Location, Natural Features, etc. | Early History|
Organization and Political History
Educational | Railroads | Population | Financial|
General Statistics | County Societies
Tecumseh: Early Settlement | Local Matters|
The Press | Churches | Societies | Hotels
Tecumseh (cont.): |
Biographical Sketches - AUSTIN~HOWARTH
Biographical Sketches - JOLLY~YOUNG
Sterling: Biographical Sketches|
Elk Creek: Biographical Sketches
Helena: Biographical Sketches|
Vesta: Biographical Sketches
Spring Creek: Biographical Sketches
Lincoln Precinct (Biographical Sketches only)
List of Illustrations in Johnson County Chapter
Johnson County Names Index
Johnson County is situated in the southeastern corner of Nebraska, being in the second tier of counties above the Kansas line, and the second west of the Missouri River. The country extends twenty-one miles east and west by eighteen miles north and south, is exactly rectangular in shape and contains 378 square miles of territory or 241,920 acres. It is in the very richest portion of the best agricultural tract in the West. The mean elevation here is 1,120 feet above the sea level, the result being that this region is favored with a dry, mild and bracing climate, especially conducive to the promotion of health, comfort, and prosperity. No malaria exists in Johnson County, even along the valleys of its streams, while the general hygienic tone is shown in the low rates of sickness and mortality. Cold winters and torrid summers are notable exceptions in this quarter, and the early springs and the late falls which are the general rule prove strong items in the favor of the farmer, who finds these periods of the season of the greatest moment in the successful accomplishments of his yearly tasks.
The surface of Johnson County fully meets the farmers' ideal. Gentle rolling prairies extend from one border of the county to the other. Even along the water courses the face of the land is not marked by the precipitous bluffs so characteristic of the Missouri River counties, thus reducing the percentage of waste lands to a minimum. No soil could be richer in all the elements necessary for cultivation. The rich, black surface soil, extending to a depth of from twelve to thirty-six inches, rests upon a heavy foundation of loess deposit which varies from ten to 200 feet in thickness, chiefly of a silicious character. No scientific knowledge of deep plowing, subsoiling or rotation of crops is necessary here to ensure adequate returns for the husbandman's toil. Along the valleys of the numerous streams draining the county are rich deposits of black alluvium, five to ten feet in depth, and of unsurpassed fertility. The ground absorbs moisture with great rapidity, but gives it back generously in the time of drought, thus robbing a dry season of much of its danger. Well, water can be reached readily everywhere at a depth of from twenty-five to forty feet. Timber, especially along the water courses, is abundant in the natural state, while everywhere throughout the county may be seen thrifty domesticated groves, the settlers having from the foundation of the county been wide awake to the material advantages of liberal timber culture. Walnut, cottonwood soft maple and box elder are the varieties chiefly cultivated, while extensive hedges of osage orange may be seen in all parts of the county, the white willow (salix albra) being unsuited for growth here. Timber for fuel is to be had in liberal supply at from $5 to $6 per cord. The rich, wild prairie grass which grows in every direction renders this region especially attractive for the raising of stock, the mild winter and usual absence of snow lessening the trouble and expense of their care considerably. Cattle growing is becoming a marked feature of the county, farmers putting their stock in the hands of herders who tend them in the roomy pasturage lands easily found in this section at an estimated cost of 35 cents a head annually. Of the adaptability of this soil to the raising of the great staples little need be said. Beside the heavy crops of corn, wheat and oats, however, broom corn, buckwheat, flax, sorghum and all manner of vegetables are found to thrive finely.
Numerous veins of magnesian limestone underlie the soil and crop out at various points, yielding a very good quality of building stone, which is being gradually resorted to for that purpose. Good brick clay is also found within the county limits and is burnt in considerable quantities. Coal has been found in thin seams at various times and places, at a moderate depth, and has been worked to a small extent. It has not yet, however, been discovered in sufficiently heavy deposits to admit of its being successfully mined. Soft coal is obtained from Kansas, and can be had ordinarily at from $5 to $7 per ton.
Johnson County is admirable supplied with water, every township being drained by one or more streams. The principal water-course is the Great Nemaha River, which flows through the county diagonally from northwest to southeast, receiving tributaries from either side. This stream furnishes an admirable water-power and is utilized by quite a number of milling enterprises along its course. The streams entering the Nemaha within the county are Watson's Branch, Hooker, Yankee, Deer, Badger and Elk creeks. The valley of the river averages some two miles in width, with rich bottom lands along its entire course. The Little Nemaha passes through the northern portion of the county and its branches water that section. The Silver, Turkey, Coon, Spring and Sander's creeks empty into the Little Nemaha.
Johnson County is bounded upon the east by Nemaha County; on the north by Otoe; on the west by Gage; and on the south by Pawnee. It is divided into seven precincts, known by the name of Vesta, Todd Creek, Nemaha, Lincoln, Spring Creek, Helena and Sterling. There are at present nine post offices in the county; Tecumseh, Sterling, Smartsville, Vesta, Elk Creek, Latrobe, Helena, Spring Creek and Crab Orchard.
The very early history of Johnson County is associated with that of Nemaha (or Forney as it was then called), of which it was, up to 1856, a part. For the sake of unity, however, the early settlement and subsequent development of the county may be best considered under the present head.
It was in the fall of 1855 that the first stragglers from the great pioneer army of occupation began to forage across the territory now embraced in Johnson County, precursors of the heavy advance of settlers soon to follow. No trace remains of any of these adventurous parties making a final home upon these fertile prairies, and during the winter of 1955-56 it is not known that there was a single permanent settler within the present county limits.
In March, 1856, the two men who enjoy the honor of first permanently locating in Johnson County made their appearance, taking up a half section of land some three miles southeast of the present town of Tecumseh. These were John Riggles and Isaac Irwin, both natives of Indiana, but of whose biography no other facts are now obtainable. Putting up hurriedly constructed log huts, these men began the cultivation of the soil as best they could with the limited facilities afforded them. During the summer and early fall a number of others followed in their tracks. Among the pioneers of this early date may be mentioned such men as C. A. Goshen, J. Blake Hayes, Robert Wright, A. R. Brewer, Cyrus Wright, B. S. Radley, Henry Pilcher, T. G. Shepard, John Sears, Timothy Taylor, H. A. Copeland, H. L. Hayes, I. C. Lawrence, Charles Huntley, Nathaniel T. Hallock, Luke Corson, H. McComb, B. F. Tade, David McClure, Joseph W. Root, William P. Cunningham, J. H. Butler, William Tagart, Charles Preston, A. R. Hunt, J. J. Hochstetter, Palmer Blake, Solomon Waggoner, L. P. Colborn, John Bentz, Andrew Bentz, Robert C. Johnston, B. J. Swallow, John Jay Watson, William Freeburn, Charles Hickok, Oliver David and David L. Adams. This list might be extended, but a complete enumeration of the earlier settlers of the county would of course be impractical; and, if possible, the confines of this review would not permit it. The above list will serve in part to perpetuate the names of those who were chiefly instrumental in shaping the early destinies of Johnson County.
In the summer of 1856, a half dozen settlers had gathered together in a nucleus, forming a hamlet, later known as Tecumseh; while one or two other towns--known vaguely by name, but possessing no local habitation--became vigorous aspirants for the possibilities in the way of future greatness. Of such a character were the quasi settlements known as Centreville, Butler, Kingston and Lexington--places which signally failed to materialize when the county became more extensively settled and the era of speculation began to pass away. The first symptoms of any general settlement became apparent along the valleys of the Great Nemaha and up Yankee Creek, which seemed to offer especial attractions to the early comers.
The first birth of which there is any record in Johnson County, was that of James Price, son of Ansford Price, occurring in August, 1856. The first person to die was Mrs. B. S. Radley, who was interred in the cemetery at Tecumseh in the fall of that year.
The winter of 1856-57 brought its full share of misery for the unfortunate settlers in Johnson County. Spells of bitterly cold weather, and almost insurmountable drifts of snow, made life in the rude and insufficient dug-outs or log cabins, hastily constructed for shelter, a matter of the most serious moment. Nothing had been raised the previous summer, to speak of, for the support of the needy settlers through an inclement winter. Provisions of all kinds ran out, and the problem of life was rendered still more intricate by the apparent impossibility of reaching any base of supplies. The nearest market was at Brownville, forty miles away. Between them and that place lay a trackless waste of prairie, deep with unbroken snows. No other alternative, however, existed. Bidding their families adieu, the sturdy frontiersmen manfully struck out in the face of these dangers, and after a lapse of a week, or even longer, were able to reach their homes again with a supply of the most pressing necessities.
It was in the latter part of this winter, as will be seen further along, that Johnson County was organized. Early in the spring of 1857, the first roads through the county were located, there being up to that time no trace of such improvements. The first thoroughfare thus opened was an east and west road through the middle of the county, running from Brownville west to Fort Kearney. Shortly after the Nebraska City and Fort Kearney road was laid out, also passing through the northern portion of the county.
The proprietors of the town sites of Tecumseh and Lexington made offers in the spring of this year to the County Board of twenty-five and fifty town lots, respectively, the proceeds from the sale of which were to be devoted to the erection of a court house. With this idea in view, a committee was appointed by the Commissioners to advertise for bids on the lots. No offers were received, however, and the lots reverted to the original owners, the county using hired quarters for the transaction of its business. On the 14th of August, another committee, composed of C. A. Goshen, I. C. Lawrence and George A. McCoy, was appointed to draw up specifications for a court house building, and in the fall of the same year a structure, neat though not ornamental, was completed and ready for use.
The first school in the county had been opened at Tecumseh in the fall of 1856 by I. C. Lawrence. The present year two others were established--one at Helena and one at Vesta. A road was located November 18 from Tecumseh to the three forks of the Nemaha, in what was then known as Clay County.
Early in August, 1857, roads were located from Tecumseh south to Pawnee City and Marysville, Kan.
Johnson County was named in honor of Gen. R. M. Johnson, U. S. A., so prominent in the Black Hawk War, and Tecumseh, the county seat, was honored with the name of the noted Indian chief. The county was created by an act of the first Territorial Legislature, March 2, 1855, and organized in the winter of 1856-'57.
By an act of the Territorial Legislature early in the winter of 1856-'57, the western portion of Nemaha County was set apart to form a new county. On the 10th of February, an act was passed defining explicitly the boundaries of the new county, and calling for an election of county officers at the next annual election. Also on February 13, an act was passed fixing the seat of justice of Johnson County at the Town of Tecumseh.
The county was represented in this session of the Legislature by Hon. Isaac C. Lawrence, in the lower house, he being the first resident to serve in that capacity. To have the county machinery set in full motion, the following persons were commissioned to serve as county officials, until the next annual election: James Bishop, Probate Judge; Charles A. Goshen, Clerk of the County and Register of Deeds; Cyrus Wright, Sheriff; James R. Little, Treasurer; Amos R. Brewer, Surveyor; J. Blake Hayes, Superintendent of Instruction; William P. Walker, was commissioned by Gov. Izard, first Notary Public for the county, April 20, 1857. In the same month, Robert Wright, Noble B. Strong, Enoch Riggle and Robert Johnson were appointed Constables.
The Board of County Commissioners, composed of William P. Walker, J. D. Muchmore and J. B. Sharrett, held the first meeting at Tecumseh, April 13, 1857, and passed sundry orders. Israel Loomis and Rowan Irwin were qualified as Justices of the Peace, April 17, 1857.
The following persons were appointed judges of election at the first election held in the county; District No. 1, David McClure, E. D. Allen, William Rose; District No. 2, William Brewer, John Sears, John Sayre; District No. 3, Rowan Irwin, John Riggles, A. R. Hunt.
The first regular election was held on August 3, 1857. Appended is a partial abstract of the vote cast in the county:
Representative to Congress, Fenner Ferguson; District Attorney, William McLennan; Representative to Territorial Legislature, A. J. Benedict; Probate Judge, John W. Sayre; Sheriff, Cyrus Wright; County Clerk, C. A. Gasher; Treasurer, J. R. Little; Superintendent of Public Instruction, William Strong; Surveyor, Amos R. Brewer; County Commissioner, David McClure.
The above elected county officials, duly qualified and served, as was the territorial custom, one year. The vote cast seemed to indicate a population of not more than 200 in the county.
The second annual election took place August 2, 1858, ninety-five votes being polled. The following result was obtained:
Member of Council, R. W. Furnas; Representative, W. S. Townsend; County Commissioner, William P. Walker; Sheriff, Noble B. Strong.
The first tax levy (1857) was a diminutive affair viewed in the light of later days. These are the figures: County tax, $354.21; State tax, $150.02, school tax, $25.06; road tax, $95.82. Total $625.11.
The first term of District Court held in Johnson County, then in the Second Territorial District, was on the 23d of July, 1857. Hon. Samuel W. Black, District Judge, and afterward Governor of the Territory, presided, and Martin Riden acted as clerk. The following were the members of the first grand jury:
Charles Huntley, A. R. Hunt, Rowen Irwin, John Riggle, Luke Corson, E. D. Allen, David McClure, B. J. Butler, James B. Crume, John Sears, John Sayre, Jacob Straley, J. R. Little, William Strong, William Brewer, Joseph Holbrook, Isaac N. Drake, N. T. Hallock, James Bishop, F. M. Muchmore, John Maulding, Clark Packard, Timothy Taylor and Henry Pilcher. James Bishop was appointed foreman. The following report was returned:
The grand jury of the County of Johnson, duly empaneled and sworn, at a term of the District Court, begun and held at the town of Tecumseh, on the 23d of July, 1857, respectfully submit the following as a report: "After a careful inquiry and investigation we find that no indictable offense has been committed within the limits of the county and that a further continuation of the present session of the grand jury is unnecessary. That the financial and agricultural condition of our county is gratifying to all our citizens. All of which is respectable submitted." There being no further business court adjourned sine die.
The first suit recorded was the case of Hall and Baker vs. William P. Walker, with confession of judgment by defendant in the sum of $2,430.35.
On the 16th of March, 1858, a petition was received by the commissioners, signed by seventy-six voters of the county, asking them to call an election for the permanent location of a county seat. This request was brought about by a spirit of hostility manifested by the settlers of every other town, real or hypothetical, toward Tecumseh. As the petitions was signed by over two-thirds of the legal voters, the Commissioners were obliged to yield, and the desired election was accordingly called for August 2, 1858, the date of the next general election. The result of this ballot showed forty-six votes for Tecumseh, forty-seven for Kingston and three for Centreville. As no point received a majority of the votes cast, the seat of justice remained at Tecumseh. The town of Kingston, which contested the possession of the county seat so strongly, had no tangible existence at that time or afterward, except on paper. It was merely a relay post on an overland mail route between Brownville and Salt Lake, and the voters cast for it were no doubt, "run in," as the political parlance of three more modern days would put it, by those interested.
The tax levy for 1858, was even less onerous than that for the preceding year, the total amount for county, State, school and road purposes being only $348.07.
In the fall of 1858, the settlers of Johnson County found that a sudden check had come to the era of prosperity, which had seemed assured. No homestead law, with its wise provisions, was in force in those days and the new comers to this section who settled before the land had even been surveyed had in reality "squatted" on the premises, no government title strengthening their claim to the land they occupied. It was with no little alarm, therefore, that the settlers found that a sale of government lands in the district was advertised to take place at Nebraska City, in October. For them everything was at stake. They were obliged either to attend the sale and buy in the land they were located on or see their improvements fall into the hands of others without a penny in the way of remuneration. Many of them had no money available to make the purchase. Then it was that the pestiferous class who have earned the well-deserved title of "land-sharks" rose into prominence in this region. During the Mexican war the Government had issued large quantities of land warrants to the returning veterans of that campaign. These were largely brought up by speculators, and when the needy and anxious settler appeared at the land sale pondering how he could save his land and the improvements he had spent so much labor on, the warrant fiend would blandly suggest that he would lend him land warrants to purchase with. These warrants, with a face value of $150, were sold to the settlers at $200 each, with interest at the rate of forty per cent, the luckless settler giving his notes secured by the land thus bought for the payment of this heavy load. This chance, desperate as it was, was largely accepted. It was a hard day for the inhabitants of Johnson County. Dozens of the ablest settlers were forced to succumb under the grievous burden and became dispossessed of their premises. Prices depreciated and times became emphatically "hard."
Noble B. Strong resigned the shrievalty of the county November 20, 1858, and at a special election held January 17, 1859, N. T. Hallock was elected to fill the vacancy.
August 1, 1859, the third annual election came off, resulting in the choice of Joseph D. Muchmore, County Commissioner; Joseph Saunders, County Clerk; Milo K. Cody, Treasurer; Isaac Irwin, Sheriff; P. H. Riley, Surveyor; A. R. Hunt, Probate Judge; C. A. Goshen, Representative. J. B. Sharrett was appointed Commissioner to fill the vacancy caused by the resignation of William P. Walker. The party lines in these elections were pretty closely drawn between Democrats and Republicans, the former electing a majority of the officers named.
The liquor question became the subject of considerable agitation in the county about this time, and the County Board, on the 7th of February, 1859, fixed the license of liquor dealers at $200, every six months.
The amount of county warrants issued for all purposes up to August, 1859, was $965.27.
The county grew considerably during the year 1859-60, and times became a little brighter. The tax levy for the latter year was much larger than before, calling for the following amounts: County tax, $405.94; State tax, $202.96; School tax, $135.28; Road tax $464.21. Total, $1,208.39.
Sundry improvements were made through the county during 1860. A good bridge was built at Helena, across the Nemaha, Nebraska City contributing liberally for this purpose. McClure and Root put up a saw mill on the river near the present town of Sterling, the only other institution of the kind in the county, at the time, being Maulding and Moore's mill, at Tecumseh, built in 1857.
A school census taken in the spring of 1861, showed a school population of 134.
The outbreak of the civil war inaugurated a period of activity throughout the county and improved the general condition of matters on the whole, though it bought with it at the same time an immense amount of turbulence and disorder. The part assumed by Johnson County in the Rebellion is not adequately set forth in the reports of the Adjutant General of the State for the reason that all enlistments from there were made at Nebraska City and Brownville. Probably fifty men, in all, entered the service from this county during the progress of the war, which was a sufficiently respectable showing considering the smallness of the population at the time. For a considerable portion of the four years of warfare this section of the country was under the rule of martial law.
The proximity to the Kansas and Missouri borders made it an attractive haven for the swarms of refugees who trooped out of the last named State. A strong feeling of distrust and apprehension was experienced by the settlers, who little liked the idea of harboring so many southern sympathizers. Soldiers stationed at Nebraska City kept the neighboring territory under strict surveillance, and made more than one foray down through Johnson County in search of deserters or copperheads. A mania for horse-thieving sprang up, which became almost an epidemic. Many settlers suffered severely from this evil. A mere suspicion that a certain party was friendly to the southern cause was sufficient excuse for the marauders to swoop down upon his barns and drive off the stock. Many therefore, prominent citizens of the county were implicated in these affairs, and when determined action was finally taken against the thieves there were sundry sudden exits from the county, on the part of those who had previously stood above suspicion. The fate of a party of these adventurous horse-fanciers in Pawnee County had a salutary effect in checking the evil, which at the close of the war had entirely died out. So indiscriminate did the offenses of various kinds at one time become that it was hard to tell whether friend or foe, refugee, jayhawker, soldier or settler, was the transgressing party.
One complication brought about by the civil war in various sections of Nebraska, was escaped entirely by Johnson County. There were no hostile Indians in this neighborhood to swoop down upon unprotected settlers or over-confident emigrants, and thus create the alarms so often experienced elsewhere. Further west, in Jefferson and Clay counties, troubles of this kind were not infrequent. The native tribe in this section prior to the white man's advent was the Otoes, who in 1854, were moved to their reservation in southern Gage County. During the early settlement these Indians were frequent visitors, but were always friendly. Every few months a band of Otoes would strike across to the Platte to visit the Pawnees, for whom they seemed to sustain a social affinity, and the Pawnees, a little later, would reciprocate the courtesy. Thus the Indian problem, so far as it affected Johnson County, was easily solved. The increase of white population gradually circumscribed their movements; their numbers, by the inexorable laws of progress, became gradually thinned out, and today but a paltry handful remain.
The passage of the homestead act in 1861 gave a great impetus to the county, much land within its limits being taken up under the provisions of that law.
In an unexpected burst of liberality the County Commissioners, January 6, 1862, increased the salary of the County Clerk to $125 per annum. The records do not show, however, whether the press of applicants was as eager in those days as at present or not.
The number of children of school age in the county, in the summer of 1862, was as follows: Helena, 30; Nemaha, 55; Todd Creek, 41; Vesta, 45; Weston, 27--total, 198.
The milling interest was active during the war. In 1863, James Woods built a sawmill at Butler. The following summer Solomon Gould put one in Helena Precinct. The former was afterward (1865) transformed into a grist mill.
March 13, 1865, the commissioners authorized the collection of subscriptions for the purpose of constructing a bridge over the Nemaha, at Tecumseh, the city of Brownville donating $800 for the purpose.
At the termination of the war a genuine era of prosperity seemed to set in for Johnson County. This section of the country appeared to offer particular attractions to the returning soldiers who, armed with their pre-emption papers, came in large numbers to take up the vacant acres at that time so numerous. Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin, sent many of these valuable settlers out, and to them is due much of the progress made by the county since. Those of the county's own sons who had gone out to fight and had been spared to return to more peaceful pursuits, were gladly welcomed. The names of those who entered the service from here will be found in the roster of State troops appended to the chapter on military affairs. As before said, however, Johnson County does not get its dues therein, as all were obliged to go to one of the river counties to be sworn in. Among the settlers who took up arms may be named, George W. Cody, G. P. Tucker, William Holden, William Powell, James Atkinson, L. Laflin, John Roberts, James Roberts, Alfred White, William Roberts, S. Crawley, L. Getz, N. T. Hallock, A. Bridges, J. H. Taylor and Samuel Ball.
In the election of 1860, Oscar Holden was elected County Commissioner, to succeed David McClure, Granville C. Brittain was appointed to succeed J. D. Muchmore, who had resigned March 9. James Robinson was elected Territorial Representative.
After the outbreak of the war, it has been asserted, there were hardly enough eligible men at home in the county to fill the various offices. The suffering community struggled on, however, under this disadvantage, and at the regular county and Territorial election, in August, 1861, Nathan Blakely was chosen Representative, Milo K. Cody, Probate Judge; James S. Daily, County Clerk; Isaac C. Deans, Sheriff; Thomas Donahoo, Treasurer. These men ran on the "Union" ticket. Mr. Donahoo removed from the Territory in the spring of 1862, and County Clerk Daily was appointed, June 9, to perform the duties of the Treasurer's office. James McPherson represented Johnson County this season in the Territorial Council, and James Robinson served in the lower house. J. B. Sharrett was re-elected County Commissioner.
James S. Daily, who seems to have possessed a versatile political genius, was appointed Probate Judge, January 6, 1863, to fill the unexpired term of M. K. Cody, resigned. Mr. Daily thus held the three most responsible positions in the county at once. In the annual election of 1863, George W. Delong was chosen Probate Judge; Ishmael Hickey, Sheriff; James S. Daily, Clerk; James Haworth, Treasurer, and Milo K. Cody, Representative. W. L. Dunlap was elected County Surveyor, an office which he held for a dozen years afterward.
In 1864, the "off year," John Bentz was made County Commissioner.
William A. Presson was appointed Sheriff of the County, to fill a vacancy in that office, July 3, 1865. At the regular election, in 1865, J. B. Sharrett was elected Commissioner; R. B. Presson, Treasurer; S. S. Rogers, Sheriff; G. W. Delong, Probate Judge; W. L. Dunlap, Surveyor, and Milo K. Cody, Representative. J. W. Benedict was appointed Commissioner, to fill a vacancy on the board.
It was at this time that the remarkable disappearance of James S. Daily occurred, an affair which has been a fruitful theme for discussion in Johnson County down to the present day. Mr. Daily was a prominent citizen of the county. He was engaged in the freighting business at Tecumseh, and, as has been shown above, filled several offices of trust. His reputation was universally that of a "good fellow," and nobody, as far as was known, had the slightest grudge to harbor against him. In September, 1865, Mr. Daily left Tecumseh one afternoon, in company with Mr. R. B. Presson, for Brownville, where the former expected to take the steamer for the East. Three days later Mr. Presson returned, but Daily was never heard of again. Not the slightest trace of his movements could be unearthed. Mr. Presson's testimony was that on reaching Brownville, Daily had boarded a steamer and left the same day. Residents of Brownville, where both men were well known, asserted, however, that while Presson had been seen there, Daily had not, that no boat came down the river that day, nor for several days subsequently. Daily's accounts were audited and found correct, with one or two trifling discrepancies, so that the idea of intentional flight received no support. His effects were divided up among parties claiming to hold a bill of sale covering them. The Masons, to which order Daily belonged, instituted a most thorough, but unavailing search. Years afterward, while some railroad grading was being done east of Tecumseh, a skeleton was unearthed, which, it was insinuated, might have been Daily's. Skeletons tell no tales, however, and the vital question of what became of Jim Daily? will never be answered, in all probability, until the day for the solution of all mysteries. J. H. Presson, a relative of the man who accompanied Daily on his last trip, was appointed to fill the vacancy in the county on the 10th of October.
At the contingent State election held June 2, 1866, 197 votes were cast in Johnson County. David Butler, Republican candidate for Governor, received 121, and J. Sterling Morton, Democrat, 76. A. W. Gray had 116 votes, and Israel Loomis 76, for Representative. The vote on the adoption of the State Constitution stood: For, 108; against, 69.
At the Territorial election, October 9, 1866, 181 votes were polled. A. S. Stewart received 103 majority for Councilman; A. W. Gray, 74 majority for Representative. Oscar Holden was given 86 majority for State Senator. Andrew Cook was elected County Commissioner.
The annual election of 1867 was held October 8. It resulted in a victory for the Republican ticket, by an average majority of 80 in a vote of 277. J. B. Sharrett was chosen Commissioner; G. W. Delong, Probate Judge; J. H. Presson, County Clerk; A. Bivens, Treasurer; S. S. Rogers, Sheriff; H. B. Tingle, Coroner; W. L. Dunlap, Surveyor. For the $3,000 court house loan, 178; against, 57. B. F. Perkins was appointed Superintendent of Instruction. The following year, 416 votes were cast at the October election. Isham Reavis received 130 majority over E. A. Ellsworth, for Senator from the Third District. Hinman Rhodes was elected Representative, and F. A. Gue, County Commissioner.
In April, 1869, the Commissioners submitted a proposition to the people of the county to vote on the issuance of bonds in aid of a railroad from Nebraska City to Marysville. The election was held May 29, and resulted adversely to the proposition. On the 30th of July, 1870, a vote was had on the proposition to issue $100,000 in bonds to the Brownville & Fort Kearney Railroad, carrying in the affirmative by a vote of 261 to 156. As the road was never built, the bonds were not given over. In 1871, the county voted $100,000 in aid of the Atchison & Nebraska Railroad, which was built the next year through the county.
The first iron bridge in the county was put up in 1869, at Tecumseh. The same year William Mann built a flouring mill near Sterling, on the river.
At the county election, in 1869, Andrew Bivens was re-elected Treasurer; Charles R. Bryant, Sheriff; Isaac C. Lawrence, Probate Judge; Charles Woodley, County Clerk; W. L. Dunlap, Surveyor; Andrew Cook, County Commissioner.
In 1870 George P. Tucker was chosen State Senator and Hinman Rhodes, Representative. J. B. Sharrett again became Commissioner.
The election of Delegates to the Constitutional Convention occurred May 2, 1871. Oliver P. Mason received 243 votes as Delegate from the Tenth Senatorial District and W. Curtis 239 as Delegates from the Fourteenth Representative District. John Wilson had ninety-four majority as Delegate from Johnson County.
The vote on the adoption of the new constitution, September 19, 1871, stood: For, 226; against, 360.
The regular fall election, October 10, resulted in the election of Charles Woodley, Clerk; Andrew Bivens, Treasurer; E. D. Phillips, Probate Judge; C. P. Faux, Sheriff; F. A. Gue, Commissioner; S. Wolford, Superintendent of Instruction; W. L. Dunlap, Surveyor, J. M. Hanna, Coroner. Total vote, 644.
The county election, October 8, 1872, brought out 720 votes. Job A. Dillon was elected Senator from the Tenth District, comprising Johnson, Otoe and Pawnee counties, by 307 majority. For Representative Fourteenth District, M. H. Sessions; Representative Sixth District, L. H. Laflin; Commissioner, J. W. Roberts.
The Presidential election. November 5, called out 743 votes. The Republican electors received 564 and the Democratic 179.
The fall election, October 17, 1873, brought out 817 votes. The result was as follows: J. S. Dew, County Clerk; C. S. Phillips, Treasurer; J. W. Buffum, Judge; H. E. Taylor, Sheriff; W. L. Dunlap, Surveyor; J. L. Miller, Coroner; Commissioner First District, S. Wolford; Second District, W. C. Jolly; County Superintendent of Schools, W. Wightman.
A year later the question of calling a Constitutional Convention was again submitted to the people with the following vote in the county; For a Constitutional Convention, 244; against, 77.
For Senator from the Tenth District, Rufus Abbott was elected by a majority of 67; for Representative Fourteenth District, T. P. Chapman; Sixth District, Charles A. Holmes; County Commissioner, S. Wolford; Coroner, C. K. Chubbuck.
In 1874 and 1875 the grasshopper scourge became prominent. Much damage was done in Johnson County, although nothing to compare with that in other quarters. Many settlers left during those years, discouraged at the failure of their crops.
April 6, 1875, W. L. Dunlap and D. P. Henry were elected Delegates to the State Constitutional Convention at Lincoln. In the fall election this year (October 12) a total vote of 886 was polled, the Republican ticket being elected by an average majority of 200. The lucky men were: W. H. Somers, Representative Fourth District; J. S. Dew, County Clerk; J. W. Buffum, Treasurer; D. P. Henry, Probate Judge; H. E. Taylor, Sheriff; C. A. Corbin, County Superintendent; W. P. Cole, Surveyor; Coroner, G. W. Delong; County Commissioner, J. H. Hempler. On the adoption of the proposed constitution the result was: For, 568; against, 127.
In the centennial year politics were quiet, but at the presidential election, November 7, 1,073 votes were cast, the Hayes electors having 697 and Tilden 376. For State Senator, T. W. Pepoon, of Pawnee, received 254 majority over J. L. Edwards. W. R. Spicknell and W. H. Doolittle were made Representatives. For Commissioner Second District, David S. Warner had 682 votes to E. A. Ellsworth's 396.
The Republican majority in the election, November 6, 1877, averaged 200 out of 981 votes cast. William A. Campbell was elected County Clerk; M. V. Easterday, Treasurer; D. P. Henry, Judge; C. H. Halstead, Sheriff; George B. Foster, Superintendent of Schools, W. L. Dunlap, Surveyor; D. R. Ball, Commissioner; T. G. Roberts, Coroner; J. M. Borland, Representative Fourth District; J. B. Pepoon, Senator Eighteenth District.
In 1878 Governor Nance received 204 majority in Johnson County in a poll of 998. B. F. Dorsey was elected Senator in the Eighteenth District, S. B. Starrett and W. R. York, Representatives from the Fourth District; J. W. McIntyre and R. F. Curry were chosen County Commissioners.
The Republicans carried the county again in 1879 by about 400 majority, 1,316 votes being cast. W. H. Strong was elected Commissioner; William A. Campbell, Clerk; M. V. Easterday, Treasurer; D. P. Henry, Judge; C. H. Halstead, Sheriff; E. S. Reed, Probate Judge; C. K. Chubbuck, Coroner; W. L. Dunlap, Surveyor; George B. Foster, Superintendent of Schools.
R. F. Curry was re-elected Commissioner by 244 majority in 1880; J. R. Erwin, for State Senator, had 468 majority in Johnson and 315 in Pawnee; J. S. Dew and A. A. Carman received respectively 497 and 460 majority for representatives. The total vote was 1,647.
Last fall (1881) there were 1,617 votes polled, the highest number in the history of the county. Republican majority on the State ticket, 639. The county contest was between the so-called "Third Termers" and the "Antis," the former being the party nominees of the Republicans and the latter a combination of disaffected Republicans and Democrats. The opposition succeeded in electing George C. Zutavern, County Treasurer to succeed M. V. Easterday, but the balance of the straight ticket was successful, comprising William A. Campbell, Clerk; C. H. Halstead, Sheriff; D. P. Henry, Judge; O. A. Noble, County Superintendent of Schools; Clark Wicks, Surveyor; C. K. Chubbuck, Coroner, and R. S. Risser, Commissioner.