Location and Physical Features | Primitive Occupants|
The First Settler | Indian Depredations | Pioneer Events
County Seat Contest | Burning of the Jail | Court House|
Legislative Representation | Statistical | The Press
Criminal | Schools | Railroads
Crete: Early History | Doane College | Religious|
Crete (cont.): Schools | Crete Public Library | The Press|
Secret Orders | Business Interests
Manufacturing Interests | Opera House
Crete (cont.): Biographical Sketches|
Crete (cont.): Biographical Sketches [cont.]|
Wilber: Early History | Banks | Manufactories | Schools|
Religious | Secret Societies | The Press
Wilber: Biographical Sketches [cont.]|
South Fork Precinct. [Biographical Sketch]
DeWitt: Local Matters | Biographical Sketches|
Dorchester: Early History | Local Matters|
Friend: Early History | Banks -- Schools and Churches|
Societies | Newspaper | Biographical Sketches
Pleasant Hill: Biographical Sketches
Swan City | Western | Atlanta Precinct [Biographical Sketch]
List of Illustrations in Saline County Chapter
Saline County Names Index
Saline County, little more than a quarter of a century ago, was undistinguished by name, boundary line, or survey. It was then a part of the wild and undivided country which knew no settlement nor recognized civilization. The buffalo and Indian roamed over it at freedom and at will and the yet wilder and more savage bordermen performed unmolested their revolting tragedies of crime and murder fearlessly and without danger of detection or punishment.
In 1855, the survey was made and a portion of territory was detached from the mass and named Saline County.
The name Saline, signifying salt, was applied to the county from a supposition that somewhere within its boundaries were to be found numerous extensive salt springs. This supposition, however, proved untrue, since the discovery of any such saline fountains has not, as yet, been made.
Saline County lies in the third tier of counties from the Missouri River and in the second from the south line of the State. It is surrounded by Seward County on the north, Lancaster and Gage on the east, Jefferson on the south, and by Fillmore on the west. In topography, it is somewhat more varied than most other counties in the State, being diversified by almost level plains, numerous wide, flat valleys, and by gracefully undulating slopes and uplands.
In the northern part the land is nearly level, but toward the central and southern part it is considerably more broken while along the streams are beautiful level bottoms.
The Big Blue River crosses the county from north to south, along the eastern part by which with its numerous tributaries, the entire county is excellently watered for both agricultural and stock raising purposes. A branch called the West Blue River, joins the main stream in the northwest part of the county and it is also fed by numerous creeks of considerable size in its flow southward through the county. Among these is Turkey Creek which enters the county on the west side and arching around toward the north again flows southward, emptying into the Big Blue near the southeast corner of the county. This is the largest creek in the county and affords most excellent water power privileges. Swan Creek, the next in size, crosses the southern part of the county from east to west and is of sufficient size, for a considerable distance from its mouth, for propelling purposes. Besides these there are several other creeks of minor size, such as Walnut, Dry Brush, Spring, Johnson, and Squaw, with their numerous smaller branches and tributaries.
The unrivaled facilities for water power afforded by the Big Blue River, throughout its entire flow of about twenty miles through the county, and the West Blue, Turkey, Walnut and Swan creeks, are advantages to the county of incalculable value. And it will be from no lack of such important privileges that along the banks of these streams will be found, in the near future, numerous sites of mills and factories, bringing with them, in natural course, an equal number of thrifty and prosperous manufacturing villages, towns and cities.
The timber, comparatively speaking, is plentiful and is confined to belts lying along the valleys of the rivers and streams. The principal species, and the most valuable for agricultural wants and fuel, are the walnut, cottonwood, oak, ash, box elder, etc.
The soil is a black loam, varying in depth from one to three and four feet in the valleys. It is exceedingly fertile and productive, improving greatly with cultivation and, with careful tillage, is capable of producing large crops and is adapted to the growing of all the various cereals and grasses in abundance and with profit. A very considerable portion of the land being valley land, renders this one among the best counties in the State for farming, as is abundantly attested by the rapidity with which the lands have been taken up by settlers and the general thrift and prosperity of the farming classes and business generally.
Hitherto, this, together with the surrounding counties, had been devoid of settlement. Here the wild beast and savage found their choicest haunts. The sullen wolf loved to skulk through the dense forest growths which skirt, like verdant fringes, along the margins of the streams. The shaggy buffalo and the fleet-limbed antelope browsed lazily upon the nutritious grasses that grew luxuriantly in the wide valleys and carpeted the uplands. The dusky denizen of the plains, finding fish and game plentiful, and timber abundant for the construction of his primitive wigwam and the supply of his camp fire, made this his chosen home. The smoke of the camp fire constantly curled upward through the blue ether toward heaven, and the valleys echoed with war-whoop and wild halloo as the painted warrior performed the rude gesticulations of the dance, or sat in mute silence lost in wild reveries amid the fumes of the characterizing kinnikinnick. The melancholy sachem offered undisturbed the godless orisons of his religion, while the haggard squaw performed the laborious drudgery of the camp, gathered the fuel and made ready betimes the frugal repast of fish or flesh. All was a scene of untamed nature, primitive, almost, as the day when it came forth from the creative hand.
That this may have been, at an early day, the grounds upon which have been enacted many fierce and deadly contests between hostile tribes, is doubtless true; but to locate any of these as happening within the surveyed limits of the county, is impossible.
But a single instance of this sort is noted, and that of singular mildness. Along about the year 1857 or 1858, hostilities arose between the Pawnee tribe, under the leadership of Peternasharrow, and the Kiowa and Camanche tribes, under the chieftainship of Yellow Buffalo. An engagement took place in which the Pawnees were repulsed and forced to retire to their reservation. The contest, however, seems to be lacking in severity and ferocity, resulting in but little loss or damage to either tribe.
The time had now come, when the splashings of the breakers of civilization should fall upon this uncivilized country. Even already the adventurous frontiersman, hunter, trapper and explorer, had led the vanguard, but none had come to stay. The first permanent settlement of Saline County began in the year 1858, just twenty-four years ago. As to who the first settler was, is a question upon which there is a diversity of opinion.
That it should be so, in the absence of any record of the fact, and when several, near about the same time, "came to stay," may rather be inferred.
Were the statements of most of the early settlers now living taken for authority, there would be several first settlers. The better authorities upon the subject place the honor between E. Frink, who located, in 1858, on Turkey Creek, near the present site of Pleasant Hill, and Victor Vifquain, who located the same year, in the northeast part of the county, not far from where the city of Crete now stands. The preponderance of the evidence, however, lies in favor of Vifquain, to whom must be accorded the credit of being the first permanent settler in Saline County.
Those next immediately following Vifquain and Frink were: William Stanton, James Johnston, Jonas Gilbert, J. S. Hunt, John Tucker, Tobias Castor, J. C. Bickle, William Remington, William Wall, and others.
Up to 1863, the number of families settled in the county, was fifteen.
The frontier sands had been dampened by the low wash of the wave of emigration which rose with each recurring flow of tide until the sweeping waves rolled on. The population of the county in 1860, numbered 39; in 1870, it was 3,106; in 1874, 7,718; in 1875, 8,163; in 1876, 9,227; in 1878, 10,453; in 1879, 12,417; in 1880, 14,943.
The population, by precincts, into which the county is divided, and of which there are sixteen, is as follows:
Precincts. Pop. 1879. Pop. 1880. Crete..................... 2,022 ......... 2,485 Dorchester................ 673 ......... 954 Lincoln................... 616 ......... 764 Johnson Creek............. 1,062 ......... 1,235 Turkey Creek.............. 607 ......... 655 Monroe.................... 489 ......... 632 Pleasant Hill............. 918 ......... 1,013 Big Blue.................. 818 ......... 782 Wilber.................... 1,388 ......... 1,481 Brush Creek............... 756 ......... 791 North Fork................ 626 ......... 992 Atlanta................... 234 \_ South Fork................ 562 /......... 952 Swan...................... 487 ......... 513 De Witt................... 713 ......... 886
The population is considerably mixed, composed of a great many foreigners, with a thick sprinkling of the Yankee element. The foreigners are principally Scotch, Irish, German and Bohemian. Of the latter, there is a large settlement along the Blue Valley, chiefly; the bulk of the settlement being in the southeast part of the county, in the vicinity of the town of Wilber. They are a thrifty and industrious class of people, as indeed is the case with nearly all the population of the county.
The general intelligence of the people is of a superior order and the intention that the rising generation shall suffer no want of mental training and education, is fully attested by the interest manifested in the establishment and maintenance of good schools.
Notwithstanding the fact that, at the early settlement of the county, the country was infested and overrun by numerous bands of Indians belonging to various tribes, yet, contrary to expectation, in a place so new and so little civilized, the settlers suffered but little from them. Their relations with the whites, were, from the beginning, with but few exceptions, friendly and peaceable. A solitary instance occurred where their atrocities became extremely revolting and calling for vengeance. About the early part of the year 1864, a small party made a hostile raid upon a family by the name of Patton, living near the north part of the county. The male members of the family were securely tied and the others panic stricken forced to flee. Mrs. Patton, who was nearing the period of giving birth, was seized and forced to yield to dastardly outrage at the hands of several of the fiendish brutes. After satiating their lustful appetites and slaughtering a flock of sheep, that Patton had brought with him, they made their escape.
The Sioux, about this time, were the most alarming to the settler. Their hostilities to white settlers were well understood and instances of their atrocities upon them were well known. Large bands of this tribe kept scouring the western part of the State, frequently making incursions into settlements, killing, burning and destroying as they went. Settlers, upon the border, soon learned to dread the name of Sioux, and remained in the most dread supense lest they should make inroads upon them. They knew not the moment they might be made the victims of their savage butchery. So powerfully were they impressed with this feeling of fear, that upon the slightest alarm they were ready for flight. During the year 1864, and in the early part of it, the alarm got started that the Sioux were about to swoop down upon the settlements, the people fled for a refuge and the county was almost entirely deserted, only one or two families being left, and that happened on account of their living a distance from any one else and knew nothing of the scare until the return of the fugitives. This alarm, however, proved a false one, since there were no hostile Indians within a long distance.
Scares of this kind were frequent, but not general. Individual families were often startled by some causes, which at first, were thought to be hostile tribes, but which, in most cases, were unnecessary fright. An instance occurred near about the time of this big scare, which illustrates this feeling.
People were then expecting a raid from the Sioux and anything, nearly, gave alarm. A family by the name of Manley were living near the central and northern part of the county, and quite apart from anyone else. None of the men were about at the time. In the evening Mrs. Manley was taking a couple of horses out to lariat them in pasture. As she passed out from the house, she caught sight of three Indians approaching her on horseback. The idea that they were Sioux impressed her at once. She hesitated not a moment but struck out across the prairie, with the horses at full speed. The Indians followed briskly for a short distance and then gave up the chase. The woman kept on going, fording streams, swimming the horses through ponds, and dashed ahead. In her flight she made a wide circuit around, and after riding the whole night through, reached home in the morning. She stopped some distance from the house, fastened her horses and crept cautiously up, expecting to find the rest of the family slaughtered.
Upon reaching the place, judge of her surprise, to find all unharmed, and that the three Indians which she mistook for hostile Sioux, belonged to a friendly and peaceable tribe, whose object in attempting to approach her was simply to make known their friendly relation.
During the summer of 1864, occurred what is known as the "big scare," or what might fitly be termed the "Tucker scare."
A man by the name of Tucker, who had traveled somewhat through the mountain districts and across to California, boasted himself upon his fearlessness with Indians, and hooted (so long as there was no danger) at any one's being afraid. He also boasted of his expertness in being able to tell a Sioux at a long distance off. These exemplifications of self did well enough so long as no dangers were nigh, but note the change when the hour of trial is at hand.
Tucker one day was off some distance from the house, and other parties, and quite alone. Some few Indians broke into sight, and Tucker, at first glance, took them for Sioux. Back to the house he broke as fast at his fleet limbs could carry him. When he reached the house his breath was quite exhausted, and he managed to gasp out in a just audible sound, "Sioux, Sioux, the Sioux are coming!"
A hasty preparation and flight were made. The alarm this time became widely spread and the flight so general that the entire county was deserted; not a solitary settler remaining. The panic soon subsided and the cause of the fright was discovered to be a little party of friendly Indians belonging to the Omaha tribe, there being not a Sioux within a hundred miles of the county.
The settlers, chagrined at the folly of their flight, and amused at Tucker's keen discernment of a Sioux Indian and his unfaltering courage, betook themselves back to their respective quarters.
With acquaintance with the Indians and their habits, the settlers became less fearful of them. And, although large bands continued to roam about the country, the settlements did not suffer from them, except in petty thefts at times. The presence of these bands became less frequent each year; still, even at the present day, small squads make periodical hunting excursions through the settled districts, but are perfectly peaceable and harmless. It is the return of the children to behold their inheritance, the hunting-grounds of their fathers, which the superior law of the whites says belongs to us who discovered it, rather than those who lived upon the soil centuries before the existence of the country was known to the claimants.
Lo, the poor Indian! Where is he? Driven from his possessions by a superior race--a Christian people--to become a homeless, wandering vagabond. Forced upon the territory of neigboring tribes, whose hostility must be resented in slaughter and the decimation of tribes. Such is the policy of a boasted civilization, such are the plans of a Christian people, as to bring about the extinction of a race by inciting internal destruction and annihilation. The idea is perhaps more forcibly put by the rural poet in his plain and homely phrase thus--
Onst the wild Injuns hyar tuk their delight;
The first couple married in the county was Henry Smothers to Mary Porter, February 10, 1866. The first child born among the settlers was Victor Emanuel Vifquain, on the 21st day of October, 1859. The first death was Thomas Duncan, occurring in the year 1860. S. Caldwell preached the first sermon, in the old dirt-covered log house that had been built on Vifquain's farm for a schoolhouse.
Little can be imagined by those who have never experienced it, the hardships with which the early settlers of Saline County were compelled to contend. Far removed from markets, they were compelled to go to Nebraska City, on the Missouri River, a distance of seventy-five miles, for groceries and other necessities. A sharp lookout had to be kept up against the Indians. Scouting parties of two or more men were frequently dispatched to ascertain if any hostile tribe was nearing the place. Organizations with this in view were formed, or attempted to be formed. At one time a meeting was called to effect an organization of this sort. Speeches were made as to what its character should be. One Morgan, who belonged to that class of men who talk loud and often, without any comprehension of the object for which they speak, blurted out in his rampant way, that "not a rebel or a rebel sympathizer should become a member." There were at that time a goodly number of that sort of men in the county, who, upon this unwise invitation, withdrew at once. The majority of the assembly withdrew, and left old Morgan with a handful of men with which to fight a common enemy. Such is always the way with the bigoted and ignorant to drag in aspersions from other quarters, mixing them up with other matters without any pertinency whatever.
Saline County became organized February 18, 1807. Other attempts to organize had been made, prior to this, and a sort of temporary organization established, with a full set of county officers and board of commissioners elected. This organization, however, lacked for permanence.
The first board of commissioners elected in 1867, under the permanent organization, was composed of the following named members: John Cox, Jonas Gilbert and Abram Byrd.
Since then, the following boards have been elected: 1868. -- John Cox, Jonas Gilbert and John Venlemens. 1869. -- John Cox, John Venlemens and J. S. Tucker. 1870. -- J. I. Tucker, John Cox and W. B. Houck; during the year Tucker resigned and William Smith was appointed to fill his place. Smith also resigned before the expiration of the term, and J. Jansen was appointed to fill the vacancy. 1871. -- John Cox, J. Jansen and Frank Jenlinek. 1872. -- John Cox, Frank Jenlinek and William H. Clark. John Cox resigned and John Gilbert was appointed to fill the unexpired term. 1873. -- Frank Jenlinek, W. H. Clark and L. W. Coplen. 1874. -- W. H. Clark, L. W. Coplen and William Stanten. W. H. Clark went out of office and P. J. Carl was appointed. 1875. -- L. W. Coplen, P. J. Carl and J. Donnelly. 1876. -- P. J. Carl, T. B. Parker and A. Bucher. 1877. -- M. W. Hall, P. J. Carl and A. Bucher. Hall resigned and Wencil Vilda was appointed to vacancy. 1878. -- A. Bucher, P. J. Carl and Wencil Vilda. 1879. -- Wencil Vilda, P. J. Carl and William Miller. Carl went out of office March 8, 1879, and W. T. Dudgeon was appointed. 1880. -- W. R. Markland, William Miller and Frank Shabata, who resigned before end of term. 1881. -- John W. Gilbert, William Miller and Frank Karten. Karten was appointed in place of Shabata, resigned. 1882. -- Frank Karten, John W. Gilbert and G. A. Hunt.
Mr. Hunt's place on the board is, at present, under contest by James W. Ireland. The vote was a tie and Hunt is acting commissioner, until the matter is finally determined. The board is filled by the annual election of one member, who holds the office three years.
The election of the remaining county officers takes place every two years, that being the measure of the length of the term of office.
The first County Treasurer elected was M. Cox, who was elected in 1867, and afterward resigned and Tobias Castor was appointed to fill the vacancy. The office was afterward held by the following, namely: A. V. Herman, 1869, 1871, 1873, 1875; C. Duras, 1877, 1879; John F. Spirk, 1881.
The County Clerks were: Tobias Castor, 1867; Charles Marples, 1869, 1871; L. R. Grimes, 1873; L. D. Barker, 1875; C. H. Slocum, 1877, 1879; Jacob Bigler, 1881.
County Judges. -- John S. Hunt, 1867; John Brown, 1869. In May, 1870, Brown died and R. P. Stein was appointed. J. H. Wright, 1871; J. T. Holland, 1873--resigned and G. H. Hastings appointed; Isaac Goodin, 1874; E. S. Abbott, 1875; Joshua H. Hardy, 1877; James K. Corey, 1879, 1881.
Sheriffs. -- W. Remington, 1867; Nelson S. Woods, 1868, 1869; Lymon S. Allen, appointed in place of Woods, resigned; H. Waldo, 1869; Harry Thurston, 1871. Thurston made default and left the county and J. L. Van Dayn was appointed to vacancy. W. H. Storms, 1873; Jacob Bigler, 1875, 1877, 1879; John T. Lane, 1881.
County Superintendents of Public Instruction. -- This office, at first, was filled by the County Clerk, who was ex-officio Superintendent of Schools. Tobias Castor being the first Clerk of the County, was also first County Superintendent. Tobias Castor, 1867; J. W. Bowler, elected, 1869; James McCreedy, 1871, 1873: W. P. Grantham, 1875; T. L. Dixon. 1877, 1879; W. H. Storms. 1881.
County Coroners. -- C. A. W. Abrams, 1867, 1869, 1871; Eugene J. B. DuGas, 1873; James A. Paddock, 1875; J. W. Hitchcock, 1877; J. W. Dorwart, 1879, 1881.
County Surveyors. -- Tobias Castor was elected in 1871, and afterward resigned and Victor Vifquain was appointed. James Paquain, 1871; George F. Sawyer, 1873, 1875, 1877; James Phebus, 1879, 1881.
At first, it was the duty of the County Clerk to act as Clerk of the District Court, in Saline County, and by a law, when the county should attain a population of 8,000, the Clerk of the Court should be appointed.
The County Clerk continued to discharge the duties of the office up to 1877, when the county numbered the requisite population necessary for appointment, and John VanDuyn was appointed May 15, 1877, by Judge A. J. Weaver, then District Judge. Van Duyn resigned the appointment, and, on September 6, 1879, Thomas J. Taylor was appointed. In 1877, the office was made elective, and at the next election, in the fall of 1879, James Ledwich was elected for a term of four years.
Saline County comes within the First Judicial District, in which O. P. Mason was elected Judge in 1868, Daniel Gantt in 1872, and A. J. Weaver in 1876 and 1880, the length of the term being four years.