Part 2: Fort McPherson | Indian Troubles | County Organization
Part 3: General History | The Indian War
Hunting Buffalo and Indians
Part 4: Visit of the Grand Duke Alexis | Stock-raising
Agriculture | Present Condition of the County
Part 5: North Platte: Early Reputation | Permanent Improvements
Part 6: Biographical Sketches (cont.)
Illustration: [View of North Platte - Lincoln County Court House]
About this time W. M. Hinman built a saw-mill near Cottonwood Springs, where he did a large business, as the Union Pacific Railroad was then being constructed through this county, and the cañons south of the Platte abounded with cedar timber, thus furnishing an abundance of material. Mr. Hinman also opened a billiard and ten-pin hall, the first west of the present town of Columbus.
During November, 1866, the Union Pacific Railroad was completed to North Platte, and a town was laid out here by the railroad company, though the plat of the town was not filed in the office of the County Clerk until the 31st of the following January. This town was made the terminus of the railroad until the following year. As soon as the town was laid out, it began to grow with rapidity, and the Government at once made it a military post, and a garrison of soldiers were stationed here.
Previous to the fall of 1866, cattle-raising had not been carried on to any extent, owing to the danger from Indians. About this time, however, M. H. Brown, Nathaniel Russell and Peniston & Miller brought in herds, and this may be said to be the beginning of the vast stock-raising business carried on here at the present time.
Early in 1867, the railroad company began the erection of their machine shops and round-houses at North Platte. Until this time, property in the county had not been assessed. In April of this year, at a meeting of the County Commissioners, the Sheriff was ordered to assess all property in the county. The railroad was in the spring completed to Julesburg, and the terminus removed to that point.
During this year, a freight train was wrecked and plundered by the Indians. A band of them stationed themselves along the track, after having torn up the rails. A portion of the train men were killed, but some escaped. The Indians plundered the train, taking everything they cared for, and ornamenting themselves in various manners, some of them tying entire pieces of calico to their ponies so that it would flutter in the wind; they then rode about in a wild manner, after having set fire to the train.
In September, 1867, the Indian chiefs were all called together to meet at North Platte, where they were met by the Commissioners appointed by the Government, to enter into a treaty with them. These Commissioners were Gen. Sherman, Gen. Harvey and John P. Sanborne, and a treaty of peace was entered upon. During the stay of these Commissioners, they were well entertained by the citizens of North Platte, which was then getting to be a town of some importance. Parties were given in their honor, and at a wedding which they attended, Gen. Sherman was the first to kiss the bride.
At a meeting of the County Commissioners, an election was called for the purpose of electing officers and to consider the proposition of removing the county seat from Cottonwood Springs to North Platte. This election was held October 8, and the county seat was voted to be located at the latter-named town. A total number of twenty-one votes were cast. The officers elected were: Beach I. Hinman, Representative; W. M. Hinman, Judge; Charles McDonald, Clerk; O. O. Austin, Sheriff; Hugh Morgan, Treasurer; A. J. Miller, Commissioner. In accordance with the result of this election, the county records were removed to North Platte November 12, 1867. There was no court house at this time, and each officer kept his records at his own home, while the Commissioners held their meetings at the log house, used as a residence, of W. M. Hinman, who had that fall removed to North Platte.
The first term of District Court was held at North Platte late in 1867, Judge Gantt then being the Circuit Judge for the entire State. Court convened at the Railroad Hotel, but there were no cases to be tried. A grand jury was impaneled, but no indictments were brought in.
It was during this year that the first county warrant was issued. July 1, the first levy on the Union Pacific Railroad in Lincoln County was made on an assessed valuation of $49,000. This taxation the railroad company refused to pay, and the case was before the courts of the State for some years; but the company was finally brought to a settlement by the locking up and chaining of the railroad engines here, under a writ of attachment procured by the County Treasurer. This attachment and settlement, or rather compromise, was some years after the assessment referred to, and after this no trouble was had with the company regarding the payment of taxes.
During the summer there was an Indian scare, and settlers throughout the county thronged to the military posts for protection, the citizens of North Platte taking refuge in the railroad round-house; but it amounted only to a scare, there being at this time no general hostilities.
In January, 1868, Charles McDonald, who had been reelected Clerk, having neglected to qualify for the office. R. C. Daugherty was appointed County Clerk. The first money collected from fines that was paid into the county treasury was on February 4, 1868, when R. C. Daugherty, who was also a Justice of the peace, paid $21.50 which he had collected as a fine from a man convicted of having stolen a overcoat. This was the first money paid into the public treasury, and was the first contribution to the school fund, the laws of the State being that all money collected on fines go to the support of the public schools. On the 23d day of March the County Commissioners established a liquor license fee, making it obligatory for all retail liquor dealers to procure a county license before selling their beverages in the county.
During the spring the Union Pacific Railroad machine shops and round-houses were completed.
The first school in the county was taught at North Platte during the summer of 1868, in the old log building now occupied by Mrs. Thompson as a portion of her residence and millinery store. Theo Clark was the teacher. The next term of school was commenced November 30 of the same year, taught at the same place by Miss Mary Hubbard, Now Mrs. Gilman, who is a proprietor of a millinery establishment at North Platte.
The first Sunday school in the county was at North Platte, and was founded during August, 1868, by Mrs. Keith, Mrs. Miller, Mrs. Cogswell and Mrs. Kramp. There were only three children in attendance. This school was organized as a union Sunday school, and has been continued as such until the present day.
During the year 1868, troubles with the Indians were on the increase. Attacks on small numbers of white men became alarmingly frequent. Several small parties were attacked, killed and scalped. On one occasion, the men working on the Hinman farm were attacked, and five of them killed. During this, or the following year, an incident is related of an engineer, known as Dutch Frank, running an express train. On coming around a curve with his train, he saw a large body of Indians on each side of the road, while a number were crowded on the track. Knowing it would be certain death to stop, he increased the speed of his train, and went plowing through the band on the track, killing several who could not get out of the way. In the meantime, his train received a volley of bullets from the rifles of the Indians along the sides of the track. The front of the engine was covered with blood, and the only wonder is that the train was not thrown from the track.
During 1869, these troubles with hostile Indians continued; but this county did not suffer so much as those farther to the south, from the fact of there being two military posts in the county. A great many small parties, however, were killed, and stock and horses run off by the Indians, and many depredations committed. Fort McPherson was the base of operations for the soldiers, and it may be well here to give an account of the expedition of Gen. Carr from Fort McPherson during this year. Gen. Carr had only recently been placed in command here. The great troubles with the Indians at this time were in the Republican Valley, though whenever an opportunity occurred depredations were committed in this county. Besides the regular soldiers, the most of them belonging to the cavalry, was a band of some three hundred Pawnee Indians, under command of the young and popular Maj. Frank North. Besides these was a band of scouts, under the command of Buffalo Bill, who was chief, and under whose guidance the pursuits after the Sioux were made. It must be understand by the reader that the Pawnees and Sioux were inveterate enemies, therefore it will be easy to understand that the Pawnee would enter into the fight with zeal and earnestness, and being well acquainted with the Indian mode of warfare, that they would be able to render invaluable services in these campaigns against the Sioux. This band was organized by Maj. North in 1867, under orders for Gen. Augur, and any command by their admired young leader was obeyed with alacrity. But in their appearance and modes of dress, they could only appear like the wild and untutored Indians they really were. To show to the reader how they appeared, when they by special endeavor tried to show themselves to advantage as soldiers, we can do no better than to quote from the autobiography of Buffalo Bill (W. F. Cody), who was at that time chief of scouts at Fort McPherson. In depicting a grand review of the soldiers, he describes the Pawnees as they appeared at a military inspection, as follows: "The Pawnee scouts were also reviewed, and it was very amusing to see them in their full regulation uniform. They had been furnished with regular cavalry uniform, and on this parade some of them had their heavy overcoats on (in summer); others, their large black hats, with all the brass accouterments attached; some of them wore pantaloons, and others only wore breech-clouts. Others wore regulation pantaloons, but no shirt, and were bare-headed; others again had the seat of their pantaloons cut out, leaving only leggings; some wore brass spurs, but had neither boots nor moccasins. With all this melange of oddity, they understood the drill remarkably well for Indians. The commands, of course, were given to them in their own language, by Maj. North, who could talk it as well as any full-blooded Pawnee."
In the summer of 1869, Gen. Carr started out in pursuit of the Sioux, with several companies of United States troops, and with the band of Pawnees just described. The Sioux were then in the Republican Valley country, but Gen. Car came up to them on that extent of country lying between the Platte and Republican Rivers, they being discovered by Buffalo Bill and six Pawnee scouts, while Gen. Carr and his command were still ten miles back. The Sioux numbered several hundred lodges, and were on the move toward the Platte. Bill rode back to inform Gen. Carr, who followed them up, and they were overtaken in the sand hills of the Platte, not having yet discovered the near approach of the soldiers, but they were on the move and took to flight, leaving their luggage and everything that would impede a rapid march. The Sioux, to puzzle their pursuers, here scattered, small bands striking out in different directions. The troops also separated into companies, but followed a general direction up the Platte River. Darkness coming on, a camp was made on the Platte River, but early in the morning the troops were on the move, each company striking out on a different trail. One company soon came up with a band of 100 Indians, who saved themselves by flight. After passing a short bend in the river, the tracks were observed to come together. Several companies of soldiers joined each other here also. On the third day, 600 Sioux warriors were discovered close to the Platte, by the division with Buffalo Bill. The soldiers immediately sought to shelter themselves in the ravines near the Platte. There was plenty of time, as the Indians seemed to be in no hurry to begin the attack. But at last a simultaneous assault was made on both sides, but the position of the soldiers was too secure for them to be dislodged, and their loss was but slight. Many of the Indians were killed, among them the famous Sioux chief Tall Bull, who fell a victim to the unerring aim of Buffalo Bill. Several days after, Gen. Carr, with his entire command, started out on the Indian trail. Soon coming up with the Sioux, who had by this time all come together again, a battle was fought at Summit Springs, Sunday July 11, 1869. This battle was short but decisive. Many soldiers and Pawnees were killed; while on the other side, more than six hundred Sioux were killed, including many of their bravest warriors. A large number of ponies were captured, and several hundred squaws were made prisoners.
Though this fight did not occur in Lincoln County, we give its description space here, as this was the headquarters and base of operations for the United Sates troops; and this battle put an end, practically, to the Indian war. The Sioux were completely broken down, and the troubles along the entire line of the Union Pacific Railroad in Nebraska were at an end. Though many depredations were committed afterward, they were confined to attacks on small numbers of settlers or herders, and to the stealing and running off of horses and cattle. Of course, many skirmishes were afterward had with the Indians, but they were of a nature common to an Indian country, where the Indians are kept in subjection by fear, but not of sufficient importance to be called battles.
The settlement of the county continued to increase, most of it being at North Plate. During the winter of 1870-71, Prof. LaMunyon brought in a colony of one hundred families from Michigan, who settled in Lincoln and the adjoining counties.
During the next few years, the soldiers at the post at North Platte, and those at Fort McPherson, were not actively engaged, except on special occasions, and many parties come out from the Eastern States to hunt buffalo, getting off the cars at North Platte, and making their headquarters here or at Fort McPherson. One of these was a grand hunt, projected by Gen. Sheridan, besides whom the following-named gentlemen were members of the party; James Gordon Bennett, of the New York Herald ; Gen. Anson Stager, of the Western Union Telegraph Company; Charles Wilson, editor of the Chicago Evening Journal ; Lawrence R. Jerome, Leonard W. Jerome, Gen H. E. Davies, Gen. Fitzhugh, Gen. Rucker, Capt. M. E. Rogers, Carroll Livingstone and Surg. Gen. Arsch. This party was received at Fort McPherson by a cavalry company under Gen. Emory and Maj. Brown. Gen. Sheridan sent for Buffalo Bill at once to act as their guide. Bill was always a particular favorite with Gen. Sheridan, and had been a successful scout, though perhaps not superior to many others; but as a buffalo hunter he displayed a skill and met with a success unequaled by any in the entire history of the plains. The party hunted for several days near the fort, and killed many turkeys, jack rabbits, antelope and a few buffalo. Having a good cook with them, and plenty of wine, they had a good time; but finally decided to extend their hunt farther south, where the buffalo were abundant and where they met with grand success, the entire party voting Buffalo Bill the prince of buffalo hunters.
Though the Indian war was said to be at an end, the Indians would many times steal and run off horses. During the spring of 1870, they made a raid on a stock ranch near Fort McPherson, and ran off twenty-one head of horses, and also the fast-running-horse "Powder Face" belonging to Buffalo Bill. A company was ordered out from the fort to pursue them and try to regain the stolen horses. Bill went along as a guide, and they marched to the southwest, riding sixty miles the first day. They were then nearing Medicine Creek, where Bill believed the Indians would camp for the night, and stopping the soldiers here, he went forward to reconnoiter. Finding them at the very point where he struck the creek, he rode back. He brought the soldiers as near as he dared without the Indians learning of his presence, and then posting them in good position, he made arrangements to attack the Indian camp before daylight the next morning. Accordingly, at early dawn the cavalry rode into the Indian camp with a shout, with pistols and sabers drawn. The Indians were taken completely by surprise. A short, sharp fight ensued, during which quite a number of Indians were killed. Several ponies were captured. The Indians were soon put to flight, and were pursued, a few more of them being killed. Buffalo Bill brought down two at one shot. The horses were all captured, except the racer "Powder Face." The remainder of the Indians escaped.