NEGenWeb Project
Kansas Collection Books

Andreas' History of the State of Nebraska
Dodge County
Produced by Karen Elliott.


Location and Natural Features | Water Powers
Grain and Fruit Raising | Early History

PART 2: 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.)
PART 10:
Fremont (cont.): Biographical Sketches (cont.)
PART 11:

North Bend:  Early History | The North Bend of Today
Biographical Sketches

PART 12:
North Bend (cont.): Biographical Sketches (cont.)
PART 13:

Scribner:  Biographical Sketches
Pebble:  Biographical Sketches

PART 14:

Hooper:  Biographical Sketches
Cuming Precinct:   (Biographical Sketches)

PART 15:

Biographical Sketches:
Everett Precinct | Maple Precinct

PART 16:

Biographical Sketches:
Union Precinct | Webster Precinct | Elkhorn Precinct

List of Illustrations in Dodge County Chapter



In his Centennial address, Dr. L. J. Abbott has the following to say of the founders of Fremont, before the proceedings of the town company and the claim club became a matter of record. Their interesting minutes are now accessible through the favor of the then Secretary of the Platte Valley Claim Club, E. H. Barnard:

The site of the present city of Fremont was claimed by E. H. Barnard and John A. Kuntz, in the name of Barnard, Kuntz & Co., August 23, 1856. They set their first claim stake on the swell of ground near the corner of D and First streets, then passing on the California road about two miles, they reached the cabin of Seth P. Marvin in time for dinner. This cabin was the first sign of civilized life thus far west of the Elkhorn River, and was the most easterly outpost of the McNeal and Beebe settlement, at that time three months old. Mr. Marvin's family consisted of a wife and two children--Glen and May. They had arrived at their new home about three weeks previous, from Marshalltown, Iowa. Mr. Marvin received and entertained the strangers hospitably. He was a good talker, and had unbounded faith in the future of the Great Platte Valley as a whole and in that precise locality in particular. It was largely, if not chiefly, due to his efforts that the town company was organized a few days later.

After making their claim, Messrs. Barnard and Kuntz went farther up the valley, and returned two days afterward to the house of Mr. Marvin, where they learned that during their absence a party of four had made a claim which somewhat conflicted with theirs. At first these gentlemen thought they would give the matter no attention, but Mr. Marvin urged them to remain with him until the next day and meet the adverse claimants, and arrange the matter satisfactorily to all. The advice was accepted and acted upon, and that night the parties all met at the house of Marvin for the first time.

The party of four consisted of George M. Pinney, James G. Smith, Robert Kittle and Robert Moreland, the latter a hack-driver from Iowa City and the other three passengers whom he had picked up at Des Moines.

Mr. Marvin proposed that the conflicting claimants throw up their respective claims, and then proceed to form a new town company, taking him in as a member. The proposition was finally agreed to, and on the next morning, August 26, 1856, the new company was organized, under the name of Pinney, Barnard & Co., who immediately proceeded to lay off a plat of ground, one mile square, for a town site.

A verbatim copy of the contract of Pinney, Barnard & Co., relative to laying out the town, is certainly a historical curiosity, and one which will be appreciated by the people of Fremont. Here it is:

WHEREAS, George M. Pinney, E. H. Barnard, James G. Smith, J. A. Kuntz, Robert Moreland, Robert Kittle, William Pinney and Seth P. Marvin, have in contemplation, and are about to lay out a town on or near the Platte River, in the vicinity of Seth P. Marvin's; therefore it is understood by the parties aforesaid, that as no particular name has been decided upon for said town, it shall be called Pinney, Barnard & Co.'s town plat; and it is also mutually agreed upon by the said persons aforesaid that they shall divide the town plat into sixty-four shares, subject to disposal, as the person or persons choose each for themselves, but in no case shall any person's share be considered valid, unless either himself or his assigns, shall, according to the best of his ability and means, endeavor to build up the town, and contribute with said company, if a majority require, to aid in erecting a steam saw-mill, which shall be the property of said company, unless some individual member of this company shall live in or near this town and shall not be able to contribute to the erection of said mill. In such case, the property shall belong to the actual stockholders in said mill as may hereafter be directed.

We agree also to have a President and a Vice President, whose duty it shall be to preside at the meetings of the stockholders. There shall also be a Secretary, etc. [the paper going on in the usual manner to define the duties of the several officers]. The shares of this town shall be transferred in the name of the company, and the funds paid into the hands of the Treasurer; and any person selling the amount of shares which he is entitled to, shall sell to a person who is willing to conform to this article of agreement. This contract shall be recorded with the Platte Valley Claim Association.

It is therefore enacted that James G. Smith shall act as President of the company; Robert Kittle, Vice President; G. M. Pinney, Treasurer; J. A. Kuntz, Secretary. These officers shall hold their offices for one year, unless any one of them may be considered guilty of improper conduct, in not acting in good faith to the interests of said company. In such case he shall be deprived of his office by a majority of the company, and another be elected in his stead. This contract shall be altered, if a majority of its members are in favor of said alteration.

In witness whereof we have hereunto set our hands and seals this 26th day of August, 1856.


Upon the same date, August 26, 1856, (in the evening), the settlers of Platte Valley met at Mr. Marvin's house and formed the Platte Valley Claim Club, with the following officers: Seth P. Marvin, President; J. W. Peck, Vice President; E. H. Barnard, Secretary; George M. Pinney, Recorder of Claims. As the Platte Valley west of Range 9 had not at that time been surveyed, the association was a most necessary institution and regulating power, in the protection of claims made by those who really intended to settle and work for the growth of the future town. The jurisdiction of the association, at first extended from Fremont up the valley of the Platte river, a distance of six miles from the town, and down the valley ten miles, embracing the lands lying between the bluffs. At this meeting, the following preamble and agreement was adopted:

WHEREAS , It has been found necessary in all new Territories for the settlers to league together for self-protection in order to defend their lands from speculators abroad or at home, and to secure to themselves the fruit of their sacrifices and hardships, together with the hard-earned money which they may have paid for their claims; and

WHEREAS, There is danger that the valuable claims in this land district will be greedily sought for during the coming season by newcomers and land-sharks, who will employ and encourage idle men to take possession of them, and will also combine together to seize upon them at the land sales; therefore, in defense of our property and our families, and to prevent by a timely organization scenes of strife and bloodshed, we do solemnly enact the following articles of agreement:

ARTICLE 1. We whose names are subscribed, claimants upon the public lands, do hereby agree with each other and bind ourselves upon our honors, that we will protect every just and lawful claimant in the peaceable possession of his claim, and that in case of his claim being jumped, we will, when called upon by the proper officer, turn out and proceed to execute all decisions of arbitrators and vigilance committees which may have been duly made.

ART. 2. We further agree that when the surveys have been made and the land offered for sale by the United States, we will attend said sales en masse and protect each other in entering our respective claims, each claimant furnishing the means for his said entry.

ART. 3. After the sales, we are to deed and re deed to each other, so as to secure to each claimant the land he has claimed, according to the limits now existing.

[Signed], Seth P. Marvin, Robert Kittle, J. A. Kuntz, A. McNeal, C. C. Beebe, E. H. Barnard, J. W. Peck, R. Moreland, James G. Smith, William E. Lee, William B. Lee, E. H. Rogers, John Beebe, Lewis Watters, William Pinney, Washington Whitney, Steadman Hager, Seneca Hager, Eli Hager, Joseph Hager, W. G. Bowman, Cyrus Morton, G. W. Gregor, John A. Marsh, David Reeve, Henry Beebe, L. Gerard, John M. Newton, Isaac E. Heaton, Morris Nichols, William Cargill, Thomas Davis, Charles A. Smith, Jackson Davis, John Davies, M. B. Richmond, William McCartney, Henry Gatewood, Rollin McDowell, J. L. Bowman, Theron Nye, A. J. Chapel, Fred K. Chandler, Prucius M. Wood, J. M. Waldorf, John W. Irion, Harvey Irion, Robert A. Irion, John C. Flor, John C. Hormel, L. H. Rogers, H. A. Peirce, J. T. Smith, Lewis Williams, William R. Davis, Nathan Heaton, Thomas A. Lee, David Mackey, George W. Danes, J. J. Hawthorne, John Neil, C. Master, S. W. Smith, D. Ferguson, Thomas Lee, J. F. Reynolds.

It is safe to say that not a single actual settler of the Platte River Valley, anywhere within the jurisdiction of the association, failed to record his name upon the above document.

The association adopted a regular series of by-laws, providing that no one would be protected in holding more than 320 acres of land, which amount might, however, be in two or more separate parcels, at the will of the holder; that making the claim and commencing the improvement in a conspicuous place would hold the claim for thirty days, if recorded, improvements to the value of $100 being required to be made within twenty days. Provisions were made for the appointment of arbitrators to settle claim disputes between individual members of the association, and also when the claimants of different clubs came in conflict, referring particularly to the Fontenelle Club. The "Captain of the regulators" was to put in force all judgments of the arbitrators, and , if he was powerless to do it alone, could call the association to his aid. If any member should refuse to respond without being able to show good cause, he could be expelled. The election of officers followed the adoption of the by-laws.

The next day after formation of these two societies, the town company held a meeting on Cedar Island and passed a resolution that all the timber held by the individual members should be hereafter company property; that 320 acres of the best should be set apart for the benefit of the town and the residue divided among the members of the company. On September 3, at a gathering in Mr. Marvin's house, the name of the organization was changed to the Fremont Town Association, thus occurred the christening. The first step taken toward the actual up-building of a town was a resolution passed on the 4th of September, that "the Fremont Town Association, will donate two town lots to any person who will erect a hewn-log house, dimensions of which will be at least 16x20 feet at the base and one and one-half stories in height, said building to be erected in the town of Fremont within six months of the date hereof; and provided that such person has no timber claim of his own we will furnish the requisite timber for such building and fire-wood for one year." On motion it was unanimously agreed that Robert Kittle be entitled to the privilege conferred by the preceding resolution by building a house of "peeled instead of hewn logs." On November 25, a meeting was held in Mr. Kittle's house, which is generally considered the first permanent dwelling erected on the site of Fremont. By-laws were adopted; also Mr. Barnard's plan for laying out the town was unanimously approved of, and that gentleman authorized to survey it. During the previous September, Messrs. Barnard and Kuntz erected a small shanty, which stood on the present site of the Congregational Church. They occupied it on the 10th of that month, receiving as boarders Robert Kittle, James G. Smith, William E. Lee and Leander Gerard, the latter being now a banker of Columbus. The building was a pole shanty, 12x16 feet, but as many as twenty have slept in it at one time. "Necessity is the mother of invention," etc, etc. Previous to the rearing of this structure, Mr. Marvin's house had accommodated those who did not choose to "camp out". Those who wished to be nearer the town site then transferred their affection and their effects from "Marvin's Hotel" to the "Barnard-Kuntz House."

All such proceedings--the building of cabins and the claiming of large tracts of timber land--were looked upon with an evil eye by the Pawnees across the Platte River. Their principal village, three miles south, was 1,500 strong. On September 26, just a month from the time the first settlers of Fremont arrived, the claim club extended the boundaries of its jurisdiction four miles west, or to a point about ten miles west of Fremont and easterly to the Elkhorn River. It resolved, also, that persons having claims within its jurisdiction could hold them for nine months by putting their improvements in the town of Fremont, instead of upon their claims. However it was done, the dusky people across the river seemed to foresee that the "pale faces" were coming fast into their territory, and were concentrating their scattered population into a settlement. The Beebe and the McNeal settlements, two miles to the west of Fremont, saw these preparations going on with uneasiness, and nearly defeated the resolution which had so great an effect in establishing the rival town. They, however, confined themselves strictly to parliamentary tactics. But in October, the activity upon and near the site of the town became so evident that the Indians told the people of Fremont plainly that unless they abandoned their evil intentions of founding a city they would be annihilated--they and their property. They were given three days' grace. A council of war was called and James G. Smith was sent to Omaha for assistance. He returned considerably within the specified time. Gov. Izard furnishing him with a box of muskets, ammunition and a squad of eight troops. Enough soldiers were gathered from the country surrounding Fremont to increase this number to a grand total of twenty-five, "who, by marching and counter-marching, by bonfires and torchlight processions and the burning of haystacks, produced the impression upon the Pawnees that it was a vast army, and had the effect of over-awing them. So that at the end of three days they sent a flag of truce and a messenger, saying that the chiefs had reconsidered the matter and concluded to let them go unmolested for the present." The people of Fremont had no further trouble with the Indians, which a little firmness or a good supper would not dispel.

Having thus been suffered to live "on probation," the town company continued industriously and successfully in its efforts to upbuild the town of Fremont. It donated lots to those willing to bind themselves to do something for the good of the town. Now and then it was obliged to bring its members to terms, or to expel them for not living up to their agreement. William Pinney was one of those whom it turned outside of the pale of its protection, as he was a non-resident and seemed not to be disposed to become even a resident of the Territory. His claims were therefore forfeited to the company. Readers of Dickens will recall how one day Betsey Prigg came out plainly and said to Sairey Gamp, she "didn't believe there was no such a pusson as Mrs. Harris." Sairey was constantly talking about Mrs. Harris, but at no time within the memory of man had Mrs. H. appeared to claim her personality. So, when the town company met at Omaha and excommunicated "William Pinney," as no one had ever seen the gentleman, or had any direct tidings from him, it was strongly suspected by many of the members, that, although the name sometimes appeared associated with George M. Pinney--there "wasn't no such a pusson" as William Pinney. However, the record stands approved. Robert Moreland also was declared no longer a member of the company, but was allowed three months time--until May 1, 1857--to become a settler and build a house. The next month, Mr. Moreland was busy at work and was re-instated in the good graces of the settlers.

On the 6th of April, 1857, occurred an event which really saddened the hearts of the little town. In crossing the ferry, Seth P. Marvin, the father, virtually, of Fremont, was drowned in the Platte River. He came from Michigan and was generally respected. Both associations passed resolutions of sorrow and of condolence with his family. It was this circumstance which first suggested to the claim club the necessity of selecting burial-grounds, and a committee to select them was at once appointed. The first death occurred October 30, 1857, being that of Nathan Heaton, father of Rev. I. E. Heaton. But the growing civilization of a new community can only pay to death the respect of a few falling tears. Fremont was, therefore, being stirred in a few days after this sad accident over the establishment of a brick yard. Messrs. Rogers and McCartney were allowed the privilege by the town company, and actually did make the first brick. The agreement specified that the first certificate of stock should not be issued to them until they had manufactured 2000,000 brick, and the second only when they had made 500,000--the yard to be located not more than one and a half miles from town, and the manufacture of this amount to be completed in two years. Such stringent terms did the company always insist upon that it was little short of a miracle for a man to make a cent of money without doing his honest stroke of work. The brick yard was located within the town limits, and enough brick turned out to build a few chimneys, etc. The proprietors, however, obtained the first certificate of stock, but never called upon the company for the second. Their business evidently was not sufficiently prosperous to warrant striving after the 500,000 limit.

In March, articles of agreement were entered into with Messrs. Chipman & Davis for the erection of a saw-mill on the banks of the Platte, within three-fourths of a mile from town. The mill was erected upon the present site of the court house, and continued in business for several years.

On June 2, 1857, the following resolution was passed by the Fremont Town Company:

Resolved, That Wilson Reynolds be allowed to draw Lots Nos. 1 and 2, in Block 129, under the donating resolution, if he will build a frame 20x28 feet or larger, one and a half or two stories high, furnish well, keep a public house, and give bonds to the company that he will not sell nor allow the sale of intoxicating liquors; or if he builds a like house for said purpose and gives bonds as aforesaid, on a lot of his own in time.

In April of the next year, the resolution was modified so as to provide for the erection of a brick or wooden structure, 30x40 feet, two stories, ready for occupancy by January 1, 1860, and pledged to temperance for five years. John C. Flor kept the hotel, which was opened soon after the passage of the resolution. The "ranche," as it was called, was situated about a block east of the present site of the Congregational Church, on Military avenue. A little later, "Mother Turner," as she was affectionately called, built the Platte Valley House, on the present site of the New York Hotel. She remained it proprietress for many years, the reputation of her house and her own matronly qualities extending far and wide. She died in Fremont, and there were few "hearts which did not ache," when the news was known. Theron Nye opened a public house at an early day, and was a successful landlord. His hotel was situated on Sixth street. Robert Moreland also kept open house.

Returning to Mr. Flor, it is to be recorded that Miss Alice E. Flor, his daughter, was the first child born in Fremont, date, September 8, 1857.

In August, 1857, John C. Hormel opened a blacksmith shop under the fostering care of the town company. He was the first to engage in that trade in Fremont.

James G. Smith was the first merchant and S. B. Colson the first shoemaker.

The first family who settled in Fremont was that of Rev. I. E. Heaton, in October, 1856. He was the first clergyman and preached the first sermon.

Unconscious of the inducements of town companies or the protection of claim associations, Fred Kittle, the son of Mr. and Mrs. Robert Kittle, proclaimed in his small voice the first male addition to the population of Fremont, on the 28th of March, 1858.

The first marriage took place August 25, 1856, Luther Wilson solemnly binding himself to protect Eliza Turner and she to love and obey him. Their claim was mutual.

The last recorded meeting of the more practical claim club of the Platte Valley was held September 19, 1857. The lands were regularly surveyed in 1857, and put upon the market the next year; consequently, it had no further excuse for living and died a perfectly natural death. The town company kept actively in the field until August, 1859, when, having nothing more for which to live, it also sank to rest.


James G. Smith, at the time ground was broken for the Elkhorn Valley road (1869), made the following interesting remarks in regard to early times: "A little over thirteen years ago, a few persons, numbering about six of us, wandered out to this country and struck our stakes on the site where now stands the pleasant town of Fremont. This country at that time was a vast wild, as it were, unsettled, uncultivated, uninhabited and untraversed, save by the Indian, wolf and prairie dog. As town-making was at that time the order of the day throughout the land, we at once applied ourselves to staking out and making a town. The staking done, the next thing in order was a name for our town, and, after some discussion and suggestions, it was finally agreed that Fremont should be the name. This decision was owing to the fact that it was in the fall of 1856, and at the time when James Buchanan and Col. John C. Fremont were opposing candidates for the Presidency, and a little prior to this a town had been laid out twenty-five miles west of us, near the mouth of Shell Creek, called Buchanan. We, therefore, resolved that we would have opposition towns, with names corresponding to those of the candidates for the Presidency. And, as it is known by all here present, Fremont was beaten by Buchanan in the States, it is equally true that Buchanan was more than beaten by Fremont in this Territory. But few improvements were made during that fall and following winter. And that winter! long will it be in memory by such as were here, in this then new and unprotected land, and may it never be my lot to again witness another such an one. The summer following, our new town commenced to expand. An application was made for a post office, and the request granted. Your speaker had the honor of being appointed first Postmaster of Fremont, and has since had, as John G. Saxe said, in relation to his law profession, 'the greater honor to leave the office' by resignation, and not by being served with a writ of ejectment. We were then a post office town! Very soon after this, Uncle 'Samivel' most graciously authorized postal service from Omaha to Fremont, or, in other words, we were allowed to transport our mail matter from the Fremont office to the Omaha office and vice versa in our breeches' pockets, on foot or otherwise, as best suited our taste--the Postmaster at Fremont being allowed the net proceeds of the office to procure and keep up mail service. At this time we were a pocket mail service town. It was not long, however, ere we had an increased service added. This consisted in obtaining permission to get our mails from the Fontenelle office as best we could, in a regular United States mail bag. Fontenelle was at that time a place of considerable note, being the county seat of Dodge County, and favored with a regular mail line from Omaha, mails arriving two or three times a week. At this point in our history, we were an increased mail service town. In rapid succession followed the establishment of a mail route to Fort Kearney, and letting the contract for service on the same to the Great Western Stage Company, of which Col. Hooker, of Iowa, the great eastern stage pioneer, was the father and leading spirit. He immediately stocked up the route with four-horse coaches for the transportation of mail and passengers. We then assumed the enviable position of a four-horse mail service town."

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