cavalry; served thirteen months. During his absence, his family was attacked by the Indians. Five of the children were killed and all of his property plundered. Mrs. W. had gone to Yankton to buy supplies for the family; otherwise she would have shared the fate of her children.
Strahmburg.--Elm Grove was the name of a post office about a mile above the present site of Strahmburg, near a beautiful little grove of elms, from which it received its name. It was established in 1862, Mr Clark being appointed first Postmaster. In 1870, it was discontinued, and there was no post office until in 1873, when the town of Strahmburg having been laid out the year previously, directly opposite Yankton, a post office was established there and named Green Island. The first settler here was Sabie Strahm, who came in 1856. In 1857, H. Bailey, and Judge Hanson moved into the vicinity. The first child born here was a daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Bailey, in 1873, and Mrs. Bailey's was the first death. Strahmburg, or Green Island, as it is more generally called, from the time it was laid out, in 1872, gradually grew and became quite a prosperous town until the flood of 1881, reference to which is made below. In addition to the stores, dwellings, etc. there were two handsome church buildings, a Methodist Church, costing about $600, and a Congregational Church, costing about $1,000.
Aten.--This little village is situated on high land, just at the edge of the Missouri bottom, a mile back from the river, and about three miles above the old site of Green Island. It was started in 1881, after the flood had subsided and named Aten, after John Aten, a former State Senator from Cedar County, and Postmaster at the present time of the place, having received his appointment January 11, 1882. A store was opened here July 25, 1881, by James Marsh. There is also here a blacksmith shop and hotel, and about fifty inhabitants.
St. Peteris situated in the valley of East Bow Creek, about twelve miles nearly south of St. James. It is on rolling, newly-timbered prairie, and was named St. Peter after John Peter Abts, who came here in 1870, and was the first settler in the vicinity. Other early settlers here were Seraphim Wohlman, Charles Marks and Frank Hirsching, in 1872. The first birth was that of Elizabeth Abts, and the first marriage that of Joseph Morton to Miss Mary Wohlman, in 1873. The first school was taught in Mr. Pickel's house, in 1873, by Miss Mary Barks. A schoolhouse was built in 1878. The post office was established in 1875, John Peter Abts being appointed first Postmaster.
Lawn Ridge.--This post office is situated in a level prairie country in the south part of the county. The first settlement was made in 1870 by R. T. O'Gara. The first child born was Joseph O'Gara, June 30, 1872, the first marriage that of William O'Gara to Isabelle Bush, November 10, 1874, and the first death that of John L. Miller, July 30, 1878. In 1874, R. T. O'Gara taught the first school in a private house. In 1875, a schoolhouse was built. The post office was established July 12, 1878, John T. Miller, Postmaster.
Bow Valley Post Office is in the northern part of the county, in the valley of the Middle Bow Creek, about six miles south of St. Helen.
Menominee Post Office is in the northern part of the county, six miles west of St. Helena, in the valley of Antelope Creek.
Norris Post Office is in the southern part, about eighteen miles south of St. James.
Paragon was first settled in 1869 by Peter Dutcher; other very early settlers were Barney Corbey, John Dutcher and Orlando Dutcher; first marriage was that of John Dutcher; first birth, Ella Butler; first death, Mrs. Butler. The first school was taught by Wesley Stevens in 1872; the place was then called Smithland; first religious services were held by Elder Daman; first Postmaster was Michael Smith. The Paragon Mills were built by Bedford Bremner. W. D. Gould opened the first store.