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
This thriving town is situated in the southeastern part of Saline County, on the eastern division of the Republican Valley branch of the Burlington and Missouri River Railroad in Nebraska. The location is a very desirable one, on the level bottom lands on the right bank of the Big Blue River. Here the level valley lands extend back for a long distance. Turkey Creek empties into the Big Blue, a short distance south of town, and to the westward; but not far away, Swan Creek flows into Turkey. The valleys of these streams come together, and thus form this broad and rich extent of level bottom lands.
Surrounded as it is by a country unexcelled in fertility by any portion of the State, and in the midst of a well to do and industrious class of farmers, with the settlement of the country far in advance of that of the town, DeWitt can not fail to enjoy a state of prosperity. Owing to its proximity to larger towns, it can never become a great commercial center, but as a thriving village its prosperity is already insured. At the present time, the population numbers nearly four hundred. Its business, professional and mechanical representation is as follows: Four general merchandise stores, two drug, one millinery, three groceries, one jewelry, one furniture, two hardware, one confectionery and two agricultural implement stores, one meat market, one tin-shop, two harness shops, one blacksmith shop, one boot and shoe shop, one bakery, one barber shop, one veterinary surgeons hospital, one wagon and carriage shop, two elevators, two lumber yards, two hotels, two livery stables, one nursery, two brick yards, one saloon, two masons and plasterers, twelve carpenters and builders, one real estate dealer, three insurance agents, a post office, three physicians, and two attorneys. Besides the above is one newspaper office, one bank, three churches, one schoolhouse, and the regularly stationed ministers and school teachers.
The history of this town begins with the year 1872, when this line of railroad was completed from Crete to Beatrice. This town site was chosen and surveyed by the railroad town-site company, immediately after the completion of the railroad. The town site was first known as Dennison, but the name was soon changed to DeWitt.
Previous to the starting of DeWitt, the adjoining country was quite well settled, and the town of Swan City had an existence on Swan Creek, west of DeWitt. The advantages of a railroad insured the success of the new town, and it was not long until Swan City was removed to the new site.
The first settler on the town site was a man named Haveland, who lived here with his family for a few months.
The first permanent settlers to locate were J. H. Artist, Dr. L. J. Cross, J. W. Brown and William Wall. They located soon after the town was surveyed. A post office was established and J. H. Artist was appointed Postmaster. He also put in a small stock of goods and started the first store. William Wall was a blacksmith and put up a shop and began working at his trade at once. J. W. Brown was a lawyer and railroad land agent. Dr. Cross was engaged in the practice of his profession as a physician. Soon after this, and in the year 1872, William Wild moved here and opened a drug store. Not long after, J. B. Kesterson & Sons, built and opened a general merchandise store. They also sold lumber. In the spring of 1873, G. A. Hunt removed from Swan City and started a general store. In the fall of the same year he was followed by W. J. Dunn, who opened a store in the same line. A hotel had been erected in the early history of the town and with the railroad buildings grain warehouses, residences, and smaller structures, DeWitt was by this time quite a respectable little village.
The first school had been taught in a house outside the town, as the district had been formed previous to the founding of the town. In the fall of 1873, a schoolhouse was erected on the present site, since which time school has been taught therein.
The first birth in DeWitt, was that of a son, to Mr. and Mrs. Haveland, in the Spring of 1872. The next birth took place in the fall of the same year and was that of Fred, son of Mr. and Mrs. William Wild.
Death first visited the new town in the fall of 1873, when Effie and Jesse, children of Mr. and Mrs. G. A. Hunt, died within a few hours of each other.
The first marriage was that of J. H. Artist to Addie Brill, in the fall of 1873. The next was that of William Wall and Miss Julia Edwards, the next January.
The town continued to grow rapidly until the grasshopper raid, in 1874, which retarded its progress, and during the fall of that year but little building was done.
But it was not till January, 1875, that DeWitt received its most disastrous blow. This was a fire that, on the 8th day of the above named month, swept over the business portion of the town and burned nearly all of the business houses. The business men were generally those of limited means whose all was invested in their stock of goods, and buildings. They carried little or no insurance, and the result was a complete ruin to most of them. Some of the buildings were soon replaced, but not until 1876 was the steady progress of building up the town resumed, and even from that time its progress has been slow, until within the past three years.
On the Big Blue River, east of the town, is one of the best mill-sites in the State, and as early as July, 1874. Suiter Bros. began the erection of what was then one of the largest flouring mills in the State. This mill was completed in March, 1875, and controlled by Suiter Bros., until 1877, when they sold it to Holt & Webb, who owned it until September, 1878, when it was burned down. The origin of the fire has never been known, though it is supposed to have been incendiary. At the time it was burned, the mill contained 13,000 bushels of grain and 300 barrels of flour. This and other losses ruined H. P. Webb, the junior partner of the firm, who was a banker of Beatrice.
One year after the burning of the mill, in September, 1879, DeWitt was again visited by fire. A large grain elevator had been completed but a short time before, and by some unknown means it took fire and burned to the ground.
On May 6, 1880, DeWitt was visited by a destructive tornado which unroofed the Congregational church and blew down several buildings. Though the loss to property was quite large, no lives were lost.
Notwithstanding the many disasters affecting the progress of the village, it is now a flourishing and prosperous town. For the year closing January 1, 1882, the shipments from DeWitt number 243 car loads, and the receipts 254 car loads, with a total of $41,948.34 paid the railroad company on shipments and receipts.
There are, in the village, three very creditable church edifices--the Methodist, Congregational and German Lutheran. Each denomination has a good and prosperous membership.
The Curtis Post, No. 89, Grand Army of the Republic, organized on March 9, 1882, with twenty-six members. E. W. Metcalf was elected Post Commander, and W. H. Stout, Adjutant. The Post now has a membership of over fifty.
There have been several organizations of Temperance societies, which have disbanded. The last organization of this kind is DeWitt Lodge, No. 238, Independent Order of Good Templars, which organization was made in September, 1881. This order now has about sixty members.
There are a number of Odd Fellows among the citizens, who are making arrangements for forming a lodge. A hall has already been been fitted up.
The school is a good one, and is divided into three departments. The district contemplates building a new schoolhouse, to cost about $5,000, and arrangements are now being made.
There is a town hall 22x40 feet, in dimension.
DeWitt became incorporated as a village in 1881. The first town trustees were W. J. Dunn, F. M. Suiter, George A. Hunt, William H. Staley and E. Hastings. The clerk and treasurer were elected from the above body, being F. M. Suiter and William H. Staley, respectively. At the election of 1882, the same officers elected, only adding the names of E. W. Metcalf, as Attorney, and A. W. Carmichael, Marshal.
The history of newspapers in DeWitt is as follows: Early in its history, J. W. Wehn, Jr., founded the DeWitt Advertiser, which he published until the winter of 1877, when he sold the material, and the Free Press was started. In August of the same year, W. H. Stout bought the paper and published it until 1879, when he removed it to Wilber. In August, 1881, Suiter and Stout started the DeWitt Times, a seven-column folio paper, independent in politics. This paper is still published here, with W. H. Stout, editor and manager.
W. H. Stout came to Nebraska in 1870, and located on a homestead in the western part of Saline County. He moved to DeWitt in 1874, and clerked in a store two years; then started a hardware store, which he conducted until he bought the Free Press, in 1877. He was born in Brooklyn, N. Y., July 26, 1840; moved to Illinois with his parents, in 1855; enlisted at St. Louis, in Company H, Eighth Regiment Missouri Volunteers, in June, 1861; served during the war, and participated in the battles of Ft. Henry, Ft. Donelson, Shiloh, Corinth, Vicksburg, Arkansas Post, Lookout Mountain, Mission Ridge, and Siege of Atlanta; was captured on Sherman's march to the sea, and remained a prisoner of war in Cahaba prison until the close of the war. He was mustered out at St. Louis, in July, 1865. He then returned to Tazewell County, Ill., where he engaged in farming until he came to Nebraska. He was married in March, 1869, to Miss Charlotte Statts, of Tazewell County, Ill. They have three children--George C., Walter and Harry.
M. A. CRANE, confectioner, DeWitt, was born in Tazewell County, Ill., in 1858, where he has lived most of the time previous to settling in Nebraska. Was employed as salesman since he has been old enough to hold the position. Settled in Nebraska, locating at Lincoln, remaining a short time, opening a confectionary and restaurant in DeWitt, Saline Co., Neb., in 1880.
L. J. CROSS, M. D., druggist, DeWitt, was born in Athens County, Ohio, in 1840. In 1844 went with his parents to Quincy, Ill., where he remained until 1851, going from there to Monroe County, Iowa, where he lived until he settled in Nebraska in 1870. In 1862 commenced the study of medicine at Bremen, Iowa, with Hildreth & Huffard, finishing at Keokuk, graduating in the winter of 1865-6, and located at Swan City, Saline Co., Neb., about 1870, remaining there about one year, when he went to DeWitt, and commenced the practice of medicine. Soon after he settled in the county. The physicians who had settled in Swan City, previous, three in number, moving away. Mr. Cross had most of the practice in the county for six years. In the spring of 1877, opened a drug store and has devoted most of his attention to this business since. In 1880-81, erected a commodious brick building for his business, and has one of the largest stores in the county. In 1863 and a part of 1864, was Hospital Surgeon in the employ of the government at Keokuk, Rock Island and St. Louis. Was married in November, 1874, at DeWitt, to Miss Barkie Kesterson. They have two children, Guy and Fanny. He is a member of the Blue Valley Lodge, A., F. & A. M., Wilber.
JOHN G. DENNY, dealer in machinery was born in Missouri, in 1839. Coming to Nebraska in 1855, locating at Nebraska City. In 1858 commenced freighting on the Great Western overland route to Salt Lake City and other points from the Missouri River, which he followed until 1868, when he went to farming in Holt County, Neb., living there until the spring of 1882, when he moved to Crete and bought out J. A. Jones' interest in the farm machinery business. Is agent for the White and Singer Sewing Machine Companies. Was married in 1867 at Nebraska City, to Miss Ella C. Edmunds. They have four children: Ada Bell, George Y., Nellie May and Ida Wood. Is a member of the United Brethren Church.
J. K. L. DUNCAN, M. D., physician and surgeon, DeWitt, was born in Pittsburg, Pa, in 1845. In 1854 accompanied his parents, Col. J. and Agnes L. Duncan, to Monmouth, Ill. His father was a colonel in the war of 1812. The Doctor resided at Monmouth and had nearly completed his collegiate course in Monmouth College following the regular curriculum, when in 1863 he went to Chicago and shipped in the U. S. Navy as O. S., and was at once ordered to Cairo, and thence to Vicksburg, Miss., on board the U. S. gunboat Conestoga, being soon after transferred to the Manitou, and for the next year after the capitulation of Vicksburg and Port Hudson he continued on the U. S. gunboat Fort Hinman, cruising along the old guerilla infested and masked-batteried banks of the old Mississippi River and her tributaries. On March 2, 1864, he was awarded by the Navy Department a "medal of honor " for his gallantry while on board the U. S. gunboat Fort Hinman, while engaged with the insurgents at Fort Harrisonburg, La., and was also promoted. He soon after left the service, returning to Monmouth and Monmouth College, but again went to Chicago and shipped, and was ordered to the U. S. gunboat La Fayette, on the Mississippi at the mouth of Red River, La., where he remained until June, 1865, when he was ordered to the U. S. ship Fearnot at New Orleans, and then to the Pampero, on which vessel he sailed to Pensacola, Fla., where he was detached for duty as Apothecary of the Naval Hospital at Pensacola, in which capacity he served until June, 1868, when he returned home, and the succeeding winter attended the Medical College at Keokuk, Iowa, after which he located in the practice of his profession at Memphis, Tenn., remaining there until the autumn of '69, when he located in Hamlet, Ill., where he remained until the winter of '71, when he located at Des Moines, Iowa, remaining there in constant practice of medicine and surgery (with the exception of the medical session of '75, when he attended and graduated) until March, 1880, at which time he located at DeWitt, where he is fast building up a good and successful practice. We should have said the Doctor read medicine, during the three years he was apothecary of the hospital, under Drs. F. W. Wunderlich and William Gale, Surgeons of the U. S. Navy. The Doctor was a permanent member of the Iowa State Medical Society, while there, and is now a prominent member of the Nebraska State Medical Society. He is a member of the Lodge, Chapter and Council of the Masonic fraternity, also of the I. O. O. F., and a comrade of the G. A. R. The Doctor was married in November, 1879, to Miss Lillian J. Middlekauff, of Des Moines. They have two daughters, Mabel Agnes and Nellie Blanche.
WILLIAM J. DUNN, Postmaster and dealer in general merchandise, DeWitt, was born in Detroit, Mich., in 1835. His parents moved to Dubuque, Iowa, where he remained until 1859, when he emigrated to Nebraska and located in Gage County. Being among the early settlers, he underwent many hardships. The only mill at that time was on the Otoe Reservation, twenty miles distant. Mr. Dunn came to DeWitt in 1871 and engaged in general merchandising. He was appointed Postmaster in April, 1878. Was married in 1856 to Miss Mary Ann Bolt, of Iowa. She died in 1868. They had seven children, all but the oldest being born in Nebraska. In September, 1864, when the Indians raided this portion of the State, Mr. D. enlisted in Company C, First Regiment Nebraska Militia, under Capt. A. G. White. Marched over the plains after Indians, having served six months. He belongs to Wilber Lodge, A., F. & A. M., No. 64. Is also a member of the I. O. G. T. and Temple of Honor, both of DeWitt, and Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the village of DeWitt.
C. E. ELDER, M. D., physician and surgeon, was born in Indianapolis, Ind., in 1855. In 1872 went into the office with his brother, E. S. Elder, of Indianapolis, and commenced the study of medicine, remaining two years, then went to the City Hospital, remaining two years there, entering college in 1876, and graduated at the Indiana Medical College in 1878. After practicing two years, settled in Nebraska and located at DeWitt, where he has met with success far beyond his expections. Is a member of the Sydenham Medical Society, of Indianapolis, Ind.
JOHN GILBERT, farmer, DeWitt, was born in St. Lawrence County, N. Y., in 1837. His parents went to Columbia County, Wis., where he remained until 1857, when he went to Knox County, Mo., and in 1859, caught the gold fever and went to Pike's Peak. Not being lucky he returned to Oak Grove, Nuckolls County, Neb., living there and driving stage the latter part of the time from that point for six years. During the Indian raid of 1864, he had command of a company of rangers, and followed the Indians to Elk Creek, where they overtook them and had a sanguinary battle, the rangers retiring in good order with the loss of one life. Settled in Saline County before the county organization. In 1865, bought part of the present site of DeWitt and sold it in 1871 to the town company. Was married in Saline County, in 1864, to Miss Artist. They have one child, a son sixteen years old. Mr. G. is a member of Beatrice Lodge No. 26, A., F. & A. M. Beatrice, Neb.
E. HASTINGS, merchant, DeWitt, was born in Pennsylvania in 1844. In 1861 enlisted in the Seventy-eighth Pennsylvania Infantry, Company K, and was in the army a little over three years. Was in all the battles of his regiment. After the war took a commercial course at Pittsburgh, Pa., and graduated March, 1865, and remained in the city three years as sales merchant, then went to Iowa City, where he remained three years, and in 1871 located at Lincoln, Neb., and was employed there as salesman and bookkeeper, remaining there five years. In 1876 located at DeWitt and opened a general store and has a good trade. His annual sales amount to $40,000. Is a member of the Lincoln Lodge No. 54, A., F. & A. M.
IRA MOULTON, dealer in furniture, was born in Lake County, Ill. in 1848, where he lived until 1864, when he enlisted in the Second Illinois Light Artillery, Battery M, but was transferred to Battery C; serving nearly two years. After receiving his discharge, his health being poor, he returned home, remaining one year, when he went to Chicago and remained there five years engaged in contracting and building. In 1871 he emigrated to Nebraska and located in Saline County, taking a homestead in the western part of the county, but soon after removed to DeWitt, and worked at building until 1880; then bought out a stock of furniture, and has been following the business since. In 1880 he was married to Miss Jennie Dunn, of DeWitt. They have one child.
E. E. MATTOCKS, druggist, DeWitt, was born in Lyndon, Vt., in 1849. Went with his parents to Pennsylvania, then back to Lyndon, Vt. In 1876-77 he attended the Amherst Agricultural College, at Amherst, Mass. Went to St. Johnsbury, Vt., in 1877-78, clerked in a drug store and studied medicine. In 1879 he came to Nebraska, and bought a farm a short distance southwest of DeWitt. In July, 1881, he bought the drug store of M. H. Christie. Was married July 3, 1880, at DeWitt, to Miss Mary Moulton.
J. R. NELSON, general merchant, DeWitt, was born in Terre Haute, Ind., in 1836, but spent his boyhood days in New York State. In 1848 he went to Hennepin, Ill., and in 1857 came to Nebraska and settled in Beatrice, and was one of the thirty-five "original organizers" of the town of Beatrice. In 1860 he went to Pike's Peak, then to Minnesota, then to Wisconsin, and in 1863 to Chicago, where he attended Danforth's School of Trade, but the small-pox broke up the school. He engaged in the employ of Lake Shore & Michigan Southern Railway, and remained in their employ until 1867, when he returned to Nebraska. Before reaching Beatrice he offered his lots, twenty-five in all, for $20, but no one would buy. He has since sold a single one for $1,200. Went into business at DeWitt in 1881. Was married in 1869 at Warren, Ill., to Miss Mary Eastman. They have one child. Mr. N., in company with Nat Howard, started the Blue Valley Record, the first paper started in Beatrice, and ran it nine months, when they took in partnership Mr. L. Hogshead, who added new material and changed it to the Clarion. Some of the material is still in use in the Express office at Beatrice.
[RESIDENCE AND STORE OF GEORGE A. HUNT.]
GEORGE A. HUNT, merchant, DeWitt, was born in Ohio in 1846, his parents removing to Benton County, Iowa, in 1851, and in 1862, at the age of sixteen years, settled in Saline County, Neb., near the present village of Wilber, where he remained until 1868. Took a homestead on Section 34, Town 6, North Range 4, East. Remained on his homestead until 1873, when he went into the mercantile business with a capital of $1,200 at DeWitt, Saline County, Neb., and has worked up a trade of $60,000 per annum, by strict attention to business and the wants of his patrons. He carries a stock of $15,000, and his store is 20x88. Also has a branch store at Western, Saline County, Neb., which he started in November, 1881. Mr. H. was elected as one of the County Commissioners of Saline County, in 1881, and is one of the village board of DeWitt and is highly respected by his fellow townsmen. He was married April 5, 1868, in Saline County to Miss Mary Bickle, and they have three children, Estella, born 1870; Mary, born 1879, and Bertha, 1881.
D. R. PELTON, physician and surgeon, DeWitt, Neb., was born in Erie County, Pa., A. D., l844. Moved to Iowa in 1859. In August, 1862, he re-enlisted in Company K, Twenty-seventh Iowa Volunteer Infantry, and was in the Sixteenth Army Corps, commanded by Gen. A. J. Smith. Started with Gen. Sherman on his march to the sea. Was with Gen. Banks' expedition up Red River, Louisiana. Was in the battle of Pleasant Hill, La., and under fire for fourteen days. Was in the battle of Tupelo, Miss., and Old Town Creek, also Yellow Bayou, La; then in siege of Nashville and three days' battle following and the forced march across Tennessee. Was in the siege and witnessed the surrender of Mobile, Ala. In all, some fifteen hard-fought battles and numerous skirmishes, escaping without wounds. Was mustered out August 9, 1865, at the close of the war. Was married in 1869, to Miss Katie A. Valentine, in Grant County, Wis. Moved to Nebraska in 1869. Commenced the study and practice of medicine in Saline County, Neb. Attended the College of Physicians and Surgeons, at Keokuk, Iowa, and graduated in the winter of 1874-75. Returned again to Nebraska, and located in the town of DeWitt. He has two children living. Is a member of the I. O. G. T., and Grand Army of the Republic, of DeWitt, Neb.
H. D. ROGERS, hardware merchant and harness dealer, DeWitt, was born in Geneseo County, N. Y., March 12, 1832. He went with his parents to Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois and finally located in Washington County, Iowa, in 1840, where he learned harness making and afterwards opened a harness shop at Richmond, Iowa. Came to Nebraska in 1873 and located at DeWitt and opened a harness shop in 1876, added a stock of hardware in 1877, sold out his harness shop and in April, 1881, opened another harness shop opposite his hardware store. Was Postmaster at DeWitt in 1875 for six weeks, the only office he ever held. He was married in Washington County, Iowa, to Miss Caroline D. Dawson. Have had four children. Two are now living. Is a member of Beatrice Lodge, No. 19, I. O. O. F., Beatrice, Neb., now serving as Noble Grand.
W. H. STALEY, farm machinery, DeWitt. Was born in Tippecanoe County, Ind., in 1840 where he remained up to 1861 when he enlisted in the Twentieth Indiana Infantry. Was discharged in March, 1864. Was wounded at the battle of Spottsylvania Court House, having a portion of his shoulder joint shot away. Was in the hospital seven months. Then went to Miami County, Ind., and was engaged in farming until 1870 when he moved to Nebraska, locating in Saline County, where he was engaged in farming until 1877 when he sold out and moved to DeWitt and engaged in farm machinery in company with Mr. Schriam. Was married in 1867 to Miss Catherine Shepherd, of Indiana. They have three children, James, born 1867, Florence, born 1870, Charles, born 1876. Is a member of the G. A. R., at DeWitt.
FRANK M. SUITER, real estate dealer and loan agent, DeWitt, was born in Scott County, Iowa, in 1839, where he lived until 1861, when he enlisted in the Second Iowa Infantry, Company B, as private. Was promoted Second Lieutenant for good conduct on the battle field of Shiloh and afterward Captain. Was in the service three years and four months. Was wounded at the battle of Corinth. After the war went back to Scott County, Iowa. Engaged in farming until 1868 when he was elected Recorder, which office he held for three terms. In 1874 removed to DeWitt, Neb., and, in company with his brother, built the DeWitt Flouring Mills which they managed until 1877 when they sold out. Mr. S. going into the real estate business. Is also land agent for the B. & M. R. R. Co. Was married in 1864 at Xenia, Ohio, to Miss Lydia A. Wright, of Le Claire, Iowa. They have three children, Clemie, Laura and Addie. Mr. S. is a member of Snow Lodge, Iowa, No. 44, A., F. & A. M. He is also one of the owners and publishers of the DeWitt Times.
JOSEPH SUITER, farmer Section 24, Town 5, North, Range 4 East, was born in Scott County, Iowa, in 1837. In 1862 enlisted in the Thirty-third Iowa Infantry. Was discharged in 1865. In the spring of 1867 moved to Nebraska and settled in Saline County, taking a homestead and bought in all 400 acres of land, a part of it lying across the county line in Gage County. Sold 160 acres to some parties for the town of DeWitt. Mr. Suiter set out about six acres of timber twelve years ago and has a fine grove now. Has turned his attention to the raising of stock and has one of the best arranged yards in the State. The yards are in the grove and the stock is well protected from winds. He also has tanks in the yards and has a wind mill to pump the water so that he has a supply of fresh water at all times. Also has clay on his place suitable for brick and burns a supply every year and on the whole he has a very desirable place only about eighty rods from the village of DeWitt. Was married to Miss Catharine Fuller, of Illinois, in 1858. They have six children, Mary F., Phillip H., Joseph L., Arthur G., George and Clarence. Mr. Suiter is a member of Snow Lodge, No. 37, A., F. & A. M., also belongs to the G. A. R.