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]
In 1872, the Grand Duke Alexis of Russia came to North Platte, from which place he started out on his grand buffalo hunt. Early in January, Gen. Sheridan sent out two members of his staff, Gen. Forsythe and Dr. Arsch, to visit Fort McPherson and make arrangements for this hunt. Arrangements were made with Buffalo Bill to act as the guide, and he proceeded to make all due preparations. Gen. Forsythe and Dr. Arsch conceived the idea that it would prove a source of amusement and interest to the Grand Duke to induce a large number of Indians to participate in the hunt, and to give an exhibition of many of their peculiar ceremonies. Buffalo Bill visited the camp of Spotted Tail, on Red Willow Creek, and engaged 100 of the leading chiefs and warriors, and made arrangements for them to meet at a camp to be selected on the Red Willow. Capt. Eagan was appointed to receive the Duke at this point with the Second Cavalry. The ground was cleared, a large tent erected, and stores were provided.
On the 12th day of January, the Grand Duke arrived with his party at North Platte, where they were received by Capt. Hays, Buffalo Bill and Capt. Eagan with a company of cavalry. Gen. Sheridan introduced the Duke to the leaders of the party, and Bill tendered him the use of his celebrated hunting horse "Buckskin Joe." There were provided six ambulances and twenty extra horses. The party proceeded at once to the camp on Red Willow Creek, where everything was found complete, and the Indians waiting. Spotted Tail was attired in a suit of government clothing, which by no means fit him, with a United States belt upside down, and his awkward appearance showed how unused he was to clothing, but upon being introduced to the Grand Duke, he extended his hand with the customary "How." The exercises of the evening for the amusement of Alexis were samples of the Indians' skill in horsemanship, lance-throwing and bow-shooting. Then there was a sham fight, showing the Indian mode of warfare, closing up with a grand war dance.
In the morning, all were ready for the hunt, and Buffalo Bill took charge of the party, and instructed the Grand Duke how to hunt buffalo successfully, and the party started out. As soon as a herd of buffalo was seen, some two miles away, Alexis at once became excited, and wanted to make a charge. Better counsel, however, prevailed, and the party went about behind the hills and to the leeward, approaching cautiously till the herd was neared, when they went tearing down among them, Bill riding beside the Duke. When within about one hundred yards, Alexis shot, but missed; Bill then handed him his own rifle, when he tried again, and brought down his game. He was of course much elated upon killing his first buffalo, the hide of which was carefully preserved, that the Duke might take it with him to Russia as a souvenir of his hunt on the western plains. The party returned early to camp, where there was a liberal supply of champagne and other beverages provided, and the evening was spent in frontier style, many hours given up to song and story. During the evening, Spotted Tail related remarkable stories of the skill of Indians with the bow and arrow, some of which were discredited by Alexis; whereupon, the next morning Spotted Tail requested him to hunt by the side of the celebrated chief Two Lance, which he did. Soon coming up to a heard of buffalo, Two Lance sent an arrow whizzing through a large buffalo, it coming out on the other side. The arrow was preserved and given to Alexis. On the same day, the Grand Duke performed the rare feat of killing a buffalo at 100 paces distance, with a pistol shot. On the conclusion of the hunt, when returning to North Platte, Gen. Sheridan, Alexis, Bill and others riding in an ambulance, Gen. Sheridan proposed that Buffalo Bill take the reins and show Alexis the old style of stage driving over the plains. It must be remembered that the stage horses were generally driven on a full gallop, and Bill putting the whip to the mules, increased their speed to a full run, and as the heavy ambulance bounded over the rough prairie, while the occupants could hardly keep their seats, Alexis was only too glad to induce him to slacken the speed. They finally arrived at North Platte, the hunt having lasted one week. The hunting ground was in Southern Lincoln County and in Hayes and Frontier Counties.
The condition of the county has continued to improve till at this writing it is one of the finest counties in the State for stock-raising. Many large stock owners of the West reside here, and large numbers of stock have ranged here. There are not now near so many in the county as formerly, as many stock-owners have removed their large herds of cattle to Sioux County, and the vast unorganized territory to the northward that they may escape the burdens of taxation. There may now be said to be about 50,000 head of cattle grazing in the county and about 35,000 sheep. The sheep-raising interest is constantly on the increase, and it seems that this county is destined to, in a comparatively short time, become one of the very first in the State in this industry. Elsewhere in this work will be given reasons why Nebraska, and particularly the western part, is specially adapted to sheep-raising.
As to the adaptability of this county for agricultural pursuits, it has not yet been fully demonstrated. It is true that many seasons bountiful crops of all kinds of grain common to this latitude farther east have been raised, yet it is claimed by many, and, perhaps, with truth, that the dry weather cuts the crops short on other years so as not to make the success of crop-raising a sufficient surety to warrant a man in giving his entire attention to farming.
In the earlier history of the county, the raising of vegetables and the smaller crops, as well as corn, was successful, but as yet wheat, barley, oats, etc., have not been sown to any great extent. It is quite true the soil is finely adapted to all kinds of crops, and it is equally true that the rainfall is increasing every year; and by far the greater number of intelligent early settlers interviewed believe the country to be now adapted to all kinds of crops.
There are but few farmers in the county, and their reports as to the average yield of crops are somewhat at variance, yet all will agree that when the season is favorable that as good and even better crops are raised here than in farther Eastern States. It is also a positive fact that the greater number of farmers here who attempt crop-raising do not give their farms sufficient attention, that they do not cultivate their land to the extent that most Eastern farmers do. It is true that many of them put in their crops in a very incomplete manner after having plowed the land to a depth of from two to three inches; and after this give the crop little or no cultivation, and then because a small crop is raised condemn the country as being unsuited to agricultural pursuits. It is the opinion of the writer that farming will pay here, that if crops are properly planted and properly cared for, most seasons will produce an abundant crop, and that during no year will the dry weather interfere to such an extent but that something of a crop will be raised.
Aside from the railroad lands in the county, the greater portion of the lands are Government lands and still open to pre-emption, timber culture and homestead entry, so that any who desire farms of from 160 to 320 acres can have them free of cost.
The following are the precincts of the county with their population in 1880: North Platte, 1,924; Brady Island and McPherson, 156; Cottonwood Springs and Fox Creek, 315; O'Fallon's, 284. The entire population was then 3,679. Since that time the population of the county has increased considerably. This is notably the fact in North Platte, which now has a population of, we think, fully 2,500.
The real value of all taxable property in the county is now probably about $3,000.000, although the assessment is made much less than half the real value, being only at $1,381,437.
The assessed valuation on personal is $1,061,738, and on real estate, $319,699. Unimproved lands for assessing purposes is only valued at $1 per acre.
In the county are $44,00 in bonds outstanding. Twenty thousand dollars of this are court house bonds, and $24,000 are bridge bonds.
There are issued some $2,000 in county warrants, which sell readily at 95 cents.
The county is well provided with public building which are described in the description of North Platte. The bridges are generally good, much more so than in the case usually in new counties. The iron wagon bridge across the Platte River, south of North Platte, was built eleven years ago at a cost of $30,000.
The intelligent people of the county, whose influence prevails, show a high appreciation of the value of education in their willingness to support the public schools. About one-third of the taxes levied are for their purpose. There are eight school districts in the county, and the schoolhouses are very substantial structures. Their estimated value altogether are about $18,000.
The following are the present county officials: Clerk, Joseph Mackle, Treasurer, Anthony Reis, Sheriff, C. F. Groner; Judge, J. W. Bixler; Superintendent of Schools, P. C. Johnson; Coroner, D. W. Baker; Representative in the Legislature and Surveyor, Samuel F. Watts; Commissioners, R. F. Watts, William Grady and W. DeLyle.
With the exception of North Platte, the towns of the county are very small, being merely railroad stations. Cottonwood Springs is a town of past history alone, the town long since having been moved away.
Fort McPherson has long since been abandoned. The old military reservation, however, still exists as such, being a tract containing about sixteen square miles of land. On this reservation is the old Government cemetery, containing about 104 acres. There are about five acres covered with graves. This cemetery is inclosed by a neat and substantially built brick wall, and the entire grounds are kept in the very best order possible by a man employed specially for the purpose of by the Government, who resides on the reservation in a neat house provided for his use. There are a number of handsome and suitable monuments erected to the memories of the dead here interred.