EARLY DAYS IN NEBRASKA
By Mrs. Fred Goosman
On the 27th day of June, 1865, Mr. Goosman and I, with our eldest son, E. T. Goosman, left Clark County, Illinois, overland for Nebraska, with borrowed money in our pockets.
The roads were so bad we had to double teams someplaces to get through. The bridges were washed out and some times we would have to stop and fix the crossing so we could ford the streams. We came through Iowa because it was not safe to cross Missouri on account of the war. We stopped in Iowa a few days to visit, and landed in Nebraska City the second day of August, 1865. We went to Peru to visit a few days, then to Tecumseh, Johnson County.
We camped on the banks of the river west of Tecumseh, where the railroad bridge is now. From there we went out on Yankee Creek and settled on the farm where Lawrence Morrisy now lives. A man by the name of Jack Criag lived there. There were two families stopping with him in the house and two were camping near by. We camped there a while, too. The three families used the house, and three slept in our wagons. We all cooked on Craig's stove, making six families using the one stove. The men soon located their homesteads. Ours lay five and one-half miles west and one-half mile north of the present site of Tecumseh. The men said it was too late to put up two houses, so the decided to put up one and spend the winter together.
When Yankee Creek subsided so we could ford it we crossed over on Bob Leinford's homestead. Mr. Leinford and Mr. Goosman set two-forked poles in the ground, laid a pole from one to the other, then stacked lumber up around it, -moved in and commenced building their house. It was a one-room cabin, 12 by 18 feet. Winter set in before they got it done. We. would wake up in the mornings to find our beds covered with snow that had sifted through the cracks. Then we women would have to get up and shake the snow off the beds, take things down off the walls and sweep out the snow before the room got warm enough to melt it. In the spring of 1866 we moved south of Vesta on Lost Branch of Yankee Creek, to live with Mr. Goosman's brother-in-law. Both families lived in a one-room house about 14 by 18 feet. We women worked in the corn fields, helping the men hoe the corn, because the cockle burrs were so bad.
That year the grasshoppers paid us a visit. Eatables were scarce and high priced. The men went to Brownville to get
provisions and brought back a side of bacon which cost them five dollars. Two other men purchased a side which weighed more and cost ten dollars. Butter was high and strong.
One day I went to a farm house to buy some butter. The river had been up and the butter had been under the water in the cave. The woman scraped off the top of it and weighed some for me. These people had some pet sheep which they chased out of the house two or three times while I was waiting for my butter. I paid for it and took it home, but I told my folks they could eat it if they wanted to, but I did not want any of it. I did not feel like the boy I read about did, who, when he was selling his butter, said he knew the butter was clean for his mother sat up all night to pick the specks out of it.
In the fall of 1866 we commenced to build a log house on our homestead. We went to the timber and the men cut down trees. I helped by trimming off the limbs, sawing out doors and windows, shingling, etc. We put up a log house of one room 12 by 14 feet. It was my kitchen, bed room and parlor all in one.
Winter set in before we got it finished so we had to go through the same experience as the winter before, with the snow sifting in on us. Then we built a hay stable, hog and chicken house, all under one roof, covering it with slough grass.
I do not remember in what year it was, but one night lightning struck the stable and burned it to the ground, killing one of our horses, and the other horse was burned so badly we could not use her all summer. All our hogs and some of the chickens were also killed. We had a second hay stable burned through sparks from a prairie burning, but we had some insurance on it. We traded the one horse for a yoke of oxen, bought another yoke which was paid for in work, and I knit to pay for my first chickens. When our stable burned the people made up a purse for us. We took what money they gave us, put more to it and bought our first cow, and we sure were proud of her.
We could not get things to live on, those days, as we can now. Money and work were too scarce. I went to a merchant in Tecumseh, and tried to get a few groceries for our threshers, but he said he could not let me have them without pay, so we did not have meat, lard, milk or butter. We had to sit down to corn bread and sorghum molasses. I even had to give my company corn bread and sorghum. That was the hardest part of it.
When we visited our neighbors we took our little ones in a wagon drawn by oxen without lines to guide them, and we had no fear of a runaway. But when I was riding behind
horses I was afraid.
One of my neighbors said to me, "Rosa, you will live to see the farmers here ride in buggies." but I said I did not think so. I have not only seen that, but most all of them have automobiles now, and some are not yet satisfied; they want to fly.
I sometimes see names of the early settlers I used to know. Rev. J. H. Presson was the first minister I heard preach in Nebraska. There were no churches here then. The meetings were held in private houses. Woodruff Rogers, Cody Libby, Lou Lauflin, and John Maulchin were among the early settlers. There were nine roofs, stables and all, in Tecumseh when we came.
I still live on the homestead, but it is because Mr. Goosman had faith in Nebraska and wanted to stay. I would have crawfished and went backward.
NEBRASKA AND ITS PIONEERS
By Minnie Prey Knotts
Although Nebraskas history remains largly (sic) unwritten, as yet, no section ever had greater acts of bravery, integrity, humor, and pathos about which to write than awaits the future Nebraska historian and poet.
You may think this statement extravagant. If you do, please accept it for a time, remembering I could be influenced toward patriotism because it is my native state. But if you do not already agree with me I feel sure that upon further thought you will find no excuse necssary (sic). Perhaps we will all feel toward Nebraska like a certain group of people about whom I have heard.
Mr. Good, a gentleman of splendid repute, recently died, and his qualifications admitted him to the beautiful land presided over by St. Peter and usually designated as Heaven. St. Peter assigned him to his future quarters and appointed a guide to show him over the realm. As Mr. Good and his guide wandered thru the beautiful place they chanced upon a group of people restrained inside a strong iron fence. Mr. Good was puzzled. He had never supposed that iron fences had a place in St. Peter's dominion. He had always associated them with Satan's province and as he moved along his curiosity prevailed and he asked the guide why those people were restrained by the iron fence, "Oh," said the guide, "those people are from Nebraska and they want to go back."
A little more than a century ago what is now Nebraska was a part of the new and almost unknown territory recently acquired by the United States as a part of the Louisiana purchase at 2 3/5 cents per acre.
Immediately following the purchase came the period of exploration initiated by the Lewis and Clark expedition. They touched Nebraska soil on both the outward and return trips. I want to call attention to the fact that if the Indians had so desired they could have dispatched the whole company in a few minutes. But as in the history of the Plymouth colony the Indians were friendly.
Nearly always the agents of commerce immediately follow explorers into a new country and for a period of years the agents of great commercial interests lived on what is now Nebraska soil, trading with the Indians. Manuel De Lisa was one of the leading spirits of the traders and his wife is supposed to be the first white woman to
ascend the Missouri River as far as Bellevue. On his last trip from St. Louis in 1819 his wife accompanied him and remained at the post until the spring of 1820, when they returned to St. Louis, where Lisa died in the fall of that year
John Jacob Astor was another moving spirit of this period of trading and the American Fur Company, organized by him, was the largest of the commercial interests of the time.
In 1819 the United States government sent out a military and scientific expedition under Col. Atkinson and Major Long. The Western Engineer, the first steamboat to ascend the river as far as Bellevue, brought these men up the river. A fort was established several miles north of the present city of Omaha and named Ft. Atkinson.
The first act of legislation, after the purchase, regarding what is now Nebraska soil was in 1834 when Congress set apart a large tract of land west of the Missouri river known as the Indian country. This region was designated for the exclusive use of the Indians, but many traders and trappers secured permits to carry on their business within its borders, and missionaries were permitted to live with the Indians. Nebraska was the original name of the important stream now called the Platte. It was an Omaha Indian word meaning wide with a shallow brim.
Missionaries have always closely followed commercial interests in every land. In 1833 Rev. Moses Merrill and wife reached Bellevue as Baptist missionaries. They were the first to come and remain with the Indians.
In 1834 Rev. John Dunbar and Samuel Allis, Presbyterian missionaries, reached Bellevue. The following June Mr. Allis' sweetheart, Miss Emeline Palmer, traveled from New York to the land of the buffalo and Indian to be the wife of Mr. Allis. The son of this splendid couple, Mr. Otis Allis, is now living in Council Bluffs and a few years ago responded to a toast at a banquet given by the Nebraska Territorial Pioneer's Association. He told of his mother's bravery in leaving her home in the East to come to the land of hardships for the sake of the Master and the man she loved, and paid a tribute to her memory which brought tears to the eyes of the listeners.
The library of the Nebraska State Historical Society contains a manuscript from the hands of each of these men and a letter with the address reading Mrs. Samuel Allis, Bellevue. Upper Missouri, via Cantonment Leavenworth. The manuscripts tell of their experiences while living with the Indians who treated them with the greatest kindness.
Father De Smet, a Jesuit priest, founded a mission op-
posite the present site of Omaha in 1838 and made many missionary trips into the Nebraska country baptizing as many as forty children and adults in a day.
In 1843 Mr. and Mrs. Platt joined Mr. and Mrs. Allis in a Pawnee mission school located near the present site of Columbus. During the winter of 1844 they suffered untold hardships. To use Mr. Allis' own words, "Beginning anew and not being well prepared we suffered severely. It was very hard on stock. My calves died and I froze my fingers several times milking. We had a babe only a few weeks old and the house was not very warm. It was the worst winter I ever experienced. During the very coldest of the weather, in an effort to keep warm, myself, wife, and three children occupied one bed and permitted the calf to lie at the foot and even then the calf died at last."
The religious zeal and self-sacrifice which these missionaries displayed rival any recorded in the world's history, except that of the Master himself. The pioneer settlers who came later owe much to these missionaries who have received so little credit. Their kind deeds and good lives overcame, to a great degree, the hatred and revenge aroused in the hearts of the Indians by unscrupulous acts of greedy fur traders and government officials. Without doubt the first permanent settlers would have found the Indians much worse enemies if it had not been for the life and work of the missionaries.
The missionaries had followed the explorers to the coast and Oregon was opened to settlement many years before Nebraska became a territory. In 1843 and 1844 thousands of people traveled their weary way from Independence, Missouri, to Oregon. They followed the dim path made first by wild animals, and later trailed by the Indians but without ford, bridge or shelter its entire length. This movement of colonists was the most wonderful that history has ever recorded on account of the large number of families who made it and the hardships endured. The route they traveled came to be known as the Oregon Trail and enters what is now Nebraska in the southwest corner of Gage county. On account of this immense movement the government decided to establish a fort to be known as Fort Kearney for the protection of travelers, and located it at the present site of Nebraska City. This was found to be too far from the line of travel to be of service so it was moved to a site near the present city of Kearney.
There were other westward movements of the people which this territory witnessed. In 1847, the Mormons, by the hundreds, dragged their weary way from the Missouri across the Nebraska country into Utah. They had camped the winter of 1846 and 1847 at a point now called Florence,
Nebraska, and some had even proceeded as far west as the Pawnee villages on the Loup river. In 1819 the thousands who were attracted by the possibility of riches in California wended their way across the barren plains.
Any one of the incidents mentioned is filled with enough of courage, fortitude, bravery and romance to make a history worth while but the combined incidents make one of unusual value.
The period of explorations, commercial activities, mission work and overland travel all preceded the real development of the commonwealth and are only the back ground across which real growth appears. The building of any section begins when settlers come to remain and make their homes where before has been only wilderness.
In 1854 Nebraska Territory was organized and opened to settlement, one of the purposes of such organizations as this is to assist in keeping alive the deeds of the pioneer who came during this period, and if we do our work well the future generations of Nebraska will have a folklore equal in deeds of daring, courage, privations and hardships to that of New England.
A world famous journey was that of the Mayflower. The little ship carried one hundred and four souls to homes in an unsettled wilderness. The story of their dauntless courage thrills us with admiration; but future generations will be thrilled by the story of the "prairie schooner." Westward, by weary overland trails, it carried its home seekers.
It was not religious freedom such as the Pilgrims sought that brought Nebraska pioneers to the plains but what may possibly be termed, home freedom. It was an inherent longing to establish homes and a longing for the chance to give added opportunities to posterity that lead them westward. To be sure some came as did the Jamestown colonists for the purpose of greedy gain.
To a few families in the forest of Massachusetts, with Indians all about them, and the Atlantic ocean between them and home, the lonesomeness was intense to the point of melancholy. To a family on the bare plains, with Indians all about, the nearest white person five or ten miles away, and the "Prairie ocean" between them and kindred, the lonesomeness must have rivaled that of Plymouth.
In 1620, in New England, the Indians brought gifts of food to the needy settlers. Indeed the Plymouth people could scarcely have survived without their kindness and generosity. But insult and injury often change these qualities and the outrageous acts of the lawless men of this same white race, and the broken promises of the government, changed the red-man's generosity to avarice. By the time of Nebraska's settlement, after 230 years contact
with white men, the Indians were oftentimes unfriendly.
Paul Revere's ride, immortalized by Longfellow, does not outshine in daring, courage, or endurance, the thrilling experiences of the riders of the Overland Mail and the Pony Express. The news of Abraham Lincoln's election was carried by these riders from St. Joseph to Denver, Colo., 665 miles, in two days and twenty-one hours, the last ten miles being covered in 31 minutes.
Col. W. F. Cody was an example of these express riders. His route, a distance of 116 miles, lay between Red Buttes and Three Crossings, then in Nebraska. Alexander Majors, a member of the company operating the pony express, tells us that on Col. Cody's route "an average of 15 miles an hour had to be made, including changes of horses, detours for safety, and time for meals." Once, when the rider who was to relieve him had been killed, he was called upon to continue 76 miles farther. "The round trip of about 200 miles (a distance as great a half across the state) was made without a stop, except for meals and to change horses, and every station was entered on time." Paul Revere's ride was a deed done once under high pressure. The pony expressmen gave a daily repetition of equal courage, that the world's work might be done.
New England's folklore gives us that thrilling story of Molly Pitcher; how she overcame the natural timidity of woman-kind, and, inspired by the cheers of the men, the call of the bugle, and the roar of the guns braved the dangers of battle and fired the cannon, that the struggle might be won. To my mind this deed was neither braver nor more self-sacrificing than the deeds of pioneer women of Nebraska.
There were many instances in which the father of the family was compelled to go long distances for provisions. The journey often occupied two or three days. The wife must remain with the children alone on the prairie, away from possible immediate assistance. The danger from Indians constantly threatened. Nor were these dangers imaginary. Many a Nebraska woman has faced a band of 15 or Indians bent upon evil of some sort. Perhaps it was to steal a horse, or perhaps, as the early settlers here can readily recall, it was to avenge a previous wrong on the whole community as in the case of some of the massacres.
In these struggles the western woman had no strains of martial music, no presence of fellowmen, no officer's command, such as steadied the nerves of Molly Pitcher. She must be bugler, commander, and private. She must face the dangers single-handed and alone, except for the spirit of bravery and a faith in Divine protection.
But Indians were neither the only, not the worst foe
encountered by the pioneers. The word "blizzard" sends a shudder through many of the pioneers.
It recalls the severe suffering of the family and stock during one of those awful storms of the plains. A storm which, if it caught man or beast from under shelter, tossed them about like a leaf in the wind, chilling them to the marrow and as they sank exhausted whistled a last requiem over their bodies.
One of the great blizzards of Nebraska was that of the Loup Valley in 1873 when, in a few hours after it burst, men lay shivering in bed and unsheltered stock was perishing. Many settlers saved their domestic animals by bringing them into the house with the family. In places the settlers were unable to reach their stock until the storm abated at the end of three days, and in many cases the barns were found full of snow and the animals dead. At least five people lost their lives in the Loup valley during this blizzard.
There were still other terrors which beset the homemaker. As one pioneer put it, "The Lord only knows which harmed the poor settlers the more, the prowling redskins, who were wont to sally forth from the hills and uplands, or the green imps of Satan -- the grasshoppers -- both literally took the bread out of our mouths."
Most of us who were here at the time remember the dark cloud that settled upon us covering everything with a squirming mass of living pests which ate everything green above ground and even left a roughened surface on the fence boards.
But all of the pioneer life, was not dark and gloomy. The spirit of fellowship and brotherhood, which made a pioneer welcome a new settler to his home of one room and to his board of meager fare, brought its own reward of contentment and happiness.
Civilization has brought relief from many of the early hardships, and plagues, and it seems also to have brought its own train of sorrow by wiping out the real fellowship and brotherly love that exists nowhere in so great a degree as on the frontier..
The bravery of the Nebraska pioneers rivals that bravery sung about in the various legends of our anglo-saxon ancestors and retold in the legends of King Arthur. There are many incidents in the lives of the founders of this state which are equally as worthy of a place in song or story. In fact their daily lives were full of them and perhaps it is on account of the greatness of their numbers that theme deeds have come to be looked upon as commonplace and scarcely worth remembering.
Few people doubt the value of recording past acts for
future inspiration, but too many feel that only the unusual, state renowned ones are worthy to be chronicled. Both historical and political students are now searching for records of the daily life of those gone before. They are glad indeed if they can find a diary or letter written by either a prominent man or one of the most obscure. A professor of political science recently said to me, "I do hope the Historical Society will preserve all obtainable records of the daily lives of the pioneers from the humblest to the greatest. To us it is important to know whether they ate fried potatoes or mush for supper, and that they went to their slumbers on a cottonwood bedstead made by hand."
The pioneers' surroundings were crude and perhaps their manners were not the best, but the record of their lives is worth while. To preserve the records of pioneer days in the form of folklore tales is the duty of every one. To preserve them in a more accurate and substantial way is the duty of local old settlers associations and the Nebraska Territorial Pioneers' Association.
To every community, along with age, comes the advantages of wealth and education, and no doubt some day a literary genius will take for his theme the acts of bravery, courage and endurance of the pioneers and give them to future generations in song or story. Until such time it is our duty, as well as pleasure, to keep their deeds alive in memory.
The deeds of our pioneers were as brave as any recorded in the annals of history. Nebraska has known heroes, heroines, saints and martyrs and if we succeed in perpetuating their deeds in memory and recording them in history our work will have been worth while. Through toils and privations they established a land of beauty and plenty. To those pioneers who still remain let us give all honor and respect. To Nebraska's noble dead, who have again preceded us to lands unknown, let us pay the one tribute which we, the living, can pay the dead: Glean from the record of the life that was, an inspiration for the life that is. Let us use the blessings we have inherited through their labors and sacrifices in their spirit of unselfishness for the uplift of mankind.
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