WAYNE County lies in the northeastern portion of the State; is bounded by Cedar and Dixon Counties on the north, by Dixon and the Winnebago and Omaha Reservations on the east, by Cuming and Stanton Counties on the south, and by Pierce County on the west. It contains fourteen townships, or 322,560 acres of land.
Various statutes have been enacted defining, or attempting to define its limits. During the continuance in force of the statute of February 26, 1879, the county was without definite boundaries. The statute of March 1, 1881, taking effect June 1, 1881, fixed the boundaries as follows:
"Commencing at the southwest corner of Township 25 north, Range 1 east; thence east to the southeast corner of Section 33, Township 25 north, Range 6 east; thence north to the northeast corner of Section 4, Township 26 north, Range 6 east; thence west to the northeast corner of Township 26 north, Range 3 east; thence north to the northeast corner of Township 27 north, Range 3 east; thence west to the northwest corner of Township 27 north, Range 1 east; thence south to the place of beginning."
Wayne County, lying on the divide between the Elkhorn and the Logan valleys, is mainly upland. From one-fourth to one-third of the surface is valley, the remainder upland. In the eastern part the uplands are gently undulating, the hills rising to a height of from twenty to sixty feet, and in the western portion some of the hills are one hundred feet high. The valleys are those of Logan Creek and its tributaries, and in the southern part those of Plum, Humbug, and Spring Creek; but as nearly all of these streams rise in the county the valleys are all comparatively narrow.
This county is quite fortunate in its surface soil. It lies mostly east of the sand deposits, and both its valleys and rolling prairies are composed of exceedingly fertile soil. On the uplands it varies in depth from one to three feet; in the valleys from three to twelve feet, and is generally either a dark clay loam or black vegetable mold. The entire county, except one township (25, Range 1 east, which is quite sandy), is well adapted to both farming and grazing, especially farming. The subsoil is occasionally clay containing small, friable limestones, but generally a modified loess, subject to slides in deep cuts in wet weather. A coarse gravel is found at various depths in borings for wells, in which water is usually found. The underlying rock has not been reached.
The only natural resources in Wayne County worthy of mention are its grasses, which grow in great luxuriance all over the land. Here, as everywhere in the northeastern part of the State, the blue joint is the principal variety. This grows coarse and tall in low, wet places, short and fine where high and dry. A species of red top is also spreading where the land is moist. There has been but little buffalo grass since the county was settled. Timber has always been very limited in quantity, the streams being too small and straight to protect it from the prairie fires.
Tree planting has been indulged in to but a limited extent. In 1881 there were 344 acres of forest trees reported; 2,130 apple trees, 475 cherry trees, 389 plum trees, 558 peach trees, and 165 grapevines.
The county is well watered by the Logan Creek and its branches, Dogtown, Rattlesnake, and Coon, in the eastern, northern, and central portions. Plum, Humbug, and Spring Creeks have their sources in the southern part, and flow south into the Elkhorn. Good water is found by digging or boring to a moderate depth anywhere in the county.
The pioneer settlers of Wayne County were B. F. Whitten and a Mr. Bean, who came into Township 26, Range 5 east, near the Logan, in the summer of 1868. William Jones followed shortly afterward, and selected a homestead. Mr. Whitten did some breaking on his land. In the spring of 1869, Whitten and Jones returned with their families and made permanent settlements in Wayne county. In the same year a small colony from Illinois, at the head of which was Willard Graves, entered the county, and settled mostly in the southeast corner, on Coon Creek. Some of these were William G. Vroman, Isaac and Nathaniel Miner, and Andrew Hosler. Early in the summer of 1869, C. E. Hunter, Nathaniel Allen and his two sons, Alonzo and W. H.; A. A. Fletcher, James A. Fisher, and R. B. Crawford settled at La Porte. In 1870 M. T. Sperry, W. E. Durin, George and Enoch Hunter, O. F. Crane, Albert Miner, William P. Agler, Benjamin Harmon, George and Alexander Scott, and M. B. and I. O. Richardson came into and settled mainly in the vicinity of La Porte.
The first post office was established September 8, 1870, near the Logan bridge, and called Taffe, after Hon. John Taffe, of Dakota County; William Agler being appointed first Postmaster.
The first child born in the county was Patience E. Hunter, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Enoch Hunter, December 16, 1870. The first marriage that of Mr. T. Sperry to Miss Sarah Ann Eayrs, May 14, 1871, and the first death that of a son of Mr. and Mrs. William Vroman, August 6, 1870.
The first sermon preached in the county was by Elder Vanduser, of the Methodist Church, at the house of A. S. Miner, near the Logan bridge, in October, 1870. Prof. Samuel Aughey preached at the house of William Agler in December, 1870, being thus the second preacher in the county. Mrs. M. B. Richardson, a Second Adventist, preached her first sermon at the funeral of C. E. Hunter's little son, in February, 1871, and afterwards preached regularly at the house of Alexander Scott.
The first school was taught by Miss Jane Olin, in the summer of 1871, at La Porte, the whole county being then in one school district.
The first practicing physician was R. B. Crawford.
The county was organized by proclamation of Gov. David Butler in the fall of 1870. The first election was held September 5, and resulted as follows: Commissioners, M. T. Sperry, W. E. Durin and Isaac Miner; Clerk, C. E. Hunter; Treasurer, B. F. Whitten; Sheriff, A. D. Allen; Probate Judge, A. A. Fletcher; Surveyor, William G. Vroman; Superintendent of Instruction, R. B. Crawford; Coroner, Nathaniel Allen.
George Scott was appointed to fill the vacancy caused by B. F. Whitten's failure to qualify as Treasurer.
The electors of the county have voted bonds at different times for different purposes. The first election on such a question was held February 24, 1874. At this time the county was bonded in the sum of fifteen thousand dollars, for the purpose of building a Court House. The total vote cast was 47; for the bonds 26, against, 21. The Court House, a fine two-story brick building, was erected at La Porte, the county seat, in the year 1874, being completed December 8, of that year.
The next bond election was held January 18, 1876, when eighty-eight thousand dollars in bonds was voted to aid the Covington, Columbus, & Black Hills Railroad Company to construct their road through the county. The bonds carried by fifty votes and fifty majority, no vote being cast against them. The company not having complied with the conditions upon which the bonds were promised, they were never issued.
The third bond election was held December 23, 1878, on a question of issuing two thousand dollars in bonds to aid McHenry & Dennison to build a flouring mill on the Logan, about two miles below Wakefield. The bonds carried by a vote of 59 for, to 24 against them, and were issued January 1, 1880. These bonds were sold without being certified to by the State Auditor as legally issued, and matured January 1, 1882, but have not been presented for payment.
The mill is a two story one, with two run of buhrs, and is the only one in the county.
There have been two murders committed in the county.
C. S. Munson, who had settled in the southeastern part of the county in the spring of 1870, was engaged in breaking land, when five young Winnebago Indians came upon and killed him without provocation or warning. They had been advised by one of the medicine men of the tribe that they must do such a deed in order to be "braves." They cut off Munson's head, hid it in a badger hole, and reported to the agency having found a man dead on the plains. Suspicion was aroused, the five Indians were arrested, tried for the murder, and sentenced to the penitentiary for life. One of them was named White Breast, and was a son of the Winnebago Chief.
The other murder took place in the southwestern part of the county in September, 1877. Simon Gehle, a German living there with his wife, made a trip to the Black Hills, leaving his wife at home, and his farm in charge of Ferdinand Schulz. Upon his return from the Black Hills, his wife, Henrietta, and Shulz had formed a conspiracy to put him out of the way. He was shot by Shulz and killed. Shulz and Mrs. Gehle pleaded guilty to manslaughter, and were sentenced to the penitentiary, he for ten years, and she for five.
The saddest incident in the history of the county, was the burning to death by a prairie fire of Mrs. W. E. Durin, and her little girl, on October 18, 1879. She had gone out to do what she could towards saving a shed from the fire, and in attempting to cross a strip of grass not over four rods wide, with the little girl, stumbled and fell, and being large and clumsy, was caught by the fire, and so badly burned as to die from the injuries received. While burning she held the little girl in her lap, but could not save her.
The Burlington and Missouri Railroad Company owned originally twenty-three thousand and ninety-three acres of land in this county, but have sold nearly all of it. There were at first twenty-five sections of Agricultural College lands, about five thousand acres of which have been sold. There has never been much government land here and there are not more than about thirty homesteaders in the county.
More than one-half the entire county is owned by private parties, non-residents, who hold it for higher prices. This state of affairs may have had its advantages to the actual settlers. It has enabled them to build good schoolhouses, to bond the county for Court House and other purposes, and to throw a disproportionate share of the taxes therefor, upon the non-resident taxpayer, as he has generally omitted to appear before the Board of Equalization and have an unfair assessment reduced. On the other hand it has diverted and continues to divert, immigrants to other counties where land can be obtained on much more reasonable terms. Thus the non-resident owner of the lands, and his resident agent, are retarding the development of the county, and preventing its progress with the view of enriching themselves.
Wayne County has eighteen school districts, sixteen school houses, seventeen qualified school teachers, and three hundred and forty-one children of school age. The school house sites are valued at $160; school houses at $5,925; school furniture at $1,675; books and apparatus at $470; total value of school property, $8,230.
The total amount of real estate on the tax list for 1881, was $564,843.81; town sites, $3,525; personal property, $46,668.20; making a grand total of $615,037.01.
In 1870 Wayne county had a population of 182; in 1876, 299; in 1879; 481; and in 1881, 941; 505 males and 436 females. Of these 341 were children of school age.
The town site of La Porte was laid out May 22, 1874, by Solon Bevins, who also built the first house and the first store in the town, during the following summer.
It is finely located on high rolling prairie on the north side of the valley of Coon Creek. It was made the county seat in the fall of 1871, and the court house erected in the fall of 1874 at a cost of $11,983. The Methodists and Lutherans have organizations here, but no church building, religious services being held in the school house. There are at La Porte one general store, two blacksmiths, and about fifty inhabitants. The school district, No. 2, contains forty-three children of school age. The post office at La Porte was established February 21, 1871, C. E. Hunter, postmaster.
Corinthian Lodge, No. 83, A., F. & A.M., was chartered June 22, 1881, with fifteen charter members, and the following officers: C. E. Hunter, W. M.; J. C. Wills, S. W.; Moses Herner, J. W.; James Britton, Secretary, and John T. Bressler, Treasurer. The lodge now numbers twenty members.
A post of the Grand Army of the Republic was organized in February, 1881, with twenty-two members. The officers elected were: Charles Johnson, Com.; C. E. Hunter, V. C.; W. H. Burson, J. V.; I. A. Coleman, Quartermaster, and B. F. Feather, Adjutant.
Fourth of July, 1871.-- The people of Wayne County celebrated the republic's natal day very early in their own history. On the Fourth of July, 1871, they nearly all assembled near La Porte to rejoice together over the success of the Revolutionary Fathers in establishing American Independence. M. T. Sperry was orator of the day; C. E. Hunter read the Declaration of Independence, and R. B. Crawford had charge of the singing.
WM. P. AGLER, farmer and blacksmith, is a native of Lycoming County, Pennsylvania. In 1841 came to Lee County, Illinois, learned the blacksmith trade in Paw Paw. Followed this trade till 1871 when he came to Wayne County, Nebraska, took a claim of 160 acres, engaged in farming, also carries on the blacksmith trade. Mr. Agler is one of the first setters of Wayne County. Married in 1861 to Pamelia Harmon, of Cattaraugus County, New York. They have three children, two daughters and one son.
ENOCH HUNTER, County Clerk, is a native of Jefferson County, Pennsylvania. In 1853 came to Lee County, Ill., there engaged in farming; in 1871 came to Wayne County, Nebraska, took a homestead of 160 acres, which he improved. He has been Sheriff four years, was elected County Clerk in the fall of 1879 and re-elected to this office in the fall of 1881.
C. E. HUNTER, County Judge and Postmaster, was born in Tioga County, Pennsylvania, in 1835. In 1855 came with his parents to Lee County, Illinois. In 1869 he came to Wayne county, took a homestead claim of 160 acres, which he improved and where he still resides. In 1870 he was elected County Clerk, held that office five years. In 1875 he was elected a member of the State Constitutional Convention, which framed the present constitution. This post office was established in 1870, he was then appointed Postmaster, has held the office since. He is now serving his third term as County Judge. In 1875 he established the Wayne County Review, the first paper published in the county. This paper, which he still owns, is now published in Wayne. In 1871 he opened a small store, commencing with a stock of about $16. Still continues merchandising.
A. S. MINER, Sheriff, was born in Wayne County, New York, in the fall of 1843, came to Jackson County, Michigan, in the fall of 1852, engaged in farming until 1862. He enlisted in Company E, Twentieth Michigan Infantry, served about one year, and in the spring of 1863, he came to Bureau County, Illinois, engaged in farming. In 1870 he came to Wayne County, Nebraska, where he has since resided. He took a claim of 160 acres, which he improved and still owns. In 1879, he was appointed sheriff to fill a vacancy. In 1880 he was elected to fill an unexpired term. In the fall of 1881 he was again elected to this office. He was one of three who were lost in the great storm of 1872, both of his feet being frozen, requiring amputation.
This little town is phenomenal in its growth. The town site was laid out by the St. Paul & Sioux City Railroad Company in June, 1881. The first house was built by R. T. Maxwell, in July, 1881. The first store (hardware) was opened about August 1, and within a month a general store was opened by Britton, Hardenburgh & Johnson. The Logan Valley Bank was moved here from La Porte, October 1st. N. F. Bennett commenced the first hotel about the same time. The Wayne County Review moved from La Porte in November, publishing the first number in Wayne, December 3.
The first birth was that of a daughter of Mr. and Mrs. James Britton, September 6, 1881; the first marriage that of John G. Mesthaler to Mrs. Julia Phillips, and the first death that of Mrs. H. V. Brokaw, in November, 1881.
At the present time there are in Wayne four general stores, three banks, two drug stores, two hardware stores, three agricultural implement dealers, five lawyers, three doctors, three church organizations--Presbyterian, Lutheran and Baptist--three hotels, two lumber yards, one newspaper, a population of about three hundred, eight-four of whom are children of school age.
The depot is a neat frame building, completed about May 1, 1882, the railroad itself having reached there in the fall of 1881.
Wayne County Review.--This paper was started May 22, 1875, at La Porte, by Huse & Hunter, as a seven-column folio, being printed at Ponca one year. In September, 1876, Mr. Hunter purchased material and printed the paper at La Porte thereafter, changing its form to a four-column quarto. In the spring of 1879, A. P. Childs became associated with Mr. Hunter, and the paper was changed to a seven-column folio in September, 1881, a new press being purchased at this time. Since December 3, 1881, it has been published in Wayne. In politics it has always been Republican.
C. C. BROWN, cashier Wayne County Bank, was born in Jefferson County, New York. At the age of seven moved to Ohio with his parents. Came west in 1858; lived at Chatfield two years and engaged in printing. Then moved to Faribault, Minnesota, and worked at printing. In 1870 moved to Manakato, Minoesota, and worked at printing. In 1870 moved to Manakato, Minoesota, and published the Mankato Record. In the fall of 1880 moved to Flandrau, Dakota, Territory, and engaged in banking. In July, 1881, moved to Nebraska and in January, 1882, in company with his brother, O. D. Brown, established the Wayne County Bank.
JAMES BRITTON, attorney at law and Postmaster, was born in Lee County, Illinois, where he was raised and received his education. He attended the Law Department of the Iowa State University, where he graduated June, 1873, he then returned to Lee County and engaged in the practice of law, remained there till the spring of 1876 when he came to La Porte, Nebraska, has since continued in the practice of his profession. He being the oldest admitted attorney in the county, he has been three years county attorney. He became a member of the firm of Britton, Hardenbergh & Johnson July, 1881, was then appointed postmaster, this being the first general store established in Wayne. Mr. Britton is one of the owners of the town-site of Wayne.
JOHN T. BRESSLER, firm of Bressler & Patterson, Logan Valley Bank, was born in Huntingdon County, Pennsylvania, was raised in Blair County. In 1870 came to Wayne County, Nebraska, took a homestead claim of 160 acres, engaged in farming about five years, was County Surveyor one term., held the office of County Treasurer two terms. July, 1880, this bank was established in La Porte. October, 1881, they removed this bank to Wayne, where they have since been carrying on a general banking and real estate business.
ARTHUR P. CHILDS, one of the editors of the Wayne County Review, was born in Neversink, New York, October 1, 1843. He learned the printer's trade in the office of the Ellenville Journal. Enlisted in the fall of 1861, in Company K, Fifty-sixth New York Volunteers, served as a private soldier through the Peninsula Campaign, was promoted to Hospital Steward in the regular army April 9, 1863, and served until December 20, 1865, when he was honorably discharged. In 1879 he reserved until December 20, 1865, when he was honorably discharged. In 1879 he removed to Nebraska and became associate editor of the Review in April of that year, in which capacity he is still engaged. In 1881 he was elected County Surveyor.
PAUL ENGLISCH, firm of J. O. Milligan & Co., dealers in lumber, coal and implements, was born in West Bend, Wisconsin, in 1859. The family removed to Lake Superior. His father run a hotel at Hancock and Calumet in 1872. They came to Dodge County, Nebraska, followed farming about four years. He then was employed by J. O. Milligan, as clerk in their store at Scribner. He became a member of the firm December 1, 1881, when this yard was established.
CHAS. JOHNSON, firm of Britton, Hardenburgh & Johnson, general merchandise, is a native of Sullivan County, New York, where he was raised. He enlisted in 1861 in Company K, Fifty-sixth New York Infantry, was promoted to the rank of First Lieutenant, afterward promoted to Captain, which position he held to the close of the war. He participated in the battles of Williamsburg, Fair Oaks, seven days' battle from Fair Oaks to Malvern Hill and Athens. He lost his left leg at the battle of Honey Hill, South Carolina. At the close of the war he returned to New York where he remained until 1878, when he came to Chicago, in 1880, came to La Porte, Nebraska, engaged in merchandising with the firm of Hardenburgh & Johnson. July, 1881, they removed to Wayne; Mr. B. then became a member of this firm. This was the first store started in Wayne.
J. A. LINDLEY, real estate, is a native of Washington County Pennsylvania, where he was raised. In about 1862 he came to Iowa, soon after removed to Council Bluffs, where he was extensively engaged in the real estate business, this he continued till 1880, when he came to La Porte, Nebraska, has since been engaged in land and real estate. He has recently removed his office to Wayne.
J. L. MERRIAM, general merchandise, was born in Essex county, New York. In 1835 went to California, returned in 1855, returned again to California in 1857, engaged in mining. He enlisted in 1862 in Company L, First California Cavalry, served to the end of the war, enlisted as private, was promoted to Lieutenant and mustered out as Captain at the end of the war. In 1866 he returned to New York thence to Minnesota, was engaged in the railroad business from 1868 to the summer of 1881 when he came to Wayne and established his present business.
E. F. MORRIS, firm of Morris, Steele & Co., hardware, stoves and tinware, is a native of Marietta County, Ohio, when a child came to Lucas County, Iowa, with his parents. At the age of fifteen he commenced to learn the tinner's trade, has since followed this business, most of the time in Indiana. In 1878 he with Mr. Walrath opened a hardware store, which they continued one year. He then sold out to his partner. In 1879, he came to Sheldon, Iowa, there he had charge of a store about two years. July, 1881, they came to Wayne, they camped on the prairie while this store was being built. They opened the first stock of hardware and farming machinery in Wayne.
D. C. PATTERSON, attorney at law and banker, born in Huntingdon County, Pennsylvania, February, 1857, was raised on a farm until 1871 when he clerked in a store in Altoona, Pennsylvania for two years following. Graduated from Eastman College Poughkeepsie, New York in 1874, Came to Iowa in 1876, taught school there until spring of 1877, when came to Wayne County; Neb., was elected County Superintendent in fall of 1877: admitted to practice law in 1878, was Democratic candidate for State Auditor in 1880, stumped the northern part of the State for Hancock and the State ticket during that campaign. Is at present engaged in law, real estate and banking business, being one of the proprietors of the Logan Valley Bank, the oldest banking institution in Wayne County.
Donop Post office is situated in the southwestern part of Wayne County, on the Norfolk branch of the Chicago, St. Paul, Minneapolis & Omaha Railroad. The first settlement made here was by Frank Puls in 1869. He was joined in 1870 by Charles Mass and F. Blase. The first child born in Donop was Amelia Puls, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Frank Puls, in 1870. The first death was that of Charles Went in the spring of 1871, and the first marriage that of Charles Falk to Amelia Blase, April 19, 1876. The first sermon preached here was by Rev. Otto Rahl, in 1870. A church was built here in 1881 by the German (?) Reformed congregation. The surrounding country is rather high, rolling prairie, excellent for pasturing cattle and sheep, and inhabited principally by Germans.
Leslie was a post office in the southeastern part of the county, established in 1871; Joseph Boekenhauer postmaster. It was discontinued in 1876.