Location and Natural Features | Water Powers|
Grain and Fruit Raising | Early History
Early History of Fremont | A Reminiscence|
Organization | Means of Communication|
County Schools--County Poor
The County Agricultural Society
Fremont: Corporate History | Schools | City Park|
Fremont (cont.): The Press | Fire Department | Fires|
The First and The Last Murder | Societies
Business of Fremont | Banks | Shed's Opera House
Fremont (cont.): Hotels | Board of Trade|
Manufactories | Biographical Sketches
Fremont (cont.): Biographical Sketches (cont.)|
Fremont (cont.): Biographical Sketches (cont.)|
Fremont (cont.): Biographical Sketches (cont.)|
Fremont (cont.): Biographical Sketches (cont.)|
North Bend: Early History | The North Bend of Today|
North Bend (cont.): Biographical Sketches (cont.)|
Scribner: Biographical Sketches|
Pebble: Biographical Sketches
Hooper: Biographical Sketches|
Cuming Precinct: (Biographical Sketches)
Everett Precinct | Maple Precinct
Union Precinct | Webster Precinct | Elkhorn Precinct
List of Illustrations in Dodge County Chapter
Dodge County Names Index
DODGE COUNTY is one of the eastern in the second tier of counties, and is seamed through its southern portion by the rich valley of the Platte River, and in its eastern sections by the fertile valley of the tortuous Elkhorn, which, with its branches, spreads over the entire surface. Its area is 540 square miles, and there is not a single township which is not abundantly watered. The beautiful valley of Maple Creek stretches through the center. To the north, Logan and Pebble Creeks wend their peaceful ways, enriching the soil and adorning the country. Their general direction is northwest and southeast from their junction with the Elkhorn River. Cuming Creek, in the north, and Rawhide in the south, flow also into the Elkhorn, and add to the unrivaled agricultural advantages of Dodge County. The Platte and Elkhorn Valleys, with all these "spurs of reaches," if such an expression is allowable, are gardens of the richest and most practical nature. One-third, in fact, of the entire area of the county consists of valley and bottom land, the soil of which is as inexhaustible and prolific as can be found in the country. The bottom lands gradually rise into bench and table-lands and fine rolling prairie, and the soil is almost invariably a deep loam of great fertility; so that throughout the county there is scarcely 10 percent which can by any stretch of fact be called waste land. Between the uplands are those rich and beautiful tracts of land, varying from three to fifteen miles in width, which have given the county such a reputation for an unexcelled grain-producing country. The county, wedged in as it is at the junction of the Platte and Elkhorn Rivers, and bound together by the union of the Pacific and Elkhorn Valley Railroads, seems to be not only the natural concentration of fertility, but the outlet for the transportation of the great stock product of the State. These prove to be the two facts which are causing so splendid an agricultural and commercial growth in Dodge County. Fremont, North Bend, Hooper and Scribner owe a great measure of their present prosperity to its natural advantages in position, notwithstanding which there are nearly 200,000 acres of unimproved land within the limits of the county.
The following extract, taken from the Centennial address of Dr. L. J. Abbott, of Fremont, explains the origin of the names of these streams which water Dodge County:
The southern boundary of the county is the Platte River, the largest stream in the State, named by Lewis and Clark in 1804, on account of its width and shallowness. Its general direction is from west to east; it falls at about six feet to the mile.
The Elkhorn River, a tributary of the Platte, is the second stream in importance in the county. It received its name many years ago, probably from Lewis and Clark, at least from some of the early voyageurs. It runs through the entire county from northwest to southeast, a distance of thirty miles.
Rawhide Creek received its name from the fact that during the California travel of 1849, a white man is said to have been flayed alive by the Pawnee Indians on its banks. It is a small, sluggish stream, of low banks, and runs from west to east through the entire county, and empties into the Elkhorn River near the southeast corner of the county.
Maple Creek rises in the southern portion of Stanton County, and has a general direction from west to east through Dodge County, and empties into the Elkhorn River at a point nearly opposite to the old town of Fontenelle. It derived its name from the large maple grove originally growing near its mouth.
Pebble Creek has the same general direction as the Maple. It rises in Cuming County, and discharges its waters into the Elkhorn River, near the flourishing village of Scribner. It was named Pebble from the unusual number of pebbles found in its waters at the ford, where the volunteer soldiers crossed it in the Pawnee war of 1859.
Cuming Creek rises in Cuming County, and flows in a southerly direction a distance of about five miles in Dodge County, and adds its waters to the Elkhorn a little above the mouth of Pebble Creek. This stream was named in 1855, in honor of T. B. Cuming, first Secretary and Acting Governor of Nebraska.
Logan Creek, the third stream in point of size in the county, rises in Cedar County, and flows in a southerly direction, and its waters are discharged into the Elkhorn, about five miles above the mouth of Maple Creek. It was named by Col. William Kline, in 1854, in honor of Logan Fontenelle, a friendly Omaha Chief.
Clark Creek, the smallest of all the streams in Dodge County, rises in Burt County and flows in a southerly direction, and joins the Elkhorn nearly two miles below the mouth of Logan. It was also named by Col. Kline, in honor of Dr. M. H. Clark, the first member of the Territorial Council from Dodge County.
The Elkhorn River and its tributaries furnish good water-powers, and in early years the streams were so well timbered that several saw-mills were operated very successfully. Even now the banks are more or less skirted with timber, but the scarcity of wood has become so evident that there has been and is a concert of action in the planting of groves, which, in the course of years, will overcome this want. The water-powers have, however, been partially utilized in the operation of several grist-mills throughout the county. J. D. Robinson operates one at Pebble, which will be noticed more at length hereafter. Five miles above, on the North Branch of Pebble Creek, is one operated by Wise Bros.--the "Water Lily Mills." Still two miles above, John Snyder own a third mill, built a few years ago. The "Water Lily Mills" were erected in 1876. Two mile northeast of Hooper, on Logan Creek, is a fine mill, erected in 1870, at a cost of $10,000 (with machinery). It has three run of stone and is owned and operated by A. C. & J. F. Briggs.
Dodge County possesses advantages for the raising of wheat and corn not exceeded by any locality in the State. Containing over 250,000 acres of some of the richest soil in the world, it has become a great grain-raising center, as well as grain distributing point. From Fremont, in the southeastern part of the county, the fertile valley of the Elkhorn stretches throughout the eastern portion of the county, its rich soil varying all the way from four to ten feet in depth. Beyond are the table-lands and rolling prairies. West extends the Platte Valley, varying from three to seven miles in width. This is the garden of the State. The rolling prairies north and south, almost boundless in extent, and scarcely less fertile than the valley itself, are cut by numerous streams and dotted by many towns and settlements. It is estimated that fully one-third of the tillable area of Dodge County consists of rich bottom land. No wonder that the yield of wheat is so abundant, the average production per acre being eighteen bushels. The grain is hard and plump and will weigh on an average sixty-five pounds to the bushel. Over 40,000 acres of spring wheat are under cultivation, and about an equal area of corn. Last year 30,000 fruit trees were under cultivation, and there is nothing in the shape of fruit that may not flourish in Dodge County. Apples and pears are naturally prolific, while the wild fruits, such as the plum--well, there is no way of keeping it under ground. Grapes are also given much attention and do well. There are 37,000 healthy vines in the county, and more "are in sight". There is no kind of grain or fruit, which, with proper care, will not promptly respond. Still, there are nearly 2000,000 acres of uncultivated land in the county, which can be bought all the way from $10 to $20 per acre.
Although timber is not plenty, this difficulty is being obviated by State regulation and individual exertion, so that throughout the county many groves are beginning to appear. This is rendered desirable, both from motives of convenience and as a measure of protection against the heavy winds which sweep over the State and have done great damage to this county. The Elkhorn River, however, is tolerably well skirted with timber. Of native forest trees, over a million and a half are still standing in the county. One serious drawback, in fact, to the general cultivation of fruit, is the absence of trees to protect it from the sweeping winds.
In the account which has been given in preceding pages, it has been narrated how Fontenelle was cut from Dodge County and became a portion of Washington. In speaking of early history, therefore, strict reference is made to the early history of Dodge County as it now exists. Nearly two years previous to the taking of the first claim in Dodge County, Fontenelle was settled by the "Nebraska Colonization Company." The first claims made in Dodge County by John and Arthur Bloomer, near the mouth of Maple Creek, early in April, 1856. During the first part of the next month, they broke twenty-five acres of prairie land, which was the small beginning of agricultural pursuits in Dodge County. Arthur Bloomer is now an inmate of the Soldiers' Home, at Milwaukee, Wis. On the 25th of May, Mrs. Wealthy Beebe, with her children and Abram McNeal, her son-in-law, with his family, located two miles west of Fremont (as yet an unknown settlement). In the following month, George Emerson took a claim five miles west of the present site of North Bend, built a shanty and broke eight or ten acres of land. On the 4th of July, the North Bend Colony, attracted by the promises which the town company held out to them, arrived and settled permanently. An account of this appears in the sketch of North Bend. In August, 1856, the first settlers having claimed the site of Fremont, a town company was formed under the name of Pinney, Barnard & Co., whose doings, with those of the Platte Valley Claim Club, are also detailed elsewhere. On September 3, 1856, the town was called Fremont, in honor of Gen. John C. Fremont, the Republican Presidential candidate and a stalwart Western pioneer. And yet, notwithstanding, it might never have received the name, had not a town on Shell Creek, twenty-five miles west, been previously platted and called Buchanan.
During this year (in June), O. A. Himebaugh entered half a section on Maple Creek, three miles south of the present village of Hooper, where he now resides. He and his brother occupied a cottonwood hut together. There was then a saw-mill at Fontenelle, lumber selling in Omaha at $100 per thousand. John Batie had previously marked a tree on Section 5, Township 18, and entered his claim in the books of the club at Fontenelle. Of him Mr. Himebaugh purchased fifty acres of hardwood timber for $200 in gold. His experience in that region during the pitiless winter which followed was but the common lot of all those early settlers. For two months, from December 1, storm followed storm with such disheartening regularity that the sun failed to show his cheering face. Provisions were scarce and now and then one of the most hardy and intrepid would be detailed from Fontenelle to Omaha. Obliged to avoid gorges where the snow was packed to a depth of from twenty-five to thirty feet, the journey was more than doubled in length. Now and then a stop would have to be made, the horses dug out and a new start made. Mr. Himebaugh himself made one of these terrible journeys. Starting out early one Monday morning, he arrived home late the succeeding Saturday. On a level, even, the snow was three feet deep, and drifted entirely over the cabins, stables and haystacks. Cattle perished in the blinding storm, or were smothered in the rude shelters. Strychnine was applied, to their carcasses to prevent a pestilence when the spring thaws should commence, and many hungry wolves perished likewise, but crawled away and died without such thoughtful preservation. The first death of a human being which ever occurred in Dodge County is to be laid at the doors of that awful season. On the 2d of December, Steadman Hager, while driving from North Bend to his home, west of Fremont, became confused and blinded by the storm and perished alone. His remains were found the following April, and his were the first funeral services held in the county, Rev. Mr. Cooley, a Disciple minister, officiating. August 8, 1856, twin daughters were born to Mr. and Mrs. Abram McNeal being a son-in-law of Mrs. Wealthy Beebe, the first settler of the Platte Valley in this county. Seth Young, the son of Mr. and Mrs. George Young, was born at North Bend November 30, 1856. On the 20th of December, the mother died, and was buried where cold winds and driving snows could reach her no more. It being impossible in such a time as this to obtain a suitable coffin, rough cottonwood boards were torn up from the house flooring for its material. About one hundred persons braved the terrible winter of 1856-57.
At this time, the Pawnees were stationed on the south bank of the Platte River, their chief village being nearly opposite Fremont. They had looked on with angry faces at the inroads which the new settlers were making upon the timber land. In the fall of 1856, the people of Fremont derived an advantage over the Pawnees by sending for military aid to Omaha, the "force" being piloted by James G. Smith. When this terrible winter came upon the country, the Pawnees were firmly convinced that "the white man brought the snow" and was "bad medicine" for them. They threatened dire calamities and "looked blood", sending at one time twenty of their strongest and bravest chiefs across the river for the purpose of commanding the settlers to depart. After parleying a time, the brave men of the tribe decided to take "much good supper" instead of many scalps, and their thirst for blood was thus appeased. They were hungry--that's what ailed them--and, having fully satisfied themselves, they left and never returned to molest or threaten. They became unpleasantly neighborly, however, and hardly a day passed during the season of 1857 that they did not come to Fremont in large numbers either to trade with Smith Bros. or steal back some of the goods they had sold the firm. By treaty of September 4, 1857, they were removed to their reservation in the valley of the Loup Fork River. In 1859, when the Pawnees passed through Fremont, going north, bound on the war-path up the Elkhorn Valley, they committed no depredations upon that village, avoiding hostilities of any nature until they reached the settlements on Maple Creek. Fontenelle and the region near by was then a military rendezvous. A full account of the Pawnee war appears in the general history, while the excursion of 1856, taken particularly for the protection of Fremont, will be given in detail hereafter.
The financial panic of 1857 had its due effect upon Dodge County. The summer of this year had been spent mostly in breaking the prairies for crops, only a little sod corn and a few potatoes having been planted. The settlers were, therefore, illy prepared to meet the discouragement of the autumn months. Money became a thing almost unknown. Even postage stamps were a curiosity.
In the spring of this year, quite an influx of settlers had taken place. Among others, there came in May, H. P. Wolcott, who was joined in August by G. W. Wolcott. Their claims were northwest of Fremont, near the Elm Grove Claim, which soon afterward became the property of John Batie, who moved over from Fontenelle. H. G. Wolcott, a brother of H. P., soon received most enthusiastic letters from him. Along in the fall these letters ceased, and he learned, as he himself relates, that "they did so because he could no longer raise a single stamp to pay their transmittal." And such examples of hardships as Mr. Himebaugh gives in these days of agricultural prosperity can scarcely be realized, but were, however, the common lot of all. The land pre-empted by him came into market in 1858, and he was obliged to hire $150 of a banker of Omaha, at 60 percent interest. The note was compounded the second year at 25 per cent interest and the third year on the same terms. It was a virtual impossibility to obtain money. So, in 1858, Mr. Himebaugh abandoned farming and started out to dispose of his crop. First, from his farm on Maple Creek, he was obliged to haul his wheat to Omaha and have it ground into flour. With two ox-teams he then started on a journey of 600 miles, for Denver. He took with him 6,000 pounds of flour and was two months on the road. His season's work netted him just $360. The payment which he was finally obliged to meet on the original note amounted to $415. He couldn't meet it and nearly lost his land, with improvements. Many people, in fact all over the county, were preparing to leave the results of hard labor behind. Mr. Himebaugh, however, was given "another chance", and he improved it well.
The season of 1858 was extremely wet, little being raised except sod corn and soggy potatoes. This diet enabled the majority of settlers to endure life. Luckily, the winter of 1858-59 was mild and the following season a good one. Money, however, was terrible scarce. In the spring of 1859, the Pike's Peak immigration brought into the county considerable circulating medium, which revived trade somewhat. Returning soon after, the Pike's Peakers also brought with them stores of provisions, which they sold cheaply and further assisted in bringing good times to the county. The building of the Union Pacific, in 1866, may be said to have permanently ended the early and the hard times of Dodge County.