Florence: Early History | An Era of Prosperity | Biographical Sketch|
Millard: Early History | Schools | Business Interests|
Waterloo: First Things | Associations | The Press | Churches|
Hotels | Biographical Sketches
Valley: First Things | Biographical Sketches|
Elkhorn Station: Biographical Sketches|
Biographical Sketches: Elkhorn Precinct | Union Precinct
List of Illustrations in Douglas County Chapter
All now left of this town, an early rival of Omaha City, is a station on the line of Chicago, St. Paul, Minneapolis & Omaha R. R., six miles north of the latter city, and near the line dividing Douglas from Washington County. Its settlement was anterior to that of any other portion of the county with which it was so intimately associated that the line of demarcation is difficult to be described. Thirty-seven years ago, when the Indian occupation of present Nebraska was the only evidence of life within its borders, the Latter-Day Saints, under the mentorship and direction of those who subsequently became prophets in their own land, driven from their homes in Illinois, tarried for a time in this locality. The history of their sojourn in Douglas County is given with full detail in the general history of this county. There the reader has learned that their stay was brief, and in less than two years this county was restored to its former condition of aboriginal desolation. The relics of Mormon predominance, including the houses, burial places, ferry sites and what-not, that were to be seen, were, even at a day subsequent to that upon which later settlers came, used as the residences and council houses of the Indians and traders, with now and then a pure Caucasian thrown in for variety to fill up the picture of frontier life and scenes. There was little to attract, less to interest or instruct beyond the town site, which, too, was comparatively barren of profit. The peculiar advantages of this point as a ferry crossing had attracted attention, and influenced the opinion of many who saw the locality, and contemplated a future when the river would be bridged for trains to pass upon to the almost unknown regions beyond.
Among those thus confident, was Col. Peter A. Sarpy. That gentleman, in a conversation with James C. Williams, the pioneer who caught up the thread of progress where it had been severed when the Mormons departed hence, advised him to locate at Florence. The river, he insisted, would be bridged at some point between the present sites of Omaha and Sioux City, within the ensuing quarter of a century, and a city be built at the scene of western terminus that would rival the importance of Florence when that city contained a population of 17,000, and many of accessories of civilization. This was at a date, however, were of mention has been made, for when Mr. Williams was advised in the premises, the city had become a village and deserted, at that time its hopes of glory departed.
Acting upon the suggestion submitted by Gen. Sarpy, Mr. Williams created Florence in the spring of 1853, with a view to the location of a settlement and the rehabilitation of the site. He was unaccompanied for the time, and, after prospecting for a brief period, determined to carry out his original intention. Late in the summer, he employed a force of men, under the charge of Col. Pleyall, for surveying purposes; and with their advent in the fall of 1853, came Mrs. Compton and son, the former to act as housekeeper for this force of chain bearers and line-runners. Thus was the second settlement of Florence begun--its experience has been checkered beyond comparison. Twice settled, and its building up commenced under auspices the reverse of unfavorable, it has been as often deserted, become neglected and cast high and dry upon the sands of misfortune, beyond the ebb and flow of waves that might redeem its future.
There was very little increase in point of population during 1853. Many came to the vicinity of Council Bluffs and Omaha, but few drifted or were drawn into the current of immigration directed toward Florence during the years immediately succeeding. The following spring, however, quite a number were added to the original quota, composed of an enterprising, hopeful, intelligent and, in some respects, speculating spirits. Among these were Phillip Chapman, J. B. Stootsman, B. R. Pegram, and others, who were the prime factors in laying out the village, organizing the Florence Land Company, and in other ways competing for the patronage and location of incoming settlers.
The following fall the village, or rather city in embryo, was re-surveyed and platted by L. F. Wagner, surveyor, into 270 blocks of stipulated size and dimensions arranged along streets, and presenting, on the map at least, an appearance far from undesirable. This year, Samuel Forgy and Mr. Driver came in and undertook building and carpentering work. J. M. Parker also settled, and opened the Florence Bank. Previous to these events, the appellation of "winter quarters" was abandoned and that of Florence adopted, the name being given by Mr. Mitchell in honor of Miss Florence Kilbourn, a niece of Mrs. Mitchell. The times were primitive, though bustling, and the mournful tale of "nothing to wear" was never related to husbands and fathers. Mrs. Compton was the first white woman to acknowledge Florence as her place of residence, but other families began gradually to come in and social affairs to assume form. Early in 1856, Florence Bracken, daughter of John H. Bracken, now a resident of Omaha, was born, first in the village; and later, during the same year, Adam Bigler was married to Sarah Compton, the first ceremony of the kind to occur in the same bailiwick. These latter became converts, or had been brought into close communion with Mormonism, at a previous date, and removed to Salt Lake City, where they could reside beneath the droppings of the sanctuary, unmoved by fear of opposition and unappalled by possible results.
The immigration to Florence as also the consequent improvement therein during 1856, was numerous and valuable. The Mormons still made this place a point at which to procure suits and trappings for the journey over the plains, and generally laid in "supplies" of every quality and character previous to beginning their jaunt. As a result numbers came in and remained but a brief period who where included upon the roster of inhabitants, yet not legitimately entitled to so distinguished a consideration. Some even set up stores and shops and combined the mercenary with the spiritual so perfectly that to the uninitiated observer and unsophisticated in the ways of the world it was difficult to discriminate.
There was at this time, doubtless, an abundance of game and fish, as also in their season, wild fruits; but the hardships of pioneer life, while not perhaps involving suffering for food, and the accustomed comforts of life, may have been serious, and the monotony of existence probably sent some back to comforts and civilization east of the Missouri to bask in the sunshine of more favorable surroundings. Yet between Mormon departures and returns by others to points less remote from more cheerful auxiliaries, the population increased rather than diminished.
Among those who came in 1856 were Alexander Piper and Mr. Shoebridge, who opened stores in the village. They were Mormons and removed to Salt Lake in 1860. Thomas Shipley married Sarah Ann Harrison in Washington County, during the spring of this year, and removed to the vicinity of Florence. O. B. Seldon, with "Donk" Seldon, settled in the village and opened the first blacksmith shop. Captain Kennedy became host of the "Florence House," erected by J. C. Mitchell. A. Bigler and James Compton, Mormons in name and nature, J. H. Ball, a storekeeper, Mr. Griffin, a lawyer, Dr. Malcom, William Johnson, an apothecary, William Reeves, Edwin Reeves, and others were also added to the population during this annual. On the first of January, 1857, the village contained, it is estimated, not less than one hundred residences, four stores, a hotel, post office, and other aids to the prolongation and enjoyment of life but no churches. The Courier had been established and the bank was in active operation.
This prosperous condition of affairs was emulated at Omaha where a generous rivalry sprung up, and competition for prominence existed, which in the light of subsequent events made so successfully for the latter point as to produce the permanent and effective extinguishment of Florence.
On the 4th of July, 1857 a man named James Kingsley was killed by one Biggs under the following circumstances. Kingsley was suspected of an improper intimacy with Biggs' wife, in consequence of which a quarrel had ensued between the two men which resulted in Kingsley being forbidden to enter Biggs' house. The former disregarded this warning and continued his visits in the absence of the latter. Biggs learned of the fact, armed himself with a bowie knife and upon meeting the despoiler of his domestic felicity, executed summary vengeance with results above stated. Biggs was duly arrested, but nothing came of his apprehension and one more was added to the list of crimes which are ever prominent factors in the make up of frontier life.
This was the era of success to Florence. This period the village attained the zenith of its prosperity, the tendency thereafter, was in the direction of the nadir. After 1857 Omaha's growth and development exceeded that of Florence in so remarkable a degree that the latter point soon yielded precedence to its rival and yielded up the ghost, municipally speaking. During the years succeeding immigration was discontinued, and of those who remained many departed further West, many removed to Omaha, taking with them their movable property, even to the houses in which they lived. To-day Florence is a settlement of less than 200 inhabitants, made up of farmers, millers and storekeepers, without life, animation, or aught to interest or fascinate. Strange contrast to what it was a quarter of a century ago, when all things conspired to make it the focal point of expectant and enterprising people.
The first school taught in Florence was during the year 1857, when Mrs. Page administered the trust in a room at the land office building. Soon after, a building erected for the use of the Methodist Church was appropriated to school purposes and has since been occupied.
One teacher is now employed to instruct an average daily attendance of fifty-six pupils and is under the direction of a board composed of V. W. Smith, director; John Cowles, moderator, with Rudolph Huss as treasurer.
The annual cost of conducting the system is stated at about $700.
The post office was first established in 1856 with E. P. Brewster as Postmaster. During his administration the building wherein the office was located was burned and Brewster was succeeded by A. J. Critchfield, who remained in charge until 1860. During that year Samuel Turner was appointed to the position serving until 1866, when he was followed by G. W. Peck. Mr. Peck discharged the duties until 1871, at which date J. H. Stahlen was appointed and is now in charge.
The Florence Mills were erected by Jacob Weber and George Hugg along in 1868 as a saw mill. In 1874 a grist mill was added and in 1880 its capacity increased to two run of buhrs. At first water was the motive power, since changed to steam. The present daily capacity is twenty-five sacks of flour and a proportionate quantity of corn mean and feed.
WILLIAM FREDERICK PARKER, artist, Florence, was born in Rock Island, Ill, in 1854, removed to Florence with his people in 1858. In 1866 he entered Talbot Hall at Nebraska City, Neb., a school for boys under the patronage of the Episcopal Church. In 1867 he entered Griswold College of Davenport, Iowa, and remained in connection with a regular classical course there till 1873, when he took a literary and art course at Harvard University, Massachusetts, which he originally prosecuted till 1875. He then took up the study of art and literature in New York City, after about a year's study there he was called here to look after his father's interests, with which he remained until 1879, when he visited Europe, and after traveling through England, Ireland, Scotland, France, Germany and Italy, in connection with his study, most of his time being spent in Rome and Paris, he returned to this, his almost native State. He is also the author of "Frondoleer" and other works.
A station on the Union Pacific road, twenty-one miles from Omaha by rail, but eleven miles as the swallows fly, is an outgrowth of the great enterprise whereon it is located and was laid out by Ezra Millard, of Omaha, after whom it is called, during 1871.
The first settlers in this vicinity were George F. and Cyrus Stevens, who came in the fall of 1855, and entered up 320 acres of land including the present village site. On September following Dr. Harvey Link emigrated from New Albany, Ind., to Nebraska and secured 320 acres by purchase, from O. B. Seldon, for a consideration of $300. That year he made limited improvements, and returned East, coming to Douglas County the ensuing spring where he has since lived on the homestead property he purchased nearly thirty years ago, when no one resided nearer to Omaha than himself. This same property, it should be observed, was obtained by Seldon from a "breaker" or prairie plower, as the early soil tillers were known in those times, and he, with the Stevens brothers and Dr. Link, was the first settler to venture into this part of the country.
The winter of 1856-57 was one of unparalleled severity throughout this entire section, it is said. Dr. Link relates that his introduction to Council Bluffs was made when the mercury had for sometime previous refused to indicate the extreme rigor of the season; in other words, had become solidified by the cold, and refused to essay the part allotted it in the arcana of science. In Nebraska the mercury also froze, remaining so three days, snow fell to the depth of from six to sixty feet. Those who resided on the prairies were thus embargoed and suffered no inconsiderable distress, and those who lived along the streams and belts of woods, fared but little better, and endured privations no master's cunning can trace with the pencil of description. But the winter, with its attendant evils and privations ended in course of time and spring smiling upon the landscape renewed the foliage with life and dotted the prairies with many-hued flowers as it followed in the wake for the dead season. Almost with its arrival came settlers, few in point of numbers, 'tis true, but yet the additions thus made augmented the county's vitality and aided in laying the foundations upon which a superstructure, rich in design, yet far from finished, has since been erected. Among these were Peter Glandt, who moved on to a claim two and one half miles north of Dr. Link's, and set himself up for a stay that proved permanent. Jesse Reeves and Preston Reeves were others who moved to the then almost undiscovered lands of Nebraska, settling about seven miles west of the present village of Elkhorn, on Elkhorn Creek. About the same time John Kabler located four miles south of Elkhorn Station; David Warren and father, Mitchell and Thomas Donahoo, in the same place. North of these Lewis Denton settled with Allan Marshall, John Burney and David Jackson opened farms and suffered indescribable torture during the memorable winter alluded to already. From this period down to the spring of 1858 there were no settlers arriving. At that period Halsey A. Hall settled two miles east of Millard. The following spring John Hollenback and family put up a house one and one-half miles west of Millard; German Adsit opened his farm three miles northwest of the present village and Henry Kursten three miles west of the village. The new comers into this vicinity, as a rule, sought timber, and there was a ribbon of settlements all along the Elkhorn and Platte rivers to the exclusion of other points which have since become desirable as prairie lands for farming purposes. Indeed, between the Platte River country and the Missouri River there was at this time no tangible evidences of settlement, owing to the fact that barrens and prairie made up the sum total of attractions, which repelled, however, rather than attracted, owing to the belief entertained by those who came in, that in summer, no matter how industrious or successful they might be, the most fortunate would only be able to raise sufficient to keep them through the winter, during which period they encountered the most serious risks--freezing, with scarcely a hope of escape therefrom. On the streams and along the stretches of woodland this could be avoided. Hence, the traveler, as a rule, pitched his tent over against the forests and rejoiced in his selection.
By this time the effects of the panic of 1857 began to distribute themselves throughout the West, and anomalous as it may seem, these effects were experienced to a less limited extent in scarcely populated districts, than those numerously settled. Such was the case in Nebraska. The lands had been generally pre-empted and the crash wiped out everything susceptible to its influence. As a result, no immigration to the Territory was to be observed, while those who were able to return to their homes, or go elsewhere, generally departed. Commodities, limited to the very necessities of life, were held at exorbitant figures, and that, too, with corn at ten cents per bushel, while wheat commanded thirty cents, less five a bushel for threshing. When these cereals were ready for market they could only be disposed of in exchange for food and clothing, and distress became a more prominent incident of daily life than ever before known. About this time the Denver mines were opened up, and attracted large trains of prospectors and explorers, among whom Millard and the country contiguous thereto furnished its quota. In fact, only those remained who were unable to get away, and as will be imagined they were few in number.
From this time forward until 1865, there was no influx of settlers, and consequently no increase in population. Occasionally a stray wanderer adventured into the State, and halting long enough at Millard to assure himself that he was amid strange surroundings, faltered not in his departure. In 1865, the first forty miles of the Pacific road was completed through the present village and awakened new desires, new ambitions. It brought with it a new order of affairs, new hopes and determinations. Farmers came in and broke ground for agricultural purposes, laborers were numerous and the question of building a town as a feeder of the surrounding country was first mooted. In about 1871 the Stevens brothers sold their farm of 320 acres, on a portion of which Millard has since been built, to E. A. Perley, and negotiations were pending between him and the railroad company for some time respecting the building of a village. But nothing came of these negotiations, and the same year Perley disposed of his purchase to Ezra Millard, with the understanding that the latter was to lay off a town. Immediately upon the completion of the sale and transfer, Mr. Millard caused the same to be surveyed and platted under the direction of the engineer corps of the Pacific road, and made ready to attract purchasers, offering as inducements cheapness in the price of lots and advantages that would accrue to purchasers by the location of a station.
At that time the residence of Henry Kelsey was the only house on the site of the village, but this was but preliminary to the erection of others. Late in the season some lots were sold and improvements of a limited character begun. The ensuing spring the sale of lots became more general and quite an active trade, it is said, was carried on. A. R. Kennedy and Hiram Pomeroy, who were established as merchants at Papillion, extended their field of operations to Millard and opened the first store in the village. Christian Kaelber, now a grain and lumber dealer, purchased the lots upon which the Kelsey farm house stood, moved the same to its present locality and rendered it more comfortable by an addition. Those were the only improvements made, it is thought, until about 1873 when the section house was built, followed by the station proper in December of the same year. In 1874 Henry Kelsey and Julius Schweder erected residences, Henry Karslins did likewise in 1875, and during the succeeding year put up the Millard house, a commodious frame used for a hotel. The mill, it should be said, was erected in 1875, and buildings have been finished and occupied at intervals since.
In July, 1880, an altercation occurred between Fletcher Mitchell and James Lyon during a ball in progress at the Millard House, during which the latter flourished a pistol in a threatening manner, imparting danger to Mitchell. He was taken away from the place, but subsequently returned and renewed the trouble, when Mitchell produced a weapon which he fired at his adversary, wounding him between the eyes, from the effects of which he died on the following morning. Mitchell was arrested, and on trial, wherein the jury disagreed, was convicted and sentenced to the penitentiary for a term of years.
The village now has a population of less than 300, with three hotels, two stores, two saloons, two blacksmith shops, one wagon shop, one mill, one elevator, and one brickyard, with good prospects of a gradual increase in its population and material resources.
The first school taught near Millard was established during the year 1868, on the southern corner of Dr. Link's farm, with George Potwin as teacher and six pupils. The school was free, and the course of study was confined to the ordinary branches of instruction. No change was made in the location of this resort of learning until 1876, when increased demands compelled enlarged accommodations, and the present school edifice, opposite the depot, was erected and furnished at a total cost of $2,700.
It is not a graded school, one teacher only being required to discharge the duties. Thirty is the number of pupils in daily attendance, and $600 is annually required for expenses.
The present board is composed of: Christian Kaelber, Director; Samuel Cottner, Treasurer; and H. Link, M. D. Moderator.
Millard Mills are located in sight of the village, to the south, where they were erected in 1875, by John Schwab, engaged in milling at other points. They are of frame two stories high, supplied with one run of stone, which is operated by water power, from Papillion Creek, and cost $7,500. In November, 1881, the premises were sold to Charles Kolberman, by whom they have since been operated.
Johnson's Brickyard was located in the village by Lars Johnson, during the spring of 1880. When running to the full capacity, he employs five hands, and turns out 400,000 brick each season.
Millard Elevators were erected during the season of 1881, by Samuel Cottner. The buildings include an elevator proper, with adjoining store-houses, and cost a total of about $3,800. Their combined capacity is stated at 50,000 bushels.
There are no churches or secret societies in the village.
CHARLES ANDRESEN, of the firm of Andresen & Reidel, dry goods, clothing boots and shoes, groceries, crockery and tinware. Mr. Andresen was born in Germany in 1851, and came to America in 1869 and located in New York City, where he followed carpenter work. In 1874 he came to Nebraska, and has been connected with merchandising in the State since. In 1882 he joined the present business. He was married in 1879, to Miss Maggie Thomsen, who was born in Germany in 1853. They have a family of two sons and one daughter, William, Charles and Annie.
J. H. HEITHOLT, proprietor of wagon and carriage manufactory, Millard. This enterprise was established by Mr. Heitholt here in 1882. It is 40X50 feet, double story building, containing rooms for woodworking, ironworking, blacksmithing departments, as also a salesroom on the first floor, and painting and trimming departments on the second floor. Mr. Heitholt was born in Germany in 1853; came to America in 1873; after following his trade through the Western States till 1876, he came to Nebraska and located here, when he has been successfully connected with his present business since. His trade is now quite extensive, and from its already rapid growth he hopes to secure the patronage of surrounding custom.
JOHN LEMKE, stock dealer, Millard, was born in Germany in 1842, and came to America in 1864, and located in Chicago, where he remained until 1867, when he came to this locality and took up the farming and stock-raising industry, which he successfully carried on until 1882, when he engaged at his present business which he has actively followed since. In 1868 he was married to Miss Mary Aye, who was born in Germany in 1841. They buried their only child, Claus, in the Britton Cemetery, Chicago Precinct.
JULIUS SCHROEDER, saloon and farming, Millard, was born in Prussia in 1836, and came to America in 1868 and landed in Louisiana. After traveling through Texas, he came here in 1869 and took up the farming business, which he carried on actively till 1875, when on account of ill-health he took up the saloon business which he has actively carried on since. As an evidence of the thrift of Mr. Schroeder's enterprise, he also carries on a farm of 320 acres, which he has accumulated since coming to this country. He was married in Kyritz, Germany, in 1860, to Miss Wilhelmina Millitz, who was born in Prussia in 1836. They have a family of two sons and four daughters: Albert, Alma, Ida, Berta, Hulda, and Otto; who by the kind care and attention to their education are able to read, write and speak fluently their parents' native language as well as the American.
MICHAEL TEX, proprietor Millard lumber yard, was born in Prussia, in 1846, and came to America in 1868 and settled in Nebraska where he followed general work until 1876, when he came here and located in the interests of the Omaha Elevator Co., with which he has been very successfully connected since, taking up the lumber business in 1882. In 1875 he married Miss Lizzie Rebhansen, who was born and reared in Omaha. They have two daughters, Bertie and Angelia, and have buried their only son, Freddie, in the German Catholic cemetery at Omaha.