Natural Resources | Early History | Stephen Story | A Severe Winter|
Pioneer Hunters | Lynch Law for Horse-Thieves
The Half-Breed Line | The County Seat Troubles
The Killing of Davis and Meek | County Roster | the Epidemic of 1860
Claim Jumping | The Jayhawkers of '62 | The Underground Railway|
The Grasshopper Scourge | Defunct Towns | War Record
Milling Interests | Railroads
Falls City: First Permanent Residents | City Officials|
Postal Business | The Press | Fire Record | Societies
Falls City (conts.): Banks | Manufacturing Interests|
The Grain Business | Pork Packing | Falls City Hotels
Hinton's Driving Park | Public Schools | The Public School Building
5 ~ 9:
ADAMS ~ FRY | GALLAGHER ~ KREKER | LEE ~ POWELL
RANDALL ~ STRETCH | TARPLEY ~ YUTZY
Humboldt: Early Events | Railway Interests | The Public School|
Churches | The Press | Societies | Hotels | Banks and Bankers
Manufacturing Interests, Etc.
Humboldt: Biographical Sketches|
Rulo: Charles Rouleau | Elie Bedard|
Early Events | The Press | Business Interests | Churches
Societies | Biographical Sketches
Dawson: Early History | The Cyclone | Societies | Churches|
Business Interests | The Old Mill | Biographical Sketches
Salem: Early History | Hotels | The Public Schools|
Churches | Societies | Business Interests | Biographical Sketches
Arago: Biographical Sketches|
Porter Precinct | Ohio Precinct | Franklin Precinct | Liberty Precinct
Speiser Precinct | Barada Precinct | Preston
List of Illustrations in Richardson County Chapter
The process of "claim jumping," or obtaining by means at least questionable the lands on which others had made settlement, was in frequent practice in 1867. The person who was "jumped" very frequently was a non-resident, and had simply made a claim as a speculation, intending to pre-empt if there seemed a probability of rapid increase in the value of his land, or to allow a lapse if it suited his convenience. Many of those who built their claim-shanties to hold the land for them until they could return with their families from Missouri or Kansas or even far more distant points, returned to find the claim-house demolished and some new-comer fully settled. A pat illustration of the state of things at this time is the case of Mr. Berry, who came to a point near Humboldt and located a claim by building thereon a log affair of legal size. Returning to his former home in Kansas, he loaded his wagons and set out on his return in the spring of 1858. When near Salem, his wife became so ill as to imperatively need rest, and Mr. Berry, accompanied by his son, proceeded up the Nemaha to the location of their claims.
The son's claim was the first visited, and here were found the ruins of the claim-hut and evidences of claim usurpation on someone's part. This could hardly be called a surprise, for the son was unmarried, and had small hopes of retaining his claim in any event. Continuing their investigation in the dusk, which had already commenced, the father and son saw a light gleaming from the house which had been put up on the preceding visit. Without attempting to dispossess the intruders, the Berrys turned to the cabin of a settler on the next claim, where they learned that a young married couple had thought the new nest just what they needed, and had taken possession without the formality of a lease.
It must be remembered that although the Berrys had put up a claim-shanty, they had not a scrap of paper to show in proof of their legal right to the land. Armed, then, only with the unwritten code of those early days, young Berry entered the cabin and demanded of the wife of the jumper, who was its only occupant, instant evacuation. This was promptly refused, and after allowing five minutes for the removal of household goods, Berry, with the assistance of a sister, who had joined him, deposited them in a heap on the ground just outside the door. This done, the wagons of the settlers were driven up, and their goods unpacked and placed in the dwelling.
At about this time young Berry saw the man whose goods he had so summarily evicted, stealing along behind the pile of firewood. On reaching the chopping block he seized the ax which was lying there, and rushed toward the house pouring out vile epithets upon his enemies and apparently intending to drive them out again. Young Berry, however, caught up an old musket, which had been his in the war of 1861, and returned the attack of the ax-man with a bayonet charge. It was ancient warfare against modern--the battle-ax against fire-arms; and the latter won the day, the intruder being run down and forced to return and offer an ample apology for his scurrilous language.
Shortly after this time young Berry was returning home in the afternoon, when he discovered the rudiments of an adobe hut on his claim, and near it a boy guarding some tools. Inquiry developed the fact that his enemy was again attempting to gain a foothold on which to get a title to the land. The boy was dispatched to the owner of the tools with a laconic message to the effect that further building on that site would be unhealthy, and the hint was frankly accepted. In other parts of the county, claim jumpers were much more harshly treated, and old settlers could probably tell many tales of the vindication of innate right, did not a sense of prudence forbid.
All through the years of the war of the rebellion, there were scattered bands of men who went under the name of "jayhawkers." These bands were very plentiful along the frontier line of the north and south parties, and although nominally under one flag or the other, had often times a freedom from allegiance to any one save themselves that was mightily convenient. Other bands, while fully as freebooting, were strong in their allegiance to their party. Such a band was raised near the Kansas and Nebraska line early in the war, and made constant forays into the vexed and rebellious Missouri border. On one occasion, this band, passing eastward through Falls City and returning to a camp just west of the town, were pursued by a force of Union soldiers, who had perforce acceded to the demands of despoiled Missourians for redress. Upon the arrival of the Federal troops at Falls City, the camp of the jayhawkers was in full sight; but while the troops were resting and giving a hearing to the various charges of the "secesh," who had accompanied them in the hope of getting extra advantages thereby, the marauders moved over to the south of the Kansas line. Here no engagement took place, for the simple reason that the jayhawking party had been increased to formidable proportions, and the handful of soldiers were powerless. It is broadly hinted that the Federalists surrendered with very good grace and without any needless bitterness and some old settlers make still stronger statements. The fact remains that the troops returned peaceably to their quarters in Missouri, and that the most serious result of their attack was the depleted larders of the Falls City citizens.
At the time of their first occupation of the city, many of the most pronounced Union men felt anything but easy in their shoes, and undoubtedly they were in considerable danger, as the charges preferred against them by the fire-eating delegation which accompanied the troops were of the most serious character, and had they been acted upon by the troops would have made matters unpleasant.
Other jayhawking parties made their appearance from time to time, and executed their particular tactics, but none of theses later forays were prolific of incidents worthy of remembrance. With the close of the war, fighting and jayhawking for a living fell into disfavor, and shortly were entirely abandoned.
Old John Brown, who died just before the war in a futile attempt to hasten "the good time coming," which had formed so large a part of his life's hopes, spent a large amount of time in Richardson County. One of his stations was located on the bluff near Falls City, and after a time in the city itself. Many of the old residents have vivid remembrances of the stalwart old hero and his eccentric ways of bringing sinners to book. A sample of his quality comes out in strong relief in the simple story of one of the last trips of his dusky train. On the route, a child was born, and, with the grateful courtesy so natural to the race, named "John Brown." Arrived at the station near Falls City, the refugees were overtaken by a band of South Carolina rangers, who proposed to reconvey their chattels, without loss of time, to the galling serfdom of "the Sunny South." In this, however, the proud Southerners reckoned wrongly, for Brown's force quietly surrounded them and forced submission to a superior force. What followed must have been a sight for gods and men, for old John, stepping to the front, delivered a scathing rebuke for the profanity which had been so freely heaped upon the colored folks, and then forced the rangers, kneeling, to repeat the Lord's prayer after him. Then depriving them of horses and arms, he started them homeward. It is safe to say that the Lord's prayer was fully remembered by the F. F.'s as they plodded wearily back to the coast, and that "nigger catching" seemed less amusing by half ere the trip was over.
A little prior to this time, the negro catchers had made a very neat speculation out of the avarice of the Indians living near by. Emancipation was breathed on every wind that blew from south to north, and the slaves could not wait for that great boon to come. They must reach out and catch it for themselves. Thus it came about that the exodus of scattering slaves was nearly constant, and the rewards of their exasperated owners placed at a high figure. It was hardly profitable for a white man to hunt negroes, for the noble sport had acquired a bad, in fact a villainous, odor in the nostrils of the community. Yet many did not scruple to detain the fugitives under one pretext or another, until their owners could send for them, and some even employed the Indian braves, who were familiar with all the hiding places along the heavily timbered river bottoms, to bring in captives. On one occasion, Sewall Jemison, the editor of the Broad Axe, came upon two parties who were haggling over the price to be paid for a runaway slave, who stood near them, apparently resigned to his fate. While the Indian buck was explaining that for so fat and large a prize a liberal price should be paid, Jemison captured the bone of contention, and sent him off by a special train of the underground railway. To record a tithe of the exploits of John Brown and his friends on the Northern Kansas trail, through Brown County to Richardson County, Neb., and thence northward would require a book of considerable size. Of these daring feats Falls City and points near by were oftentimes the theater; but the history of the time so recent, and yet so old in the life of a Western town, has already drifted out of the brains of its witnesses, and is written nowhere so fully as in the ledger whose ever filling pages are ever unfilled and whose balance is perfect.
The year of 1875 was a memorable one in the annals of the State and of this county. It is familiarly known as "the grasshopper year." In May, these pests hatched out, and settled down on the standing grain of all sorts, and made a clean sweep of it, literally speaking. This was particularly unfortunate for Richardson County, for it had progressed but little during the war of 1861-65, and had, only two years previous, commenced a true and steady growth. The loss of the crops then in the ground meant ruin to nine-tenths of the farmers of the county.
If the loss had been only that of the prospective crop, it would have been a serious enough evil; but the progenitors of the new generation of these pests had come in August of the preceding year, as corn was just ripening, and in many instances utterly destroyed the crops. Those who witnessed the approach of the grasshoppers, say that the sky was literally darkened by the immense swarm, and the sun was completely eclipsed. On alighting that evening in the cornfields, the invaders filled the trenches between the rows of corn-stalks to a depth of from six inches to a foot, but did no damage whatever. By 10 A. M. of the second day, the fields where they had been were scourged as clear of all vestiges of growth, as if a typhoon had spent its fury upon them. When, therefore, it became evident that the worst was yet to come, in the presence of the young grasshoppers, energetic measures were necessary.
At this crisis, a mass meeting was held in the court house to devise a way out of the terrible dilemma. This took place on June 5, and the meeting was called to order at 3 P. M., by C. C. Smith. Rev. D. F. Rodabaugh made an eloquent speech, urging the necessity of acting at once, in order to procure not only immediate supplies, but seed with which to replant the fields. He was followed by several speakers who reiterated his ideas, and by Mr. A. Schoenheit, who proposed that a committee be appointed to draft a resolution addressed to the County Commissioners, abolishing the collection of taxes for six months. The committee was then appointed, and consisted of A. Schoenheit, G. A. Abbott and Joseph Myers. After the presentation and passage of the resolutions, a committee on correspondence, with the representatives of the State at Washington, was appointed, consisting of Ed S. Towle, A. L. Rich, Joseph Myers, Warren Hutchins and C. C. Smith. It was also resolved to send a copy of the resolutions to the Governor of the State.
On June 6, a mass meeting of the Catholics of the county was held at the Catholic Church, and, after consideration of the subject, and a statement of the destitution universal throughout the county, it was resolved to send Rev. J. A. Hayes to the East for the purpose of securing supplies. A committee on correspondence was appointed, and consisted of L. A. Ryan, James F. Casey and John King, of Falls City, and Patrick and James Murphy, of Barada Precinct. It was also resolved, "That we appeal to the charity of all persons irrespective of creed or nationality, for any assistance that they may be pleased to contribute to aid the sufferers of Richardson County." In accordance with the wish of the meeting, Rev. Father Hayes went east on June 9.
On June 9, a meeting of the County Commissioners was held for the purpose of considering the best method of relief from the distress of the farmers of the county. Speeches were made by George Faulkner, W. R. Cain, C. C. Smith, W. B. Page, Judge Dundy and others. Judge Dundy, after a review of the legal aspect of the case, expressed grave doubts whether the County Commissioners had authority, even in such an emergency, to remit the collection of taxes, and favored private subscriptions. Mr. Faulkner then offered to give three steers; Mr. Rickards gave $50; Joseph Myers mortgaged eighty acres, and Judge Dundy offered eighty acres of land and money also if needed.
While this was being done, an energetic fight was kept up against the further ravages of the common enemy. Large trenches were dug around the fields, and in these the grasshoppers accumulated in windrows. On the accumulated mass, the farmers poured kerosene oil, and, in the majority of cases, applied the match in a way to ensure wholesale cremation. Shallow tins were also filled with oil, and formed into a cordon. Coal oil is death to the grasshopper, if he even touches it for an instant, and those who jumped into the pans, and were out at the next spring, were dead before they could reach a feeding place. In spite of all precautions, and the severest labor, the almost total loss of the crops in the ground ensued. With fields devastated, and starvation staring them in the face, the farmers saw, one June morning, the grasshoppers rise in a dense cloud and depart never to return. Late as it already was in the season, crops of all sorts were at once freely planted, and Fortune seemed to henceforth to smile on those who had toiled so hard for no result. The fall brought a harvest--a genuine one--and one of the most bountiful in the production of soft corn that the county has ever seen.
The most prominent of the numerous towns which have had an existence on paper or in reality for a comparatively brief time, was Archer, the first county seat. At the present time, the land which was, in 1856, covered by a considerable village for the times, is part of a farm, and knows no streets save the ridges between the corn rows. The town, which was largely the property of H. Nuckolls and Judge Miller, was, in 1857, a mere collection of log houses, numbering, according to the recollections of the old settlers, scarcely more than twelve. After the passage of the half-breed line and the necessary removal of the county seat to land owned by the county, many of the houses were removed to Falls City.
Other towns which are mentioned occasionally in the early records of the county have long since ceased to exist. Among them are Yancton and Winnebago, which stood near the river above Rulo, and took their names from the Indians, who were a large part of their inhabitants. On the county records are seen the plats of additions to towns whose very names have passed from common remembrance. Sales of lots in East Archer and East Salem are recorded, and the prices were such as would evidence a lively belief in the future of these places.
Richardson County, although it furnished its full quota of those who fought in the war of 1861-65, has very little as a county to show for its patriotism. This is owing to various causes which are readily understood. It must be remembered that at the breaking-out of the war Falls City had been incorporated four years, and was merely a collection of not more than a dozen rough houses, and that the other towns in the county were in a like predicament. Those who wished to enlist in the first rush which filled the first Nebraska regiment, could, as many did, tramp to Nebraska City and join one of the companies recruited there, or cross into Kansas or Missouri or Iowa, and join the forces of those States. Of the veterans who now reside in the county and went from it to the battles of the Southern front, scarce half a dozen joined the Nebraska regiment. This, it must be remembered, was in the first excitement. At a later day, when the protraction of the war had led to fears of a stab in the back from the Indians of the plains, the Second Nebraska was formed, and contained two companies raised in this county. Enlisting in the spring of 1863, and starting on April 10 of that year, these companies penetrated as far as Devil's Lake, near the headwaters of the James River, in Dakota, and, returning home in November of the same year, were mustered out.
This county is one of the best watered in the Sate, and its streams afford sites suitable for water-power at numerous points. Indeed, it can be stated with approximate accuracy that wherever the back-water of a mill-pond will not interfere with the discharge from the wheel of the mill immediately above it on the stream, there is a suitable location for a mill.
On the Muddy.--Muddy Creek, which empties into the Nemaha at a point a few miles east of Falls City, has but two mills upon it in the county--one a mile and three-quarters from its mouth, and the other nearly thirteen miles higher up. This is rather remarkable, in view of the fact that in seasons of continued drought this stream has a larger body of flowing water than its rival stream, the Great Nemaha. This is said to be largely due to the large springs which are frequent along its course. On the North Fork of the Great Nemaha are five mills in the county, and on the South Fork one. There are still unoccupied three good mill sites on the North Fork, and four on the South Fork.
In the summer of 1872, a proposition to vote bonds to the St. Louis & Nebraska Trunk Railway was submitted to the County Commissioners. This proposition called for the issuing of $22,300 in bonds from Rulo Precinct, $25,500 in bonds from Arago Precinct, and $13,000 in bonds from St. Stephen's Precinct. These bonds were to be issued September 1, 1872, to bear 8 per cent interest, and to mature in twenty years. When issued, they were to be placed in the hands of three trustees, and by them held until the completion of the contract by the railway company. The proviso was, however, inserted that upon the completion of five miles of grading and bridging, Rulo Precinct should give $2,500 per mile for that part of the line passing through it, and $500 and $1,000 respectively for that part of the line in Arago and St. Stephen's Precincts. Arago was to give $2,000, and St. Stephen's, $1,500, per mile at the same time, and under the same conditions. It was also provided that the entire road should be completed by September 1, 1873. The election to decide on this proposition was held on July 6, 1872, and resulted in the defeat of the project.
The Kansas and Central Nebraska.--A railway with the above title was to run from Leavenworth, Kan., along the bank of the Missouri River to Nebraska City, taking in Rulo, St. Stephen's, and Arago. A branch was to follow the bottom lands of the Muddy to Lincoln. This scheme which never was more than a paper affair, was much talked of in 1872-73, but shared the fate of most of the projects of the time.
In the fall of 1875, the Midland Pacific Railway (afterward the Nebraska Railway and now the division of the same name of the Burlington & Missouri in Nebraska) graded a road-bed from Nemaha City to Falls City, a distance of twenty-two miles. For this extension, Falls City voted $70,000 in bonds, on which 70 per cent was to be paid on the completion of the grading. Pending the completion of the work, it was decided by the courts that the precincts could not legally issue bonds, and if they should issue them, could not be held for the payment of either principal or interest. This resulted in the non-completion of the road, as the only bonds issued were the first installment of those due from Muddy Precinct, amounting to $12,000.
A meeting of the stockholders of the Nebraska Valley, Lincoln & Loop Fork Railway was held on February 27, 1869, and John Loree, A. Schoenheit, Daniel Reavis, Ed S. Towle, F. A. Tisdel, D. T. Brininger and W. G. Sergent were chosen Directors for the ensuing year. The officers of the road were: John Loree, President; F. A. Tisdel, Treasurer; J. F. Gardner, Secretary; Isham Reavis, Attorney. About March 1 of the same year, John Loree and A. Schoenheit of this road met the Directors of the Atchinson & Nebraska Railway, and a consolidation was agreed upon, after which the Nemaha Valley, Lincoln & Loop Fork Railway disappears from the records. It was never built.
The Southern Nebraska and Northern Kansas.--This railway was projected in 1870, and was to receive $10,000 in bonds from the county, but never graded more than one hundred feet of road-bed, and passed out of practical existence. Few even of the old citizens remember it.
The Kansas and Nebraska Narrow Gauge.--The Kansas and Nebraska Narrow Gauge was another of the long list of still-born railways. It was chartered in 1872, and intended to serve as a continuation of the narrow gauge road which runs northward from Leavenworth, Kan.
The Missouri Pacific.--It is rather a curious fact that the road which at an early day was asked to run a line through Richardson and other counties of the river tier to Omaha, should be the one which in 1881-82 completed the work. On April 26, 1876, the Directors of the Missouri Pacific considered a proposition submitted by citizens of towns along the proposed line to build a road from Falls City to Plattsmouth, at a distance of about ten miles from the river, taking the present route from Atchison, Kan., to Falls City, and between Plattsmouth and Omaha, using the Burlington & Missouri River Railroad track A delegation from Nebraska was present at this meeting and consisted of D. H. Wheeler, J. A. Horbach, T. P. Kennard, J. T. Hoile, S. S. Caldwell, J. G. Clopper and R. W. Furnas. The report of the road was delivered by Mayor Brown, and was a rejection of the offer made, accompanied by the reasons for such action to numerous to mention in detail.
In 1881, the Missouri Pacific entered the county at a point a few miles southwest of Falls City, and at the present time is in operation from Hiawatha, Kan., through this and the next county north. It will be completed and have trains running before the middle of 1882.
The Burlington & Southwestern.--This railroad, sometimes called the "Joy road," was began in December, 1869, and built ten miles from Rulo in order to secure the bonds voted it, which were due on the completion of that amount of work. These bonds amounted to $3,500 per mile, and were exclusive of the land grant to the company. In the spring of 1870, grading was continued up the Nemaha bottoms, and in June of that year, the road was sold to the Atchison & Nebraska Railroad, of which P. T. Able was President. Joshua Tracy was President, and J. K. Hornish Superintendent of the Burlington & Southwestern.
The St. Joseph & Nemaha.--The St. Joseph & Nemaha Railway Company once made a survey of a route for a railroad from the mouth of the great Nemaha to Tecumseh, in Johnson County, nearly the present route of the Atchison & Nebraska Division, but beyond the survey, under Ex-Gov. Robert Stuart, of Missouri, nothing was ever done.