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
The seat of government for the county was first held at Swan City, in the southeastern part of the county, where it was retained up to 1871. An election for the locating of the county seat was held on the 11th day of May, 1871. The law regulating the locating of the county seats required a majority of all the votes cast to be in favor of some one place. At this election no place received such majority. Another election was held June 3, 1871. The points voted for were Crete, Pleasant Hill and Dorchester. The result of the election was in favor of Pleasant Hill, which, therefore, became the county seat. Considerable bad feeling existed over the matter in various parts of the county. The people living at different points were anxious that they should secure the seat of government with themselves, together with whatever advantages it might bring with it. By the law, the county seat can not be removed but once in five years' time, and the dissatisfied element looked ahead to the limit when a removal was possible, and continued feeding their animosities during this period. Much grumbling was indulged in all over the county, and particularly at Crete. At the expiration of the time, the effort of removal was renewed and an election held November 6, 1877. The vote was upon Crete and Wilber, which resulted in the choice of the latter place as the seat of government. The over-anxious Crete was again defeated. The election, both at Wilber and Crete was spirited and exciting. No effort on the part of the friends of either point was lost, either to secure votes in favor of one or to prevent those in favor of the other. The sale and purchase of ballots became the transaction of the day. The discontents were incensed still more with their defeat. The cry of fraud in the count of the ballots was raised; the election was contested and a recount made. The result, however, was not materially changed, still Wilber had the entitling vote. Cut off at every assailing point, the defeated attempted to throttle the county seat at Pleasant Hill and prevent its removal at all hazards. A posse of Wilber citizens, with the commissioners, started with wagons to remove the seat of government to that place. The opponents caught breath of the movement and hastily set about to enjoin the party from the removal. But before the writ was served the county seat was loaded on the wagons and en route to the site selected for its location. With this, the matter was dropped.
In 1874, when Pleasant Hill was the county seat, the building used as a jail, containing four prisoners, three men and one woman, was burned, and the prisoners perished, only a few charred remnants of them being afterwards found. The cause of the firing of the building, was an attempt by two of the prisoners to burn the lock off the door to effect escape.
The three male inmates had been imprisoned for some minor offences, and the woman, Mrs. Hondesheld, by name, was incarcerated under the charge of murdering her husband by poisoning. She had been once tried, but the jury disagreed and she was again remanded to jail to await a second trial, which she was destined never to receive, since she paid the penalty of her alleged act, in the cremating conflagration.
The facts of the case were substantially these: Mr. Hondesheld owned a farm about six miles northwest of the city of Crete, upon which he, at first, lived, but yielding to the importunities of his wife, took up his residence in town, and continued, also, the running of his farm. One day he was going out to do some work upon his farm, taking with him a dinner that his wife had prepared. After he had started he ate a piece of the pie which his good lady had prepared for him, and which she took good care to season well with strychnine. A short time afterward he was found dead in his wagon. The matter was investigated and the pie analyzed and found to contain a considerable quantity of the deadly drug. All evidence pointed to Mrs. Hondesheld as the guilty party, and she was put under arrest to await trial, culminating in results as above narrated.
Hitherto, the county had not secured substantial buildings for its own use. After the removal of the county seat to Wilber, successful efforts were made to erect a court house, which resulted in the construction of a very handsome two-story brick building, at a cost of $16,000.
The first floor contains four rooms on either side of a large hall, or eight rooms in all. These are used as Clerk's, Treasurer's, Sheriff's, Clerk of District Court and Commissioner's offices. The second floor contains two jury rooms, County Superintendent's office and a large, nicely furnished court room.
The building began in 1868, and was completed in the fall of 1869. C. L. Van Alstine was the contractor and Henry Clark superintendent of construction.
The citizens of Wilber Precinct, in which the town of Wilber is located, gave $3,000 as a private donation toward the enterprise, beside the precinct voting $5,000, in five bonds of $1,000 each, at ten per cent interest, the first falling due on the 1st day of July, 1873, and one at the same date each year thereafter, until all are paid.
The balance of $8,000, came out of the public moneys belonging to the county, and raised for the purpose of building a court house.
Saline, together with other adjacent counties, was first represented in the State Legislature by Joseph Hunt, a democrat, in the year 1869, and was succeeded by Isaac Goodin, in 1871. The other representatives were: O. W. Baltzley, 1873; George H. Hastings, 1875; Edward Whitcomb, T. W. Parker and James McCreedy, 1877; M. B. C. True, J. W. Gilbert and N. H. Moore, 1879.
In 1871, a change was made in the representative districts and Saline County alone, was made to comprise the eleventh district.
An act was passed by the Legislature, in 1875, giving to districts, numbering a certain population, a representation of three members, and in 1877, the county attained the requisite population and thus became entitled to the triple representation.
At first, the county was united with others to form a Senatorial district, the twelfth in number, and was first represented in the Senate by A. J. Cropsey of Lancaster County, in 1871; and, in 1873, by M. K. Griggs of Gage County, who was re-elected in 1875. In 1875, the Senatorial districts were also overhauled and remodeled, and Saline County formed the Twentieth Senatorial District. J. W. Dawes was elected Senator, in 1877; J. H. Grim, 1879; and H. M. Wells, 1881. Victor Vifquain was elected delegate, from Saline County, to the Constitutional Convention, in 1871, and the county representation at the convention in 1875, was J. W. Dawes and S. R. Foss.
The Saline County Agricultural Society was organized in 1873. The list of officers, for 1874, was: D. S. Lowe, president; E. Whitcomb, vice-president; H. M. Wells, secretary; C. J. Bowlby, treasurer; S. R. Foss, James McCreedy and A. V. Herman, directors.
The present officers are: E. Schilling, president; M. B. Misner, vice-president; James W. Rhine, secretary; E. D. Fay, treasurer; D. T. Drake, superintendent of Floral Hall; S. T. Corey, marshal; Tobias Castor, J. O. Frantz, Edward Jones and H. H. Stevens, directors. Fairs have since been held annually at Crete.
The county has an area of 576 square miles, and contains 368,640 acres, none of which is broken or waste land, and all excellent farming land, susceptible of a high state of cultivation.
By attending upon the following may be seen the growth and attainments of the county in an agricultural point of view, and the proportionate increase in acreage of cultivation, in the last few years. In 1878, there were 48,000 acres sown to wheat, with a product of 585,102 bushels; 35,101 acres of corn, yielding 1,49l,850 bushels; 7,648 acres of barley, and 189,573 bushels; and a product of 138,403 bushels of oats. In 1879, the area planted to the different grains was: 43,164 acres of wheat; 64,231 acres of corn; 7,872 acres of oats; 2,894 acres of barley; 73,265 fruit trees; 1,034,902 forest trees; 23,138 grape vines.
In 1880, there were planted 47,541 acres of wheat; 46,637 acres of corn; 7,447 acres of oats; 5,859 acres barley; 83,199 fruit trees; 1,302,462 forest trees; and 6,032 grape vines. Of the fruit trees were: Apple, 32,128; peach, 28,689; cherry, 9,135; plum, 3,509; pear, 854.
The following shows the relative values of real estate, and various items of personal property, beginning with the year 1869.
In 1869, the value of lands in the county was $140,333.50; the value of town lots was $262; the amount invested in merchandising was $2,450; the amount invested in manufacturing was $2,145; the total value of all the property in the county was, $231,814.
The values of these items of property for the years following were as follows: 1871,Value of land |1874Value of land in Co., 1,129,734.00 in County .$ 528,448.00|1875.................... 887,685.00 1872,Value of land |1877.................... 1,017,465.00 in County.. 1,068,965.00|1878.................... 1,152,528.00 1873,(the year of the |1879.................... 1,139,266.00 locust plague and |1880.................... 1,112,383.20 panic)...... 888,371.00|1881.................... 1,106,261.00 The values of town lots for the same years were as follows: 1869................$ 262.00 | 1877................ 225,164.00 1871................ 137,328.00 | 1878................ 192,380.00 1872................ 177,098.00 | 1879................ 261,233.00 1873................ 173,002.00 | 1880................ 306,256.00 1874................ 220,024.00 | 1881................ 269,590.00 1875................ 201,467.00 | The amount of capital invested in merchandising was, for: 1869................$ 2,450.00 | 1875................ 83,372.00 1871................ 29,303.00 | 1877................ 66,926.00 1872................ 64,155.00 | 1878................ 83,233.00 1873................ 71,353.00 | 1879................ 87,253.00 1874................ 8,705.00 | Amount of capital invested in maunfacturing: 1869................$ 2,145.00 | 1877................ 7,614.00 1871................ 26,500.00 | 1878................ 16,928.00 1872................ 17,679.00 | 1879................ 87,253.00 1875................ 14,188.00 | The total assessed valuations of all properties in the county: 1869...............$ 231,814.00 | 1877................ 1,942,593.00 1871............... 1,046,380.00 | 1878................ 2,154,719.16 1872............... 1,901,267.00 | 1879................ 2,284,943.68 1873............... 1,950,754.00 | 1880................ 2,430,122.20 1874............... 2,256,071.60 | 1880................ 2,530,368.76 1875............... 1,921,429.00 |
In 1880, there were 128,019 acres of improved land, and the value of the personal property was assessed at $1,011,383.20, and in 1881, it was $1,154,261.
The railroad property in the county was assessed for 1879 at $339,271.68.
The following table, showing the number and value of live stock, is compiled from the assessor's reports for the different years.
______________________________________________________________________________ | HORSES. | CATTLE. | MULES. | SHEEP. | HOGS. DATE. |______________|_______________|___________|____________|______________ | No. | Value. | No. | Value. |No.| Value.| No. |Value.| No. | Value. 1869...| 460|$ 26,190| 1,266|$ 18,058| 19|$ 1,290| 694|$1,043| 510|$ 1,143 1871...|1,727| 108,155| 3,144| 74,646|118| 8,965| 780| 1,044| 1,891| 6,652 1872...|2,214| 118,846| 3,651| 76,989|186| 11,714| 828| 1,262| 3,286| 8,001 1873...|2,575| 119,089| 4,138| 73,533|184| 10,407|1,342| 2,670| 6,348| 10,407 1874...|3,131| 139,987| 5,191| 80,221|197| 10,393|1,331| 2,435| 7,127| 9,566 1875...|3,308| 135,377| 5,524| 81,141|219| 11,252| 790| 1,239| 4,139| 4,361 1877...|3,921| 125,665| 6.753| 78,480|258| 10,267|1,054| 1,084|11,233| 21,368 1878...|4,500| 157,018| 7,360| 89,383|322| 13,352|1,033| 1,057|21,617| 30,580 1879...|5,527| 139,168| 8,397| 73,841|412| 11,784|2,029| 1,932|26,289| 25,387 1880...|6,820| 166,754|10,682| 94,269|460| 12,799|2,877| 2,867|38,258| 34,454 1881...|7,217| 181,300|14,402| 119,821|544| 16,731|4,604| 4,516|37,549| 41,631
A considerable portlon of the wealth of the county is contributed by its natural resources. Extensive quarries of magnesian lime stone have been discovered, which supplies a most excellent building material, and from which a superior article of lime is made. Large quarries of this sort have been opened near the center of the county and are in successful operation, from which there are made heavy shipments of building stone. Extensive lime kilns are also constructed, turning out considerable quantities of lime, which is likewise shipped to various points. There are also found large beds of fine sand, which, for building and other purposes, is unequaled.
The first newspaper started in the county was the Saline County Post, in 1871, by the Rev. Charles Little, a Congregational minister. The paper was afterward sold, and has since become the Saline County Union, edited and published at Crete, by H. M. Wells and H. L. Merrick. Since then, nineteen journals have been started in the county, at various times, many of which were short lived and, at present, the number is reduced to six and one college paper, published in connection with Doane College. The journals now published in the county are, the Saline County Union, and Saline County Standard, published at Crete; the Opposition, published at Wilber; Dorchester Star, published at the town of Dorchester; DeWitt Times, at DeWitt; Friendville Telegraph, at Friendville; and the Doane Owl, published from the college at Crete.
Saline County's page of crimes has, as yet, been unstained with murders of an exceptionally bad character. There have been no legal executions, and only one attempt at lynching, which was abandoned before the work was completed.
It happened with a certain man, then living at Crete, about six years ago. People in the vicinty were considerably annoyed with the presence of horse thieves, and several animals had been taken. Suspicions began to rest upon this individual as being in complicity with the thieves. The matter was broached to him, but he vehemently disclaimed any connection whatever, with them. This, however, was impotent to satisfy the general opinion of the public, or to convince them otherwise than of his guilt. Threats of lynching were freely indulged, if the party would not make a full confession. This he refused to do, protesting that he had nothing to do in the matter, and therefore had nothing to confess. But the determined body of citizens were not to be palliated in this way, and assembling one day, determined to put their threats of lynching into effect. They accordingly proceeded to capture their man, and prepared with rope and all necessary appendages for the execution, marched the terrified individual to the timber on the banks of the river. Solemn protestations of innocence were made by the man, but without effect. The noose was made ready and put about his neck and the other end of the rope thrown across the limb of a tree. Another offer to release upon confession was made, and still the man put forth declarations of innocence. The rope was drawn and the man was suspended, like Absalom, between heaven and earth. After hanging for a short time he was let down and again asked to confess, with similar results as before, and he was again jerked up. This process was repeated several times, but failed to draw out the desired admission, and after the life had almost been extinguished by the repeated hangings, the effort was abandoned.
But those taking part in the act were made to suffer for it afterwards. The matter was taken into the courts, but the guilty parties were glad to settle the matter without trial, and paid a large sum as damages, greatly to the impairment of their now somewhat meagre fortunes. Thus, the man vindicated the accusation.
Perhaps the most bloodthirsty and heartless murder occurring within the county, was that of Mrs. Hondeshield, who poisoned her husband by placing a quantity of strychnine in a pie intended for him to eat. More minute particulars of the crime, however, are detailed elsewhere in this history, and are here omitted.
But one other homicide is noted in the criminal record of the county. This was the shooting of William H. Betz by one Frank Jones. It seems the two families had become involved in a dispute over a claim. One day the two men became enraged and were about to engage in a physical contest, when Jones seized a loaded gun near by, and shot Betz; the slugs with which the gun was loaded, entering the left breast just above the heart. The unfortunate victim survived but a few minutes, and died within a few rods from the spot where he received the mortal wound.
The first school taught in Saline County was in the winter of 1864, `5, by Miss Mollie Hess. The school building was made of logs and covered with dirt, and stood upon Victor Vifquain's farm, about six miles northwest of Crete. This afterward became the first organized district in the county, and called District No. 1. Prior to the year 1868 there was not a single organized school district in the county.
In 1870 there were twenty-one districts, but only six log schoolhouses. The number of children of school age was 680, only 159 of whom attended school during the year. The total value of all the schoolhouses was $420.
The progress made by the schools in the next three years is equaled only by the superinducing cause of the incoming of settlers.
In 1873 the number of organized districts had increased from twenty-one, in 1870, to eighty-six. The number of children of school age was 2,369, of which number there were 1,241 males and 1,128 females. The number of children attending school during the year was 1,566. The number of school buildings was increased to fifty, from six three years previous. Ten of these were frame, and the remaining forty were log, sod, or dug-outs. The total value of school property was $9,732.32; total receipts for the year for schools were $13,232.94; total expenditures for the year, $13,099 65; total indebtedness of schools, $11,229.02.
The following statements are taken from the twelfth annual report of the State Superintendent of Public Instruction, showing the remarkable progress and attainments made by the schools of Saline County up to the year 1880. The number of school districts at this date is, 106, and 104 schoolhouses; the number of children of school age, 4,874; the total attendance for the year was 3,461, or 1,803 males and 1,658 females. Teachers employed, 162, sixty-eight males and ninety-four females. Total wages of teachers for year, $18,715.90. The amount paid to male teachers was $9,963.26; to females, $8,752.64. The total bonded indebtedness of districts, $36,104.55; all other indebtedness, $6,665.55; total indebtedness of county for school purposes, $42,770.45.
The value of schoolhouses was, in 1880, $54,713; of schoolhouse sites, $2,954.75; of books and apparatus, $1,332.05. The total receipts for the year were $45,908.09.
The schools throughout the county are in a flourishing condition. Good, substantial and comfortable houses are gradually taking the place of the primitive structures of log and sod houses, the inevitable accompaniment of pioneer days. Improved furniture is replacing the primitive slab seats and desks, many houses being furnished with patent school appliances and equipped with the necessary maps, charts and apparatus for giving thorough and practical instruction. The standard of education in the county has grown in elevation gradually, from the grades naturally to be expected in new and undeveloped countries, to a place ranking in excellence with the older settled States of the Union.
The standard of efficiency among teachers is also largely improved. To this end the State Normal School, established for the preparation of teachers, has contributed valuable advantages. The Doane College, in which there is a special normal department, is also a convenience for the training of teachers possessed by few counties in the State. Partly from this cause may be accounted the superiority of the schools of Saline County over those of most other counties in Nebraska.
Saline County has about forty-three miles of railroad. The Burlington & Missouri River Railroad crosses the northern part of the county from east to west, from which there is a branch leading off from the main line at the city of Crete, in the northeastern part of the county, and running southward along the valley of the Big Blue to Beatrice, in Gage County, making connections at that point with the line of the same road running westward through the tier of counties bordering on the north line of the State of Kansas, and also with a spur of the Union Pacific extending from Kearney Junction, on the main line of that road, in a southeasterly direction to St. Joseph, Mo. It will thus be seen that Saline County possesses ample railroad facilities for the exportation of her numerous products of grain, live stock and manufactured articles, for the convenient and profitable sale of which she is in direct connection with the leading markets of the United States.
The grant of the public domain by Congress, in aid of the construction of this road, amounted to 50 000 acres. Of this about 42,000 acres have been disposed of, mostly to bona fide settlers. The balance, of about 8,000 acres, is also rapidly being sold at from $4 to $10 an acre, on easy and reasonable terms. The soil of these lands is of excellent quality, and the terms of sale are such as to render it possible for any one with a little means to become the possessor of a comfortable homestead, thus affording abundant opportunity to men of small capital and trades people, by diligence and enterprise to secure for themselves an independence, with possibilities, by proper management, of amassing snug fortunes. Saline County, having an industrious and intelligent population, has suffered comparatively little from the drawbacks as are reported incident to the Western country.
Unlike many other counties, Saline has wisely avoided the misfortune of incurring upon herself a bonded indebtedness to aid railroad corporations in the construction of their lines. So far the county has not given a single dollar toward any such corporate enterprise.
The grant of land to the Union Pacific road, branching off from the main line at Kearney Junction, extends into the county in the southwest corner. Other lines running in various directions through the county, are prospective but not settled. The prediction is safe, however, that in a near future Saline County will possess railroad facilities even more numerous and efficient than those she now has.