Topography | Early Settlements | Organization | County Roster|
York County Agricultural Society
York: Early history | Incorporation | Schools | First Term of Court|
New York | Local Matters | Elevators | Banks
Nebraska Conference Seminary | Public Schools | Churches
Societies | The Press
3 ~ 5:
ALLAN ~ KNOTT | LANGWORTHY ~ SCOTT
SEDGWICK ~ ZIMMERER
Baker Precinct | Bradshaw: Biographical Sketches|
West Blue Precinct: Church History
Beaver Creek Precinct | North Blue Precinct|
Henderson Precinct: Biographical Sketches
Houston Precinct: Biographical Sketches
Stewart Precinct: | Woodruff Precinct|
List of Illustrations in York County Chapter
York County Names Index
YORK County is situated in the centre of the most beautiful, and when all conditions are considered the best agricultural district to be found in the fertile and far-famed Nebraska.
Measuring from the center of the county it is ninety-two and one-half miles to the Missouri River, and from the same point it is sixty miles to the Kansas State line, while the Platte River is thirty-three miles north and thirty-six miles west in a direct line.
The county is as near the centre of the celebrated South Platte country as it is possible to locate the center of a section of country, the extent of which is so indefinite. The county is twenty-four miles square, and contains 575 sections or 368,640 acres of land. Upon the "divides" or plateaus the surface of the country is very level and smooth, slightly undulating, and as one travels towards the streams, he finds the surface traversed by numerous ravines or "draws," but very few of these are so deep or abrupt as to forbid of cultivation. They are a natural shelter for stock and in days gone by were the favorite feeding ground of the buffalo and elk. They produce the very best of wild native grasses, and are considered an advantage rather than a detriment. The faint outlines of the "buffalo paths" are still visible in many places and the appearance presented would indicate that immense herds once frequented these favorite haunts.
The West Blue River traverses the southern edge of the county, running in a zig-zag course, the general direction being east and west. This stream furnishes excellent natural water-power, and there are now located upon it some of the best flouring mills in the State, three of which are in the limits of this county.
Beaver Creek crosses the west line of the county near the centre north and south and runs nearly due east about half way across it, when it turns southward and runs in a southeasterly direction until it meets the West Blue River, about one and a half miles east of the county line in Seward County.
Lincoln Creek traverses the north half of the county from west to east and furnishes a number of good mill sites.
The Blue River, the least important of the four water courses, traverses the northeast portion. These streams are not "mighty rivers" but furnish abundant water for stock and drive machinery all the year round.
They are skirted by a belt of timber, in some places very light, and heavier in others. The valleys formed by them are picturesque and very beautiful, in many localities almost enchanting.
The soil throughout the entire county is uniformly rich and productive. The "divides" or uplands seem equally productive and fertile as the bottom lands of the valleys. Since the first settlements of the county an entire failure of crops has been unknown. There have been partial failures of one or more of the cereals, but there has always been a harvest, and after the first severe trials incident to the settlement of any new country have been surmounted, the county has been more than self-supporting. There is a copious rainfall every year, and the soil and sub-soil are such that the earth is always moist just below the surface.
No settlements were made in York County until the location of the Territorial Road, in 1861, from Nebraska City to a point on the line of the "Old Government " or "California Trail," forty miles due east of the present city of Kearney, familiarly called the "Old Freight Road," and more definitely known to early freighters and travelers as the Nebraska City Cut-Off.
It followed the natural "divides" of the county, running near enough to the creeks and rivers to obtain water for the ox and mule teams of the freighters.
This historic "Trail" entered York in the southeast corner, passing through West Blue, York and Baker Precincts on one of the continuous "divides" that cross the county, running in a general course east and west, and three miles south of the city of York. Along the line of this trail, at convenient points for obtaining water and fuel, numerous ranches were established. Five of these pioneer hotels were located in York County, the oldest being Porcupine Ranch, situated at Porcupine Bluffs, near the west line of the county. It was inaugurated in the year 1863, by Benjamin F. Lushbaugh, United States Indian Agent of the Pawnees, and was conducted by Samuel Kearney. It was also a relay station of the Overland Stage Coach, and twenty-seven miles west of Fouse’s Ranch, located at Beaver Crossing, in Seward County.
The following year, 1864, Mr. Lushbaugh also established the Jack Smith Ranch, and placed in charge a Mr. Chapin, who kept it for a period of six months, when it passed into the hands of Mr. Smith, who remained proprietor until the freight wagons disappeared, and its mission was ended.
The McDonald Ranch was also established in 1864, and is named in honor of its original proprietor. This ranch was purchased by a Mr. Baker, in the fall of 1865, and operated by him until the close of the freighting business. It was located just east of Porcupine Ranch.
Antelope Ranch was situated only a few miles east of the McDonald Ranch, and was established in the month of November, 1865, by James T. Mathewson.
Next to the Jack Smith Ranch west was the ranch known as Jack Stone's Ranch, established in August, 1865, by George Chapman, but operated by him for only six months, at which time he transferred it to John McClellan, alias Jack Stone, and maintained by him until the business of freighting was abandoned.
Near the site of Mr. Smith's old ranch, on the bluffs, a few rods south of Beaver Creek, may be seen the grave of the first white man interred in York County. His death was tragic and brought on by his own evil intentions.
The victim was a driver in charge of the overland stage coach, and in passing over the road stopped at Smith's Ranch. He was under the influence of "Pioneer Whiskey," very abusive, and finally declared his intention to shoot Mr. Smith.
With this purpose in view, he went to the stage, secured his revolvers, returned to the ranch and drew a bead on Mr. Smith, just as he was about to enter the ranch.
Mr. Smith shot first, the ball entering the forehead, and producing instant death.
This was the first death occurring in the county, and although assuming the form of a tragedy, Mr. Smith was justified in the course he pursued.
The first permanent settlement of the county was made by John Anderson and his son William Anderson, upon the West Blue River, in the month of February, 1865. They took up the first homestead claims in York County on Section 2, township 9, range 1, and are honored as the pioneer settlers of the county.
The early settlers without exception took up sites for their future homes in the timber groves that bordered the principal streams. The wild natural scenery of their charming valleys attracted and irresistibly drew them to their shady nooks and the prime necessities of pioneer life, wood and water were in abundance.
The first settlements were made in the valley of the West Blue, in the territory now embraced by West Blue Precinct. The early pioneers in this portion of the county are: Nerva Fouse, Elias Gilmore, George Stubblefield, Henry Chatterton, William J. Taylor and David Buzzard. In the northwest part, J. W. Kingston and Philando Church settled upon the Blue River in 1870, and in the north and northeast, upon Lincoln Creek, David Doan, James H. Stewart, Newton Hyett, and John A. Mercer made settlement in 1868, and C. C. Smith and a Mr. Coon, in 1867.
In the more central part along the valley of Beaver Creek the pioneers are John Kora, Julius Frost, Henry Nichols, William Sweet and Christian Bristol, the date of their settlement being 1870.
A little further west on the creek David Baker settled in 1869, and the following year Thomas Bassett and Marion Shackleford.
In the south and west parts, Fernando McFadden made settlement in 1866 on the West Blue, and Levi Woodruff (now deceased) in 1868, and also the Hendersons at an early period.
In 1870, during the month of April, the organization of the county took place. The United States census, which was made during this year, disclosed a total population of 640, one half of which had made settlement in the spring and summer.
There was but one frame house in the entire county, the residence of Uncle Elias Gilmore, situated on the West Blue, and but one schoolhouse, a sod structure, also located upon this stream.
One post-office comprised the entire mail facilities, which was located upon the West Blue on the road between Fairmount and York, at the residence of Fernando McFadden, established in the month of July 1867. Mr. McFadden has the honor of being the first Postmaster appointed in York County, and his euphonious name was also given to the post-office. At this office they were supposed to have a weekly mail, but high water, a sick horse, or some other incident often delayed it, and not infrequently two weeks passed without any mail coming into York County.
Large numbers of buffalo invaded the county in August, 1868, which was the last appearance of these animals in any considerable numbers. Their advent was a godsend to the almost destitute pioneers, who found themselves in a position to lay in a winter's supply of meat, and it is needless to add they were not backward in taking advantage of their good fortune. During this year (1868) the Pawnees, Otoes, Omahas and Poncas were united in a war against their common enemy, the powerful Sioux, and invaded York County on the war-path. The line of battle was on the south side of the West Blue, about eight miles south of the city of York. No white settlers were molested, but the Indians skirmished here and there over the southern part of the county, according to their usual mode of warfare.
Twelve years ago there were but two or three houses between the residence of J. W. Kingston and the city of York, and the settlements were scattered and many miles apart. Yet, those were grand old days, and the first settlers are unanimous in pronouncing them as such. They were obliged to make long journeys for their social amusements, but always enjoyed them. A trip of twenty-five miles for the purpose of visiting a neighbor was no uncommon occurrence, and you may rest assured, those visits were always pleasant and agreeable. All were united in one common bond of friendship and hearty good will toward each other. A new settler was hailed with delight, and the neighbors (all were neighbors) would go fifteen or twenty miles to assist him in erecting his sod house, and giving him an honest welcome. The stranger became one of them and without the least formality. Such hearty good will is contagious, and no sooner did the new settler see it manifested then he took the disease, and was as jolly, free and friendly as the rest. Long trips across the country were not unfrequent, and little dreaded.
The nearest mill was located at Millford, Seward County, a distance of thirty-five miles from York, and with their little grists, they made the journey in three days and often in two. The bulk of the trading was done at Lincoln, except lumber, which was purchased at Plattsmouth or Nebraska City, on the Missouri River. The many trials and hardships of pioneer life, interspersed with the numerous pleasures incident to it, form a volume that can never be fully written.
Prior to the year 1870 York County was attached to Seward County for judicial and revenue purposes. On the 18th day of March, 1870, His Excellency David Butler, Governor of the State of Nebraska, issued a proclamation in response to a petition from the citizens of York County, authorizing a permanent organization of the county.
In accordance with this proclamation, on the 26th of April, 1870, the people of York County met at the polling places of the three precincts, and exercised their franchise, at which election eighty-six votes were cast throughout the entire county. Of this number fifty-one were polled in Precinct No. l, at the house of Uncle Elias Gilmore, Section 17; in Precinct No. 2, at the old pre-emption house of A. M. Ghost, situated at York, on Section 18; in Precinct No. 3, at the residence of J. M. Parker. A full compliment of county officers were duly elected and the choice of the people resulted as follows: Edward Bates, Clerk; Julius Frost, Treasurer; George Flock, Sheriff; D. F. Moore, Probate Judge, W. H. Armstrong, Superintendent of Public Instruction; Frank Manning, Surveyor; Dr. S. V. Moore, David Buzzard, Capt L. F. Wyman, Commissioners.
All of the above officers qualified and entered upon the immediate discharge of their duties.
At this election the county seat was located at York, in consideration of about 200 lots given to the county by the Town Plat Company.
The first session of the newly elected Board of County Commissioners was held June 4, 1870, in the old pre-emption house before mentioned, which was situated near the present site of the Central Hotel stables, just south of the public square. At this session the County Clerk was instructed to purchase, upon the credit of the county, all necessary books and stationery for keeping the county records, which was the first official proceeding of the board.
Messrs. David Buzzard, John D. Reed, Julius Frost and County Clerk, Edward Bates, were appointed a committee to investigate and settle the individual accounts of the county with Seward County, and John D. Reed was also appointed Attorney for York County.
The county was divided into three Commissioners’ Districts comprising the following territory; District No. 1, Town 9, Ranges 1, 2, 3, and 4, west. District No. 2, Town 10, Ranges 1, 2, 3, and 4, west. District No 3, Town 11 and 12, Ranges 1, 2, 3, and 4, west.
York was officially declared the county seat, and the County Clerk ordered to give due notice of the fact as provided by law.
The second session of the board was held July 6, 1870. At this session the county was divided into three voting precincts, including the same territory embraced by the three Commissioners' Districts, and designated them by similar names. Shortly after they were given the names of West Blue, Beaver Creek, and Moore.
During this month the first tax was levied, and the following March A. E. Streeter made the first assessment of the county. The assessment roll shows a total valuation of all property, real and personal, to be $22,464, while the total tax levied amounted to $2,920.04.
On the 4th of October, 1870, Edward Batts resigned his office of County Clerk, and D. R. Creegan was appointed to fill the vacancy. On the 12th of this month Judge D. T. Moore, Dr. Thomas L. Myers, now of Aurora, and A. J. Gilmore, were appointed Commissioners to appraise the school lands of the county. At one of the closing sessions of 1870, held November 15, Judge Moore generously donated his salary to the county and was accorded a vote of thanks by the board.
It will be remembered that at this time a court house and fire proof vault were things unknown in York County, and no secure place had been provided for the archives of the county. The old pre-emption house of A. M. Ghost, was used as a court house during this year and up to the fall of 1871. Each officer was responsible for the records entrusted to him, and was at liberty to carry them in his pocket, hide them under his bed, or make such arrangements for their safety as he thought best.
In November of this year, a new mail route was established from Lincoln to Grand Island, via Seward, and three new post offices were established in the county, named Palo, Thayer, and Aikin's Mill, Chauncy Aikins served Uncle Sam as Postmaster at Aikin's Mill, and J. H. Parker at Thayer. Soon after this the citizens of York petitioned for a mail route between York and Fairmont by way of McFadden, which was granted on condition the people pay for conveying the mails. Such a piece of economy on the part of a Postmaster General of the present time seems incredible, but nevertheless it remains a historical fact. Dr. Thomas L. Myers was appointed Postmaster at York, but the office not proving very lucrative, he soon resigned and F. O. Bell was appointed as his successor. He held the office for two years and was succeeded by J. E. Cochran, who resigned in a short time and Mrs. M. J. Hammond, the present efficient incumbent, was appointed.
At the first session of the board of the year 1871, held January 3, Beaver Creek Precinct was divided on the line between Ranges 2 and 3, and the west portion was created a new precinct, under the name of Baker. Moore Precinct was also divided on the line between Range 2 and 3, and the east portion formed into a new precinct and named Stewart.
On the 29th of July, York Precinct was created and the county seat made the place of voting.
At an adjourned session of the board, convened November 2, 1871 the county was re-divided into nine voting precincts, eight miles square, named as follows, commencing at the northeast corner, and running west thence east, etc.; Stewart, Houston, North Blue, Baker, York, Beaver Creek, West Blue, Woodruff and Henderson.
During this year the first county road was laid out along the West Blue and was surveyed by H. Badger. Soon after this a bill was drafted by Judge D. T. Moore and D. R. Creegan, making all section lines a road, in certain counties, including York County. This bill passed the Legislature and became a law. The provisions were afterward extended to include all the counties of the State.
In August 1871, it was decided to call a special election to vote upon the proposition to sell enough of the town lots owned by the county to build a court house. The proposition was carried, $1,500 worth of lots sold, and the contract to build the present court house let to Mr. Charlton. It was a fine building for that time but appears rather insignificant now, after a lapse of ten years of usefulness. Prior to this time and the building of the court house, the records were kept in a sod building of one room adjoining Dr. Tutton's drug store and the sessions of the Commissioners held in the Doctor’s store, who was County Clerk until the close of 1872, resigning December 2. John H. Helms succeeded him being appointed to fill vacancy.
In the fall of 1870 A. J. Gilmore was elected County Commissioner to fill the place of David Buzzard, whose term of office had expired. At the general election of 1871 Judge D. T. Moore was elected a delegate to the Constitutional Convention. Two hundred and eighteen votes were cast in the county and the following persons were called from the walks of private life to serve the county: A. B. Tutton, County Clerk; B. M. Elliott, Treasurer; C. D. Aikins, Sheriff; L. P. Buckmaster, Probate Judge; H. H. Tate, Superintendent Public Instruction.
In the spring of 1871 York County received its first proposal for building a railroad. Dr. Converse, Superintendent of the Mioland Pacific Railroad, submitted a proposition to the people of York County in which he offered to extend the company’s road from Seward to York if the county would vote bonds to the amount of $150,000, payable in twenty years, and donate the right of way through it. The proposition met with decided opposition throughout the county in general but more particularly in the southern precincts that received little benefit in the way of building up and establishing towns.
While the settlers were fully aroused to the necessity of having railroad facilities and fully appreciated the advantages to be derived from one, yet they were unwilling and very sensibly refused to load the young county with a debt that would have been a burden to its inhabitants for many years. A special election was called March 19, 1872, and the proposition accordingly voted down.
The annual election of 1873 gave the county the following officers: L. J. Gandy, Treasurer; F. W. Liedke, Clerk; W. E. Morgan, Probate Judge; J. P. Miller, Sheriff; T. A. Parkinson, Superintendent Public Instruction; Frank Manning, Surveyor; T. Brooks, Coroner; W. H. Greer and Thomas Burgess, Commissioners, and the following year of 1874 H. S. Burtch was elected Commissioner.
A project for building a narrow gauge railroad had been advanced by some of the leading citizens of the county, the stockholders to be residents of the county. This created quite a stir and some enthusiasm was manifested. It was meeting with some favor and endorsement when another proposition was received from Dr. Converse which ran the narrow gauge scheme entirely off the track. This second proposition was submitted in 1874 and demanded only $94,000, in county bonds, in consideration of which the Midland Pacific Road was to be extended to York. The bond campaign of 1875 was a very warm one and met with some opposition. Eleven hundred and seventy-five votes were cast at this election and the proposition was favored by a sufficient majority in the county, while the precinct of York voted to issue its bonds to the amount of $10,000 as an additional bonus. The company fulfilled its promises and the first train reached York in August, 1877. In the fall of 1875, at the general election, Liedke, Gandy, Miller and Brooks were re-elected. W. B. Cummins, Probate Judge; J. E. Cochran, Superintendent of Public Instruction; A. B. Codding, Surveyor.
At this election Hon. George W. Post, at this time a young and promising member of the York bar, was elected Judge of the Fourth Judicial District, which position he still holds, having been re-elected in 1879. The first Representatives to the State Legislature from York County were elected in 1876. The Senatorial District included York and Hamilton Counties. Hon. S. V. Moore and Hon. Lee Love were chosen to serve the people as Representatives, and Hon. W. M. Knapp as Senator. Benjamin Woolman was this year elected Commissioner.
In 1877 Messrs. F. W. Leidke, J. P. Miller, L. J. Gandy, W. B. Cummins, J. E. Cochran, and A. B. Codding were re-elected, and Thomas Gray as Commissioner.
At the general election in 1878, W. T. Scott and W. H. Keekley were elected to the State Legislature and F. W. Liedke as State Auditor. Mr. Kiedke resigned his position as County Clerk, and the Commissioners appointed Hon. Lee Love to fill the vacancy caused.
At the election of county officers for 1879, W. B. Cummins, J. P. Miller and A. B. Codding were again re-elected. J. A. Eatherly was elected County Clerk; A. J. Bell, District Clerk, E. E. Armor, Superintendent Public Instruction, and Charles W. Wullebrandt, Commissioner.
In the fall of 1880 Hon. S. V. Moore and Albert Wilsey were elected as Representatives; Martin Burns as State Senator, and Jesse Love, County Commissioner.
The election of 1881 gave the county the services of the present efficient officials who were elected as follows: Milton Sovereign, Clerk; J. W. Bennett, Treasurer; W. W. Giffen, County Judge; James H. Hamilton, Sheriff; E. E. Armor, Superintendent Public Instruction; A. B. Codding, Surveyor; J. W. Wells, M. D., Coroner; S. A. Myers, Commissioner.
In the spring of 1873 the county was encumbered by a debt of $44,000 caused by the erection of bridges and other internal improvements, and funded its debts by issuing bonds to that amount.
The following is the roster of county officials from the organization of the county up to the present time:
1870. Commissioners--David Buzzard, S. N. Moore, L. F. Wyman, A. J. Gilmore, October 13, 1870; D. F. Moore, Probate Judge; J. W. Frost, Treasurer; Edward Bates, D. R. Cuegan, appointed October 6; George Flock, Sheriff; W. H. Armstrong, Superintendent Public Instruction; Randolph Fairbanks, Coroner; Frank Manning, Surveyor.
1871-72. Commissioners--A. J. Gilmore, L. F. Wyman, Andrew Houston, J. H. Stewart (1872), S. P. Buckmaster, Probate Judge; B. M. Elliott, Treasurer; A. B. Tutton, Clerk; John H. Helms, appointed December 2, 1872; H. H. Tate, Superintendent Public Instruction; Randolph Fairbanks, Coroner; F. Connelly, Surveyor.
1873-74. Commissioners--James H. Stewart, Thomas Burgess, H. Burtch (1874), L. F. Wyman, W. H. Greer, O. C. Harris, appointed June 7, 1873; W. E. Morgan, Probate Judge; L. J. Gandy, Treasurer; T. W. Liedke, Clerk; C. D. Aikins, Sheriff; T. A. Parkinson, Supertentendent Public Instruction; F. Brooks, Coroner; A. B. Codding, Surveyor.
1875-76. Commissioners--W. H. Greer, Thomas Burgess, H. S. Burtch, David Doan (1876), William B. Cummins, Probate Judge; L. J. Gandy, Treasurer; F. W. Liedke, Clerk; James P. Miller, Sheriff; J. E. Cochran, Superintendent Public Instruction; Francis Brooks, Coroner; A. B. Codding, Surveyor; W. M. Knapp (1876), Senator; S. V. Moore and Lee Love (1876), Representatives.
1877-78. Commissioners--H. S. Burtch, David Doan, Benjamin Woolman, Thomas Gray (1878), W. B. Cummins, County Judge; E. S. Connelly, appointed February 4, 1878; L. J. Gandy, Treasurer; F. W. Liedke, Clerk; J. P. Miller, Sheriff; J. E. Cochran, Superintendent Public Instruction; William H. Keckley, Coroner; A. W. Codding, Surveyor; W. T. Scott (1878), W. H. Keckley (1878), Representatives.
1879-80. Commissioners--Benjamin Woolman, Thomas Gray, A. C. Eberhart, Charles Wullbrandt (1880), W. B. Cummins, County Judge; L. J. Gandy; Treasurer; John A. Eatherly, Clerk; A. J. Bell, District Clerk; J. P. Miller, Sheriff; E. E. Armor, Superintendent Public Insturction; Charles Lee Count, Coroner; A. B. Codding, Surveyor; Martin Burns (1880), Senator; Albert Wilsey (1880), S. V. Moore (1880), Representatives.
1881-82. Commissioners--C. Wullbrandt, Jesse Love, S. H. Myers.
The Agricultural Society of York County was organized at the office of F. M. Bidwell, in the month of June, 1872. N. W. Groves was elected President, F. W. Liedke, Secretary, and L. D. Stillson, General Superintendent. The first fair was held in October, 1873, upon the present grounds of the society. The half mile track had been surveyed and laid out during the summer of 1872. There was a fair representation of trotting stock. The exhibits of cattle, sheep and farm produce were limited, for it will be remembered the county was then enjoying the days of its tutelage. However, there was a good representation of all classes of entries, and an interest manifested by the farmers of York County that was highly encouraging to the founders of the society. The premium list for this year aggregated $500. Since its organization, the society has enjoyed a steady progress, and is now one of the more important in the State. The grounds are furnished with a good number of roomy stables. The present officers are: W. E. McCloud, President; J. C. Kilner, Secretary; J. P. Miller, Treasurer; G. W. Butterfield, General Superintendent.