NEGenWeb Project
Kansas Collection Books

Andreas' History of the State of Nebraska

Hamilton County
Produced by Barb Hruza and Alice Vosika.

PART 1: Topographical | Early History | First Things

Organization | Roster County Officers
County Seat Fight | Agricultural Society
Educational Progress and History

Aurora:   Official Roster | Schools | Societies
Churches | Bank of Aurora
Aurora (cont.):   Biographical Sketches
Aurora (cont.):   Biographical Sketches (cont.)

Orville City
Hampton:   Biographical Sketches
South Platte Precinct (Biographical Sketch)
Other Towns

Illustration: [View of Aurora and Court House.]



[View of Aurora and Court House.]

Aurora is handsomely located near the geographical center of the county, and is an important station of the B. & M. Railroad in Nebraska. It is tastily and regularly laid out with a fine public square in the center, planted with rapidly growing forest trees in the center of which stands the court house and county jail, and around it on all sides are the various business houses compactly and substantially built.

The original site of the town situated upon the northeast quarter of section four (4); town ten (10); range six (6); west was pre-empted by Darius Wilcox in the summer of 1871.

In March, 1871, a town company was formed at Chariton, Iowa, who proposed to go to Hamilton County, Nebraska, and locate a town, which should become the county seat. They drew up and signed the following agreement which is given on account of its historic value being the germ out of which numerous and long contested law-suits have sprung in days gone by respecting the title to the town site.

This agreement made and entered into this 9th day of March, 1871, by and between David Stone, Darius Wilcox, Robert Miller, James Doremus, J. Ray, N. H. Thorpe, S. P. Lewis, of Lucas County, Iowa, for the purpose of securing a title to section 4, town 10, range 6 west.

First: -- The parties hereto agree and by these presents do hereby form themselves together and organize a company for the purpose of laying out and organizing and locating county seat, town or village in the county of Hamilton and State of Nebraska, upon the following express conditions.

It is agreed that David Stone be selected as a suitable person to visit Hamilton County, Nebraska, for the purpose of securing land for the location of said county-seat, town or village.

Said Stone hereby expressly agrees to homestead in the name of the eight individual members of the company if title can be procured in that manner, if not, locate in the name of each individual member of this company. It is further agreed that after said Stone secures the land described, being section four (4); township ten (10); range (6) west, in Hamilton County, Nebraska, each of the above members, named parties, is to execute to each other, a bond for a deed for the individual conveyance of the undivided eighth part of the entire section, or for the conveyance of the lots to each other in any manner they may select to divide the same as soon as title to the same can be obtained; that the entire section shall be owned in common by all the parties named to this contract, eight in number, and each shall share and share alike in all the profits and losses, and each be entitled to the one-eighth part in virtue of the section.

It is agreed and understood by all the parties that individuals shall be and reside upon said land, by the 1st day of June, 1871, in person or agent to assist in building up said town, a failure to comply with this stipulation shall work as a forfeiture of all his rights under this contract.

The said Stone agrees that during this trip to Nebraska he will keep a true account of all moneys expended by him and the expenses of said Stone shall be equally borne by all parties to this contract.

It is further agreed that each party to this contract will at the signing of the same, pay to said Stone the sum of thirty dollars, to be used by him in the securing the title to said land by pre-emption or homestead subject to the laws of the United States in such case made and provided.

Witness our hands and seal this 7th day of March, 1871.

[SIGNED]                                  DAVID STONE
                                                DARIUS WILCOX,
                                                ROBERT MILLER,
                                                JAMES O. DOREMUS,
                                                JUSTINIAN RAY,
                                                NATHANIEL H. THORPE,
                                                STILLMAN P. LEWIS.

Previous to this time S. P. Lewis, one of the party, had visited Hamilton County, and reported favorably of it, as will be seen by a glance at the terms of the original agreement. Mr. D. Stone was commissioned by the company to proceed to Hamilton County and make claim to a future site of the prospective town.

He arrived at S. W. Spafford's residence on Lincoln Creek March 21, and after an examination of the county, returned to Iowa. The most carefully laid plans will sometimes fail in accomplishing the desired object, and the plans of the Aurora Town Company were strangled, while yet lisping infants.

Messrs. Robert Miller and N. Thorpe came out for the purpose of making settlement of the new town, and were followed June 10, by Messrs. D. Stone, D. Wilcox, and S. P. Lewis. The party camped on Lincoln Creek, on the northeast corner of section four (4); and shortly after this Mr. D. Stone platted a town site on the northeast quarter of section four (4); town ten (10); range six (6) west; and between ten (10) and eleven (11) P. M. on the night of June 19, 1871, after considerable argument by the members of the council of the company for the purpose of giving the town a name, it was named Aurora in honor of an eastern town, Aurora, Ill., and christened by a most brilliant display of the aurora borealis that shone out that night, which was looked upon by its founders as a most favorable omen of success, having received its name only a short time before this beautiful display of the Northern lights--"Aurora meaning light."

After the collapse of the Town Company Mr. Wilcox pre-empted the northeast quarter of the section. D. Stone homesteaded eighty acres on the west half of section thirty-four (34), town eleven (11), range six (6), and E. D. Preston made claim in the southeast quarter of section four (4) and Robert Miller also made a claim on the northwest quarter of the same section.

The original town site was surveyed and platted by Darius Wilcox and Mary A. E. Stone, and entered for record December 20, 1872. It comprised the south half, of the northeast quarter, and the south half, of the north half, of the northeast quarter section four, township ten (10), range six (6), west, a tract of one hundred and twenty (120) acres.

The south addition includes the north half, of the southeast quarter, of section four (4), town ten (10), range six (6), west, was preempted by Edgar D. Preston August 15, 1872, and entered as a township site, May 25, 1874, by Edgar D. Preston, Darius Wilcox, F. M. Ellsworth, Rebecca E. McPherson, and Mary A. E. Stone.

The next addition made was the Ellsworth Addition, a tract of about sixty acres, the southeast quarter, of the north west quarter, and the south half, of the northwest quarter, of section four (4), town ten (10), range six (6), west.

It was preempted by Robert Miller in June, 1871, who transferred it to F. M. Ellsworth, and was entered for record, as a town by Ellsworth and Darius Wilcox, November 3, 1878.

Enterprise Addition was homesteaded by W. A. Johnson in August, 1872, and comprises the northeast half, of the southwest quarter, section four (4), town ten (10), range six, (6), west. It was entered as a town by Mr. Johnson, March 10, 1880.

D. W. Rea and James Rugg are also among the early settlers of the town.

For many years two large cottonwood trees, standing on the banks of Lincoln Creek, marked the site of Aurora. The winter of 1871-72 was very severe, and fuel being scarce, the settlers made many raids on the timber-belts, along the streams, and particularly stripping the railroad sections. Nearly all the timber in the immediate vicinity of Aurora was utilized for that pioneer necessity, fuel, but through all these dangers the twin cottonwoods were preserved, and still wave their branches more majestic and graceful than in days gone by.

In June, 1871 the town company erected the first house upon section four, a "dug-out" on the northeast quarter, and the following August, David Stone erected the first frame building in the town, a store and residence, in which he opened the first stock of general merchandise brought to the new town.

Mr. D. Wilcox also erected the second building, a small frame dwelling, in the fall of 1871, which he occupied about one year, and it was then turned into a store, and was occupied by Messrs Bromstedte and Klineschmidt with a stock of general merchandise.

The third building was the sod blacksmith shop of John Shultz, which he erected in the spring of 1873. The fourth, the grocery store of L. J. Gandy, erected in the spring of 1873. The next year, 1874, Aurora had quite a boom and fully fifteen buildings were completed.

It was made the county seat at the general election in 1876, and the present court house was commenced in 1877, and completed in November, 1878.

It was incorporated as a town, July 3, 1877 and John H. Helms, Delevan Bates, W. H. Streeter, John Raben, Henry W. Kemper appointed Trustees.

The first meeting of the Board was held July 5, 1877, and John H. Helms was elected President: W. L. Whittemore appointed Clerk. For two years the town struggle along, enduring all the inconveniences of stage and buck-board travel until the fall of 1879, reaching a population of scarcely four hundred, but, with the advent of the Republican Valley Railroad, a branch of the B. and M. in Nebraska, which ran its first regular train into the town, October 14, 1879.

This gave the town a boom unprecedented, and her growth from this time up to the present has been of the most steady and permanent character, and the population is now estimated at one thousand.

The court house is a handsome frame structure, and was presented to the county by the citizens of Aurora, as also the fine square that it is situated upon. The county jail is a small frame building, sixteen feet by twenty feet, containing an iron cage. It answers the wants of the county entirely, and speaks volumes in favor of the quiet, orderly, peaceable and moral standing of the community. The town is supplied with two church buildings, and a third is in process of construction. One, the Presbyterian, is a neat and commodious structure, handsomely finished inside, well furnished and beautifully frescoed. A fine large high school building is also nearing completion, the west wing already completed. It will be an elegant brick structure, the total cost reaching eighteen thousand dollars.

Grain and stock are the leading businesses of the town, the former represented by two large elevators, and the latter by well-built stock-yards.

General merchandise, farm machinery, lumber, and all branches of business that make up the commercial list of every western village are well represented by houses of sound financial reputation.

Banking interests include the Hamilton County Bank, George Wildish, President: M. T. Wildish, Cashier. It was inaugurated, November 1, 1877, by Messrs. L. Wildish and George Wildish, and has an ample capital, also the private banking-house of Messrs. McKay, Munger, & Wentz, established, August 14, 1879, by Messrs. Grimes, Dinsmore, & Wentz.

It has a capital of twenty-five thousand dollars, and its functions comprise a general banking business.

Milling interests are represented by the Wind Feed Mill of Henry Moyer, established in 1879, and the Steam Feed Mill of John Wilson, built in the fall of 1881.

Each of these mills is furnished with one set of buhrs, and together they offer facilities for grinding, unsurpassed.

The professions of law, medicine and dental surgery are represented by men of talent and ability.

In the matter of railroads Aurora is well supplied. The B. & M. in Nebraska gives direct communication with Lincoln, and at Central City with the Union Pacific, affording the best of facilities for reaching the great markets east and west and all points of travel in every conceivable direction.

With the energy and enterprise of its citizens Aurora is destined to become an important shipping point, and in the near future a large and prosperous village.


The following is a roster of the Trustees of Aurora since its incorporation: 1877--Hon. John H. Helms, Gen. Delevan Bates, W. H. Streeter, John Raben, Henry W. Kemper, W. L. Whittemore, Clerk of the Board. 1878--Hon. John H. Helms, W. S. Strain, John Raben, Geo. Wildish, W. L. Whittemore, Clerk. 1879--Hon. J. H. Helms, W. H. Waters, Geo. Wildish, John Raben, W. L. Whittemore, Clerk. 1880--Hon. J. H. Helms, John Raben, Thomas C. Klumb, Henry Moyer, W. C. Farley, Clerk. 1881--W. H. Alden, J. B. Myres, P. M. Green, C. H. Kimball, W. J. Farley, Wm. P. Hellings, Clerk.


During the past three years Aurora has enjoyed such a prosperous growth and its population has increased to such an extent, that it has been found necessary to build a new schoolhouse to accommodate the large number of pupils that are at present enrolled.

For this purpose the trustees of the district are erecting a handsome brick structure, one wing of which is completed, the total cost to reach $18,000.

The schools are now graded into three departments and two hundred and ten pupils are at present enrolled.

Ex Judge W. L. Stark has charge of the schools and gives his special attention to the grammar department. The intermediate department is presided over by Miss L. E. Sawyer and the primary department, which contains the majority in numbers, by Miss S. E. Seward and Miss Norma Hainer.

The Board of Trustees consists of the following gentlemen: S. S. Hayden, Director; Gen. Delevan Bates, Moderator; Hon. John H. Helms, Treasurer; H. W. King, W. H. Alden and B. F. Anderson.

The new building will be well furnished with the best of modern furniture and amply supplied with a full line of maps, charts, globes and all necessary apparatus.

The work throughout the school is thorough and systematic, and the aim and intention is to complete a good common school education.

In the grammar department many topics are taken up that would be impossible to be taken up as class studies and oral instruction given to the use of language as to the vehicle of thought than to the technical laws of grammar.

Writing and drawing are carefully and systematically taught and the common branches receive every attention.

Upon the completion of the new building the Trustees expect to add a high school department, which will give the schools of Aurora a position vieing with those of her sister towns and villages, and golden opportunities to those who are in search of a good and practical education.


Hamilton Lodge, No. 60, I. O. O. F., was organized under a dispensation granted June 1st, 1876, with the following charter members: T. A. McKay, E. B. Hoyt, A. W. Agee, Horatio G. Cass, Levi M. Reber, Simeon Snow, James M. May, T. C. Klumb, W. K. Ream and Wm. L. Warn.

The first officers were T. A. McKay, N. G.; Simeon Snow, V. G.; A. W. Agee, Sec'y and Levi M. Reber, Treasurer.

The Lodge is in a sound financial condition and numbers forty-five members. The present officers are J. N. Cassell, N. G.; W. B. Albertson, V. G.; W. J. Threadkell, R. S.; W. J. Allerton, P. S.; J. W. Swearingen, Treasurer.

Aurora Lodge, No. 68, A, F. and A. M., was organized under a dispensation granted Feb. 10, 1876, and received its charter June 9, 1878.

The following are the charter members and officers: J. S. Miller, W. M.; T. A. McKay, S. W.; John H. Helms, J. W.; Wm. H. Streeter, Darius Wilcox, W. K. Ream. T. H. Glover, E. J. Hainer, W. L. Whittemore, Benjamin Frud, M. Hagarity, John Tweedy, S. S. Hayden.

Regular meetings are held the first and third Saturday of each month and the lodge is in a prosperous working order.

The present officers are: F. J. Engle, W. M.; F. J. Bricker, S. W.; Wm. Sylvester, J. W.; Delevan Bates, Sec'y.

G. A. R., Zach Chandler Post No. 44., was organized April 16, 1880, with the following charter members: J. S. Miller, Major, Eleventh Wisconsin Infantry; J. M. Fodge, Private Co. H., First Iowa Cavalry; Delevan Bates, Col. Co. I, 121st New York Infantry; C. H. Kimball, Private Co. E, First Iowa Infantry; Louis Kelly, Private Co. I, Forty-Sixth Indiana Infantry; L. W. Hastings, Private Co. G, Sixth Iowa Infantry; R. A. Ingalls, Private Co. K, Second Minnesota Infantry; E. D. Preston, Private Co. E, Thirty-Sixth Wisconsin Infantry; D. A. Scovill, Private Co. A. Forty-Sixth Illinois Infantry; A. V. B. Peck, Private Co. A. Forty-Sixth Illinois Infantry; Joshua Norton, Jr., First Lieut. Clarks Rifles; J. L. Trobee, Private Co. K, Sixth Iowa Infantry; W. W. Trobee, Private Co. K, Fourteenth Iowa Infantry; Wm.,. S. Strain, Private Co. I, Tenth Iowa Infantry; Robt. Miller, Private Co. A Sixty-Second Pennsylvania Infantry; L. C. Predmore, Private Co. G, Eighth Indiana Infantry; T. A. McKay, Private Co. H, Twelfth Michigan Infantry; W. C. Preston, Private Co. C, Twelfth New York Cavalry; L. Isaman, Private Co., F, Fourteenth Iowa Infantry; W. H. Pinnell, Private Co. C, 150th Illinois Infantry; C. J. Agee, Private Co. H, Twenty-Fourth Indiana Infantry; S. S. Hayden, Private Co. B, Thirty-Seventh Illinois Infantry; A. E. Cheeney, Private Co. H, Twentieth Wisconsin Infantry; W. A. Johnson, Private Co. D, Seventh Iowa Cavalry; J. W. Thiery, Private Co. E, 130th Ohio Infantry; W. L. Whittemore, Private Co. H, Thirty-first Iowa Infantry.

The Post was mustered in by Adjt. Gen. J. S. Woods of Omaha, and the first officers elected were Maj. J. S. Miller, P. C.; Brig. Gen. Delevan Bates, S. V. C.; E. D. Preston, J. V. C.; A. V. B. Peck, Chaplain; T. A. McKay, O. M.; J. M. Fodge, O. D.; D. A. Scovill, Adjt.; T. L. Myers, Surgeon.

It is in good working condition and sound financially, the present officers are E. D. Preston, P. C.; Capt. J. N. Cassell, S. V. C.; F. P. Gav n, J. V. C.; J. W. Thiery, A. M.; H. W. King, Chaplain, J. G. Burchell, O. D.; B. S. Scott, O. G.; Louis Kelley, Adjt.

On the 30th day of May, 1880, this Post erected a monument to the memory of our honored dead who fell in the struggle for right and liberty during the Rebellion. It is situated on the public square directly in front of the court house and consists of a white shaft mounted upon a base, on either side of which are inscribed the following words: "In memory of our fallen heroes in unknown graves" -- "Gone but not forgotten" -- "They died that our Country might live" -- "Our Country and our flag." And upon either side of the base the following: "Loyalty" -- "Fraternity" -- "Charity" -- 1861-1865.

As each succeeding year rolls round bringing the Anniversary Day on which the graves of the "Blue and the Gray" are alike so tenderly decorated, Aurora honors these dead heroes by appropriately decorating their monument.


The First Congregational Church of Aurora was organized by Rev. D. B. Perry, April 27, 1872. Rev. Perry was a missionary sent out by the Home Missionary Society and is one of the pioneer missionaries of Hamilton County. Rev. L. W. Jones of Worcester, Mass., also assisted in the organization, and preached the first sermon to the newly organized society. The original members were C. H. Kimball, J. H. Farris, Porter C. Culver, John Mathews, N. E. Kimball, N. E. Farris, Susie J. Culver, Amanda Hagerman, E. Mathews, Good Noble, Elizabeth Strain. C. H. Kimball and J. H. Farris were chosen Deacons, and Porter C. Culver, Clerk. Rev. Mr. Perry became the pastor of the church at its organization, officiating for one year and was succeeded by Rev. Mr. Maxwell, who was pastor of the church about the same length of time and was succeeded by Rev. Mr. Hill, who closed his ministry in the spring of 1876, after two years of labor. Rev. Wm. Woolman took charge of this pastorate May 1, 1876, remaining until Sept. 29, 1879. The church was supplied until August 1, 1880, at which date Rev. A. L. Seward, the present pastor, commenced his labors.

The church building was completed in the spring of 1882, at a cost of $3200. Present membership of the society, 34.

The First Baptist Church of Aurora was organized in May, 1872, by Rev. Mr. Biggart, who became its first pastor, his ministry covering a period of two years. He was succeeded by Rev. Moses Rowley in the spring of 1874, who was in charge until the spring of 1876. Rev. Mr. Rowley was succeeded by Rev. Frank Mitchell in the spring of 1877, who was pastor for one year. In the spring of 1878 Rev. J. W. Lewis accepted a call from this society, closing his ministry in the spring of 1880, when he was succeeded by the present pastor, Rev. A. J. Colney. The church was completed during the pastorate of Rev. Moses Rowley in 1876, and is valued at $1,500. The present membership of the society is about 30.

The Presbyterian Church of Aurora was organized August 16, 1873, by Rev. N. C. Robinson, Synodical Missionary of Nebraska, and was incorporated as a society March 9, 1878, with the following trustees: Rev. H. M. Giltner, President, E. M. Thompson, B. F. Isaman, W. S. Strain, W. M. Scott. The first pastor of the church was Rev. T. K. Hedges, who commenced his ministry in the fall of 1873, continuing it until May, 1874, at which date he was succeeded by Rev. R. R. Bement, who was in charge until August 11, 1876, when Rev. H. M. Giltner, the present pastor, was called to take charge. The church building was erected in the summer of 1878 at a total cost of $2,000. Present membership, 41. Rev. H. M. Giltner is the pioneer minister of the Presbyterian Church in Nebraska. He was appointed Synodical Missionary by the Domestic Board of the (O. S.) Presbyterian Church in 1855, and organized the first church society in the State, at Nebraska City, in 1856, and erected the first church, a brick structure at that city, in 1857. He also served as chaplain of the House of Representatives during the first session held at Omaha in the winter of 1855-56. His daughter (Fannie), was the third child born in the State and the second female child, February 28, 1856. She also received the first marriage license granted to any young lady claiming Nebraska as her birthplace. In 1856 he organized the second Sabbath school in Nebraska at Nebraska City. Mr. Giltner has been unwearied in his devotion to his work as Synodical Missionary, and has undergone many privations and hardships in his early labors for the cause in which he has proved himself such an earnest advocate, and has lived to see the church that he planted in the wilderness grow to a magnitude and importance no human power can estimate, supported by a population fully one-half a million strong, and to share the honors of its glorious triumphs.

The Conference of 1873 appointed Rev. A. G. White to take charge of the Kearney district, which includes Hamilton County, and for the first time this unorganized territory, in the interests of this church, received a name. In the winter of 1872-73, Rev. W. J. Witso organized the Methodist Church at Aurora.

Rev. C. L. Smith was the first minister appointed to take charge of this circuit, which was called the Orville Circuit, and comprised the entire county, in the spring of 1873, and remained in charge until the fall of 1875, being succeeded by Rev. Wm. Seabrooke Higgins, who was in charge one year, and at the close of his labors entered the Baptist Church as a minister. The Conference of 1876 assigned this field to Rev. J. F. Martel, who carried on the work for two years, resigning his charge in the fall of 1878 to Rev. W. F. Grundy, who had charge one year, up to the close of the Conference year in 1879. Rev. S. S. Penepacker was stationed here during the Conference year of 1880, and was succeeded by Rev. C. L. Smith, who was assigned to this charge a second time in the fall of 1880, and is now serving his second year. There are no churches in this circuit and the total membership is but small.

The Catholic mission was established at Aurora in 1876 by Rev. Father Glauber, then stationed at Hastings and attended by him at intervals until he was succeeded by the present attending priest, Rev. Father Eugene Geary. It is a strong mission and proposes to erect a church the coming year.

The First Universalist Church of Aurora was organized October 24, 1881, by Rev. E. R. Earle, who became the pastor of the church. Present membership, 13.


The Bank of Aurora, composed of T. A. McKay, Thos. Nesbett, and W. C. Wentz, was organized recently. It was formerly the firm of McKay, Munger & Wentz. Mr. Munger having drawn out with the new organization, the officers of the new bank are T. A. McKay, president; W. C. Wentz, cashier.

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