REMINISCENCES GIVEN AT THE ANNUAL MEETING, JANUARY 17, 1917
J. C. Y. McKesson.
Fellow Pioneers.-- I do not feel that any greater honor has ever come to me than to be elected as President of this Association, and I expect none greater to come here-after. I believe I would rather be inaugurated President of this Association today, than governor of the state of Nebraska, I do not say this to flatter you, but to make me feel happy.
I presume it would not be out of place to give you a brief history of my life. I came to Lincoln in 1864 with my parents, not on account of any choice of mine, but because I was not able to care for myself, and had to come with the people who were responsible for my care. I am glad to know today, while we are celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of our statehood, that I was present at the location of the capitol in June, 1867. It was a summer day and I had been fishing in Salt Creek with some success. I had a small string of mud catfish, and in company with another boy of my age, we returned to town. We saw a congregation of citizens hurrahing and waving and so forth, and we followed the crowd, to see what the demonstration was about. We did not realize that this was the founding of a new capitol for a state, nor did we worry about our appearance. In going barefoot along the banks of the creek we had plastered our feet with mud to shoe top distance. As I recall early scenes it is a great pleasure to me to be elected President. of the Nebraska Territorial Pioneers' Association, just fifty years later.
I shall now turn the meeting over to those who wish to give reminiscences, and I trust that all may feel free to do so.
A. J. LEACH
I am located almost in the center of Elkhorn Valley. My home is Oakdale, Antelope County. Neligh is the county seat, and is thirty-five miles west of Norfolk. For twenty-five years I worked for the B. & M. Railroad Company in the land department. Their headquarters were in Lincoln, and I used to come to the Lincoln office. In 1873 I made my headquarters a good many times at the Lindell Hotel, when it was in the old frame building where it now stands, just west of the Catholic Church.
At that time a school house, the only one in Lincoln, stood just east of the Catholic Church. We had good water in our part of the country, but Lincoln water was awful, and the only place we could get a drink in Lincoln was at the old well at the brick school house.
My business the last fifteen years with the railroad company was to appraise their railroad lands. They not only had the B. & M. lands, but also the Atchison and Nebraska lands, which they took over when they bought the A. & N. railroad. They also had an interest in the Omaha and southwestern lands, and it was my business to appraise those lands. One thing that surprised me in the former days and even now when I travel over the state, is that I find men in Richardson County who know more about my country than I do. Yet I made the first improvement in the county south of the Elkhorn valley.
I was County Surveyor first, then County Superintendent for four years and then County Treasurer, and I know almost every section in the county. For four and one-half years past I have been at home taking care of an invalid wife, who left me the 25th of October, and so I have not been able to meet often with the Pioneers.
I want to go back just for a moment or two to the old times. I love to look back to the old days; I love to see the faces of the pioneers, I do not care from what county they come. I crossed the Missouri river in 1852, at the Sarpy trading post I drove four yoke of oxen the entire length of Nebraska that summer and on to Oregon City. Oregon. After leaving Oregon, I came back to this country and lived in Omaha eleven months, going from there to Dodge County, where I remained a year and then took my homestead in what is now Antelope County, and have lived there ever since. When I passed through this county in 1852 there was not a settler in the state. It was two years before the Indian title was extinguished and there could be no true settlers until then.
I love my country, Nebraska, the Elkhorn valley and Antelope County. As I look back over the past, if I were asked where I spent the happiest years of my life, I would say the first ten years I was on the homestead. I arrived in the state two months and sixteen days after the date which would admit me to Class A membership in this Association
L. A. BATES
Mr. Bates of Sarpy County displayed a flag made by his mother in 1862 and gave the following reminiscence and poem.
"I came to Nebraska in 1859, and under the same conditions under which Mr. McKesson arrived. I could not help myself. One incident that I always remember is the making of the flag and the discussion as to whether a corner be put in to the blue field to represent Nebraska coming in as a state. It was decided, however, to leave it out.
A number of the neighbors met at my father's house during the stirring times of 1862 and made this flag. It has been in many Fourth of July celebrations, and was in a parade at the time Grant and Colfax ran for president and vice-president. I think that two or three of the ladies who participated in the making of the flag in 1862, are now living. I offer this tribute to it in remembrance:
- I've chased my memory half a mile
- To find some items worth the while,
- Some reminiscence I might bring,
- A startling tale or anything
- To cause a laugh or start the tears
- 'Bout happenings of other years.
- It's been so long I cannot say
- The time, or place, or give the day
- Just when these prairies first began
- To be discovered by white man,
- Some say Cornado and his men
- To find Quivera was his quest.
- For Spanish records tell us that
- He found the valley of the
- Platte and traveled west,
- To find Quivery was his quest.
- The phantom city ne'er he found
- With its rich gold and fertile ground,
- But found a people tall and straight,
- With long course hair and copper pate.
- Who lived in wigwams crude of frame
- Who lived on buffalo and game.
- But you perhaps would like to know
- 'Bout those who came here long ago
- Who made their homes and stayed to see
- Just what this country'd likely be.
- My memory can just now recall
- The name of Pritchard, Hart, and Hall,
- Of Lemon, Gaylord and some more
- Who in early times the message bore,
- And took what people had to offer,
- Which scarcely filled their empty coffer.
- I sometimes think our lives were then
- Brought nearer heaven by those men
- Than in these days of game and show
- That tell tale where the people go.
- But few have striven to be great
- Or reached high places in the state
- I've never tried to look around
- Perhaps a reason might be found,
- But after all we know 'tis true
- That greatness comes to but a few.
- If any man has done his best
- And took his part with all the rest
- Has helped to make and build his state
- He's earned the titled, call him great.
- The days we spent while pioneers
- Were measured full of joys and fears,
- And some would say, in looking back
- Along the years that made the track,
- That those were better years than now,
- At least they think so anyhow.
- But they forget the ills we shared,
- The Indian raids that made us scared,
- The market towns so far away,
- The inconvenience of the day.
- Yet some would say they'd like to be
- Back to the time of sixty-three
- When land was cheap and rents were low
- And game was anywhere you'd go;
- That in those days when we were fewer,
- Our friends were just a little truer,
- Than in these days when elbows touch,
- And we're not friendly half so much.
- But after all I like this state
- Expect to stay and share its fate.
- And I've a notion when I'm through
- Of doing what I ought to do
- And I go floating off in space.
- A looking for a better place,
- If it is hotter than Alaska
- I think I'll locate in Nebraska.
A great many, times I have heard people tell of the
wonderful sacrifices, and hardships that the settlers underwent in the early days in Nebraska. It is a fact that we did not have quite as elaborate meals as we have now. The farmers made no bread except cornbread, but there was always plenty of that and I think we were more healthy then than now. As a boy I had lots of good red blood running through my veins, and I enjoyed the seasons as they came.
I was born in a town and I remember the first time I went out and examined the tassels on the corn in the country. There had been a heavy snow, but it did not take long for it to evaporate, and it was not long until we were called out to see how the corn grew, and a little later to find it ready to eat.
The President has spoken of the location of the capitol. I, too, remember that. I can also remember that we one day received a report that 4,000 Indians were coming and that they were killing everybody in the way. We were pretty well scattered in those days, and could not put up touch of a defense. The first thing I thought of was to get hold of a horse, a fast horse, and then if I met 4,000 Indians, the horse could outrun the ponies and I would get back, and tell the people that they were coming.
T. J. MAJORS
The thought came to me when Mr. Bates displayed the flag, that there is an older flag in existence, which is today at the capitol. It is a flag presented to General John M. Thayer, who recruited in the first Nebraska regiment that made a record during the civil conflict, and it was my promise as a soldier and as a boy to follow that flag to Shiloh and through that great conflict until 1866, when that regiment was mustered out of the United States service and scattered all over this territory. I am glad to greet this flag, young as it is, because it represents the great Union, the great Government.
MRS. J. H. CULVER
My father, J. H. Davison, came to Nebraska in the fall of 1856. He settled south of Lincoln on Salt Creek, near where the Preys lived. My mother and the family came in 1857. Of course we endured a good many hardships and had many experiences with the Indians. By the way, my mother saved Mrs. Knott's aunt, Rebecca Prey, from being stolen by the Indians. The girl had gone down to the creek about one-half mile from her home and about the same distance from our house.
My mother and elder brother were watching her when two Indians on horseback rode between her and her home
and caused her to start toward our house. The Indians soon dismounted and took hold of her wrist. One of them turned to speak to the other one, when Miss Prey twisted her hand out of his grasp and ran toward our house. My mother and brother ran to meet her. Why the Indians did not follow the girl we never could tell, but in half an hour after my mother and brother brought her home, 200 Indians came over the hill from the west, on horseback. They came toward the door and we were very glad that there was only one door and one window in the house. We had a couple of dogs chained near the door and so the Indians did not break in for they would not kill a dog. They went to the window and my mother sent them away by flourishing a broomstick. they stayed only about half an hour and why they did not commit more depredations we never knew. At another time this girl was held by the Indians for several hours before being rescued by her people.
We lived on Salt Creek till 1862 and then moved over to the Blue River, where my father located and laid out the town of Milford. The town received its name from the Mormon Ford and the mill above the Ford. In 1869 General Culver joined me, and we hahve (sic) lived there ever since.
GEORGE B. HALE
When I first came to Nebraska I joined 1st Company F, the regiment under command of Colonel Majors. The flag that Mr. Majors spoke of was given to us by the government, and was not a Nebraska made flag.
I served five years and fifteen days under Colonel Majors, while he was major of the 1st Nebraska.
Nebraska was new when I came across the Missouri river, so I saw some pioneer days. Most of the settlers of that time have passed to the great beyond. When I left Boston for Nebraska, my friends expressed the belief that I would be back inside of six months, but I did not revisit my home for 18 years. I am glad that I came to Nebraska and have enjoyed watching the people prosper from a condition of poverty to the present one of prosperity. I have also witnessed the evolution of transportation from the covered wagon to an automobile. I am glad of the progress I have witnessed, but there was a sociability enjoyed by the pioneers which outranks that of today.
T. N. BOBBITT
I count myself happy today to meet with you Pioneers of Nebraska. I came of a pioneer race. My forefathers
were in the Revolution and helped make this country what it is. I came to Nebraska in 1864, and have done what I could to help build this great state. The pioneers have built better than they knew. Fifty years ago no one dreamed that it would develop into what it is today. I now live with my children in Kansas, but I am glad to meet with you and associate with you, and hope to be spared to watch the future development of the state which we have all labored to build.
J. W. CASSELL
Having come to Nebraska in 1856, 1 have had many and varied experiences. I remember that we endured one of the hardest winters that Nebraska has ever known. The fall was open and pleasant till the 1st of December, and then came one of the worst storms that any of us settlers had seen. Many lost their hands and feet and some froze to death.
There were a great many deer in the country on the Missouri river bottoms, and in January there came a thaw; just enough to make a crust on the snow, which was about two feet deep. The deer were starving and they had to cross the river to get something to eat, they would break through the crust and a man or dog could kill them. The result was there have been very few deer in the country since that time.
During the storm five men that belonged to Jim Laine's outfit stopped at my father's house, and remained four days before they could get away. The next summer one of the men came to our house one day and wanted to know if we could get dinner for 17 men. My people were inclined not to accommodate them, but finally decided to try it. Before he left he said, "Perhaps before I bring these people, I had better tell you who they are, so you won't be surprised; it is seventeen niggers, old John Brown and myself." But John Brown said, "No, we can't make any new friends now," and we could not induce him to stop. It was a common occurrence to see negroes move up and down that road.
We lived a few miles south of Nebraska City. One year I raised a good corn crop, but I could not get only 10c a bushel for it, so I decided not to sell it, but to hold it over, but by the time we had the next crop it was still 10c, so I bought seventy head of Texas cattle and I fed them for six months, and when I sold them they weighed a good deal more than the corn, but the corn was then worth 50c a bushel, so I had not profited much.
I remember the grasshoppers and the awful depredation those pests inflicted. One spring when we were troubled
with them we noticed that they all moved in the same direction. A neighbor and I decided that we would send to Nebraska City for a couple of barrels of coal tar. We would then dig a ditch and put the coal tar in it. About twenty minutes after the ditch was dug and the coal tar put in it the grasshoppers had filled it up and we went over it dryshod. Later 1 plowed up a strata of coal tar and grasshoppers. 1 remember everything had been cleaned up on my farm except the oats, and the grasshoppers did not seem to like oats, but about that time they came in from another direction and it was black with grasshoppers, and in a very short time the farm was as bare as the floor. I think this was the most discouraging time of the pioneer days.
I reside in the northwestern part of the state, in Dixon County. I feel as though I cannot possibly leave this meeting without expressing to you the pleasure I feel at being present at these meetings. I have never been a member of the Territorial Pioneers' Association until today. I came to the state in 1873, a barefooted and bareheaded boy. I was greatly impressed with the beauty of the country.
I should like to tell an anecdote which came within my personal observation. In March, 1875, my eldest brother and I were putting in some wheat, but the weather turned very cold. We lived in a shanty and did our own cooking, but on this particular day we had to camp and eat our dinner on the side hill. We had fastened the cattle on the opposite side of the wagon and while we I were eating our dinner we were discussing the frozen biscuits, Jim picked up one of the biscuits and threw it across the wagon, striking one of the oxen in the head and knocking him down. I will vouch for this as a true story.
This morning there was in this audience a man who, I suppose is the oldest pioneer in Nebraska, Sam Post. In 1854 before Nebraska was opened for settlement, five fam-families (sic) came to Pawnee County, and he came with them. They squatted there, thinking they were in Kansas. Sam Post is now a resident of Humboldt.
I think you will be interested in knowing one of the first and biggest politicians in Nebraska was located there; a man by the name of McDonald, who came from the South and was a great friend of James Buchanan. He and a man by the name of Cromwell were elected to the legislature. Some time in the fifties, about 59 I think it was, the President gave Charlie McDonald the privilege of pick-
ing out a boy to go to the naval academy. Mr. McDonald picked out Sam's brother, who decided that he could not pass the examination. He then picked out young Cromwell and he went to Annapolis and became an officer, a captain, then a commodore, then an admiral, and succeeded Admiral Clay for some months before he died. Nebraska should be proud of a history like that for that old man is an honorary officer at the head of the naval yards at Philadelphia
I want to give you the other side of the story now. Cromwell had a stepmother; his father died and was buried oil the side of the hill at Cincinnati. His stepmother lived to be a little over a 100 years old, and the last fifty years of her life she was a pauper, supported by the county, while the Admiral drew $12,500 a year.
Beside them lived the Shellhorns and the Davenports, splendid people. George Davenport located on a farm there, and called it Prairie View. It ran across some other man's apple orchard, the only one in Nebraska then. Between these neighbors rose the earliest law suit in the community. The jury took the case under deliberation and finally rendered a verdict that there were no damages and founded their opinion that there was no sense in planting apple trees in Nebraska, because you could not raise apples here. Near the site of this old orchard is now an apple orchard of 200 trees which sold, a couple of years ago for $40,000, proving that the opinion of the jury was not well founded.
I am a Richardson County pioneer; I brought my parents here in 1866. They crossed the river at Rulo, and they tell me that I was so anxious to come to Nebraska that I squalled clear across Iowa. They came with an oxen team, so I had plenty of time to cry.
Mrs. Davis reports that Mr. McDonald is now over 90 years of age, lives at North Platte, and told her he helped survey the town of Pawnee City,
Y. A. TRUELL
I live in Lincoln and feel as though I should not take up your time. I, too, was a born Yankee and of Revolutionary stock, but early in 1857 came west to Wisconsin. There I learned to drive oxen and drove them for a year or two. When I was a little older the gold excitement broke out in Colorado and a companion and I started for Pike's Peak. We came to Leavenworth and up to Atchison, and on to Omaha on the Mississippi river. We finally got back to St. Joe and were looking for big wages driving oxen to Pike's Peak
The whole commerce of the country was then by oxen team. About all the men that hired out, probably five or six besides ourselves, knew how to drive oxen. All the
talk there was about steers, and we finally were induced to take a corral of about 265 steers. They were big Cherokee wild cattle. We were to break them and drive them, which was entirely beyond our comprehension. They secured some cowboys who threw the oxen and yoked them and they were driven to the big pasture and we were sent out to drive cattle until we were ready to start overland. You could drive them sometimes 20 miles a day and we made the trip to Colorado with those cattle and a large train of twenty wagons.
That was in 1860 and in the fall of the year we began to hear war talk. We had been prospecting in the mountains of Colorado, worked some of the mines and finally located some claims, but we got pretty tired of those conditions, and in 1861 when the war was barely started I became possessed of the idea that I must get back to Wisconsin and enlist with my boy friend. As we were passing through Denver, Kit Carson was beginning a regiment and his aides had endeavored to have us enlist with him in that regiment, but we gave it up and took passage for St. Joe. On the way we passed train after train of wagons which had been burned and were lying beside the road. These trains had been captured by the Indians, the cattle stolen and nobody knows what became of the people. We finally reached home and were soon enlisting.
In 1869 I moved to Nebraska and went through the usual experience of the pioneers. We encountered hail storms, met the grizzly bears and all that, but we lived through it and I have always been glad I made Nebraska my home. I have been attending these meetings annually, I think, ever since this organization was formed and I am glad to be here.
S. C. BASSETT
Let me say that most of these experiences that have been related here today, were in eastern Nebraska. Then let me say that western Nebraska has a most interesting history, that the people of the state know very little about. North Platte was the meeting place in those days. The Sioux, the northern Cheyennes, the Arrapahoes and the southern Cheyennes all had a common meeting place at the forks of the Platte. Mr. McDonald had a trading post at McPherson in those days. Near Fort McPherson there was a canyon, twenty miles in length and the walls lined with cedar. It was an admirable place for the Sioux and Cheyennes to wait when they went up into that country to hunt. I have seen 700 Indians with a thousand ponies, go into that country to hunt.
Fort Kearney was established first, and later, in 1864, Fort McPherson was established. They were both located on the Oregon trail. Someone spoke today of the first news
paper published in Nebraska. In 1859 there was a newspaper published in what is now Shelton; a newspaper called "The Hartman's Echo." The editor was Joseph Johnson, a Mormon. The newspaper was published for two years, 1859 and 1860. I have learned since that the rain records, were taken up and kept at Fort Kearney in 1845. I should like to know the man who began keeping records because I deem it of very great importance. I took the matter up with Senator Norris, and he said the only record they had of that was with that Department in Washington. I took it up with them and that record has been kept from that day to his.
I wish the Pioneers here would begin to gather up some of this history. Gather the records of your school district, the church establishment or anything of that kind. It is of great importance and I wish you might do it.
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