Part 2: Indian Troubles | Wild Bill | Ives Marks | Russians
Part 3: County Buildings | Railroads | Agricultural Society
Schools | Taxable Property | Population
Fairbury: Fires and Storms | City Roster
Schools | Churches
Part 4: Fairbury (cont.): Societies | The Press | Newspapers
Banks | Manufactories | Progress | Meteorological
Part 5: Steele City: Schools | Churches | Societies | Newspapers
Business Interests | Biographical Sketches
Part 6: Other Towns: Endicott: Biographical Sketches
Reynolds | Diller: Biographical Sketches | Others
Jefferson, Thayer, Nuckolls, and Webster counties perhaps suffered more from Indians during the early settlements than any others in Nebraska. And it is said that no community west of Kentucky ever endured as long and such fearful suspense as did the early settlements of the counties during the civil war. This, however, is not to be wholly attributed to Indians. Their natures are depraved and savage enough, but when these terrible qualities are worked upon by the more skilled and it may be said more damnable depravity of some white savages, they become desperate in the extreme. Much has been said against the decrescent race that once held the divine right to this whole country that they do not merit, because behind many of their terrible massacres was a black instigating spirit incased in white flesh, and the others were to them simply acts of retaliation, which, though not commendable, have a slight coloring of a cause. They could not endure the thought that every day grew more and more apparent to them that their hunting grounds that had been theirs and their ancestors forever were becoming smaller, and that their destiny was the Pacific--the Pacific of oblivion. They could not see that the white man would do them good and prepare them for a better state. Their ambition for the chase was such an ancient heritage, that to move it were impossible.
To illustrate, we will refer to the Pawnee war in 186-; the actual facts of which are these, which we received from an eye-witness: A party of Mormons passing through St. Joseph bought a cow, that they might have a supply of milk while crossing the plains to Salt Lake for a sick child. Somewhere in Jefferson County the cow gave out, and they had to rest a day or two for her to recuperate. When the journey was resumed she soon gave out again, and she was left to shift for herself on the vast hills of the interior of Nebraska. She was found by a party of Pawnees, numbering about thirty. Thinking it was an estray, they killed her, and while they were removing her hide J. B. Mattingly, the old plainsman, came along with an ox team. They asked him if it was his cow, to which he replied in the negative. While talking with the Indians a party with a mule train came along, and seeing what had been done demanded the Indian that had killed the cow, to which they would not accede, but offered instead thirty dollars, all the money they had, and really more than the animal was worth. The demand being pressed they offered their best pony, which was refused, and the man went on his way, swearing vengeance upon them and declaring that he would have that Indian's scalp.
Securing a party, the man went in pursuit of the scoundrels, as he called them, and when they overtook them again pressed his demand, which being refused, an encounter took place, in which one Indian and one white man were killed and several wounded on either side. News was sent to the troops at Fort Kearney that the Pawnees had made an attack upon the whites. The troops were put in motion, and before the affair was settled the Government had expended about $140,000. Does not this vindicate the Indians and condemn the whites? Mr. Mattingly declares that the Indians displayed a far better spirit in the parley than their accusers. What country now has a law that demands the life of a man for such an offense? The offense would not have deserved such a demand had the animal been stolen form a herd, while under the circumstances it was indeed very trifling, and their offer was magnificent, which all that know the facts will commend if they are lovers of justice.
As another illustration we will give some facts concerning the Otoes and early settlers of Jefferson and Gage, in which counties the Otoe Reservation was located. Mr. Mattingly lived near the Indians, and was like many others annoyed by their begging. They becoming hungry for beef killed one of his oxen. The Indian treaty grants every white man three times the value of the animal killed or stolen by the Indians, to be paid out of their annuity. They had offered him, through the agency, $100 for his ox, consequently he would receive $300. Mr. M. agreed to take $200 if the agent would lend him a team to use till the amount was paid. This was accepted, and when Mr. M. received the handsome price for his ox he bought a heifer for $20 and had with them a feast, from which time they became his most faithful friends, aiding him in sickness and warning him of the approach of hostile tribes. In 1862 the settlers of Gage and Jefferson were frightened over the report that the Otoes were about to massacre all the settlers in these counties. The report was started by the agent, who colored it by adding that the chief could not control his braves. Mr. Mattingly went into the Council Room to ascertain the facts and, if necessary, petition in favor of the settlers. But he found the report to be false. They smoked with him the peace pipe, and vowed their friendliness to him and the settlers. This satisfied the settlers and doubtless avoided trouble, as they were arming for defense and might have precipitated their own fall.
There were some settlements made along the Little Blue in 1854, soon after the overland route was established along its coast, but although the locality was most inviting they were compelled to desert their new homes on account of the bitter hostility of the Indians. This was their best hunting ground, left them at that time and their savage natures became desperate indeed when they saw the white man select a portion of their domain for a home, since the wild game, their manna from heaven, disappears before his march. They lost nearly all they brought with them, yet remembering many of their comrades that fell by the Indians' unerring aim, were glad to know that they escaped with their lives.
During the first six or eight years the emigrants were very cautious and would travel in large trains for protection.
The beaten road, whenever the land would permit, was from one hundred to 150 feet wide, as it was more danger-out to travel single file than from five to fifteen abreast.
But not meeting with any serious encounters with the Indians they became careless and reposed to much confidence in treacherous natures. They would cross the plains from one station to another alone, but the terrible raid of 1864 was such a warning that they at once resumed the old way of traveling in trains.
The 7th of August, 1864, was a beautiful day. The sky was cloudless and the breeze cool for a summer day. It was Sunday, and all along the great thoroughfare business was suspended except a few travelers that were so impatient to reach their destination, that they resumed the journey. At some stations religious services were held, and at all the day could have been guessed by the manner in which it was observed. Fear of the Indians was quite forgotten and the pioneers were basking in the security they felt in their old homes. But how fleeting and fatal their fancied security! This the most peaceful and pleasant day of the week and the time when the settlers had quite banished their fear, was chosen by the dusky and primeval Americans, for their most complete and destructive raid ever made in Nebraska.
It is terrible to think of it, but to them it was revenge, retribution or retaliation, for the injuries and loss they were sustaining from the white man. They saw a great thoroughfare of the white man quite established across their favorite hunting grounds, and all along the line farms staked out for perpetual occupation and ownership in another race of people.
The raid was previously arranged with all the Indians along the route for 200 miles in Nebraska, the exact time set and to every station and settlement a band of Indians was allotted. It is stated that every place was attacked within ten minutes of the first, such was the precision in execution of the most cunningly and carefully planned raids known to the early settlers of Nebraska. They appeared at the stations as they were in the habit of doing, and received the same warm welcome. Then without the slightest warning they began to shoot down their defenceless victims, mutilating their bodies, burning their homes, and carrying away what they could. Every ranch along the route, except Pawnee Ranch and Big Sandy, was burned and the inmates killed that could not make their escape. D. C. Jenkins at that time owned Big Sandy ranch.
About the 15th a company of militia arrived at the ranch from Marysville where they were joined by some of the settlers, making about eighty well armed men. They started west along the old route but they proceeded only about fifteen miles when their courage began to fail and every man excepting D. C. Jenkins and H. M. Ross resolved to go no further, but proceeded backwards as one historian stated. But Messrs. Jenkins and Ross went forward alone in hopes to join the troops, that came from Fort Kearney. Fortune in this case at least favored the brave as they chanced to avoid Indian parties until they came in sight of the troops as they were having a skirmish with the Indians. The recklessness of their undertaking they did not comprehend until years after, when they would discuss the incidents of the great raid in their homes no longer in jeopardy of Indian warfare.
June 22, 1862, near O'Fowlen's Bluffs, about 150 miles west of Kearney, J. B. Mattingly was attacked by five Indians as he was driving towards the fort. They were sent by a white man who had tried to buy one of the four horses Mr. M. was driving. On account of price and not caring about parting with the horse he refused the offer when the man threatened him. The Indians approached from the rear and fired upon Mr. M. and the ball striking the wagon near his head was the first warning of their presence he had. He dropped his lines and made ready for an attack by securing his two revolvers and covering his body with a thick blanket. His horses became frightened as they always will, on the approach of Indians, and leaving the road ran violently across the prairie. The Indians with their yell of frenzy, gave chase. With the first round from his revolver he wounded one in the leg, but every shot in the second round took effect as they rode up to the wagon, giving him the advantage. Mr. Mattingly received five wounds but they did not prove fatal. One arrow made an opening in his trachea which might have proven fatal had he not had with him a court-plaster with which he secured the wound until he reached the fort. The Indians were never heard of afterward, three of whom it is quite reasonable to presume, were killed, judging from the manner in which they were borne away by their horses. The man that put the Indians up to the deed made safe his retreat as soon as he ascertained the result of the encounter.
W. Smith, near Endicott, carries the scar of Indian arrows upon his neck, one arrow cutting very close to the jugular vein.
There were two forts on Elder Marks' farm on Rose Creek, and all the settlers in that neighborhood belonged to the military company organized for self-protection.
Jim Whitewater, a half-breed of the Otoe Indians, spoke very good English and when sober was considered a very fair fellow. On the 4th of July, 1871, the Otoes were returning through Fairbury from their great buffalo hunt west and north of Jefferson County, and Whitewater was among the number. He got drunk while in Fairbury, and started home with some farmer that was going for some distance toward the Reservation. When the farmer turned out of his course, Whitewater started afoot across the prairie, but coming to the Beatrice watering place he saw two men cutting grass and feeding their horses preparatory for the night's camp. One of the men was in the act of gathering up an armful of grass as Whitewater came up, and before the man had risen, shot him through the head, killing his instantly. Then he turned to the other, who succeeded in striking Whitewater on the head and cutting his arms and hands with a scythe, before disabled with a bullet.
The second man killed was shot through the body and head, showing that the body wound was inflicted first and the second to complete the work of death. The following day the men were found, their teams fastened to the wagons and their persons unmolested, showing that the deed was not committed for robbery. Suspicion pointed to Whitewater, and he was arrested by S. J. Alexander, then Sheriff of Jefferson County. But he made his escape before leaving the Reservation, and after two or three days diligent searching Mr. Alexander returned without his prisoner. There was great indignation among the people toward the Otoes, as they believed they were secreting the murderer. The Otoes became afraid and agreed to find Whitewater and deliver him over to the hands of the law. They soon found him, and with great display brought him into Fairbury. Six mounted warriors rode ahead; then the wagon with the prisoner between two warriors, and two on either side on horses, followed by others mounted, and a large number of the tribe as escort and spectators. It is one of the memorable days in the history of Fairbury. Whitewater was brought before Judge Purdy for preliminary hearing, but he waived examination, and was bound over till the sitting of court. He was tried before Judge Oliver P. Mason. He stated that a white man had killed his sister, and that he had sworn to kill two white men for revenge, and these two innocent and unsuspecting travelers, far from home, were his victims. Owing to this statement and the fact that he was drunk he was sentenced to fourteen years imprisonment at hard labor. The names of the murdered men were S. N. Pasco, the first one killed, and D. H. Walters, both living in the eastern part of the State, near the Missouri River. They had passed through Fairbury in the afternoon, were strangers to each other, but discovering their destinations were close together they doubtless had decided to be companions to Nebraska City, and thus they both met the same terrible fate.
James B. Hickok (Wild Bill), a native of Illinois, came first into prominent notice by his memorable fight at Rock Creek, in Jefferson County.
One of his biographers says of him in the preface to his history. "Wild Bill as a frontier character of the daring, cunning and honorable class stands alone, without a prototype; his originality is as conspicuous as his remarkable escapes. He was desperate without being a desperado; a fighter without that disposition which invites danger or craves the excitement of the encounter. He killed many men, but in every case it was in self-defense or in the prosecution of a duty which he deemed justifiable. Wild Bill was a necessary character in the Far West during the period which marked his career. He was essentially a civilizer in the sense of a vigilance posse. The law and order class found in him an effective agent for the correction of the lawless; it was fighting the desperate with one of their kind, and Bill had the cunning to remain on the side of society to always flank his enemies."
Perhaps most of this is true, but if the biographer knew that the first noted incident, namely the fight at Rock Creek, was basely exaggerated, he would have been less enthusiastic in his preface. From the fact that this incident is so far from being correct, the citizens of Jefferson are inclined to look upon all the facts given as exaggerations, and many as entire fiction. This biography states that Wild Bill killed eight men at Rock Creek, but after a most thorough examination we find the he only killed three, and in a manner that did not display bravery or courage but simply skill in the use of firearms.
The facts are these, which we have form S. J. Alexander, Secretary of State, and Hon. D. C. Jenkins, who arrived at the ranch within two hours after the fight and before the bodies were removed, and from many others and reports of Wild Bill's trial.
Wild Bill up to this time, 1861, known only as Jim Hickok, was tending stock for the Ben Halliday Stage Company at Rock Creek station. J. McCaulas, an early settler in Jefferson, did not have an enviable reputation, but his sons, still living in the same community, are very highly respected. McCaulas was a Southern sympathizer and was raising a company to go South. He came to Wild Bill and tried to persuade him to join and turn over the stage company's stock, and on his refusal McCaulas threatened to kill him and take the stock.
In the afternoon of the same day McCaulas returned, accompanied by three men. Bill knowing the desperate character of McCaulas, comprehended the situation and prepared for it. Before the party arrived, Bill went into the main part of the house, which was divided into two compartments by a calico partition, with two doors, one opening into a kitchen and the other outdoors. Taking his rifle and navy revolvers he got behind the calico screen, where he could see who entered the other apartment without being seen. As McCaulas appeared at the outside entrance, Bill took deliberate aim with his rifle and shot him. Two of the other men came in through the kitchen door just as Bill stepped from behind his screen, and being an expert marksman and prepared, two well directed shots from his navy revolver brought them to the floor, where the three soon expired. The fourth man, discovering the situation through the window, took to his heels and made good his escape, but was followed some distance.
These are the facts that we have been able to gather from the scene of the disaster. There was surely no great display of courage, but considerable skill in the use of arms. He was tried at Beatrice, Gage County. His plea was self-defense, and no one appearing against him he was released. It is evident that the design of the men was to take his life or it is most probable, that the man that escaped, would have appeared at the trial.
The log house on Rock Creek, where this fatal encounter occurred can still be seen. It is situated about two miles east of Endicott, in Jefferson County, on the line of the Republican River Branch of the Burlington & Missouri Railroad.
Rev. Ives Marks, of Reynolds, is one of the most remarkable characters we have met. He is noted far and near for his honesty and sincerity, and has been most prominently connected with the history, the prosperity, and the growth of Jefferson County. His advantages for education were very meagre, but being possessed of indomitable energy, guided by a noble spirit, he has been able in his crude way to do much for mankind. He was born in Connecticut in 1812. Up to 1850 his life was spent in his native State, New York, Michigan, and Northern Indiana, when he removed with his family to Iowa. Here he built a United Brethren college. In 1862 he emigrated to this county, where he has resided ever since. At Rose Creek he built a schoolhouse, which also served the purpose of a church for a long time. He has preached in all parts of Jefferson County and in the adjoining counties for the past twenty years.
In an early day he was County Treasurer, and it is told of him, to illustrate his honesty and unsuspecting disposition, that in crossing the unsettled territory between Fairbury and Lincoln, going to the latter place to settle, he met three or four men, entire strangers. He stopped and talked with them, and said: "I am Elder Ives Marks, of the United Brethren Church, and Treasurer of Jefferson County, and have $800 in my pocket, going to Lincoln to settle up with the Treasurer. You will go by my farm, so please just stop and tell mother (his wife) you met me, and that I was all right." When he reached Lincoln he went to the Treasurer, and laying the money on the counter said: "There is my settlement. Count it over and see if it is all right. I will come back after doing some chores up town."
He and his wife made Whiting and Jenkins, traveling men, take two dollars for staying over night with them, and he offered to pay our livery bill for making him a visit to get his account of the early history.
A good story is told of how Judge Mattingly received the title of Judge. One of the first stores in Fairbury was broken into one night and some goods stolen. The next day there was a crowd collected discussing the situation, when Mr. Mattingly appeared. Some one said: "Here is Mattingly, he is well versed in such matters. Come, J. B. give us your opinion of this case." "Well, what's up?" said Mr. Mattingly. They then related the circumstances and condition of affairs, and one said: "Now, what's your opinion?" Pausing a moment in thoughtful meditation, he answered, knowingly: "I think it's a d--n clear case of burglary." Since then he has been known as Judge Mattingly.
The early records of the county are a source of amusement to the present generation that is keeping the history of the county. Though crude and wanting in precision, grammar, and penmanship, yet they reflect from their silent depths, unpolished as they are by erudition, something better than learning that does not or cannot exist alone in grammar, penmanship, or legal form--an honest and faithful purpose, integrity so pure that while we smile at their awkwardness we reverence their sincerity. We will give one example:
There was a case brought up before Judge Joseph Lamb. One of the lawyers rose and made an objection to the Judge trying the case, stating he did not believe the Judge had jurisdiction, not being properly elected. This occurred after Mr. Lamb had taken charge of his predecessor's records, and was not his first case. But he suspended the pending case, and brought up his own case--i. e. tried himself to see if he had jurisdiction. The trial lasted some time, and his decision was: "After careful investigation, I see that I have no jurisdiction; therefore I dismiss the case." Mr. Lamb after resigning returned to his farm.
IN 1874 a colony of 350 Russo-Germans, from near the Sea of Azov, in Southern Russia, located on 27,000 acres of land in Town 3, Range 3. The land is a beautiful tract of rolling prairie, but is without running streams and is destitute of timber. The former difficulty has been obviated by boring wells to the gravel bed, where an abundance of water is found, which is drawn to the surface principally by wind mills. They planted large quantities of forest and fruit trees, and in a few years the second drawback will be very much provided for. The colony has been joined by others, a large number coming from Manitoba, where they found the winters too long and severe. The colony numbers now about 500, with about 29,000 acres of land, and the improvements are equal to those in any portion of the county. Cornelius Jansen and sons, the leaders in the colony, have a farm of over two sections, and it is considered a model. They have large herds of Merino sheep, and the breeding of blooded stock is a specialty.
The colony has over fifty acres of mulberry trees, which are doing well, and they have imported silk worms, with the design of making an industry of silk production.
There is no official county roster, and consequently there may be some inaccuracies in the following list.
County Clerks.--D. L. Marks, Jasper Helvy, I. N. Thompson, J. Y. Byers, D. C. Work, J. R. Nelson and Hamlin Clapp.
County Treasurers.--T. J. Holt, Thomas Helvy, Ives Marks, H. M. Ross, A. W. Showalter, C. F. Steele and G. H. Turner.
Probate Judges.--Edward Farrel, 1864; Joseph D. Lamb, John R. Brown, B. T. Rayburn, Benjamin L. Purdy, Martin French, C. C. Boyle, James A. McMeans, Marvin Warren and W. P. Freeman.
County Sheriffs.--S. J. Alexander, 1870; Abner Baker, 1872; C. F. Steele, 1874; T. J. Kirk, 1878; H. L. McClure, 1882.
County Superintendents of Schools.--J. L. Chapman, E. C. Fulford, A. G. Routzahn, W. H. Chamberlain and E. B. Cowles.
The present set of Commissioners are William Greene, C. D. Proctor and James Ireland.
The first set of officers elected after the division of the county in 1871, were Benjamin L. Purdy, Probate Judge; J. W. Byers, County Clerk; A. W. Showalter, Treasurer; J. L. Chapman, County Superintendent; Abner Baker, Sheriff, and Avery, Jones and Nelson, Commissioners.
Hon. James A. McMeans, of Fairbury, was State Senator for this district in 1877.
Hons. D. C. Jenkins, Brazila Price Hendershot and C. B. Slocumb have, in order given, represented this county in the House of Representatives. Hon. C. B. Slocumb is the author of the Slocumb liquor law of Nebraska. Capt. A. W. Matthews was a member of the Constitutional convention.