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
[View of Crete and Doane College]
Little more than a decade since, the spot whereon the city of Crete now stands was a cultivated field. The site of the busy city was marked by golden fields of ripening grain, and over the grounds now covered with magnificent business blocks, the sturdy plowman urged his swaggering yoke; where grazed lazy herds, now cluster refined and beautiful dwellings. The wild solitudes of Nature's broad field, the chosen haunts of wild beast and savage, have been transformed into a splendid city teeming with a thrifty population, bustling with busy marts of trade, resounding with the measured stroke of industry and manufacture, wherein the sound of the millstone is ever heard and the grinding is never low. Following down through the stages of the growth of the city, the marvel is, not that it exists at all, but, that in so short a time, it should have attained so much and such splendor.
The city is located in the northeast part of Saline County, and is five miles from the Seward, and two and one-half miles from the Lancaster, County line. The site of the city occupies a level bottom, lying along the east bank of the Blue River, which is hemmed in by a range of low bluffs or slopes, gracefully arching off on to the high prairies beyond. The unrivaled facilities for water-power afforded by the Blue River, and being located on the through line of the Burlington & Missouri River Railroad, leading east and west, and at the junction of the Beatrice branch, extending southward through the county and leading direct to the great railroad centers at Atchison and Kansas City, thus affording excellent means of commercial transportation to all the leading markets, are chiefly among the causes of the rapid growth of the city and its ascendency in point of size and commerce beyond neighboring towns otherwise of similar advantages. These, too, are reasons auguring to the future of Crete, as being a large manufacturing and commercial center, in which direction it has already attained more than favorable and promising beginnings.
The first settler to locate on and near the town site was J. C. Bickle, who staked off his place in the summer of 1863. Others, attracted by the beauty and auspices of the place, came in, and soon the valley of the Blue became dotted off, here and there, with the rude habitations of numerous settlers. Those who owned the lands afterward selected as the town site, were J. C. Bickle, Mary George, Samuel Bingaman, G. W. Bridges and O. W. Baltzley. The town, or rather two adjacent towns were laid off in the summer of 1870; one by J C. Bickle, on a forty-acre tract lying in the bend of the river, and called Blue River City, and one by the town company of the Burlington & Missouri River Railroad Company, lying just back of and adjacent to the one laid out by Bickle, and named Crete. A rivalry was thus engendered between the two parties as to which should control. The town company, backed by the railroad, had both the capital and influence, it is true; but, that Bickle held the commanding site, secure against the world and superior to any along the line between the Mississippi and Platte rivers, was patent to all. The company knew this, and exerted themselves strenuously to obtain possession of the land, which Bickle very independently refused to grant.
To such length the matter ran, in the attempt of the company to freeze Bickle out, which he in turn vehemently met, as with fire against fire, that they gratuitously gave lots to those who would take them. This game foreshadowed no benefit to the company, who, seeing they had clenched holds with the wrong man, resolved to select a better location than they now had, and by the strategems practiced by railroads, to bleed Bickle's town to death. However, before this move was made, a compromise of the matter was effected, and the two places became united into the present town of Crete.
Meanwhile the town flourished upon the effects of this spirited competition, however ruinous to the fortunes of the participants.
There were but three or four buildings upon the ground before it was laid off for a town site. One of these was a log dwelling belonging to Bickle, in which was kept the post office. In 1869, G. W. Bridges and O. W. Baltzley built a saw mill in the south part of town, and in the year following the same firm completed a flouring mill, from which they turned out the first grist on the 4th day of July, 1870. These, with one or two dug-outs, or shanties, placed at intervals, constituted all the buildings upon the spot. During these years, 1869-70, the town site was cultivated to a crop of corn and oats, respectively.
The first building erected after the town was laid off, in the summer of 1870, was a shanty put up for a saloon by Richard Cater, more familiarly known as Dick Cater. On the 4th of July of that year, Cater was selling liquors from his saloon before it had yet been roofed.
About this time, J. C. Bickle completed his large barn, and it was determined to make this the place for holding a grand Fourth of July celebration. The rumor got afloat and received wide circulation. The eventful day witnessed here the congregating of an assembly of persons from all points for a distance of thirty and forty miles around, many coming from Lincoln, Beatrice, and other neighboring points. Ample preparation had been made for the occasion in the laying in of a large quantity of beer and a barrel of whisky, and a liberal supply of provisions under the charge of a man by the name of Peterson. Tickets for the dinner were sold, and after a number had been disposed of, the doors were swung open to admit the promiscuous throng without regard to who had paid or who had not. All were freely admitted. After the sumptuous repast, of which there was abundance, the fragments were taken up, of which there were seven baskets, but mighty big baskets, and pounded into a well that Bickle had made in his barn, till the well was even filled. The dance then followed, and every available space of flooring large enough to hold a quadrille was industriously utilized the remainder of the day. But the celebration, according to the later day and more Eastern theories, was but a partial success, for, notwithstanding the vigorous imbibing of the intoxicating beverages, and among supposed ruffians, the day numbered but a single hand to hand conflict.
Such was Crete's first celebration, which even in later and palmier days she has never equaled, either in size or general jollification.
But this season, with Crete, was fertile in historic events. The first grading in the county, on the Burlington and Missouri River Railroad, began on the 5th of July, of this year. The building of the road steadily progressed, and in June of the next year, the quiet of the village was broken by the shrill neigh and labored panting of the iron horse and the pure air contaminated with the black sulphurous breath of his nostrils.
The first business house opened in Crete was in the summer of 1870, by W. Valentine, John L. Tidball and William Haine, doing business under the firm name of Valentine, Tidball & Co. A large frame store room was built and filled with a stock of goods of the value of about $10,000, and comprising general merchandise.
The next house was by V. C. Toogood, and his brother Thomas Toogood, as Toogood Brothers, who also had a general store and meat market. In October the firm of Corey & Harris began business with a general stock of goods; the members of the firm were S. T. Corey and William Harris.
The chief source of trade at this time was in the supplying the railroad construction camp, then at Crete.
In the fall of 1870, the town had just seventeen houses, including all manner of outbuildings, and by April, of the following spring, the number of houses was increased to thirty-five.
Those coming to Crete at this early day could find no regular lodging place, but slept in stables and such places as afforded shelter, without comforts or luxury. The main thing was to obtain a place that gave shelter from the chill dews at night. Early in the spring, however, this want was supplied by the building of a hotel by a man named Munhall, who ran it for a while as a public house, and afterward sold it to D. S. Lowe, who also continued in its use for the same purpose. The building was recently burned.
The summer of 1871 witnessed a wonderful progress in the new town. The railroad was completed thus far and in running order. Construction trains plied back and forth, bringing on material, men, and supplies, and the place was one of activity. With this advent of the railroad came a mighty impetus to the growth of the town, which hitherto had progressed with somewhat measured strides. Knowledge of the beauty and fertility of the country and of the promise of the city, had been heralded widely, and the tide of immigration converging to this focal point, overflowed her flood gates daily.
In 1873, Crete became incorporated as a city of the second class, with James Donnelley as Mayor. Donnelley was re-elected for the next two years and, in 1876, was succeeded in the mayoralty by J. T. Holland, who in turn was succeeded by William Morris, in 1877. D. J. F. Reed was elected to the office of Mayor, in 1878, and after holding the position two terms, gave way to L. S. Andrews, who was elected in 1880, and again in 1881.
The period from the beginning of the town up to the present time, has been one of rapid and unremitting growth, increasing in her business and manufacturing along with the increase in population, and, to-day, in the brief span of only ten years' time, what have we here?
A city of 2,500 inhabitants, with stately business blocks hedging her streets, fifty business houses of varied sorts and sizes, sixteen manufacturing establishments, three grain elevators; three large lumber yards, two extensive coal yards, eight physicians, and as many lawyers, and six churches, two banks, the united capital stock amounting to $225,000, a fine opera hall, and three hotels, one of which, the Cosmopolitan, under the proprietorship of H. Code, excels, by far, anything of the kind in the State, outside of the cities of Lincoln and Omaha.
The total capital invested in the business interests of Crete is placed at $600,000.
*Written by D. B. Perry, Crete, Neb.
Long before Nebraska became a State, efforts were put forth which had for their object the founding of Christian schools. At the General Association of Congregational Churches gathered at Omaha June 7, 1872, the Committee on Education made an earnest plea in behalf of a Christian College. The outcome of the action of the Association was Doane College, located at Crete, seventy-five miles west of the Missouri. A Preparatory Department was at once opened--September, 1872--and in one year the first Freshman class was entered.
The growth of the institution has been constant and healthy. There were fifteen students and one teacher the first year; forty students and two teachers the second, sixty students and three teachers the third. The annual attendance at present is nearly one hundred and fifty, with seven teachers. There has been a corresponding increase of funds and facilities for imparting instruction. The property of the College is $35,000, permanent endowment; fifty town lots in Crete; 600 acres of valuable land adjoining the city of Crete; 200 acres of land in Polk County; besides two College buildings with their furnishings, the earlier building known as the academy, costing $7,000, and the later, Merrill Hall, $13,000. Both of these are free from debt, except the latter, on which there is still a debt of $3,000. This debt is being extinguished by the voluntary contributions of the friends of education in Nebraska. At the same time, the permanent endowments are being increased by efforts put forth in the East.
It is an important part of the history of Doane College that a great number of people within the State have generously given to it from their limited means, and that Merrill Hall alone represents the offerings of some two thousand donors, great and small, very many being children; while outside of the State, James Smith, of Philadelphia, has given $8,000; Charles Boswell, of West Hartford, Conn., $6,200; Samuel Perry, of Worcester, Mass., nearly $5,000; and many others less sums. Thomas Doane, from whom the institution received its name, has already given over $20,000, besides aiding in the securing of many valuable gifts from others. Mr. Doane was living in Nebraska at the time of the starting of the College. He was at that time Civil Engineer and Superintendent of the Burlington & Missouri lines of railroad. His name is pleasantly associated with the tunneling of the Hoosac Mountain, Mass., and with the surveys of the Northern Pacific. His present residence is Charlestown, Mass.
The College has one of the best cabinets west of the Mississippi. It comprises about thirteen hundred and fifty species of animals, a herbarium of some two thousand kinds of dried plants, a large collection of minerals and rocks and fossils, illustrating nearly every period of geological history. The whole number of specimens in the cabinet is about eighteen thousand.
The library numbers over seventeen hundred volumes, besides twelve hundred pamphlets. It includes the leading English and American Cyclopedias, a choice collection of historical works many recent and standard publications in philosophy, theology and political science, together with the literary works of the best English authors. In connection with the library is a reading room containing many standard papers and periodicals.
There are four regular courses of study. The Classical Course covers the usual four years of classical study, and requires three of preparatory work. The Scientific Course occupies the same time as the classical. Substituting German for Greek, it presents a full course in mathematics and advanced sciences. The Literary Course extends over five years. It omits the Greek and some of the higher mathematics, but gives special prominence to literary and historical studies. The Normal Course covers more ground than the usual Normal School course. It is especially designed for those who are preparing to teach. There is a Musical Department, and instruction is given in free hand drawing.
Merrill Hall occupies a high, commanding site, overlooking the city of Crete, and the beautiful valley of the Blue. Great care has been taken to adorn the grounds surrounding the building with groves and avenues bordered by shade trees. In connection with Merrill Hall is a boarding department for young ladies, which seeks to secure for every young lady the influences and privileges of a Christian home. Cost for board, as also for tuition is exceedingly low. Tuition is often entirely remitted. Every possible encouragement is offered to worthy students of limited means.
It is the full purpose of the Trustees to go on increasing the facilities for imparting instruction. The corps of teachers will be enlarged; apparatus will be added; buildings will be multiplied. Opening its doors alike to young people of both sexes, thoroughly identifying itself with educational and religious progress, grandly successful in the past, hopeful for the future, there is no reason why Doane College should not act a large part in developing the best interests of Nebraska. The outlook for the institution was never better.
Episcopalian Church.--The Episcopalian denomination became organized in Crete, in 1869, with the Rev. A. T. Whitten as pastor. The church edifice and parsonage were erected in 1870, and this was the first church building in the city. The buildings were donated to the congregation by two wealthy ladies of New York City, by the name of Dater, who were desirous of erecting some worthy and lasting monument in memory of their deceased parents. And Crete became the favored spot, inasmuch as it came within the limits of the diocese presided over by a bishop with whom the parents of these ladies had been intimately acquainted. The congregation has thirty-five communicants and an attending membership of about 150. Services are now being held at the church every two weeks, by the Rev. Doctor J. McNamara, the present rector of he church. Henry Code, of Crete, is senior warden. The value of the church property is $3,000, including the church building and parsonage.
Congregational Church.--The first services held by the Congregationalists was in the winter of 1870-71, when the Rev. Frederick Alley began preaching in Crete under the auspices of the American Home Missionary Society. On March 12, 1871, Rev. Mr. Alley, assisted by the Rev. O. W. Merrill, then superintendent of Home Missions for the State of Nebraska, the First Congregational Church of Crete, was organized with the following membership: Rev. F. Alley, Mrs. M. C. Alley, Martin L. Cooper, Mrs. Mary L. Cooper. Rev. Mr. Alley continued as pastor of the church until January, 1873. At the termination of his pastoral services the membership was increased to fifteen. Rev. H. Bross became Alley's successor to the pastorate and began his ministry with the church on August 1, 1873. The church held its services in the Academy building of Doane College, until June, 1877. The erection of a church edifice commenced in the autumn of 1876, and was completed in the spring of 1877, and, on June 3, of that year, was formally dedicated to religious service. The congregation at the time of entering upon the project of building, was very weak and was compelled to call upon outside contribution, besides receiving $500 from the Congregational Union. The church is in possession of a very handsome communion service that has been presented to the congregation by the Ladies' Benevolent society of the South Congregational Church of Brooklyn, New York.
The following list exhibits the membership for each year, from 1871 to 1880 In 1871, the membership was 4; 1872, 12; 1873, 14; 1874, 23; 1875, 10; 1876, 18; 1877, 20; 1878, 29; 1879, 23; 1880, 63, total number 216. Sixty-one of this number had died and were dropped, leaving a total membership on the 1st of February, 1881, of 155. Soon after the commencement of public service a Sunday school was organized which has since been steadily maintained and has now a membership of 162.
Methodist Church.--The first laborer in Crete in the interests of the Methodist denomination was Rev. J. G. Miller, who was at that time presiding elder and lived at Lincoln. Mr. Miller made his first visit to the spot on which afterward the town was built, in 1866, and held his services in a dug-out that had been made near the forks of the river, not far from where Crete now stands. The Rev. Mr. Skeggs was the next Methodist minister after Mr. Miller, who then labored in the circuit in which this place was included. The congregation became organized and in 1874 the church house was erected. The church has continued struggling on through difficulties and misfortunes, and the congregation has made little advancement. Under the charge of the minister officiating up to 1879, considerable progress was made. Owing to his laborious efforts the membership increased to seventy. But with the ending of his ministry further progress not only ceased, but retroaction set in and the church fell back. The Rev. John Roe succeeded to the pastorate of the church following 1879, when there were seventy members, but at the end of his services in October, 1881, the number of members had decreased to forty.
Catholic Church.--The first Catholic priest that officiated in Crete, was Father W. Kelly, who was stationed at Omaha and visited Crete in 1870, in the interest of some Catholic families that had settled in this section. His calls, however, were periodical, and at long intervals. In 1871, F. Lechleitner was stationed here as priest, and continued his services in this field until April 4, 1881. The congregation became organized in 1872, and during that year a church and parsonage were built. The value of the church property is estimated at $3,500. In 1871, the territory coming under the charge of the priest at Crete, was extremely large, extending westward as far as Red Cloud, in Webster County, including a field of labor in which there are now seven priests employed. Father Lechleitner was succeeded in the priesthood at Crete by W. Wolf, whose labors began at the date of Lechleitner's removal, April 4, 1881. The congregation numbers sixty families, or a total individual membership of 250.
Church of God.--Work in the interests of Christianity was begun by this church in Crete in 1872, by the Rev. R. H. Button. The early services were held in railroad cars, depot, private residences, schoolhouses. and such place as they could get for this purpose. The body organized in January 1873, in which the Rev. E. D. Aller was closely identified, he being a sort of forerunner for the denomination in preparing for the organization of church bodies. The church was built in the fall of 1872, and E. D. Aller was pastor. The church, at that time, contained twenty members, but for the scarcity of means to carry it on the church fell back and is now practically a defunct institution.
United Brethren Church.--The first minister belonging to the United Brethren denomination, to hold services in Crete, was the Rev. Mr. Bishop, who lived about five miles in the country on the West Blue River. The services were then held in Sheder's residence before the church building had been erected. The congregation was organized in May, 1874, with Rev. Mr. Weimer, pastor, and services were held in the west school building. A Sabbath school was organized October 8, 1876, with a membership of twenty-five. A church house and parsonage were built in the fall and winter of 1878, costing about $2,000. The dedication of the church took place March 21, 1880; Rev. J. S. Smith is the present pastor, and the church has twenty-five members.