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History of 
Custer County, Nebraska 

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AUG 15 1919 




Long centuries ago when the children of Israel had passed dry-shod over the 
river Jordan, intent upon invading and subduing the promised land, their young- 
leader, whose reputation was then unmade, commanded that there be taken out 
of the ri\er twelve stones and that they be set up in monument form in the first 
camping place. "And it shall come to pass," he said, "when your children shall 
say to you, '\\'hat mean these stones ?' ye shall answer them that the waters of 
the Jordan were cut oft before the Ark of the Covenant of the Lord when it 
passed over Jordan, and these stones shall be for a memorial unto the children of 
Israel forever." 

The contents of this volume are given to the public to^^erve exactly the same 
purpose for the people of Custer county that those stones which Joshua caused 
to be carried from the river and set up in the land of milk and honey served for 
the children of Israel. \\'e have gone to the river of forty years ago and from 
under the waters of the past have brought up stones with which to build a mon- 
ument to another set of pioneers who at a later date invaded another promised 
land. We have attempted to establish a few landmarks, to erect an enduring- 
monument and to embalm the traditions of the earlv pioneers for the benefit of 
the next succeeding generations. A\'e claim for the work no literary merit. It 
has no distinguishing marks of genius to parade. We claim only that it is a 
simple recital of a comparatively few things which took place in this county 
since the exit of the Indian and the coming of the white man. In addition to 
this, we claim that it is a roster of heroic names that shotild be preserved, and 
contains life sketches of some of those indomitable spirits whose early achieve- 
ments were the foundation stones of our present-day homes and public institu- 

There was a great demand for a volume of this kind. Only a limited num- 
ber of the first settlers who actually had to do with the beginning of things were 
alive, and if their storv was to be preserved, first-handed, the time to write it 
had come. Any history that laid any claim to accuracy mtist be written under 
their direction. For this reason we vielded to the pressure of the prominent cit- 
izens of the county and attempted the work. How well we have succeeded, the 
readers must judge. In the compilation we ha\e encountered innumerable diffi- 
culties which have been accumulating for forty years. The records of early- 
day events and public transactions are few and meager. The memory of man 
is exceedingly treacherous. Traditions are always contradictory, but with the 
material at hand we have done the best we could to give an accurate account of 


those early days which will never return.. W'e lay no claim to infallibility. 
There are doubtless errors and omissions, it could hardly be otherwise. When 
records failed us we depended upon the memory and statements of those who 
had best opportunity to know. When there was a conflict of statements and 
records, we gave preference to the records, and when there was a conflict of 
statements, without records, we made reconciliation by careful analysis of 
known conditions and turned upon the mooted question the light of probabili- 
ties in connection with general events. 

A\'e acknowledge with deep gratitude the valuable service rendered by people 
from all parts of the county, who contributed much valuable information and 
in every way assisted the compilation of this volume. The newspapers gave us 
free access to their files. The county officials were exceedingly courteous, and 
explored for us the dust\" volumes of early records in the county vaults. Pio- 
neers who had long since left the country wrote valuable contributions, and so 
much help has been extended that we can lay no claim to originality. We have 
gathered from other men's flowers and claim only the poor form into which we 
have woven them. 

Very sincerely, 

W. L. Gaston 



CHAPTER I — In THE Beginnixg 19 

The First Owner — In Far Off Days — The Prehistoric Tribes Were Here — The 
Finding of Pottery — The Indians of Sixty Years Ago — No Indian Atrocities in 
Custer County— Probable Battles — Well Marked Rifle Pits — The Signs of Battle — 
A Fort in Custer County — New Helena Frightened — An Indian Battle — The 
Clarion Article — Who was the First White Man? — Did Coronado Find Us? — Plenty 
of Wild Game — Other Expeditions — General Warren was Here in 1855 — John Wil- 
mouth the First Man Here — Uncle John's Story 

CHAPTER II — Descriptions, Lines AND Boundaries 36 

Table Lands and Valleys — Undulations Tabulated — Towns and Ranges — No Tech- 
nical Terms — Harvey's Contribution — Bridging Clear Creek — A Mutiny — Find 
Ruins of Old Fortifications — An Impending Indian Battle — A Camp Fire — Find 
an Error on Fifth Parallel — A Lame Ox and the Remedy — Names of Creeks — 
Fooling the Cook — Government Surveys — Custer County Weather — Temperature 
and Precipitation Tables 

CHAPTER HI — In THE Days OF Cattle 51 

Ranches are Located — Big Profits — Life With the Cowboys — Women Were 
Scarce — A Stampede — The Roundup — A Roundup of Roundups — Cattle Men 
Versus Settlers — A Near Battle — An L'nderground Railroad — The Wild West has 
Wild Horses 

CHAPTERS' — County Organization AND Development 67 

The Proposed Garber County — Kountz County — Governor's Proclamation — First 
County Officers — First Meeting of Supervisors — First Voting Places — First Elec- 
tion Results — The New Officers — Custer County Judges — The First County As- 
sessment — Names of Those Who Have Served as County Clerks — Clerks of District 
Court — County Treasurers — Registers of Deeds — County Superintendents — Offi- 
cial Roster of Custer County — A Noted Sheriff — Multiply Voting Precincts — The 
, Last Precinct Supervisors — The New Board — Brand Commissioners — County 
Division — First Land Documents — The Evolution of the Court House — The Custer 
County United States Land Oflice — Kinkaid Bill Goes into Effect — New Law Takes 
Effect — A Quiet and Orderly Crowd — Crowd Gets a Rest — The Land Entries — 
Opening of the Military and Forest Reserves — Personnel of the Notaries — Letup, 
Stop, Over, and Rest 

CHAPTER V — The Coming OF THE Settlers 83 

No Settlement in the County — The Buffalo Bill Tree — The First Home — Who was 
^ the First Homesteader? — Lewis R. Dowse First Settler — Frank Ohmc was First 
Man to File — The First Comers — More for Douglas Grove — New Helena Home- 
steaders — Discover Cedar Canyon — Establishes First Postolfice — The Beginning of 
Lee's Park — A Fine Stock Breeder — A Signal Service Man — Spencer's Park — 
Mauk was a Gay Bachelor — Now They Come to Lillian — Settling in Merna Val- 
ley — A Bunch of lowans Arrive — An Impromptu Reception — Settling in Custer 
Center — Down in Ash Creek Valley — How Custer County Got Bob Hunter — They 
Fill up the Table — First of the Deep Wells — Settlers Come to Dale — Lohr Runs 
Some Store — More About Lillian — Down on the Redfern Table — Plenty of Room 
in a Small House — An Accommodating Englishman — Too Many Roosters for Ream 
and Jeffords — Settlement of Georgetown — Help Yourself — "Getting in Bad" — 
Custer County Pioneer Honored — Pelham Stretches the Quilt — A Flock of Bach- 
elors — Gibbonites on the Loup — Find an Old Dugout — Twin Fawns at the Cen- 
tennial — Would not Stand for the Name — The Haumonts — Where Broken Bow 
Stands — Early Days ; Hard Times — One of the Old Settlers 

CHAPTER VI — Old Settlers' Stories 116 

Entertains Bob Olive — A Wild Night fur Hans — Bob Hunter has Close Call — 
Mrs. Hunter Learns the Way of the West — "A VV'ise Cow Tale" — Terrible Fall in 
a Deep Well — A Thousand Elk in One Herd — Made His Own Powder — Won by 


a Nose — A Back-acting Wedding Fee — A Pluckj- Custer County Woman — Was 
a Justice AH Right — God and Boblits — A Courtship in the Court's Office — Experi- 
ences of a "School Marm" — Life too Short for a Sod Roof — Entertained the Paw- 
nees — All Ready for Indians — Mysterious Death of Trapper — A Fight for "Deer 
Life" — Saved One Bed — J. D. Haskell's Personal Experience — Douglass Finds 
Relics — Jess Gandy Joins the Elks — Mrs. Gandy Entertains a Stranger — Jess 
Gandy Rides a Buffalo — The Masons Buried Him — The First Great Flag Pole — 
The First County Seat Contest — A Hospitable Roof — A Little Sport with Guns- — 
Lassoed an Elk — Lost in the Sand Hills — Hunters Find Game in the Bed — Had 
no Religion — One of the Countj- "Dads" — A Prairie Fire — Twin Tragedies — A 
Watermelon Stampede — It Killed the Toad — Dan got the Logs — Indian Scares — 
The Grasshopper a Burden — A Land Quarrel — Grasshoppers Chewed Tobacco — 
The Senator was not Handsome — Burlin and Kellenbarger Have Some Experience 

— A Race Through the Storm — Something of a "Mixup" — Nearly Ruined His Eye 

CHAPTER VII — Hard Winters and Hard Times 146 

The Black Winter of 1880-81 — A Tough Time in 1880 — Heavy Losses — As Things 
Looked to Bishop — Accidents and Tragedies — No Christmas Presents — An Early 
BliEzard — Down Twice but Not Out — Frozen to Death in Powell Canyon — The 
Blizzard of 1888 — A Hard Times Christmas — Christmas Entertainments in the 
Various Churches in Broken Bow — Filled up on Christmas — The Glovers Weather 
Ninety-four — Didn't Carry off the Mortgage — Fourth of July Hailstorm — Dry 
Ninety-four — He Won Out- — Had to be Helped — Poor but Happy — A Home- 
grown Cyclone — Worst Blizzard in Thirty Years — Sheep Perish in Transit 

CHAPTER VIII — A Chapter IN Black 159 

The Mitchell-Ketchum Tragedy — The Shooting — The Arrest — Escaped the Kear- 
ney Mob — Judge Gaslin's Story — Deputizing a Posse — Turns State's Evidence — 
Judge Boblits Takes a Hand — The Haunstine Tragedy — Hamer and Others Quiet 
Crowd — The Execution Takes Place — The Only Execution — A Fatal Land 
Quarrel — War Breaks Out — Spilled the Booze — Making an Honest Mexican — 
Fatal Hilarity at Anselmo ^ 

CHAPTER IX — Towns AND Villages 177 

Westcrvillc — Might Have Been County Seat — A New Town Laid Out — Lee's 
Park — Other Dead Ones — Comstock — The Beginning of Callawaj' — J. Woods 
Smith has a Dream — Town Christened — Smith was an Advertiser — A New Town- 
site — A Town Fight is On — "Podunk" News Items — -Acknowledges the "Corn" — 
More Improvement — Build a Mill — The Train Arrives — Moving Day at Night — 
Callaway up to Date — The County Seat — The Broken Bow — The Town Grows — 
Twenty-five Miles for Butter — The Town Still Grows — First Town Officials — Rail- 
road Comes — Big Buildings Go Up — Gets to be a City — Modern Buildings Go 
Up — Plenty of Good, Pure Water — Broken Bow to Date — The Public Service 
Club — Present Officers — The Town of Arnold — A Big Celebration — Village of 
Berwjn — The Hustling Town of Merna — Atkisson Speaks for Merna — Mason 
Cit>' — Present-day Business Interests — Oldest Inhabitants — Federal Officers — Sar- 
gent — Ansley — Ansley's Banks — Ansley's Mercantile Establishments — Anslej-'s 
Mills, Shops, Livery Stables, etc. — Ansley's Lumber and Coal Yards — Ansley's 
Shipping Association — Ansley's Drug Stores — Ansley's Professional Men — Ansley's 
Electric-light, Water, and Telephone Systems — Ansley's Newspapers — Ansley's Post- 
office — Ansley's Patriotism — Ansley's Library — The Story of Anselmo — Postoffice 
History — Town Improvements — Anselmo Newspapers — -Anselmo Fights the Kaiser 

— Anselmo Churches — Anselmo Fraternal Societies — The Story of Oconto 

CHAPTER X — The School System IN Sod AND Brick 233 

The Beginning — Districts Organized — First County Institute — The Mason Cit>' 
Schools • — Broken Bow — Ansley — Anselmo — Arnold — Callaway — Comstock — 
Sargent — Oconto — Merna — Jaynesville — Berwyn — Lower Lodi — District No. 
97 — King — - Hoosier Valley — Longwood — Sand Valley — In General 

CHAPTER XI — Churches AND SuxD.w Schools 241 

.A Cowboy Preacher — .-\ Story of Early Church W'ork — .-Vnd Now the Methodists — 
The .Ansley Church — The Broken Bow Methodists — Gates and Walworth — Arnold 
Methodist Church — Sargent Methodists — Merna Methodists — Westerville Methodist 
Church — -Methodist Church of Callaway — Baptist Pioneer Work — The Baptist 
Churches that Live — The Broken Bow Church — New Baptist Church at Broken 
Bow — Mason City Church — The Merna Baptist Church — The .^nslev Baptist 
Church Organized — The Eudells — Lomax and Lodi — Bethel I'nion — Highland — 
The Free Methodist Church — The Presbvterians — Broken Bow Prcsbvtcrians — The 
-Anslev Presbvterian Church — Episcopalian Work in the Countv — Callaway Protes- 
tant Episcopal Church — The Broken Bow Episcopal Church — The Church of God — 
Christian Church — Christian Churches of Arnold, Liberty, Broken Bow, Anselmo, 


White Pigeon, Ansley, Coburg, Mason City, Lillian, Sargent, Banner Schoolhouse, 
and Milburn — Custer County Catholics — Beginning of Catholic Work in Dale — 
The Broken Bow Catholic Church — The Oconto Church and Mason City Church — 
Ansley Catholic Church — United Brethren in Christ — The United Brethren Begin 
at Custer Center — Sunday Schools in Custer County — County Sunday School Asso- 
ciation — The Reorganization Works VVell — State Sunday School Convention at 
Broken Bow — Comparison of Convention Attendance 

CHAPTER XII — Lodges and Social Organizations 276 

An Early-day Feed — A Stag Party Performance — Fun with a Meek-eyed Broncho — 
A Pioneer Picnic — An Old Settler's Association — 1883 was the Boom Year — Old 
Settlers' Association of South Loup — Ancient Free & Accepted Masons — Independ- 
ent Order of Odd Fellows — Modern Woodmen of Custer County — Ansley's Lodges 
^ Mason City Lodges — Royal Neighbors of Arnold — The Grange — Woman's 
Clubs in Custer County — Shakespeare Club -- Callaway Sorosis Club — History of 
Browning Club — The Book Lovers' Organziation — Broken Bow Art Club — Arnold 
Women's Improvement Club — The Broken Bow Woman's Club — Sargent Woman's 
Club — Woman's Club of Ansley ■ 

CHAPTER XIII — -Political and Partisan Activities 294 

The First Election — Had Some "Pep," However — In Scrappy Days — A Toint De- 
bate—The Populist Version — Through Republican Goggles — The "Populist" Move- 
ment in Custer County — First County Ticket — The Cat Creek Club — Like a Lamb 
to the Swallowing — The Republican Party Organizes — The Republicans Split — The 
Democratic Partv — Very Prominent Politically — The Primaries of 1918 — The Elec- 
tion of 1918 

CHAPTER XIV — ^ Legal and Other Professions 309 

The History of Custer County's Bar — First Grand Jury — A Hog in the First Case 

— A Lawyer Engaged in L'seful Work — Two Custer County judges — Another 

Class — The Younger Bloods — Didn't Know Anything — Was Criminal Enough 

No Spread-eagle Stuff — Had to be Shown — Had Two Chances to Escape — Sum- 
moned the Dead Man — Confused the Witness — All Lawyers on the Same Side — 
Too Old for the Pen — Ten was a Plenty — Trials by Day and Night — A Square 
Lawj'er — Custer County Medical Men 

CHAPTER XV — ^ Military and Patriotic Contributions .... 318 

The Grand Army of the Republic — Broken Bow Organizes a Post — Berwyn Post 

Post at Mason City — Post at Anslc:, — Post at Arnold — The Post at Sargent — Post 
at Comstock — Post at Callaway — Post at Merna — In tlie Spanish-American War — 
The Missing — The Company Personnel — The World War — Clyde G. Seiver — 
Joseph Ehvood Palmer — Raymond Ross Killed — Paul CofFman — Lewis H. Rob- 
ertson — Gustav Roerick — Claris A. Tucker — Orrie Amsberry — Henry E. Cain — 
Arthur Bergman — Glen Buckner — Loyd Clow — Sam Miller — Gage Sauter — Ros- 
coe Rhodes — John M. Rudge — Jeff Andrews — Clyde O. Thomas — Chester Webb 

— James N. Burdick — Roy Imboden — Homer M. Yates — ^ Harvey M. Sloggett — 
Ralph C. Lcui — Vanner A. Gustus — Josepli Bernert — Custer's Military Roster — 
World War Activities — The Exemption Board — Bond Drives — The War Savings 
Stamp Drive — The Yoimg Men's Christian Association — The Four Alinute Men — 
War Savings Societies — The American Red Cross — Woman's Council of Defense — 
Public Meetings and Celebrations — General Pershing's Birthday Celebration 

CHAPTER XVI — Custer County Literature 343 

Newspapers of Custer County — Westerville — Broken Bow's First Paper — More 
Papers for Westerville — Now Comes Ansley — -Algernon — A Daily Paper — Pol- 
itics Didn't Pay — Purcell Starts at Merna — "Sun" Shines at Anselmo — The "Chief" 
Shows I'p at Broken Bow — Arnold — Calla-u-ay — The Callawav Courier — Berwyn 

— Sargent — West L^nion — Comstock — Oconto — S. D. Butcher, Historian — A State 
Contribution — "Farewell Homestead Shantv" — Elmer E. Dowse — A Picture of 
Early Davs — Mrs. M. B. A. Martin — "The Broken Bow" — A. J. McArthur, M.D. — 
Prize Article — Custer County — George B. Mair — "The South Loup River" — Harry 
B. Iszard — ^ Tabulated Knocks — Mrs. G. W. Dewey — "The Blizzard" — Court 
House Corner Stone — Corner-stone Poem — A Custer County Poet — "Little Bohe- 
mian Girl" — "Early Davs in Custer" — Sol. J. Cook — "The Poet" — Mrs. Martha 
A. Hunter — Mrs. A. H. Stuckey — "The Lark's Returning" — "The Goldenrod" — 
"The Service Flag" — Mrs. Sabina Penrod — "Dawn in the Custer Countv Hills — 
Gaston's Rhymes for Padding — "Home in Broken Bow" — "Walking the Waters" 

CHAPTER XVII — Agricultur.\l .\nd Industrial Development . . . 36,s 
Years, Two Score and One — Horse and Cow Pull the Plow — Corn Wears the Tassel 
and is King — A Great Alfalfa County — Custer Stands at the Head — Dressed in 


Green, Custer County Heads the List — An Early Live-stock Association — Live-stock 
Raising — Cattle Grades Improved — Hogs, Black and Red — The Porker Pays the 
Mortgage — The Purple Blood of High Breeding — Sheep in the Wild and VV'ooly 
County — A City Alan Makes Good — A Sample of Custer County Thrift — Custer 
County Agricultural Society — Out of Debt — Races Twenty Years ago — The Lundy 
Hydro-Electric Power Plant — Custer County Irrigation — Horticulture in Custer 
County — J. D. Ream Makes a Find — Fruit Received Too Little Attention — The 
Milling Industry — The Broken Bow Roller Mills — Electric Lights Everywhere — 
Towns Have Good Water — Xo Mining Industry — Has Developed Wealth Slowly — 
Happy and Prosperous Now — "Since He Paid the Mortgage" — The First Settler 
Tells the Story of the Years 

CHAPITER XVIII — Present Day Wealth AND Resources .... 395 

A Bright-red Contrast — They Go Faster Now — They Have Traded Plows — Xo 
Telephone Gossip — Xo More Freight Hauling — Custer County Resources — Per- 
sonal Property — Live Stock and Crops of the Present Year — The Automobiles 
Honk — Banks and Banking — Figures in Recapitulation — Another Statement 

CHAPTER XIX — Founders AND Builders 403 

Personal Mention of Many of Those Who Have Been Exponents of Civic and Mate- 
rial Development and Progress in Custer County 


W. L. Gaston 

Indian Relics found in Custer County 

Black Kettle, a Cheyenne Chief . 

A Full-dress Party .... 

An Indian Council and War Dress 

Custer County's First Drying Plant 

Rifle Pits on the Westerville Battle-field 

Facsimile of Letter of J. N. Dryden 

An Early Winter Scene 

An Old Settler on the South Loup 

Owl's Nest in Cheesebrough Cany'on 

Robert Harvey, State Surveyor 

A Morning Hunt on the Middle Loup 

A Ranch Scene on the South Loup 

A Typical Cattle Scene in Early Day; 

Cattran and Sanders Cattle Ranch 

Rounding up of "White Faces" on the McDown 

The Old Black Ranch on Deer Creek 

Old Cottonwood Tree on the Anton .^bel Ranc 

A Trinity of Old-timers ... 

Building that Served as First Court House of i 

Present Custer County Court House . 

The Land Opening at Broken Bow in 1904 . 

Buffalo Bill when a Hlinter in Nebraska . 

William Comstock and Wife in front of their 

Historic Residence of Judge C. R. Mathews 

C. P. Foote's Old Pioneer House at Merna . 

Emigrants Headed for Custer County . 

A Typical Ducx3ut 

Jacob Cover's Sod House 

Edward Haumont's Sod Palace 
J. A. Woods, First Settler in Woods' Park . 
Sod Residence of Thomas J. Butcher . 
New Residence of Thomas J. Butcher . 

Ev R 



uster County 








Roundup of a Coyots Hunt . 

Ruins of Old Jefferson Postoffice 

Powell Canyon 

The Old L P. Olive Ranch 

Westerville Mill and Pond 

comsixkk .... 

Views in Comstock . 

Residence of Charles D. Bragg 

Residence of Edward F. Skolil 

Residence of Robert S. S'tone . 

Citizens State Bank, Comstock 

The First Building in Callaway . 

Callaway Views .... 

Street Scene in Callaway 

A Mixed Train at Callaway in 1890 

Old Marble Top Hotel . 

Broken Bow State Bank 

First Printing House in Broken Bow 

First Tr.aix into Broken Bow 

Carnegie Library at Broken Bow . 

DiERKs Block, Broken Bow . 

Broken Bow Residences 

Public Square Park, Broken Bow . 

Rooms of Broken Bow Service Club 

An Early Day in Arnold 

Views in Arnold 

Buildings in Merna 

BiRDSEYE View of Berwyn 

Merna Elevators 

Group of Residences at Merna 

Residence of Dr. J. H Morrow 

Mason City Twenty Years Ago 

Residence of John T. Wood . 

Farmers State Bank, at Mason City 

City Water Tower. S.\rgent 

Views in S'argent . 

Views in Ansley 

Views in Anselmo . 

Views in Oconto 

Custer County Schoolhouses 

Custer County Schoolhouses 



Methodist Episcopal Church at Broken Bow 244 

Methodist Episcopal Church at Arnold 245 

Methodist Episcopal Church at Sargent 246 

Baptist Church at Broken Bow 250 

Presbyterian Church at Broken Bow 254 

Broken Bow Episcopal Church and Rectory 257 

Christian Church at Broken Bow 261 

Christian Church at Ansley 262 

Christian Church at Sargent 265 

Dale Catholic Church and Parsonage 266 

Catholic Rectory at Broken Bow 268 

Catholic Church at Oconto 268 

Catholic Church at Sargent 268 

Catholic Church and Rectory at Anselmo 269 

United Brethren Church at Broken Bow 270 

J. M. Fodge 274 

Farmers' Picnic near Ansley 280 

Laying Corner Stone of Masonic Temple at Anselmo 283 

Frank H. Young 284 

Alpha Morgan 28o 

Hon. William Gaslin 310 

Custer County Veteran Member of the Grand Army of the Republic . . 319 

Members of Stone River Post, G. A. R., of Mason City 321 

Clyde G. Seiver 327 

Joseph Elwood Palmer 328 

S. D. Butcher and Family 349 

A Typical S'od House 369 

Mammoth Piles of Corn 370 

A Custer County Alfalfa Field ^"^^ 

Two Crops that Never Fail 373 

The Pale-face Cattle have taken Custer County 374 

An Early-day Team 377 

Sheep Industry, Lee's Park, 1887 378 

Li\t; Stock on Farm of George Chipps 379 

A Custer County Exhibit at the Nebraska State Fair 382 

Views of Lake Doris and Hydro-electric Plant 384-387 

CoMSTocK Flouring Mills 390 

Mason City Flouring Mill 391 

Milburn Bridge over Middle Loup River 396 

Farm Home of John Cherry, on the South Loup 397 


Thb First Owner — In Far Off Days — The Prehistoric Tribes Were Here — The 


Custer County — Probable Battles — Well Marked Rifle Pits — The Signs of Bat- 
tle — A Fort IN Custer County County — New Helena Frightened — An Indian 
Battle — The Clarion Article • — Who was the First White ]\Ian? — Did Coronado 
Find Us? — Plenty of Wild Game — Other Expeditions — General Warren was 
Here in 1855 — John Wilmouth the First Man Here — Uncle John's Story 

"In the beginning God made Custer county." 
That is a famous old Hebrew declaration, with 
a localism attached — a localism which does no 
violence to the text, nor sins against the 
truth. In that far ofif morning when creation 
was the order, the Great Creator seems to have 
inspected the product of his hand and in each 
case, so far as the record goes, pronounced it 
good. So it is taken for granted that after he 
made Custer county, he pronounced it good, 
and there is little doubt in the minds of the 
thirty thousand people who have their homes 
in this western county that he was right. 

If God made it good in the beginning, he 
expected the ages to improve it. He seems 
to have blended soil and climate into splendid 
conditions for human life and happiness. 
When, after the lapse of ages, he turned loose 
upon its virgin prairies the sturdy, progressive 
young manhood and womanliood who came, 
red-blooded, from the homes of Iowa, Ilhnois, 
Wisconsin, Ohio, and all the rest of the older 
states, it was charged and surcharged with 
natural resources and opportunity. They were 
a tribe of men and \\'omen in whose veins 
flowed the warm blood of energy, and whose 
characters massed the traits of virtue, strength, 
and progress. They came to subdue a soil in 
which opportunity lay in the surface stratums, 
or protruded in ledges from the hillsides. They 
came to find, in fine assortment, the elements 

of life and growth, a place where energy and 
thrift could subdue the unplowed sod and find 
the place for home and sanctuary. 


France was the first owner of record. It 
came to France by right of exploration, if not 
discovery. All that part of North America 
known as the Middle West, came without dis- 
jmte or protest to the royal house of the 
Ivouises. Through the process of some barter, 
not vital to this story, the Louises ceded it to 
Spain in 1763. It was some land transaction. 
A vast wedge of territory, bounded on the east 
by the Mississippi and ranging irregularly 
westward until it reached the Oregon shore of 
the Pacific, went from French to Spanish pos- 
session. So far as the territory itself is con- 
cerned it profited little by exchange of owners. 
It should go unnoticed but that Custer county, 
then unnamed and unmarked, was in this ter- 
ritory, and represented then the equity of its 
present inhabitants. In 1802 Spain and France 
again became swappers, and possession went 
back to France. This prepared the way for 
the transaction of 1803, when Thomas Jeffer- 
son shied his young repubHc into the auction 
ring, from which it emerged with the Louisi- 
ana Purchase. If former transactions were 
big land deals, this outranked them all. The 
extent of land in the Louisiana Purchase was 




vastly more than the original transaction of 
1763. Custer county was in it, however, — it 
had survived the shuffles and now and for all 
time it is in the jX)ssession of, and is an inte- 
gral part of, the United States of America. 


Imagination runs, always, back into the far 
ofif days and asks a thousand times the ques- 
tions : "Who was the first human being to see 
that spot of earth now known as Custer coun- 
ty? Whose eyes first beheld its hills and val- 
leys or swept across its plain, or were there any 
hills and valleys when the first human eye 
beheld this region ? Was its land exhibiting 
naught but barren waste, or were its fields 
green robed and grassed ? Did the scene pre- 
sent anything that is familiar to this modern 
day? Or was it water covered, a part of an 
inland sea, in which was housed the masto- 
donic life of some far off amphibious day? 
(Jr had the waves subsided, leaving exposed 
to sun and wind flats of silt, and dunes of 
sand ?" All these questions, and a thousand 
others, come surging into the mind tliat con- 
templates the ancient days of the formative 
period. The great majority of these ques- 
tions will never be answered. Neither the his- 
torian nor the geologist brings any message 
from that distant age. 

Did the primitive inhabitants of North Am- 
erica ever traverse Custer county? Did the 
descendants of the cliff dwellers ever look for 
building sites along our river bluffs or can- 
yon breaks? Did the Algonquin Indians of 
the far east New England ever drift as far 
west as central Nebraska, or did the Myas and 
the Aztecs graze their cattle here before they 
immigrated to Mexico and Yucatan ? When the 
tribe, to which now the famous Calaveras man 
belonged, was delighting in a higher civiliza- 
tion farther west, were any of his kinsmen 
located in Nebraska? All these questions are 
hard to answer and it may be that the world 
will have to wait the results of the archeolo- 
gists' long search. 


Though no traditions came down from the 

hoary centuries of the past there is abundant 
evidence of occupancy by a pre-historic race. 
Rich discoveries of broken pottery, stone im- 
plements and many other relics of a forgotten 
people have rewarded the Nebraska ethnolo- 
gists and archeologists. Nebraska was once 
the home of a people who either antedate the 
American Indian by uncounted centuries or 
else were the far off ancestors from which he 
both descended and degenerated. 

Nebraska archeolog}- is still in the morning- 
twilight of commencement, yet twenty-four 
village sites have been discovered, explored, 
and charted. Along almost every Nebraska 
stream, stone implements and weapons have 
been found. Some scientists declare that the 
possessors of these stone implements had no 
jiottery and belonged to a race which ante- 
dates the molders of earthen vessels. These 
are not questions to be settled here. We pass 
them along to the student and the scientist. 


The possessors of potter)' once lived in Cus- 
ter county, how long ago no man can tell, but 
the fact is not disputed. I\Iany stone imple- 
ments, such as stone hammers, stone toma- 
hawks, battle axes, stone knives, and arrow 
heads have been found. 

Al. Morgan, one of the early settlers, in 
the vicinity of Cumro, has gathered many curi- 
ous implements, many of which were produced 
and used by Indians who inhabited Custer 
county, perhaps generations before the tribes 
of a later day were found here by the white 

The molders of pottery once roamed these 
hills and drank from these springs and 
streams. It is presumed that this potterj' was 
manufactured by the remote ancestors of later- 
day Indians. If it is argued that the molders 
of the pottery and the makers of the flint iin- 
])lements indicate a higher civilization than 
that of the modern red man. the ethnologists 
reply that these plains and hills were not al- 
ways covered with buft'aloes and elk. and that 
some time in the remote past the ancestors 
of the noble red man were grain eaters. Grain 
eaters rise to a higher degree of intelligence 



1— Iron arrow-heads used by Indians after tliev began trading with white men. 2— Indian 
stone knives and spear-heads. 3— .\rrow-heads found in Custer county bv A L Morgan 
4— Specimens ot pottery excavated from Indian grave on the Bentlev "farm near Sargent' 
5— Indian battle-axe found on the South Loup. " oaigini. 



and civilization than meat eaters. When the 
Indian was compelled to find his bread in the 
soil and gather the har\'est of fields' and for- 
ests he was more enlightened and civilized 
than his descendants, who found life easy when 
the bulTalo and the elk made it too easy for 
him to subsist. 

The grain eaters needed stone implements 
with which to grind and dig. and vessels in 
which to conserve and retain. It required men- 
tal effort, as wel^ as physical, so evidences 
of a creditable mentality are found in the ves- 
sels and implements they have left behind. 

The citizens of Callaway attest the finding 
of broken pottery on the South Loup hills 
north of the river. 

A few years ago Frank Kelley and others 
found fragments of pottery, each piece clear- 
ly defined, on the Ed. Neth farm some eight 
oi* ten miles west of Broken Bow. All this 
testifies to the fact of former inhabitants. 

In 1916 H. M. Bentley, who lives in section 
32, township 20 north, range 17 west, which 
is located appro.ximately four miles northeast 
of Sargent in this county, while plowing on a 
hill top, uncovered some thirty or forty pieces 
of gray pottery. This pottery had evidently 
been made by weaving grass baskets and daub- 
ing clay mud or slime on the inside and then 
burning them in some kind of an improvised 
kiln. This process left the pottery with the 
imprint of the grass basket embossed on the 

The material of the pottePi- resembles a 
form of hard gray-blue stone. Two or three 
of the pieces found are of good size, and one 
is from the rim of the vessel of which is was 
once a part, and describes an arc of at least 
one-fourth of the circumference of the ves- 
sel. At the same time and in the same place 
Mr. Bentley uncovered parts of human bones, 
among which, still clinging to a f ragmen* of 
a human jaw-bone, was a well preserved hu- 
man tooth. 

The size of the tooth and the bones indi- 
cates that they belonged to a child of twelve 
or thirteen years, or else to some diminutive 
adult. Drs. Bass, Beck, and Mullins. all rep- 

utable dentists of Broken Bow, have examined 
the tooth and declare it to be the upper first 
molar of the right side. They believe it to 
be the first or baby tooth, but in this they 
are not certain, as the tooth gives evidence of 
much wear, perhaps more wear than a child's 
tooth would have received. The wear indi- 
cates that the tooth belonged to a grain eater 
and, if so, its owner lived at a time when the 
ancestors of the present Indian families were 
grain eaters, and a higher intelligence made 
them manufacturers of ware and implements.' 
Other pieces of pottery and similar relics left 
by an aiicient tribe were found on a high hill 
on the farm of J. E. Grint, some two or three 
miles south of the Bentley farm. 

Not long since Professor Elmer E. Black- 
man, curator of the Nebraska Historical So- 
ciety, visited the scene of these finds and spent 
some time in making examinations. On this 
tour of inspection he was accompanied by 
Judge Humphrey, associate editor of this pub- 
lication. Professor Blackman believes that 
these relics were deposited by the far-off an- 
cestors of the present Pawnee Indians. He 
further believes that these Indians were not 
permanent occupants of the region, but that 
they came here on summer hunting trips, dur- 
ing a period when the elk and buffaloes were 
numerous. This would place this particular 
people, who have so kindly left us the relics, 
in the transition period between grain-eating 
and meat-eating Indians. In support of his 
theory he submits the following statements : 

"In relation to the Indian remains in Cus- 
ter county which I inspected with Judge Hum- 
phrey, August 20, 1918, I may offer the fol- 
lowing conclusions : 

"A little preliminary study of the situation 
shows that the area of Custer county was part 
of the land ceded to the United States by the 
Pawnees on the 24th of September, 1837. The 
treaty was signed at Table Creek, Nebraska 
Territory. Table Creek is near Nebraska City, 
and we have in the museum of the Nebraska 
Historical Society a photograph of the signing 
of this treaty, the same showing Pe-ta-Le- 
Sharu, Samuel Allis. J. Sterling Morton, 



^Arrow-heads and human hone and tooth excavated from Indian grave on the Bentley 

[^d m CnJ^^:;n/;;^t;eSTl.-L^SVcn;r^^^n ^^^^^^^ 
the \Ve"tervillc battle-field bv A. R. Humphrey, during a recent examination ol the field. 

0-Batde-"xes t'ound on the" South Loup "-^Ii--rT^P^ir.Tn°S'" Indian ba'tl-^^^^^ 
at mouth of Deer creek, Custer county, and owned by A. L. Morgan. 12-lndian battle axe. 

13— Indian pipe found on the South Loup. 



James W. Denver, and others who were pres- 
ent at the signing. For the full text of this 
treaty reference may be made to the United 
States Statutes at Large, \'olume XI, page 

"The Repulilican Pawnees once lived south 
of the Platte — Pike says he was at their vil- 
lage in 1806. 1 find the ruins of their habitat 
along the Republican river, even west of Or- 
leans. From the banks of the Republican they 
chiefly secured the flint which was used for 
implements. This was easy to get. splendid in 
quality, and was probably the cause of their 
residence there. This implen;ent-making ma- 
terial became the direct cause of the suprema- 
cv which this tribe gained over their neigh- 
bors, and which they held until the whites 
came with firearms and 'fire-water.' 

"The area now occupied by Custer county 
was the abundant buffalo plains over which 
the Pawnees hunted during the time preced- 
ing contact with the whites, as well as later ; 
but the site explored does not show contact 
with white men, and antedates firearms — 
hence the reference to the earlier date. 

"Both the sites visited may be classed as 
one. Due east of Sargent are evidences that 
show this to be the point where the hunting 
party probably left the Middle Loup river, and 
thence was afforded an easy trail to the loca- 
tion farther north and west of this point, which 
I determine as the location of the camp. 

"In the hill-encircled valley near where the 
farm house stands is a beautiful, level expanse 
upon which the summer tepees were .set up. 
This was an ideal spot, protected from ob- 
servation by the hills which separate this shel- 
tered valley from the Middle Lou]) river. 
There was ample timber for fuel, and water 
from springs. Probably year after year the 
same tribe came here to secure the meat sup- 
ply. Doubtless small game was abundant. We 
know that vast herds of buffaloes roamed this 
region, and from here the hunters sallied forth 
to capture the wintc'j- sujjply of meat and hides, 
while the squaws remained in the sheltered 
valley, to clry the meat and dress the hides. 

"Some of their people died from sickness 
or accident, and the surrounding hill-tops (es- 

pecially west of the camp) were the sites for 
the final resting places of the noble dead. 

"The pottery found on the hill-top indicates 
that these Indians had a custom of placing 
food and water in the graves, for the use of 
the departed on their journey to the happy 
hunting-ground. Many tribes observed the 
custom. The Pawnees practiced it. 

"I believe this site antedates contact with the 
whites. This is proven by the absence of any 
white man's artifacts. I believe it is one of 
the sites used soon after the Pawnees migrated 
to the plains region, because the chips of flint 
found on this site are from the flint found in 
the Texas region from which they migrated. 
I do not doubt but this summer camp was 
occu])ied by the Pawnees. First, l^ecause the 
specimens of pottery found are identical with 
the pottery made by the Pawnees, and, sec- 
ond, because the flint chips are from nodules 
which originally were found in the vicinity of 
the Brazos river in Texas, the land from which 
the Pawnees originally came. 

"The implement-making material brought 
w ith them on their migrations north, would be 
exhausted in time, so, finding the chips from 
these nodules leads us to believe the camp was 
used at an early date. 

"The small, flint arrow-heads found on the 
same hill-top as were the pottery and bones, 
are not so crude or large as those used by the 
modern red man. They give evidence of a 
skill and workmanship the latter did not pos- 
sess. The workmanship declares a degree of 
civilization, while the barl>ed flint itself tells 
the story of the battle and chase in that un- 
known time. The bow and arrow constituted 
the equipment of both the warrior and the 
hunter of this primitive race. The flint-head, 
well formed, well edged, and sharjily outlined, 
would argue that the arrow to which it was 
attaciied, with thong or grass, was skill-fash- 
ioned and high-grade, and likewise that the 
bow would be designed and modeled with 
more skill than those used by the later In- 

"The utility of the imiilement de]5ends upon 
the degree of intelligence of the user. In the 
hands of keen intelligence it does better e.xe- 


cution and is more deadly than in the hands 
of the untutored savage. And then, as the 
workmanship declares the degree of skill and 
intelligence, we must conclude that these ar- 
rows were once used by a people who in some 
degree outranked in civilization the Indians of 
the present century, and were very effective 
in their hands. They served their owners well 
and were the Winchesters of their day. This 
race used the arrow for the hunt, and if. like 

Bl.\ck Kettle, a Cheyenne Chief 

their civilized brethren of to-day, they slaugh- 
tered each other, they relied for victory over 
their enemy, upon the same implement, which, 
like the vendor's liniment, was made for man 
or beast. This is all we know — it would be 
useless to add more. Their past is sealed. 
Their centuries are dead." 


Coming down to the day of maps and rec- 
ords, we know something about the Indian 
tribes which inhabited Custer county in the 
generations next preceding the white man's 

The ethnological traces of the red man's 
genealogy, divide our North American Indians 

into live great families, and with glib tongue 
rattle off the names "Caddoan family, Siouan 
family, Algonkain family, Shoshonean famil}', 
and the Kiowan family." 

At least four of these families were repre- 
sented in the tribal relations of the red man 
who once hunted and haunted the wild game 
herds of these prairies. 

The Pawnees were here. This was their 
treaty reservation. It was their legal home'. 
They were owners, in fee simple, and claim- 
ants b}' possession. If Professor Blackmail is 
right, they were here for a thousand years 
before the white man bothered them. The 
Pawnees belong to the Caddoan family. The 
Omahas. the Poncas. and the Otoes hunted 
these plains and here warred with the Paw- 
nees. These tribes belonged to the S'iouan 
family. An Indian authority says that the 
domain of the Omahas lay north of the Platte 
river. That might include Custer county or 
at least a part of it. If they never lived here 
they were ofttimes visitors and long-time 
campers on these hills and river vallevs. 

Fremont records the Cheyenne Indians as 
located on the Platte above Grand Island. 
From this location the buffalo chase would 
often take them over the South Loup country. 
The Cheyennes held their family membership 
with the Algonkains. Mooney, in his eigh- 
teenth annual report to the bureau of ethnology, 
says that the Comanches, who have sometimes 
been called by the Siouan name of Padoucas, 
once had a permanent home on the north fork 
of the Platte river and that their ordinary 
range over the plains was from five to eight 
hundred miles. A range of less than half that 
circle would center their hunting field in Cus- 
ter county. The Comanche belonged to the 
Shoshonean family. 

This is all that is known about our Indian 
predecessors. Their tepees are down, their 
camp fires are out, and the bronzed master of 
the wild herds is gone. When any of his 
descendants come to Custer county now they 
wear the white man's garb, — pants, white 
collar, and a red necktie, or, if the gender is 
more favorable, a calico skirt, of wall paper 
pattern, and a silk handkerchief over plaited 



A Full-dress Party 

hair. The Indian pony and the Indian dog 
live only in the pictures of the past; their 
bones and poverty are forgotten ; with hoof 
beats and yelps they follow the herds no 


Beyond doubt the early trappers and hunters 
in Custer county had many e.xciting times and 
several of them may have been killed by the 
Indians, but concerning tragedies of this time 
we have no records. John W'ilmoulh, who 
will be mentioned later, claims to have been 

engaged in an Indian battle in the year 1860, 
somewhere in the vicinity of Milburn. He 
makes the claim that three or four white men 
were killed at this time. Mr. Wilmouth is 
ninety years of age and his memory hardly 

Aside from this there is no statement made, 
by any one who pretends to know, to tlie 
effect that any settlers were disturbed. 


Beyond doubt, several battles were fought 
within the confines of the county during the 

An Ixdi.\.\ Council .and War 



days when these prairies were ranged by scout- 
ing parties from the United States forts at 
Kearney and Hartsetif. Old settlers claim that 
several battle fields have been found in the 
county : one is located near the present town 
site of Berwyn, and one on the Forsythe farm 
near New Helena. On both of these fields 
arrow-heads, human bones, and other relics of 
conflict have been found. 


Perhaps the most clearly defined of any 
battle field in Custer county is the one located 
in section 16, township 17, range 18, which 
location is in the school section owned by 

and this helped, of course, to form aii im- 
provised breastwork. These pits with their 
accompanying mounds vary in length from 
six to sixty feet and if they were ever fully 
manned, at least four or five hundred white 
men or soldiers must have been engaged. 

In the center of the enclosed area is a de- 
pression which early settlers say was a water 
hole when they came to the country. If a 
stand was to be made by a company of soldiers 
on ground of their own choosing there would 
naturally be some provisions for water. 

It is claimed that in an early day another 
such system of breastworks and pits was found 
near the mouth of Spring creek, on the farm 



' ^Miiiiinil 

^^^^^H^^^^^r i£^$ 

P: 1^ 








IK ^n, 






Custer County's First Drying Plant 

Allen brothers and lies three miles north and 
one-half mile west of the present Westerville 

After much investigation, in which the ser- 
vices of the state historian, Professor A. E. 
Sheldon, and Curator E. E. Blackman have 
been rendered, it can be stated positively that 
here a battle of some importance has been 
fought. Here a line of rifle pits, clearly de- 
marked, encloses an area of perhaps six or 
eight acres, the line conforming more nearly 
to an ellipse than a circle. The pits were 
probably three feet deep at the time they were 
dug. The dirt was thrown to the outside, 

now owned by Judge A. R. Humphrey. J. 
T. Douglass, who saw this field, says that or- 
iginally a well had been dug in the center of 
the enclosure. Talking with a former United 
States soldier who served in the regular army 
in the days of the early '60s and who for a 
number of years, during the '60s, was sta- 
tioned at Kearney, Mr. Douglass learned that 
the soldiers of the fort had located in a num- 
ber of places what they called outposts, where 
they dug pits, threw up breastworks made in 
circle form, enclosing water, and marked them, 
so that in case they were too hotly pressed 
by the Indians they could make a run for 



the nearest of these outposts and find there 
some protection in making a stand. 

It is altogether probable that the Allen field 
was one of these outposts, and was probably 
attached to Fort Kearney. It will be noted 
in another place that State Surveyor Robert 
Harvey finds an old wagon trail coming out 
of \'alley county through Mira valley and 
entering Custer county in the vicinity of 
^^'oods Park. This trail came from the north- 
east and led in a southwest direction directly 
in line with the rifle pits described. It is 

in the battle was in evidence when the first 
settlers came to the countrj-. A skull which 
belonged to an Indian was found by the Allen 
brothers near the battle ground, where it had 
probably been exhumed by wind or coyotes 
from a shallow grave. 

As late as August 18, 1918, Judge A. R. 
Humphrey found on the ground within the 
circle the stock of an old carbine. 

E.xcavations made in the bottom of some 
of the pits disclosed deposits of charcoal which, 
no doubt, was the remains of fires built in 

Kiixt i'ns ox iKi: W EsiEKN mLE Jjattle-field 

Curator E. E. Blackman at right ; Judge A. R. Humphrey stands in one of the pits ; W. 

Gaston at the right 


possible that this trail is connected in some way 
with the battle field. 


Accepting the theory that this was an out- 
post, it is also evident that it was the scene 
of a battle. Arrow-heads in abundance have 
been picked up. This would show that In- 
dians were the parties engaged on one side, 
while broken gtins, bullets, and parts of a 
sabre, would indicate that white men and sol- 
diers were the occupants of the pits. A mound 
supposed to be a field grave for soldiers killed 

the pits, and might indicate that the stand 
was made in the fall of the year, when the 
weather was cold, but before the ground had 

This is all that we know positively. There 
is a tradition that in an early day a band of 
Indians attacked a party of gold miners, re- 
turning from the Black Hills, and robbed 
them of a large amount of gold dust, that 
the soldiers followed them to recover the gold 
and that here they overtook the Indians and 
made their stand. Tradition also has it that 
a large number of Indians were killed and 



only a few of the soldiers engaged survived. 
But the tradition lacks confirmation. 


To guard against the depredations of In- 
dians, the citizens of Douglas Grove built, in 
1876, a fort which, at first, they named Fort 
Garber, in honor of the governor, but later, 
because no Indians came and the scare did not 
materialize in war whoops, tomahawks, and 
scalps, it was called Fort Disappointment. 

It was built with bastioned corners, so that 
the Indians could not scale the walls from 
without, and was large enough to hold all 
the settlers. A well was dug inside for water 
supply, forty stands of arms were obtained 
from the government, and a company of state 
militia organized, called the Garber County 
Regulars. W. H. Comstock was made captain 
and from that time forth the genial pioneer 
was known as Captain Comstock. 


About the same time, rumors of an Indian 
outbreak and massacre further north fright- 
ened the people of New Helena or Mctoria 
Creek. The Omaha Bcc published an account 
of the massacre of settlers in the ?\Iiddle Loup 
valley. J. N. Dryden. now of Kearney, then 
sent the following note addressed to the sur- 
viving citizens of Victoria Creek : 

Douglas Grove, May 27. 1876. 
To the S'urviving Citizens of \"ictoria Creek : 

My Dear Friends: I send you all the in- 
formation relative to the movements of the 
Indians I am able to procure and think is 

The clippings are from the late Omaha 
and Chicago dailies. Saw Mr. Merchant's 
folks off all right on the 6:45 train Thursday 
morning. They were vtrj uneasy about !Mr. 
Merchant. Truly. J. N. D. 

This general uprising of the Sioux, who 
resented the intrusion of miners pushing into 
the Black Hills territory, so frightened the 
people of New Helena that when they re- 
ceived the Dryden note, they rallied the settlers 
and built a fort of cedar logs on the Forsythe 
place, but some of the families were so fright- 
ened that thev fled the countrv. After the 

fort was built Judge Mathews applied to the 
state for arms and received fourteen rifles and 
two thousand rounds of cartridges. Jilost of 
the people who had fled for safety returned to 
their claims. Their fears proved groundless. 
No Indians came. So it can be stated on the 
best authority that no settlers of Custer county 
were ever seriouslv molested bv Indians. 


F.\csiMiLE OF Letter of J. N. Dryden 


On the 4th day of July, 1918, A. K. Holmes, 
editor and publisher of the Tavlor Clarion, 
published the following account of an early 
battle, which took place in Custer countv, 
between a surveying party of twelve men and 



a marauding tribe of Indians. The article 
here appended has been submitted to the old 
settlers of the northeast corner of the county 
and, according to their testimony, the Clarion 
account is authentic. Mr. Holmes writes a 
personal letter in which he states that the 
William Stevens mentioned in the article is a 
very reliable and trustworthy citizen and ab- 
solute dependence can be placed upon his word. 
C. E. Gibbons, of Comstock, also bears testi- 
mony to the standing and character of Will- 
iam Stevens, and he, with others, locates the 
scene of battle close to the junction of Spring 
creek, which heads on Gibbons' place three 
or four miles southwest of Comstock and al- 
most directly south of Comstock forms its 
junction with the Middle Loup river. This 
locates the battle ground aproximately three 
and one-half miles south of Comstock. 


The following article, under the caption "A 
no nitm's land of early days." is the one re- 
ferred to above : 

Like all the pioneer settlers of forty years 
ago, William Stevens depended on Central 
City and Grand Island as his railroad points. 
The road down the valley, as then traveled. 
was long and wearisome. It was sometimes on 
one side of the Loup river, and then on the 
other, just as the exigencies of the breaks and 
soils and untamed wilds demanded. The trips 
were not always free from dangers, nor were 
the drivers always care free as to the safety 
of families and properties left at home dur- 
ing the week or more of absence. There was 
no rapid transit of message in those days, and 
the valley never echoed the chug of the auto 
bringing help in case of unanticipated dis- 
tress or Indian visitation. 

But the trips were frequently enlivened by 
impressive incident, experiences related, or tra- 
ditions and tales told over, which now stand 
out in the memory of the pioneer as a pleas- 
urable and cherished reminiscence. It has 
been so always, and everywhere. In taming 
the wilds of every country the pioneers en- 
acted the scenes which sul)set|u.entiv became 
the play puppets of the retrospective hour. 

^Ir. Stevens occasionally hauled loads of 
cedar posts to Central City. Small and few as 
were his financial transactions in those days, 
some were certain to come, and the posts of- 

fered one of the very few solutions to the 
incoming revenue problem. 

Stopping at nightfall with some lone settler 
on the endless prairie, who was trying to de- 
velop a home amidst the haunts of the coyotes, 
the owls, and the rattlesnakes, the driver could 
get his night's lodging and hay for the team 
for twenty-five cents. The quarter looked 
ver}^ big and very welcome to the owners of 
the soddies on the claims down the valley. 

On one of those trips, jMr. Stevens found the 
bridge at St. Paul washed away, and so he 
proceeded to FuUerton, in the hope that he 
might be able to get across, perhaps over the 
ferry. It was while there that Mr. Stevens 
met a resident of the town who had in pre- 
vious years been a member of a United States 
surveying party of twelve which made the 
original federal survey of this country. And 
thence we get this little tale. 

Like in many such instances, there are no 
positive means of identifying locations. Dis- 
tances were not accurately known. But from 
the surveyor's minute description of the creek, 
its bank, another draw to the southward, sep- 
arated from the creek by a level prairie, the 
upward slope to the south of the draw, and 
the hills and canyons beyond, — these, and 
other minutiae, enabled Mr. Stevens to feel 
satisfied that the location lay upon the land he 
had subsequently homcsteadcd. He has an- 
other proof — which is quite conclusive. In 
the field and pastured hills on the up-slope 
south of the draw, he has since picked up per- 
haps half a hundred of rifle balls, which had 
in the after years lain where they struck or 
fell. Their numbers indicated* an oldi-time 

The surveying party was engaged along the 
creek near its mouth, one morning, when a 
band of Indians came out of the canyon to the 
south and advanced northward. It didn't mat- 
ter to what tribe they belonged,^ for they 
were warlike in manner and too numerous to 
justify a parley for negotiations. The sur- 
veyors dropped below the creek bank for shel- 
ter, feeling that such situation would olTer 
means for an advantageous resistance. The 
government had provided them with the old- 
time, long-range "Needle-guns" — and it was 
now time to use them. 

Before the Indians got to the draw the sur- 
veyors began to i)ick them off as best they 
could. So it was l.ut natural that the red- 
skins should crouch in the draw for their own 
protection. Their guns were of the sJiort- 
range class, and they could not reach the sur- 
veyors. They were safe in the draw, but 
thev dare not venture across the level to- 



ward the surveyors. Both parties were safe 
where they were, but neither dared to show 
itself in open, and neither cared to assert 
claim to the expanse between — for it was a 
"No Man's Land" of another day. 

Yet neither could get away without taking- 
chances. So they kept up their spasmodic ex- 
change of compliments through all that by- 
gone day, both waiting for the welcome cloak 
of the night-time to cover their strategic de- 

\Mien darkness came, as an encompassing 
friend, the plans that were evolved during the 
day were set in motion, and the surveying 

they came. That would iiave been the ro- 
mance of history. 

The same hills that reverberated o'er the val- 
ley the desultory crack of the defender's rifle 
that day are still sitting guard at the valley's 
brink, but they now send back the echoes of 
agricultural and pastoral pursuit — for the 
"No Man's Land" of that pioneer day is a 
field in the "one man's land" of the present, 
sending its corn from the ditches and dairy 
products from the herd, — all as silent testi- 
mony of the changes of time. 

The same creek (now known as Spring 
creek) wanders through the same crooks, and 

[From Butcher History of Custer County] 

An E.-^rly Winter Scene 

party began its "strategic withdrawal." Slip- 
ping along under the bank of the creek to 
the river, they were soon quietly going with 
the stream to surroundings that promised 
greater safety. But there was no further 

Such is the story as it was outlined to us. 
The original relator went no further. The 
next chapter, if any, was not revealed. And 
why did the Indians not follow ? It is every- 
body's guess. They could have harassed — 
but they did not. Possibly they, too, were 
strategists. Perhaps they also longed for the 
cover of darkness, in order that they might 
likewise resort to a "strategic retreat," and 
go slinking back to the canyon from whence 

the same banks to-day aflford tempting play- 
grounds for the romping children of anglers 
who cast hook or seine in the quiet little chan- 

More rifle balls lie plugged in the slope and 
the hill sides, waiting to be picked up by some 
wandering stroller who will stand and wonder. 
He may not have even the shadowy tradition 
of the two belligerent parties — each sneaking 
away in a strategic retreat — to give direction 
to his imaginative tread. 


Coming now to the days in which men made 
records and wrote history^ — who was the first 



white man that ever set eyes on Custer coun- 
ty? \\'ho, among all the explorers of early 
days, had opportunity to cani^j in this re- 
gion? Following Columbus came the Cabots, 
Vespucius, and Magellan, DeSoto, Balboa, 
Ponce de Leon, Coronado. Drake, and a dozen 
such kindred spirits. They tramped the con- 
tinent and sought for gold, for territory, for 
hot springs of youth and any form of wealth 
the new land might possess, but did they ever 
see Nebraska ? Did their expeditions ever ex- 
tend so far west or so far east, did any of 
them come up from the south or drop down 
from the north into our central Nebraska? 
Suspicion at- 
taches to none 
of them un- 
less it be to 

FIND us 

If we can be- 
lieve his biog- 
raphers, some 
of his explor- 
ing party may 
have been the 
first Euro- 
])caiis to have 
seen Custer 
county. In 
July of 1541 
this Spanish 
general and 
explorer, bent 

on exploring the country he called Quivcra, 
came out of New Mexico from the south 
and west and penetrated into the region 
of Nebraska as far north as the Platte river, 
and how much farther we do not know. 
From the Coronado camp on the Platte, it is 
not unlikely that the hunters rode out in all 
directions and, if so. perhaps they might have 
touched the south part of our young domin- 
ion. If Coronado did not find us then, ])er- 
haps we were discovered a few years later Ijy 
Padilla. a Franciscan friar, who was one of 
the Coronado party and who returned to do 

[Photo by S. D. Butcher] 

An Old Settler ox the South Loup 

missionary work among the Indians in the 
Platte region. According to tradition. Padilla 
not only labored for several months among a 
powerful tribe of Nebraska Indians, but it 
was here that he lost his life and in Nebraska 
soil, perhaps not far removed from Custer 
county, his bones went back to virgin dust. 
During his operations he had with him per- 
haps a dozen men, mostly friars and body- 
servants, and imagination need not labor hard 
to believe that some of them wandered far 
enough north to reach this county and to have 
been among the first, if not the first, to set 
foot on Custer county soil, or walk the green 

carpet of Cus- 
ter prairies. 


Perhaps here 
they hunted 
the buffaloes 
or other deni- 
zens of the 
new land. The 
country then 
m n s t have 
been a hunt- 
ers' paradise. 
B u fif a 1 o e s 
ranged in such 
numbers that 
s t a m peding 
herds made 
the ground 
tremble, while 
the sound of their treading resembled dis- 
tant thunder. Elk and deer were plenti- 
ful in those days. Antelope and wild tur- 
keys, with goose and grouse, added varie- 
ty to the hunters' menu and fattened the 
red man on savory meats that kings could 
not buy. 

Since Coronado and Padilla may have ftunid 
our location and looked it over full centuries 
before this generation fell heir to its posses- 
sions, we will list their advent as among the 
possibilities, and for want of better record, let 
it go at that. 




The Lewis and Clark expedition of 1803 
passed by so far to the north and east, that 
it is not likely that any side expeditions were 
made into the Custer county region. They 
followed the Missouri river from their Coun- 
cil Bluff's camp to where it crosses the state 
line, a route that missed the Custer portion of 
the state by nearly a hundred miles. 

There is still another chance that we may 
have been exposed to the survey of an early 
expedition. A party of French Canadians, 
eight or ten in number, in charge of Pierre 
and Paul Mallet spent one winter at the junc- 
tion of the Niobrara and Missouri rivers an,d 
from there journeyed south until they dis- 
covered and named the Platte river. As the 
river course seemed to lead in the direction 
they wished to go, they followed it sourceward 
for seventy m.iles and then traversed a wood- 
less plain. Some of their side expeditions or 
hunting parties might have visited some of 
the places now in the confines of this county, 
and have been the first or second white party 
to behold it. 

Zebulon INI. Pike missed a mighty good 
chance to pay us a visit as long ago as 1806, 
when he conducted his expedition from east- 
ern Missouri to the Colorado mountains, where 
he nailed his name to the high, bald mountain 
now known as Pike's Peak. Some writers 
claim that he traveled through parts of south- 
ern and central Nebraska. But Kansas is sel- 
fish, and down four miles south of Hardy, 
Nebraska, and at least three miles south of the 
Nebraska-Kansas state line, it has erected a 
monument and marked it "The northern limit 
of the Pike route." Unless that stone comes 
as wide of the truth as tombstones often do. 
Lieutenant Pike never saw our territory, un- 
less he had unusually long vision when he 
looked north and east from the tip-top rocks 
of his mountain namesake. 

In the winter time of 1812, one Robert Stu- 
art, a Scotchman, who went west in the vear 
before, in an expedition headed by himself 
and Wilson Price Hunt, wandered back with 
a few of his party to the headwater of the 
Platte river, where thev undertook to winter. 

The Indians routed them out of their winter 
quarters, and they journeyed east three hun- 
dred and thirty miles down the river, when 
they were stopped by heavy snows and, not 
finding comfortable winter cjuarters, they 
turned back toward what is now Scotts Bluff 
county, where they remained for the rest of 
the winter. It may be that they invaded Cus- 
ter county. 

Captain Henry Dodge, with an expedition 
of soldiers, came out of the southeast in 1835 
and must have penetrated almost, if not quite, 
to the Custer county line. 


In 1855 or 1856 Lieutenant G. K. Warren, 
a major-general in the Civil war, conducted 
a military exploring expedition up the Loup 
valley in search of the most suitable route 
for a transcontinental railway. His route was 
along the north side of the Loup river, through 
the Pawnee Indian village, forded the North 
Fork and crossed the present townsite of St. 
Paul, as later shown by his wagon tracks, 
thence along the north side of the Middle 
Loup to its source. This road was very plain 
in 1872 when Robert Harvey made the govern- 
ment survey on the north side of the river. 
It was made by an old military expedition as 
shown bv the uniform wide-gauge and grass- 
covered wagon tracks, and was the onh' wagon 
train in the Loup valley. There was also an 
old, wide-gauge, grass-covered wagon trail 
through Woods Park, leading out of Mira 
valley in \'alley county. These trails cross 
each other on the north side of the Middle 
Loup river in the Woods Park vicinity, yir. 
Harvey mentions in his surveyor's field notes 
the point where the trails cross. 


One of the questions of burning interest for 
the purposes of this history is : Who was the 
first white man to come into the county on any 
pretext whatsoever, is now alive, and of whom 
there is a definite record? If information ob- 
tained is correct the question can be answered. 
In the hills seven miles northeast of Merna is 
the home of L'ncle John Wilmouth. Uncle 
John lives on the same homestead upon which 



he settled in the spring of 1883 and which 
has been his home continuously since that time. 
He has never mortgaged it nor offered it 
for sale. He lives in a sod house, which has 
been repaired as the occasion required, and 
as the years passed. His good wife lives with 
him and although they are advancing in years 
they are in comfortable circumstances. 

If the story that Uncle John tells is cor- 
rect, beyond any doubt he is the first white 
man to have seen Custer county and who is 
still living. 

uxcLE John's story 

Uncle John does not know his age but 
thinks that he was born probably in 1831 or 
1832. His brother, George Wilmouth, who 
lives in Broken Bow, is sixty-six years of age, 
and George is the youngest of eleven chil- 
dren, while John is the oldest. Naturally that 
would substantiate the dates Uncle John gives 
for his birth. He says that when he was a 
boy of sixteen or seventeen he ran away from 
his home in Virginia, with another boy about 
the same age, and that they made their way 
down the Ohio and Mississippi rivers to St. 
Louis, where they joined a caravan of Mor- 
mons en route for Salt Lake ; that with them 
he passed over the Platte river trail through 
Nebraska in 1851. He claims to have spent 
nine very exciting years in Utah and the moun- 
tain region, during which he had many start- 
ling encounters with Indians. He claims to 
have been captured by Indians two or three 
times and exhibits knots and scars on his 
wrists and hands which show the Indians tied 
him with sharp thongs that cut through the 
skin into the flesh. In the early spring of 1860, 
in company with twenty or twenty-five other 
men, he started on the return trip to the states. 
They made their way through Wyoming and 
into the region of the Bad Lands and the 
south line of the Dakotas. Here L^ncle John 
gives a graphic description of a rendezvous 
of thieves whom they found in this locality 
and with whom he and one or two others of 
the party had an exciting adventure. From 
this place the party headed south in an en- 
deavor to reach Fort Kearney. Members of 

the party fell out along the route or were 
killed by Indians until there were only eight 
or nine left in the company that turned south 
through Nebraska. Uncle John thinks that 
his party struck the ^liddle Loup river and 
followed it down into the .region of Custer 
county and that they were probably in Cus- 
ter county when surrounded by a band of 
Indians with whom they had a hard fight. 
Their horses got away from them but were 
not captured by the Indians, and after Uncle 
John and three or four of the survivors suc- 
ceeded in crawling away from the Indians un- 
der cover of night they were fortunate enough 
to find their horses in a canyon pocket next 
morning. They succeeded in catching the 
horses and started south in the direction of 
Kearney with all possible haste. They crossed 
the South Loup river, L'ncle John thinks, some- 
where near the present site of Oconto and in 
about a days ride from that place they came 
in sight of the United States flag and in a 
short time after they sighted the flag they met 
United States soldiers. They were none too 
soon, however, for a cloud of dust rising from 
the plains back along the way they had come 
showed plainly that the Indians were pur- 
suing them. 

This is Uncle John's story. It has to be 
taken, analyzed, and examined in the light of 
every possibihty. Could it be true? Is it 
possible that it is true? Is it probably true? 
All these are questions to be considered. It 
must be taken into consideration that L'ncle 
John is old, and memory is treacherous. Uncle 
John's neighbors are inclined to believe that 
approaching old age makes suggestions and 
fancies personal realities. This is one of the 
caprices of old age and halting memory. On 
the other hand the story could have been true. 
The dates fixed make it all possible if not 
probable. Seven years ago Uncle John recited 
to a creditable witness the same story, with 
the same details, which he recites now to 
Judge A. R. Humphrey and the recorder of 
this story. Uncle John's description of con- 
ditions in Utah and western Colorado is true 
to conditions that prevailed at the time he says 
he was there. His account of the thieves en- 



countered in Dakota and description of their 
rendezvous tallies exactly with the under- 
ground railroad story related by Robert Har- 
vey in another chapter of this volume. The 
United States flag which he claims to have 
seen at or near Fort Kearney helps to cor- 
roborate his story, for there was at that lime 
a tall flag pole from which the flag continually 
floated, standing on a promiinence in front of 
the fort. A portion of this flag pole is now 
in the historical museum in the state library 
at Lincoln. 

It is altogether probable that Uncle John's 
stimulated imagination may account for some 
of the details he recites, yet we think it al- 
together possible and probable that he made 
the trip he claims to have made, at or near 
the time he claims to have made it, and as 
none can dispute the story it becomes credit- 
able history and accordingly we make the state- 
ment that Uncle John Wilmouth is the first 
man to have seen Custer county who is still 



Table Lands and Valleys — Undulations Tabulated — Towns and Ranges — No 

Technical Terms — Harvey's Contribution — Bridging Clear Creek — A Mutiny — 

Find Ruins oi* Old Fortifications — An Impending Indian Battle — A Camp Fire — 

Find an Error on Fifth Parallel — A Lame Ox and the Remedy — Names of 

Creeks — Fooling the Cook — Government Surveys — Custer County 

Wicather — Temi'Kraturi: and Precipitation Tables 

If Nebraska is the central state nf the L'nimi, 
Custer county is the central county of the 
state. If Nebraska is the heart of the na- 
tion, Custer county is the heart of Nebraska, 
and in its relation to the entire country is the 
lieart fif the heart. All that Nebraska is in 
rank and place to the United States, Custer 
county is to other counties of the state. If 
there are advantages in a central location, 
they accrue, in the whole, to Custer county. 
So far as north and south are concerned the 
north line of the county is eighty-three miles 
south of the north line of the state, while the 
south line of the county is seventy-two miles 
north of the south line of the state. In its 
relation to east and west, the east line of the 
county is one hundred and seventy-four miles 
west of the average east line of the state, and 
the west line of the county is one hundred and 
si.xty-two miles east of the average west line 
of the state. This ])laccs the geographical 
center of the state well into the heart of Cus- 
ter conntx'. As nearly as can be ascertained 
by map measurements, the northwest corner 
of township LS, range 2^ west, townsliip IS 
north, is the geographical center of Nebraska. 
This falls in Custer county and is approxi- 
mately four miles south of .Xnselmo. 

But since it is best, perhaps, to trace its 
boundaries so as to record size as well as 
location, drive a stake down on the northeast 
corner of section 1, township 20 north, range 

17 west, 'ith princi|)al meridian, then run a 
straight line west fifty-four miles over hills 
and valleys to the northwest corner of sec- 
lion 6, township 20 north, range 25 west, 
thence south in a straight lline foTtv-eight 
miles to the southwest corner of section 3L 
township 13 north, thence east in a line 
straight and true to the southeast corner of 
section 36, township 13 north, range 17 west, 
th.ence north forty-eight miles, as the sur- 
veyor would say, to the place of beginning. 
Now we have run the boundaries of the coun- 
ty. We have enclosed seventy-two townships 
of thirty-six sections each or a tract of land 
containing 2,592 square miles. The average 
man can perhaps best understand the extent 
of territory if it is described in acres. Cus- 
ter county contains 1.658.880 acres of land. 


The general to|K)graphy of the county might 
be described as rolling or undulating, ranging 
from precipitous and broken cliffs along the 
rivers to the level lands of tables and valleys. 
There are several plateaus which arc com- 
nionly called table land, antl accordingly have 
received their res])e:tive cognomens. In the 
central part of the county is the celebrated 
"West" table, a very fertile, jirdduclive soil 
region and the largest table in the county. 
Directly east across on the eastern side of 
the dale or Merna vallev is the "East" table. 




Over in tlie northeast section of the county the 
■'French" tahlc and "Bog-gs" table have promi- 
nent place and arc celebrated for their ]iro- 
chictive farm lands. South of the center of 
the county is the "Ryno" table. In the south- 
east corner there is a large tract of table 
land that is called "P-lackhill r.a,sin.'" Let no 
man think because this table is called the 
"Blackhill Basin" that it is not table land. 
All plateaus (m- tables are higher at their 
outer edge or rim than in the center. The 
southwest corner of the county has a ni(in(ii>o- 

ty, nine miles west of the soutlieast corner. 
The Middle Loup valley is appro.ximately for- 
ty-eight miles long and from three to eight 
miles witl'e. It conies in from the north, 
crossing- the county line in the exact center 
of the county east and west, and runs out 
tiirough the east line of the county eighteen 
miles south of the northeast corner. In ad- 
dition to these major valleys there are smaller 
valleys, along the creeks and smaller streams, 
that are unnamed. Other well defined val- 
leys have been gfivcn place and name on the 

\Phulv hy S. I), lliilclu-i] 

Owi/s Nest in Cheesehrough Canyon 
Near West Union, Custer county 

ly of small tables. I lere are located "Red- 
fern" table, "Stop" table, "Tallin" table, "Od- 
ensciants" table, "Rock Island" table, and sev- 
eral others. 

Along with the tables go the valleys, and 
if the county is celebrated for its table-land 
it is also noted for its extensive and fertile 
valleys. The South Loup valley leads all 
the valleys of the county in size. It is :ip- 
proximately sixty miles long and from ihnc 
to five miles wide. It enters the county at 
the west line, west and north of .\rnold, and 
runs out through the south line of the coun- 

Custer county niaj) and demand a place and 
name in this volume. In the northwest sec- 
tion of the county are Dale valley, Ortello val- 
ley, Eureka valley, Sand valley, lloosier val- 
ley, and Muddy Creek valley. Over in the 
northeast the valleys are dignified by the 
name of ])arks, accordingly we have Cnm- 
niings Bark, Woods Park, Lee's Bark, and 
Sjiencer Bark. Roten valley is over in the 
snutheast corner of the county. All these 
valleys are generally level, deep-soiled, and 
well-watered and in an early day were very 
attractive to home-seekers. They were the 



first lands to be settled and accordingly are 
to-day the sites of the oldest farms. 

In addition to the two forks of the Loup 
river which flow through the county there 
are several other small streams which af- 
fect more or less the topography of the coun- 
ty, — Clear creek, in the east portion of the 
county, the ]\Iuddy, originating in the center 
of the county and flowing down toward the 
southeast corner : Deer creek. Spring creek, 
Ash creek, and Wood river are all in the 
south half of the county. Over in the north, 
Mctoria creek, Lillian creek, and Rifle creek 
are the principal water courses, outside of the 
rivers. The lineal measurements of Custer 
county's rivers and creeks are more than 
two hundred and fifty miles. In the early 
days many of these streams were well wooded 
with ash. bo.\-elder. jack oak, willow, elm, 
and other varieties, among which red cedar 
figured prominently. 


A more detailed description of the topog- 
raphy of the county given by townships 
and ranges as displayed in the records of the 
state office of the surveyor general is as fol- 
lows : 

R.W'GE 17 

Township 13. Rolling: black loam; fine 
grass lind. 

Township 14. Rolling; black loam ; smooth 
valley along Muddy creek. 

Township 15. Rolling; black loam ; smooth 
valley along Muddy creek. 

Township 16. Fine valley along Clear 
creek ; balance rolling. 

Township 17. All rolling; black loam; fine 
grass land. 

Township 18. East of Middle Loup; quite 
sandy ; west, fine, irrigation ditch in opera- 

Township 19. Sandy in Loup valley, fer- 
tile ; balance rolling, grass land. 

Township 20. Rolling, fine black loam, 
good grass land. 

R.'XNGE 18 
Township 13. Rolling; fine black loam; 
fine farms in Elk creek valley, rest grazing. 

Township 14. Good farms along Elk 
creek ; balance rolling, fertile. 

Township 15. Muddy creek valley, fertile; 
balance rolling. 

Township 16. Rolling, except in Clear and 
Muddy creek valleys. 

Township 17. Fine valley land along creek, 
with rolling, grass land between. 

Township 18. Fine valley, surrounded by 
rolling, grass land. 

Township 19. Middle Loup valley, fertile, 
some sand ; rolling south of river. 

Township 20. Nearly all rolling; some 
rather rough, good grass land. 


Township 13. Fine ranches along South 
Loup ; balance rolling ; black soil. 

Township 14. Rolling; black loam; good 

Township 15. Rolling; black loam; good 

Township 16. Fine valleys along ]\Iuddy 
and Dutchman creeks ; balance rolling, good. 

Township 17. Good valley along Clear 
creek ; balance rolling, good land. 

Township 18. Several small valleys, very 
fertile ; balance rolling. 

Township 19. Good valley north of Middle 
Loup, south, sandy: balance rolling, with good 

Township 20. Rolling, but good land. 

R.\XGE 20 

Township 13. Rolling; black loam; fine 
valley along Loup. 

Township 14. Good valley along Loup; 
balance rolling. 

Township 15. Rolling; rough in north 

Township 16. Good along Muddy creek; 
balance rolling, rough in south. 

Township 17. Good along Muddy and 
Clear creeks; balance rolling. 

Township 18. Rolling with good valleys. 

Township 19. Good valleys along Middle 
Loup river and Lillian creek; rolling in south 
part with good valleys ; Lillian irrigation 

Township 20. Good valley along Middle 
Loup; balance rolling. 




Township 13. Very fine land along W'ood 
river; balance rolling. 

Township 14. Rolling, except along Loup 

Township 15. Rolling; fine grass land. 

Township 16. Fine level land in south- 
west ; some sand in northeast : balance roll- 

Township 17. Fine valley in northwest; 
table-land in northeast ; balance rolling, some 

Township 18. Table-land in south ; fine 
valley in center ; balance rolling. 

Township 19. Fine valley along Victoria 
creek ; balance rolling, some sand. 

Township 20. Middle Loup valley ; balance 
rolling and sandy. 


Township 13. Rolling; good valleys and 
grass land. 

Township 14. Wood river valley, fertile ; 
balance rolling. 

Township 15. South Loup river and 
Spring creek valleys, good ; balance rolling, 

Township 16. Rolling with good valleys; 
good soil : grass land. 

Township 17. Northwest part fine table- 
land; northeast part good valley; east, sandy. 

Township 18. East part fine valley ; bal- 
ance rolling, with good valleys. 

Township 19. Southeast good valley; bal- 
ance sandy and rolling. 

Township 20. Sandy, rolling land ; good 


Township 13. Rolling lands with good val- 
leys ; good table-land in northeast part. 

Township 14. South part fine table-land ; 
balance rolling, good valleys. 

Township 15. South part rough ; large val- 
ley ; Loup valley and west of township sandy 

Township 16. Good valley along South 
Loup ; balance rough, rolling. 

Township 17. North and east parts fine 
table-lands ; rest rolling, rough. 

Township 18. Southwest fine table : Ortel- 
lo valley, fertile : north part sandy, rolling. 

Township 19. Rolling, sandy land ; good 

Township 20. Rolling, sandy land, good 


Township 13. Rolling land with good val- 

Township 14. Some fine table-land ; bal- 
ance rolling. 

Township 15. South third rolling; central 
third valley, sandy ; north third sandy and 

Township 16. Good valley along Loup; 
balance rolling and rough. 

Township 17. Rolling and rough grazing 
land ; northeast table-land. 

Township 18. South part fine table-land; 
balance rolling ; north some sand. 

Township 19. Rolling, sandy, grass land. 

Township 20. Rolling, sandy land ; ranches. 


Township 13. Rolling lands with good val- 

Township 14. Rolling lands with good val- 
leys and table-lands. 

Township 15. Fine table-land : valley in 
eastern part. 

Township 16. Rolling land ; some sand in 
north part. 

Township 17. Good valley along South 
Loup; balance rolling, rough. 

Township 18. Rough, rolling, grazing 

Township 19. Rolling, sandy ; grass lands ; 

Township 20. Rolling, sandy ; grass lands ; 

Custer county has a deep, rich soil, well 
suited to all kinds of agriculture and grass 
production. In the north and west part of 
the county is a region known as the sand 
hills, but these hills are well grassed and pro- 
duce continually a nutritious crop of more 
than forty different kinds of grasses. These 
grasses are very nutritious and make splendid 
grazing for cattle. Many of the vallevs in 



the sand liill region have a mixture of clay 
or black loam in the sand composition which 
makes them profitable for farming or agri- 
cultural purposes. In all other sections of 
the county the hills are generally clay sub- 
soil and in addition to producing luxuriant 
grasses produce in abundance all kinds of 
agricultural products. The table lands and 
valleys are adapted to all kinds of grains and 
especially to the growth of alfalfa. 


In the description of soil, it does not serve 
■ the purpose to be technical. This is not a 
scientific treatise. Geologists tell us that the 
soils of the county that are tillable are of 
cretaceous rock formation, or in other words 
decomposed rock. When decomposition was 
complete the soil thus formed was distributed 
over the lower levels by the action of wind 
and water. A recent soil survey of central 
Nebraska west of Hall and Howard counties, 
made by the United S'fates government, desig- 
nates the soil of Custer county generally as 
"Colby silt." Silt is defined as mud and fine 
earth deposited by water, and in its distri- 
bution, if not in its production, the water 
has always been aided and abetted by the 
wind. Generally speaking, the soil is from 
a few feet to many feet in depth and may be 
divided into three principal kinds. The allu- 
vial soils of the creeks and river valleys are 
called Lincoln loams. The hills or upland 
table soils are called "Colby silt" and the 
sandy silt, ranging from a good sandy soil 
to almost pure sand, is found on top of the 
sand dunes. -Ml these soils have value in the 
])ropagation of plant life. The soil charac- 
ter so far as the valleys are concerned is gen- 
erally uniform. For miles on either side of 
the -Streams the alluvial soil belongs to the 
Lincoln silt series and is rich in humus and 
very productive. This silt has a strata of 
Colby silt, washed from the hills and higher 
ground in the formative periods. The Colby 
silt of the hills or upland tables is also uniform 
and exceedingly productive when climatic con- 
ditions are favorable. Like the soils of the 
valley it contains nitrotjcn. ])otash. and phos- 

phorate in sufficient amounts to produce abun- 
dant plant life. 

For a full three dozen years the soils of 
Custer county have been in cultivation, and 
(luring these years, when rainfall was suffici- 
ent, have justified the claim that they are well 
adapted to ag'ricultural purposes. 

L'nderneath the soil stratum lies a deep bed 
of glacial gravel, through which flows an in- 
exhaustible quantity of purest water, ven>- soft, 
and free from mineral compositions. All 
deep wells in the county go down into this 
gravel stratum and are thus guaranteed the 
finest kind of water, in absolutely inexhausti- 
ble quantities. 


[Robert Harvey, the man who ran the lines 
of Custer county survey and who has been 
Nebraska stale surveyor for many years, 
n:akes the following contribution to this vol- 
ume] : 

The territory embraced within the hmits of 
my exterior lines was a tract thirty-six miles 
north and south and forty-eight miles east and 
west, and during the progress of the work 
there naturally occurred incidents of trivial 
moment at the time and few of them found 
a mention in the field notes of surveys or in 
the reports to the surveyor general ; but as the 
years pass and the generations succeed each 
other on the stage of action their thoughts 
turn back to the first things, first happenings 
and the first movements toward planting a 
new civilization. 

In all new countries a certain line of alleged 
incidents becomes current, stock stories and 
traditions, and some have found their way 
into jHiblished histories as historic facts. 

I will endeavor in the following pages brief- 
ly to tell the story of some of the incidents 
which occurred in connection with mj' party 
and progress of the work and obsen^ations 
made, some of which are of record and some 
of memory. 


The party was organized and outfitted at 
St. Paul, Howard county, and on going to the 



work I proceeded up the south side of the 
Middle Loup and over the table land to Clear 
creek, which I found to be about ten feet wide 
and five feet deep, near the north line of sec- 
tion 1, township 15 north, range 17 west. 
The banks were soft and there was no timber 
within five or six miles, except a small clump 
of box-elders near our camp. I cut steps in 
the banks and on these set four ten-gallon 
water casks, two on each bank, and upon these 
we placed the 
empty wagon-box. 
For approaches, 
the end-gates and 
the box - elders, 
were used. The 
supplies were car- 
ried over and the 
four mules led 
through, all with- 
in two hours. A 
few days after- 
ward two survey- 
ing parties of 
about eighteen 
men spent half a 
day building a 
bridge six miles 
below, of cotton- 
wood logs, cut in 
a nearby canyon. 


After reaching 
our initial, which 
was the corner of 
townships 14 and 
15 north, ranges 
17 and 18 west, on 
the south side of 
Muddy creek, I ran north six miles, when, upon 
reaching camp, I found that the camp luen, 
unused to conserving the water supply, had 
nearly exhausted it, so after a late dinner I 
told the men we would hitch up and run 
the line a mile or two north to where I sup- 
posed the creek to be, and camp for the 
night. Two of the men revolted, struck, said 
they had done their day's work and would 

Robert H.\rvey, St.\te Surveyor 

go no farther. I had not known these men 
before they were engaged, they having been 
recommended to me. During our travel to 
the work they had studiously avoided reach- 
ing the noon and night camps until after the 
camp work was done, but always in time for 
their meals ; jocosely they said to the men, 
out of my hearing, that they were out on a 
"lark," a "picnic" and to "have a good time." 
Now I considered the time had come when 

there must be a 
"show of hands," 
so after e.xplain- 
ing the necessity 
for the move and 
their still declin- 
ing to move, I 
told them they 
could either obey 
orders or quit ; 
they said they 
would quit. I told 
them to turn in 
theirarmsand am- 
munition (which 
belonged to the 
government), roll 
their blankets, 
take two days' ra- 
tions and get out- 
side of the camp 
ground within fif- 
teen minutes, and 
that fifteen meant 
fifteen and not 
sixteen ; it was 
done and they 
walked out. When 
the surveyor gen- 
eral heard of this 
he mildly reprimanded me. saying that it was a 
dangerous procedure to discharge men in an In- 
dian infested county, but I said they were given 
a choice and they volunteered to quit. In after 
years when I went into the jurisdiction of an- 
other surveyor general, in one of the southwes- 
tern territories, I found I had a record, the 
story had preceded me. I was compelled, how- 
ever, to return and procure other men. 




I completed the township Hnes south of the 
fourth standard parallel, returned to the east 
side of the work, and began running the lines 
between the fourth and fifth parallels. (3n 
running east on the line between townships 18 
and 19, range 17, we found on the right bank 
of the Loup river a circular line of fortifica- 
tions overgrown with grass and extending 
from bank to bank. In the grass we found 
rust-eaten tin plates and tin cups and in the 
brush on the east side an old set of hay 


This was in section 33, township 19, range 
17 north. Being nearly out of provisions, I 
only ran this line east to the river and i)ro- 
ceeded down the river to the upper end of 
an island which I think is about opposite 
Comstock, and camped close to the river bank. 
C^n the west, about fifty or a hundred yards, 
was a broad, bulrush slough which entered 
the river farther down. I thought this a good 
defensive position against Indians, as the only 
way they could get at us with their ponies 
would be to come down along the narrow strip 
of solid ground between the ruin and slough 
for a mile or two. 

While the cook was getting dinner, I looked 
across the valley and noticed several horse- 
men on the bluffs, who were going southeast 
toward the river, and before reaching the val- 
ley they saw us and came directly toward our 
camp : of course, they were Indians. I there- 
fore sent the two best shots into the bulrushes 
with instruction not to let them cross the 
slough, while we threw up a line of breast- 
works in front of the camp. While thus en- 
gaged I got into the wagon, so I could see 
across the swamp. Someone said, "Where 
is Jim Scott?" His spade was in the rifle 
pit but he was gone and the word went round 
that Jim had run. The wagon stood close 
to the cut bank and looking over I saw Jim 
putting on a new pair of overalls. I yelled, 
"Jim, what arc you doing? Whv ain't vou 
digging?" "Well, boss," said Jim, "I just 
thought if we are to fight I don't want to 

be found dead in an old pair of ragged over- 

No sound came from the bulrushes, neither 
could I see any signs of Indians or my two 
men. when finally one of the men appeared 
and called that they were white men and 
soldiers. Captain John Mix, of a cavalry 
command, was out on reconnoisance and was 
camped about tw'o miles down the river, be- 
hind some timber, and these men were return- 
ing hunters for the command. 


After having received supjilies I continued 
the range line north. I camped at the corner 
of townships 18 and 20. ranges 17 and 18. and 
completed the line between townshijis 19 and 
20. range 18. in the afternoon. Next morn- 
ing I found that the teamster, Charlev Storey, 
had brought, from the river the evening be- 
fore, only one barrel of w-ater and the stock 
and camp had used nearly all of it. leaving 
only a small supply for use of the men and 
team that were to go north to the county line, 
or parallel. So Storey was instructed to re- 
turn to the river for more w'ater. 

The tent stood about three chains north of 
tlie township corner and it had to be taken 
down so that I could see to set the flagman. 
We reached the county line at noon and at the 
last flag station, on a hill just south of the 
line, I looked back and noticed a thin column 
of smoke shooting straight up and directly 
over the line. We hurriedly ate our din- 
ner and hurried back to camp, and from 
the bluflf overlooking the valley saw that 
the camp was on fire, the tent down and men 
trying to put out the fire. It seemed that 
after we had started north on the line 
the cook concluded to go with Storey to the 
river, for Storey's father had bt-cn killed by 
the Indians and he was very unsafe to be 
trusted alone. Before going, however, he dug 
a trench, emptied the fire bo.x of the sheet 
iron stove into it. sjirinkled water on the 
living coals and then covered them over with 
earth. They were at the river when they 
noticed the smoke. Inn the cook ran the three 
miles, reached camp before the tent fell, saved 



the small trench containing field notes and 
maps, etc., and carried out the box of five 
hundred rounds of paper cartridge ammuni- 
tion for revolvers. The pine box had burned 
through at one corner, scorched the inside pa- 
per lining and in perhaps another instant the 
entire contents would have exploded. The 
tent, one wagon-cover, all of our bedding, ex- 
tra clothing, and the grain and flour sacks 
were consumed. John M. Daugherty, who 
was running section lines, was camped in 
front of the entrance to Woods Park and 
lent us what assistance he could by loaning us 
grain sacks, boxes, etc., to hold what we were 
able to save, and some extra blankets. Mr. 
Daugherty's party was at dinner when they 
saw the smoke and through a field glass said 
they saw some men at the camp, saw the team 
returning from the river and saw the tent 
fall. They thought it was Indians raiding 
the camp. It was suggested that the two men 
discharged in July, had returned to commit 
the depredation. Upon exainination it was 
found that the dry buffalo grass had not been 
burned for several feet around the stove, 
and there was no evidence of there having 
been an explosion of the buried coals. I have 
never been able to formulate a satisfactory 
theory as to the cause of this fire. This 
caused me a loss of several days in going 
to the settlement on the Loup where I was 
loaned tents, blankets, etc., by Captain Munon, 
of Company C, Ninth United States Infantry, 
who was then camped near the present town 
of Cotesfield, Howard county. 


Resuming work, I returned to the 4th paral- 
lel and projected the next range line with 
its complement of township lines, and at the 
end of the twenty-four miles I should have 
intersected the 3th parallel or county line 
north of a cedar canyon, and after a half 
day's search found the corner nearest my in- 
tersection had within a few days been torn 
down and a new one built about fifty rods 
west, and on the west side of the canyon near 
a pine tree. Here was more trouble. 

Aly camj) was on the north side of the 

Loup river and Daugherty's camp on the south 
side below. On my return 1 reported to 
Daugherty what I had found and proposed a 
joint examination. He opposed it, as it would 
cause a loss of time and besides that, that 
our authority was to close on the line as we 
found it. We locked horns at once. I in- 
sisted that according to my closing six miles 
east a few days before a great balk had been 
made somewhere along the line and we would 
have to show to the surveyor general's office 
that it was not in our lines, by pointing out 
by an examination wdien it existed, and since I 
had the township lines between the 5tli and 
1th parallels I would then have to explain 
the discrepancy. In fact, I would not be able 
to run their lines until it was reported and 
passed upon by the surveyor general. Fur- 
ther, that I proposed to find the error and re- 
port it, as neither of us would be able to get 
jiay for any work in townships 20 in any of 
the ranges until it was settled. I insisted 
that he should bear a part of the expense, so 
n was finally agreed that next morning he 
bring his team and two or three men, and 
that I should send to his camp three men so 
that his work could go on. We spent two 
days on that examination and found that Park 
had torn down his original line and set all 
of the corners west from fifty to sixty rods f6r 
five miles and from the southwest corner of 
section 36. range 18, had set a section corner 
west 15.80 chains and marked it for the corner 
of sections 34 and 35, which we found on 
the west side of the canyon among some trees 
and south of the old Kent postoffice in Loup 
county. The corner one mile west of it was 
marked the same. The construction of the 
new corners showed fraud, for some of them 
were scarcely distinguishable. We left them 
as found, for we knew they must or should 
be destroyed and a new line run. On our 
return to camp we made out a report to the 
surveyor general, read it to the assistants, 
vihich were subscribed to before us. Next 
day Mr. Daugherty, being in need of pro- 
visions, sent his team and driver with one 
of my men to St. Paul, with the report to be 
mailed to the surveyor general. We also 



sent noti:e to Mr. Park at North Platte, so 
that he could correct his line. 

I had a partial acquaintance with Mr. Park 
in 1869, in Omaha, had been in his camp and 
had seen him at work in the field. In the 
Civil war he was lieutenant colonel of the 
Fourth Michigan Cavalry, which captured 
Jefferson Davis, and therefore came to the 
state with political and military prestige. His 
first connection with the surveys of the public 
lands that I find in the re:ords is his contract 
number 1, dated July 2, 1867. In the same 
party with me in 1869 were two men who were 
with Park in 1868, in Howard and Sherman 
counties, and I heard a great deal about him. 
so I was anxious that Mr. Daugherty should 
join me in the examination of the parallel for 
his individual and moral support. 

Park, Daugherty, and myself were called in 
conference in January following, when it was 
agreed that Mr. Park should correct the line 
in early spring and correct our closing comers 
to alignment on the new line and report the 
same to us. I never received any report, but 
I notice in my notes that my figures, in black 
ink, are corrected, in red ink. by the surveyor 
general's office. 

.\ L.x-ME ox .\xn tup: remkov 
In early September one of the oxen became 
very lame in one of its hind feet, by reason 
of the wearing through of the sole of the 
hoof. \'arious schemes were tried without re- 
lief and it became a question of turning it 
loose in the brush 'along the river, when it 
was bethought to try shoeing it with hoop 
iron. A heavy hoop was taken from a water 
barrel and a shoe cut out to fit the toe. The 
ox was tied up along the ' side of the camp 
wagon with the foot strapped down on top 
of the hub. \\e were unable to drive the 
shingle nails through the edge of the dry hard 
hoof. The holes were drilled and the burned 
nails driven and clinched. We had no further 
trouble and the shoe remained for several 


I gave the name of Rock creek to the little 
stream of water flowing into the deej) river 

at the south edge of the oak grove, in town- 
ship 18, range 17, on finding rock in the bot- 
tom of the river at its mouth ; the name of 
Lillian to the stream on the south side of the 
Loup in township 19, ranges 18 and 19, and 
Mctoria in townships 19 and 20, ranges 20 
and 21. after two nieces living in Indiana. 


During all my previous years on the plains, 
I had heard it claimed that the antelope was a 
species of the sheep family, and especially the 
pilgrim plainsmen maintained they had the 
odor of sheep, that the meat tasted like sheep 
and they were sheep. So it was with nearly 
all of my party in Custer county, and the cook 
was so very positive that they were mutton 
that his stomach rebelled when he cooked the 
meat. To bring matters to a test, a bet was 
made of an oyster supper for the entire crew 
that he could not distinguish the difference 
blindfolded. So one forenoon by good luck a 
deer and antelope were killed, and the saddles 
and sirloin cut out. In the evening the cook 
fried in separate pans cuts of sirloin of each, 
so that he knew he would have a square deal. 
When blindfolded he was given a piece of the 
deer and then the antelope and failed each 
luiie. It was tried in various ways and finally 
he was given one kind several times in suc- 
cession, then the other. He guessed it cor- 
rectly once and his stomach never rebelled af- 
ter that. Antelope and sheep are of an en- 
tirely different and distinct species. 


The act of congress, approved July 22, 1854, 
created the surveying district of Kansas and 
Nebraska territories. 

John Calhoun, of Springfield. Illinois, was 
rq^pointed surveyor general, by President 
Franklin Pierce, .\ugiist 15. 1854, with head- 
(|uarters at Leavenworth, Kansas. 

The first contract for surveys was awarded 
to Professor Jonathan P. Johnson, November 
2, 1854, for the first sixty miles of the Base 
line on the fortieth parallel of north latitude. 

On March 1. 1867, Nebraska territory was 
admitted into the L'nion as a state and the 



surveying distri:t was changed, Kansas being 
consolidated with Wisconsin, and Nebraska 
with Iowa July 28, 1866, under the title of 
"Iowa and Nebraska," with the surveyor gen- 
eral's office at Plattsmouth. Phineas P. Hitch- 
cock, of Omaha, for surveyor general, was 
appointed by President Andrew Johnson in 
April, 1867. 

While the two territories constituted the sur- 
veying district 233 contracts were awarded for 
surveys in the two territories, but in the new 
district contracts began with number 1. 

The first survey of the public lands which 
affected Custer county was the establishment 
of the southeast corner of township 13 north, 
range 17 west, or the third initial point of the 
second guide meridian west, by H. C. F. Hack- 
busch, 1866. 

Surveyors whose work in any way affected 
Custer county were : 

1 — H. C. F. Hackbusch, Leavenworth, 
Kansas ; 

2 — J. B. Park, Omaha; 

3 — Nicholas J. Paul, Omaha, now St. Paul ; 

4 — John F. Burch, Omaha ; 

5 — Robert Harvey, St. Paul ; 
6 — ^Joe E. North, Columbus; 

7 — John W. Daugherty, Fremont ; 

8 — James L. Slocum, Falls City; 

9 — D. V. Stephenson, Falls City ; 

10 — Zadok Stephenson, Falls City; 

11 — S. C. McEJroy, Falls City; 

12 — H. C. Campbell, address not known. 

Of the above list of twelve surveyors, only 
numbers 3, 5, and 8 are known to ine to be 
now living. 

An abstract of the history of the gov- 
ernment survey is given in the following 
tables : 


Lines Designated 

By Whom 

Djte of 

No. of 





3rd Standard Parallel 

J. B. Park 

July 2, 1867 




3rd Standard Parallel 

4th Standard Parallel 

Wm. J. Allason. . 
T. B. Park 

April 29, m>9 
July 2, 1867 







4th Standard Parallel 

J, B. Park 

Oct. 16, 1868 




4th Standard Parallel 

5th Standard Parallel 

Wm. T. Allason.. 
Nicholas J. Paul. 

April 29, 1869 
June 6, 1868 







5th Standard Parallel 

5th Standard Parallel 

J. B. Park 

J. B. Park 

J. B. Park 

Mav 10, 1872 
May ■ 10, 1872 
July 2, 1867 










Nicholas T. Paul. 
L B. Pafk 

June 6, 1868 
Oct. 16, 1868 




3rd Guide Meridian 


J. B. Park 

May 10, 1872 







Exteriors — Township Bounda 
Tps. 13 and U, Rs. 17 to 24... 

1 Nicholas J. Paul. 

Tune 11, 1869 






Tps. 15 and 16, Rs. 17 to 24... 

Connecting Lines 

Tps. 17 to 20, Rs. 17 to 24.... 
Connecting Lines 

Robert Harvey.. . 
1 Robert Harvey.. . 
1 Robert Harvey.. . 
1 Robert Harvev.. . 

Tinie 20, 1872 

Tune 20, 1872 

1 Tune 20, 1872 

Tune 20, 1872 



1 54 

1 54 










1 1872 

1 1872 

Tps. 13 to 16, Rs. 17 to 24.... 

Connecting Lines 

Tps. 17 to 20, Rs. 17 to 2 4.... 
Connecting Lines 

1 T. B. Park 

IT. B. Park 

IH. C. Campbell.. 
IH. C. CampbelL. 


1 Tune 11, 1869 
1 April 29, 1869 
1 April 11, 1873 
1 April 1!, 1873 


1 21 
1 18 




179 . 



1 53 

1 90 





1 1873 





Table I includes the standard parallels, 
guide meridians, township lines, and connect- 
ing lines, names of the surveyors, date of con- 

tract of survey, number of contract, lengths of 
lines in miles, chains, and links, and the year 
when the survey was made. 




Townships Designated 

By Whom 

No. of 

Date of 

Miles I Chains 



Tp. 13, Rs. 17 to 24 inc 

Tp. 14, Rs. 21 to 24 inc 

Tps. 14 to 16, Rs. 17 to 20 and 

IS and 16, Rs. 21 to 24 inc. . 

And Connecting Lines 

Tp. 17, R. 17 


Tps. 17 to 20, Rs. 17 to 24 inc, 

and Tp. 17, R. 21 


Connecting Lines 

Tps. 18, 20, R. 21; Tps. 17, 18, 

20, R. 22; Tps. 18, 20, R. 23; 

Tp. 19, R. 24 


And Connecting Lines 

Tp. 19, Rs. 21, 2l\ Tps. 17, 19, 

R. 23; Tp. 20, R. 24 inc 

And Connecting Lines 

Tp. 17, R. 24; Tps. 18,20, R. 25 

Connecting Lines 

Tp. 18, R. 24; Tp. 19, R. 25. 
Tps. 13 to 15, R. 25 

J. F. Burch. 
J. B. Park... 

J. E. North 

Robert Harvey.. 
Robert Harvey.. 

T. W. Daugherty 
J. \V. Daugherty 
J. W. Daugherty 

Jas. L. Slocum. 
Jas. L. Slocum. 
Jas. L. Slocum. 

Tp. 16, R. 25. 
Connecting Lines. 
Tp. 17, R. 25....;. 

D. V. Stephenson 
D. V. Stephenson 
S. C. McElrov... 
S. C. McElroy... 
Z. Stephenson... 

T. B. Park 

T. B. Park 

"T. B. Park 

H. C. Campbell.. 









June 3, 1869 
May 10, 1873 

Tune 22, 1872 

Tune 20, 1872 

June 20, 1872 

Tulv 22, 1872 

July 22, 1872 

64 I July 22, 1872 

Mav 14, 1873 

Mav 14, 1873 

74 I May 20, 1873 

74 I Mav 20, 1873 
18 Apnl 29, 1869 
47 June 16, 1871 


April 11. 1873 











































39 I 1873 
28 I 1873 


Note : The connecting lines are the distances from the closing corners to the nearest corners on the 
parallels, owing to the convergence of meridians and not to errors of surveys. 

Table II is the subdivision of townships into 
sections and gives tlie numbers of the 'town- 
ships, names of the surveyors, date and num- 
ber of contract, lengths of lines in miles, chains, 
and links, and year when survey was made, 
and includes the length of the right bank of 
the Loup river and all connecting lines. See 
note above in table II. 



I I I ^ 

I Miles I Chains I Links 

Standard Parallels I 161 

Guide Meridians I 96 

Township Lines I 707 

Section Lines \' 4329 

Meander Lines I 42 

Connecting Lines I 14 

Total I 5351 

35 I 






Table III is a summary of the dififerent kinds 
of lines and their lengths. 




Land Area 

Water Area 

R. 17 














183 1835 ISO 






183 24SI74 






183 319I9S 






184 056 94 



183 453 58 



183 893 02 



184 358 43 


1653I0M 03 







Total number of Acres 1.656.334.80 

Land Area 2579.7875 square miles 

Water ,'\rea 5.1106 square miles 

Total 2.SS4.8981 square miles 

[August 24, 1919,— Robert Harvey.] 

Table I\' is a tabulation of the land and water 
area of the county by ranges. These data 
by townships are very instructive and useful, 



but would occupy about three pages and there- 
fore are omitted. 

The Middle Loup river having been mean- 
dered, the water area is deducted from the 
public lands. The south branch was not me- 
andered and its area was sold as a part of 
the land area and is therefore not included in 
the tabulation. 

I always employed a full crew of men, 
consisting of a cook, teamsters, two chain- 
men, two cornermen, and one flagman. In 
Custer county I had altogether twelve 
men ; two were discharged at the begin- 
ning, for mutiny, and two discharged af- 
ter the destruction of the camp by fire 
in August ; three remained throughout the 
work, six were accessions. Only five are 
known to be living. 


No detailed description of climatic condi- 
tions in Custer county is necessary. It can 
hv truthfully stated that the climate is much 
the same as in other parts of the middle west, 
and admirably adapted to stock-raising and 
agriculture. It has always been a very health- 
ful climate. 

Through the courtesy of G. A. Loveland, 
meteorologist in charge of the United States 
Weather Bureau, at Lincoln, Nebraska, the 
following tables showing precipitation in the 
county covering a range of thirty-si.x years and 
temperature covering a period of seventeen 
years are given. 

The earliest reports come from Sargent and 
the following tables in the order of their es- 
tablishment, are submitted. 






April 1 May 



Aug. Sept. 



Dec. Ann'l 













1884 . . 


















4. is 













































































April 1 May 1 June July Aug. | Sept. | Oct. Nov. 

Dec. 1 Ann'l 



1 1 1 
1 1 T 

0.59 1 






6.50 i.36 2.93 
3.50 3.40 1 2.60 
ft.m 1 1.90 1 8.19 


1.23 0.40 0.60 0.80 
3.00 1.10 2.60 0.75 
1.22 1 0.80 1 1.14 0.00 

T 1 19.16 



T 1 19.75 
1.25 1 29.42 


1 42 1 3 03 1 6 90 1 1.66 

3.03 1 3.43 1 0.18 1 1.82 1 

0.20 1 




0.82 I 2.39 1 1 1 1.20 0.00 | T 

1.38 1 0.92 1 2.34 1.40 1 0.44 1.64 1.06 1 T 

'o.u\ '9^36 





2.76 I 2.59 1 5.90 

1 1 


2.63 1 2.78 1 0.45 1 0.91 

1 1 1- 

0.10 20.94 







Mar. April May ' June 

July Aug. 

Sept. I Oct. 

I I 

Nov. I Dec. I Ann'l 

I I 


1893 .... 

1894 .... 

1895 .... 
1897 .... 

1900 .... 

1901 .... 
1903 .... 

1905 .... 

1906 .... 

1907 .... 
1909 .... 
1911 .... 

1913 .... 

1914 .... 

1915 .... 

1917 .... 

1918 .... 




















































































































April May 


. July 




Nov. Dec. Ann'l 


























? fin 

9.90 1 05 

3.94 1.89 
























0.50 0.05 1 









6 50 







1.15 21.49 

T 21.62 

0.66 21.95 





T 22.60 
0.10 25.36 
0.72 26.65 

T 1 24.58 


1.97 1 3.66 
0.94 3.14 

T 1 26.61 


8.26 5.41 
1.77 5,89 
4,91 5,01 
7.13 4.51 
3.65 1 6.93 
5.22 1 8.40 
.64 1 4.31 
1.30 1 3,10 
3,32 1 2,11 
3,87 1 1.07 
6.85 1 5.91 
3.24 1 4.12 
2,80 1 2,09 
1 61 2 12 

0.00 1 34.04 





1.03 1 33.62 
0.64 1 





0.40 1 3.77 

1.17 1.38 

.43 3.12 

4 04 

0.34 i f i 26.30 
1.07 1.44 1 24.34 


9.89 1 1.92 
3.74 1 2.25 
1.30 1 1.37 
1.29 2.33 




' ' !39' 






T .70 



1 70 

5 56 

.12 1 14.57 
1.27 5.32 24.90 








T .56 16.25 

.35 .42 

1.85 .28 1 25.16 








0.54 1 0.63 1- 24.39 

1 1 









May June 























































































1913 . . 

























May June 








ISIean Temp. . . 
Highest Temp, 
Lowest Temp, 






































Mav Tune 

1 ■ 






Dec. 1 


Mean Temp,. . 
Highest Temp. 
Lowest Temp. 













58.2 68,1 73.6 
97 105 106 
21 32 40 

















Ranches are Located — Big Profits — Life With the Cowboys — Women Were 

Scarce — A Stampede — • The Roundup — A Roundup of Roundups — Cattle Men 

\'ersus Settlers — A Near Battle — An Underground Railroad — 

The \\'ild West has Wild Horses 

When the white man found this location the 
prairies were covered with buffalo, deer, elk, 
and antelope, while the prairie chickens. 
grouse, wild duck, and goose were found in 
great abundance. This was nature's sugges- 
tion that the country was suited to stock-rais- 
ing and poultry production, and the demon- 
stration of the years since has justified the 
prediction. In the early days of Custer coun- 
ty, cattle raising was the only occupation. It 
indeed was a profitable industry. As early as 
1869 the great advantages of this country at- 
tracted attention of the cattlemen of the south 
and east. The territory, well grassed and 
well watered, was very attractive. 

Texas was then the greatest breeding 
ground for cattle and horses in the United 
States and probably in the world, but it was 
railroadless and without means of transporta- 
tion. Cattlemen were compelled to trail their 
stock across many hundred miles of prairie 
to find a railroad shipping point. At that 
time Ogallala, in western Nebraska, was the 
shipping point for all the adjacent plains to 
the south, including the Panhandle territory 
and all northern Texas. Cattle were brought 
to this point in such numbers that at times it 
was estimated more than a hundred thousand 
head grazed on the surrounding ranges, await- 
ing shipment. These cattle were sometimes 
held for months. Grass ranges were in de- 

During these long waits the cattle were 
frequently allowed to range over the divide. 

on the north into the South Loup valley, and 
thus the Texans and southern cattlemen dis- 
covered that their herds could live and keep 
fat all winter on the rich, luxurious grasses 
which they found here in great abundance. 
The fame of the South Loup valley spread 
among cattleman. They investigated. They 
found plenty of grass of different varieties, 
among which was an abundance of buft'alo 
grass, best adapted for winter pasture. They 
found hills and breaks that aft'orded shelter 
from the winter storms. They found an 
abundance of running water in open streams, 
and all these advantages combined to make it 
an ideal cattle country, into which cattlemen 
v/ere not long in driving their herds. 

ranches are located 

At this late day it is almost impossible to 
be accurate about dates or the order in which 
cattlemen settled in the country. At that time 
all was government land and the stockmen 
came in and appropriated their ranges. They 
set up land marks and made claims for so 
many miles of prairie in this direction and 
that direction until they had assured them- 
selves of plenty of territory. Ranges, often 
overlapped, herds became mi.xed, but that made 
small difference. Some few erected fences 
but for the most part herds ran at large. Con- 
cerning dates and settlements, the following 
13 given uiion the authority of Judge H. AI. 
Sullivan : 

In the winter of 1869 and 1870 one Captain 

















Streeter for the first time wintered cattle in 
the territory now comprising Custer county. 
On Ash creek, a short distance soiitli of Bro- 
ken Bow, lie turned out in the fall 821 cattle, 
of which 385 were yearlings. They were all 
Texas cattle ; the following spring he rounded 
up 819, a loss of only two head. 

In 1872 E. J. Boblits came into the South 
Loup country, located a range on what is 
now known as Tuckerville and stocked it heav- 
ily with cattle. Boblits has since acquired the 
title of judge, through efficient occupancy of 
the ofifice of county judge, to which he was 
several times elected. He is one of the few 
stockmen who is still in the country occupy- 
ing the same location. In fact, he claims the 
distinction of being the oldest continual resi- 
dent of the county. He also claims to have 
built the first frame house in the county. 

The Boblits family is still living on part of 
the ranch, in a magnificent country home 
where generous southern hospitality is still on 

Childs B. Harrington, H. C. Stuckey, and 
Anton Abel located ranches shortly after this 
in the eastern half of the South Loup val- 
ley. About the same time Williams and Kil- 
gore and John Myers located in the same re- 
gion, a little more to the south. 

In 1872 John Harrington came from Texas 
and located a ranch on the South Loup, eight 
miles northwest of Callaway in the region of 
Triumph. He brought in about two thousand 
head of cattle and built three cedar-log houses. 
These houses were built in true southern fash- 
ion, with the passways between them roofed. 

A cattle ranch was established by Nimrod 
Caple and Manly, his son, in 1875, on the head 
of Spring creek, where bursts forth from the 
side of a steep hill one of the largest and 
purest springs in the country. Mr. Caple sold 
out his cattle and left in 1876. In his de- 
parture many a settler rejoiced, for his cattle 
were always doing some damage to crops. 
Mr. Caple always offered to pay, but invari- 
ably carried a fifty-dollar bill, which none of 
his neighbors could ever "bust." He always, 
in this way, got his cattle, but the farmer sel- 
dom got any pay. 

In 1876 Edward Holway and J. D. Haskell 
occupied the same ranch formerly located by 
Harrington, and this ranch was afterwards 
sold to the Parker Live Stock Company of 
Illinois. The range claimed by those owning 
this ranch was the South Loup valley from 
Triumph west to Cedar canyon and the ter- 
ritory north adjoining. 

The Parker Live Stock Company first came 
to the county in 1876. It located its head- 
quarters at a point about two miles west of 
Callaway, and claimed as its range what is 
now known as Sand valley and the territory 
lying south and west. This company began 
with 1,500 head of cattle, and J. J. Douglass, 
afterward clerk of the district court of this 
county, was the manager. 

In 1876 Durfee & Gasman located a ranch 
a short distance north of Callaway on the north 
side of the Loup, at what is known as the 
Big Spring, on the farm now owned by N. M. 
Morgan, and they began business with 3,0C0 

W. H. Paxton, of Omaha, in 1876, located a 
ranch a short distance southeast of Callaway, 
on the Cottonwood, with 2,000 cattle. 

In 1878 Durfee & Gasman bought out the 
Paxton ranch and consolidated it with their 
ranch on the opposite side of the river. The 
range they claimed after the consolidation was 
the large valley about Callaway, the Wood 
River valley and the valley of the Cotton- 

In 1876 Arnold & Ritchie located a ranch 
on the Loup, a short distance east of Arnold, 
with 1,000 cattle. 

In 1877 Henry Brothers located another 
ranch, west of Arnold, with 3,000 cattle. 

Some time previously to this, the afterward 
famous Olive Brothers located a ranch on the 
Dismal river, in Blaine county. Later, in the 
fall of 1877, without giving up the Dismal 
river ranch, they moved headquarters to the 
South Loup and established a ranch which in- 
cluded a good many thousand acres of South 
Loup valley and included Spring creek and 
Turner valley. They claimed to have, in all, 
something like fifteen thousand head of cattle. 



but those who had opportunity to know, 
doubted their holdings were so extensive. 

In 1875 X. 11. Dryden, now of Kearney, 
located a range on X'ictoria creek, settled there 
and brought with him about 100 head of 

.In 1876 Thomas Loughran and I. Childs 
each entered land on the river, near the Dry- 
den ranch, and also began raising cattle. 

The same year Frank Ewing located a ranch 
in the Middle Loup valley, near where Mil- 
burn now is, with 600 head of cattle. 

In 1878 Smith & Tee located on the nortli 
side of the .Middle Loup river, not far from 
the ranch of Ewing. They turned out about 
800 head of cattle. 

In 1879 Finch-Hatten Brothers located a 
ranch on the Loup, just below the mouth of 
the Dismal, with 700 head of cattle. 

Shortly afterward Miles & Gamlin followed 
with 1,600 head of cattle, locating not far 
from the ranch of Finch-Hatten Brothers. 

Ofher cattlemen came into the country 
during these times of whom it is impossible 
to get much reliable data. Among these were 
the Finlen Brothers. Rankin Live Stock Com- 
pany, and others. The Finlen Brothers re- 
mained in the country for years. Thomas Fin- 
len is still a resident. 

The cattlemen met with no reverses until the 
winter of 1880-81. 

At this late date it is impossible to know 
accurately, the number of cattle in Custer 
county in the summer of 18?0. but there were 
probably very ncarl\- 60,000 head of cattle, 
of the value of not less than $1,. 500,000. The 
greater ])art of these cattle had been reared 
or brought into the comitv after the vear 


Probably in the settlement of the I'nitcd 
States no agricultural or grazing territory 
of a similar area witnessed such a rapid ac- 
cumulation of wealth. L'p to the winter of 
1880-81 the jjrofits fromi the business had 
exceeded the most sanguine expectations of 
the ranchman. 

The winters were mild and pleasant, with 
plenty of moisture during the springs and 

summers. The buffalo grass upon the hills 
each year made a splendid growth. During 
the spring and summer the cattle did not graze 
upon this grass, for there was plenty of blue- 
stem, grama, and rye grass in the valleys and 
lagoons. But with the advent of freezing 
weather the cattle at once went to the hills 
to feed ufwn the buffalo grass. Xo more 
valuable winter forage e.xists than buffalo 
grass properly cured. Cattle fed upon the best 
of wild hay will not be in better condition in 
the spring than those which have wintered 
ujjon buffalo grass. In the economy of nature 
this grass seems to have been created and 
brought forth especially for winter feed. The 
thousands of buft'aloes that originally roamed 
this country and made it their winter home 
lived upon this grass during the winter ; hence 
the name. 

In those days there was a greater profit 
in buying young Texas steers and holding 
them, than in raising calves. Yearling steers 
brought here from Texas could be bought at 
from five to six dollars per head ; two-year- 
old for nine dollars ; three-year-old from 
twelve to fourteen dollars : cows from ten to 
twelve dollars. 

These same steers, kept on Custer county 
range for from eighteen months to two years, 
would sell from twent\-five to forty and f oi ty- 
five dollars per head. 

For a number of years no taxes were levied 
against the cattle. Xo investment in real cstatf; 
was necessary. The cedar canyons furnished 
material for houses, corrals, and fuel. There 
was no ex])ense for fencing or wells. The in- 
crease in value was nearly all profit. The only 
important items of expense in the business 
were supplies for and wages to the cowbo3'S. 
They received thirty-five to forty dollars per 


It would be hard to give a better portrayal 
of the experiences, hardships, and danger to 
which the cowboys were subjected in the 
early days than that written by J. D. Haskell, 
of .Arnold, who is now a prominent rancher 
au(l stockman of the South Loup region: 

"In those davs big cattle-owners thought 



that if they furnished a tent for their men to 
sleep in it would be too much luxury and 
would make life with the herd altogether too 
easy. They figured that men would be slow 
to leave the tent on stormy nights and look 
after the cattle. On the roundup and on the 
trail cattle always had to be night-herded. 
The cattle that had been gathered during the 
day were never left for a moment until they 
were back on the owner's range. Night shifts 
were necessary. The first shift rode around 
the cattle until eleven o'clock. The second 
from eleven until two. and the third from 
two o'clock until after breakfast. These re- 
liefs were composed of from one to four 
men. according to the size of the herd. In 
the spring, through the months of April and 
Alay, a good deal of rain generally fell and 
not infrequently there was snow and bliz- 
zards. It was often cloudy and drizzly for 
three or four days at a time. The cowboys 
were compelled to make their beds on the wet 
ground, and very often a heavy rain would 
come on in the night and they would find 
themselves lying in a sheet of water. In such 
cases there was nothing to do but get up and 
lean against the wagon or saddle horse until 

"\\ith daylight, work would begin and no 
opportunity was offered through the day to 
dry clothing and bedding. \\'hen night came 
on again there was nothing to do but turn 
into wet blankets. 

"No stove was furnished with the cook 
wagon. Bread was baked in a "dutch oven,' 
and other food in skillets. Frequently there 
was no time to eat breakfast. It always 
seemed strange that the men, compelled as they 
were constantly to endure this exposure, es- 
caped contracting fatal diseases. 


"( )ii a regular cattle ranch no women were 
to be found. There was always a man to 
do the cooking. Thojc who sampled cattle- 
ranch hospitality claim that the cooks were 
almost experts. 

"Ranchmen and cowbovs, like most other 

members of class occupation, were clannish and 
stuck together in protection of each others' 
interests. They were generous to a fault 
among themselves and to any one needy, but 
for an outsider to mingle in their business was 
not altogether healthy exercise. 


"In 1877 three men and a cook were hold- 
ing a band of 1,000 Texas steers on the 
Muddy, where Broken Bow now stands. They 
had to night-herd the cattle every night. They 
saw only one. man pass during the three 
months they were there. They received no 
mail and had nothing to read. As they were 
all young men who had been reared in the 
far east they experienced a lonely time, shut 
in from the outside world. 

"The last of September the owner sent a 
man to direct them to move the cattle to the 
ranch near where Callaway now is. that they 
might be taken from there to Lexington and 
shipped to Chicago. The first night after the 
start for the ranch they camped about seven 
miles west of where they had held the cattle. 
The earlv part of the night was beautiful. All 
the boys but the night-herder had turned 
in and for the first time in three months were 
enjoying sleep under a roof. 

"About ten o'clock the man out with the 
cattle observed a black, angry cloud moving up 
from the north. lie rode to the tent, called 
to the other men to hurry up and help hold 
the cattle. They got up slowly, grumbling. 
However, as soon as they looked out and saw 
what a terrible storm was coming, they rushed 
for their horses, but before they could saddle 
and mount, the storm had struck them. 

"In the meantime the watcher had hurried 
back to the cattle. He had almost reached the 
head of the herd when the storm broke. The 
darkness was intense. A terrible wind drove 
the rain in sheets. The entire herd jumped 
to their feet as one steer and started on a 
wild stampede before the storm. And oh, such 
a night ! 

"The instant the cattle started, the boy was 
also gone like a shot along the side of the 



herd. ' For more than a mile he ran beside 
the herd, over chop hills, across canyons, try- 
ing to get in the lead of the steers. 

"The roar of 4,000 hoof beats, mingled with 
the constant crash of thunder, made it a race 
nfever to be forgotten. The cattle could only 
be seen by the rider at the flash of the light- 
ning, which was so dazzling as almost to blind 
his eyes. Time and again the wiry pony was 
on his knees, Ijut almost instantly up and go- 
ing again. 

"Gradually the pon\' gained upon the leaders 
and the rider held him in against them. They 
began to swerve from their straight course 
before the storm. Gradually he brought them 
to running in a circle, then as he closed in 
nearer the outside cattle the circle became 
smaller and smaller until they were at a stand- 

"The storm ended as suddenly as it began. 
Shortly his companions were there and the 
cattle were driven back to the tent and held 
until morning, when, on a count of the herd, 
it was found twenty-five were missing. These 
were found later — not far from where the 
cattle were stopped the night before — lying 
upon the hillside and resting from their terrible 

"The point where that stampede was stopped 
was at what is now the Charles Jefifords farm 
at the foot of the Big Table." 


Prior to the winter of 1880-81 very liule 
hay was prepared for winter use. The cattle 
wintered on the range where they summered. 
During the winter the cattle were permitted 
to roam wherever they felt in.-lined. and nn at- 
tention was ])aid to them. 

The work of handling the cattle began with 
the spring roimdup, about the first of May. 
and closed with the last shipment of cattle to 
market in the fall, which was about the first of 

The cowboys, after the long, idle winter, 
looked forward to the spring roundup with 
the same desire that the soldier, after months 
in the barracks, longs for active duty in the 
field and for battle. As the time for beginning 

of the roundup drew near the cowboy would 
be found busily engaged in washing his cloth- 
ing and blankets ; his saddle and bridle were 
cleaned and oiled ; bits, spurs, and si.x-shooters 
were polished : and saddle ponies were curried 
and given extra feed and attention. 

Among these men was found that same di- 
versity of character, temperament, energy, and 
intelligence common to mankind everywhere. 
A reputation for courage was a necessary 
requisite to good standing in cowboy society. 
He who could display the greatest reckless- 
ness, or assume the role of the greatest dare- 
devil, stood foremost and was the leader of 
that society. 

This desire for notoriety among his fellows 
led the cowboy into many serious difficulties 
and gave rise to the general opinion that he 
was without feeling or regard for the rights 
of others and was naturally cruel. This 
opinion was erroneous. His recklessness ami 
occasional cruelty were not the natural pro- 
ducts of his nature but were rather, in most 
instances, assumed in a spirit of bravado. As 
a rule, the cowboy was true to his friends, and 
with him it was a religious principle to stand 
by and never desert a friend in a "tight place." 

In the general roundup in the spring, all 
cattlemen having cattle upon the territory to 
be covered took part. Sometimes as many 
as one hundred men worked together. A 
captain was selected, and he directed the men. 
Cook wagons were provided and these were 
kept convenient to the men at work on the 

Each day cattle found were driven to a 
r-oint selected by the captain, where the calves 
\vere branded and the cattle of the different 
owners were "cut out"" from the others and 
driven back to the range of the owner, and 
so work went on from week to week until all 
the territory where it was probable cattle of 
those engaged in the roundup could be found, 
was covered. 

After this roundup was completed each 
ranchman again covered his own range, 
branded the calves found there, and again, 
later in the summer, when the steers had be- 
come fat. the range was acain irone over, and 



those in condition for the market were cut out 
and driven to the railroad and shipped. 


After the South Loup spring roundup was 
finished the cowboys who had been riding the 
ranges for from four to six weeks would 
mount their horses and hike for North Platte, 
where they would meet the riders from the 
North Platte roundup, and then would be held 
a roundup of roundups that made history of 
its own. On these occasions there would as- 
semble from two to three hundred men, with 
from five to seven hundred saddle horses. 
Each ranch outfit represented would have a 
crack shot, a foot racer, a boxer, a race horse, 
a bucking broncho, and all these would be 
trotted out in their turns and matched against 
the rivals of the other ranches. Defeats and 
victories w^ere both celebrated by drinks for 
the crowd. These celebrations lasted as long 
as the cowboys' money held out. Associated 
at different times in these lusty carnivals were 
such characters as Buck Taylor, ^lajor North, 
John Shores, and Bufifalo Bill, all of whom had 
race horses of their own and were always 
ready to back them up with all the money 
they could get their hands on. 


As early as 1874 settlers began coming in — 
that is, a few adventuresome spirits drifted into 
the ]\Iiddle and South Loup countries and a 
settlement or two w^as made in the eastern 
section of the county and also in the New 
Helena district. They came in slowly at first 
and their coming was not encouraged by the 
cattlemen, who saw that the homesteader would 
sooner or later absorb his range and supplant 
stock-raising and grazing with farming and 
stock-raising on the farmer's scale. He was 
naturally averse to this, and the reckless cow- 
boys, who understood that with the going of 
the large herd would go their occupation and 
employment, never put themselves out to make 
things attractive and pleasant for the settler. 
One writer says : 

A very bitter feeling existed between those 
engaged in the two occupations ; neither was 

fair nor just with the other. The weaker 
was compelled to give way to the stronger. 
There were a hundred homesteaders to every 
ranchman. A few of the more courageous 
cattlemen made a struggle to hold their ranges. 
They fenced in large tracts of territory, con- 
structed wells in these pastures, and the cow- 
boys in their employ made homestead, pre- 
emption, and timber-culture entries therein, un- 
der the government land laws. 

Frame shacks or shanties were constructed, 
called by the cowboys, in their application and 
final proof, houses. These were in many in- 
stances upon runners or wheels and were 
moved from claim to claim. The same shanty 
ofttimes answered the purpose of a house in 
making final proof for three or four cowboys 
upon as many different claims. But all this 
was of no avail to the ranchman. The home- 
steader made entries within his pasture. He 
contested and had cancelled the claims of the 
cowboy. He cut and destroyed the fences. 
Bloodshed and murder were in some instances 
the result. In the courts the ranchman had 
but little hope of success. In his controversy 
with the homesteader he must try his case be- 
fore a jury of homesteaders. 


Early in the fall of 1884 a few settlers lo- 
cated homesteads in the northeast corner of 
the Brighton Ranch Company's pasture, on 
Ash creek. This pasture was about fifteen 
miles square and extended several miles south 
of the Loup river almost to Broken Bow, and 
was inclosed with a wire fence. The land be- 
ing government land, and subject to entry, 
these settlers served notice on the ranch com- 
pany to remove their fences from about their 
claims within thirty days. The company paid 
no attention to this request, and at the expira- 
tion of the time the settlers made a raid on 
the fence and appropriated the posts to make 
roofs for their sod houses. Roofs in those 
days were made by laying a large log, called 
a ridge log, lengthwise of the building at the 
top. The fence posts were then laid up to 
form the rafters, to which brush was fastened, 
the whole being covered with one or two layers 
of prairie sod, coated with several inches of 
yellow clay, procured from the canyons, which 
turned water very eft'ectually. 

In a short time after the appropriation of 
these posts the foreman of the ranch had the 





settlers arrested and taken to Broken Bow for 
trial. The sheriff had no sooner departed with 
the prisoners than the second foreman of the 
ranch rigged up two large wagons, drawn 
by four mules each, and proceeded to the 
houses of the settlers, accompanied by a num- 
ber of the cowboys. They drove up to a 
house, took a team and a large chain, hitched 
on to the projecting end of the ridge log, and 
in about three seconds the sod -house was a 
shapeless mass of sod, hay, brush, and posts 
mixed up in almost inextricable confusion. 
The ranchmen then culled their posts from the 
wreck and loaded them into the wagons, when 
they went to the next house and repeated the 
operation, leaving the occupants to pick their 
few household goods out of the ruins at their 
leisure. The boys were having great fun 
at the expense of the settlers, cracking jokes 
and making merry as the work of destruction 
went on. After destroying several houses 
in this manner they proceeded to the claim 
of a Air. King, and Airs. King, seeing them 
approaching, met them with a shotgim and 
dared them to come on. Had it been Mr. 
King, the invitation would possibly have been 
accepted, but the cowboys were too gallant to 
enter into a quarrel with a lady, and withdrew 
without molesting her. 

In the meantime a boy of the settlement had 
been despatched to Broken Bow, on the fastest 
pony that could be procured, to secure help, 
and quite a posse of men from the town 
started for the scene of action. The foreman 
of the ran;h, who was in Broken Bow at the 
time as complaining witness against the 
settlers, heard of this and sent one of his 
cowboys in haste to warn the second foreman 
of the impending invasion. The messenger 
arrived at the settlement in advance of the 
citizens and gave the alarm. The house- 
wreckers were thoroughly scared, and. turning 
the heads of their mule teams toward the 
South Loup, a]3plied the whij) freely. As the 
mules began to run over the rough prairie the 
posts began to fall off the wagons, and as 
the teams began to show signs of weariness 
the cowboys began to heave off more posts to 
lighten the load as they bumped along, leaving 

a trail behind them like that of a railroad con- 
struction gang. Arriving at the ranch, they 
turned out their mules, secured their ^^'in- 
chesters and made a break for tlie hills on 
the south side of the river, to await develop- 
ments. When the posse of rescuers arrived 
at the little settlement and found the invaders 
gone, they did not follow them, but returned 
to Broken Bow. The cowboys remained in 
the hills two days, waiting for the approach 
of the enemy in vain. 

The ranch company failed to make anv case 
against the settlers, it being shown that the 
ranch pasture was government land and that 
the claims were lawfully held by the home- 
steaders, who had a perfect right to remove 
the fence which inclosed their property. The 
prisoners were accordingly released and were.' 
not again molested. The second foreman of 
the ranch was subsequently arrested for tear- 
ing, down the houses of the settlers, was tried 
at Broken Bow, found guilty, fined twentv'- 
five dollars and costs, and confined one day 
in the county jail. 

The winter of 1880-81 marked the termina- 
tion of extraordinary profits in the cattle in- 
dustrv' in Custer county. The severe winter 
entailed frightful losses upon cattlemen. Some 
whole herds were wiped out of existence. This 
opened the door to the settlers, who were not 
slow to flock in and settle in all parts of the 
county, picking out, of course, the choice and 
level land without regard to whether it was 
in some ranchman's range. By the close of 
1884 there were fully 18.000 people in Custer 
county, and probably not to exceed 4,000 

As the ranchman and the Texas steer in the 
'60s and early '70s had driven out the Indian 
and the buffalo, so now in the '80s the ranch- 
man and the steer were compelled to give way 
to the farmer and the horse. 

It may be well to record here one more 
incident which illustrates the kind of war 
waged in those days between settler and 
rancher. In 1875 Frederick Schreyer located a 
homestead about five miles up the river from 
where Callaway now stands. His only neigh- 
bors were cowboys, and peace and harmony 











did not prevail in his neighborhood. He was 
not given a welcome reception. No bands 
played in his honor. There were presented no 
testimonials expressing the pleasure of the 
ranchmen and cowboys because he had moved 
in. In order to discourage the lone home- 
steader, the festive cow-punchers stampeded 
their herds over the roof of his dugout, and 
herded their steers in his cornfield. When he 
resorted to arms to defend himself he was 
arrested and put into jail. But Schreyer was 
an indomitable spirit and not easily put down. 
His career, however, was so marked in the 
early days that it is given another place on 
these pages. 

The last cowboy has disappeared from the 
South Loup country, from the Middle Loup, 
and from other parts of Custer county that 
were once covered with cattle. The plucky 
pioneers, however, who paved the way for 
others to follow, are still with us, for the 
most part, full of years and honors, living in 
the enjoyment of the fruits of their toil. 


The following story, told by Robert Harvey, 
describing a discovery made in the South Loup 
country in July, 1872, by himself and surveying 
party, seems to disclose the "main line" of the 
famous "underground railroad," over which a 
great number of valuable horses, and perhaps 
other property, passed through the county in 
the days of the early '70s. 

"During the last days of July we completed 
all but six miles of lines south of the fourth 
standard parallel and camped at the corner 
of townships 15 and 16 north, ranges 23 and 
24 west, near the northeast edge of a beauti- 
ful round, flat valley, located on wliat is now 
the line between Triumph and Delight pre- 
cincts. The depression, is, no doubt, a very 
remote lake-bed or basin formed by the rocking 
of an ancient iceberg. 

"In the afternoon we started north on the 
last six miles of the range line of this part 
of the work and ascended the long, grassy 
south s\oY>e of a high hill or promontory. Af- 
ter considerable labor and fatitrue. we reached 

the summit of the clean-cut northeast rim. 
The diagonal descent along the steep north- 
east slope was attained with considerable diffi- 
culty, and having reached the bottom I found 
that the bluffs' dark shadows cast far out into 
the valley, rendering farther progress that eve- 
ning impossible. We proceeded to camp, 
which we found on the right bank of the 
South Loup river. 

"Next morning we resumed the work of 
projecting our abandoned line northward, and 
at the half-mile corner between sections 13 and 
18 we crossed a small spring brook having its 
source in springs under the east slope of the 
high bluff". A little farther north we ascended 
an elevated clay spur formed by the river on 
the north and the little brook on the southeast. 
Ihe bluff terminated a little east of our line 
in a low bottom covered with wild hemp and 

"Crossing this spur, I noticed a deeply cut 
wagon track, which appeared to have been 
made in soft wet ground and then grass 
grown, which excited my curiosity, and turn.- 
ing down the trail a few yards I came upon a 
cowbell and a spring of a wagon spring-seat, 
■common to that period. Descending to the 
low bench I passed to the left along the foot 
of the spur and near its point suddenly came 
upon the door of a cave which was set flush 
with the perpendicularly cut bank. 

"Pushing open the door, I entered a room 
containing a fireplace at the north end, a 
single sleeping bunk at the south end and an 
old rough-board table. Evidently it was the 
kitchen, dining room, reception hall, parlor, 
and cook's sleeping room. Passing through a 
door in the partition I entered a large room 
which had feed stalls arranged along the north 
side and west end, and sleeping bunks along 
the south side. Some shelled corn was scat- 
tered about and a copy of Harper's Weekly of 
the previous June lay on the floor. 

"On the outside we searched in the grass 
and weeds for signs of occupancy, but found 
no tracks or paths leading to the river or 
creek, but at the water's edge of the brook 
found a block about three feet long, cut from 





a Cottonwood and pegged with forked stakes 
to hold it fast so one conld stand upon it and 
dip water from the brook. 

"Tlie dis:overy of such an abode, far from 
any settlement, and in an Indian infested coun- 
try where hunters had not yet ventured, was 
remarkable. It brought to my recollections a 
story I had heard repeated in Benton county, 
Iowa, three years before. The story ran that 
a young man of the neighborhood had gone 
west in 1866 or 1867, and joined a band of 
horse thieves whose 'runway' was from Mexico 
to the British possessions. The party with 
which he worked operated in Nebraska and 
perhaps Dakota Territory. 

"One of the stations along the route was in 
a cave on a branch of the Loup river and 
near the foot of a high, dark hill, with pine 
timber growing along the blufifs and a little 
stream of spring water flowing past the mouth 
of the cave. Their next station was two days' 
ride from this cave and located in a forest 
of pine and cedar in the canyons of the Loup 

"The story seems to describe this place. 
Here was a cave on the right bank of a 
branch of the Loup, with a small spring brook 
only a few yards away. There was a high, 
dark, frowning hill nearby, while scattering- 
pine timber grew along the blufifs on the oppo- 
site side of the river, and about seventy-five 
miles to the northeast, about two days' ride, 
were the cedar and pine-wooded canyons of 
the North Loup below the mouth of the Cala- 
mus river. All of the details of the story 
dovetailed exactly with the place. 

"In the latter part of September I was op- 
erating north of the parallel and on the 30th 
pitched my camp on the long, high mesa, or 
table-land, west of where Broken Bow is now 
located. Being almost destitute of water in 
the afternoon, I sent two men with the light 
wagon to the south branch and gave instruc- 
tions to fill the barrels that evening and return 
early next morning. It was about seven miles 
to the river and six to our initial point on the 
parallel for the survey of the line between 
ranges 23 and 24 west, township 17 north. 

"On our way to the initial point we came to 

the south edge of the high undulating table- 
land about three miles south of camp, when 
we halted to scan the country. We expected 
to find evidence of two surveying parties op- 
erating south of us, who should be near the 
close of their work and about ready to return 
to their homes. We had brought with us a 
lot of written mail, hoping We might send it 
with them. 

"We scanned the country south, east, and 
west, and finally observed a bright spot far up 
the river. It looked like the reflection from 
a bright surface, and a dark object loomed 
near it. To ascertain if it was moving I 
directed the instrument towards it and made 
out that it was moving down the valley. 

"After watching the object for a time we 
concluded it was a wagon. But our curiosity 
was excited when we discovered that only one 
or two men were walking and several rode in 
the wagon, which was a very unusual thing 
for surveyors to do. when traveling over the 
prairie. The bright spot we had seen was the 
reflected sunlight from the bright tire of the 
hind wheel. The wagon proceeded down the 
valley and halted on the clay spur where our 
cave of July was found. Here the horses 
were turned out and the men passed from 
sight over the end of the spur. 

"It was now quite late and my suspicions 
were thoroughly aroused, and being anxious 
for the safety of the teamster, who had not 
returned from the river, and the team, I deter- 
mined to go to their relief. Sending a man 
to camp, we hurried to the river and reached 
it at dark, just as the wagon arrived. The 
men were entirely ignorant of the presence of 
strangers and surprised at the suspected char- 
acter of their very nearby neighbors. Giving 
directions for guard duty during the night, 
Charley Starkweather and I walked along the 
bank, perhaps a hundred yards, and yelled 
several times without receiving an answer, then 
fired two shots, which brought a feeble voice 
inquiring what we wanted. We told him we 
were surveyors and had lost our way to 
camp, that we were hungry 'and tired and 
wanted accomniodations for the night. The 
fellow told; us thev were strangers in the 



country and poorly provided, so could not 
entertain us. We told him there was plenty 
of room in the cave and we would come 

"Fording the river, we followed him to the 
dugout, which it really was. and instead of 
there being three or four men. there were 
sixteen. After explaining who we were and 
our business we asked for supper and a place 
to sleep. \\'e tried to be friendly and agree- 
able, but none of the men would talk except 

equally strange to us that so many men were 
there, far from settlements, in an Indian 
country. They claimed to be hunters, yet, in 
a splendid game country, they had gotten only 
one or two deer in a week and were poorly 
supplied with bedding and food. 

■■\^'ithout supper, we lay down on a blanket 
before the fire-place, but each of us quietly 
slipped a cartridge into his gim and each 
took a turn on guard, feigning to be asleep. 
At break of day we quietly slipped out. and, 

The Old Black Ranch ox Deer Creek 

one abnut tifty years old who appeared to be 
the spokesman and leader. He said they 
were hunters, had been there about a week, 
had killed only one or two deer, and were out 
of provisions, excepting a little coffee. A 
team and two men had gone that morning to 
Plum Creek station on the Union Pacific rail- 
road for provisions, but had not returned, 
therefore they could not feed us. 

"It seemed very strange to us that one man 
should do all the talking for the gang and 
he refused to tell us where they were from, 
except that he came from Iowa. It seemed 

on going around the south side of the spur, 
saw two fine black horses and a n.ew top 
buggv". I have been told by some of the early 
settlers that this was the rendezvous or hiding 
place of Doc Middleton ; but Doc had not 
gained notoriety in 1872, nor do I think he 
had gone into the rustling business then. If 
this was the cave, or station, attributed to 
the young man in Iowa, which I have every 
reason to believe it to be. Doc Mitldleton and 
he were one and the same person. Doc Mid- 
dleton was only a boy when the cave was 
occupied by the horsethieves." 




Dan Haskell, who came to Custer county 
before its organization, and who had to do 
with its development as much as any other 
man, gives this interesting account of a wild 
horse hunt in the county : 

"A correspondent of the Chicago Drovers' 
Journal says: 'I have seen the stag hunt in 
Scotland and the steeple chase in Ireland, but 
compared with a wild-horse hunt on the Has- 
kell & Company ranch in Nebraska, these are 
tame sports." 

"In the summer of 1884. we had a herd of 
six hundred horses on our ranch. ( )ne eve- 
ning about sundown we were driving them 
across a small bridge when they became fright- 
ened and commenced to run. This raised a 
dense cloud of dust, which added to the fright 
of the animals, causing them to stampede, 
break through a fence on either side, and kill 
five of them, the balance of the herd flying in 
every direction into the hills. During the 
night they became mixed up with a herd of 
wild horses, of which there were large num- 
bers roaming over this country at that time. 
One would naturally suppose that the wild 
horse could outstrip his domesticated brother 
in a long race, but in separating our stampeded 
herd from the wild ones we discovered that 
such is not the case. The domesticated horse, 
being better bred, proved to have superior 
powers of endurance. As the wild horse has 
long ago disappeared from Custer county, a 
short description of his habits and the man- 
ner of hunting may be interesting to the reader. 

"Wild horses roamed over the prairie in 
small bands, each led by a stallion, who was 
the head of the family. The first business of 
the hunter was to shoot these band stallions, 
which would cause the mares and colts of 
that family to unite themselves with another 
band. By repeating the operation of shooting 
the leading stallions quite a bunch of horses 
would soon be gathered together, the object 
being to chase as many down at once as pos- 
sible. Having gone thus far. the work of the 
hunter has just begun. \\'hen pursued, we 
found that wild horses always traveled in a 
circle, and that they would eventually get 

back to the place from which they started. 
After getting a bunch of the required size to- 
gether, by shooting the stallions as described, 
our next move was to establish camps along 
the course we concluded the animals would 
run. with a man at each station to take care 
of the saddle horses, which were used in re- 
lays. Two men. well mounted, then started 
the herd of wild horses, and crowded them 
to their utmost limit, giiving them time neither 
to eat nor rest until they were completely 
run down, and would permit themselves to be 
corralled. It usually took about five days of 
constant motion to accomplish this, although 
sometimes a herd would succumb in two or 
three davs. Whenever we reached a relay 
camp our saddle horses were changed, thus 
keeping the wild horses on the constant move 
day and night. The long race generally broke 
the old ones down so that they were seldom 
of any use afterward, but the young ones 
seemed little the worse for their chase after 
a few days' rest. 

"Occasionally we would start a bunch led 
by an old stallion that would, when pushed 
hard, start out and run for fifty miles in one 
direction, taking us away from our camps iil- 
together and compelling us often to ride a 
hundred miles without a change of horses. 
At intervals in the chase one or more of 
the wild horses would drop back, not able to 
keep up with the flying herd. These were 
alwavs roped, thrown, and hobbled, so that 
we could return and get them after the main 
bunch had been run down. We had a one- 
armed man on our ranch, by the name of Jim 
Hunnell, who could rope and hobble a wild 
horse with the best of them. With one end of 
his lariat tied to the horn of his saddle, he 
would take the bridle-rein in his teeth, and, 
holding the coil and loop both in his hand, 
would catch and throw his horse every time, 
putting on the hobbles by using his hand and 
teeth. Those who have tried to rope a wild 
horse and hobble him with two good hands will 
appreciate the work done by Jim Hunnell. 
The most favorable time to chase wild horses 
was when there was snow on the ground, as 
we could then follow the trail much easier dur- 



ing the night. We carried small, dark-lanterns 
with us, to be used when it would be impos- 
sible to follow the trail without them. We 
would sometimes be caught by a blizzard, in 
the middle of a chase, and be obliged to give 
up and get back to the camp as best we could. 
In February, 1883, my brother and myself 
started out to catch a small bunch of eleven 
horses headed by a fine roan stallion. One of 
the neighbors had been catching the colts for 
two seasons. We had si.x good saddle horses 
with us, expecting to locate them at two dif- 
ferent points along the course we thought the 
wild horses would take, but when we reached 
our friend's house he said he had chased the 
bunch several times and they took a circle only 
of ten or twelve miles, so we left our extra 
horses at his place and set out with but one 
feed of corn and a lunch in our pockets. \\'c 
soon located the herd, and away they went 
like the wind, the fine old roan stallion in the 
lead. When the old fellow found out that 
some one was after him that meant business, 
he struck oflf on a tangent at the top of his 
speed in a southwesterly direction. Late in 
the afternoon we struck the North Platte val- 
ley northwest of Ogallala. The roan then 
changed his course to northwest, and traveled 
at such a killing gait that, had it not been for 
the snow on the ground, we could hardly have 
been able to follow him. .As we neared the 
B. and M. Railroad, the snow became quite 
fleejx and after the darkness came on we ' 
lighted our lanterns and followed the trail 
without any trouble. At three o'clock in tlie 
morning we concluded to stop and give our 
saddle horses a rest, as they had been ridden 

hard all day and night, except when we had 
stopped to feed them the corn and to eat our 
lunch. We scraped a little round place in 
the snow, which was twelve inches deep, and 
lay down on the frozen ground together, hold- 
ing our horses by the bridle reins. We were 
so cold our teeth chattered together, while our 
horses stood and shivered. As soon as day- 
light appeared we arose from our downy bed 
and rode up to the top of a high bluflf. from 
which we discerned the wild horses huddled up 
in a small valley with their heads down, taking 
a much-needed rest. Hearing the bark, of a 
dog, we ])roceeded in that direction and came 
to the ranch of Carl Gross, southwest of Lake- 
side, where we remained that day and the fol- 
lowing night. We were both snow-blind. 
Early next morning, we took up the trail of 
the horses and followed them back to the 
place from which they had started. We pro- 
cured fresh saddle horses, set out after them 
again, and two days later had the entire Inmch 
in a corral at our home ranch. While in pur- 
suit of this roan band, we sighted another herd 
of fourteen, headed by a fine brown horse, and 
next month gave them chase and had them cor- 
ralled in two days. This was our last horse hunt. 
"Wild horses have almost entirely disap- 
peared from Nebraska, although it is said 
there are still a few small bands in the vicinity 
of Blue river. The writer has seen hundreds 
of them on Tallin Table in Custer county, and 
i: was a grand sight to see the fat, sleek fellows 
watering at the pools, which stood there as 
late as the month of June, each leader herding 
his family to keep it from mixing with other 


The Proposed Garber County — Kouxtz County — Governor's Proclamation — First 
County Officers — First Meeting of Supervisors — First Voting Places — First 
Election Results — The New Officers — Custer County Judges — The First County 
Assessment — Names of Those Who Have Served as County Clerks — Clerks of Dis- 
trict Court — ■ County Treasurers — Registers of Deeds — County Superintendents 
— Official Roster of Custer County — A Noted Sheriff — Multiply' \"oting Pre- 
cincts — The Last Precinct Supervisors — The New Board — Brand Commission- 
ers — County Division — First Land Documents — The Evolution of the Court 
House — The Custer County United States Land Office — Kinkaid Bill Goes into 
Effect — New Law Takes Effect — A Quiet and Orderly Crowd — Crowd Gets 
A Rest — The Land Entries — Opening of the Military and Forest Re- 
serves — Personnel of the Notaries — Letup. Stop. Over, and Rest 

From the vast sweep of an almost endless 
prairie, entirely without human inhabitants, 
save marauding tribes of primitive red men, 
to a white population numerous enough to jus- 
tify the organization of a county, is a far cry. 
Prior to June. 1877, the territory now com- 
I'rised in Custer county covered all the dis- 
tance between the uninhabited waste and the 
nucleus of organized government. L'nder early 
conditions the cattlemen or ranchers had been 
compelled to pay taxes to the organized coun- 
ties on the east. They had no benefit from 
any taxes paid and no enforcement of 
the law. If lawless characters committed 
depredations, ran off or branded their stock, 
there was no recourse of law. Of course 
the cattlemen never expected that this would 
become an agricultural territory. It seemed 
evident to them that it would always be a range 
country and cattle-raising the chief industry; 
still, they must have some semblance of law, 
there must be some way provided to punish 
cattle thieves and, perhaps, a few schools would 
have to be established. In order to accomplish 
this, it was evident that county organization 
should be established and maintained. 

County organization began to be talked over. 
Several meetings were held at different times 
for the purpose of taking steps toward or- 
ganization. One of these meetings was held 
in the residence of Nc George, at which were 
present Frank Young, L. D. George, Coe Kil- 
gore, and Joshua Woods. No action was taken, 
however, and in different places were held sev- 
eral other meetings, which were barren . of 
results so far as effecting organization was 

THE proposed garber COUNTY 

During the winter of 1875 a bill was intro- 
duced into the legislature, and passed by both 
houses, authorizing the organization of a coun- 
ty to be known as Garber county, comprising 
a territory of twenty-four miles square, ly- 
ing immediately west of A'alley county. It did 
not appear, however, that the proposed new 
county had enough inhabitants to support and 
maintain, through taxation, a county organiza- 
tion. So. the proposition received the veto of 
Governor Garber. The governor's veto did not 
take into consideration the fact that the new 
county was named in his honor. The territory 




includ'-d in the bill to create Garber county was 
about one-fourth of the present Custer county, 
and on the basis of the precinct organization 
would have included the precincts of Sargent, 
West Union, half of Milbum, most of Lillian, 
all of Garfield, Douglas Grove, Comstock, 
Spring Creek, W'esterville, some of Berwyn, 
and about one-fourth of Broken Bow. The 
southwest corner of the county would have 
been located in the present townsite of Broken 

how this name came to be applied or who 
was the first to apply it, is not known. The 
government, however, seems to have given 
some recognition to this cognomen. The early 
postofifices of the county were designated as 
being in Kountz county. Nebraska. This 
statanent concerning the counties accounts for 
the conflicting opinion that prevails among 
early settlers concerning the first covuity 
names. Some state positively that Custer 

Old Cottonwood tree on the .Anton .-\bel rancli, south of the Lonp river, where was held the last 
meeting to effect county organization, in 1877. This meeting named the county and chose the officers 
who were later appointed by the governor. The only two survivors of that meeting are shown in 
the above picture and are J. J. Douglass and Al. \\ ise, both of Callaway. 

Bow. Notwithstanding that the measure failed, county was first known as Garber county, 

the name Garber county attached to this ter- others that it was first known as Kountz 

ritory initil after the organization of the pres- county and. in harmony with the above ex- 

ent coimty. planation, both are right. 


Exclusive of that portion of the county which 
wanted to be organized into Garber county, 
all the rest of the unorganized territory west 
of \'alley and Sherman counties was known 
as Kountz county, so named after Kountz 
brothers, wealthy bankers of Omaha. Just 


.\gitation for the new county continued and 
finally culminated in the organization of Cus- 
ter county. The taxpayers of the unorganized 
territory were growing continually more rest- 
less im<ler the assessment of high taxes which 
they could pay but could not spend. This left 



them, they declared, holding the hot end of the 
poker. Other organization meetings were held 
and the agitation kept up. Eight ranchmen 
met one day under a tree on the Frank H. 
Yo'Ung place and took the preliminary steps 
toward organization. A later meeting at 
which thirteen ranchmen were present finally 
put the machinery in motion. This second 
meeting was held at the Anton Abel ranch. 
The first officers were recommended to the 
governor by the men in attendance at this 

In the legislature of 1877, the Hon. J. II. 
]\IcCall, of Dawson county, came to the rescue 
of these settlers and introduced in the legis- 
lature the following bill, which accordingly 
passed both houses and was signed by Gov- 
ernor Garber : 

Be it enacted by the legislature of the State 
of Nebraska : 

Section 1. That all that portion of the state 
of Nebraska, commencing at the southeast cor- 
ner of township thirteen (13), north of range 
seventeen (17), west of the sixth principal 
meridian, thence north to the northeast corner 
of township twenty (20), north of range sev- 
enteen (17), west, then:e west to the north- 
west corner of township twenty ( 20 ) , north 
of range twenty-five west, thence south to the 
southwest corner of township thirteen (13), 
north of range twenty-five ( 25 ) , west, thence 
east to beginning, shall constitute the county 
of Custer. 

Approved February 17, 1877. 

It is not known who is entitled to the dis- 
tinction of naming the new county, but it wa^ 
named "Custer" in honor of the gallant In- 
dian fighter who perished with all his com- 
mand at the memorable battle on the Little 
Big Horn the previous summer, 1876. 

In May a petition was sent to Governor 
Garber, signed by most of the cattlemen of 
the county, asking for the appointment of tem- 
porary officers to complete the organization of 
the county, as follows : 

To the Honorable Silas Garber, 
Governor of the State of Nebraska : 

We, the undersigned, inhabitants of Custer 
county, Nebraska, and taxpayers therein, pe- 
tition you to appoint and commission James 
Gasmann, Anton Abel, and H. C. Stuckey as 
special county commissioners, and Frank H. 

Young as special county clerk of said county 
for the purpose of forming a permanent or- 
ganization for said county, and that you will 
appoint and declare the southeast quarter of 
section 23, in township l.S north, range 22 
west, as the temporary county seat of said 
county, and for this we will ever pray. 

(Signed) Frank H. Young 

fames G. Gasmann Emmett V. Filer 
W. T. H. Tucker Nate Fuller 

H. C. Stuckey J. J. Douglass 

Denman Fritt P. W. O'Brien 

Phil Dufrand A. B. Bradney 

Anton Abel W. W. Wattles 

E. J. Boblits I. O. Child 

James Paxton W. H. Kilgore 

A. H. Wise Joshua Wood 

T. M. Jameson S. C. Stuckey 

Reginald AIcKee Uouis Wambsgan 

St.^te of Ne:br.\sk.\ 

County of Dawson, 

Personally appeared before me, a notary 
jniblic in and for Dawson county, Nebraska, 
James P. Paxton, Frank H. Long", and James 
Gasmann, who, being duly sworn, depose and 
say that they are resident freeholders in the 
county of Custer and state of Nebraska, 
that such county contains a population of not 
less than two hundred inhabitants, and that 
ten or more of such inhabitants are taxpayers, 
and further they say not. 

James P. Paxton 
"Frank H. Young 
James Gasmann 

Subscribed and sworn to before me this 
I'Jth day of May, 1877. 

(Seal) H. O. Smith, Notary Public 

The following letters and recommendations 
from prominent citizens of Dawson county 
were forwarded with the petition to the gov- 
ernor, and may be interesting as a part of 
this history : 

Office of the Clerk of County and District 
Courts, Dawson County. 

Plum Creek, Nebr., June 14, 1877. 
His Excellency, Silas Garber, 
Lin:oln, Nebr. 

Dear Sir — Several of the citizens of Cns- 
ter county have been speaking to me about 
the organization of that county, and desire 
me to write to you about the matter. There 
is quite a large amount of personal property 
owned by the citizens of that territory, and 
under the present status it is under the con- 
trol of no one. One-half of the county is 
in this judicial district, and the other in the 



sixth. Mr. Young, a resident of that county, 
will call upon you for the purpose of seeing 
about the matter, and will explain the situa- 
tion to you. I feel like accommodating them 
if it can be done. Please let me know the 
situation. Yours, etc.. C. J- Dilworth 

Plum Creek, Xchr.. June 23, 1877. 
Governor Garber, 
Lincoln. Xebr. 

Sir — I am acquainted with a great many 
of the residents of Custer county and they 
all are very anxious to be in running order, 
and it would be a great help in stopping the 
cattle and horse stealing. I am personally ac- 
quainted for a long time with F. H. Young, 
and can recommend him in every respect. 
R. F. James, Sheril? Dawson county, Xebr. 
We have read the statement of Mr. James 
and believe it true in everv particular. 
H. T. Hedges, P. M. ' 
E. S. Stl'ckev, County Treasurer 
H. O. Smith, Deputy Sheriff 
T. L. ^\'.^RRI.^■GTox, Attorney at Law 
W. H. Levgel, County Clerk 
R. B. Pierce, County Judge 

Plum Creek. Xebr.. June li. 1877 
Hon. Silas Garber, 
Lincoln, Xebr. 

Dear Sir — Enclosed find letters from the 
county officers in regard to Custer county. 
Mr. ^lacColl is absent and will not be back 
for about two weeks : the other officers all 
signed the papers. I would like to get the 
commission by return mail, if possible, as I 
am in a hurry to get out of Custer county 
to look after my calves, as it is time to brand 
them. Hoping you will give this your early 
attention, I remain. 

Yours respectfully, 

Fr.\xk H. Young 

The governor, on the 27th day of June, 
•issued the following proclamation, which 
launched Custer county on its glorious ca- 


Whereas, .\ large number of the citizens of 
the unorganized county of Custer have united 
in a petition asking that the said county 
be organized and that James Gasmann, An- 
ton Abel, and H. C. Stuckey be appointed 
special county commissioners, and Frank H. 
Young be appointed special county clerk of 
said county, for the purpose of forming a 
permanent organization, and that the south- 
east quarter of section twenty-three, in town- 
ship fifteen north, range twenty-two west, be 

designated as the temporary county seat of 
said county of Custer, and it appearing that 
the said county contains a population of not 
less than two hundred inhabitants, and ten 
or more of said petitioners are taxpayers and 
residents of said county : 

Xow, therefore. I. Silas Garber, governor of 
the state of Xebraska, in accordance with the 
memorial of said petitioners, and under and 
by the authority in me vested and in pur- 
suance of the statute in such cases made and 
provided, do declare said county to be tem- 
porarily organized for the purpose of per- 
manent organization, and do appoint and 
commission the persons above named as the 
special county commissioners, and the said 
person above named as special county clerk 
of said county, and do declare the place 
above named and described as the temporary 
county seat of said county. 

In testimony whereof I have hereunto set 
my hand, and caused to be affixed the great 
seal of the state of Xebraska. 

Done at Lincoln, the capital, this twenty- 
seventh day of June, in the year of our Lord 
one thousand eight hundred and seventy-seven 
and of the independence of the L'nited States 
one hundred and first, and of this state the 
eleventh. SiL.\s G.\rber 

By the Governor: 

Bruxo Tschuck, the Secretary of State. 


Prior to the issuing of the proclamation by 
Governor Garber, establishing a temporary 
organization for Custer county, a meeting 
had been held at the home of Frank Young 
at which were present E. J. Boblits, Al Wise. 
J J. Douglass. Joshua Woods. \'ergil Allen, 
and other early settlers to the number of 
thirteen. This meeting recommended the ap- 
pointment of Frank Young as temporary 
county clerk, .\nton Abel, James Gasmann, 
and H. C. Stuckey as county commissioners, 
and accordingly the governor was petitioned 
for their ap])ointment. Complying with the 
request the governor named these men for 
their respective offices and they liecame. by 
the governor's proclamation, the first officers 
of Custer county. 


Bv the authority of the governor's procla- 
mation, the first session of the special county 



commissioners met at the temporary county seat 
and the}' were ckily sworn into office. Frank 
H. Young had taken the oath of office as 
county clerk in the governor's office at Lin- 
cohi, so when the supervisors had been duly 
inducted into their office, they were ready 
to commence business. The first matter of 
business attended to was the passing of an 
order calling for a special election to be 
held on Tuesday, the 31st day of July, 1877, 
for the purpose of electing a county judge, 
a sheriff, a clerk, a treasurer, a coroner, a 
surveyor, and three county commissioners. 
The matter of selecting a county seat, or 
of making the temporary county seat the per- 

voting place should be the home of Joshua 
Woods. In precinct number two all the elec- 
tors were to resort to the home of Anton 
Abel, the third voting precinct was in the 
home of E. Halloway. This last voting pre- 
cinct was so far to the south end of the pre- 
cinct that the New Helena people objected 
and, at the first opportunity, presented the 
first petition ever presented to a Custer coun- 
ty board praying for a new precinct. As this 
request was granted, this special election of 
July 31 was the only election ever held while 
the county was divided in only three pre- 
cincts. The election came off in due form. 
Fifty-eight votes were cast, which constituted 


^^^^^^^^K' '^^^^B 




A Trinity of Oi,d-timers 
Virgil Allen Milo Young J. J. Douglass 

manent location of the county capital, was 
also to be decided at that special election. 

After the special election had been pro- 
vided for, the three commissioners proceeded 
to chop the county up into three voting pre- 
cincts, which they did by cutting off tiers of 
townships running clear through the county 
from north to south on the east end of the 
county and constituting that as precinct num- 
ber one. Another three ranges of townships 
west of first precinct and running through the 
middle of the county constituted the second 
precinct, while the remaining three tiers of 
townships on the west end of the county be- 
came the third precinct. 


In the first precinct it was ordered that the 

the sum total of the new county's voting 
strength. It was the first election, it was be- 
ing held far from the centers of eastern civili- 
zation and, consequently, form and ceremony 
were little observed. In the third precinct 
they did not go to the formality of adminis- 
tering the oath to either judges or clerks, 
consequently the vote in the third precinct 
was thrown out when an official canvass of 
the vote was made by the county commis- 

The election, however, was an event long 
remembered in those days, conducted under 
a purely western regime. The voters came 
early and in most cases stayed for dinner 
with the judge of election, who was also host 
for the occasion. It is related that not more 
than three or four voters in ea:h precinct 


made the trip to the polls and back without 
trading horses. One early narrator makes 
the too extravagant claim that more horses 
were traded that day than votes cast. 


When the supervisors assembled in August 
to canvass the returns of the special election, 
they rejected the vote of the third precinct, 
for reasons that have been previously statetl, 
and, on summing up the returns from the oth- 
er two i>recincts, announced that the tem- 
porary county seat was to be the permanent 
county seat, and that the following officers 
were duly and regularly elected : 

Commissioners, Anton Abel, James Gas- 
mann, William Kilgore. 

Clerk, Frank H. Young. 

Treasurer, S'. C. Stuckey. 

Sheriff, Joshua Woods. 

Coroner, Charles R. Mathews. 

Surveyor, II. C. Norton. 

County Judge, Louis Wambs'gan. 

AH of these officials filed their bonds, which 
were accepted by the newly elected county 
judge. Equipped with these officers, the Cus- 
ter countv shi]) of state was ready to sail. 
The New Helena people were on hand with 
tlieir petition requesting a new precinct witli 
a voting place in the New Helena postoffice, 
which was then in the home of Judge 
Mathews, it was an accommodating board of 
conimissioners that received the petition, 
hence the re(|uest was granted, and never 
since that time has this been a county of three 

The special election was scarcely over be- 
fore the commissioners and the people began 
to campaign for the regular election in No- 
vember of the same fall, only four months 
off. The regular election came on and was 
belli in the four voting places. This time 
all the judges and all the clerks were sworn 
into office, the voting proceeding regularly, 
and counts were didy made and returns 
sworn to. Horse trading came in for its 
regular ])lace on the program and several 
cleverly hidden spavins went home with new 

owners. This election did not greatly change 
the personnel of the official staff. 


The same commissioners, Abel, Gasmann, 
and Kilgore, were retained in office, S. C. 
Stuckey w^as retained as treasurer, Joshua 
Wood as sheriff, Charles R. Mathews as 
coroner, but John W, Benedict was made coun- 
ty surveyor, and Wilson Hewitt was elected 
county judge. 

The early records of the county are very 
meagre. No official roster has been kept. It 
is a hard and laborious task to trace the pro- 
ceedings of county commissioners, to fill out 
in detail the official roster, or to name the 
men in succession who have served the coun- 
ty in various capacities down to the present 
time. Some of these early officers performed 
very little service. They had no offices other 
than their own residences, so that in fact the 
county seat was scattered all over Custer coun- 
tv, according to the places where officials had 
their residences. Salaries were small, son^e 
offices, in fact, being without any salary at- 
tached, and for services rendered the incum- 
bents were remunerated only by a nominal 
fee. The offices were not as attractive as they 
are now — they were not considered plump 
I'lums to be grabbed every time some power 
shook the political tree. There were no con- 
ventionalities : a county official w-as in his of- 
fice and rcadv for business whenever and 
wherever he was found. If the treasurer was 
in the hay-field when a taxpayer came along 
with the money, there was a lousiness transac- 
tion forthwith to which Custer county was 

It took one lovelorn candidate for matri- 
mony three days to hunt up the county judge 
in order to ])rocure a license, and when he 
located the judge, that official had to stop 
lighting fire long enough to grant the license. 
lUit if it took some time and trouble to locate 
the office and the officer, there was no diffi- 
culty about formalities when they were found. 
.\ judge would enter in a day-book a state- 
ment that a marria"'e license had been issued 


to such and such parties, then proceed to 
perform the ceremony and make the same 
entry do for both the license and return. 
Ceremonies, too. were simple and informal. It 
is related that when Judf^e llolilits performed 
his first marriage ceremony he simply said : 
"If you folks want each other for husband 
and wife you are married. And what God 
and Boblits have joined together let no man 
put asunder." 


The statement has been made that all the 
men who have served Custer county in the 
capacity of county judge during the past forty- 
one years are still alive and in a reasonable 
state of health. This is a very remarkable 
fact. Great pains have been taken to ascer- 
tain if the statement is correct. Louis 
Wambsgan was elected county judge at the 
first election ever held in Custer county. He 
filed a bond and took the oath of office but 
never transacted any official business other to pass on the bonds of the first officers. 
Four months later, at the time of the regidar 
election, he was not a candidate for re-election 
and Wilson Hewitt was elected county judge. 
Hewitt was sworn into office in January, 1878, 
and in April of the same year resigned. The 
board accepted his resignation and appointed 
E. J. Boblits to fill the vacancy. At the next 
regular election, in the fall of 1878, Boblits 
was regularly elected as his own successor and 
served for two more years. In the fall of 
1880 Judge C. R. Mathews, of New Helena, 
was made the county judge. From that time 
on the following have served as county judges 
in the order named: Judge John S. Ben- 
jamin, Judge Arthur H. Kilgore, Judge John 
Reese, Judge H. J. Shinn, Judge J. R. Rhodes, 
Judge J. A. Armour, Judge A. R. Humphrey, 
Judge H. C. Hokomb, and Judge N. Dwight 
Ford, who is the present incumbent. 

The first assessors to serve the new county 
were VV. H. Comstock, Coe Kilgore, H. A. 
Chapin, and I. P. Bell, who were appointed 
to assess all taxable property in their respec- 
tive precincts. In the spring of 1877 W. H. 
Comstock had been ajjpointed by the authori- 

ties of Valley county to assess the property 
in the Custer county territory. This was done 
and returns made to Valley county but later 
an agreement was made by which the tax was 
collected by the Custer county officials and 
paid in to the Custer county treasurer. This 
was the first revenue coming inio the coffers 
of the young county. 


In the spring of 1878, eight months after 
the organization of the county, the first as- 
sessment was made by the assessors mentioned 
in the foregoing paragraph. When the re- 
turns were compiled it was found that the 
young county had taxable property to the 
amount of $136,054.50. 


Frank H. Young was the first clerk to serve 
the county. He was one of the most efficient 
officers that every served in any capacity. He 
was first appointed by the governor and after- 
wards elected at both the special and regular 
elections in the year of 1877. He served for 
three years and six months. Since his retire- 
nient the following men have served in the 
order named : Wilson Hewitt, J. J. Brown, 
.V. W. Hyatt, George Richtmyer, J. B. Os- 
l)orne, George W. Dewey, Joseph E. Pigman, 
W. H. Osborn, Jr., Robert E. Waters, pres- 
ent incumbent. 


A complete roster of county officers has been 
very hard to obtain. Some of the offices have 
been created since the organization of the 
county. In the early days the county clerk 
served also as clerk of district court until 
the office of clerk of district court was insti- 
tuted, in 1888. Those who have served the 
county as clerk are Wilson Hewitt, J. J. 
Brown, J. J. Douglass, S. M. Dorris, James 
Stockham, C. T. Orr, George B. ]\Iair, and the 
[iresent incumbent, Jess Gandy. 


The men who have been intrusted with the 
public funds of the county are as follows: 



S. C. Stuckey. C. T. Crawford. Dr. R. C. Tal- 
bot. \V. C. Bidwell, Hues Brown. David Wei- 
mer. H. Lomax. }ilark Schneringer. W. A. 
George, J. E. Cavenee. Clarence IMackey, and 
yi. S. Eddy, the present incumbent. 


The office of register of deeds has had five 
occupants. It dates from 1894. when D. \\". 
l.anternman first filled the office. His suc- 
cessors have been Charles H. Jefifords, C. O. 
Linn, J. T. Wood, and the present recorder, 
George E. Porter. 


The office of superintendent of public in- 
struction is one that dates from the organiza- 
tion of the county. The first superintendent 
was E. D. Eubanks. who served five years and 
who at one time might have said that he was 
superintendent of public instruction in a county 
in which there were no schoolhouses. It was 
during his regime that the first districts were 
organized and the first schools established. The 
following men have filled the office of county 
superintendent since the retirement of E. D. 
Eubanks as a public officer: D. M. Amsberry, 
C. F. Randall. \V. H. Hendrickson. H. H. 
Hyatt, J. J. Tooley, J. G. W. Lewis. H. M. 
Pinkney, G. E. Lewis, and T. C. Grimes, who 
is filling the office at the present lime. 


• The following constitutes the official roster 
of Custer county as it stands on this first 
day of September, A. D. 1918: 

District Judge. Bruno O. Hostetler. 

County Judge, X. Dwight Ford. 

Senator, Twenty-third Senatorial District, 
Charles W. Beal. 

Representatives. ^\^ J. Taylor. George 

Sheriff, Joseph F. Wilson. 

Deputy Sheriff, Ernest Thompson. 

Treasurer. M. S. Eddy. 

Deputy Treasurer, Mrs. J. B. Osborne. 

County Clerk. Robert E. Waters. 

Deputy County Clerk, Essie Holcomb. 

County Superintendent, T. C. Grimes. 

Register of Deeds, George E. Porter. 

Clerk of District Court, Jesse Gandy. 

Deputy Clerk of District Court. M. M. Ruu- 

County Attorney. Frank Kelley. 

County Surveyor, A. J. ^"anAntwe^p. 

County Assessor, G. T. Robinson. 

County Commissioners: R. J. Mills. First 
District ; Robert Farley. Second District ; Scott 
Cooper, Third District: J. H. Phillips. Fouith 
District : H. B. Schneringer, Fifth District ; ; 
E. K. Li:htenberger. Sixth District ; John 
Walker, Seventh District. 


One of the men who has served as sheriff 
of Custer county rendered such excellent ser- 
vice and in so many ways made himself both 
prominent and useful that a somewhat ex- ■ 
tended mention may not be out of place in 
this connection, although it is not the policy 
to bring biographical sketches into this depart- 
ment of the volume. 

Charles U. Richardson served as deputy 
sheriff under Eli Armstrong for three years, 
following whi;h he was twice elected sheriff, 
making in all seven years of service rendered 
for the county as sheriff' or deputy sheriff. 
He was in many ways a remarkable man. was 
a native of Virginia, and was a veteran of the 
Confederate army, in which he rendered an 
unusual and helpful service. He was counted 
too young to carry arms when he first entered 
the service and was made a messenger boy 
for Stonewall Jackson. After two years' ser- 
vice in this capacity he was promoted to a 
full-fledged soldier and served to the end of 
the war. He was with General Robert E. 
Lee at the surrender at Appomattox. He was 
one who participated in the famous charge led 
by George Pickett at Gettysburg. He was 
v.ounded four times and carried the effects 
of his wounds to the grave. He was once left 
for dead on the battlefield, but Charlie Rich- 
ardson, as he was familiarly called, was not 
to be killed by bullets. He was destined for 
a career in Custer county, to be a homesteader, 
a mail contractor, and a useful citizen. It 
was to be his lot to die in peace, surrounded 


bv his friends in Custer county, December 3, 
1910. His widow and family still survive. 


\'ery early in the Hfe of the new county 
it was found that voting precin;ts were so few 
and far apart that people living in remote 
parts were practically disfranchised. The 
three precincts already noted, lasted only for 
the first election. The first petition for a 
new voting precinct came from New Helena, 
early in the first year of the county's exis- 
tence, and the accommodating supervisors 
granted the prayers of the petitioners. In the 
winter of 1878, through the influence of Judge 
Alathews and others living in the north part 
of the county, the legislature passed the fol- 
lowing bill : 

Each board of county commissioners shall 
divide the county into convenient precincts, and 
as occasion requires subdivide precincts or 
erect new precin;ts, alter precinct lines and 
whenever any portion of territory containing 
in the aggregate not less than one township 
of land nor more than four townships lyin.g 
contiguous shall contain not less than fifteen 
voters, it shall be the duty of the board of 
county commissioners, upon receipt of a pe- 
tition signed by a majority of such voters, 
to constitute such territory a new voting pre- 

With the passage of such an elastic measure 
the jig was up. There would be no good place 
to stop. Of making many precincts there was 
to be no end. However, it all worked to the 
advantage of the young county. Settlers came 
in very rapidly. There were over two thou- 
sand voters in the county as early as 1884. 
Precincts were laid out, polling places were 
established, and by 1888 the present organiza- 
tion of the county was, with the exception of 
a few divisions that had been made recently, 
the same as it is to-dav. 

For the benefit of future investigators, we 
record here the present organization of the 
county. Reading from left to right, com- 
'mencing in the north tier, the precincts are as 
follows: Hayes, Mctoria, Milbnrn. West 
Union, Lillian first, Lillian second, Sargent, 
.\rnold, Cliff, Kilfoil, Broken Bow, Garfield, 
Douglas Grove, Comstock, Spring Creek, Tri- 

umph, Ryno, Berwyn, Westerville, Myrtle, 
Elim, Delight, Custer, East Custer, Ansley, 
Algernon, Wavne, Grant, Wood River, Loup, 
Elk Creek. 

Over the first fegime of county organiza- 
tion each precinct constituted a supervisoral 
district and was reported in supervisors' meet- 
ings earli month until the number reached 
twenty-five. This made a meeting of the su- 
pervisors look like a young legislature. The 
liody was unwieldy and likewise expensive. 
It was, perhaps, the expense that started the 
campaign for representation on a different 
basis. As a result of the campaign in 1895 a 
change was made and the county was divided 
into seven super\'isoral districts with one su- 
pervisor or commissioner from each district. 


The last board to serve under the old pre- 
cinct basis was as follows : I. A. Reneau, 
Broken Bow ; L. McCandless, Broken Bow ; 
J A. Daily, Ansley; J. S. Spooner, Douglas; 
Jules Haumont, Garfield ; M. R. Foster, \'ic- 
toria : W. A. George, Loup ; W. C. Nixon, 
Grant : A. Pool, Hayes ; G. W. Dewey, Lillian ; 
;\I. Schneringer, Delight ; John Samuelson, Ar- 
nold ; A. C. Towle, Kilfoil ; J. C. Hutt. Clifif ; 
V. Schreyer, Triumph ; T. W. Carr, Elim ; H. 
Lomax, Wood River: B. L. Nicholas, Elk 
Creek; S':ott Cooper, Myrtle; R. J. Mills, Wes- 
terville, S. Neth, Custer ; A. S. Welch, Ber- 
wyn ; B. P. Morris, Algernon. W'ith the pass- 
ing of this board, mass meeting of supervisors 
was a thing of the past. In January, 1896, the 
new board met to resume the business of the 
county under increased responsibility because 
of reduced representation. 


The first representatives of the districts were 
L. \\'. Cole, district 1 ; G. W. Dewey, district 
2; George E. Carr, district 3; J. C. Hutt, dis- 
trict 4 ; E. B. Whaley, district 3 : W. A. George, 
district 6: B. P. Morris, district 7. These dis- 
tricts have remained intact without niu:h ger- 
r\-mandering until the present time. Under 
the present division, it was ordered in 1880 
that each precinct constitute a road district. 



Accordingly the roads of the county have 
been maintained by public expense under pre- 
cinct direction ever since its organization. 


One of the early officers of the county, and 
one not in vogue to-day, was a brand com- 
missioner. The brand commissioner was ap- 
pointed by the commissioners or supervisors 
and in each case, so far as the record shows, 
the brand commissioner was a member of the 
county board. In the days of cattle when 
everything was an open range, herds were 
mi.xed. and identity of stock was something 
that occasioned a good deal of trouble. It is 
charged that a good many people were very 
careless with the branding irons and often 
stuck them on to the wrong animal. Some 
cattle were rebranded. All this caused trouble. 
Disputes constantly arose. In order that every 
brand used by a cattle-owner might lie known, 
and that cattle branded with his recorded 
brand might be protected, the brand commis- 
sioner was appointed. It can well be imagined 
that he had his hands full. Anton Abel was 
the first brand commiss'oner. having been ap- 
pointed in 1877. It did not take Anton very 
long to get all the glory that the office of 
l)rand commissioner could furnish. He was 
soon satisfied and in the spring of 1878 he 
resigned and J- D- Haskell was appointed his 
successor. It is recorded that Haskell was 
one of the best authorities on brands to be 
found anywhere in the western part of the 
state. It is claimed that he could read brands 
halt a mile away on the opposite side of the 
steer while he was going at a forty-mile clip. 
Mr. Haskell seems to have given good satis- 
faction and a great many disputes were amic- 
ably settled during his tenure of office. 

With the passing of the big herds and the 
closing of the range there was no longer work 
for the brand commissioner and the office 
ceased to exist. 


Dividing the county up into precincts seemed 
to have gotten the early settlers into the di- 
vision habit. So, verv earlv in the history of 

the county, division sentiment began to show 
itself. In September, 1879, coimty division 
propaganda commenced in earnest. .\ peti- 
tion was presented by Phil Dufrand. which 
asked that the proposition of dividing the 
county be submitted to the people. The pro- 
position was to cut a slice ofT from the east 
end of the county, which should be twelve 
miles wide at the south line of the county, 
and pass in irregular jogs to the north part 
of the county, the west line of- the profKJsed 
county reaching the north line of Custer coun- 
ty at a point twenty-four miles west of the 
northeast corner of Custer county. This new 
county was to be known as Hlaine county. 
The people voted on the proposition, but it was 


Ever since the settlers landed in the county 
all kinds of bickering, bartering, trading, and 
selling have been going on. Somebody has 
made the statement that every acre of land in 
Custer county has been sold twice since the 
county was organized. Whether the statement 
is correct or not can never be ascertained. It 
may be interesting to record that the first 
United States patent for Custer county land 
was made to Charles A. Xale and filed with the 
regi.ster of deeds December 24, 1878. This 
patent was for the west one-half of the south- 
east one-fourth, section 13, and the northwest, 
northeast lot 1, section 22, township 18. range 
17. The first deed was for the same land, 
made by Charles A. Xale to F. S. Nightingale, 
and was filed fur record Ma\- 1. 1879. 

While land has been shunted around from 
one owner to another in a somewhat promis- 
cuous way, much of it has been mortgaged. 
There was a time when it was a popular belief 
tiiat you could not raise corn or wheat on 
land that was not mortgaged. The first mort- 
gage of record in the county, however, was 
not a farm mortgage but was a mortgage of 
the Union Pacific Railroad to Cyrus H. Mc- 
Cormick et al., trustees. This mortgage was 
filed August 26, 1878, before any land patents 
had been granted. The .second mortgage 
which reallv figures in Custer land transac- 



tions was made by tlenry Goodyear and wife 
to Henry G. Wiley, and it was filed for rec- 
ord December 21, 1880. The first mortgage 
ever released, and therefore it is to be pre- 
sumed the first one paid, was one released by 
Charles C. Burr to Charles A. Hall and wife. 


Since the location of the county seat of 
Custer county at Broken Bow, four separate 
court houses have been built and used for 
the accommodation of the public. As an 

cated on the northeast corner of block 12. In 
this building the ofii:ers were housed and the 
public business transacted until the commence- 
ment of the term of officers who were elected 
in 1889. The county clerk, the county judge, 
the county treasurer, and the county superin- 
tendent maintained offices in this building. 

The question of county division was always 
a sore question to the people in and around 
Broken Bow, and to placate the county-division 
sentiment and to meet the criticism of division- 
ists outside of the immediate vicinity of Broken 








^^K~.' /,i,"''t,.*.U^^ 





[Photo by S. D. Butcher] 

Building th.^t Served .•\s First Court House of Custer County 

incentive to the location of the county 
seat at Broken Bow the Gandy brothers, 
A. W., J, F'., and Jess, agreed to put up 
a building and donate its use to the county 
for court-house purposes, until the sale of 
county lots, under the terms of the location of 
the county seat made by them, would provide 
a fund with which to build a more commodi- 
ous building. Following out their agreement, 
they erected a small frame building on the 
southeast corner of block 5, where the Custer 
County Chief office now stands. This was the 
first court house in Broken Bow. 

After the sale of the lots in the proposed 
town, a four-room court house was built, lo- 

Bow, who insisted that Broken Bow should 
build a court house because the town re- 
ceived all the advantage incident to its being 
center of public business, a bond proposition 
was duly submitted at the election of 1888 and 
Broken Bow precinct bonded itself in the sum 
of twelve thousand dollars, for the purpose 
of building a court house on the site selected 
by a vote of the people as the county seat. 

These bonds were twenty-year bonds bear- 
ing six per cent. The last bond was paid on 
the first day of January, 1909. With the 
money thus obtained from the bonds, aided by 
private subscriptions from various people in 
Broken Bow, the court house located on block 



of the original town was built. The list of 
private subscribers to this court-house fund 
has been lost, and it is impossible now to tell 
who the private subscribers were or the amount 
contributed by them toward the building of 
this third court house in Broken Bow. The 
court house was built and ready for occupancy 
on the first of January, 1889. 

At the fall election of 1888 the political 
situation in Custer county turned upside down. 
The Republican ticket was defeated and for 
the first time county officers of a political 
complexion other than Republican were elect- 
ed. It seemed a <|ucer coincidence that the new 
court house should be btiilt and first occu- 
pied by an entirely new set of men who were 
in no way charged with its building. This 
court house served the purpose from the time 
of its occupancy, commencing January 1. 1889, 
until it was destroyed by fire, on the 14th day 
of January. 1910. 

Immediately after the destru:cion of this 
third Cdurt-house building by fire, the citizens 
of Broken Bow. aided by friends from other 
precincts, presented a petition to the county 
board of supervisors asking that a special 
election be called for the purpose of voting 
a tax of five mills on the taxable property of 
the county for the purpose of building a court 
house on the site of the one destroyed bv 
fire. The question was duly submitted to the 
voters of the county by the board. Strenuous 
opposition to this tax proposition was met 
from the county divisionists and the county 
division centers of the county. They argued, 
and with some for:e. that the time to divide 
the county was when the court house was 
destroyed and while no bond or tax rested 
on the county for public puildings. The five- 
mill tax-levy proposition was submitted to the 
voters of the county, at a special election held 
on the first day of March. lOJO. and the 
proposition to vote the tax was defeated by a 
vote of 2234 for, to 2213 against the proposi- 
tion. In the meantime the county board had 
arranged their local offices here and there 
throughout the town, wherever they could rent 
a building, and the business of the county was 

conducted in the various offices scattered 
throughout the town. 

During the summer of 1910. county-division 
petitions were freely circulated, signed, and, in 
September, presented to the board, and the 
proposition of dividing the county into coun- 
ties was submitted to the electors of the county 
at the general election in 1910. The names 
selected for the new counties were : Arbor, 
Albany, and Corn, the fourth county being 
the old county of Custer or what wnuld remain 
of it in the event that division carried. Proba- 
bly as warm a county division campaign as 
was ever waged, occurred in the fall of 1910. 
The vote on the proposition at the general elec- 
tion showed that Arbor county received 2344 
votes while there was cast against the proposi- 
tion 2995 votes ; Albany county 2298. against 
2975 votes; Corn county 2312. against 3001 
votes. Since that time there has been no fiu'- 
ther effort to divide the county. 

-After the election of 1910. ])etitions were 
again presented to the county board and a 
special election was called for the pur[)ose of 
voting a tax to build a new court house, on 
the site of the old one destroyed by fire. This 
second proposition asked for an election op 
the seven-mill tax, four mills to be levied and 
collected in 1911 and three mills to be levied 
and collected in 1912. This proposition was 
submitted to the electors of the county on the 
9th day of January. 1911. It carried by vote 
of 2732 for the levy and 2203 against. 

Immediately after the canvass of the vote, 
stejjs were taken to adopt a plan to let a 
contract and commence the erection of a court 
house under the supervision of the board of 
supervisors. The contract for the new build- 
ing was let in the early spring of 1911, the 
contract price being $55,087.00. This was the 
contract price of the building alone. At the 
time the old court house was destroyed, the 
comity board carried an insurance of thirteen 
thousand dollars on tiie building and fixtures, 
and this insurance money was retained for the 
purpose of furnishing the new court house. 
Work on the new court house ]>roceeded rapid- 
Iv, and in the summer of 1912 the contractor 



turned it over to the Ijuilding board, ready 
for occupancy. 

The fourth court house stands on the site 
of the one destroyed by fire and in every way 
is a model of architecture, convenience, and 
durability, fite-proof throughout the commodi- 
ous offices, and vaultage-room sufficient to care 
for the public records of the county for many 
years to come. It is regarded by capable 
judges who have seen it and examined its com- 
partments as a model court house in all re- 


Since 1890 Custer county has had a govern- 
ment land office 
located at Bro- 
ken Bow. In 
June, 1916, the 
present register, 
M. C. Warring- 
ton, and present 
receiver, John P. 
Robertson, went 
into their respec- 
tive positions, 
and the event 
was chronicled 
in the local pa- 
per at the time, 
giving in outline 
a history of the 
office from its inception to the present day. It 
is here quoted at length : 

In March, 1890, by an act of congress, the 
Broken Bow land district was created and the 
office established at Broken Bow, Nebraska. 
On April 24, 1890, Judge John Reese, of 
Broken Bow, was appointed the first register 
and Hon. James Whitehead, the first receiver, 
by President Harrison, and they both continued 
in their respective offices until July 1, 1894, 
when Hon. A.' J. Robertson, of this city, a 
son-in-law of Judge Reese, and Hon. Charles 
H. Adams, of Lincoln, were appointed, by 
President Cleveland, receiver and register, re- 
spectively. These officials both retained their 
positions for a term of four years, which ex- 
pired July 1, 1898. 


In change of administration from Cleveland 
to McKinley, Hon. James Whitehead, now of 
Emporia, Kansas, and Hon. F. H. Young,' of 
Broken Bow, were appointed by President Mc- 
Kinley, register and receiver, respectively. 
Mr. Young, at the close of his first four-year 
term, was reappointed for a second term, but 
at the expiration of about a half-year, owing 
to the necessary press of private business, re- 
signed his position early in 1903. On ]\Iarch 3. 
1903, the day of Mr. Young's resignation, 
Judge Reese again entered the federal service 
by being appointed receiver, by President 
Roosevelt. The Judge served as receiver and 
Mr. Whitehead as register until June 24, 1906. 

During the pe- 
riod b e t w e e n 
March 3, 1903, 
and August 1, 
19 06, Judge 
Reese was asso- 
ciated with Mr. 
Whitehead, who 
was register of 
the land office. 

( )n June 24. 
1 9 (), J u d g e 
Reese preferring 
the office of reg- 
ister, which he 
had for m e r 1 y 
held, was again 
appointed to that position, by President 
Roosevelt, upon the retirement of ]Mr. 
Whitehead. On the same date Hon. D. 
M. Amsberry was appointed receiver, by Presi- 
dent Roosevelt, to succeed Judge Reese, who 
had just vacated that position to assume the 
office of register. On the expiration of the 
official terms of Judge Reese and Mr. Ams- 
berry, on June 24, 1910. they were both re- 
appointed by President Taft. By this appoint- 
ment Judge Reese received his fourth com- 
mission to a four-year term in the Broken Bow 
land office and Mr. Amsberry his second com- 
mission. They served together as land office 
officials until Alay 1, 1916, when Mr. John P. 
Robertson, of Broken Bow, a son of former 
receiver Robertson, entered upon his duties as 




Tt J. 

^ « 

5 ^" ^ 



receiver to succeed Mr. Amsberry, to which 
office he was appointed April 10, 1916. by 
President Wilson. On June 24, 1916, Hon. 
M. C. Warrington, of Alason City, who was 
appointed register by President Wilson to 
succeed Judge Reese, assumed the duties of 
office, that date being just two years to a day 
after the expiration of Judge Reese's last four- 
years term. In jiassing it may be noted that 
from May 1, 1916, until June 24, 1916, Judge 
Reese and John P. Robertson held the offices 
of register and receiver, respectively, this be- 
ing the first instance in the history of the 
Land Department of the United States where 
a grandfather and grandson held the offices of 
register and receiver in the same office at the 
same time, one being a Republican and the 
other a Democrat. Judge Reese has the unique 
distinction of having held the positions of reg- 
ister and receiver of the United States land 
office under the administrations of five presi- 
dents for a period covering almost eighteen 
years in the same office. It is doubtful if this 
record has a parallel in the history of the land 
department of the United States. During this 
eighteen-year period, more than three millions 
of acres of government land have been taken 
by settlers as homesteads in the Broken Bow 
land district. Many hundreds of contests have 
been decided, involving the settler's title to his 
home, and on appeal not to exceed ten cases 
have been reversed by the department. Judge 
Reese and his associates in the land office have 
reason to be proud of the prominent part they 
have taken in the development of central and 
western Nebraska as federal officers in charge 
of these greatly responsible positions. For 
the disting-iiished gentlemen who have so 
worthily succeeded to these responsible posi- 
tions, namely, Hon. M. C. Warrington as reg- 
ister and J. P. Robertson as receiver, their 
many friends, with a confidence born of a 
knowledge of their merits, bespeak a continu- 
ance of the splendid record of honorable ser- 
vice that has been made by their predecessors 
in the land department of the federal govern- 


As a result of the passage of the congres- 

sional measure known as the Kinkaid bill, 
more than two million acres of land were 
tlirown open to homesteads under provision by 
which entrvman was entitled to 640 acres of 
land. .\ ruling of the general land office at 
Washington provided that any homesteader 
already on land entered prior to June 28, 1904, 
was entitled to adjacent land enough to make 
640 acres, and to such holders a thirty-day 
preference was allowed in which to make 
filing. All the rest was open to the entryman 
first coming. 

This caused a land stampede that is still 
remembered by the people of Broken Bow 
and also by all who secured land at that time. 
The following from the Custer County Cliicf 
gives a faithful account of the event : 

Broken Bow already shows unmistakable 
evidence of a big rush which is to be on in 
this city next Tuesday, when the time arrives 
for making homestead entries under the new 
Kinkaid bill. There have for the past several 
days been from fifty to one hundred strangers 
in the city constantly, to get pointers in regard 
to the grand rush. The land office has been 
unusually busy preparing for the work that 
is coming, and re])orts from the county clerks 
of adjoining counties show that a very large 
number of entries will be made. There is con- 
siderable speculation as to how the crowd will 
be taken care of by the land office, and what 
method will be adopted in regard to making 
entries. It is expected that there will be at 
least one thousand people in line when the 
land office opens next Tuesday morning. In 
nearly all land rushes of this kind a large 
number of pickpockets and thugs make their 
appearance, and on this occasion our people 
will be protected by government detectives and 
an increased force of deputy sherift's and depu- 
ty police. The town will be well policed from 
now on until the rush is over. In the mean- 
time, however, it would be well for our citi- 
zens and visiting people to take a little extra 


Hundreds of people clamor to make entries 
under the new homestead law. Broken Bow 
displayed considerable activity for some days 
prior to June 28th, at which time the Kinkaid 
homestead law took effect, under which law 
it is possible for one man to acquire 640 acres 
by homestead right. As early as the fore part 
of last week strangers from all parts of the 
countrv began to arrive in town. ]\Ianv of 



them would make inquiries in regard to the 
workings of the new law and would then go 
into the district where the vacant land was 
situated, make their selection, and then wait 
for the grand opening. Those who had prefer- 
ence rights, by which they had thirty days to 
take land adjoining their present homesteads, 
were resting easy, but those who were after 
sections of land where they knew about half 
a dozen parties more were endeavoring to get 
filings -on the same piece were, of course, un- 
easy and endeavoring to get what advantage 
was possible. On Monday morning people be- 
gan to get their entry papers made out and 
until the early hours of Tuesday morning ev- 
ery attorney in JJroken Bow was snowed under 
with business. As early as five o'clock on 
Monday evening people began to form in line 
at the foot of the land ofifi:e stairs and started 
in on the long wait until the land office opened 
at nine o'clock Tuesday, that they might be 
in line to make early entries. In this they were 
disapi^ointed, for at eight o'clock Register 
Whitehead and Receiver Reese gave out the 
word that no line would be recognized until 
eight o'clock the next morning, and it was 
with reluctance that the hundreds of people 
who had maintained the line for two or three 
hours gave way. 


By daylight on Tuesday morning the crowd 
began to gather and by eight o'clock nearly 
two thousand people, attracted there through 
curiosity or through a desire to make entries, 
congregated about the land office, eager to 
have the line formed. In the meantime Gov- 
ernor Mickey was asked to permit the militia 
company to assist in maintaining the line of 
march. \\'hile no trouble was experienced 
and the crowd was nothing but a great big, 
good-natured, jolly lot of people, yet it was 
difficult to handle them without plenty of as- 
sistance, and for this reason it was that the 
militia could be of material help. Governor 
Mickey, after some delay and a good deal of 
telegraphing, gave his consent to the militia 
boys assisting, and after a half-hour's work 
in lining the people up, the filings commenced, 
the first one going over the counter at prompt- 
ly nine o'clock. It was a curious sight, old 
men, old women, some of whom were eightv 
years of age, young men and young women, 
just past their majority, cowboys, farmers, 
business and professional men, ladies in plain 
dress and ladies in silks, waiting for their 
chance to take a section of Uncle Sam's land. 
As the day wore away, many people becairie 
tired and would grasp at chances to buy 

boxes to sit down on : many of them were 
fortunate enough to have umbrellas, but most 
of them did not. and could not leave the line 
to procure these comforts unless they had a 
friend who could hold their place for them. 
The cit\' officials furnished the crowd with 
water and the restaurant people sold sand- 
wiches, pies, lemonade, pop, cigars, etc. It 
was an interesting sight to go down the line. 
Some people were playing cards, others ar- 
guing politics, others making burlesque stump- 
speeches, and many of them singing old fa- 
miliar hymns. 


At three o'clock in the afternoon numbered 
cards, each bearing the name of the holder and 
countersigned by the register and receiver, 
were issued, and the people broke ranks, and 
were admitted to the land office as their num- 
bers were called. When the people found 
that they were to be turned loose with num- 
bers one enthusiastic gang started up "Praise 
God from Whom All Blessings Flow." The 
first hour about twenty people were taken 
care of, after that an average of twenty-five 
entries were made per hour. While the line 
was being formed an occasional favorable 
position would command five or ten dollars. It 
seems strange to some that people should be 
so anxious to secure this land wliich has been 
open to settlement for years past. If it had 
any particular value it would have been taken 
long ago in the same manner that other gov- 
ernment land was taken. Some of it is of 
value, owing entirely to its location in con- 
necting land owned by an individual or com- 
pany on either side. It is the general impres- 
sion that more land was entered in this grand 
rush than will be proved up on. The vacant 
land in the Broken Bow land district at the 
time of the passage of the law comprises about 
two million acres, the amount in each county 
being as follows : 

Blaine 219,912 

Brown 141,856 

Cherrv 51.=; .020 

Custer 20.843 

Grant 178.149 

Hooker 316.158 

Logan 140.804 

:\rcPherson 275.'>:»1 

Thomas 245,266 


During ten days over one thousand ap]>li- 
cations for homesteads under the new Kin- 
kaid law. were filed in the land office at 
Broken Bow. Six hundred of these were made 



at the land office and four hundred were re- 
ceived by mail. The land officers and their 
force of clerks have been putting in long hours 
checking over these entries, and have passed 
on about five Iiundred and fifty of them. Of 
this number one hundred and tifty have been 
rejected. From now on the work of check- 
ing entries will be slower, owing to more 
complications arising, and it is e-xpected that 
it will take ten days to complete the work. 
The land officers are to be congratulated in 
handling this work as rapidly as they have. 


In October of 1913 the government land 
in the military reserve of Niobrara and the 
forest reserve of IMcPherson county were 
opened to settlers, and Broken Bow in this 
county was one of the land offices at which 
registrations were made. The following from 
the local newspaper gives a good description 
of the event: 

The _ Saturday and Sunday preceding the 
opening of the registration was one of un- 
usual activity about town. People had begun 
to arrive early in the week and by Saturday 
night there were over five hundred strangers 
in town. The night trains brought in more, 
as did also those of Sunday morning, so 
that there must have been fully one thousand 
strangers in town during Sunday. By the 
time the last train load was emptied Sunday 
night, a few minutes preceding the opening, 
the number of people waiting to register prob- 
ably exceeded fifteen hundred. The first es- 
timate placed the number at twelve hundred, 
but later figures proved this to be too low. 

Sunday was a beautiful day and the people 
passed the time by strolling about, lounging 
in the park and going sightseeing. ]\Iany 
viewed the fair grounds and viewed the 
wreckage caused by the tornado of last Thurs- 
day. In fact there were several hundred who 
paid their respects to the defunct buildings 
and carried away souvenirs in the shape of 
splinters, small pieces of board or any other 
odds and ends they could find. The crowd 
was quiet and orderly and appeared to have 
no inclination to indulge in boisterous con- 
duct. Early in the day some interest was 
taken in a lady who planted herself in a chair 
in front of the registration booth and gave 
out that she intended remaining there until 
the doors opened, at twelve o'clock that night. 
There seemed to be some mystery attached to 

her at first, especially as she appeared reti- 
cent about giving her name, excusing herself 
with the plea that she was not seeking news- 
paper notoriety. Her reticence, however, was 
finally overcome and she turned out to be 
Dr. Allie B. W'einer, a prominent suffragette 
from Lincoln. Later in the day Dr. Weiner 
was persuaded to vacate her post and, during 
the evening she favored the waiting crowd 
with a spirited lecture on the suffrage ques- 
tion, which was well received. 

In the meantime, the crowd kept growing 
larger and hundreds of people were endeav- 
oring to locate the best points of vantage. 
The police were kept busy trying to form a 
regular line and keep the people in it. As 
the hour of midnight approached, the excite- 
ment grew intense, although there was little 
or no disturbance. At intervals the crowd 
would relieve its emotions by joining in a 
popular chorus someone had started ; at other 
times it would roar forth some well known 
hymn. Many women were scattered among 
the ranks and joined their voices with the 

Within the registration bootli the notaries 
were placing themselves behind the long coun- 
ter and preparing for a busy night. Over 
all Judge. Humphrey kept a fatherly eye, and 
thoughtfully chewed the end of his cigar as 
he looked through the glass doors at the sea 
of faces on the outside and speculated on just 
how many twenty-five cent pieces would jingle 
through the cashier's window during the 
night's rush. Sheriff Joe Wilson perched him- 
self on the railing within the entrance, while 
several burly officers spread themselves across 
the entrance on the outside to keep the crowd 
in order. 

A small clock belonging to one of the no- 
taries chimed the hour of twelve. Judge Hum- 
phrey gave a last word of instruction. Sheriff 
Joe Wilson shouted: "Let her go," and the 
rush was on. The first to register was Dr. 
Allie E. Weimer, of Lincoln, the lady who 
had occupied the chair for the best part of 
the day; the second was Miss Emily Robert- 
son, a Broken Bow young lady. Both of these 
ladies were registered by Miss Emma Scott, 
secretary of the notaries' association. 

The first men to enter the door were two 
veterans of the Civil war, their names being 
respectively Almond Burgess, of Johnson 
county. Missouri, formerly of the Second Iowa 
regiment, and James Clayton, of Hamburg, 
Iowa, formerly of the Twenty-fifth Missouri 
regiment. Both of the veterans were extreme- 
ly hopeful and signified their intentions of 
becoming sturdy homesteaders if they were so 



fortunate as to make a winning. The third 
man to register was Dr. A. X. Horn, a 
dentist of E-xeter, Nebraska. The last named 
registered quickly and was really the first of 
the trio to drop his envelope in the box. 

All night long the stream of people kept 
up, the applicants entering by the front door, 
selecting any disengaged notary, registering 
and passing out the back door into the alley. 
By the time the first rush was over the morn- 
ing trains arrived bringing in another batch 
and it was the same story over again, with 
this exception, that tliere was a change of shifts 
among the notaries and the tired ones had a 
chance to go home and sleep. 

Xor were the trains the only conveyances 
bringing in landseekers. Autos galore glided 
into town all hours of the day and night and 
from all parts of the country. Up to the date 
of this issue, over three hundred and fifty cars 
have brought people to Broken Bow for the 
purpose of registering. One citizen taking a 
trip east of here Wednesday forenoon, counted 
in two hours, 102 autos headed in this direc- 
tion, and he missed a few at that, when he 
turned his head to spit. Let all come who 
want ; Broken Bow has ample accommoda- 
tions and can feed and shelter an unlimited 
number of people. The Burlington took care 
of the traffic in a manner that called forth 
the highest praise, and between it and the 
excellent town facilities there was no dis- 
comfort at any period of the rush. 

During the twelve days the registration 
lasted, the Broken Bow authorities handled 
over 32,000 applicants. For the protection of 
the crowd, most of whom were strangers, everv 
precaution was taken. The eating houses did 
not advance the price of meals and every pri- 
vate house in town contributed one or more 
rooms. The train service was so organized, 
however, that no one was required to remain 
in town over night unless they so elected. .\ 
large tent office was erected in the street and 
maintained as a bureau of information. W. L. 
Gaston had charge of this bureau and or- 
ganized an able corps of assistants, who were 
on duty day and night and left nothing undone 
for the comfort of the strangers. 


The s])lendid organization of the notaries. l)y 
which they handled the crowd as fast as they 
arrived, can not be too highly praised. Thcv 
were accommodating and very efficient. Their 
names are as follows: I. A. Reneau. Broken 
Bow; M. M. Leonard. Anselmo : M. M. Ruii- 
yan. Mason City; W. B. Eastham, liroken 

Bow; Emil Gschwind, Broken Bow; Robert 
F^arley. Milburn; Dale P. Stough. Broken 
Bow : Mabel Darnell, Broken Bow ; H. H. 
Andrews, Callaway; J. C. Moore. Broken 
Bow ; James A. Kirk, Broken Bow : E. House, 
Broken Bow ; A. R. Humphrey, Broken Bow ; 
John S. McGraw, Broken Bow ; A. J. Wat- 
kins. Oconto ; Ross G. Moore. Broken Bow ; 
Frank P. Knox, Arnold; J. Thull. Ansley ; J. 
M. Fodge, Broken Bow; Charles H. Holcomb, 
Broken Bow ; Emery F. Bush, Broken Bow ; 
Arthur \^^ Holcomb". Broken Bow ; E. S. Hol- 
comb. Broken Bow ; B. C. Empfield, Broken 
Bow ; E. Taylor, Broken Bow ; Charles L. 
Gutterson, Broken Bow ; Willis Cadwell, Bro- 
ken Bow ; C. L. Bennett, Broken Bow ; R. D. 
Pickett, Broken Bow ; H. F. Hanson, Broken 
Bow : J. E. Ferguson. Broken Bow ; A. B. 
Cornish. Lodi ; Prank Kelley. Merna : Emma 
Scott, Ansley. 

The land office was represented by Register 
John Reese; Receiver D. M. Amsberry ; W. 
L. Lovelace, and Leo Poole. 


From the beginning of settlements post- 
offices were in demand and. as noted elsewhere, 
were located in an early day so as to give 
best possible service to the scattered settlers. 
Some of the names selected for early post- 
offices were so peculiar and seemed to have 
been arranged with so much of design that 
we stop to record a few of them. In 1880 
was established in the present vicinity of Calla- 
way a postoffice which was named "Letup." 
In June. 1884, on what is to-day called the 
Stop Table, a postoffice was established called 
"Stop." In August of the same year another 
postoffice was established and called "Over." 
In November, 1890, on the West Table, a 
postoffice was established and given the de- 
lightful name of "Rest." Taken altogether 
these four postoffices, in the order in which 
they were established, read. Letup. Stop, Over, 
and Rest. 

None of them is in existence to-day. Ira 
Ciraves was the ])ostmaster of "Letup." He 
had the name changed to Delight. Later it 
was changed to Grant and then, in August, 
1886. it was changed to Callaway. "Stop" 
was discontinued ten years after its estab- 
lishment. "Over" was discontinued in 1907. 
"Rest" lasted until .August. 1906. 


No Settlement in the County — The Buffalo Bill Tree — The First Home — Who 
WAS the First Homesteader? — Lewis R. Dowse First Settler — Frank Ohme was 
First j\L-\n to File — The First Comers — More for Douglas Grove — New Helena 
Homesteaders — Discover Cedar Canyon — -Establishes First Postoffice — The Be- 
ginning of Lee's Park — A Fine Stock Breeder — A Signal Service Man — Spen- 
cer's Park — Mauk was a Gay Bachelor — Now They Come to Lillian — Settling in 
^Ierna Valley — A Bunch of Iowans Arrive — An Impromptu Reception — Settling 
IX Custer Center — Down in Ash Creek A'ali.ev — ■ How Custer County Got Bob 
Hunter — They Fill up the Table — First of the Deep Wells — Settlers Come to 
Dale — LoHR Runs Some Store — IMore About Lillian — Down on the Redfern 
Table — Plenty of Room in a Small H(3use — An Accommodating Englishman — Too 
AIany Roosters for Ream and Jeffords — Settlement of Georgetown — Help Your- 
self — "Getting IN Bad" — Custer County Pioneer Honored — Pelham Stretches 
the Quilt — A Flock of Bachelors — Gibbonites on the Loup — Find an Old Dug- 
out — Twin Fawns at the Centennial — Would not Stand for the Name 
— The Haumonts — Where Broken Now Stands — Early Days: 
Hard Times — One of the Old Settlers 

The transition period between the white 
man and the Indian is always a very interest- 
ing period in the development of a new coun- 
try, but it is one that affords little comfort to 
the historian who covets accuracy. Records 
are scarce if. in fact, there be any at all; 
treacherous memories and conflicting state- 
ments are about the sum total of obtainable 
material. The best that can be done is to give 
tlie general narrative and let the old settlers 
supply the details. 

no settlement in county 

The present state surveyor, Robert Harvey, 
who with his party surveyed the principal lines 
of this county in 1872, says: 

"There was not a settler in Custer county 
tl'iat we observed, and the only evidence no- 
ticed of an intention to settle was in section 
26, township 18 north, range 17 west, in the 
south end of the Oak Grove, close to Rock 

creek, where we found four logs cut and laid 
up for the foundation of a cabin, and on a 
blazed oak tree nearby was the notice in pencil 
of 'Buflfalo Bill's' claim of intention to file. It 
was dated in June and my recollection is that 
it was on the anniversary of the battle of Bun- 
ker Hill." 

In 1873 and 1874 the first settlements were 
made. During that period several parties came 
up from the Grand Island country, or perhaps 
a little farther east, and settled in the Middle 
Loup valley, — Lee's Park and the present 
New Helena. Other families came up from 
the south, filtering through Kearney, Lexing- 
ton, then called Plum Creek, and made settle- 
ment in the South Loup valley. It was in 
these localities that Custer county settlements 
began. Some of the settlers were married 
men who brought their families with them and 
were therefore ready as soon as possible to 
establish some kind of a home. Whether a 




dugout, a log house, or sod house, it didn't 
matter. If four walls could be erected or 
dug out. and a roof constructed over them, it 
was home and in it home life began. 


A tree in the vicinity of Douglas Grove 
bore for years the name, "William Cody, 
1869," cut deep into its shaggy bark, showing 
that "Bufifalo Bill" had camped here on some 
of his hunting or scouting trips. Opposite the 
grove were three large pine trees, standing 
four miles back from the river. Two of them 

Brri-WLO Rill whkn a Hunter in Nebraska 

were cut in the winter of 1873, taken to Loup 
City and sawed into boards, which were taken 
to Omaha and Lincoln as an advertisement for 
Kounlz county pioneers. In 1880 the last of 
the three pine trees disappeared. They had 
stood for years, faithful sentinels in the dreary 
sand hills — a guide for the weary hunter to 
his camp. All the early settlers miss that last 
lone pine, which could be seen for miles on 
either side of the river. None but a tender- 
foot could have destroyed the last remaining 
relic of early times. Owing to the fact that 
Cody"s name was found carved on this tree, 
the story became current that Cody had located 
a claim within the boundaries of the county. 
There is nothing to substantiate the claim. 


Who had the first home in Custer county? 
That is one of the many interrogations no 
historian can answer. During the early '60s 
trappers and hunters often visited the country 
but it is not known that any of them had per- 
manent stopping places. Perhaps some of 
them ]5ut up rude shelters. Init they were noth- 
ing more than shelters. Out south and west 
of Callaway, on the old Finch-Hatton ranch, 
was located what is probably the first white 
man's abode of any kind ever established in 
the county. Old settlers tell us that in 1872 
the remains of a demolished dugout were dis- 
covered in this locality and at that time it 
gave evidence of having been abandoned at 
least ten years. The excavation and side wall 
were clearly demarked and no mistake could 
be made concerning the fact that it was made 
for a human occupant. Beyond doubt, then, 
this was the first home in Custer county. As 
the proprietor was never at home to any of 
his neighbors, or rather did not wait until his 
neighbors movtd into the country, his name 
will never be recorded in these pages. 


There has always been more or less dispute 
concerning the first homesteader who filed on 
land within the boundaries of Custer county. 
I'.oth the South and Middle Loup countries 
have, with more or less insistence, laid claim 
to the distinction. Both Douglas Grove and 
the Xew Helena district make claims to this 
distinction, and it has been rather hard to 
harmonize all these claims and assertions. 
15utcher's history gives the honor to Edward 
Douglas, of Douglas Grove, to whom this 
volume gives third place. Great pains have 
been taken to ascertain the facts in the case. 
The dift'erent claims have always been main- 
tained, no one took the trouble to search rec- 
ords and ascertain when these different parties 


Tlie honors of being the first bona-fide settler 
belong, without doubt, to Lewis R. Dowse, 
who came into the coimtv and settled in the 



Middle Loup valley in August, 1873. He 
brought with him his breaking plow, reaper, 
and mower. He put up hay, did some break- 
ing, and settled on the homestead where he 
now resides. He did not file on his land at 
the time he located, but held it by squatter's 
right until such time as he had the money 
to make homestead entry. Accordingly Dowse 
is the first settler but was not the first to file 
on Custer county land. Before he could make 
entry of his land several others had filed home- 
stead claims. 


Frank Ohme, who settled over on the east 
county line and whose address is Arcadia, in 
\'alley county, is beyond doubt the man who 
filed on the first claim in Custer county and the 
second place goes to Edward Douglas, who is 
championed by the Douglas Grove people, and 
for whom Douglas Grove was named. As a 
matter of fact, there is only three weeks' differ- 
ence between the times of their filing. Frank 
Ohme filed January 26, 1874, and his filing 
number at the land otifice was serial 4728. 

Edward Douglas filed February 16, 1874, 
and his serial number was 4972. This puts 
twenty-one days between the entry of Frank 
Ohme and that of Edward Douglas, and we 
believe it definitely settles the question of 

The next entry found in the land office 
records is that made by Joseph A. Woods, 
March 21, 1874. Ten days later he was fol- 
lowed by Daniel Wagner, who filed May 1, 
1874. The next name on the land office record 
is Patrick Kelly, May 5th of the same year, 
and this is as far down the column of entries 
as it is profitable to go. 


We quote W. D. Hall as authority for 
Douglas Grove settlements and they were 
among the first, if not the first, in the county. 

The third claim taken in what is now Cus- 
ter county was in what is known as Oak Grove, 
and was entered February 16, 1874, by Ed- 
ward Douglas, who died the following sum- 
mer, at Loup City. For him the town was 

named. W. H. Comstock settled here in the 
spring of 1874, with D. J. Caswell, Sam 
Wagoner, B. D. Allen, James Oxford, E. D. 
Eubank, C. A. Hale, A. E. Denis, and Thomas 
Darnell. A. A. Higgins came in the spring 
of 1875 and brought with him a family of 
twelve, which greatly added to the population 
of the little settlement. Mr. Higgins was a 
patriarch of the gospel, a staunch upholder of 
the teachings of Wesley, and it was under 
his roof that Elder Lemin, the pioneer of 
Methodism in Nebraska, preached the first 
Methodist sermon and held the first quarterly 
conference in the county. 

Frank Ingram bought from the heirs of 
Edward Douglas the Oak Grove claim in 1875. 
Oak Grove is a beautiful place. The country 
around is rough and rugged in the extreme, 
and is well known to all the old settlers on 
the Loup. 


Douglas Grove received its full share of the 
pioneer inflow until 1884, when practically all 
government land was occupied. The first 
settler in Dry valley was James Wagoner, who 
settled on what is now the Len Town place, 
in 1878. Frank Muthic took the next claim, 
followed by N. W. Alberts, Dewitt Konklin, 
W. Bener, J. W. Scott, John Campbell, the 
Amos family, Brumbaugh family, Joe Armour, 
J Roth, John Jems, the Twombly family, 
Worley brothers, Mr. Mattox, S'wanson broth- 
ers, C. Collier, A. Kohn, W. Newcomb, L. L. 
Wood, James Boggs, Mr. Bowers, and others 
who have made Dry valley a neighborhood of 
permanence and thrift. 

M. E. Vandenberg located at the mouth of 
Sand Creek in 1878; the Payne ranch was 
located in Dry valley in 1880 and has been 
since 1884 the property of S. L. Glover and 
sons : Charley Hill located in 1880 on Wagoner 

To do justice to those who helped to make 
the history of Douglas Grove in its first de- 
cade, we mention the three Mickle brothers 
and their families, the Glazier family, I. C. 
Buck, John Stewart, the Stevens family, the 
Cleveland familv, W. Hudson, Dewitt Com- 






stock, W. S. House, H. H. Mcintosh, H. G. 
Stockes, J. A. Kenyon, G. E. Whitcomb, W. 
D. Hall, J. H. Walton, W. C. Caddish, and 
W. P. Higgins, who twice has represented the 
county in the state legislature. 

Captain Comstock, B. D. Allen, and Sher- 
man Wagoner hoinesteaded in the Douglas 
Grove country in the spring of 1874. Captain 
Comstock remained in the country till the time 
of his death, a few years since, and became 
one of the noted characters of the community, 
— one whose life history is interwoven with 
the story of Custer county and its develop- 


In the spring 
of 1874 C. R. 
jNIathews, who 
still lives upon 
his homestead 
in the New 
Helena district, 
organized a 
party of \"ir- 
ginians for the 
invasion of 
Custer county. 
The party con- 
sisted of him- 
self, C. R. Ma- 
thews, Amos Broughan. Watts Sifford, Harv 
Andrews, George Snyder and wife, William 
King. W. P. Tolley, J. H. Withers, and a man 
bv the name of Circle, whose first name is not 
recorded. They came by way of Omaha, 
Kearney, and Loup City into the Middle Loup 
country, fording the ^Middle Loup river 
where the old town of Wescott now stands. 
There were no roads, no lines of any kind, 
:io bridges, so they pushed their way over the 
])rairie. At Lillian creek they encountered a 
snow storm, wliich before the night was over 
became a blizzard. They had difficulty in 
crossing the stream, which was almost bank- 
full at the time, but they managed to reach 
the western bank, took oflf the wagon box and 
braced it up for protection from the storm. 

Harv Andrews "shinned" up a cottonwood 
tree, broke off dead limbs, and soon had a 
roaring camp-fire. The next morning, after 
the blizzard had subsided, they moved up to 
the mouth of \'ictoria creek, where they met 
trappers who described to them the Victoria 
valley. They followed the creek until they 
came to the present site of New Helena. Here 
too they found many evidences of trappers and 


Fortunately they found enough cedar logs 
and poles, which had formerly been used by 

trappers. to 
make bridge 
enough to get 
the wagon 
across \'ictoria 
c r e e k. after 
w h i c h the }' 
headed for the 
breaks and the 
hills in a north- 
westerly direc- 
tion. In about 
three miles and 
a half t h e \^ 
struck what is 
known in Cus- 
ter county at 
the Big Cedar 
canyon. The canyon was a dense forest 
of cedar and other trees. This timber was 
very valuable, and has furnished cedar logs 
for most of the early homes within a 
radius of twenty-five miles. Judge Matthews' 
present dwelling is made of cedar logs from 
this canyon, and consists of two log cabins 
place side by side with the doors fac- 
ing each other in old Virginia style. At the 
present time the logs in Judge Mathews' house, 
if sawed into lumber and sold for market value, 
would bring money enough to build as fine a 
home as could be found in Custer county, but 
the Judge prefers the old home and the old 
logs with which all the memories of early days 
are associated. The undergrowth in the can- 
\-on was so thick that it could hardly be pene- 

HisTOP.ic Residence of Judge C. R. Mathews, xe.\r Helena 
Buildings constructed of cedar logs 



trated, but pushing their way through they 
came to a clearing in the center of which stood 
an Indian wigwam. They experienced cold 
chills in the region of the spine, but their fears 
were groundless for the wigwam proved to 
be empty and in it they spent a very comfort- 
able night. After a few days spent in ex- 
ploring the country they returned to Loup 
City and proceeded to equip themselves for 
starting life on the Nebraska claim. 

Their return was the starting of the settle- 
ment. These settlers consisted of H. B. An- 
drews. Edward Nelson, Judge C. R. Mathews, 
George E. Carr, and O. A. Smith. The next 
winter Ezra A. Caswell and Thomas Lough- 
ran took claims further down the creek, near 
the Middle Loup. About this time Jacob Ross, 
with a large family of grown-up daughters, 
made a welcome addition to the community. 
In the next spring, 1875, N. H. Dryden and 
family, J. R. Forsythe, and J. P. Bell settled 
in the neighborhood. 


During the winter of 1874-5 C. R. Mathews, 
circulated a petition asking the authorities at 
Washington to establish a postoffice at New 
Helena, to be served by a post route from 
Kearney, via Loup City, Arcadia, and Douglas 
Grove. New Helena received the first mail by 
this arrangement on the 15th day of April, 
1875. Aaron Crouch brought the first mail 
and subsequently served as mail carrier for 
several years. The mail came but once a 
week, arriving and leaving on Saturdays. 
Mathews" commission as postmaster bears 
the date of February 9, 1875, during President 
Grant's administration. It locates New Hele- 
na in Kountz county, Nebraska. 


In September, 1874, James Lee, discovering 
a fertile valley in the eastern part of the 
county located on a central quarter-section, 
and made it his home. The following 
summer he entered the c|uarter on which he 
lived as a pre-emption, and also the adjoining 
quarter as a tree claim, under the old law 
which required forty acres of trees planted. 

This gave the name of Lee's Park to the valley. 
Although parties often passed through the 
park, no one seemed inclined to locate. Mr. 
Lee kept bachelor's hall in a sod house, and 
began to subdue the native soil. He evidently 
succeeded, as his first wheat crop of one acre 
testified. He obtained from it forty bushels 
of wheat, which is supposed to be the largest 
yield ever raised in the park. 

The following spring he continued his opera- 
tions on the farm, and planted some trees on 
his timber claim, but the grasshoppers again 
■found him, and ate up his corn crop, as well 
as his little trees. During these years, as 
hunters and adventurers passed through, they 
occasionally stopped at the bachelor's mansion, 
and the fact of his being the onlv settler, and 
working with his trees on his timber claim, 
caused the travelers to name the valley "Lee's 
Park." Here then this settler dwelt, year after 
year, in solitude — farming, planting trees, and 
doing his sewing, cooking, and washing. He 
tried to get others to locate, but no one volun- 
teered. Nearly four years had passed by, and 
his courage, which had remained firm for 
years, began to wane, with the result that he 
at last decided to leave his beautiful half-sec- 
tion of land. 

About this time, however, Frank Wright of- 
fered to locate in the park, providing Mr. Lee 
surrendered to him his pre-emption, on which 
was his house and well. This Mr. Lee agreed 
to do, and soon afterward !Mr. Wright started 
to claim his new possessions. On his way he 
fell in with some land-seekers who seemed to 
be headed for Lee's Park, so they went to- 
gether, and on arriving at -Mr. Lee's, Wright 
asked for the papers, which were immediately 
surrendered. Soon afterward, however, this 
Mr. Wright sold the place for twenty-five dol- 
lars to F. E. Morrison. These land-seekers 
were William and Joseph Murray, who, i'n 
February. 1878, took claims in the park, and 
their families arrived in May the same year. 
Soon after this, in March, Benjamin Knight 
located in the park. He then returned to his 
Wisconsin home to claim the hand of his "best 
girl," and together they journeyed to their 
frontier home. From this time on, settlers 



flocked in rapidly, and James Lee, no longer 
solitary, decided not to leave. His pre-emption 
right, however, being gone, he proceeded to tlie 
extreme end of the park and filed a 160-acre 
piece as a homestead, on the bank of a little 
stream afterward known as "Lee's creek." 

In July Messrs. Overton, Chandler True, 
Jay Hamlin, George Hamlin, Jr., E. Stephens, 
and William Van Alstine settled. In August 
T. J. Johnson and Amos Smith ; then followed 
Parish Freeman and his son Charles, William 
Hall, Joseph Peacock, and James Thompson. 
In 1879 Edward Knight, Philip Lynch, James 
Wisely, N. Mehrhofif, Nelson Potter, Sam Min- 
chell, and Mr. Abel located here. In 1880 
Thomas, David, and Archie Tod, F. E. ^lorri- 
son, and James Bradford, also Thomas, John, 
and Sam Berridge, who afterward commenced 
the importation of English shire horses, under 
the firm name of Berridge Brothers. They 
made three importations, among which were 
some very choice specimens of the breed. 


In 1881 J. L. H. Knight settled permanently 
here with his father, Edward Knight, and as 
this youngster was a lover of fine stock, he 
early sought an opportunity to obtain some 
thoroughbred hogs. His first purchase was in 
1885, and was a Poland-China pig. which cost 
him thirty dollars. Two years after this he 
purchased three head of Shorthorn cattle, and 
from that time he continued to show his belief 
in good blood by frequent purchases. He pur- 
chased 520 acres of his father and brother in 
the southern end of the park and named it 
"Pleasant Hill Stock Farm." Here he had 
choice specimens of Shorthorn cattle, Poland- 
China hogs, and the Plymouth Rock fowls. Al- 
though not confining himself exclusively to 
hogs, he made the raising of fine pigs a 
specialty and was often spoken of as the "hog 


In 1883 the fine section of school land in 
Lee's Park was put upon the market, and two 
brothers, C. A. and W. A. Forbes, energetic 
voung men, were fortunate enough to obtain 

160 acres. At the same time, J. L. H. Knight 
purchased the remaining 320 acres for W. S. 
Delano, who was then in the signal service 
and who was one of Mr. Knight's classmates 
in the Michigan Agricultural College. In 1886 
his term of enlistment expired, and very will- 
ing was he to leave the service of L'ncle 
Sam to engage in farming. He at once com- 
menced raising seeds for D. M. Ferry & Com- 
pany, of Detroit, Michigan. His two broth- 
ers, F. E. Delano and Milton Delano, shortly 
afterward entered iftto partnership with him, 
under the firm name of Delano Brothers. 

spencer's park 

Spencer's Park, located in township 16, range 
19 west, is comprised of about 3,600 acres of 
level land surrounded with hills, and opening 
in the Muddy valley by a narrow neck one 
and one-half miles northeast of the town of 
Berwyn, in Berwyn precinct. Its greatest 
length is three miles and its greatest width 
two miles, and it comprises some of the finest 
land in Custer county. The soil is of a black 
loam from three to six feet deep, underlaid 
with a fine light-colored clay from thirty to 
fifty feet in depth, and is particularly adapted 
to hold moisture in extreme drought, besides 
taking moisture readily. 

Probably the first home-seekers that looked 
over the park with a view of locating were 
George Early and Clark Wellman, who came 
from near Lincoln, in the fall of 1879. The 
former entered the southwest quarter of sec- 
tion 10 and the latter the east half of the 
northeast quarter of section 9, and west half of 
northwest quarter of section 10, but they did 
not make permanent settlement on the above 

The first permanent settler was Ira D. Spen- 
cer, with his family, in whose honor the park 
was named. They came from Jefiferson county 
in the usual way, with prairie schooner, driv- 
ing their cattle with them and having some 
thirty head. The family consisted of wife and 
three sons. On reaching Seneca, which is now 
called Westerville, on Clear creek, Mr. Spen- 
cer made his first stop and began looking 
around for a location. \\'hen he viewed S'pen- 



cer's Park he said. "This is good enough for 
me." and in the summer of 1880 he staked out 
a claim which was nearly in the center of the 
park, on the southeast quarter of section 10. 
He began to break the same and put up hay 
for the winter. The family lived on Clear 
creek during the winter, until the necessary 
preparations were made for their new home, 
which was a large sod house, the latch string 
of which was always on the outside for wears- 
travelers who chanced to come that way. 

I. E. Spencer, son of the above, entered 
the west half of the northeast quarter and the 
east half of the northwest quarter of section 
10. in May. 1881. Later he built a sod house, 
furnished it with a stove, bed. table, and a 
couple of soap-boxes for chairs, and began a 
bachelor's life in his sod shanty on his claim. 

In the fall of 1880 an old rnan by the name 
of Gaskell entered the northwest quarter of 
section 14 as a timber claim, and his son-in- 
law. H. Dorncn, entered the northeast quarter 
of section 13 as a homestead. They moved 
their families on their claims. But being un- 
prepared for the hard winter that followed, 
after losing all their stock, they abandoned their 
claims and sold their relinquishments, for 
twentv-fivc dollars aj^icce. to W. H. Mauk. 


Mauk entered the northeast quarter of sec- 
tion 1.^ as a homestead, the other as a timber 
claim, in May. 1881. In the following fall he 
made a dugout about eight by ten feet, covered 
with ])oIes. brush, and sod. and began house- 
keeping in earnest, as a bachelor. His fur- 
niture consisted of a stove, bed and bedding. 
one dishpan. one skillet, one breadpan. one 
coffeepot, two plates, two knives and forks, and 
one spoon. The sheet was spread over the 
bed in a slanting position to run the water 
and mud off when it rained. His time was 
about evenly divided between farming, going 
to the canyons for wood, and thinking which 
neighbor he would call on next to get a square 
meal. But the ]jlace to-day does not look 
like it did then. It has increased in value at 
least one lumdrcil fold and a frame house has 
taken the ])lace of the old sod. This was 

erected in the spring of 1888 and was the first 
frame house in the park. 

In the summer of 1881 H. J. Dupes settled 
on the northwest quarter. On December 15, 
with his wife and six children, he came from 
Jefferson county, Nebraska, and began improv- 
ing his farm, which is a very good one. He 
also entered the southeast quarter of section 
9, as a timber claim, which he sold in 1887, to 
Charles Kemp. 

Miss Julietta Wellman moved from Lincoln 
in 1881 and located on the east half of north- 
east quarter of section 9 and the west half 
of northwest quarter of section 10. as a home- 
stead. Later she built a sod house on it. made 
other improvements, and lived on it until she 
perfected her title. She went through all the 
hardships of frontier life, a great deal of the 
time living alone, which shows the grit and 
determination of the ladies who were among 
the first settlers of the park. She also filed 
on the southwest quarter of section 2 as a 
timber claim and improved both claims. 

Clark Wellman bought of George Early the 
relin(|uishment on the southwest quarter of 
section 10 and entered the same as a timber 
claim, in 1883, and later sold it to C>. B. Green- 

In the summer of 1882 Nathan Davidson 
came here from Tama county. Iowa, with his 
wife, three sons, and two daughters, and lo- 
cated on the southwest quarter of section 14. 
His oldest son, James, who also had a family, 
entered the southeast quarter of section 15 
which is to-day well improved and valuable 
land. His second son, Henry, homesteaded the 
northeast quarter of section 14. in the summer 
of 1883 and began "batching" on his claim, 
which added another settler. 

In the summer of 1883 R. W. Barton settled 
on the northwest quarter of section 4. He 
brought his family from Hamilton county. 
Nebraska, and settled on the northwest ex- 
tremity of the park, which is mostlv table land. 
Overlooking the park, it commanded a lieauti- 
ful view of the surrounding country. ISarton 
was a veteran of the Grand .\rmy of the Re- 
]iublic and later was elected justice of the 
peace. He was among the foremost in or- 



ganizing schools, laying out roads, and im- 
proving and building up the country. 

In the spring of 1884 Peter Rapp moved 
with his family from near Lincoln, Nebraska, 
and settled on the southeast quarter of section 
4. as a timber claim. He came with horses, 
machinery, and a herd of cattle and has made 
very rapid improvements. His first residence 
was a dugout. The stables were built of sod. 

In the spring of 1884 C. Coswell located on 
the northwest quarter of section 3 and led a 
bachelor's life, made some improvements and 
then sold out, in 1889. The place has changed 
hands a good many times. 


Probably the first men who ever looked 
ufwn this valley with a serious idea of pos- 
session were J. M. and H. A. Goheen and 
William H. Gwinn. They located their claims, 
made a "dugout," cut some hay, and prepared 
for winter. Some time during that fall John 
W. Goheen, a brother of the first arrivals, came 
with their parents, quite old people, who had 
been pioneers in the settlement of western 
Pennsylvania. The aged couple, full of the 
fire of youth, were delighted with the new- 
found earthly paradise and soon filed on a 
homestead, which they occupied until the death 
of the aged James Goheen. which occurred in 
August, 1887. 

The greatest obstacle to the settlement of 
these table-lands as yet, was the great depth 
to good water. Many of the first settlers along 
the streams had seen and admired this valley, 
but they did not dare venture too far from 
the running water. The Goheen boys were' 
fortunate enough to secure the services of two 
settlers north of the Middle Loup river, 
Charles Bishop and Burton Gates, who owned 
a rig for putting down tubular wells. They 
were successful in obtaining a bountiful supply 
of good water at a depth of eighty to one 
hundred feet, piercing a soft manganese rock 
and finding water in gravel just beneath. Dur- 
ing the summer of 1881 the Goheen boys built 
comfortable sod houses, preparatory to moving 
their families to their new homes. 

The next settler to make his appearance 

was J. E. Gwinn. William Gwinn had re- 
turned to Nemaha county to remove his cattle 
to the rich grazing grounds of the west, and, 
uniting their little herds these two, accom- 
panied by D. H. Gwinn, on his tenderfoot ex- 
ploring expedition, started April 17, 1882, with 
forty head of cattle, an emigrant wagon and 
a herd of ponies. They were twenty-two days 
making the journey. 

Some idea of the seclusion of this valley at 
this time may be gained from the fact that 
while J. E. Gwinn was engaged in breaking 
fifty acres on his claim in the summer of 1882 
he saw only two travelers, and one of these 
had lost his way. 

In October, 1882, came J. O. Bates with his 
son, J. M., and daughter, Susie, all prospect- 
ing for land that they found to their liking 
adjoining the new settlement. The next spring 
J. M. Bates removed from Omaha with all his 
effects, to his future home. A. G. Page and 
wife, from Vermont, also the parents of Mrs. 
J. M. Bates, arrived with the Bates family, and 
settled in section 19. Mr. Bates provided him- 
self with a large tent, sufficient to shelter the 
whole party. On their arrival it was pitched 
on the claim of Susie Bates and became the 
temporary home of the party, while more per- 
manent buildings were being erected on their 
respective claims. All went merrily enough 
in their Arab-like mode of existence until the 
latter part of May, when one day there came 
the most furious rain and wind storm ever 
yet seen in this locality, and when the storm 
was at its height the tent was lifted from 
over their heads and left them to the mercy 
of the raging elements. Bedding, pans of 
milk, wearing apparel, and sundry other un- 
mentionables suddenly sought wonderful af- 
finity for each other, and uniting, attempted to 
form a new compound. Bedrenched, be- 
draggled, and almost drowned, the occupants 
thus suddenly rendered homeless, dodged and 
cowered, and grasped at straws in the way of 
shelter until the brief deluge was over. Then, 
with more haste than grace, they sought shel- 
ter, bag and baggage, in the bachelor quarters 
of William Gwinn. a single room, about ten 
bv twelve feet. One end of the room was 



devoted to a range of trunks, boxes, and bed- 
ding from the ceiling to the floor, a stove in 
one corner, a table and some chairs, — and 
where could the eleven animated beings find 
a resting place for their wet feet ? Picture the 
inter-faniily dinner according to your imagina- 
tion. As for sleeping arrangements, they con- 
sisted of the airy apartments on wheels, ii: 
which the men folks sought niglitly repose. 

C. E. Bates, a young son, reached his ma- 
jority some time later, and filed on a pre-emp- 
tion in section 27 . 

Two young Englishmen, E. E. Bird and 
Arthur Clark, built their sod houses in the 
autumn of 1882. Clark soon tired of home- 
steading and returned to England. Bird also 
sold his claim and removed to another part 
of the neighborhood, a few miles distant. The 
purchaser of the claim was T. A. Leisure, who 
resided there for years, and if Clark should 
return he would hardly recognize the farm 
which has taken the place of the raw prairie 
he bartered away. 

Clark had, also, a tree claim which was pur- 
chased from Jabez Bowman, from Cass county, 
Nebraska, and Bird had one which was bought 
by A. G. Bowman. Jabez's father. Clark re- 
ceived a horse from this quarter, which is now 
valued at eight thousand dollars. Charles 
Bowman purchased E. E. Bird's homestead 
and converted it into a fine farm. 

Some of the settlers who did not prove to 
be permanent ones were Charles and Amos 
Meeker, David Daniels, and E. B. Bartlett. 
During 1884 came also Joseph Pickner. 

Thomas ^laupin, a worthy old gentleman 
from Iowa, came with his family the same 
spring and filed on a part of sections 27 and 
34. On the western extremity of the little 
settlement had happened a great event which 
must not be overlooked. 

In the spring of 1883 F. M. DuPray and 
wife made their appearance with a large family 
of grown-up daughters. It seemed like the 
advent of full civilization to the wilds of 
Lillian Park. Lonely bachelors hung up their 
flapjack pans, scraped the dough from their 
pantaloons, and hastened to see if Mr. Du- 
Pray was, as reputed, a blacksmith, and to con- 

sult him about breaking plows, other farming 
implements, etc. The result was that several 
of the bachelors were made happy and several 
new homes were founded instead of the mere 
staying places, as formerly. Among these 
were H. A. Goheen, on section 31, and Fred 
Frances, on section 30, where he began the 
task of redeeming 160 acres of land from the 
power of the "Great American Desert." 

Joseph Chrisman, the patriarch of another 
large family of sons and daugliters, and .Abra- 
ham-like, a keeper of a large herd of cattle, 
with complete gypsy outfit, began in the spring 
of 1883 a gradual progress toward the "Loup 
country" from Nemaha county. He found a 
large, fine stock location about the headwaters 
of Lillian creek, section 3 — 18 — 20. It is not 
likely that he or his family will ever forget 
the trials of their first winter here, a severe 
one, and, being inexperienced in the usages 
of Custer county blizzards, the shelter and 
feed provided for their stock were insufficient 
and many head perished, though since then 
prosperity has smeared itself all over the old 
pioneer in great dabs, and a large increase has 
blessed his eflforts. 

I\Iary E. Howard, a widow lady, with her 
daughter, settled in section 32, and bravely 
went to work to make a home. She succeeded 
in bringing thirty acres under cultivation, 
mostly her own labor. 

Rasmus Schritsmier located during 1884 and 
began industriously to con(|uer the prairie sod 
and fit the soil for crops. 


Some time in the year of 1882 a prairie 
schooner camped for the night on the site 
where afterward the town of Merna was built. 
The travelers attached to the one-wagon cara- 
\-A\\ were a young lady by the name of Villa 
Ong and her cousin, a young man from some- 
where in the east. The next morning they 
hitched up the team and drove about six miles 
u]i the valley, where one of their horses lay 
down and died. This compelled the two 
travelers to proceed on foot to where Mr. Ira 
Ong. the young lady's father, had a cattle 
rancli. in what is now the Keota district. 




W. G. Brotherton, who was destined to be 
one of the pioneer spirits of Custer county, 
had settled in Merna valley early in 1882, 
and in his sod house on the night referred to 
in the paragraph above, Gilbert Hogue and 
Joseph A. Kellenbarger were all-night guests. 
Kellenbarger and Brotherton had been ac- 
quaintances in Iowa previously to the exodus 
to Nebraska. Kellenbarger and Hogue were 
in quest of land, and the next morning Broth- 
erton and his team were at their disposal. 
Both were .young, with ambitious dreams of 
life, and the job of tackling raw prairie and 
transforming it into an improved farm and 
comfortable home meant little to them. They 
made their land se- 

lections and 
back to Iowa 
their families 
other friends. 


\l'hoto by S. D. Butcher] 

C. p. Foote's Old Pioneer House at Merna 
Mr. Foot, at this time, was sheriff of Custer county 


On the ninth day 
of April, 1883, late 
in the afternoon, a 
small train of prai- 
rie schooners pulled 
up at the old town 
of Merna, where 
W. G. Brotherton 
wasboth postmaster 
and merchant. D. 

O. Luce, who was a proprietor of a wood 
yard, was the rest of the town. The 
schooners were loaded with Iowa people 
who had come to stay. They were after land, 
and in that day there was land for everybody. 
The party consisted of O. G. Gordon, War- 
ren Gordon and his three small children, — 
Lelia, who is now Mrs. W. G. Brotherton, of 
Fora, Arthur county, where they are still 
pioneering and conducting a postoffice, and Lee 
and Arthur, who are now prominent citizens 
of the new town of Merna. — John Cosner, 
wife and one small child, a Mr. Graham, wife 
and three small children, Gilbert and Edward 
Hogue, Ben Kellenbarger and family, Joseph 
Kellenbarger and his family of four small chil- 

dren. They did not all hail from the same 
place, but they had arranged to come together, 
and when they reached Merna, which was to 
be their stopping place, they had been nine 
days on the trail. During that time they 
formed acquaintanceships that bind them to- 
gether still and will never be forgotten. 


As soon as the wagons were sighted by the 
few settlers of the vicinity of the little village 
they began to come in from all directions upon 
some pretext or other. The principal object, 
of course, was a pardonable curiosity to find 
out who the newcomers were, and in open- 
hearted western 
fashion extend 
them a reception, 
which for simplic- 
ity and elegance of 
stage-setting could 
hardly be surpass- 
ed. Dick Strong 
and Mr. Morrison 
wanted to borrow 
flour to put them 
through until a 
fresh supply could 
be secured from 
Kearney. John 
Pollard came to in- 
vite the Graham 
family and the Ben 
Kellenbarger family to be his guests for 
the night in his new "soddy." Pollard was 
a little homesick at the time and he needed 
the company to cheer him up and replenish 
his "pep." The Thomas boys wished to see 
if any of their relatives were in the crowd. 
W. H. Reader, having no other excuse, catne 
after a barrel of water. "Paddy" Kilfoil, see- 
ing the wagons lined up by the postoffice 
thought possibly someone might have a plug 
of tobacco to spare, so he walked down from 
where the Dale church now stands. "Paddy's" 
habitation in those days was a dugout. It 
was early in the spring but "Paddy" rushed 
the season enough to appear in a straw hat 
and linen duster. His salutation to the new- 



comers was. "Ye's have come to a moighty 
foine place.'' 

The ne.xt clay the settlers located on their 
respective homesteads and began active opera- 
until thev could build sod houses. 

The most of them lived in their wagons 


On the 28th day of November two young 
men, Omer M. Kem and Martin F. Blanken- 
ship, boarded the train at East Lynn, \'ermil- 
ion county, Illinois, and came to the grand 
state of Nebraska for the purpose of home- 
steading land. On their arrival in Kearney 
they met with C. D. Pelham and John De- 
^lerritt, two freighters from Custer county, 
who spoke highly of this country. The young 
men came with them to Pelham's store, then 
located northeast of the present site of Broken 
Bow, about one mile from the public square. 
There was no Broken Bow at that time as 
far as the town is concerned, but Mr. Pelham 
was postmaster of a very small postoffice 
called Broken Bow. After a few days' pros- 
pecting they selected claims near the present 
Custer Center and went back to Illinois. They 
returned to Custer county early in March of 
1882 and located on their claims, — Mr. Kem 
three and one-half miles northwest of Broken 
Bow and Mr. Blankenship about five miles 
northwest. There were no churches or 
schools and their neighbors were few, but 
what they had were very friendly. H. C. 
Reyner, Charles S. Raymond, James D. Ream, 
and James Courtney with themselves consti- 
tuted the number. During the following fall 
and winter others located near them and by 
the spring of 1883 they had a lot of new neigh- 
bors, and good ones. 


In 1886 C. \V. Prettyman pre-empted land 
in the Ash creek valley down near where the 
Ash creek empties into the Loup. He tells 
that he was preceded in that neighborhood by 
several other pioneers, among whom was his 
father, G. F. .-\lmendinger. C. H. Landrcth, 
and James King. The Prettyman claim was 

only one-half mile from the King place, which 
made the King family his nearest neighbors. 
.Ash creek is to-day one of the best localities 
in the county and gives no indication of the 
dugouts, sod houses, and log shacks of the 
early day. 


History of a country is made ofttimes by 
seemingly insignificant actions and experiences 
in the daily routine life of its inhabitants, 
which experiences are many an<l varied in the 
lives of its pioneers. Betimes a very trivial 
event leads to the location of a home. Some- 
times the very name of a city impresses those 
looking for a new location, as does the name 
Broken Bow, county seat of Custer county, 
wjiich at once implies romance and commands 
interest ; at least such was the case of the 
Hunter family — which consisted of father, 
mother, and two small daughters — who had 
moved from a rich agricultural country in 
Illinois to Buffalo county, Nebraska, in 1885. 
As the summer of 1887-8 wore on, long wagon 
trains of freighters on their way from Broken 
Bow and vicinity, in Custer county, to Kear- 
ney, in Buffalo county, passed and repassed 
the modest prairie home of Robert A. Hunter 
and family. 

Many stormy wintry nights the plain home, 
typical of western homes in hospitality, was 
filled to overflowing with the freighters, who 
alwavs before leaving their own homes, pro- 
vided themselves with sufficient food for them- 
selves and provender for their horses for the 
journey and return. Kearney, about seventy- 
five miles from Broken Bow, being the nearest 
railroad town, was the shipping point for all 
Custer county, and furnished an enormous 
supply of all building materials and provisions 
for the inhabitants of the north country, as 
it was called by the residents of Buffalo coun- 
ty. These materials and provisions all had to 
be delivered to Custer county by freighters, 
who formed long wagon trails, sometimes as 
many as fifty wagons being in ime trail, each 
wagon being mostly empty on the way to Kear- 
nev, as the settlers then had little to take to 



market but much to return with for them- 
selves and for the little inland town of Broken 

To these wagons were hitched from three 
to five horses, mules, or bronchos, sometimes 
abreast and ofttimes tandem. In pleasant 
weather the freighter camped by the roadside 
wlrerever the night found him, but in case of 
storms or sudden blizzards he sought the 
refuge of shelter in the sparsely settled homes 
along his route. These homes almost with- 
out exception were always hospitably open to 
them at any time, day or night. 

Thus it was that the Hunter home was often 
the shelter of many freighters, and many and 
interesting tales were told by them of, the 
north country, and of the many different draw- 
backs and advantages, which often sounded to 
their willing and interested listeners like tales 
of romance and adventure. Whether just or 
otherwise, all countries are to a certain de- 
gree judged by strangers according to the 
people representing them. 

So impressed was Mr. Hunter by these de- 
scriptions of Custer county advantages that 
he became convinced that it must be a splen- 
did stock country, and the summer (August 
9, 1889) found the family headed for Broken 
Bow^ where they at least hoped to be able 
to live six months in order to pay out and 
prove up on a homestead of 160 acres, for the 
right for which he had traded a broncho and 
sulky and harness. 


One of the first settlers on the west table- 
land was J. B. Klump, who took a homestead 
and timber claim in section 12, township 17, 
range 23, in March. 1883. D. W. Wediman 
and B. F. Cole were the first settlers on the 
northeast part of this table. Samuel High also 
located aliout the same time that Klump did, 
and dug a well 350 feet deep, but it was not 
a success. Within the same year there ar- 
rived three brothers by the name of Lang, 
with their father and mother, and John and 
-Moses Truesdale. In the spring of 1885 came 
Peter F. Forney, Charles Blakeman, Charles 

Zachary, Daniel Sweeney, and John Wehling. 
These settlers dug cisterns near the lagoons 
and cemented them, which held water from 
the melted snow and rains for some months. 
When the cisterns became dry the only re- 
course was to haul water in barrels from the 
valley two or three miles distant, and anyone 
who is acquainted with the steepness of the 
ascent up to the table-land can imagine what 
a task it was. In addition they often had to 
pay five cents per barrel for the water. As 
they not only had to haul water for their 
household use, but also for whatever stock 
they had, ^Ir. Forney started in to haul water 
in two barrels, but he soon found that process 
too slow. He had four horses, four head of 
cattle and some hogs, and as it took over half 
of his time hauling water, he almost begrudged 
the poor beasts what they wanted to drink. 


Peter Forney was the first man to put down 
a gravel well on the table. It was an iron- 
casing well, 444 feet deep and cost him six 
hundred dollars. For two years this well sup- 
plied the families of Wediman, Cox, Maupin, 
Hill, Blakeman, Taylor, Cooney, and Pike. Mr. 
Forney had to mortgage his farm in order to 
put down this well, and by the time it was 
paid for the interest, added to the principal, 
amounted to $1050. 

At this writing this table-land is thickly 
settled. It has won the reputation of being 
the best wheat-producing portion of Custer 
county, and contains some splendid farms. 
Most of the sod buildings have given way to 
fine residences of wood, and the commodious 
barns and outbuildings impart a most prosper- 
ous appearance to the table. \\'indniills are 
seen by the score and the water problem no 
longer troubles the people of the community. 
The table is fifteen miles long and has an 
average width of four miles. From its edges, 
which rise almost abruptly from the valleys 
below, a magnificent view of the surrounding 
country can be had. The soil is exceedingly 
rich and fertile, and in favorable seasons very 
large crops are raised. 




J. J. Downey writes as follows concerning 
Dale settlements : 

"About the 10th day of June, 1889. in com- 
pany with R. D. McCarthy and family and 
two of his teamsters, we started for our future 
home in Custer county. We arrived at Seneca, 
where we found the beginning of a rising 
young town, it being one and a half miles up 
Clear creek from the present town of West- 
erville. We stayed over night at the house 
of George Copsey, one of the old pioneers of 
the place. We were now within one day's 
travel of our destination. We crossed over 
to the Muddy the 
ne.xt forenoon. We 
camped for dinner 
near the present 
site of Broken Bow. 
The only settlers 
we found close by 
were Wilson Hew- 
itt and Dan Lewis. 
Mr. Hewitt was the 
proprietor of a 
blacksmith s h o p, 
which we after- 
ward patronized. 
That evening we 
obtained our first 
view of the Muddy 
Flats, as it was calleil at that time. We 
paused on the brow of the table and the 
male portion of the company descended and 
threw up their hats with a "hurrah." for lo, 
and behold ! there it lay in full view — the 
promised land. Descending from the table we 
arrived at the first settler's cabin, which, by 
the way, was not of sod. but cedar logs, the 
only one of its kind on the flats as far as I 
know. There we got some water and a kindly 
greeting from the proprietor. Sam Dmuiing. 
On our way from Dunning's place to our 
present location we passed the dugout of A. 
Thomas, a genial young bachelor. There were 
several other young men staying with him 
who had not yet erected their future mansions. 
It was now about sundown and four miles 
to the end of our journev. At about dusk 

\ Photo by S. D. Butcher] 

Emigr.\nts He.xded 

we arrived at our claims ard found there, 
on land adjoining. \Mlliam Couhig, who had 
preceded us by ten days. He had made con- 
siderable progress with his work, having put 
down a well, which proved to be a great 
convenience. The well was dug by C. R. 
Krenz, an expert in that line of business, who 
still resides in Dale valley, and was the father 
of the first child born in Dale. 

"Among the settlers that came in that sum- 
mer were the following: \\'illiam Corcoran; 
Patrick Kilfoil. after whom Kilfoil precinct 
was named ; William Walsh and family ; 
Joseph Sitler, another young bachelor ; George 

W. Hartley, who 
was the first settler 
in Ortello valley ; 
Andy S o m m e r, 
Charles Foote, 
L e n n T h o m a s, 
Charles Johnson, 
and John Jacquot, 
all of whom built 
residences out of 
prairie sod, with 
some of U n c 1 e 
Sam's cedar for 
rafters, which at 
that time was com- 
paratively plentiful 
in the can\-ons from 
ten to thirty miles west of here. There was no 
corn raised close by. except a small amount 
down on Mctoria creek, in 1880, and that was 
held at fifty and sixty cents per bushel, and 
could be had for no price in the spring. Crops 
were good in 1881. and those who had ground 
broken out and raised corn were all right, 
having plenty for feed and a good home mar- 
ket for the balance, at a price ranging from 
fifty to seventy-five cents per bushel. 


"Several other settlers came during the year 
1880 and took up claims, but did not per- 
manently locate here until 1882. J. J. Joyner 
was the only settler that moved in during 1881, 
and he located in Ortello valley. In 1882 the 
following came : Conrad Fleischman, Christo- 

FoR Custer Colxty 



pher Nichols, James Daley, James Wood, G. 
N. Thompson, Charles Fodge, S. H. Reed, 
James Stanford, G. W. Land, Samuel Trout 
— all with their families. About this time the 
Dale postoffice was established, with James 
Daley as postmaster. Mr. Daley afterward 
resigfned in favor of D. S. Lohr, who went into 
the general merchandise business at Dale, 
getting cjuite a trade from fifty to seventy-five 
miles west and- north of here. In fact it was 
a tj-pical frontier store. The town of Dale 
was laid out the previous summer. Dale tried 
hard for the railroad, but the company could 
not see it in that way. Dale, however, is ad- 
mirably located in regard to railroad towns, 
]Merna being five or six miles southeast and 
Anselmo eight or nine miles northwest. 

"The next two or three years the following 
named settlers moved here : William i\Ioore, 
Charles Michele, Frank Michele, C. H. Cass, 
G. D. Grove, C. C. Grove, Henry Sweeney, 
Dan Foley, A. Glidewell, P. B. Riley, Jason 
Lucas, A. C. Towle. Henry Barratt. William 
Brookman, I. A. Coleman, Dr. L. L. Crawford, 
James Phillips, Thomas Kelley. Joseph ^'es- 
sels, and R. J. Kelley, the last named being a 
pioneer merchant — a member of the later firm 
of Kelley & Duncan, who in 1886 moved to 
Merna, where he has been in business ever 
since. Nick Jaquot came about the same time, 
or perhaps a little before. He is a man of 
great enterprise, being largely interested ■ in 
farming, stock-raising, and feeding, also pro- 
prietor of one of the ]\Ierna elevators, and a 
hog buyer. C. D. Pelham, the pioneer mer- 
chant of Broken Bow, afterward moved to 
Dale, where he did business for several years, 
finally moving to Anselmo." 


[The late E. X. Bishop tells the following- 
story about early settlements on the Middle 
Loup in the vicinity of Lillian creek] : 

In 1875 James L. Oxford made the first 
settlement in what is now Lillian township. 
He built log buildings and established a ranch 
on the east bank of Lillian creek, near where 
his frame buildings now stand. His father-in- 
law. John Henderson, and familv. came from 

Missouri and settled near him in 1878, until 
the spring of 1879, when the level and fertile 
plains ' became so attractive to those seeking 
homes that they began to wend their way up 
the south side of the Middle Loup river. Diu"- 
ing this season Perry Lyle, J. E. Ash, J. C. 
Hunter, J. M. Ash, S. Gates, with their fami- 
lies, and David McGuigan, A. C. Ash, and 
Ervin Ash, old bachelors, settled on the river 
bottom and J. O. Taylor, Ole Johnson, N. 
K. Lee. S. K. Lee, John Lee, and Nelson T. 
Lee, with their families, settled in Round val- 
ley. As if by magic the sod houses arose one 
by one, and dotted the valley and plain in 
every direction. In the spring of 1880 Jesse 
Gandy started a ranch at the place afterward 
known as the Hartley ranch, and the follow- 
ing named settlers, with their families, if they 
had any, and with good digestive organs, if 
they were bachelors, made their appearance 
on the scene of action and became permanent 
residents, or homesteaders as they were then 
called to distinguish them from ranchmen : 
Thomas Lampman, Frank Luse, E. N. Bishop, 
Frank Doty. Hugh M. Goheen. John Goheen, 
J. jNI. Goheen, Austin Goheen, James McGraw, 
D. O. Luse, Jarvis Kimes, A. W. Squires, O. 
S. Woodward, Charles Griffiths, J. E. Gwinn, 
J. N. Peale, A. N. Peale, and Samuel Oxford. 
The winter of 1880-81 was what has been since 
known as the "hard winter." To convey some 
idea of the difficulty of traveling where a 
track was not broken out, I will endeavor to 
give a short description of a trip I made one 
day of but two miles and back, which took me 
from early morning until after dark. The 
layers of sleet cut the horses' legs so that in- 
stead of wading through the snow they would 
jump upon it as if climbing on top of ice, 
which kept breaking and letting them through. 
In a few minutes they were so exhausted that 
I had to stop and let them rest. Their legs 
were cut and bleeding so badly that they left 
a crimson trail behind them in the snow. To 
make matters worse, the grass was very short 
and entirely covered by snow, so that one 
could not tell .what was under the drift ahead. 
The first thing I knew the horses dropped 
down into a draw about five feet deep, where 



they floundered about, unable to get out. I 
went to work with a scoop shovel I had brought 
along with me. and by nooif had the team 
out on the level ground. Although it was 
dinner time and I was somewhat hungry, yet 
I had no dinner to eat, as I was on my way 
with a sack each of wheat and corn to be 
ground in a feed grinder that was owned by 
one of our neighbors, T. J. Butcher, where I 
arrived about four o'clock, having had to dig 
my horses out of draws four times on the 
way. It took but a few minutes to grind my 
feed and as I had broken the road on my way 
over pretty thoroughly, the return trip was 
made with comparative ease and without inci- 

During the winter of 1880-81 S". Gates and 
the writer circulated a petition tor the forma- 
tion of Lillian precinct, this territory at that 
time being a part of Victoria precinct, with 
the voting place at New Helena. As some of 
the citizens had to go twenty-four miles to 
vote, the county commissioners readily granted 
our request and established Lillian precinct, 
with nearly the same territory as the present 
township of Lillian embraces. From this time 
forth, public improvements were made as fast 
as the financial condition of the countv would 
permit. Among these were three bridges 
arross the Middle Loup river on the northern 
boundary of Lillian precinct. 

On February 16, 1880, Eri postofifice was 
established at the residence of J. E. Ash, with 
his wife, Alice Ash, as postmistress. It was 
named Eri, after Mr. Ash's brother, and was 
located on section 14. township 19, range 20. 
It was on the route to New Helena, and con- 
nected with the Kearney and New Helena 
mail at the latter point. The mail was carried 
twice a week, by way of WestenMlle and Round 
Valley, the latter office being established some 
time in 1880. Mrs. Ash resigned in favor of 
Frank Doty and recommended the removal of 
the office to his residence, three miles distant, 
which appeared to meet the approval of the 
authorities at Washington. The office was re- 
moved and remained there until it was discon- 
tinued, when the Walworth postoffice was re- 
moved to the bridge, by W. H. Predmore, 

1885. Mr. Gates sent in a petition for the 
establishment of Gates postoffice, with himself 
as postmaster, which was granted, and the 
first mail was delivered there July 4, 1884. 
Soon after this Mr. Gates put in a small stock 
of groceries, added hardware and dry goods, 
and in 1886 he built a good frame store build- 
ing. For several years, during the prosperous 
seasons, he kept a good store and did quite 
an extensive business. But in 1893 it had all 
evaporated except the postoffice. But like 
everything else in this western country, it 
could not be stopped entirely. Another small 
store was started by Joseph Beckwith, the new 
postmaster, who in about two years sold out 
to S. M. Hinkle. Mr. Hinkle kept the store 
and postoffice about a year and then sold out 
to Peter Fackley. When the railroad was built 
to Ord, the mail route was changed, and came 
from there to New Helena instead of from 
Loup City, and ran tri-weekly until the B. & 
M. Railroad was built through Anselmo, when 
the route was changed and ran from Anselmo 
to Sargent, daily, via New Helena. Lillian, 
Gates. Walworth, and West L'nion, giving to 
all this section, as at jiresent, a mail service 
that it may well be proud of. especially since 
the railroad was completed to Sargent. 


For the following statement of the settle- 
ment in Redfern Table we cull from the writ- 
ing of James A\'hitehead. 

L'p to 1880 cattle men had undisputed pos- 
session of thousands of acres of land that in 
the three years following its occupancy yielded 
an average of twenty bushels of wheat per 
acre. But the settler came, and he came to 
stay. Many were veterans of the Civil war, 
in the prime of vigorous manhood, and held life 
as cheap and could shoot as straight as the 
dare-devil cowboy, and not unfrequently "got 
the drop" on those who had heretofore boasted 
of having things pretty much their own way. 
Thus, in part, the problem of settlement had 
become adjusted and the way made easy for 
those who in 1883 and 1884 were pioneers in 
the settlement of the southwestern part of Cus- 
ter countv. 



The way of approach in those days was froir. 
Kearney along the Wood river valley to its 
confluence with the South Loup, at a point 
near the present site of Callaway. Further 
west were Plum creek and Cozad. points on 
the line of the Union Pacific, — the former 
about thirty miles from the south line of Cus- 
ter, the latter fifteen miles nearer. At this 
point there was a gently undulating tract of 
country then known far and near as "Buffalo 
Table," located in townships 13 and 14, ranges 
22 and 23, being within the twenty-mile limit. 
Every odd-numbered section of this entire table 
land was included in the grant of the Union 
Pacific. Inviting as it was, with its deep, rich 
soil, none of its lands were appropriated until 
the latter part of 1883. The first entry made 
in this locality was by no less a personage than 
Patrick Egan, of Lincoln. It was on section 
34, township 14, range 23. No breaking being 
done the first year, by contest it passed into 
the hands of Ernest Schneider. The first 
homestead entries were made bv Harvey Stock- 
ham and Otto Jaster, November 14, 1883, and 
by Charles B. Drum, December 13th, which 
comprised all entries made during that year. 
February 11, 1884, James Whitehead made 
homestead entry for lands adjoining Charles 
Drum, and with the opening of spring, Ernest 
Schneider, John Helmuth, Charles W. Red- 
fern and his son Frank, with Henry, Chris, 
and John Miller, appeared upon the scene, se- 
lected and settled upon their lands and im- 
mediately begun improvements. 


It was the purpose of the writer to secure 
by purchase a half-section of railroad land ad- 
joining or as near as possible to his home- 
stead ; this he supposed he had done, but on 
reaching his home in Wisconsin he was ap- 
. prised by Hon. J. H. ^lacColl, of Plum Creek, 
r agent for the railroad company, that the lands 
selected by him had passed into other hands. 
This necessitated his immediate return to 
' Nebraska. Accompanied by J. A. Mahafify 
and George Healy. we reached Plum Creek 
about the 10th of March. The morning fol- 
lowing our arrival we started for the table- 

lands accompanied by Mr. Huey, surveyor of 
Dawson count)'. It was after night when we 
reached the divide. The weather, which had 
been warm, had turned cold and snow began 
to fall. It had been our intention to pass the 
night upon the prairie and we had come pre- 
pared, bringing robes and blankets and a sup- 
ply of provisions to last us several days. The 
increasing cold and falling snow, which ^Ir. 
Huey, who was an "old timer," assured us 
might develop into a regular blizzard, made 
the outlook anything but encouraging. After 
traveling some distance in the darkness we saw 
a glimmering light and heard the barking of a 
dog; this led us to the claim of Ernest Schnei- 
der. Though he had arrived but a day or two 
before, he had a frame dwelling partly erected, 
which, with his own and other families, and be- 
lated travelers like ourselves, seemed full to ov- 
erflowing; notwithstanding this we received a 
hearty welcome. The building was but partly 
roofed and through the night the snow de- 
scended upon those who stretched themselves 
upon the floor and sought rest and forgetful- 
ness of discomforts in sleep. Beneath a pile 
of blankets, in one corner of the room that was 
better protected from the storm, lay the sick 
wife of our host. She never recovered, but 
died shortly afterward and was buried nearby, 
— the first death and burial that marked the 
early settlement of that vicinity. In addition 
to those I have named, William Greenfield. Joe 
Malson, Ezra Wright, R. E. Williams, J. W. 
Bissell, John Matz, William Gibson, Chris Hel- 
muth, the Wysharts. were pioneer settlers of 
the table or its environments, followed in time 
by John McGuigan and the Armours, also Joe 
Gilmore. A. P. Cox, Oliver Whitehead, Willis 
Hines. the Langes, David and William Bain, 
John Runcie, and John Berwick. The all-ab- 
sorbing question that presented itself to every 
settler was water, and how it might be ob- 
tained. Away to the east in Wood river val- 
ley, Van Antwerp and Thumian had well.s, 
but they were from six to ten miles distant; 
there were none nearer and the combined 
means of all was not sufficient to put one down. 
To meet this exigency cisterns were dug on 
the edge of draws or bordering lagoons, the 



supply dependins: upon the rainfall and their 
ability to secure and conserve it. All that was 
met, endured, and overcome, the difficulties and 
obstacles to success in the way of those early 
settlers will never be known or written. \\'ater 
there was in abundance,— the best, purest, and 
most wholesome that could slake the thirst 
and gladden the heart of man or beast, but it 
was from four to five hundred feet below the 
surface and the means of securing it an un- 
solved problem. 


Among those who had come into this locality 
were two men, Mr. Edward Crewdson, a 
wealthy Englishman who had purchased three 
section of railroad land and was engaged in 
stock-raising, and Mr. Gregory J. Campau, of 
Detroit, who had purchased a large tract of 
land and was also a man of considerable means. 
These men i)ut down hydraulic wells and se- 
cured a never-failing and abundant supply of 
water to which the settlers had free access. The 
last-named even put down a large cistern into 
which a stream of water was pumped con- 
tinuouslv for the use and accommodation of 
those who had no other means of securing the 
life-o-iving beverage. On several occasions ]\Ir. 
Crewdson deprived his cattle of the water they 
craved, in order that the wants of his neigh- 
bors might be satisfied. These men have 
passed away ; but monuments have been raised 
to perpetuate the deeds and memory of many 
whose claims to remembrance were not so well 
founded. But their names are cherished and 
their unselfish generosity remembered liy those 
whose gratitude could alone compensate for 
their kindness. 


The first settlers in the vicinity northwest uf 
Broken Bow were J. D. Ream and C. H. Jef- 
fords. J. D. Ream settled in the neighborhood 
now known as Custer Center, in the spring of 
1880. To show the innocence of those two un- 
isophisticated bachelors, who had only just 
enough farm education to be able to drive a 
yoke of o.xen hitched to a farm wagon, which 
contained all of their possessions, the old 
settlers tell this story at their 

As they began to leave the settlements on 
their journey west into the wilderness, they 
thought it would be a fine thing to have fresh 
eggs during the summer, in their new home, 
and in order to be able to enjoy this luxury 
they struck a bargain with a thrifty house- 
wife for a dozen fine young chickens, the flock 
being shortly afterward increased by the addi- 
tion of six hens which they got at an astonish- 
ing bargain from another housewife along the 
way. When they arrived near the present site 
of the city of Broken Bow they camped with 
Wilson Hewitt, and as that kind and accom- 
modating pioneer invited the wayfarers to 
make their headquarters there until they got 
their claims located, they turned their chickens 
loose, inviting Mrs. Hewitt out to inspect the 
flock. :Slrs. Hewitt looked them over with 
the eye of an experienced housewife and then 
fell into such a fit of laughter that the boys 
thought she had gone crazy. When she re- 
covered her composure she informed the young 
poultry fanciers that their flock consisted of 
eleven young roosters, one pullet, and six old 
hens that had probably come over in Noah's 
ark and that had long since passed the period 
of their usefulness as layers of eggs. The 
boys were of course very much crestfallen at 
their visions of fresh eggs were thus suddenly 
dashed to the ground, and also very indignant 
at the unfair advantage that had been taken of 
their ignorance by the women who had sold 
them the chickens. They promptly made Mrs. 
I lewitt a present of the whole flock and did not 
again attempt to embark in the poultry busi- 
ness until after they were married. 

The next settler to locate in the vicinity was 
H. C. Reyner, with his wife and one child. 
He also imiMrtcd two mules and one cow, and 
from the latter Mrs. Reyner supphed the whole 
settlement with butter during the following 
.summer, churning it in a half-gallon crock. 
The baby. I'aul, grew to manhood and served 
as a soldier in the First Nebraska Regiment in 
the Philippine Islands. These settlers cele- 
]>rated the Fourth of July. 1880. in a canyon 
south of the table-land which lies east of 
Merna, together with a number of others from 
the vicinitv of Broken Bow, among whom 



were Wilson Hewitt, C. D. Pelham, Closes 
Lewis, and others, with their famihes. 

I\Ir. Jeffords located just east of what is 
known in Broken Bow as the West Table, in 
a section of countr\- known at that time as 
South Muddy Flat. Among- the next settlers 
in the vicinity were R. M. Longfellow and Se- 
bastian Neth, the latter widely known for his 
energy and business capacity, having served 
the people ably several times as a member of 
the county board of supervisors. The neigh- 
borhood was also favored in the acquisition 
of a couple of school teachers from Ohio, 
named Mary E. and Agnes A. Price, but they 
soon ended their career as school teachers and 
formed partnerships with two bachelors, Jef- 
fords and Brown, and the result of these part- 
nerships is a number of young bug-eaters who 
will probably figfure in Custer county history 
long after their parents are forgotten. 


In June, 1872, W. A. George, then a boy of 
eleven summers, with his father, mother, broth- 
er, and four sisters, bade adieu to his New 
England home and friends near the old witch 
town of S'alem. Massachusetts, and started 
westward by rail. Their destination was 
Nebraska. The boys, of course, had to shrink 
considerably in size and age whenever the con- 
ductor came around, in order that they might 
get through on half-fare tickets, but it may be 
remarked right here that they took full ra- 
tions whenever the grub basket was passed 
around. At Omaha they saw their first In- 
dians, robed in their red blankets, as they sold 
their trinkets alongside the train and through 
the car windows. They arrived at Gibbon, 
their destination, tired and hungry, and being 
turned loose on a box of sweet crackers, W. 
A. George ate so many of them that he has 
never had an appetite for that form of bread 
since. Gibbon was at that time an ideal west- 
ern town, being the county seat of Buffalo 
county and surrounded by as fine land for 
homesteaders as the most exacting could wish. 
The sound of the hammer was heard from 
early morning until late at night. Many 

people were living in box cars and tents until 
they could erect something to call a home. 

W. A. George made his first trip to Custer 
county in 1875. They had some horses stolen 
and his father thought he had a clue to their 
whereabouts. He and his son started to hunt 
them up. They traveled about fifteen miles to 
the north the day and stayed all night with 
a settler whom the father hired to go with them 
the next day as a guide. They struck the 
South Loup river about where Pleasanton now 
stands. From there they worked up the river 
for several miles, seeing but a cowboy with a 
fine deer strung across his saddle, and a little 
further along they met another cowboy, who 
was carrying a saddle over his shoulder. He 
said that his horse had broken its leg and that 
he had to kill it and walk into camp. 


In a short time they came to a lone dugout, 
but no one was at home. On the door was 
a card which read "help yourself but for God's 
.sake shut the door." The "shut the door" part 
was in a good deal bigger letters than the 
rest of the sentence. They had not yet been 
educated to the point of walking into a man's 
house and helping themselves to whatever they 
might find, so they passed the invitation up. 
They did, however, dig some potatoes, which 
came in very handy at the camp-fire that night. 

The next trip W. A. George made into Cus- 
ter county was in 1878, when he came to visit 
a sister living near where Berwyn now stands. 
He made the trip on horseback and was so 
pleased with the conditions in the county that 
he made a resolve to locate permanently. Ac- 
cordingly, he became a Custer county citizen 
some years later. In 1901 he wrote an account 
of his early experiences, mentioning some of 
his neighbors who were among the early-day 
landmarks, and from his writings of that day 
we gather the following: 

In 1887 W. A. George returned to Custer 
county and located f>ermanently. He leased 
land of his uncle, H. W. George, and launched 
into the stock and farming business very ex- 
tensively. Later he was able to buv the land 



and also additional territory, until at one time 
he owned 1550 acres of good deeded land and 
held a lease on 640 acres more of school land, 
all on the South Loup river. 

The ne.xt year he bought out the small store 
at Georgetown, then operated by a firm named 
Sterk & Means, and for the next five years 
George ran the store as a side proposition while 
still improving and developing his ranch. The 
ranch kept growing, quarter-section after quar- 
ter-section was added until when Mr. George 
sold the place he had in all nearly 5,000 acres, 
on which were more than forty miles of fence 
with all kinds of barns, sheds, and outbuildings 
which go to make up good farm equipment. 

"GEITIXG IX b.\d" 

It was in May, 1882, after the first pioneers 
had made a dim, shadowy trail over the border 
into Custer county. 

John M. Morrison and J. D. Strong left the 
main road leading from Kearney to this upper 
country at a point in Buflfalo county, in Pleas- 
ant valle)', and went north through the hills,, 
following a very dim trail which persisted in 
growing dimmer, and which, as darkness came 
on, disappeared altogether. Their hope was 
to reach McEndeflfer's, on the ^luddy, that 
night, so they pressed on, over high hills and 
down long, winding canyons, one of them 
walking in front of the team to figure out the 
trail, and the other driving as directed by the 

A more gloomy and desolate prospect could 
hardly be imagined than that presented to them 
as the shades of night began to come down 
over the brown prairie, tumbled and piled 
about in the most haphazard manner, — high 
hills, long and terraced ridges, each line seem- 
ing higher than the other, — two "tenderfeet" 
alone amidst all this waste, was enough to 
make them wish they were back in civilization 

After some hours — or ages, they could 
hardly tell which — • they began to see cattle 
and horses on the range, which gave them hope. 
They soon struck a broader trail, made by the 
stock, leading to the ranch, and had less diffi- 
culty in keeping the way. After a time they 

saw, just ahead of them in the darkness, some- 
thing that they took for a post, and, believing 
they had come to a fence, Strong walked up 
to it and felt on both sides for the wires, but 
finding none, he put his hand on top of the 
supposed post and discovered to his conster- 
nation that it was a stovepipe, and still warm. 

By the time his investigations had resulted 
in this warm discovery, Morrison had driven 
the team up quite close to him and demanded 
a reason for his stop. He explained the nature 
of his find, and suggested a careful backing 
up of the team for fear of a tumble through 
the roof, which would be likely to disturb the 
sleepers below. He had seen enough of '"dug- 
outs" to know that they had discovered one, 
but just how to get inside they did not yet 
know. After getting the team out of all pos- 
sible danger. Strong started on a voyage of 
discovery. The problem of the lay of the 
dugout was soon solved to the satisfaction of 
all concerned. Of course it was dug out of a 
bank, but just where the bank ended and the 
house united with it he could not make out in 
the darkness ; but he soon discovered that there 
was a space of about four feet between the end 
of the dugout — ^ which had a wall of logs at 
the end — and the bank which sloped towards 
the house. The way he discovered this open- 
ing was by the happy one of falling into it ; 
the way he gained admittance into the house 
was b)' rolling down the sloping bank and in 
at the window, and the way he aroused the 
household was by alighting on a promiscuous 
collection of tinware, which made noise enough 
to stampede a bunch of plow horses. 

From the time he had started across the 
hills with the intention of asking the hospitality 
of Mr. McEndeffer's roof and board for the 
night, it had been with misgivings, if not with 
fear, as it will be remembered that he had been 
in some measure connected with the Olives in 
their fight with Mitchell and Kctchuni. He 
was a cattleman, and his interests were not 
enhanced by the settlers. What were Strong's 
feelings to find himself ])recipitated in that 
fashion into the house and finding himself 
clawing and kicking around among the dish 
pans and milk pails, while a gruff voice was 



demanding: "Who's there?" "Get out!" 
"Stat!" "Get a light!" "Get the gun!" and 
like exclamatory remarks, interspersed with 
more or less profanity and a chorus chiming in 
from other members of the family? 

Had a team fallen through the roof it would 
have raised no greater row than did Strong's 
plunge through the window. But he finally 
extricated himself from the tinware, kettles, 
and frying pans, and beat a hasty retreat under 
cover of the darkness and the excitement of 
the enemy out through the window and around 
to the door, where he gave a loud rap, more 
in accord with civilized ways. When a light 
was procured and explanations made, and an 
inventory taken of the kitchen utensils to find 
what actual damage was done, they were made 
welcome, and as the ceremony of "breaking 
the ice" was not necessary after breaking his 
head and a milk crock, McEndeffer's cob pipe, 
and several other articles of less importance, 
they were soon comfortable and quite at home. 


The next morning Strong and ^Morrison 
started for Merna, and at noon of that day 
they stood upon a hill that overlooked the 
beautiful valley that was to be their future 
home. ]\Ierna at that time consisted of one 
small sod house, with an annex of one room. 
The sod house was filled with sundry articles of 
merchandise, such as tobacco, soap, codfish, 
buttons, and thread. A cubby-hole in the wall 
served as the postoffice. which was kept by W. 
G. Brotherton. The annex was occupied by 
]\Ir. Brotherton and his wife as a living room, 
and was presided over by Lizzie, whose chief 
business seemed to be looking after the wants 
of new arrivals and making them comfortable 
and happy. 

One-half mile north of Brotherton's store, 
and the site of the future lively little railroad 
town of jMerna, they struck their tent on 
claims previously bought of Samuel N. Dunn- 
ing and Floyd Field. Mr. EKmning had lo- 
cated farther north, on the Dismal river, going 
into the cattle business. When the B. & M. 
Railroad was extended through the Black Hills, 
a town was located near his home and given 

the name of Dunning, which perpetuates the 
name of one of Custer county's pioneers. Floyd 
Field also located on the Dismal river, or on 
the Loup, and from a modest beginning in 
the cattle industry, he and his brother, Fred, 
have grown into two of the wealthiest ranch 
owners in this part of the state. The post- 
office of ]\Ierna was first kept by Mr. Dunning 
and the name of Merna was that of his young- 
est daughter. After the railroad had been 
built, and the town finally and for all time lo- 
cated by the Lincoln Townsite Company, it 
was quite natural that the infantile city, 
struggling for life and metropolitan honors, 
should be given the name of the original post- 
office, so that Merna became a fixed geographi- 
cal landmark. 


The next day the journey of Mr. Strong and 
^Ir. Morrison was uneventful, and they put 
up for the night with C. D. Pelham, at or 
near where the present city of Broken Bow 
stands. Pelham kept the postoffice and a small 
stock of groceries, and the first hotel in Bro- 
ken Bow. They had often seen the puzzle 
of the innkeeper who could put thirteen men 
in twelve rooms, but Pelham could discount any 
such Cheap-John mathematical problem as 
that. He could easily stow away thirteen men 
in one small room. It is related of him on 
good authority that he had a most ingenious 
way of making six blankets suffice for a dozen 
or more guests. When late arrivals were ready 
to retire they were tucked snugly away under 
a blanket that was deftly removed from some 
guest who had gone to bed earlier, and who, 
being fast asleep, would never know the dif- 
ference. Of course if the weather was very 
cold the uncovered sleepers were liable to 
wake up after a time and make a roar, but 
before this stage was reached the other fellow 
was sound asleep and the covering was restored 
to the original sleeper. By shifting the cover- 
ing judiciously and systematically during the 
night, Pelham always succeeded in keeping all 
of his guests as warm as a pie in the coldest 
winter weather, although in cases of a rush 
of business everv one of them would be un- 



covered two-thircls or thret'-quarters of the 


Standing- at Brotherton's store in ^lay, 1882, 
and looking out over the valley spreading to 
the west and north, one could see a few marks 
that indicated the beginning of a small settle- 
ment. A group of "old bachelors" off to the 
northwest were holding various claims in vari- 
ous parts of the valley, but were mostly 
"batching" together in Al Thomas' dugout, 
where they discussed the future greatness of 
the country, and stu(hed the faces of the four 
queens they usually held in their hands, while 
they mentally cogitated upon an improbable 
consignment of femininity to be shipped out to 
supply wives for this miscellaneous assortment 
of masculinity. 

It is only justice to these men who cut such 
a sorry figure at stag housekeeping, to say 
that they were all men of liberal education 
and refined tastes, and to leave behind them 
the influence of eastern homes and the society 
of women were the worst hardships they had to 
endure in the wild west. Most of them in 
time found good wives, who have helped them 
to make comfortable and happy homes. In 
this bachelor dive were Al Thomas, Joe Sitler, 
A. Sommers. John Jacquot, Len Thomas, 
Charles Thomas, Scott, Hanna, McWorthy, 
and others whose names are not now recalled. 

At this time had one looked inside all of 
the houses within a radius of five miles from 
Brotherton's store, he would have found but 
three women within the entire circle — Mrs. C. 
P. Foote, Mrs. Brotherton, and Mrs. Dunning. 
\\'hat they lacked in quantity, however, they 
made up in quality, for no new settlement 
was ever blest with better women to mother 
the community than this trinity of maternal 
excellence. They have all gone on before to 
another country, but the blessings of all early 
settlers in this vicinity will follow them. 


[This volume is indebted to Miss Marguer- 
ite George, daughter of Mr. and ]\Irs. Xc 

George, for this account of the settlement on 
the East South Loup.] 

In the spring of 1875 many settlers left their 
homes at Gibbon, Nebraska, on account of the 
grasshoppers. Among the first to leave was 
Nc George and family. They took a little band 
of cattle and a lumber-wagon load of house- 
hold goods and started for the Lou]). \\ill 
Trew and Nc's sister Cora (the late Mrs. A. 
L. Morgan) helped to drive the cattle. They 
were three days on the road, making the jour- 
ney without any unusual event except a little 
trouble with one old cow. The men left Mrs. 
George in the wagon with her baby, seven 
months old, and went ahead to help Cora drive 
the cow. They were gone so long that Mrs. 
George became greatly worried, thinking that 
they had been made way with by desperate 
characters, perhaps. She made up her mind 
what she would do if they did not return 
soon. She climbed down from the wagon and 
went to the top of the hill to see if she could 
see anybody, and when she looked back to her 
team they had turned around and were headed 
towards Gibbon. Not daring to set her baby 
down she held him in her arms and ran as 
fast as she could to the team ; managing to 
reach one of the traces, she finally got to the 
bridle and stopped them. In a little while the 
men returned and the journey was resumed 
without further mishap. They reached their 
destination on Deer creek May 21, 1875. There 
was not another settler in that vast expense 
of prairie. Only a few transit cattlemen, with 
their small camps here and there, were their 


An old hunter's dugout was found in the 
bank along Deer creek and this became the 
home of the new settlers until another dug- 
out, with more room in it. could be made. 
The cattle were allowed to roam at will, graz- 
ing on the prairie but staying near the water. 

The country abounded in deer, elk. and 
other wild game. The men spent a great 
deal of their time in hunting and trapping. 
Often trappers spent much lime in this locality 



and when they had secured a good supply 
of skins they would come to Pkim Creek, now 
Lexington, wliere they received a good price 
for them. 


One day when Mr. George was out hunting 
he found two Httle fawns hidden in the cat- 
steps, while their mother was away feeding. 
He took them home and made pets of them. 
They were about a week old, he thought. They 
were red in color, like a calf, with white spots 
on their sides but were not as large as a calf. 
They lay in the brush until called to their 
lunch, when they 
would come bound- 
ing towards the 
house like two rab- 
bits. They drank 
milk from a pail, 
sticking- their noses 
clear to the bottora 
of the pail, even if 
the milk covered 
their eyes. Mr. 
George kept them 
until they were a 
year old, when he 
sold them to the 
Fairmont Park As- 
sociation, Philadel- 
phia, receiving fifty dollars for the two. They 
were one of the unique attractions at the Cen- 
tennial exposition at Philadelphia, in 1876. 

In the spring of 1877 a fierce storm came up 
which developed into a cloud-burst. The rain 
fell only twenty minutes but in that time, the 
level prairie was covered with water. A hole 
as big as a stove pipe was washed in the 
roof of the dugout where Mr. George lived, 
and the water swept in in torrents. Luckily 
the door was directly opposite the opening and 
the water had a straight course through the 
house. After this the dugout was abandoned 
and a small log-house built. Later Mr. George 
moved this house two miles further down the 
river to the place where he now resides. An 
election was held in 1878 in which this log 
cabin was used as a polling place. Josh 

[Photo by S. D. Butcher] 

A Typical Dugout 

Woods, Coe Kilgore, Frank Young, and L. D. 
George were the only ones present. 


A mail route from Plum Creek to Loup 
City passed near the George homestead. Nc 
George applied for the appointment of post- 
master but the officials demanded his full name 
and could not understand his explanation of a 
name consisting of two consonants so Nc 
failed to be appointed. Mr. Kilgore received 
the appointment and the postoffice was called 

In the meantime many settlers had come to 

the Loup. Most of 
them lived in hunt- 
ers' dugouts. Those 
arriving during the 
years 1875 and 
1876 were John E. 
Myers, John Ma- 
hon, and Christo- 
pher Hazelbaker. 


Belgium gave 
Custer county a 
contribution in th(' 
early '70s when Ed. 
and Jules Haumoi't 
settled in the coun- 
ty and located claims northeast of Broken 
Bow. During the first winter they endured 
many hardships, but managed to look after a 
small flock of sheep. 

One of the unique achievements was the 
building of a two-story sod house with shingle 
roof, sod kitchen annex, and round-tower cor- 
ners. This was the most aristocratic building 
ever constructed of prairie marble in the coun- 
ty. Edward Haumont is now deceased. His 
widow still lives on the place and is very re- 
sourceful in reminiscences of early days. 


The first settlers on the Muddy in the vicin- 
ity of where Broken Bow now stands were 
Wilson Hewitt, who liail moved up from the 
South Loup countrv, and Dan Lewis, who 





came with a wife and two children. Mrs. 
Lewis' step-father, Henry Graham, came at 
the same time with Lewis. Lewis found a 
bachelor named Jesse Garringer holding by 
squatter's right a claim on which he had a 
dugout. Lewis bought the right and settled 
in the dugout. This place is now the Willis 
farm, just west of town. Graham filed on the 
Cornelius Tierney place, east of the present 
town. Later C. D. Pelham, !Moses Lewis, Ed 
and Alark King moved in. Mrs. Dan Lewis, 
who is now Mrs. Tuttle, had her experience in 
the dugout. It was a common experience for 
her to go out at night and wave a sheet 
to scare the 
cattle away. 
Her second 
daughter, Ida 
Lewis, born 
June 14, 1881, 
was the first 
child born in 
Broken Bow 
or vicinity. 

Mrs. Eliza 
Graliam. the 
mother of 
Mrs. Lewis 
and wife of 
Henry Gra- 
h a m, died 
August 1 0, 
1880, and was 

buried down on the Tierney place. This was 
the first death in this part of the county. 

Edward Haumont's Sod Palace — the Only Two-story Sod House in 

THE County 

county, which have not found their way in 
the published history of this county. Also 
what I have written is from direct dictations 
from some of these old settlers. Therefore 
they will vouch for its veracity. 

Thirty years ago, in the summer of 1873, 
my parents, Lewis and Sarah Dowse, with two 
little babies — Willis and Eliza — came to 
Loup City. There they made their acquain- 
tance with Mr. and Mrs. B. D. Allen. My 
mother stopped there while my father and 
Grandpa Wagner came on up into the Middle 
Loup valley in August. 1873. My father 
picked out his land and went back after his 

tools. He 
came back 
anil put up 
hay d u r i n g 
and October. 
He left his 
tools and 
things and re- 
turned for his 
family, but 
lad to make 
two trips to 
(>and Island 
for provisions 
before he 
brought h i s 
family up. 
To his 
one claim taken 
that was what 

E.\RLY D.\YS • 


[The following paper, read by Mrs. Alice 
Dowse Sims at the old settlers' picnic in Bro- 
ken Bow, 1903, contains enough of historical 
value to entitle it to a place in this chapter. 
While some statements are duplicated on other 
pages, the article, nevertheless, presents the 
viewpoint of the first white person born in 
Custer county and one who was reared to 
womanhood amid the scenes and in the Times 
she describes.] 

Much of what I have written for to-day is 
sketches of life among the early settlers of this 

knowledge there was only 
in all Custer county, and 
is known as Douglas Grove, taken by Ed Doug- 
las, an old soldier. Next Mr. Ohmes picked 
out his land and sent men up to begin build- 
ing. In January, 1874, my parents moved 
from Loup City to Douglas Grove. Father 
came first with a load. In those days the 
^liddle Loup had no bridges above the one 
they had just erected at Loup City. By the 
tiine he reached the banks of the river on the 
opposite side of the Grove it was very dark. 
He was uncertain as to the safety of the ice 
for crossing his team, so he unhitched and 
left it there. He then crawled across to Doug- 
las Grove on his hands and knees. Mr. Doug- 



las had not moved up on his claim yet, but a 
man by the name of Henry Snell had arranged 
a kind of a dugout, a little above the Grove, 
the way of entrance being a small hole at the 
top to slide down through. It was nicely ar- 
ranged, so as not to be easily discovered by 
Indians — my father thought by white people 
as well, before he was able to find it. He beat 
up and down the river, yelling and hallooing 
to awaken Mr. S'nell, but the resounding of 
his echo was the only response. Finally he 
gave it up. came back to the Grove, built a 
rousing fire to keep away any wild animals 
that might be lurking about, and rested as 
best he could till 

He returned im- 
mediately for moth- 
er and the children. 
From oft re])eated 
stories I have form- 
ed a little picture. 
I see my mother. 
then only twenty 
years old. glance 
over that lonely 
valley and note the 
wild herds of deer 
and elk grazing on 
the hillside or rov- 
ing u]> and down 
the valley. I see 
her survey that insignificant little dugout, and 
imagine her heart beats wildly as she clasps 
those little ones close to her bosom, praying 
that God would protect them in that wild and 
lonely place. She has often told me of the 
lonely hours and days she spent in that solitarv 
hut. during the greater part of the next four 
months. Day after day she was alone with 
the babies and her little sister. Clara. 

In the month of February my father had 
gone to Louj) City after a load, leaving his 
family in the care of Henry Snell. The eve- 
ning they expected him home, supper was 
prepared and waiting. It was a very dark 
night and little Willie was fretful and began 
crying. Clara tried to think of something 
to say to keep him still. Jokingly, she said, 

[Photo by S. D. Butcher. lSS6] 

J. A. Woods, First Settler ix Woods' P.\rk, Middle 
Loup River 

"There's some Indians at the door: let's go 
antl see them." At this the little fellow hushed 
and started with Clara to see the Indians. A 
small door to this little dugout had been made 
since the arrival of the family. As Clara and 
the baby slipped outside, there stood four large 
Indians right in front of them. Poor, fright- 
ened Clara darted back into the dugout, leav- 
ing the baby to entertain the Indians as best 
he could. They pushed their way into the 
room. The scent of the cooking supper had 
guided them to the dugout. Mr. Snell was 
sitting reading. They demanded supper, by 
grunts and motions. Mother seated them at 

the little table and 
placed before them 
all the victuals she 
had prepared. 
While they were 
filling themselves 
niv father arrived. 
Mother had on the 
stove a very large 
tea-kettle, full of 
b o i 1 i n g water. 
When they had 
<lrunk all the coffee 
in a large coft'ee 
pot, they grunted 
for more. Father 
kept filling the cof- 
fee pot, from the 
kettle of boiling water and pouring it in the 
large coffee cups, until the water in the tea- 
kettle was exhausted, then they seemed satis- 
fied. They were not hostile Indians, however, 
but were some poor Pawnees whose ponies 
had been stolen by the S'iou.x Indians up on 
the North Loup river, .\fter they had eaten 
all they could get they wanted to pile down 
on the floor and go to sleeji. but father would 
not let them. 

Mr. Council was then living in the Grove in 
Ed Douglas' house. Henry Snell took the 
Indians down and left them with ^Ir. Connell. 
Before they would leave him the ne^t morn- 
ing, they grunted and motioned f(ir him to 
take them through the settlement down by 
Loup City. So he wrote a pass and gave 



them. The papers stated that they obtained 
fourteen square meals by presenting that pass, 
which read as follows : "These are four good 
Pawnees. Grease them and let them slide." 

The following March. 1874, Grandpa W'ag- 
ner came up again, accompanied by 'Sir. \\"i\\ 
Comstock. Air. Caswell, and Mr. Allen. They 
selected their land and returned for their 
families. ( Air. Comstock filed on his claim 
April 15, 1874.) A few days later Denio, Eu- 
bank, and Darnell come up, looked at land, 
and then they returned east for their families. 
About the latter part of April Grandpa Wag- 
ner, with Air. and Airs. Allen and their little 
baby, Jennie, came up and father boated them 
across the river. Then father hitched his 
team to the wagon and they all went just a 
short distance above the present site of Wes- 
cott, and began making garden. Grandpa 
Wagner said while they were making garden 
he would go and find something for dinner. 
He took his gun and strolled off across the 
hills. Shortly he returned with a piece of 
antelope, built a fire and soon had a roast pre- 
pared for dinner. Mr. and Airs. Allen went 
back and soon returned in time to tend to 
their garden, stopping with my parents at 
the time. In a few days Grandpa Wagner 
brought his family up. Father's little slab 
house couldn't hold them all, so Air. and Airs. 
Allen moved in with Ed Douglas for a few 

Soon following came other men with their 
families — Air. Ed Eubank, Darnell, and Ox- 
fords. About the last of Alay, Air. Allen and 
his family moved from the Grove into their 
new house, which was just one-quarter of a 
mile north of Captain Comstock's present 
dwelling place. Immediately Air. Comstock 
and wife came, and they stopped with Air. 
Allen till their little dugout was completed. 
Later other families came, but moved east 
again on account of the Indian scares. 

No new story is so fascinating as are the 
oft-repeated stories of the early events as 
given to me by these old settlers. Airs. Allen 
says she thought then, and she believes to this 
day. that the best bread she ever ate in her 
life time was made out of wheat "Tound in 

my mother's coft"ee mill. She verily declares 
she would gladly exchange her present lux- 
uries for the happy days she spent in those 
little dugouts, with her neighbors — Airs. 
Wagner, Airs. Comstock, and Airs. Dowse. 
One sweet little story is connected with Airs. 
Allen's little Number 7 cook stove. Grandma 
Wagner's and Airs. Comstock's stoves had no 
ovens to them, and they would carry their 
bread to Airs. Allen's little Number 7 to bake 
it. "And," says Airs. Allen, "many a nice 
loaf of bread did that little stove bake. I 
would look out the door and see Airs. Wagner 
and Airs. Comstock both coming, carrying their 
bread — then I'd think: 'Well, Airs. Comstock 
will have to bake her's first, for she makes salt- 
rising, then Airs. W^agner's turn.' And such 
a nice time we had." Air. Comstock declares 
yet that the best biscuit he ever ate were baked 
on top of their little stove, and he still likes 
them best baked that way. 

Air. Darnell and Grandpa Wagner ever kept 
broken the monotony of life, by their quaint 
lives among their old neighbors. Air. Dar- 
nell spent most of his time killing snipe and 
catching fish, and, says Mr. Comstock, "When 
the snipe all left, and the fish wouldn't bite, 
Air. Darnell left too." He also said he was 
going to start a town while he was here. He. 
sent his neighbors up the river to cut cedar 
trees and float them down the river. The}' 
tried it but tiie trees wouldn't float ; therefore 
Air. Darnell's town never got started. And the 
old neighbors all still express their deeply felt 
gratitude to Grandpa Wagner for his abundant 
supply of deer, elk, and antelope, which kept 
many families from starving. Air. Comstock 
tells of once when they crept up on four deer ; 
of course the deer ran as soon as they saw 
them, but by Air. Comstock handing him cart- 
ridges. Grandpa shot them before they were 
out of range. He never missed his game when 
it was in range of his old rifle, and his marks- 
manship was still remembered long after the 
large game had left the country. About the 
latter part of August, 1874, the sun began to 
darken, and within a few days the air and 
every nook and corner were alive with grass- 
hoppers. Alost of the settlers had some kintl 



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of crops nicely started, and fair prospects, by 
close management, of raising enough to carry 
them through till the next summer. But now, 
what could those poor families, who had toiled 
so hard through the summer months, do to 
save their small crops, which were all they 
possessed? Must they stand, as it were, and 
see the food taken from the mouths of their 
little ones? My father thought he would save 
a little corn by shocking it up, but as soon as 
he would complete a shock it was covered with 
millions of grasshoppers. And thus every- 
thing was almost entirely annihilated. 

February 22, 1875, I was born, and as far 
as we know I was the first white child born 
in Custer county. The following summer was 
a little more pros- 
perous. The small 
crops that werc 
put in grew niceK' 
and unmolested. 
187() b r o u g h t 
again those dark 
and gloomy days. 
Innumerable mill- 
ion.> and millions 
of grasshoppers 
came. The hard- 
ships and priva- 
tions of the previ- 
ous years of 

drought in Custer county would 
seemed lu.xurious and plentiful to 
poor settlers during the following 
of 1876. 

RoiTNDUP OF .\ Coyote Hu.\t in J.\ni'.\rv, 1916 

Dear mothers and fathers who have 
come to Custer county in later years, feeling 
discontented because your children have not 
the luxuries and accommodations of life that 
you desire they should, let nic lead your 
minds back to Custer county's earlier days, 
and that gloomy winter of 1876. Drifts and 
drifts of snow blocked the roads between our 
little .settlement and Loup City. I should have 
mentioned before that Loup City consisted of 
a few small families living close together, and 
one little store in a little sod building. No 
provisions could be obtained short of there and 
Grand Island. 

\\'hen I hear mv mother tell of the cold 

winter nights that she placed the little ones 
in bed crying for something to eat, ( she had 
nothing in the house to give them, and her 
only consoling words were that papa would 
come soon with something to eat) it makes me 
feel that we are very ungrateful for the bless- 
ings that we enjoy at the present time. 


Before the buffalo was the coyote : before 
the Indian was the coyote ; before the white 
hunter and the trapper was the coyote ; be- 
fore the cattlemen was the coyote ; before the 
settlers was the coyote : before the yellow- 
haired scrub cur of former and latter days 
was the coyote ; before the deer-hound, fox- 

h () u n (1 , g r e y- 
hound, Russian 
wolf-hound, was 
the coyote. \Vhen 
the coyote first 
settled in the 
county. records 
fail to disclose. 
He was here be- 
fore the first and 
hangs to his loca- 
tion with a tenaci- 
ty that prophesies 
he will be the last. 
If he has been 
credited with priority, he deserves it. He 
is fleet-footed enough to maintain his ad- 
vance position when pursued by fastest" 
horse or hounds. Consequently it is per- 
fectly proi>er to describe him as being "be- 
fore" all the rank and file of his enemies. 
He has been the object of every pursuit — the 
jihantom of every chase. He is the fastest 
member of Custer county society and has but 
little difficulty in maintaining his lead, no mat- 
ter what is after him. \'elvet-footed, willowy- 
tDrmcd, Gibson-necked, keen-s:ented, he comes 
and goes without advance agent or press com- 
ment by the society editor. No matter where 
he goes or how he goes, he carries an appetite 
for chicken that outrivals the combination of 
a colored Methodist preacher. His habits have 
gotten him into ill-repute with the sheepmen 



and cattlemen. His fondness for lamb for Sun- 
day dinner is in a measure offset by his fond- 
ness for small pigs during the week. He has al- 
ways possessed a latent propensity that entitles 
him to be called a "sport." If there is a circle 
hunt staged in any portion of the county, he is 
sure to be there and likely to be one of the 

Whether he deserves it or not, the versatile 

Ruins of Old Jefferson Postoffice, 1887 

quill of George B. Mair pays him the following 
tribute and prophesies his "nunc dimittis." 
It is far easier to subscribe to the Mair de- 
scription and tribute than to swallow his pro- 
phesy and hopefully await its fulfillment. 
Mair says : 

"The coyote is quite a large animal, although 
some of them are not so much so. They do 
most of their rustling nights, when honest 
folks are supposed to be in bed, and attend to 

their sleeping in the daytime. Once in a 
while he stays out until after daylight. On 
such occasions he may be seen making a 
sneak across the prairie in the direction of his 
hole, with his tail between his hind legs, look- 
ing about to see if he has been discovered, and 
trying to invent some story to tell his wife 
when he gets home. 

"What he lacks in beauty is more than made 
up in ugliness. The knowledge that he is no 
beauty has undoubtedly soured his originally 
sunny disposition and caused him to shun 
society and look out of the corners of his 

"The crowning glory of the coyote is his 
magnificent voice. We have heard the roar 
of the fierce Numidian lion in his den at Fore- 
paugh's circus and the melodious ya-hoo of the 
jackass, but we never realized the weird and 
sublime power of music until we attended a 
moonlight rehearsal given by a pack of coy- 
otes the first night we struck Custer county. 

"But civilization and poisoned meat are get- 
ting in their deadly work for him. Some day 
the last gray-headed patriarch will sit on the 
brow of yon beetling cliff, with his form sil- 
houetted against the rising moon, and then he 
will be seen no more. And a weatherbeaten 
pelt hanging on the end of an old corn crib 
will be the only remaining relic of a vanished 


Entertains Bob Olive — A Wild Night For Hans — Bob Hunter has Close Call — 
Mrs. Hunter Learns the Way of the West — "A Wise Cow Tale" — Terrible Fall 
in a Deep Well — A Thousand Elk in One Herd — Made His Own Powder — Won 
BY A Nose — A Back-acting Wedding Fee — A Plucky Custer County Woman — 
Was a Justice All Right — God and Boblits — A Courtship in the Court's Office 

— Experiences of a "School Marm" — Life too Short for a Sod Roof — Entertained 
the Pawnees — All Ready- for Indians — Mysterious Death of Tr.^pper — A Fight 
for "Deer Life" — Saved One Bed — J. D. Haskell's Peronal Experience — Douglass 
Finds Relics — • Jess Gandy Joins the Elks — Mrs. Gandy Entertains a Stranger — 
Jess Gandy Rides a Buffalo ■ — The Masons Buried Him — The First Great Fl--\g Pole 

— The First County Seat Contest — A Hospitable Roof — A Little Sport with 
Guns — Lassoed an Elk — Lost in the Sand Hills — Hunters Find Game in the 
Bed — Had no Religion — One of the County "Dads" — A Prairie Fire — Twin 
Tragedies — A Watermelon Stampede — It Killed the Toad — Dan got the Logs — 

Indian Scares — The Grasshopper a Burden — A Land Quarrel — Grasshoppers 

Chewed Tobacco — The Sen.\tor was not Handsome — Burlin and Kellen- 

barger H.we Some Experience — A Rack Through the Storm • — 

thing of a "Mixup" — Nearly Ruined His Eye 

The sum total of all history is the recital 
of events just as they occurred, by those who 
were actors in the scenes, and had a chance 
to see and hear. First hand, or personal, 
knowledge is the authority of final appeal. 
Thou.sands of things happen in every country 
that by the very nature of conditions could not 
be recorded, in accessible files. If these things 
are ever unearthed and published the old 
settlers must recite them, blatters of personal 
experience, hand to hand struggles with 
early conditions, incidents both humorous and 
tragic, views of private life, and countless 
other things, told by the old settlers, have 
been collected and grouped in this chapter. 

Each story is complete in itself and has no 
relation to any other in the chapter. In each 
case the truth is vouched for by the one to 
whom the story is credited. In the aggregate 
they cover the entire range of county history 
and will give to any reader a realistic view of 

the conditions which have prevailed in the 
county during the developing years. Read 
the stories of the settlers and you will see the 
settlers, their homes, their farms, their 
schools, their churches, their difficulties, their 
defeats and triumphs, and with all you run 
the gamut of the years through which they 
have passed. The humorous vein which runs 
through the entire collection is a fine tribute 
to the heroic actors, who cultivated the spirit 
of cheerfulness under the most trying circum- 

entertains bob olive 

[C. R. Mathews gives the following account 
of a visit paid him by Bob Olive and some 
of his cowboys. The judge was at home to 
his visitors and funnished plenty of corn and 
hay while the neighbors furnished plenty of 
camphor, as the narrative discloses.] 

T had been contemplating a trip to Douglas 




Grove late in November, and had gathered ten 
or twelve bushels of corn to leave at the house 
to feed mv stock while I was gone. It was 
in sacks in a wagon, and I intended to start 
the next morning. That evening Bob Olive, 
alias Stevens, rode up with about a dozen of 
his cowboys and twenty-five or thirty ponies. 
He walked into the house without going 
through the formality of knocking at the door, 

and remarked that it was "awful d d 

cold." He kindly told me that if I would 
give him enough corn to feed his herd of 
ponies that he would not turn them out to 
help themselves. I told him that I hoped he 
would not turn the horses out, as they would 
tear down my stacks and that he could have 
all the corn he wanted if he would go out in 
the field and husk it. 

'"What is the matter with this corn in the 
wagon ?" he inquired. "That is corn I brought 
up for my hogs while I am gone to Douglas 
Grove," I explained. 

He made no further remark, but deliberate- 
ly emptied the corn out on the ground, where 
it was soon eaten up by the horses. The out- 
fit concluded to stay with me all night without 
asking my permission, helped themselves to 
my coffee and anything else they could find, 
wrapped themselves up in their blankets and 
went to sleep. Olive was taken sick during the 
night with cholera morbus and routed his men 
out to see if anything for his relief could 
be found in the settlement. There was no doc- 
tor within eighty miles, so they went to Mr. 
Boley's and came back with a bottle of cam- 
phor. I\Irs. Ross also let them have a bottle 
of camphor, and Mrs. Forsyth, for a change, 
sent another bottle of camphor. Airs. Lough- 
ran and Mrs. ^Merchant, having no other kind 
of medicine in their houses, also sent a bottle 
of camphor apiece. As the men came in one 
after the other with the camphor. Bob got as 
mad as a hornet and smashed the bottles on a 
saddle that hung in a corner of the room. 
During the same night our neighbor, Smith, 
had the honor of entertaining two or three of 
the cowboys. They piled into the bed along- 
side of him, with their clothes on, and enjoyed 
a good night's rest. 


Early in the '80's the pioneers on the Middle 
Loup put in most of their time in winter 
hauling wood from the canyons and getting 
out cedar for posts. They also went on the 
islands in the river and cut white willow for 
making corrals. There was a fine willow 
island about ten miles above the settlement, 
near the Rankin ranch, which the ranch people 
rather laid claim to, but for all this the settlers 
hauled a great portion of it away, especially 
a German, whom we will call Hans. He would 
go up and get his load, pull to the ranch for 
supper and lodging and breakfast. Of course, 
no charges were made by Mr. Rankin for 
such trifles. 

It finally became an old story. One night 
Hans came as usual and it happened on this 
particular night Billie Erickson (better known 
among the cowboys as "Bill America"), 
Charles Austin, and Wright Rankin were at 
the ranch, and all you have to do after twenty 
years have elapsed to get a hearty laugh out 
of the boys is to say "Hogs in the ranch." 
It seems it was a put-up job to have some 
fun at Hans' expense. Rankin was to play 
crazy, and after supper the boys very con- 
fidentially told Hans that Rankin was crazy, 
and no difference what he did he musn't make 
him mad. Presently Rankin took a fit, chew- 
ing soap to make foam run out of his mouth, 
grabbed Hans and danced him all over the 
room until he almost wore the poor man 
out. There was a red-hot cook stove in the 
room and Rankin in his grand right and left 
would try to force Hans on top of the stove, 
which he avoided by nimbly jumping over it, 
taking the whole thing as a huge joke rather 
than get the crazy man mad. Finally they 
unrolled their beds on the floor, and Austin 
and Rankin occupied one bed, while Bill and 
Hans took the other. In a little while Ran- 
kin took another fit and declared there were 
hogs in the ranch. "Listen, Charlie ; can't you 
hear 'em breathe?" "No, Wright," responds 
Austin, "that's Hans and Billie." "But I say 
it is not and, I am going to kill one and we 
will have some meat. Hand me my Winches- 
ter, easv, so as not to scare 'em." 



Charlie tries to reason with him, while poor 
Hans is scared till he daren't hardly move. At 
last Rankin makes a grab for his Winchester, 
while Charlie shouts to warn the boys to 
look out, Rankin has his gun. Bang! Bang! 
goes the gun, shooting just over their heads. 
Billie jumps u]) and yells like a Sioux and 
he and Charlie grapple with Rankin to get the 
gun. while Hans fairly splits the wind to get 
out at the door. The boys finally get Ran- 
kin back to bed and succeed in convincing 
him there are no hogs in the ranch. It is a 
bitter cold night and Hans did not stop in his 
flight even to secure his clothes. After a 
while he knocked timidly on the door, when 
Rankin jumped up and wanted to know who 
was there? "It's Hans." "Why, sure enough, 
Hans, it is you ; come right in ; have you fed 
your horses? Of course, you liaven't had 
any supper : the coffee is warm yet. and I 
will have you a bite in a jiffy." "Oh, no; 
Mr. Rankin." replied Hans, his teeth chatter- 
ing with the cold; "I will just go to bed." 

After a while Rankin again imagines there 
are hogs in the ranch — Bang ! Bang ! Bang ! 
goes the old Winchester in that direction. 
Another scuffle witli Rankin by Billie and 
Austin to get his gun. while poor Hans darts 
out into the chilly night very thinly clad, and 
after a while manages to slip in without dis- 
turbing the crazy man who sleeps quietly till 
morning. While Hans is out next morning 
caring for his team, Charles Austin bored a 
hole about six inches above Hans' pillow, 
blackening it so it would appear like a fresh 
bullet hole, and to this day Hans thinks his life 
was spared only by a miracle. 


Bob Hunter was one of the early-day cattle 
buyers and went through the usual experi- 
ences of cattle buyers at that time. He says, 
"I have been in tlie saddle buving cattle, a 
head or two here and a few more at another 
place, for days and weeks at a time. We 
had to drive through heat and cold, fording 
frozen rivers and generally at night had to 
camp out on the prairie without very manv 
camping accommodations. Houses were very 

few and far between, and with a tired bunch 
of cattle you generally had to stop where 
night overtook you. 

"I remember one night especially, when 
my men and I were driving a bunch of white- 
faces which we were bringing to the lion^e 
ranch. We camped near a deserted sod liouse 
and as soon as we could round up everything, 
we turned in for the night. Toward morn- 
ing we were awakened by shots which we 
thought were altogether too close for comfort. 
On investigation we found the house sur- 
rounded by a posse who were after a ^Mexican 
and an Oklahoma white man who had been 
committing stock depredations and were want- 
ed down in Oklahoma for horse stealing. If 
I hadn't been a smooth talker they would 
probably have taken us along with them, but 
as it was, I succeeded in convincing them that 
they were mistaken." 


The present generation will never know 
the peculiar conditions and privations under 
which the pioneers began life in Custer county. 
These experiences were especially hard on the 
women. Mrs. Martha A. Hunter, who with 
her husband, pioneered in the vicinity of Bro- 
ken Bow, and who is a very versatile writer, 
gives us this glimpse of early sod house life: 

"Ere long the little sod abode was ready 
for occupancy and as the family brought little 
or no house furnishings, two beds were im- 
provised by nailing split saplings to the 
rafters above and to the floor below and the 
same across, upon which were placed bed ticks 
filled with dry hay and above all feather beds, 
making a very comfortable resting place. 

"Fuel was an object of much concern to the 
family as the winter drew near, but corn, 
which was the principal fuel used by the 
neighbors, could be obtained readily for eight 
cents per bushel, and the supply of buffalo and 
cow chips to be had for the gathering, added 
to the supply, which proved adequate for the 

"In the summer of 1890 occurred the first 
of the only two complete drouths in the his- 
torv of Custer countv. The second followed 



four years later, in 1894. The first drouth 
was especially hard on the Hunter family and 
others who had stock. They had not been 
long enough in the country to know the rich 
food properties contained in the short, curly 
buffalo grass that covered the hills like a 
thick mat and which was abundantly rich in 
food properties, — • so much so that stock 
turned loose upon it during the winter time 
not only lived but also kept in good condi- 
tion. But this we did not find out until after 
this hard winter, because we had to drive the 
cattle up into Cherry county for the winter. 
"I worried much about the education of our 
two small daughters, and felt that it was not 
right or fair to them to keep them in the hills, 
but God opened the way not only in providing 
for their education, but in furnishing a sup- 
port for the family, which in those days was 
very welcome and much appreciated. I w-as 
appointed teacher in a school district seven 
miles from our home. We drove these seven 
miles to school each morning and returned in 
the evening, but thought that no hardship. 
Even though we faced many a storm and 
blizzard yet we always got through ; and in 
the end had the pleasure of seeing our daugh- 
ters graduate from the Broken Bow high 

"a wise cow tale" 

Al Wise of the South Loup country tells 
this one : 

"At the time of the Olive trial most of the 
men connected with that ranch were absent 
as witnesses, help was very scarce at the 
ranch, and the few that were left there were 
principally engaged in 'tailing up' cows that 
were so poor that they got stuck in the mud 
along the river and were not able to get 
up without assistance. Did you ever attempt 
to 'tail up' a spirited, ambitious cow? If not, 
you have missed, a whole lot of fun — and 
so has the cow. A little experience of mine in 
that direction may be entertaining — it was to 
me. I had been down at the corral attending 
to 'some horses when I noticed a cow on the 
bank of the river trying to get on her feet, 
but falling back after each attempt. Not 

wishing to take the trouble to saddle a horse, 
I went over to her on foot to assist her out 
of her difficulty. I soon saw that there was 
fight in her, but concluded she was too weak 
to make me any trouble. Grabbing her tail, 
I passed it over my shoulder and gave it 
several twists around my arm, getting as much 
of it in my hand as possible. The old cow 
puffed and shook her head in protest. I paid 
no attention to her objections, but bent my 
back and lifted. The cow did likewise, and 
the way that old heifer got on her feet took 
the breath out of me. I saw that she was on 
the warpath, and that my only hope of safety 
was to keep hold of her tail. With a bellow 
she turned her glaring eyes around on me and 
took after me, spinning around like a top. 
By keeping a firm hold on her tail I just man- 
aged to keep a few inches ahead of her long 
horns. After a few turns to the right she 
tried it a while to the left, but with no better 
success. The waltz was becoming awfully 
monotonous to me, and as we worked toward 
a bank about ten feet high, by the edge of the 
river, I dropped her tail and jumped over the 
bank with one bound. The cow was a little 
dazed by the performance, but as soon as she 
realized the situation she made for the bank, 
probably with the intention of following me, 
but gave it up when she came to the foot of 
it, pawed the ground and bellowed her de- 
fiance, and walked away shaking her head, 
probably hooking me in her mind. Two days 
after this, as I was riding along the bank of 
the river, I saw the old lady down again, but 
I concluded to leave her to her fate, and 
for all I know her bones are buried in the 
mud where I last saw her." 


The depth to water on the table-lands of 
Custer county entailed many hardships on the 
early settlers. None of them had the means 
to sink modern wells -to such a depth, and had 
consequently to resort to the laborious method 
of hauling water in barrels from the lower 
Irnds, often having to go as far as six miles 
for it. Some of the settlers on the tables dug 
wells from 200 to 300 feet in depth and hauled 



water out of them by horse power. The ex- 
istence of these fearful holes in the ground, 
mostly without curbing, resulted in many ao 
cidents, some of which will be found de- 
scribed in others parts of this work. In the fall 
of 1895 F. W. Carlin fell into a well 143 
feet deep, and in the Custer County Beacon 
of September 5th of that year, he thus de- 
scribes the manner in which he climbed out : 

"While driving through the country about 
fifteen miles northwest of Broken Bow on 
the evening of August 14th, it became quite 
dark and I found I had taken the wrong 
track and driven up to some old sod build- 
ing. I turned around and started down what 
looked to me like a good road into the draw, 
when one of my horses seemed to step down 
into a place. I got out of the wagon and 
started alongside of the team to be sure that 
the road was all right, when without a mo- 
ment's notice I became aware of the fact that 
I had stepped into an old well and was going 
down like a shot out of a gun. 

"I placed my feet close together, stretched 
my arms straight over my head and said, 
'Oh God, have mercy on me !' and I honestly 
believe that saved my life, but I went down, 
down, and it seemed to me I would never 
reach the bottom. The further I went, the 
faster I went and never seemed to touch the 
sides at all. 

"I supposed, of course, it would kill me when 
I struck bottom, but God had heard my prayer. 
I struck in the mud and water, which com- 
pletely covered me over. I was considerably 
stunned, but was able to straighten up and 
get my head above the water. I scrambled 
around, gradually extracting my legs from 
the mud. and finally stood on my feet in the 
water, which came just up to my anns. It 
was very cold, and I tried a number of times 
to get out of the water only to fall back. 
The curbing was somewhat slimy. 1 finally 
managed to break oflf a small piece from the 
curbing and found a crack in which I managed 
to fasten it and perched myself upon it 
until morning. While sitting there I heard 
my team running away. In them was my only 
hopes of rescue. For I was aware of the fact 

that I was at least a mile and a half from the 
nearest house, and that no one knew that 1 
was there. 

"There I sat till morning. It was about nine 
o'clock when I fell in, and I was drenched 
with water and plastered with mud. The 
only serious injury I received was a badly 
sprained ankle, which gave me great pain. I 
also had a sore place on my back, which I 
found a number of days afterward to be a 
broken rib. As soon as daylight appeared, 
I began to look around and take in the situa- 
tion. In looking up, it seemed to me at least 
100 feet to the top. But I learned afterward 
that it was exactly 143 feet deep. 

"The well was curbed in places with curb- 
ing about three feet square. There would be 
a place curbed for about six to sixteen feet 
and then there would be a ])lace that was 
not curbed at all. The curbing was per- 
fectly tight, not a crack between them 
that I could get my fingers into, and cov- 
ered with a slimy nuid. I at once con- 
cluded that my only chance for rescue was 
my knife, if it had not fallen out of my pocket 
while floundering in the mud, so thrusting my 
hand into my pocket, there it was, and a good 
one too. I took it and began cutting foot-holes 
in the sides of the curbing ; it was very slow 
but sure. I never went back a foot after I 
had gained it. When I would get to the top 
of the curbing. I took the boards that I had 
cut out and made me a seat in one corner, and 
in this way I think I got up about fifty feet 
the first day. Some time in the afternoon I 
came to a curbing which I thought I could not 
get through ; it was of solid one-by-six boards 
closely fitted together and not less than six- 
teen feet to the top of it. So I made my- 
self a good seat, fi.xing myself as comfortable 
as possible. I concluded that I must stay here 
and await assistance, or die there. 

"I stayed there all the next night and slept 
one-hall of the time, for the night did not 
seem very long. I would have been quite 
comt\)rtable had I not been so wet and cold, 
and my feet pained me terribly, which was the 
greatest drawback. I had to do most of my 
climbing on one foot. 



"I remained at that point the greater part 
of the next forenoon, calling often for help. 
One thing was in my favor ; I was neither 
hungry nor thirsty. I began to give up all 
hopes. I thought of my wife and little boy, 
who were always so glad to see me when 
I came home from a trip. I thought how the 
little fellow would never see his papa or run 
to meet him when he returned home again. 
That was too great. I made up my mind that 
I would get out or 'die in the attempt. So 
I took a piece of board and put some sand on 
I it and got the point of my knife good and 
sharp and began cutting away the curbing and 
making one foot hole after another. I cut, 
climbing higher and higher, and was at last 
on top of the curbing. From there I would 
have been comfortable if my feet had not 
hurt me so badly. But I cut holes in the 
clay for my hands and feet with my knife 
and finally I got within about sixteen feet 
of the top. Right there I had the worst hind- 
rance I had met yet. It was a round curbing 
four feet high and perfectly smooth on the 
inside. It was washed out around it until it 
was only held from dropping by a little peg 
on one side. I knew if I tried to go up 
through it, it was pretty sure to break loose 
and go to the bottom with me. So my only 
chance was to go up between the curb and 
the wall. This I was fortunate in doing. By 
going to work and digging away the wall, 
in half an hour I had a hole large enough 
to let me pass through. After that it was 
but a short job to reach the top, which I did, 
and I lay for some time exhausted. 

"I then knelt down and thanked Almighty 
God for sparing my life, as I had prayed for 
him to do, time and again during the past 
two days and nights that I had been in the 

"But my trouble was not at an end yet. I 
was one and a half miles from a house, with 
a foot I could not step on. I cut some large 
weeds and made out to hobble and crawl to 
the road, about four rods distant, and there I 
lay until nearly sundown, looking for a team 
which never came. After getting out in the 
sun, I became very thirsty. At last I gave up 

Ico'king for any one and started to crawl on- 
my hands and knees to find a house, but I 
soon gave out and had to lie out another 
night. In the morning I felt somewhat better. 
Starting out again I finally arrived at the 
home of Charles Francis just at daylight, 
where I was given food and drink, after be- 
ing without for two days and three nights. 

"My team was found the next day after I 
fell in the well, by a man by the name of 
Green, with the doubletrees and neck yoke at- 
tached to them. To Mr. Green great credit 
is due. He took them to a justice of the 
peace, filed an estray notice and turned them 
into the pasture, thus complying with the law 
and taking away my last chance for being dis- 


A thousand elk in one Custer county herd 
— -that sounds extravagant, yet State Surveyor 
Robert Harvey says he saw a herd that large 
on Victoria creek. He also notes a death 
battle between two elk bulls. The following 
is Mr. Harvey's story: 

"Custer county was a magnificent game 
country. Antelope on the hills and deer and 
elk in nearly every canyon, esj>ecially where 
there was brush. My party was not out 
of fresh meat for more than a day or two at 
the most. Returning from the completion of 
the work in Custer county, we crossed the 
county line and traveled down the old miH- 
tary trail made by Lieutenant G. K. Warren, 
in 1855 or 1856. We noticed small bands of 
elk moving from the bluffs to the south across 
the valley, in direction of the Victoria, and 
when we came opposite that stream we saw 
perhaps a thousand elk gathered on a plat of 
flat, clay ground, south of the river and just 
east of Victoria creek, visiting, grazing, and 
fighting. For miles we could hear the clear 
ring, like bars of metal, when the horns 
clashed together. That was the largest herd 
of elk I ever saw. 

"One evening while hunting in a large 
cedar canyon, now known as Cedar canyon, 
with numerous side pockets containing berries 
and plums, I came upon two pair of elk antlers. 



still attached to the skulls, securely locked to- 
gether around a small ash tree, perhaps five 
or six inches in diameter. They had become 
locked together in conflict around that tree. 
The sod had been worn away and was then 
overgrown with small weeds. They had fought 
up and down the tree until the bark was all 
peeled away as high as they could reach on 
their hind feet, down to the ground. Locked 
to the tree, they died there. I intended to 
have returned that day and cut the tree out 
at the roots, lop off the limbs and carry home 
the trunk with skulls and antlers still locked, 
as a trophy of a remarkably strange and rare 
occurrence. But I had lost so much time, I 
concluded that they could safely wait until 
winter, when 1 would be able to return. 1 
heard that a party of Iowa hunters had found 
them and carried them away. I have heard 
or read of only one other similar occurrence 
and that was of two deer that became en- 
tangled in each others' horns." 


Prominent among the interesting relics 
shown to visitors when calling upon the hos- 
pitable old-timer, Judge Charles R. Mathews, 
of New Helena, is a bottle of gun powder that 
the Judge keeps as a relic of former days, 
when ammunition was scarce and good pow- 
der very hard to obtain. The powder is some 
that he manufactured himself. He gave to 
his visitors in this instance a very interesting 
description of how the powder was manufac- 
tured, together with its formula, effectiveness, 

It is said to be a very powerful explosive. 
The granulation is rather coarse, and the ap- 
pearance almost white. It must not be imagined 
that because we are talking about white powder 
that we are giving a description of ladies" face 
powder, for Judge Mathews has been a bache- 
lor all his life and it is altogether probable that 
he knows nothing about the face powder in 
general use by the ladies. It is gun powder, 
pure and simple, and chickens, quail, rabbit, or 
any other denizen of the canyon that got in 
front of the Judge's gun loaded with this ex- 
plosive about the time he pulled the trigger, 

found out what the powder was for and could 
generally bear witness to its effectiveness. Ac- 
cordingly credit the Judge with being the only 
manufacturer of gim powder in Custer county. 


James Lindly, who came to Custer county in 
the springtime of 1880, arrived at New Helena 
with twenty-five cents in money and with a 
cheerful disposition which enabled him to over- 
come all difficulties and remain in the country 
up to the present time. The first year after 
his settlement in \'ictoria precinct he was 
elected just-ice of the peace, in which capacity 
he served six years. He relates the following 
incidents which occurred while he was ad- 
ministering justice in these early days, and they 
may not be out of place here. Upon one oc- 
casion two Irishmen had some difficulty about 
the boundary line between their claims, and 
the result was a collision. The one who came 
out second best in the row came to Mr. Lind- 
ly to get justice, his face covered with blood 
and his nose in a very demoralized condition. 
The justice issued a warrant for the arrest of 
his antagonist, handed it to him and directed 
him to the home of the constable. In due 
time the constable appeared at the home of the 
justice with both of the men. After reading 
the complaint the defendant pleaded not giiilty, 
and a trial was had without counsel or wit- 
nesses, each man pleading his own case. The 
plaintiff' alleged that defendant had come to his 
place and commenced the row. The defendant 
promptly denied that he had commenced the 
row, but admitted that he had gone to the 
plaintiff's house, and said that the plaintiff had 
attacked him with a jjitchfork. The plaintiff 
then turned toward the defendant, laid his in- 
dex finger on his nose and asked: "How was 
that done?" "Ye did it yerself whin I was 
takin" the pitchfork away from ye," replied 
the defendant. 

The plaintiff then offered his nose in evi- 
dence by turning to the coitrt and saying: 
"The court knows very well that nose was 
chawed." And sure enough it had that ap- 
pearance — and well chewed at that. The 
plaintiff was fined one dollar and costs and the 



two departed together, apparently satisfied 
with the result of the suit. 


Upon another occasion Mr. Lindly had oc- 
casion to go to the sod house of three bache- 
lors, when one of them, in a joking mood, 
asked him how much he would charge him to 
] perform a marriage ceremony. Not being 
rushed with business of that sort. Mr. Lindly 
replied that he \\ould do it for half price. The 
second bachelor then spoke up and wanted to 
know how much the justice would charge to 
marry him. The accommodating justice said 
he would marry him free. Then the third 
bachelor was anxious to know what the charge 
for marrying him would be. "O, I'll marry you 
for nothing, and board you and your wife free 
for a week," laughingly replied Mr. Lindly. 
The first two never called upon Mr. Lindly to 
assist them into wedlock, but not very long 
afterward number three appeared with a fair 
maiden and insisted that the justice fulfill his 
agreement, which Mr. Lindly did, and the 
groom being of a generous disposition, the 
couple boarded with the justice two weeks in- 
stead of one. From the small capital with 
which Mr. Lindly commenced business in 
Custer county he has accumulated an inde- 
pendence. He is the owner of 1,580 acres of 
land. 600 under cultivation, twenty acres of 
trees and all free from incumbrance. 


In the crowd that assembled to witness the 
execution of Haunstine for the murder of 
Roten and Ashley. ]\Irs. Roten was in the 
crowd. When it became known that the gov- 
ernor had granted a reprieve which would stay 
the execution for thirty days, there was con- 
siderable commotion in the vast assemblage and 
a few leaders tried to incite the mob spirit. 
At this time, in an excellently written account 
of the exciting events that followed the an- 
nouncement of the governor's reprieve, the 
State Journal thus alludes to the presence of 
Mrs. Roten. wife of one of the men murdered 
by Haunstine: "She is a splendid-looking wo- 
man, but twenty-six years of age, and the 

mother of four children rendered fatherless by 
Haunstine's crime. She stood in the very 
midst of the thickest part of the struggle with 
a nerve that excited the wonder of all who 
witnessed the spectacle. The leaders of the 
mob circled around her, whispering to her for 
counsel, as if she were their queen, and if she 
had finally insisted on Haunstine's execution, 
no power at the command of the sheriflf could 
have prevented them fulfilling her command. 
The peacemakers besought her earnestly, with 
every assurance of the justice of the outcome, 
to ask the men to disperse, but she called 
attention to the fiendishness of the crime and 
to her fatherless children as an excuse for 
refusing to say a word in the culprit's be- 
half. Failing in this aim, the peacemakers 
turned their endeavors toward preventing her 
from giving encouragement to the mob, and 

Old-timers say that the city reporters catered 
to the spectacular and gave their descriptions 
more of the thrill and red paint than the facts 


In the olden days T. B. Buckner, of Oconto, 
was a justice of the peace. A case was brought 
before him, and Judge Sullivan and Judge 
Humphrey appeared as the attorneys. At the 
beginning of the case Sullivan questioned the 
jurisdiction of Justice Buckner. "Buck" 
listened to the argument on both sides until 
weary, then pulled out a big six-shooter and 
laid it on the table, and said. "Gentlemen, the 
decision of this court is that I am a justice of 
the peace and a hell of a good one." The 
case proceeded without further interruption. 


Judge Boblits, who was the first judge of 
Custer county, married a couple of youngsters 
during the first day in his office and closed 
the ceremony with this remark, "Whom God 
and Boblits hath joined together, let no man 
put asunder." 


In the Xebraska Pioneer Reminiscences is 



found the authority for the following story: 
Dates seem to be lacking, but it was prob- 
ably some time in the year 1888 that an at- 
tractive young lady who had just finished a 
term of school in the Berwyn district accepted 
a position as assistant in the office of the clerk 
of the court, J- T- Douglass, who was the first 
clerk of court in Custer county. In speaking 
of her four years' experience in that office the 
authority relates that many famous cases were 
tried during that time, such as the Demerritt 
case and the Haunstine case, and many others. 
She had to work in an office from the window- 
of which she could watch the erection of the 
scaffold upon which Haunstine was to be exe- 
cuted. Relating the experience in her own 
words : 

"As the nails were being driven into the 
structure, how I shuddered when I thought that 
a human being was to be suspended from that 
beam. Early in the morning on the day of the 
execution people began to arrive from miles 
around to witness the only execution that ever 
occurred in Custer county. My heart ached 
and my soul was stirred to its very depths 
in sympathy for a fellow-being who was so 
soon to pass into eternity. Yet I was utterly 
helpless so far as extending any aid or con- 
solation. And now the thought comes to me, 
will the day ever dawn when there will be 
no law in Nebraska permitting men to take 
the life of another man to avenge a crime?" 
Notwithstanding the varied and exciting ex- 
periences in the clerk's office the young lady 
remained during the entire four years of the 
term, after which she and the ex-clerk were 
married, and tlicy have ever since been fore- 
most among the prominent citizens of Cus- 
ter county. They have a beautiful hopje m 


In luly, 1881, Mrs. J. J. Douglass arrived 
in Broken Bow. That village looked strange 
to her, with not a tree in sight excepting a 
few little cuttings of cottonwood and box- 
elder here and there upon the few lawns. Af- 
ter having lived all her life in a country where 
every home was surrounded by groves and or- 

namental shade trees, it seemed that she was 
in a desert. 

She had just completed a course of study in 
a normal school, prior to coming to Nebraska, 
and was worn out in mind and body, so natur- 
ally her first consideration was the climate of 
the countn,' and its corresponding effect upon 
life and health. Slie wondered how the peo- 
l)le stood the heat of the day, but soon dis- 
covered that a light breeze was blowing nearly 
all the time, so that the heat did not seem 
so intense as it did in her Iowa home. 

After she had been in Broken Bow about 
two weeks she was offered a position in the 
mortgage loan office of Trefren & Hewitt. The 
latter was the first county clerk of Custer 
county. She held this position a few weeks 
and then resigned to take charge of the Ber- 
wyn school, at the request of Charles Ran- 
dall, the county superintendent. Berwyn was 
a village situated ten miles east of Broken 
Bow. It consisted of one general merchandise 
store, a postoffice, depot, and a blacksmith 
shop. It was not daylight when the train 
stopped at the little depot and a feeling of 
loneliness came over her as she w'atched the 
train speed on its way behind the eastern 
hills. She found her way to the home of J. 
O. Taylor (who was then living in the back 
end of his store building), informed him that 
she was the teacher who had come to teach 
the school and asked him to direct her to her 
boarding place. Being a member of the school 
board, Mr. Taylor gave her the necessary in- 
formation and then sent his hired man with 
a team and buggy to take her farther east to 
the home of Ben Talbot, where she was to 

The Talbot home was a little sod house con- 
sisting of two small rooms. On entering she 
found Mrs. Talbot preparing breakfast for 
the family. She was given a cordial welcome, 
and after breakfast, started in company with 
Mrs. Talbot's little girl to the schoolhouse. 
The sense of loneliness which had taken pos- 
session of her on her way to this place now 
began to be dispelled. She found Mrs. Tal- 
bot to be a woman of kind heart and generous 
impulses, the mother of two little girls, the 



older one being of school age. She could see 
the schoolhouse up on the side of a hill. It 
was made of brush and weeds and some sod 
and was twelve by fifteen feet in dimensions. 
The roof was of brush and weeds and some 
sod. and she could see the blue sky by gazing 
up through the roof at almost any part of it. 
She looked out upon the hills and valleys and 
wondered where the pupils were to come from, 
as she saw no houses and no evidence of 
habitation anywhere excepting 'Sir. Talbot's 
home. By nine o'clock about twelve children 
had arrived from some place, she knew not 

She found in that little, obscure schoolhouse 
some of the brightest and best boys and girls 
it was ever her good fortune to meet. There 
soon sprang between them a bond of sym- 
pathy. She sympathized with them in their al- 
most total isolation from the world, and they 
in turn sympathized with her in her loneliness 
and homesickness. 

On opening her school that first morning, 
great was her surprise to learn how well those 
children could sing. She had never been in 
a school where there were so many sweet 
voices. Her attention was particularly directed 
to the voices of two little girls, as they seemed 
remarkable for children of their years. She 
often recalled one bright, sunny evening after 
she had dismissed school and stood watching 
the pupils starting out in various directions 
for their homes, her attention was called to 
a path that led down the valley through the 
long grass. She heard singing and at once 
recognized the voices of these two little girls. 
The song was a favorite of Mrs. Douglass 
and she could hear those sweet tones long 
after the children were out of sight in the tall 
grass. She will never forget how charmingly 
sweet that music seemed to her. 


The roofs on the early sod houses were 
made by putting up small logs for ridgepoles 
to support cross poles and upon these was 
placed a thatch of brush and hay and then 
over the hay, a layer of sod or clay. This kind 
of a roof was often open to both storm and 

criticism. Airs. H. C. Stuckey relates her 
ex[)erience : 

"From hardly any rain we soon had more 
than we needed. Our roof would not stand the 
heavy downpours that sometimes continued for 
days at a time, and it would leak from one 
end to the other. We could keep our beds 
comparatively dry by drawing them into the 
middle of the room directly under the peak 
of the roof. Sometimes the water would drip 
on the stove while I was cooking, and I would 
have to keep tight lids on the skillets to pre- 
vent the mud from the roof falling into the 
food. With my dress pinned up, and rubbers 
on my feet, I waded around until the clouds 
rolled by. Then we would clean house. Al- 
n'ost everything had to be moved outdoors to 
dry in the sun. But I never complained much. 
It has been said that a spirit was given us to 
stand all these trials — for they were indeed 
trials, and hard ones, too. Would I asfain eo 
through with \Vhat I then did? No, indeed! 
A thousand times, no! Life is too short to be 
spent under a sod roof." 


On one occasion the home of H. C. Stuckey 
and wife was visited by a band of Pawnee 
Indians. Mrs. Stuckey gives the following ac- 
count of the way they entertained them: 

"We had but one Indian scare. One day 
fourteen big, ugly fellows came in, squatted 
down on the floor, and, as usual, wanted some- 
thing to eat. We stirred up corn dodgers 
for them and gave them syrup. I can see 
them yet, licking and daubing their corn cakes 
with many grunts of satisfaction. They played 
with my baby and called him 'heap good 
papoose.' I was very much frightened and 
could stand their presence no longer, so I 
took my baby and went into the other room 
and got a large revolver and held it in my 
hand until they went away. I do not know 
what I intended to do with the revolver. The 
Indians were Pawnees and very peaceful. They 
were on a hunting trip, and before leaving 
showed my husband a piece of well worn, 
dirty paper, written at the reservation and 
signed by the agent, requesting settlers to 



give the Indians food. — dead dogs and chick- 
ens, or an\ihing else that would serve to fill 
up their capacious stomachs. These were the 
only Indians that ever came to our ranch." 


In the fall of 1878, while Uncle Swain Finch 
and John Finch were at Brady Island, on the 
Platte, after supplies for their South Loup 
ranch, a dispatch came from the commander 
at Fort ]\IcPherson that three hundred well 
mounted Cheyenne Indians had broken away 
from the southern reservation and were headed 
north, aiid that having barely enough soldiers 
to protect the fort, the settlers would have to. 
look out for themselves. From the way the 
Indians were headed it was thought they would 
probably cross the Platte river at the old 
Indian crossing east of Brady Island. The 
boys had no arms with them except one rifle, 
which Uncle Swain generously left with the 
little settlement of four families at Brady Is- 
land with which to protect themselves in case 
the savages came upon tliem. Shortly after 
dark they started out for their home on the 
Loup, thirty-five miles across the prairie, with- 
out even a trail to go by. It was intensely 
dark, and raining a part of the time, but oc- 
casionally a little patch of blue sky. with a 
star or two shining through it, could be dis- 
cerned. When about eighteen miles out, the 
darkness increased and the rain also, until the 
travelers began to think they had lost their 
course. John asked Uncle Swain if he thought 
they were on the right track. 

"Well, I don't know, boy ; it"s so dog-goned 
dark I cain't tell if we are right or not; but 
if we are we ought to come to the water 
hole where old Sailor died, about half a mile 

Soon they stopped, and while John held the 
horses, L'ncle Swain felt around in the dark- 
ness and a few moments later returned with 
some of old Sailor's bones in his hand. Old 
Sailor was a dog belonging to Uncle Swain 
which had died there a year before, while 
chasing a deer, and this incident shows with 
what unerring accuracy an old frontiersman 
could find his way over these trackless plains, 

even in the darkness. They had proceeded 
about five miles further, and were on what 
is now known as Tallin Table, when they saw 
a flickering light some distance ahead of them. 
They halted, held a council, and decided to 
steer clear of the light, as there was no telling 
whether the makers of the fire were friends 
or enemies. The detour which they were 
obliged to make in order to avoid the light 
threw them oflf their bearings and bewildered 
them to such a degree that they thought it best 
to stop and wait until the morning began to 
dawn. As soon as it was light enough for 
them to get the direction they resumed their 
journe)^ and arrived at the ranch before any 
of the occupants were astir. The boys at the 
ranch were immediately routed out of bed and 
set to work molding bullets and loading cart- 
ridges, while Uncle Swain and John lay down 
to snatch a little sleep. A few minutes later 
John Woods, who had been outside of the 
ranch house trying to see if he could discern 
any Indians, came rushing in. his hair on 
end, and his face as white as a sheet, shout- 
ing: "The Indians are coming! The Indians 
are coming!" It is needless to say that L'ncle 
Swain and John were soon out of bed and 
that the whole ranch was in a commotion ; 
but as the moments passed away without any 
blood-curdling war whoop, they began to feel 
a little easier and sent a scout out to recon- 
noitre. He reported that it was a false alarm. 
Woods had seen a bunch of cattle coming out 
of the hills single file and his excited imagina- 
tion had formed them into Indians. The re- 
lief, however, was but temporary. The In- 
dians would no doubt be along sooner or later, 
and all went to work to prepare for the worst. 
The horses were rounded up in a log corral, 
and a rifle pit dug, in which John and his 
uncle David slept to watch the horses, while 
L'ncle Swain and Woods guarded the house. 
John was only eighteen years of age at that 
time and ver\' averse to having his hair cut 
bv the red devils, an operation which he felt, 
however, was likely to be performed at any 
time, ^^^^ile he and Woods were digging 
the rifle pit he remarked to the old man : "I 
wouldn't be surprised if we were diggin" our 



graves." The old man replied, "Well, John, 
I have been thinkin' the same thing." 

Fortunately no Indians troubled them. They 
leally experienced a sense of disapjiointment 
and were inclined to regret that the alTair had 
ended so tamely. 


In 1875 a trapper by the name of BIy came 
over from North Platte into Custer county to 
ply his vocation. One day an Indian outfit 
of cattle came to his camp and he bought some 
animals that were sore-footed and not able 
to travel. After a while the cattle became 
rested and ran away, followed by a yoke of 
oxen belonging to the trapper. Ely took after 
them on foot, having no horse, but after pur- 
suing them over the prairie for a day he gave 
up the chase. He came over to the South 
Loup, striking the river at the Lovell and 
S'heety beef camp, near where Arnold now 
stands. This outfit had moved further down 
the river, and had sent John Finch and E. 
S. Slater, two boys, up to the old camp after 
a rawhide rope that had been left behind. 
While the boys were at the old camp they 
saw Ely approaching in the distance, and as 
he was dressed in moccasins and leggings and 
had a red blanket over his head they took him 
for an Indian. They hid their ponies, got 
behind an old dugout, and waited for him 
to come up. which he did, the boys discover- 
ing their mistake before he reached them. Bly 
cooked his breakfast and ate it. He then went 
on down to the new camp, where he bought 
a horse, after which he returned and rounded 
up his straying stock. He then worked for 
the Lovell and Sheety outfit until August, 
1876, when he left to go to North Platte to 
visit his family, driving his yoke' of oxen, 
which were hitched to a wagon. He stopped 
the first night at the ranch of Swain Finch. 
Among other things he told Mr. Finch that 
he had sold his rim-fire Winchester for twen- 
ty-three dollars in cash and that he was going 
to buy a new gun when he got to the Platte. 
He resumed his journey in the morning, but 
was never afterward seen alive. 

About a week afterward Sam Ritchie, of 

the firm of Ritchie & Arnold, was returning 
with his men from Pawnee Creek when they 
came across the wagon, with the dead body 
of Bly in it. The oxen had become detached 
from the wagon in some manner and were 
afterward found on the Loup river. Some 
thought that the trapper had been shot. His 
hat was found a few yards away, with one 
side badly torn. There were no marks upon 
the body except a small hole at the butt of 
the left ear and another at the back of the 
left heel. Word was sent to North Platte and 
the sherifif of Lincoln county came out and 
buried the body, wrapping it up in some tanned 
elk skins and putting it only about two feet 
deep in the ground, not wishing to be to any 
more trouble than actually necessary. The 
coyotes soon dug the body up, and for many 
years the bones lay bleaching in the sun. 

Twelve years afterward John Finch, while 
passing through, about twelve miles south- 
west of Arnold, picked up the skull by the 
shallow grave where the unfortunate man had 
been buried. The locality is known to this 
day as Bly's Flats. David Finch was present 
when Bly was buried, and knowing that the 
trapper had received twenty-three dollars for 
his gun, he searched the clothing, but could 
not find any money. Mr. Finch noticed that 
the clothes on the body were not the same 
as those worn by the trapper the night he had 
stopped at the ranch. The wagon was then 
searched and the money found in his old 
clothes. It was afterward sent to the trapper's 
widow by Mr. Finch. 

A very careful search was made to see if 
any indications of foul play could be found, 
and the conclusion was that the man had been 
struck by lightning. It was remembered that 
a dark cloud had been seen in the direction 
the trapper took on the day he left the ranch. 
The tracks left by the oxen and the marks of 
the wagon which had been dragged about 
when the animals were becoming detached 
from it, indicated that the ground was in a 
muddy condition at the time. Finally an ex- 
amination of the skull found by John Finch 
proved beyond a doubt that the man had not 
been shot, as no bullet hole was found in it. 




Uncle Swain Finch, a pioneer character 
whom all the early settlers remember, was 
somewhat of a deer hunter in the early days. 
The following incident is constructed from 
his own writing. 

One day in 1883 he started out on a deer 
hunt. He was not feeling very well that day. 
and was creeping along rather slowly until 
finally he discovered two deer just around a 
point of a hill a short distance ahead of him. 
He crept up to the top of the little hill be- 
hind which they were standing and blazed 
away at them, the distance being about 200 
yards as he thought, but he afterward found 
that it was 300 yards. 

As soon as he fired they jumped up and 
ran, followed by another shot from him. which 
apparently took no effect. A third shot was 
sent after the one he had picked out. and he 
thought he could see him stagger, but they 
ran about three-quarters of a mile, stopped for 
a few minutes on the top of a hill, and then 
went off on a lope about a quarter of a mile 
further. All this time he had been standing 
on the spot from which he had fired his first 
shot. After stopping again for a short time, 
the deer commenced feeding and walking 
down over the top of the little knoll on which 
they had been standing, disappearing from 
his sight. He followed, and when arriving at 
the place where they had disappeared he again 
saw them walking and feeding some distance 
ahead of him. As soon as they saw him 
one of them ran about 250 yards to his right, 
but the other was not to be seen. He pro- 
ceeded on down the hill, saw the other deer 
about seventy-five or eighty yards ahead of 
him, near the bottom of the hill. It was a 
big buck. He gave him a shot and he rolled 
over on his back. He threw in another cart- 
ridge, walked down to him, opened his knife, 
took him by the horns, and placed the knife 
at his neck to cut his throat. 

Before he could do it, however, the buck 
jumped up as if he had been shot out of a 
cannon, sent the knife whizzing through the 
air, and in order to .save himself and keep the 
deer he grabbed hold of the other horn. The 

buck doubled himself up and kicked Swain, 
and jerked him down the hill, and they had it 
hot and heavy for some time. Sometimes 
the deer was on top and sometimes Swain, but 
at every turn the deer gave a vicious kick, 
and Swain had to keep a death grip on him to 
save his life. Every little while the deer would 
stop to get his wind, then go at it again 
harder than ever. Swain's clothes were lit- 
erally torn to shreds, about the only whole 
thing on him being the collar of his shirt. 

The situation was serious, and he dared not 
let go. for the deer would have made a lunge 
at him. and there did not appear to be any 
way out of the difficulty except to hang on 
and worn,- him out. He looked over his shoul- 
der to see how far they were from the gun, 
and found that it was not less than twentj'- 
five yards away. The only hope he had was 
to get the gun before turning the buck loose. 
In their struggles they worked down the hill, 
of course, and Swain started in to pull the deer 
back in the direction of the gun. Whenever 
he made a lunge he would pull with all his 
might and move him up a little, every time 
he lunged getting a little nearer to where 
the gun was lying. It was a slow and la- 
borious job. but they were getting there by 
degrees, and at last Swain had the satisfaction 
of seeing the gun within six feet of him. 

The next question was could he let go 
of the deer, grab his gun, and shoot him 
before he came down on him with his sharp 
hoofs? It was a dangerous experiment, and 
the slightest hitch in the operation might cost 
him his life. At this particular moment he 
thought, for the first time during the whole 
adventure, of the Lord, and he is not sure but 
that he prayed just a litle bit as he suddenly 
let go of' those horns, grabbed his gim, and 
shot his antagonist dead before it had time to 
regain its feet. 


The late Captain \\'. H. Comstock is the 
atuhority for this story. He says: 

"In company with D. J. Caswell I started 
from Moingona, Boone county. Iowa, in March, 
1874. In due course of time we arrived at 



Loup City, the metropolis of Sherman county, 
which consisted of a log liotel kept by C. Y. 
Rossiter, and a general store of which Frank 
Ingram was the owner and proprietor. About 
this time Frank had some friends who had 
come to make him a visit. His family con- 
sisted of liimself, wife, one child, and a hired 
man and hired girl. The house was small 
and sleeping rooms scarce. But Frank's mind 
was active, and he soon had a plan to help 
himself out of the difficulty and provide sleep- 
ing apartments for the visitors, without seri- 
ously inconveniencing the family. He went 
to the room of the hired man and told him that 
it would be necessary for him to vacate his 
bed, as he had company that would have to 
be taken care of. He then went to the room 
of the hired girl, woke her up and laid the 
situation before her. He said either her bed 
or the hired man's must be given up for the 
company. He didn't like to make one of them 
sit up all night, but he thought as the hired 
man and the hired girl had been keeping 
company, and intended to get married, any- 
way, they might just as well get married 
then and there and thus settle the whole diffi- 
culty about the beds. This seemed to meet 
with the approval of the two parties most 
interested, and Mr. Ingram, being the county 
judge, immediately issued a license and 
married them on the spot. 

J. D. h.'\skb;ll's persgn.^l experience 

"In Februar}', 1874, an acquaintance, who 
had just returned from an excursion trip to 
Nebraska, told me in glowing colors of that 
wonderful western country. He wanted me to 
go to Cozad and handle the butcher business. 
I was then twenty years old, and being full 
of a boy's love for adventure and fired by the 
glowing tales of the west, I did not ask 
many questions. In March, 1874, I was on 
my way west, having chartered a car for my 
one horse, two milch cows, four sows, butcher 
tools, and a bulldog — every real butcher had 
to have a bulldog. The freight on the car 
was $200. The different railroads passed me 
to Omaha, but there I was obliged to pay 
twelve dollars and fifty cents for a ticket to 

Cozad, a distance of 250 males. When I 
reached my destination I was a discouraged 
lad. My aircastles collapsed like a balloon. 
There was no depot, and only five buildings 
in the town. The first question was how to 
unload my property. I got some planks and 
the stock slid down them from the car to the 
ground. We had landed in Nebraska. In a 
short time things looked fairly prosperous. 
Excursion trains were coming in every month 
bringing new settlers, we were getting the 
spring rains, more houses were being built in 
the town and country, and the prairie was 
being plowed up and put in crops. People had 
to eat, and being the butcher, I commenced 
business. My business as a butcher lasted 
about sixty days. In July we had hot winds 
and grasshoppers, the latter in such number 
as to shade the sun when passing over the 
country. Everything was eaten by them. I 
bought flour to make slop for my pigs, and 
there being no mowing machine in the country 
I bought a scythe and cut grass in the sloughs 
to winter my horse. That ^vinter we had 
lots of snow, with the mercury thirty degrees 
below zero. The new settlers were short of 
fuel, clothing, and provisions. The latter part 
of that winter the government sent out a lot 
of army shoes and clothing that was out of 
date for the soldiers, and flour and beans were 
issued to the settlers. No clothing was issued 
for the women, but you would often see a 
woman wearing army shoes and a blue army 
overcoat. We had the grasshoppers and hot 
winds again the summer of 1875, and times 
were harder than ever that winter. The 
spring of 1875 I went to the Ozark mountains 
of Missouri, and an Ohio boy (Lew Will- 
iams) met me there. We bought 600 head of 
sheep, which we trailed across the country to 
Cozad. We had a good deal of trouble in 
crossing the numerous streams. At night we 
slept on the ground or in our wagon, and 
made a corral out of muslin to pen our sheep 
in. We sold the sheep soon after reaching 
Cozad. That same summer we made two 
trips to eastern Kansas, by wagon, and on each 
trip brought back milch cows, which we sold 
to settlers from Hastings to Cozad. The 



spring of 1876 I went to Ellis, Kansas, on 
horseback, and when the Texas cattle drive 
came in I bought 100 yearling heifers for 
$700. I put my cattle in with a herd that came 
to the Loup valley. We located about eight 
miles this side of Callaway. I worked for 
my board and furnished my own saddle horses 
and bed. We hauled our supplies from Cozad 
and Lexington (then Plum Creek). This 
county was not organized. There were no 
mail routes and we got our mail only when 
we went to the railroad. That fall I wanted 
to cast my first vote for president, conse- 
quently, I made a fifty-mile ride to Cozad and 
voted for R. B. Hayes. The spring of 1877 
I hired out to Gassman and Dufree, ranch- 
men, for thirty dollars per month. That fall 
(1877) I took charge of a ranch as foreman. 
The owners lived in Illinois. I had the whole 
responsibility of managing the ranch in all its 
details. I have ridden all night to get to 
the railroad to send out important mail to the 
ranch owners. The spring of 1878 I was aj)- 
pointed county commissioner, and I held the 
office continuously until township organiza- 
tion went into efTect. During 1881 I moved to 
my present home, in Arnold township, My 
first house was a log cabin. In 1882 I hauled 
lumber from Lexington (seventy miles) to 
build a hoi:se. In December of the same vear 
T went back to Ohio, my home state, and was 
married. When my wife and I reached Cozad, 
the sleeping room at the hotel' was a large 
room containing six beds, no stove. About 
luidniglit a drunken man came stumbling in, 
looking for a bed. The next day we started 
for our home on the Loup with a span of 
ponies and a buckboard. It was dead winter 
and deep snow covered the ground. That 
night we stopped with a farmer in the Platte 
valley, fifteen miles from Cozad. The house 
was not plastered and we could look out 
through the holes in the roof and see the stars 
shining. The second day we started bright 
and early. We had to break our road through 
the snow. There was no house between our 
own home and the Platte valley, a distance of 
thirty-five miles. When we reached home. 
Grandpa Hughey had supper ready, with some 

of his good hot biscuits, coflfee. and beefstead. 
-As we had gone without our dinner, we did 
full justice to that supper, and here we have 
been ever since, wrestling with the ups and 
downs of western life." 


J. J. Douglass says: "Relics of unusual in- 
terest have at diflferent times been found in 
this country. In the summer of 1880, while 
riding on the Middle Loup, with others, we 
came to a bed of charred wood near where 
the Milburn bridge now crosses that stream. 
A number of beads were scattered about, and 
upon closer examination we found among the 
coals the under jaw of a man, and also a silver 
medal, two and a half inches in diameter, 
with a hole in it. On one side' was the bust 
of a man, with the name, 'Pierre Choteau,' 
under it, while on the other side were the 
words: "L'pper Missouri Outfit.' Our sup- 
position was that some. Indian trader had been 
in that country trading beads and other trink- 
ets to the Indians for furs, that they had gotten 
into a quarrel and that the savages had killed 
and burned the trader." 


Once during the summer of 1881, while Jess 
Gaudy still lived near \\'est L'nion, he and his 
wife were out gathering wild fruit. Jess was 
a short distance from the wagon. He heard 
a shot, and rushing out, found his wife had 
shot a four-pronged buck. But he proved to 
be only stunned. What was to be done must 
be done quickly, as the buck was liable to 
jump up and get away at a second's notice. 
The suddenness of the thing rather rattled 
Jess. He had no more ammunition, and not 
even a jack knife to cut its throat. He was 
indeed in a dilemma. A dozen different plans 
flashed through his mind in a few seconds as 
to the best way to kill the buck, and he saw 
with alarm that it showed signs of reviving. 
Jess was so excited he forgot he could take 
oflf his neckyoke and dispatch him, but what 
he did do was about as funny as Judge Kil- 
gore is said to have done in the winter of 
1880. The judge packed water two miles for 



several weeks through two feet of snow, till 
some one suggested that snow, when melted, 
made water. But we left Jess with the buck 
showing signs of returning life. All at once 
a bright idea occurred to Mr. Gandy, and 
quick as a flash he had acted on it, and had 
dumped Mr. Buck into the wagon and tied 
him with his halter ropes. Then, sitting 
astride its head and neck, he yelled, "Let 'em 
go," and Mrs. Gandy did "let 'em go," for 
Jarvis Kimes' farm, a distance of half a mile 
east across the prairie. They had gone but a 
short distance when the buck came to his 
senses, and finding Jess astride of him, a 
struggle for life ensued between the two. It 
was just about an equal match, and for some 
time it was a matter of doubt whi:h would 
come out on top. The buck had free use of 
his hind legs and when he brought them down 
on the sides of the wagon box it looked as if 
he would soon kick the wagon to pieces. The 
noise frightened the ponies and away they 
flew\ up hill and down hill, over the rough 
ground, Mrs. Gandy holding them straight 
ahead and letting them go. The sharp feet of 
the deer tore Jess' clothing into ribbons and 
bruised his body fearfully. He had a veritable 
white elephant on his hands, and when the 
ponies dashed up to the door of Mr. Kimes he 
was about exhausted, panting and gasping for 
breath, his face flushed and perspiration roll- 
ing down in big drops. Kimes helped him 
to let go the buck. 


In September, 1881, Mr. Gandy was mak- 
ing hay with a neighbor, Mr. Lyle, three miles 
west of the river, coming home only on Sat- 
urday nights, ]\Irs. Gandy being left at home 
to liiok after the cattle. One Saturday eve- 
ning a man came to the house and got his 
supper, telling Mrs. Gandy that he had eaten 
nothing for two days. He was a pitiful-look- 
ing object. He had a blanket rolled upon his 
back and carried a pair of shoes in his hand, 
his feet being so swollen that he could not 
wear them. After he had eaten his supper he 
requested of Mrs. Gandy the privilege of stay- 
ing all night. vShe told him that she was alone, 

and that he would have to seek accommodation 
elsewhere. As he had come down the river 
in a boat, and there was a settlement at West 
Union, two miles further on, he started off and 
Mrs. Gandy got her pony and proceeded to 
round up her cattle. She returned, attended 
to her milking and other duties, and went to 
the house, it being by this time quite dark. 
When she entered the house, what was her 
consternation to discover the stranger sitting 
upright in bed, with two huge revolvers lying 
by his side and a number of papers scattered 
about him. When she came in he remarked 
to her that he was making himself at home. 
She replied : "I should think you are," and 
left the room. As it was Saturday night, she 
knew that Jess would be home about eleven 
o'clock, so she took her horse and started for 
Mr. Lyle's, meeting her husband on the way. 
When they returned to the house they found 
the man still sitting up in the bed, groaning 
with the pain in his swollen limbs. He begged 
so piteously to be allowed to remain that they 
had not the heart to turn him out, and he was 
allowed to remain until morning, although 
they suspected that he was a criminal. The 
supposition proved to be correct, as it was af- 
terward learned that he had robbed a postofifice 
at Stem's ranch. 


A funny incident is related of the experi- 
ence of Jess Gandy in trying to ride a buf- 
falo. He had made his boast that he was 
going to ride the first buffalo he saw. Sliort- 
ly after that, while out hunting one day, he 
came across four or five of the beasts. He 
fired at short range and shot an old bull through 
the lungs, which dropped down on his haunch- 
es and dropped its head, the blood coming out 
of its nostrils. Jess thought this would be an 
excellent opportunity to mount and to make 
good his boast. He succeeded in getting on 
the back of' the dying buffalo, but soon found 
that he had mounted a very lively corpse, as 
the old fellow came to his feet with a bound 
and started off at a rapid pace. Dave Hick- 
man, who was an eye witness of the perform- 
ance, declares that at the second jump of the 



scared buffalo Jess was thrown about fifteen 
feet into the air. He came down on his feet 
and lost no time in making for a tree about a 
hundred yards distant, into which he climbed 
while the buffalo was flying in the opposite 


Eber Barber, who came to Custer county a 
little while before the buffaloes got out of it. 
has had some experiences that do not fall to 
the lot of every pioneer. He was here before 
he was married, and as a cowbov and an all- 
round utility chap was in niuch demand on 
the big ranches. He was here in time to kill 
a buffalo in the county. In speaking of his 
experiences he tells the following: 

A young Englishman by the name of Dan 
Todd died at the "White House," down on the 
South Loup, in the winter of 1882. It was 
very cold at the time and two feet of snow 
covered the ground. It was impossible to dig 
a grave and nobody seemed disposed to take 
the initiative in the obsequies. Barber says 
he knew that Todd was a Free Mason and ac- 
cordingly he resolved to take the body to Lex- 
ington and turn it over to the Masons there 
for burial. He loaded the body on to a sled 
and with a yoke of oxen hauled it down to the 
head of Wood river, where a man named 
Marve Henr>' hitched on his mules in the 
place of the oxen and accompanied lUubcr and 
the dead man the rest of the way. All day 
long they wallowed through the dcej) snow 
with their uncomplaining passenger. It was 
as gruesome as it was tiresome and hazard- 
ous. All day they bucked the snow and en- 
couraged the mules. Early in the morning, 
as they started out from Henry's place, they 
had a chance to send word to the Masons in 
Lexington, by the mail carrier, that they were 
coming. Along with this announcement went 
a description of their bill of lading. When 
within six or eight miles of Lexington, and 
nearly exhausted, they met two teams with 
eight men, all Masons, coming to meet them, 
and help them into town. Barber says. "Jim- 
miny crackey, but I was glad to see them." 

He aflds that the Masons took care of Henry 
and himself while they were in Lexington, gave 
them every comfort, besides holding funeral 
services over the remains of Todd and paying 
the entire bill for Christian burial. 


In the summer of 1880, as the Fourth of 
July drew near, the people of Westerville were 
desirous of celebrating the day. Mr. Wester- 
velt had a red-cedar log which he said he 
would give for a liberty pole, but it was not 
long enough, and Mr. Baker was patriotic 
enough to go to the cedar canyons and get 
another. The two were spliced together and 
raised, so that "Old Glory" waved above the 
people upon that eventful day. The pole stood 
in the middle of the main street, which was 
named Loraine, in honor of Mrs. Westervelt. 

For years afterv^'ard this pole stood proudly 
erect, ready to receive the old flag and float it 
upon the winds in full view of all the sur- 
rounding country upon the occasion of every 
natal day or time of every public celebration. 
The pole is gone now, but other poles have 
been erected all over the county to take its 
place, and in these war times the patriotism 
of Custer county people keeps the flag floating 
all the time. 


The first contest over the county seat in Cus- 
ter county, was over the removal of the county 
seat and ]>ostofficc from Custer, Nebraska, to 
Broken How. This was in 1881. Custer was 
on Frank ^'oung's ranch, near the mouth of 
Spring creek. 

The far-sighted ranchmen saw that the logi- 
cal place for the county seat was in the center 
of the county. Mr. Young and his neighbors 
were for keeping it at Custer antl argued that 
it might have to be brought l)ack if moved, 
and that would mean a big bill of expense. 
This argument prevailed with the board of 
county commissioners until Jolni E. Mvers, 
then chairman of the board, said if it had to 
come back he would pay the bill. Then it 
went through with a whoop. 




J. J. Douglass gives the following account of 
two early settlers, one famous for his hos- 
pitality and the other e(|ually as famous for 
his hostility. 

"One of the interesting characters of this 
region at that time was Louis Wambsgan, one 
of the very earliest settlers, who located near 
where Oconto now stands. His house was the 
only stopping place for a number of years be- 
tween Plum Creek and the South Loup, and 
there was hardly a night the year around 
that two or three cowboys could not be found 
at 'Louie's' as he was familiarly called. He 
could always furnish sport for the boys in 
some way, and his annual turkey shoots dur- 
ing the holidays became famous throughout 
this region. I have heard many a good story 
told under Louie's hospitable roof. Wambs- 
gan was the first county judge, being elected 
at a special election held July 31. 1877. 


"Frederick Schreyer was another interest- 
ing character. He was the first homesteader 
on the South Loup between Callaway and 
Arnold. He was a very resolute German, 
about fifty years of age, and as eccentric as 
he was resolute. He constructed a dugout in 
which he imagined he would be secure from 
the depredations of the festive cowboy. As 
we have said before, there was a natural an- 
tipathy between the cowboys and the settlers, 
and the breach became wider and wider as 
time passed by and the settlers became more 
numerous. Armed encounters were frequent 
and bloodshed was often the result. Schreyer 
often had encounters with the cowboys and at 
one time was wounded in two places. He 
thought he was going to die, and had Charles 
Rockwood draw up his will. He had a ford 
near his house which he called his ford, and 
without his consent nobody was allowed to 
cross the river at that place if he could prevent 
it. He also surrounded his house with a high 
sod wall, which he called his fortifications. 
On the morning of April 1, 1878, J. D. Has- 
kell and the writer ]nit some tools in a wagon 

and went up the river to repair a corral. In 
going we crossed the river at Schreyer's ford. 
We saw nothing of him at that time, but dur- 
ing the day he sent us word that if we at- 
tempted to cross there in coming back he 
would shoot us. When we arrived at the 
ford on the way back, and while watering our 
horses, we saw Schreyer and his son running 
toward the house with gims. As soon as we 
got within range they raised up from behind 
their fortifications and began firing at us. We 
were unarmed, and, thinking discretion the 
better part of valor, put the whip to our team 
and got out of the way. In our flight we had 
to pass pretty close to the house, and one of 
the shots tore the step from the side of the 
wagon. From that time on there was trouble. 
Young Schreyer w-as arrested on the Platte, 
but escaped and went to Lincoln, where he 
remained a month. He came back to Kearney, 
was again arrested and was brought up into 
Custer county. He and his father were taken, 
handcuffed, to Custer for preliminary examin- 
ation, and were bound over to appear before 
the district court. Not giving bonds, they 
were lodged in the Lexington jail. In July 
they were tried and sentenced to serve a term 
in jail, by Judge Gaslin. They served out 
their time and got home the next winter. 


James Farley tells this elk story : "Toward 
the end of my cowboy career I worked for the 
Bar-7 ranch, of which David Rankin was prin- 
cipal owner. This ranch was located on the 
Middle Loup. 

"Large herds of elk roamed over the coun- 
try at that time. While on the round-up in 
1881 we sighted a large bunch, which had 
winded us. The boys ofif with their ropes and 
after them. C. W. Stern, John Carney, Bert 
Wilder, Charley Peterson (a green hand at the 
cattle business), and six or eight others were 
in the chase, and there was enacted one of the 
most thrilling incidents ever witnessed on the 
plains of Nebraska, Peterson singled out the 
biggest buck in the bunch, and as soon as 
Charley began to press him hard, he left the 



bunch and ran in another direction, Peterson 
close at his heels. 1 knew that Charley would 
never let up until he had secured the buck, and 
I knew full as well that he would have trouble 
when he threw his rope over the powerful 
beast, as he never carried a gun. I followed 
him as fast as my horse could carry me. I 
lost sight of him for a while in the chop hills, 
but soon discoverefl him again as I rode up a 
little hill. He had the elk at the end of his 
rope about eighty rods from me. The first 
move I saw was the elk making a run on the 
rope, and when he came to the end of it he 
fell heavily to the ground. He then jumped 
lip and charged Peterson's horse. As he came 
on. head down, at the rate of about fifty miles 
an hour, Charley spurred his horse to one side 
and let the elk pass, and gave him another 
tumble as the rope tightened up. I waited to 
see no more but galloped as fast as my horse 
could carry me to his assistance, as I knew 
that it was only a question of time when the 
infuriated brute would catch the fearless boy 
in one of his charges. As I rode up, the elk 
was making his third charge, but Peterson 
evaded him again and gave him another tum- 
ble at the end of his rope. When about 300 
feet from Peterson the elk had again regained 
his feet, lowered his head for another charge, 
his eyes flashing fire, and with terrific bounds 
- made for the ])lucky boy. It seemed to me 
that it would be impossible for him to get out 
of the way of those terrible horns. But again 
he lei ihe elk pass by without touching him 
and again he brought the brute to the ground 
at the end of the rope, pulling him square 
over on his back. Quick as lightning Peter- 
son reined his horse backward, tightened the 
roi^e. jumped out of the saddle, whipped out a 
big jack knife, and slashed it across the throat 
of the prostrate beast. I shouted to him with 
all my might to desist, as I expected to see 
him killed every second, but he heard nothing 
and saw nothing but that elk and before I 
came up Peterson was back in his saddle. 
"What the devil did you do that for?' I shout- 
ed, as soon as I reached him. T did na want 
loossee ma rope — da boys da laugh at ma.' 
The other bovs followed the bunch and C. X. 

Stern succeeded in roping two of them at one 
throw, but one of them got away. None of 
the boys that saw the sport will ever forget it." 


"Once seventy-five men started from Ray- 
mond lake, fifteen miles west of the head of 
Middle Loup river to go to the Newman ranch 
on the Running Water. We were driving 
1..^00 head of cattle for the northern ranches. 
We missed our course and traveled for two 
days in a circle, among the sand hills. \\'e 
had water for neither horses nor cattle, and 
on the third day the poor brutes became frantic 
with thirst. It took the utmost efforts of the 
'men to keep them from breaking away, and 
their bellowing was something absolutely heart- 
rending, ^len could be seen on every hill 
around us trying to see if water could be dis- 
covered. At last I saw two men standing on a 
hill some distance oft' motioning in such a way 
that I knew they had found something. I 
rode u]j to them and found the nicest little 
lake of pure water I have ever seen among the 
sand hills. We all filled our kegs before let- 
ting the cattle into the water. After the re- 
joicing at our find had somewhat subsided we 
discovered that we were within half a mile of 
the pla:e from which we had started three days 
before. \\'e had a good compass, but all the 
men had declared the compass was no good. 
Stern had told them of an old trail which led 
to the Running Water, and they expected to 
follow that, but it was so dim they crossed it 
without noticing it. and kept traveling in a 
circle for three days. After a good breakfast 
and all the water we could drink. Jolni Darr. 
two other cowboys, and myself, were sent out 
to find the old trail, which we soon did. and 
led the ])arty out of the wilderness, reaching 
our destination safely in due time." 

HUNTERS riND G.\.\IK IN Till- I'.Kl) 

Jess Gandy tells the following: "In the 
fall of 1876. in company with Charles Penn, 
1 left York. Nebraska, and came up into Cus- 
ter county on a hunt. We arrived after dark 
at Mr. Murphy's place, on Clear creek. On 
our approach the dogs began a violent bark- 



ing, and suddenly the lights went out. We 
thought this rather strange, but proceeded to 
knock on the door several times before we 
received any response. Finally a childish 
voice rang out on the night air with a deter- 
mined and rather angry accent : 'Who are you 
and what do you want?" 'We are hunters, 
and wish to stay all night." 'That's too thin. 
Leave or I will shoot through the door." 'Say, 
Sis, where is your pa?' 'That's no concern 
of yours. Leave or Fll shoot." 

"We thought discretion the better part of 
valor, got out of range of the door, and final- 
ly convinced the two plucky little girls within, 
who were only about ten and fourteen years 
old, that we were friends. They had heard 
the dogs bark, took us for Indians or horse 
thieves, and had turned out the light, got the 
gun and proceeded to 'hold the fort." We 
learned that Mr. Murphy and his wife had not 
yet returned from a cedar canyon near by, 
where they were loading cedar to take to 
Grand Island the following day. 

"There could be quite a romance written 
about this family. Mr. Murphy had a few 
cattle and the two children had to do the 
herding and have had to subsist for three 
weeks at a time on a small grass nut which 
they dug while herding their cattle. But to 
return to our story. Mr. Murphy and his 
wife came in presently and we were hospitably 
entertained. The next morning we were di- 
rected to Mr. McEndeffer's place, Mr. Mur- 
phy's closest neighbor, on the Muddy, about 
ten miles in a southwesterly direction. We 
had only proceeded a short distance when we 
sighted a band of elk, and everything else was 
forgotten in the exciting chase which ensued. 
We found ourselves at night over twenty miles 
out of our course, and in the midst of a gen- 
uine Nebraska blizzard. We selected a shel- 
tered place on the banks of the Muddy, where 
we could obtain fuel, and camped until morn- 
ing. We lost sight of the elk the previous 
evening among the hills, not having been 
able to get a single shot at them at less than 
700 yards. 

"In the morning it was still storming, and 
we retraced our steps and arrived at McEn- 

deffer"s the following evening. We hunted 
with "Sir. McEndeflfer about a week, and had 
splendid success, having killed several deer. 
I will say Charley Penn is the only man I 
ever saw who could shoot quicker than I. 

"While on this trip we camped all night in 
an old deserted sod house and found a large 
heap of tumble weeds and tickle grass blown 
up into one corner of the room. Being very 
tired, we did not stop to investigate what 
might be hidden under this immense stack of 
debris, but proceeded to spread our tarpaulins 
on it and make our bed. 

"After a little, Charley was snoring away 
at the rate of about three knots an hour. I 
felt our bed move, but thought it must be 
my imagination. After a little the movements 
beneath became so violent there could be no 
mistake that there was something underneath 
our bed. I remembered when a boy of hear- 
ing that circumstances sometimes make strange 
bedfellows, and I thought we 'had 'em sure." 
I nudged Charley quietly and whispered, 
'Charley, there's something under our bed.' 
But I might just as well have talked to the 
sod walls. He kept right on 'sawing wood.' 
The rolling and tumbling motion continued 
with still greater violence every minute, until 
I was beginning to get seasick. I got desper- 
ate, and, springing up in bed, fairly shouted 
in Charley's ear: 'Charley, there's something 
alive under our bed,' and Charley came back 
from dreamland with a snort and puff just as 
we began slowly sinking toward the ground 
and the heaving and surging motion ceased. 
Looking out toward the door we saw a long 
procession of little dark-looking objects, with 
white stripes on their backs, filing out of the 
door, and then realized that we had been sleep- 
ing on top of a family of skunks which had 
taken u[) their winter quarters in the place."" 


.■\n amusing incident happened in Judge 
Ford"s court one day during a trial in which 

the Rev. Albert M (colored) and his wife 

were trying to enforce claims against an es- 
tate being probated at the time. Al. Johnson 
was conducting the cross examination. !Mrs. 




was upon the stand. It was revealed 
by the witnesses that the claims of the "Rev- 
run" and his wife were somewhat antagonistic 

and at the moment Al. said to Mrs. M , 

"Your husband is a preacher, is he not?" And 
to the consternation of all present, she answer- 
ed. "Xo. sir, he aint no preacher: dat man 
aint got no religum." How could he be a 
preacher? It is reported that the dignity of 
the court relaxed. 


In the days when the old court house was 
in existence there was an antiquity in the dis- 
trict-court room in the shape of an old, smoky 
stove. At that time "Scotty" was the super- 
intendent of the court house and he alone knew 
how to regulate the stove so that it would not 
smoke. One day while the county "Dads" 
were in session in the district-court room the 
old stove began to "smoke 'em out." and about 
that time Colonel Cooper came into the room. 
He punched the fire until he had the room full 
of smoke and then he put this conundrum to 
the crowd. "Why is this old stove like the 
County Dads?" No one could answer it. 
"Because it smokes all day and is out all 
night," responded Cooper. 


We have already mentioned the names of 
T. W. Dean, Leroy Leep and Gus Cosier. A 
peculiar incident happened to these parties on 
November 20. 1875. after the settlement in 
the precinct. About three o'clock in the morn- 
ing Air. Dean was awakened from a sound 
sleep, and discovered that his room was as 
light as day — • the whole heavens seemed to 
be on fire. He sprang out of bed, gathered 
his pants, and proceeded to put them on. At 
this moment (nis Cosier came dashing up 
shouting "fire! fire! fire!" It was a prairie 
fire coming from the northwest — a grand and 
awful sight, never to be forgotten. Property 
and life were at stake. The head fire was com- 
ing on in the west of them at the speed of a 
race horse. A stiff gale was blowing from the 
northwest. One hundred yards in advance 
of the main bodv of fire. Dean had turned his 

horses loose, and they proceeded south toward 
the river. A pony was lariated near the house 
and Lee Leep. then being present, quickly 
mounted the animal and followed the loose 
horses, the only hope being to find them and 
drive them east across a piece of breaking be- 
fore the fire reached them. He almost reached 
the place where he knew the horses were, after 
having left the strip of breaking which was 
just mentioned. Just as he came to a deep 
ravine, he saw the flames shoot twenty feet 
high and dash madly forward. Being too far 
from the river to make his escape in that di- 
rection, he wheeled his horse through the 
blinding smoke and madly lashed him toward 
the strip of breaking. Blinded with smoke, 
burned by fire, and almost sufifocated. he 
reached the breaking, hands and face burned, 
hair and eye-brows scorched, panting and ex- 
hausted. After the fire had passed, one of 
the horses was found on the river bank, so 
badly burned that it lived but a few days. The 
other ran into the river and made its way 
nearly to the opposite side, where it became 
mired in the quick sand and was found during 
the day by Air. Dean. The neighbors were 
summoned, and an effort was made to save the 
beast, but it was so bruised and burned that 
after trying to get it out for half a day it had 
to be killed. 

This left Air. Dean without a team, but 
this matter was adjusted, however. Gus Cos- 
ier had an ox team, but no wagon, so they 
formed a partnership. Dean furnished the 
wagon and Cosier the team, and thus they 
succeeded in getting along until they could 
devise means to do otherwise. 


Ex-Judge H. J. Sbinn is to be credited with 
this recital of a double tragedy which occurred 
on the table land of Cummings Park in 1883 
and 188.T, by which two respected citizens of 
the |)ark met their death in a way so similar 
that the coincidence is remarkable. 

The ]iark is an elevated portion of the pre- 
cinct, and wells to the depth of 200 feet or 
more are the rule, while there are some wells 
that would exceed 250 feet. In the first settle- 



meiit of this locality the well or water question 
was a very perplexing one. It was known that 
the whole country contained sheet water on a 
certain level, and of course on hill land it was 
farther to water than on low land. Settlers 
were poor and as a rule were unable to bear 
the expense of a hydraulic or a casting well, 
as they now have it. As a consequence they 
resorted to digging wells, even at that great 
depth, casing them with lumber through the 
sand and gravel, and drawing or elevating the 
water by means of a horse, or two horses, as 
the case might be, with a rope extending over 
pulleys, attached to a half barrel, with a valve 
in the bottom. Among those who had wells 
as above described were Samuel Abernathy 
and James Cummings, and by reason of that 
fact a sad coincidence happened. In the fall 
of 1883 Samuel Abernathy caused a well to be 
dug on his premises to the depth of 196 feet, 
having procured an inexhaustible supply of 
water. Soon after its construction, one morn- 
ing, while attempting to draw water, the 
bucket, or barrel, caught at the bottom of the 
well against the curb. Mr. Abernathy. think- 
ing that it would be necessary to go to the bot- 
tom of the well to unfasten the bucket, there 
being no rope convenient except the one that 
the bucket was fastened to, told his brother 
that he could fasten the rope at the top and 
twine it around his foot and slide to the bottom 
of the well. His brother protested against 
such a hazardous undertaking, but to no avail, 
and he at once attempted to make the descent. 
After having proceeded about six feet from 
the top of the well his hold gave way and he 
fell to the bottom of the well, 196 feet. To 
the surprise of his brother he was found to be 
alive and conscious. Help was summoned, 
and on investigation it was found that by his 
falling into the bucket or barrel he had jarred 
it loose, whereupon he gave orders that he 
was able to hold on to the bucket or rope until 
they could raise him from the well. They pro- 
ceeded to draw him up. and to the surprise 
of all they were successful in doing this, land- 
ing him at the top conscious, yet badly bruised 
and mangled, one arm broken in several places, 
his legs broken and his bodv badlv bruised. 

Although everything was done that could pos- 
sibly be done for his comfort, he only lived 
about four hours. 

Later on, in September. 1885, James Cum- 
mings, one of Cummings Park's respected citi- 
zens, met with a sad and similar fate to the 
one just narrated. Soon after his settlement 
he caused a well to be dug after the style of 
the one mentioned above, but to the depth of 
210 feet. This well had been dug for about 
three years, and Mr. Cummings. thinking that 
possibly the curb had become rotten to such 
an extent that it would be necessary to recurb, 
said to his wife one morning that he would 
hitch a team to the end of the rope and tie a 
stick to the other end, and she might let him 
down in the well for the purpose of examin- 
ing it. Thereupon the rope was drawn out its 
full length, laid upon the ground, one end ex- 
tending over the pulley and tied in the center 
of a stick about two feet long, and a team was 
hitched to the other end, face from the well. 

Mr. Cummings. taking a small stick in his 
hand, and sitting on the stick and astride the 
rope, directed his wife to back the team and 
let him down slowly. Slowly and slowly the 
team backed. The wife could hear the rap- 
ping of the stick on the curb until within 
about ten feet of the bottom of the well she 
heard the cry of "stop!" Then again she 
heard the rapping of the stick on the curb, 
then instantly came loud and clear a tremend- 
ous crash. The wife, well knowing the cause, in- 
stantly screamed at the team, but they could 
not raise the husband from the earth that had 
fallen upon him. She hastened to the well 
and called to her husband, but no response 
was heard. She called again and again, but 
everything was as still as death. Excited and 
terror-stricken, she called for help. Friends 
and neighbors, hearing her cry. hurried to the 
rescue. What could be done ? Buried alive 
two hundred feet below the surface of the 
earth! News of the disaster spread like wild 
fire. Stout men and sympathizing women hur- 
ried to the scene to lend such aid as might be 
necessary. On investigation it was found that 
the well had caved in for a distance of over 
twenty feet, leaving a large cavity above Mr. 



Cummings. After examining the situation, it 
was decided to send for one William Garlock, 
who was an experienced well man. During 
this time nothing was done, but upon his ar- 
rival he took charge of the rescuing, and said 
that it would be necessary to procure lumber 
to recurb the portion caved in : consequently 
teams were sent to West Union, and the work 
of rescuing proceeded as rapidly as possible. 
He first directed that it would be necessary 
to shovel dirt into the well for the purpose of 
filling up the cavity before proceeding with the 
digging. After this was done and the curb 
cut, ready to place in the well, ^Ir. Garlock, 
with the aid of helpers, proceeded to uncover 
the doomed man. At this time he was covered 
with dirt to the depth of about twenty feet. 
Soon after the digging began, Mr. Garlock 
reported that Mr. Cummings was alive, for he 
could hear him breathing. This was a great 
surprise to the frietids and neighbors who were 
so an.xiouslv waiting. The work proceeded 
with more rapidity than before, and report af- 
ter report came up from the well digger that 
Mr. Cummings was still alive. After about 
ten hours of constant work the head of the 
doomed man was uncovered, and to the sur- 
prise of all it was found that he was conscious 
and able to give instructions. Slowly, slowly 
and persistently, the noble well-digger pro- 
ceeded, until the entire body down below the 
knees was uncovered. 

At this time everybody was anxiously lis- 
tening for orders to pull the doomed man to 
the top. but instead a voice was heard from 
below: "Let the rope down ! I want to come 
uji!" The rope was quickl_\- let down and the 
well man taken from the well. Everyiiody 
wondered what was the matttr. and gathered 
about him for information. He told them that 
he could do no more ; that the man's feet were 
under the curb, and that he could not extend 
his curb on account of the dry ground — that 
if he undertook to dig below the curb, as he 
would have to do in order to get his feet out, 
the ground would run in and cause the well to 
cave, and that it could not possibly be done. 
I te further said that the only thing that could 
be done was to fasten a rope around him and 

])ull him loose by force : that there was one 
chance of saving his life in this way. but that 
he was entirely exhausted, and could do noth- 
ing more. Another man being jiresent who 
had some experience in well-making, volun- 
teered to go down and fasten the rope around 
him. After this was done, as many as twen- 
ty-five men took hold of the rope above, and 
at a command, began pulling gradually, pull- 
ing harder and harder until the rope broke. 

As quick as thought, some one present 
suggested that he had at his home a three- 
quarter rope that he thought was strong 
enough to pull him out. and accordingly some 
one was dispatched for the rope, and in a very 
short time returned with it. Again the well 
man descended and securely fastened the rope 
around the body, and again returned to the 
top of the well. On his arrival, as many men 
as could get hold of the rope did so, and at a 
command began pulling as before. Steady, 
stronger and stronger, they pulled until the 
body was released, every man falling to his 
knees, the rope having been drawn so tight 
that when he became loosened he was thrown 
up several feet. Orders were given to raise 
him fast, lest the well should again cave. Af- 
ter he was drawn out of danger, orders were 
given to go slow. This was done, and in a 
few seconds Mr. Cummings was at the top of 
the well, alive, rational, and able to tell his 
experience. He said that he did not realize 
that he had been in the well so long, although 
he was conscious all the time : that he knew 
when they were throwing dirt into the well, 
and knew when the well-man began digging ; 
he thought, however, that the falling of the 
dirt in the well was a heavy -thunder storm. 

Dr. W'amsley was present and took charge 
of the case, but found it a bad one. The 
body was liruised. and the bowels so badly 
torn that inflammation set in and in four davs 
the poor victim died. The accident happened 
about eight o'clock on Saturday morning, and 
it was two o'clock S'unday afternoon when Mr. 
Cummings was taken from the well. Thus 
he remained in the well about thirty hours, 
eighteen hours of this time being under 
ground a distance of about twciUv feet, and 



his having lived while in this condition was 
due, doubtless, to the fact that an iron pipe, 
used for pumping purposes, was hanging in 
the well and his face was against it, thus af- 
fording- him sufficient air to keep him alive. 

This sad accident will ever be remembered 
by the old settlers of Cumniings Park with 
sadness, as Mr. Cummings was one of our 
best citizens, and his untimely death cast a 
gloom of despair over the entire community. 


James E. Farley, who was in an early day 
one of Custer comity's cowboys, and later one 
of our substantial citizens, followed Texas cat- 
tle and the trail to Ogallala in the spring of 
1879 and from Ogallala shuffled into the South 
Loup country. He was employed for a time 
on the Finch-Hatton ranch and was familiar 
with all the famous characters who operated 
in the days of cattle. Aside from throwing 
side lights on the difficulty of handling wild 
cattle, he refers, in a worldly way, to water- 
melons : 

"Cattle generally follow some leader, string- 
ing out in single file, and they will follow the 
leader as long as he runs. If we were able 
to keep up with the leader or head him off 
we could get the cattle to going in a circle, 
and after a while to bunch them and get them 
stopped. Sometimes we were not able to get 
ahead of the cattle in a stampede, but had to 
follow alongside, catching glimjjses of them 
when the lightning trashed, strung out a long 
distance ahead of us. Many of these cattle 
were five or six years old, had never been near 
a man since they were branded, and were as 
wild as a herd of buffaloes. When we started 
out with them the first week they were on 
the constant lookout to get away. After suc- 
ceeding a few times, some of them became 
spoiled to such an extent that they had to be 
killed to keep them from demoralizing the rest 
of the herd. One time there were two cow 
camps of us holding cattle on the head of 
Cow creek. Jim Dalzell, a lone settler, had a 
fine watermelon patch and he told the cow- 
boys that they could have all the melons they 
wanted, but some of the boys in the other camp 

tbought it would be so mu:h nicer to steal 
Ihiem, and our camp, in connection with one 
of their men, put up a job on them that caused 
all of us to have three weeks' extra work. We 
found out the time set by the boys of the other 
camp to make a raid on the melons, and sta- 
tioned our men in the patch to welcome them 
when they entered. They soon made their 
appearance, tied their horses, and came over 
into the patch, Billy Kessler, the man in the 
plot, leading them right up to where we were 
hidden in a bunch of weeds, ^^'e had taken 
the balls out of our cartridges to prevent any 
accident in the darkness. "Come over this 
way, boys ; here's some fine ones,' shouted Bil- 
ly, as he led them toward us. We could hear 
them scrambling, through the melon vines, 
thumping the melons as they came. W^hen 
within a few feet of us, we sprang out with 
a yell and 'bang, bang, bang,' went the re- 
volvers. Billy bravely held his ground, re- 
turning our fire, but the other boys took to 
their heels, dashed through the creek, with 
us after them, and firing at every jump. In 
their fright they rushed through both herds 
of cattle. The cattle stampeded and scam- 
pered away over the prairie and it took us 
three weeks to get them together again after 
this adventure." 


Uncle Swain Finch, as he was familiarly 
called by those who knew him in his pioneer 
days, was one of the unique characters of the 
early times. Things seemed to happen at his 
place. He and his family have furnished the 
details of some very interesting stories. Some 
of the boys tell this one on him. 

A funny incident happened at one time 
while they were "keeping batch" for a short 
time at the new ranch they were opening up. 
One morning the cook had an extra fine brew 
of cofTee, and all showed their appreciation of ' 
it by drinking more than usual. Uncle 
Swain had passed his cup the third or fourth 
time, when he observed something white in 
the coffee pot. He remarked : 

"Say, Jim, where did you get the egg to 
clear ver cofifee with this morninaf?" 



"Didn't have any egg." grumbled Jim, wlio 
appeared to be a little out of sorts and not in 
a talkative mood. 

"What's the use of yer lyin about it. J-'m ; 
I seed it when you was pourin' out that last 
cup of coffee." 

"You didn't, nuther/' snapped Jim. 

The Finch boys had as a guest a stylish 
friend from Iowa, and he was called upon to 
examine the coflfee-pot to settle the dispute 
between Uncle Swain and the cook. The 
young man poured the grounds out in the 
yard and made a critical examination. He 
gave a sort of convulsive gasp, turned deathly 
pale, placed his hand near the region of hi< 
stomach, and disappeared around the house 
The antics of the young fellow caused ihc 
others to push their unfinished cups as'dc. 
L'ncle Swain alone excepted — and to make 
an investigation of the contents of the coffee 
pot. Among the grounds they discovered a 
large, warty toad, swollen to three times Iiis 
natural size. The old fellow had evidently 
climbed up between the logs of the cabin and 
fallen into the cofTee-jxJt, which sat close to 
the wall and had no lid. 


Along in the '80s and early '90s, when crop 
failures were the regular order, it was a com- 
mon thing for homesteaders to prove up on their 
claims, mortgage them for the high dollar and 
then pack their belongings and start for wife's 
people back in God's country, as they used 
to call it. The settler was not decently out 
of sight before the neighbors would swarm 
in on that ranch and proceed to gather up all 
wood and jiosts, lumber, etc.. that could be 
found. They generally jjulled the roof oft' 
the sod house to get the jilanks or the cedar 
poles, as the case might be. which had been 
su])porting the roof sod. In this connection 
an amusing incident occurred in the sand hills 
uj) at the head of Ortello valley. There were 
two characters in that community whom the 
old settlers would recognize if they are merely 
called Tom Doe and Daniel Blank. Tom had 
rather a shady reputation — he had been a 
lawyer and several other things which Dan 

said were fully as bad. These men did not 
get along well. When they met in the road 
the conversation was generally not printable. 
Tom got into debt as deeply as possible and 
also became involved in several shady trans- 
actions. When he heard rumors of a warrant 
for his arrest he abandoned his claim. Un- 
fortunately he had been so busy during the 
day that he didn't get ready to leave until af- 
ter dark. 

A day or so later old Dan, riding past, ob- 
served that the place was abandoned and 
made up his mind that he would even up the 
scores as far as possible that night. He left 
his team and wagon some little distance from 
Tom's house and went on foot to see how the 
laud lay. He had not yet reached the house 
when he heard the rattle of an approaching 
wagon and two men drove up to the house 
and immediately climbed up on the roof and 
began to shovel off the clay and sod. Old 
Dan kept out of sight until the roof was 
cleared and the planks and poles pulled off 
and thrown on to the ground ready for load- 
ing into the wagon, then he jumped out of 
his hiding place, let out a howl that would 
have raised the dead and wanted to know what 
in blankety, blankety, blank was going on? 
The men sprang into their wagons and 
V hipped their horses aw^ay at a gallop. When 
they were well out of hearing old Dan loaded 
up the poles and planks and hauled them home. 


Captain \\'. H. Comstock is responsible for 
this one : 

"In the spring of 1875 a man by the name 
of Eberlin, with his wife and a companion by 
the name of Hancock, started on a hunting 
trip up the Middle Loup river. When about 
eight miles above our settlement their atten- 
tion was called to the peculiar antics of a 
horseman on the east side of the river. He 
was riding at a furious pace, coatless and hat- 
less, with his long hair streaming in the wind 
liehind him as he flew along. The hunting 
partv was badly frightened and immediately 
started back to the settlement, arriving there 
with their team covered with foam. As soon 



as they were able to tell a rational story, they 
reported that they had seen Indians on the 
east side of the river. Every settler was at 
once notified, a council held, and a decision 
reached to proceed at once to make prepara- 
tions for the protection of the settlement 
against an attack from the red men. Volun- 
teers were called for to go to Fort Hartsufif 
and notify Captain Munson, the commander, 
and ask him to send two or three regiments 
of soldiers down. D. B. Allen offered to per- 
form this duty, while four or five others vol- 
unteered to go up the river to investigate the 
story told by the hunters. All were instruct- 
ed to ride all night and report at eight o'clock 
the next morning. It was laughable to see 
Ben Allen as he started for the fort, and a 
photograph of him taken at that time would 
be a most valuable contribution to this history. 
His dress suit consisted of an old pair of blue 
overalls, with a heavy fringe around the bot- 
tom, he was barefooted, and had on no other 
clothing except a striped shirt and an old 
straw hat. He was mounted, bareback, upon 
an old horse belonging to Air. Higgins. About 
eight o'clock the next morning the people met 
to consult and to hear the report of the scouts 
when they should return. Soon a solitary 
horseman was seen coming from the direction 
of the river, and four or five others from the 

"The single horseman proved to be the val- 
iant Ben, and before he was fairly within 
speaking distance he shouted : 'It's all right. 
General Munson said if we were killed by In- 
dians to let him know and he would come over 

and give them h !' The other party now 

rode into camp and reported that they were 
unable to discover any Indians, but they had 
found out that the horseman who had fright- 
ened the hunters was a half -crazy fellow who 
lived on the east side of the river. The news 
was a great relief to the settlers, but they 
nevertheless decided to build a fort where all 
could congregate in case of any sudden attack 
from the savages. It was afterward named 
Fort Disappointment, for the reason that no 
Indians ever appeared. 


The Scripture says that "the grasshopper 
shall be a burden," and its prophecy came 
true in Custer county. The following experi- 
ence of Swain Finch will illustrate the fulfil- 

In the spring of 1870 the boys planted about 
sixty acres of sod corn, which was just begin- 
ning to make fine roasting ears, when one af- 
ternoon they discerned what appeared to be a 
prairie fire, a dense cloud of smoke arising in 
the northwest. They wondered at a prairie 
fire at that time of the year, when the grass 
was green. They watched it intently as it 
came nearer and nearer, until it obscured the 
sun and darkened the air like an eclipse. When 
it had come within a hundred yards of them 
they heard a continuous cracking and snapping 
sound, which increased to a perfect roar as it 
approached them, when they discovered to 
their horror that a cloud of grasshoppers was 
upon them. The insects alighted, and in a 
few seconds every green thing in sight was 
literally covered and hidden with a seething, 
crawling mass, several inches in depth. The 
beautiful field of corn melted down as if each 
leaf was a spray of hoar frost in the rays of 
the noonday sun. Uncle Swain was dumb- 
founded for a moment, but when he saw that 
corn fading he came to his senses, cut a large 
willow brush and went after those grasshop- 
pers with a vengeance. He proceeded down a 
corn row, threshing to right and left, killing 
his thousands'with every sweep, and mowing 
a swath of death in his track. When he had 
gone about a hundred yards he stopped to get 
his breath and discovered to his extreme dis- 
gust that there were as many grasshoppers 
behind him as there were ahead. This dis- 
heartened him and he gave it up as a hopeless 
task. The hoppers ate up everything in the 
shape of grain and garden stuf? on the place, 
leaving it as brown and bare as if it had been 
swept by fire. They would settle on a post 
the thickness of a man's arm, and in a few 
seconds it would appear to be as big as a log. 
When the hoppers left it it would look as if it 
had been scraped with a knife, every vestige 



of hark and fiber beins; eaten off. Aunt Sarah 
and her sister-in-law had a fine patch of cab- 
bages which they thought to save by covering 
the plants with hay : but the hay served only 
as a convenient shade for the hoppers, who 
crawled under it and dined off the juicy cab- 
bage heads at their leisure. They then laid 
the hay around the patch and burned it, think- 
ing to smoke the pests away, but to no avail. 
When they left that cabbage patch nothing 
remained but a few bare stalks, eaten almost 
to the ground. 


\n all new countries in which men are 
homesteading there are bound to be quarrels 
over homesteads, lines, and entries. This 
county has been no exception. Hundreds of 
incidents, like or similar to the one follow- 
ing could be recited, but they are a minor 
part of actual history, and have still less to do 
with county development. 

One Oeorge Hartley located in section 23, 
township 18. range 23. in the summer of 1880, 
although he had not made a filing on the 
claim. He rented it to one Sipes and went 
away to work on the railroad. In the summer 
Hartley came back and wanted possession of 
the land. Sipes refused to vacate until his 
crop was harvested, but he allowed Hartley 
to go ahead and make such improvements as 
he saw fit. During the summer and fall the 
two men had a number of quarrels, and when 
it came time to gather the corn,* Sipes refused 
to gather Hartley's share. This resulted in a 
violent quarrel, and in the encounter that fol- 
lowed Hartley attacked Sii)es with a knife and 
cut him so badly that his liver was expo.sed. 
Hartley left the county, thinking that he had 
killed Sipes, but the latter recovered, followed 
Hartley, but up to date has never heard a word 
as to his whereabouts. 


Captain Comstock takes the floor to tell this 

"At Loup City we became acquainted with 
B. D. Allen and Sherman Wagner. We all 
started in April, 1874, and drove to Douglas 

Grove, where we selected our homesteads and 
commenced to improve them, but just as the 
ears of corn began to fonu, the grasshoppers 
appeared, and in a few hours completely ate 
up every green thing. In the edge of a draw 
L'ncle Dave had some tobacco plants which 
were very choice, and he anticipated the pleas- 
ure of smoking the weed of his own raising 
the coming winter. But, alas! his hopes were 
blasted. He covered the plants with anything 
he could get, but the festive hoppers ate holes 
in the covering and chewed Uncle Dave's to- 
bacco as long as it lasted. 

"The settlers were left entirely destitute, 
not having produced a thing for the support 
of themselves and their families during the 
winter. The government at this time had 
troops stationed at a point about nine miles 
above Ord. the county seat of \'alley county, 
and it had been decided to erect more commo- 
dious quarters for the soldiers. There was 
plenty of sand and gravel, and work was com- 
menced on the garrison. The walls were con- 
structed of red cedar, of which there was an 
abundance in the canyons not far distant. A 
saw mill was put in operation and teams were 
hired to haul the logs and lumber, as well as 
all other material needed in constructing the 
fort. The settlers flocked in from all direc- 
tions and were given employment by the gov- 
ernment. Allen and mj'self and Caswell went 
over. Allen got a job working in the mill, 
while Caswell and I hauled gravel from the 
pit and assisted on the walls of the building." 


A good story is told at the expense of Sen- 
ator Frank M. Currie, who is not noted for 
his chesterfieldian appearance. During Cur- 
rie's candidacy for state senator. Uncle Swain 
Finch was very energetic in his support of the 
senator, although he had never met him. La- 
ter, after the election was over, both met on the 
street and a friend introduced them. Currie 
was profuse in his thanks for the work that 
Uncle Swain hadclone for him. "Yes I voted 
fur you," responded Swain, "but if I had 

known that you were so d n homely I 

wouldn't have done it." They were the best 



of friends from that time until the death of 
Uncle Swain. 


Concerning early daj's when all goods had 
to be freighted from railroad towns in the 
eastern part of the state, the late Bradford 
Iiurlin wrote an account of a trip he made to 
the eastern part of the state in the year 1883. 
On this trip he fell in with Joe Kellenbarger 
from whom this manuscript was obtained and 
who vouches for its authenticity. This is the 
way Burlin tells it : 

"Do any of these latter-day saints have any 
idea what a trip to the railroad meant in the 
early days, especially if one got caught in a 
storm? Now let me give you newcomers a 
correct account of one of these trips and if 
you should think that this picture is in any 
way overdrawn, just ask Mr. Joe Kellenbar- 
ger, who was there with me. In the latter 
part of July, 1883, I lived near New Helena. 
( )n the 11th of July a destructive hail storm 
destroyed sixty-five acres of corn, also the last 
vestige of our garden and all other crops. Be- 
ing nearly out of supplies at the time, I con- 
cluded to start for the railroad for a few 
months' supply. And here the troubles of that 
trip began ; my wife declared I was never go- 
ing to the road again unless I washed my feet 
and put on socks. So I went down and waded 
in the creek for a while and came in and called 
for the socks but she had already made the 
discovery that I was short on socks to the ex- 
tent that I lacked just one' pair of having any, 
but she also made the discovery that she had 
one pair of those then, up-to-date, stockings, 
in red. white and blue rings or stripes, and 
looked like barber poles. She said they were 
so long she couldn't quite touch the bottom of 
them when she stood up in them, but when I 
came back they would need washing, and that 
would shrink them up so they would be right 
for her. So I donned the stockings and start- 
ed. It rained almost continually until I got 
back. I went to our old home at Silver Creek, 
forty-four miles below Grand Island, and when 
I came back, left the railroad at Chapman and 

hit the trail eight miles further north. Here 
I fell in with another fellow who was not much 
more pleasantly situated than I. It was Joe 
Kellenbarger. He was trying to get back to 
Dale with lumber with which to make some 
show of building on his claim. As we were 
both going to practically the same place, we 
soon became quite chummy and between show- 
ers cussed and discussed matters in general, 
but a storm was on and it was slow traveling. 
"One day Joe said that if we could only 
make it to Gregory's that day, that Gregory 
had a roof that did not leak and we would 
have one night without being drowned. So 
we pushed our teams all day and got there 
just before sundown. There were six or sev- 
en covered wagons in the yard and a raft of 
women and children arovmd the house, so we 
figured that a dry bed was out of the question. 
We said we would water our teams and drive 
out on the prairie and camp. While we were 
watering the teams, a young lady, of perhaps 
eighteen or twenty, came down to the well to 
scrape acquaintance and she told us they were 
a colony from Missouri, twenty-nine of them. 
They were most all relatives to the Gregorys 
except two that sat out on a log, who were 
two old maids that had come along to look 
for land, but she thought they were looking 
for a man about as much as they were for land. 
All of the men had gone out in the hills liunt- 
ing to kill some elk or deer, for they were out 
of meat. 


''We drove about one hundred rods and 
camped on a side hill. There was a storm 
brewing in the north but as that could not be 
helped, we fed and staked our horses. We 
spread Joe's tent cloth over the wagon-pole, 
took off our coats and boots and crawled under 
and got a nice sleep until about twelve o'clock, 
when the worst thunder, lightning, and rain 
storm that I ever experienced came up. First 
we were drowned from the under side, then 
the wind blew the tent cloth away and we 
were drowned from the upper side, and there 
we were without coats, boots, or hats. We 
ran for the house. Joe had on just plain Ne- 



braska, three-for-a-quarter socks. The mud 
began to stick to our feet, making our socks 
so heavy that every time we took a step they 
would slip down a few inches. Joe's being 
short, he had not gone but a few rods until he 
got clear of them entirely, and in every flash 
of lightning I could see him going down the 
road, running like a jack rabbit ; sometimes he 
was up in the air and sometimes on the ground. 
Those long zebras of mine went to playing 
the same trick and pulled off until there was 
about a yard hanging to each foot, loaded with 
mud. They kept flopping in front of me. I 
could not run around them nor jump over 
them, nor get away from them. I had to stop 
there in the rain and climb on those rings and 
get out at the top. Then there was another 
jack rabbit show down the road, but I made 
time and caught up with Joe just as he got 
to the door. He did not wait to knock but 
pushed the door open and went in stumbling, 
and was in the middle of the room before he 
could stop. 


"Now talk about the thunder and lightning, 
here is where they both had to take a back 
seat. \\"e found that all the men and boys 
had come in from hunting and had made their 
colony bed on the floor. The bed was just 
as big as the floor and when they all got to 
bed it was just full and Joe was treading 
around right in the middle of it. The men 
were hollowing, 'Who is there?' and 'What is 
wanted?' and the two old maids that were 
way over in one corner were piping out "Man 
in the house. There's a man in the house.' 
We finally succeeded in getting them all c|uiet 
except two or three of the children whom Joe 
had been walking on. I called for a light so 
we could see something, then away went the 
old maids again. They said there was not 
going to be any light. It was a pretty mess 
and with strange men in the house they didn't 
want a light. They added that if that was the 
kind of carryings-on they had out west they 
would go straight back to Missouri. But some 
one got a light and I started to apologize for 
Joe's getting into the bed with his muddy feet, 

but the}' said never mind apologies, they were 
glad we came in and they wanted to talk with 
us about Nebraska. 

"We stayed an hour or more, until the worst 
of the storm was over, and told them plenty 
about Nebraska. Don't remember whether 
any of it was true or not. They insisted on 
our staying all night, but we said we would 
go back to the wagons and see if any of our 
horses were dead or loose, but might come back 
and stay until daylight. We started out, it 
was still raining some, and we got into that 
cold mud and Joe got into some cactus, so 
both said, 'Let's go back and stay until morn- 
ing.' Joe said there was one or two of those 
fellows that he did not like the looks of. and 
believed they would just as soon go through a 
fellow's pockets as not, but those two old maids 
were mighty nice people. He said, 'We will 
go back and lay down, if we can find room, 
and you go to sleep for a while and I will keep 
one eye open, then I will wake you up and I 
will take a nap.' We went back in and the 
boss of the colony hustled them around until 
they got a little room in one corner and told 
us we could get over there and lie down. The 
boss asked if we were all right and we said 
we were, so he said: 'Some one turn out the 
light,' and away went the old maids again. 
They said the light was not going to be put 
out. It was bad enough with strange men in 
the bed, and to put the light out would be 
worse. They talked some more about going 
back to Missouri. I'ut they fixed the matters 
up among themselves and. I believe, turned the 
light partly out. The last 1 remembered. Joe 
was telling me something about going to sleep 
with one eye open, and then waking me up, 
but I went to sleep with both eyes shut and 
the next thing I woke and it was broad day- 
light. I looked over at Joe and if I ever saw 
a man that I thought was dead it was he : and 
for a minute or two if ever any fellow wished 
he was in Custer county and had stayed in 
Custer county it was I. 


"Just then Joe gave a little snore and I saw 
that he 'was not dead but sleeping.' He had 



one eye open all the same and that was twisted 
around in the socket so that it was looking 
at right angles with his nose and was pointing 
straight over to that corner where the old 
maids were. Then the other side of the sit- 
uation presented itself to me and I got to 
laughing, and the more I tried to stop the 
more I couldn't stop. Finally Joe woke up 
and wanted to know what the matter was and 
seemed to be quite grouchy. He said if we 
could not behave ourselves we had better leave 
and not wake the whole house up, so we 

crawled out. Joe very quietly and I as much 
so as I could. I couldn't keep from looking 
at Joe and every time I looked at him I had 
to laugh. Finally he said, 'What is the matter 
with you, man, are you drunk or going crazy?' 
I said, 'Why, man, don't you know that one of 
your eyes is cross-legged?' He said it didn't 
feel altogether right and guessed he must have 
strained it keeping watch last night. We kept 
a sharp lookout for our socks on the way back 
to the wagons but the water had carried them 
away and we never found them." 


The Black Winter of 1880-81— A Tough Time ix 1880 — Heaw Losses — As Things 
Looked to Bishop — Accidents and Tragedies — Xo Christmas Presents — An Early 
Blizzard — Down Twice but Not Out — Frozen to Death in Powell Canyon — The 
Blizzard OF 1888 — A Hard Times Christmas — Christmas Entertainments in the 
\'arious Churches in Broken Bow — Filled up on Christmas — The Glovers Weath- 
er Ninety-four — Didn't Carry off the Mortgage — Fourth of July Hailstorm 
— Dry Ninety-four — He Won Out — Had to be Helped — Poor but Hap- 
py — A Home-grown Cyclone — Worst Blizzard in Thirty Years — 
S'HEEP Perish ix Transit 

During- the early years of any countrv hard 
winters and hard times are twin born. No 
way by wliich they can be divorced lias been 
invented by any genius yet born. Hard win- 
ters, when people are ill-prepared, insure hard- 
ships and privations. The brave pioneers of 
Custer county weathered their share of storrhs 
and endured their proper quota of hard times. 

The first houses were poorly constructed, 
fuel was exceedingly scarce, warm clothing 
was not over-abundant, the heating plant was 
often the kitchen stove, the country was open, 
without groves or wind brakes, and under 
these conditions weather that could hardly 
be reckoned as cold under present conditions, 
was considered then very severe and oppres- 
sive. Feed was scarce, stock unsheltered, or, 
at best, poorly sheltered, and all these things 
combined to entail hardships which none but 
the brave could endure and conquer. 

Hats off in the presence of men and 
women who stemmed the tide of early winters, 
who met. without grumbling or complaining, 
the conditions of early days, lived to enjoy the 
steam-heated, pla.stered house, and who ride 
through the winters of the present time 
wrajjped in flannels and furs .and snugly en- 
sconced in a stove-warmed auto, into which 

the northern blasts can bring no discomforts. 

It serves them right. Their pioneering years 
have earned all the comforts the present day 
can bring them. 

In presenting this chapter on hard winters 
and hard times the stories of old settlers have 
been compiled. The people who endured the 
storms and years tell their own stories. 


The winter of 1880-81 will never be forgot- 
ten b\' those engaged in the cattle business in 
Custer county. Men who in the beginning of 
that winter were wealthy, found themselves 
bankrupt in the spring. 

Early in the winter a rain began falling. 
The grass became thoroughly saturated ; then 
it suddenly turned cold, and every stalk, spear 
and blade of grass at once became an icicle — 
all matted together in one sheet of solid ice. 
Immediately following this came a heavy snow, 
from ten to twelve inches deep, which was 
again followed by another rain, and this in 
turn b\- another sudden cold wave, the result 
of which was to cover the surface of the snow 
with a thick, strong crust. 

The country was covered with ice and snow 
until spring. The winter was very severe, the 
temperature ranging for days and weeks at 
from ten to twentv below zero. The condi- 





tions were such that it was ahnoSt impossible 
for the cattle to get to the grass. The winds, 
which ordinarily blew the snow off the hills 
and left the grass thereon free to the cattle, 
could not affect this solid body of ice and snow. 

The legs of the cattle, traveling about in a 
famished condition seeking food, soon became 
bruised and bleeding from contact with the 
sharp crust on the snow. There was plenty 
of feed on the ground, but the cattle could not 
get at it. They died by the hundreds and 
thousands. It was estimated that from seven- 
ty-five to ninety per cent." of the cows and 
calves on the range perished that winter and 
sixty per cent, of the steers also perished. They 
lay in piles behind the hills where they had 
sought shelter. 

The following spring many who had en- 
gaged in the business in Custer county, and 
who until this winter had believed there was 
no g-razing country equal to it, quit the busi- 
ness in disgust and left the county. 

Nothing like this winter had preceded it in 
the history of the country, and nothing like it 
has been experienced since. 


H. Lomax, who at the present time is a resi- 
dent of Broken Bow and prominent in Custer 
county banking activities, has served his time 
as an early settler, and concerning his experi- 
ences makes the following statement : 

"My first introduction to the South Loup 
river occurred in April, 1880, at a point about 
half a mile above the mouth of Ash creek. 
Having made the journey from Plum Creek 
in a heavily loaded wagon, we struck the river 
just as the sun was sinking into the western 
prairie and tinging the tops of the eastern 
hills with a glow of red. The log shanty in 
which we intended to camp was on the other 
side of the stream, and we started across. Be- 
fore proceeding ten feet our team stopped and 
the wagon settled to the axles in quicksand, 
the water gently washing the bottom of the 
wagon box. A portage was necessary, and 
not only was the cargo all carried across, but 
we had to wade back and forth with the dif- 
ferent parts of the wagon, taking out a wheel 

at a time. Having at length arrived at our 
destination, cold, wet, and weary, we proceeded 
to prepare our supper. Our log shanty, in the 
middle of a dense grove of cottonwood and 
willow, had the river on one side and a bayou 
on the other. Before supper was ready a 
whirr of wings called me to the door. O, 
land of ducks ! Hundreds were there before 
me of all colors and sizes — flying, swimming, 
diving, in the security of their ignorance. Af- 
ter this, duck was too common a food to be 
mentioned in our cuisine. Our shanty had 
been shingled with cow-hides, thrown on the 
roof. During the night a cold north wind 
whistled through the crevices between the logs 
of our dwelling, which had not been chinked, 
and we arose, took off the roof covering and 
pinned the hides up against the wall to serve 
as siding. After this, whenever it rained we 
put the hides on the roof to keep out the 
water and when it blew we put them on the 
side of the house to keep out the wind — a 
very simple and effective device which fur- 
nished additional proof of the truth of the old 
saying that 'necessity is the mother of inven- 
tion.' One of the settlers in this part of the 
country was Saul Garringer. He was a per- 
fect architect in the construction of dugouts, 
and he evolved from the original trapper's 
hole in the ground a series of apartments which 
lacked only electric lights and steam heat to 
make them equal to any modern palatial resi- 
dence. Whenever he was not making a new 
dugout he was building some addition to the 
old one. He was also a lineal descendant of 
Nimrod of old, and hunted exclusively with 
the rifle. He it was who gave me the first 
clear conception of the possibilities of rifle- 
shooting. While hunting ducks with him one 
day he observed that I always aimed at the 
body of the bird ; he explained to me that this 
cut the flesh up too much, and that he always 
hit them in the head. 

"The spring of 1880 was extremely dry, so 
drv that the wheat in the Platte valley refused 
to sprout, and had to be plowed up and corn 
planted in its place. On the third day of July 
it began to rain and the rest of the summer 
was excessively wet. August 10th a cloud- 



burst occurred in the vicinity now occupied by 
the village of Callaway, which caused a serious 
flood in the South Loup and Wood river val- 
leys. The Loup bottoms were running with 
three or four feet of water for twelve hours, 
and the fringes of willows that lined the river 
banks were filled with cedar posts and rails 
that had been washed down from the corrals 
of ranches above. The rain, which fell during 
the greater portion of September, turned in 
October to snow, which continued to fall in 
enormous quantities all winter. During the 
fall, the work of the beaver, which was plenti- 
ful along the river, amounted to a veritable 
massacre of the timber which lined the banks. 
During the months of October and November 
they could be seen working in droves, prepar- 
ing for the long winter which their instinct 
warned them was coming on. 

"Thousands of sheep had been driven into 
the country during the summer of 1880, and 
the winter which followed left in many cases 
not more than twenty per cent, of the herds 
alive. After a severe snowstorm in October 
and cold weather in November, the ice on the 
river was strong enough to bear heavy loads. 
The real winter snow began to fall December 
16th. and from that time until March the 
ground had a covering of eighteen inches on 
the level, with drifts twenty feet deep. The 
wind was almost continuous and the cold at 
times intense. The cloudy days were unusual- 
ly numerous for Nebraska. In December the 
clear days amounted to seventeen, in January 
sixteen, in February eighteen. The average 
temperature at eight o'clock a.m. in December 
was 33; in January 25.9; in February 30.4. 
Cattle on the range stood day after day, week 
after week, chewing leaves, twigs, branches, 
and bank, until the trees were eaten bare as high 
as a cow could reach, and the branches were 
chewed so they looked like frayed ropes. 
Thousands of the poor animals died, and it 
has always been a mystery to me how any 
survived. In the spring many of them which 
survived lost their horns and hoofs, which 
had been frozen, and dropped oflf when the 
thaw came. When the ice broke up in the 
river it was a month before it could be crossed 

in safety. John McGinn was then located two 
miles up Ash creek, where the Plattsmouth 
ranch now is. He had purchased some corn 
in Wood river valley but was unable to haul 
it across the Loup river, and it had to be 
dragged across with a rope, one sack at a 
time. At that time there was not a bridge 
across the Loup in Custer county." 

HE.\\'\' LOSSES 

It is estimated that sixty to si.xty-five per 
cent, of range cattle perished during the win- 
ter of 1880-81, which until the present time is 
referred to by old settlers as "The Hard Win- 

Blessings sometimes come in ill-shaped dis- 
guise. It was so in this case. The enormous 
loss of stock put the cattlemen out of busi- 
ness and delivered the range over to the settler 
and his breaking-plow. The growing feud 
between the rancher and the settler was over. 
This was to be an agricultural rather than a 
range country. This decree was written ir- 
revocably on the white banks of the drifted 
snow during the winter and fulfilled in the yel- 
low harvests that have succeeded each other 
since that winter. 


The following is taken from a July, 1918, 
issue of the Custer County Chief «nd describes 
the impression Custer county made on a vis- 
itor who came here in March. 1881 : 

"J. C. Bishop, brother of the late E. N. 
Bishop, of Gates, arrived in this city Friday 
of last week, from Boston. In a conversation 
he told of the first time he saw Custer county. 
He came to Nebraska from \'irginia, upon the 
solicitation of his brother, to enter the cattle 
business in the winter of 1881. March 1. 1881. 
he arrived in Broken Bow, coming overland 
from Grand Island. A big blizzard had just 
passed over the country. Cattle were dead 
by the thousands, frozen to death in the wil- 
lows along the streams. Mr. Bishop says he 
thought he saw at least 100,000 in all before 
he got to his brother's place. The cattle bus- 
iness did not look good to him, notwithstand- 
ing old settlers told him that every winter 



would not be like the last. But he contended 
that he might work for years and then lose all 
his increase in one storm, so accordingly he 
returned to \'irginia. He states now that he 
was never more surprised than by the pro- 
gress and development of this country. He 
declares that the climate is different entirely 
and he attributes the change to the number 
of trees which now are to be found every- 


Trials and hardships are the common heri- 
tage of all pioneers. In March, 1878, J. F. 
Henderson, from Harrison county, Missouri, 
settled on Lillian creek. February 27, 1879, 
he went into Hunter's Shanty canyon to cut 
cedar for fuel and posts. He had nearly com- 
pleted his day's work when in felling a twenty- 
two inch tree it turned on its stump as it fell, 
in such a way as to strike Mr. Henderson, 
throwing him down the steep canyon side, 
where he struck on a pile of brush. His left 
arm was broken in two places, his left hip dis- 
located and the leg broken below the knee. 
In this condition, with snow, on the ground, 
he lay from sundown until after sunrise the 
next morning, when he was found by his wife. 
I'nable to move him in any way, she went for 
help to the nearest residence, that of her daugh- 
ter, ^Irs. James O.xford. It was noon when, 
with oxen and a wagon, they came back and 
the bruised and broken sufferer was taken a 
mile to the home of James Oxford. To get 
help was the next thing, and remembering that 
three trappers had been at the mouth of Lil- 
lian creek, j\Irs. Oxford started for the camp, 
two miles away. One man was there, and 
when she told him of the accident to her 
father and asked him to go for help to the 
nearest neighbor's place, on Victoria creek, 
eight miles distant, the trapper said: "I know 
how to sympathize with you, for I lost my 
wife and child in a blizzard." He started on 
his sixteen-mile run, and came back the next 
morning with Isaac and Temp Merchant. 
Temp was dispatched for the nearest doctor, 
having to go to Loup City, fifty miles down 

the river. Dr. Hawkins reached the CJxford 
home Sunday morning, the fourth day after 
the accident, under the influence of liquor, and 
incompetent to do the surgical work required. 
Running his hand hastily over the broken 
leg, he said : "Your leg is all right, but the 
arm will have to be amputated." With knife 
and saw he cut the arm square off, took two 
or three stitches from skin to skin across the 
freshly cut flesh, and said it was all that was 
necessary for him to do. Mr. Merchant in- 
sisted that the leg was broken and must be 
dressed. With reluctance, the doctor roughly 
tried to put the broken bones in place and 
bound them with splints, then left for his 
home. Seven months Mr. Henderson lay in 
that pioneer home, unable to get from his bed, 
when he was moved to Mrs. Comstock's home. 
Every settler from Loup City to Victoria creek 
vied with each other in rendering kindness to 
the sufferer. Connected with this incident is 
the pathetic death of little Daisy Oxford, the 
pet granddaughter of Mr. Henderson. A 
slender child of eighteen months, she sat at 
his bedside on the Saturday before the doctor 
came ; rocking forward, she, in some way, 
caught the bail of the tea kettle, sitting on 
the edge of the stove, and the contents of 
boiling water was poured over her head and 
hands. The little suft'erer, under the care of 
Mrs. Comstock, who had been sent for, lived 
nearly a week. Mr. Eubank preached her 
funeral sermon, and then remained four days, 
expecting to be called to preach the funeral of 
Mr. Henderson. ^Ir. Henderson did not die 
but lived to express his gratitude to the old 
settlers who filled the office of good Samaritan 
to him in those days. 


Another incident that speaks of the priva- 
tions of the pioneer's life and his love for his 
family, was the death of Arnett, on the Bayhof- 
fer place. Christmas was near, and there was 
no money to get the loved ones a present. The 
father took his gun, in which the breech pin 
was secured with a piece of wire, and went to 
the cornfield, thinking to get chickens to sell 



and buy Christmas presents. They found him 
next day with the breech pin blown through 
his head. 


\\'hen C. \\". Prettyman moved his family 
on to the new claim he had pre-empted in the 
Ash creek valley in November of 1886. he 
domiciled the family in an improvised shack 
while he was building a more substantial sod 
mansion. The shack was made by setting up 
two-by-fours on the ground in roof or \" shape 
and covering them with shiplap. The gable 
ends were closed up by nailing up the wagon- 

On the 15th of November a snow storm 
set in, and before night it developed into one 
of the worst blizzards the country has ever 
known. He relates the experience of himself 
and family during the storm, as follows : 

"The snow fell into our roof house like 
meal through a sieve. The situation was very 
serious and I was actually afraid that my wife 
and little ones would be frozen to death. I 
had sent my oldest son over to Mr. King's to 
look after the horses before dark, and I hoped 
that he would remain there all night and that 
they would come and rescue us in the morning. 
In this I was not disappointed. Soon after 
daybreak we saw them coming, plowing their 
way through the snow. I had slid out of my 
bed under the eaves of my roof, where I had 
laid under a sprinkle of snow about eighteen 
inches deep, and after digging around in a 
snowbank piled up in a corner I unearthed a 
suit of clothes and a pair of boots, which I 
got into. I then waded through another drift 
to the stove, dug it out and started a tire. By 
this time the wagon of Mr. King had ar- 
rived and we dug the children out from under 
their covering of snow, steaming like pigs in a 
straw stack, piled them in the wagon and set 
off for Mr. King's, under whose hospitable 
roof we stayed until the storm was over. 
When we returned to our shanty it was full 
of snow, which I scooped out and got out dry 
goods. Soon afterward we finished our house, 
having to cut the frozen sod with an ax." 


'SI. E. Brandenburg came from Saratoga, 
New York, in March, 1878, and started a cat- 
tle ranch at the mouth of Sand creek, on the 
south side of the Middle Loup river, two and 
one-half miles southeast of the present site of 

He came ^t the beginning and has probably 
endured as many privations and hardships as 
the average pioneer. The hard winter of 
1880-81 took from him his all, as it did that of 
many others, and he was compelled to begin 
life anew. He went to work by the month to 
get a new start, and had succeeded very well 
— when, in the early '90s, a series of disas- 
ters — an unfortunate business venture, the 
loss of his hogs by cholera, and nearly all of 
his cattle through chronic abortion, together 
with the loss of his crops — again floored him 
and left him a bankrupt at the beginning of 
1895. A change in the tide of his affairs then 
turned the current into the channel of pros- 
perity, and in a few years he had one of the 
best stock farms in central Nebraska, the same 
comprising nearly 600 acres, valued at S8,000, 
and an equipment worth very nearly as much 
more, including one of the best herds of short- 
horns in the state, roadster, horses, a splendid 
drove of hogs and the necessary complement 
of farming implements, — all accumulated dur- 
ing the last eight years. \'erily, the resources 
of the average Nebraskan are almost bound- 


In speaking of hard winters and hard times 
J D. Haskell stands sponsor for the truth of 
the following account : 

Elisha W. Clark, a hunter and trapper, was 
frozen to death in Powell canyon, northeast 
of Arnold, in December, 1879. Clark had been 
a colonel in the war of the rebellion, was a 
widower, and had for a number of years fol- 
lowed hunting and trapping for a livelihood. 
He established his camp in Powell canyon on 
December 2d, his only companions being his 
team and a couple of large greyhounds. About 
a week afterward he was seen by a cedar 



hunter on his way to ]\Ir. Goodyear's hay 
stacks after some hay for his team, and said 
that he intended to carry the hay in his arms 
to his camp, which was three miles away. No 
more was thought of the trapper for some 
time by the few residents of the neighborhood, 
but one day the dead bodies of his two hounds 
were found near Air. Goodyear's haystacks. 
The weather was intensely cold, and the 
ground was covered with snow, and it was 
feared that Clark might have shared the fate 

of time. They had gnawed the bark off the 
tree to which they were tied and eaten every 
bush and twig within reach. One • of the 
horses had eaten of¥ the limb to which he was 
tied, thus saving his life. The party scoured 
the vicinity thoroughly, without result. The 
county commissioners offered a reward of fif- 
ty dollars to anyone finding the body of Clark. 
During the following spring, while hunting for 
some horses, C. W. Hughey, of Arnold, came 
across the dead body of the unfortunate trap- 

Powell Canyon, near Arnold, where some years ago a hunter and trapper lost his way and 
was frozen to death, his body not being found until the following spring 

that had apparently overtaken the dogs. A 
search was immediately instituted, but no 
trace of the missing man or his team could be 
found. On the 1st day of January a party of 
cedar haulers reported that they had found a 
wagon and two horses in one of the numerous 
pockets of Powell canyon, and a party went 
at once to the place, where they discovered 
the horses. One of the horses was dead and 
the other nearly so. As Clark had been miss- 
ing for three weeks, it is supposed that the 
poor animals had been there about that length 

per, at the head of a small pocket in the can- 
yon, his gun by his side. He had evidently died 
on his knees, apparently crawling into the nar- 
row place to get such protection from the cold 
as its walls afforded. 

It was nearly night when he had been seen 
at the stacks after hay, and it is the supposi- 
tion that in attempting to return to his cainp 
in the darkness he became bewildered in the 
maze of pockets that indent the canyon, until, 
overcome with weariness, he sank down and 
was frozen to death. The bodv was found five 



miles southwest of where his camp had been, 
and had he proceeded another mile in the di- 
rection, in which he was apparently traveling 
when he succumbed, he would have come into 
the South Loup valley within sight of Chapin's 


Old settlers shiver yet, when the famous 
blizzard of January 12, 1888, is mentioned. 
That was one of the fiercest storms that ever 
struck the country. Shortly before noon the 
wind veered to the north and west and with- 
out warning came the whirl and swirl of a 
blinding blizzard, such as the old settlers of 
that time had not seen before. The thermom- 
eter dropped twenty degrees in almost as 
many minutes. Hundreds of people were 
caught away from home and thousands of 
cattle and horses were out on the fields and 
ranges without shelter. The storm was so 
blinding that stock could not be driven against 
the wind. Accordingly they drifted with the 
storm and many perished. It was almost im- 
possible for a man to find his way through the 
blinding snow from the house to the barn, or 
from the barn back to the house. Teachers 
and children were caught in the school-houses 
and in many places stayed all night, and next 
day, in the school-house. If they happened 
to have fuel they were fortunate and suffered 
slight inconvenience. 

The storm was general throughout the mid- 
dle west. It raged, however, with greatest fury 
in the Dakotas and northern Nebraska. Many 
lives were lost and everywhere there was a 
great loss of stock. Custer county was for- 
tunate, however, and no loss of human life was 
credited to this blizzard in this county. Many 
blizzards have swept the open prairies of cen- 
tral Nebraska, but the Custerites who weath- 
ered the blizzard of 1888 are past masters in 
the lore of storm, winds, and snow. During 
this blizzard the temperature fell to thirty-two 
in this county, but throughout the storm region 
it ranged from twenty to fifty-two below, 
which made this blizzard match and over- 
match the great storm of 1882. 


The following is from the Christmas an- 
nouncements of the Custer Couiitx Chief. De- 
cember 21, the issue before the celebration: 

Christmas will be generally observed by the 
various churches of the city. The festivities 
will not, in all probability, be on as grand a 
scale as in years of greater prosperity, but 
will, nevertheless, be just as attractive and 
every bit as enjoyable. Instead of making a 
grand display there seems to be a tendency 
among all the churches to exert every effort 
in relieving the destitute and distressed, of 
which we have our full share. This, to say 
the least, is very commendable. 

The next week the same jjaper gives the fol- 
lowing account of the exercises as they were 
rendered in the various churches of Broken 
Bow : 

The Christian church gave a very nice en- 
tertainment on Christmas Eve, consisting of a 
musical and literary program. Santa Claus 
appeared and distributed nuts and candies to 
the little ones. On Christmas day a hand- 
some thing was done by the good people of 
this denomination. Instead of buying presents 
for the children, the money was used in pre- 
paring an excellent dinner, and over one hun- 
dred people were fed, including the children 
of the Sunday school and ten poor families 
who were invited in. The food which was 
left was then distributed among poor families. 

The Presbyterian church entertainment on 
Christmas Eve was a novel affair. An old- 
fashioned fire-place was erected on the pulpit 
and above that was built a brick chimney. The 
bricks, however, were pasteboard bo.xes filled 
with nuts and candies which old Santa Claus 
distributed to the children. A good program 
was carried out. At the close of the enter- 
tainment the children were marched into the 
lecture room, where tables were spread and 
sup])er was served to them. This program 
was a complete surprise to the little folks and 
was much enjoyed by them. 

The entertainment at the Episcopal church 
was held on Christmas night and was out of 
the usual order of Christmas doings. The pro- 
gram consisted of music and of short Christ- 
mas tales by Professor Currie. L. H. Jewett, 
Mrs. Chrisman, Rev. Robbins. and j\Irs. A. 
Morgan. The latter was particularly interest- 
ing, as I\Irs. Morgan related the story of her 
being stolen by cannibals on the Fiji Islands 



when a small child. Candy and nuts were 
distributed to the children of the Sabbath 

The Christmas p_vramid was the attraction 
at the Baptist church. It was laden with 
presents, which were distributed by old S'anta 
Claus. A splendid program was rendered. 

At the Methodist church a program of reci- 
tations, songs, etc., had been prepared and was 
successfully carried out. The little folks were 
nicely remembered with candies and nuts. 


Under the caption of "Christmas dinners" 
the Chief publishes the following list of din- 
ner parties which were given on the hard-win- 
ter Christmas day of 1894: 

Mrs. Belle Doxie entertained a lively crowd 
of young people at her home for dinner. 
Those present were Mr. and Mrs. F. W. Hayes, 
the Misses Flora Gould, Ora Spence, Grace 
Cox, Josie Sheppard, Lillie Snodgrass, and 
the Messrs. H. A. Thompson, Dr. Hallar, 
Harry Day, M. A. Sullivan, and E. R. Purcell. 

The dinner party at the home of Mr. and 
Mrs. F. M. Rublee was made up of Mr. and 
Mrs. S. B. Thompson, Mr. and Mrs. Ed. 
McComas, Mr. and Mrs. F. B. Bartlett, Mrs. 
Patterson, Miss !Mamie Thompson, and !Mr. 
Nine McComas. 

At the home of ]\lr. and Mrs. L. H. Jewett, 
there were gathered at a sumptuous feast, Mr. 
and Mrs. H. H. Wirt, Mr. and Mrs. O. P. 
Perley, Rev. Bailey, and Roy Wirf. 

Mr. and Mrs. C. W. Shepherd entertained 
a party at dinner, consisting of Mr. and i\Irs. 
J. A. Harris and family. Captain Burnham, 
and E. H. King. 

Mr. and Mrs. E. P. Campbell departed from 
the time-honored custom of a Christmas din- 
ner and gave a Christmas breakfast to a party 
of friends, with a Christmas tree well laden 
with presents for the little ones. It was a 
unique aiifair. Those present were Mr. and 
Mrs. Alpha Morgan, Mr. and Mrs. J. W. 
Haney, Mrs. Scruggs and daughter Belle, and 
Mr. and Mrs. Mosby and family. Alpha Mor- 
gan acted as Santa Claus. 

Mr. and Mrs. H. M. Sullivan shared an 
elegant dinner at their home with Mr. and 
Mrs. C. L. Gutterson and family, Mr. and 
Mrs. F. M. Currie and family, and Mrs. Kimel 

Mr. and ]\Irs. George Purcell entertained 
Mr. and Mrs. W. G. Purcell and family, and 
Mr. W. T. S'cherr at the Christmas dinner. 

At the home of i\Ir. and Mrs. Alpha Mor- 

gan a Christmas feast was served to Rev. and 
Airs. E. Robbins, and Mr. Con Gibson, of 

Mr. and Mrs. E. C. House entertained J. H. 
Thompson and J. E. Mallett, of Ravenna, at 
their home on Christmas day. 

At the home of Mr. and Mrs. J. G. Maulick 
there were assembled at a Christmas feast, Mr. 
and Mrs. W. B. Eastham, Mr. and Mrs. J. C. 
Maulick, Miss Henderson, and Mrs. Bailar, 
of Strang, Nebraska. 


H. B. Glover writes his experience in get- 
ting through the hard winter : 

"In the late '80s homesteaders were prov- 
ing up on their claims and mortgaging them. 
A Custer county mortgage had a certain mar- 
ket value in the east. One could borrow from 
five hundred to eight hundred dollars on a 
quarter-section, at ten per cent interest, — 
making out the note and mortgage at seven 
per cent interest for five years, then figuring the 
other three per cent for five years, which on an 
$800 loan would amount to $120, making a sep- 
arate note of this secured by a second mortgage 
due in two and one-half years. This went to the 
agent as commission, and it was so attractive 
that agents traveled the countrs' soliciting the 
homesteaders to prove up and take a loan. 
The agent in some cases advanced the money 
for the expense of making pjoof and in case 
that the homesteader had not resided on his 
claim the requisite five years they would ad- 
vance two hundred dollars for the purpose of 
"paying out" or commuting the homestead. 
The loan business became so lucrative that ir- 
responsible parties went into the business; 
making out the papers on a piece of land, 
promising the money within sixty days, then 
placing the papers on the eastern market to 
sell before he could fulfill his part of the con- 

"Thus the country practically all became 
mortgaged and in the case of the rough land 
mortgaged for more than it was then worth. 

didn't carry off the mortgage 

"Many a homesteader on a rough claim, 
considering his place well sold, as soon as the 
money was paid over loaded his family and 



goods into his wagon and went back to his 
wife's folks and when the "soddy" went down 
there was nothing left on the place but the 
mortgage. Others stayed and while the crops 
were good could make a living, but prices 
were so cheap that they couldn't raise the in- 
terest and taxes. Then came the crop failure 
of 1890, when we didn't raise enough to live 
on. More of them left their places to the 
mortgage. In 1890 and 1892 we raised good 
crops, but prices were low. yet we had just 
about recovered from the failure of 1890. The 
year 1893 came with a half of a crop and a 
general business stagnation. — labor out of 
employment and Coxey's army invading \\'ash- 
ington. Everybody was hard up, made their 
old clothes do another year, hoping for better 
times next year. Next year was dry. The 
ground was dry clear down. We had a rain 
and snow storm the last days of March that 
wet down about six inches. The grain came 
up, no more rain came and it died before it 
got big enough for a cow to feed on. \\"e 
then put in some more seed, hoping to get 
rain to make it' grow. A light shower came 
and brought it up so that we could see the 
drill rows across the field, and that is as far 
as it got, as the moisture was all gone. We 
planted and cultivated our corn. There was 
enough moisture, reta'ined by the cultivation to 
bring the corn up high enough to brush the 
axle of the cultivator and some tassels began 
to show, but there it stopped. \\'e went in 
with, a sled corn-cutter to save the fodder, cut 
about seventy acres of the best of it and got 
about fifteen loads of the fodder. \\"e had 
broken up eight acres of sod in 1893. This 
was included in a field of spring wheat, and 
from this eight acres of backsiting we harvest- 
ed and threshed sixty bushels of wheat. This, 
with our fifteen loads of fodder, was the entire 
crop from 360 acres under cultivation. 

"Stock lived in the pasture but didn't grow. 
How to get through the winter was the prob- 
lem. We sowed sixty bushels of rye in the 
corn field to make fall and winter feed. We 
never saw it again. W'e sold ten head of cows 
for eighty-five dollars, sent a bunch of heifers 
and horses up to Cherry county to winter, and 

kept at home just what stock we thought we 
needed to keep. Thus everybody got their 
fodder or whatever feed they had stacked up 
and we turned everything out before the first 
of September. And they fattened on the buf- 
falo grass. \\'e dressed a beef about Thanks- 
giving time and another between Christmas 
and New Year's. They were both in good 
shape and made good beef. 

"We went into the winter with feed enough 
on hand to feed about thirty days. We were 
favored with a mild, open winter and had to 
feed but two days, so had our fodder left to 
feed our teams while putting in our next cro". 

"Such was our personal e.xjjerience in our 
struggle with the drouth of the early '90s. 
Our farm, like the rest, was mortgaged, but 
being one of the better class of farms we 
thought it worth staying with. In fact, we 
didn't know where we could go to better our- 
selves. Our mortgage became due in 1893. 
\\'e were able to pay the interest. The year 
1894 came and went. In ^larch of 1895 we 
received a letter from the agent of the loan 
company, not demanding a settlement but ask- 
ing if we were in need of any assistance in the 
way of feed and seed to put in our crop. 


"In the sjiring and summer of 1879 the crops 
gave promise of an abundant harvest and the 
settlers looked forward to a good return for 
their labor. They were celebrating the Fourth 
of July at New Helena, in the most approved 
stvle, eating, drinking, and making merry, 
when a cloud no bigger than a man'^s hand was 
observed in the northwest, which grew with 
alarming rapidity until it overspread the whole 
heavens, and out of it came one of the most 
destructive hail-stonns this county ever expe- 
rienced. The crops were literally beaten into 
the earth. Not a bushel of grain was harvest- 
ed in 'Victoria valley that year. A few tur- 
nips sown after the hail storm were the only 
crop produced in that section. The log school- 
house where the settlers were gathered to 
celebrate the Fourth, had three windows on 
the north side. The glass was broken into 
fragments bv the hail, after which George Carr 



attempted the impossible feat of keeping out 
the storm by covering the three windows at one 
time with a blackboard long enough only to 
cover two. j\Ien, women, and children crowd- 
ed into the building, terror-stricken, some cry- 
ing, some praying, and, I am sorry to record 
it, a few swearing. The hail streak was about 
four miles wide and passed down Clear creek, 
completely cleaning out the crops in its course. 
The settlers had to haul their feed and seed 
for the next year from Grand Island and Cen- 
tral City, 120 and 130 miles distant. In 1880 
we had good crops, but the hardships and pri- 
vations of these pioneer days have been lived 
through, and while some have fallen by the 
wayside and still others gone to 'the land be- 
yond the river,' many of us remain to enjoy 
the fruits of our early trials, proud of our 
noble county and its splendid citizenship, and 
confident of its continued growth and develop- 


"To the residents of Custer county the 
drouth of 1894 was a new experience. They 
had seen slight drouths before, even in Custer 
county, but never before had they seen a 
spring and summer with entire absence of 
rain. Even in the spring the ground was so 
dry as to make plowing difficult, and as the 
season advanced it was impossible. But the 
crop was put in and made a good struggle for 
life. Up to the 4th of July there was still a. 
chance for a crop. The corn was of fair size, 
and still green. On the 4th of July there was 
a slight shower, early in the day, but followed 
by blistering sunshine. By night the corn was 
flat on the ground, beyond help from any 
amount of rain. But the rain did not come, 
even after it was too late, and long before 
frost every green thing was dead, and the 
leaves had fallen from the trees. 

"This meant more than financial loss; it 
meant a year of privation and suffering to 
most of the people of the county. It meant 
that if they were to stay in the country they 
nnist support themselves and their children 
without help from the soil, and with little or 
no resources of any kind. There was little 

stock in the country, and it was worth little. 
Good cows sold for ten dollars, and good 
thrifty calves for two dollars and fifty cents, 
or even less. ]\Iany people sold every thing 
they had and left the country. It was all they 
could do, for the time, but in a year or two 
most of them came back and turned their ex- 
perience into profit. Some farmers were able 
to stick it out by hunting wild game all winter, 
and using brush and cow-chips for fuel. 


"The determination of some of the people 
was almost beyond belief. I have in mind a 
little, bent, old man who had managed to 
gather up a little bunch of cattle. He had no 
land. Instead of selling his cattle he got 
some warm clothing and just lived in the hills 
with his cattle, moving them from place to 
place, wherever he could find old dry grass. 
It was his opportunity. In a few years he 
had a good half-section of land and many cat- 
tle, the increase of the little herd that he had 
nursed through that winter. 


"It soon became clear that without help 
some of the people would perish, and before 
cold weather the county was organized to meet 
the situation. In each precinct, with the super- 
visor at the head, relief committees were or- 
ganized to care for the needy. The east was 
almost careless in its liberality. Help came 
from abroad, and those who could, helped 
their neighbors. Farmers who had it, sold 
seed wheat to their neighbors, and waited a 
year for their pay. Not a single instance is 
reported of any one trying to turn the people's 
needs to profit. Persons asking or accepting 
aid who did not need it were very few, while 
the needy who refused all aid, and even helped 
others, were many. Real need never asked in 
vain. In the winter following this drouth. Dr. 
A. I. ^IcArthur went to I^Iissouri and collect- 
ed enough money to buy a car load of seed 
corn, which he shipped to Custer county. Of 
the scores of business men asked to contribute 
to this car, only one refused, and strange as it 
may sound, he was the only one who asked to 



see the doctor's credentials. Not only did they 
give, but always with a word of encouragement 
and sympathy. The railroad shipped this car 
free of charge, which was their general cus- 


"One very noticeable thing about the people 
during this drouth was their cheerfulness. Not 
only did they refuse to be starved ; they re- 
fused to be discouraged. There was more so- 
cial intercourse among the people during this 
year than ever before, and I am ready to be- 
lieve that the habit has survived to the present 
time. Hunger only sharpened the sense of 
humor. When a straw hat or corset was 
found in a box of winter supplies the fun was 
for everybody. Sometimes the 'needy' played 
tricks on the relief committee. For a time, in 
W'esterv'ille. the relief committee had their 'of- 
fice" in the front of the bank. One day a very 
ragged man came slowly across the street to- 
ward the bank door, and the committee began 
estimating what all he would want. When he 
came in, he went to the cashier's window and 
asked for some change, pushing a fifty dollar 
bill through the window. .A. few people the 
drouth entirely crushed. For a few hundred 
dollars, farmers sold good farms that are now 
worth as many thousands. A few lost all com- 
mercial pride, and took advantage of the times 
to repudiate their debts, but to the country the 
drouth was a great benefit. It stopped reck- 
lessness in spending and in the making of debts. 
Men had homesteaded, and then mortgaged 
their farms. The money had come without 
effort, and they were spending it without judg- 
ment. The drouth .stopped their income and 
their credit. They could neither earn nor bor- 
row, and never again can a \car"s misfortune 
force them to beg. ^lore than any other one 
year, 1894 has contributed to the great pros- 
perity of Custer county." 


In ihc matter of weather and storms Custer 
county has always been rather independent and 
has insisted upon doing business for itself. It 
generally keeps abreast with current weather 

and puts on tap any article that seems to be 
fashionable and popular. Not to be outdone, 
the county put on a late fall cyclone of its own 
in October, 1913, which at the time was de- 
scribed by the Custer County Chief as follows: 
"At si.x o'clock Thursday evening, October 
3, 1913, Custer county was visited by a terrific 
cyclone, which went the full length of the 
county from southwest and northwest. It was 
• terrible in its fury and practically every build- 
ing in its path was wrecked or damaged. It 
passed Broken Bow on the southeast, just miss- 
ing the city. The fair-ground buildings were 
a total wreck, and all the buildings on the 
Brenizer ranch and John Squires' place, a few 
miles south of town, were completely blown 
away ; the M. K. Hagadorn and J. A. Hutch- 
inson homes, just southeast of the city, were 
wrecked. The cyclone formed near Lodi and 
went southeast to Burwell. its path being from 
one-quarter to one-half mile wide. Much dam- 
age was done to farm properties, and though no 
fatalities were reported, the following people 
were hurt : Flossie, the ten-year-old daughter 
of \\'ill McCaslin, who lives east of here, was 
badly crushed and was taken to the Ryerson 
hospital in a precarious condition. Mrs. Mc- 
Caslin was injured about the breast, another 
small daughter and the baby had their heads 
badly cut. while Mr. McCaslin sustained sev- 
eral bruises. In the Sargent district the fol- 
lowing people were injured : John Speer. col- 
.lar bone broken ; Mrs. Bevington, badly bruised 
but not serious ; Mrs. Frank Kidder, rib broken 
and badly bruised ; Melvil! York, badly bruised 
about the body (all of these injured, it is un- 
derstood, were taken to Sargent and placed 
in the hospital) ; George Hill, head bruised. 
The worst part of the storm in that vicinity 
passed about two miles east of Sargent. 

"The above account was written after the 
forms had been made up and the paper ready 
for press. A full descrii)ti(jn will ajipear next 


lieginning with a gently falling rain on 
Thursday, March 14. 1913. and during Thurs- 
day night turning into snow, with a high 



north wind prevailing-. Friday saw the most 
destructive blizzard this section of the state 
has known in the past decade. A record in a 
local newspaper gives the following data : 

"During the whole of Friday the storm raged 
to such an extent as to make it unsafe to leave 
shelter, and heavy losses were sustained by 
many of the stockmen and farmers of this and 
adjoining counties. At this point but little 
snow fell, but what did come was drifted so 
badly as to make the roads impassable for the 
next two or three days. Between this city 
and Alliance it was reported that from nine to 
eighteen inches of snow fell during Thursday 
and Friday, and at no time after the early af- 
ternoon of Thursday did the prevailing high 
wind show a cessation until late Friday night. 
The heaviest loss of live stock from reports 
coming to this city on Sunday and Monday 
was suffered by feeders and ranchers in the 
vicinity of Brewster, Dunning and Thedford, 
although local farmers and feeders suffered 
some heavy losses. Peter Erickson, who ranges 
cattle on the North Loup, was a heavy loser, 
over two hundred head of heavy stock suc- 
cumbing to the storm. A. McClain, of Dun- 
ning (father of Ira McClain of this city), had 
315 head of cattle he was carrying through the 
winter and out of that number lost 150 head 
of the heaviest stock. He had taken up and 
placed under shelter about one-half of his herd, 
consisting of young animals. The remainder 
were left on the open range and drifted into 
the Dismal river, where the heavy loss oc- 
curred. The loss of Mr. Erickson also oc- 
curred from the animals drifting into the river. 
L. H. Jewett of this city, who had ninety-five 
head of heavy stock on the Dismal, lost forty 
head in the same manner. Mr. Jewett reports 
that this snow had drifted over the river and 
the lighter and younger stuff were able to cross 
over the snow in drifting ahead of the storm, 
but that the heavier stock went through the 
snow and mired in the river. 

"R. B. Beauchamp, of Dunning, was another 
heavy loser of the same vicinity, having 180 
head of stock in the storm and losing ninety 
of them. His cattle, however, were in the open 
pasture, and drifted ahead of the storm into 

the fence corners, and it is supposed a good 
many of them dying in the storm, were 
tramped to death by the remainder of the 
herd. Most of the Beauchamp herd were 
young stock that was bought last fall at an 
average price of thirty dollars per head. 
Henry Andrews, of Anselmo, also was a heavy 
loser, the storm taking fifty-five head out of 
his herd. His cattle were partially sheltered. 
A. M. Cook of this city lost fifty head out of 
his herd of 235, near Linscott. Other losses 
in that neighborhood are: McConnell. twelve 
head of milk cows ; George Zutavern, 200 out 
of a herd of 575 ; and a man by the name of 
Whitney lost sixteen — his entire herd. 

"J. D. Gage, a lumber dealer at Dunning, 
had twelve head of horses perish from exposure 
to the storm. The loss in horses, however, 
was light as compared to cattle losses. ]\Iiller 
Heller, a Kinkaid homesteader of near Hal- 
sey, suffered the loss of sixteen head of milk 
cows. It is estimated that the loss to the Kin- 
kaiders was very extensive and as they are in 
the majority of cases unable to lose any stock, 
they will feel the loss to a greater extent than 
the heavier losers who deal extensively in the 
live-stock business. 

"I. N. Bovee, a former resident of this vi- 
cinity, but now of Halsey, in a letter to Mr. 
Jewett, states that while his live stock suffered 
from the storm he lost none and considered 
himself very fortunate, as the loss in his neigh- 
borhood was very heavy. 


"A train of double-deck cars loaded with 
sheep was pulled into the Burlington yards at 
Whitman early Friday. On the train were 
about 11,000 head and during the day the 
larger part of the whole load perished. It was 
estimated on Monday that of the whole 11,000 
only about 2,000 had survived the storm. 

"Fred Wagner, of Wagner, was reported to 
have lost twelve head of cows and four horses 
in the feed lot. His loss on the range was 
supposed to have been heavy, but just how 
much has not been reported. 

"Near Mullen the storm was very severe. 
Following is a letter received by the RcpubH- 



can Tuesday morning from W. B. Adams : 
'Just a line to tell you of the terrible condition 
of the poor old sandhills after the blizzard. 
About forty per cent, of loss in cattle, and 
horses about ten. I lost nine head out of 
200; J. H. Lowe lost 700 head of cattle, and 
E. Crain lost eighty out of 153: W. W. Ma- 
hafify lost his whole herd and John Boyce lost 
about 100 head ; John Morrison, of Mullen, 
lost about seventy-five head, Joseph Heclan 
si.xty, and Richard S. Fox lost 100 out of 118. 
That is about the way it runs in the sandhills. 
No lives lost that I have heard of.' 

"The loss in the immediate vicinity of Bro- 
ken Bow was very light compared with the 
losses of the northwest part of the county, 
Blaine and Thomas counties. Tierney Broth- 
ers, who are operating a ranch at Wagner, 
report the loss of probably forty head of cattle. 
They also lost some hogs in the local feed 
yards, besides the loss of ninety head of pork- 
ers on the South Loup. Raid Skinner suffered 
a loss of seventeen head of cattle at his farm 
twelve miles north of the city. Judge Sullivan 
lost six head of cattle and Harve Andrews lost 
five head. Others losing cattle reported in this 
ofiice were George Bush, five head, and R. F. 

Burnett, two head. Tom Finlen lost five head 
of horses at his farm south of town, and John 
Price suffered the loss of a like number of 
horses at his farm. Other losses have been re- 
ported but no confirmation of the rumors had 
been reported at that time. 

"Robert E. Shaw and Thomas G. Butler, of 
^lilldale, were in the city Tuesday. They re- 
ported the loss of stock in their vicinity was 
very light, but the losses to the northwest of 
them was finite heavy. The heavier loser was 
Clarks Philpot, near Gandy, who lost several 
hundred head — thirty or forty per cent, of 
his herd. Dan Haskell's loss was small. Henry 
Andrews, of Anselmo, reported a loss of fifty- 
seven head of cattle out of 500. George Temp- 
lar, north of Broken Bow, reported to have but 
fourteen head of cattle. Charles Sanders, of 
Ortello valley, reported to have lost sixty head 
of cattle. Jewett & Andrews, JBroken Bow, 
four head of cattle. Harry Knapp, southwest 
of town, reported loss of twelve head of cattle. 
J. J. Boblits, South Loup, reported loss of five 
head of cattle. Vincent Steadry, west of town, 
reported loss of two head of cattle. Lon 
Davis, east of town, reported loss ofone 


The Mitchell-Ketchum Tragedy — The Shooting — The Arrest — Escaped the 

Keraney Mob' — Judge Casein's Story — Deputizing a Posse — Turns State's Evidence 

— Judge Boblits Takes a Hand — The Haunstine Til^gedy : — Hamer and Others 

Quiet Crowd — The Execution Takes Place — The Only Execution — A Fatal 

Land Quarrel — War Breaks Out — Spilled the Booze — Making an 

Honest Mexican — Fatal Hilarity at Anselmo 

If there is a skeleton in every closet, there 
are tragedies in every life and dark pages in 
every history. The people of Custer county 
are neither better nor worse than other Ne- 
braskans or other people of the middle west. 
Their story is about the same, their experiences 
very similar. If crimes have been committed, 
if human life has been taken, and human 
blood shed, it is only incidental to the settle- 
ment of a country by hardy pioneers, no mat- 
ter what sterling traits of character the ma- 
jority of the people might possess. There are 
sheep of shaded wool in every flock and in 
every early contingent that settles upon a vir- 
gin soil there are desperate characters. This 
cannot be avoided. It is one of the handi- 
caps of humanity. Adventuresome spirits al- 
ways flock to the west and front. Men of tem- 
per and reckless disposition are apt to consort 
in the sparsely settled frontier, where disposi- 
tions have no governor and law is but slight 
control. A lawless character may make niore 
local history in the unbridled orgy of one 
night-hour than a dozen men of sterling worth 
in a lifetime of probity. The peaceful pur- 
suits of life are devoid of the spectacular and 
are generally too commonplace to be recorded 
in a country's annals. 

If recorded here are episodes that reflect 
small credit on law-abiding people it must be 
remembered that these are the crimes and deeds 
of the ill-starred few who are neither typical 

nor representative of the great mass of Custer 
county citizens. 

The early settlers of Custer county were on 
the whole as fine a group of men and women 
as American homes of the east and north could 
produce. Nowhere among the children of men 
could you find a better people, stronger in vir- 
tuous traits or more sensitive to honor and 
rectitude. They were intelligent, law-abid- 
ing, conscientious, and God-honoring. The 
marvelous development of Custer county, the 
establishment of its splendid homes, schools, 
and churches are due to this fact. No people 
could have wrought better, nor under the cir- 
cumstances accomplished more. 

When the size of the county is considered, 
the number of people who have moved in to 
tread awhile the maze of chance and rounds 
of fortune, Custer's record is exceptionally 
good. Blood and thunder do not run riot in 
the pages of its history, notwithstanding the 
fact that in an early day a witty brakeman on 
the Burlington Railroad used to shout to the 
passengers, "We have now crossed the line in- 
to Custer county. Prepare to meet your God." 
A faithful record of the past demands that 
crimes and felonies be chronicled, and the 
historian must obey. 

Butcher's History of Custer County devotes 
twelve pages to the lynching of "Kid Wade." 
It seems that Kid Wade, without over much 
ceremony, appropriated a fine race horse be- 




longing to a man named PuUiam. who resid- 
ed in West Union township, and made his es- 
ca])e into the north counties. John Roth, a 
neighbor of Pnlliam. organized a posse and 
started in pursuit. The chase was long and 
lasted for months. Concerning it many e.x- 
citing and almost romantic incidents are re- 
corded, but as all happened outside of Custer 
county they are not germane to this history, 
other than to record that the horse was found 
and returned to Pulliam, that Wade was cap- 
tured and while lodged in the Bassett jail 
was taken out by a band of masked men and 
hanged to a telegraph pole. It was severe 

thousands of cattle that roamed over the val- 
ley of the South Loup river and adjoining 
country. In common with other men in the 
same line of business, he had suffered heavy 
losses from the depredations of cattle thieves. 
For this reason he became the prime mover 
in an attempt to drive the cattle thieves from 
the country. Olive resided in Lexington, Daw- 
.son county, but his ranch was on the South 
Loup river, about four miles east of the pres- 
ent town of Callaway. While in a general way 
he was a good sort of man, and very generous 
and courteous to those with whom he was on 
good terms, he was an implacable enemy and 

The Old 1. P. Ouve R.vxch 

treatment, but as a cure it is said to have had 
the desired eft'ect. 


During the year 1877 a number of settlers 
located on Clear creek, near the east line of the 
county, among the number being Luther 
Mitchell and .Ami Ketchum. Mitchell came 
from Merrick county, was a farmer about 
sixty-five years of age, and married. Ketchum 
was a blacksmith by trade, but had decided to 
become a farmer, although he still worked at 
his trade for the neighbors. He was unmar- 
ried and was living with Mitchell at the time 
of which we are writing. 

I. P. Olive was one of the wealthiest cattle 
men in Nebraska at that time, and owned many 

an adept in the use of firearms. His brother, 
Robert Olive, was a bad man when aroused. 
It was reported that Bob Olive had previously 
killed several men in Texas, and to conceal his 
identity had assumed the name of Stevens and 
skipped to Nebraska, where his brother I. P. 
had already established a ranch, and it was 
under the name of Stevens that he was known 
during his career in Custer county. 

A short time previously to the events which 
led up to the killing of Bob Olive, or Stevens, 
one Mauley Capel had been arrested on a 
charge of cattle-stealing in Custer county, and 
in his confession he seemed to implicate .\mi 
Ketchum in the nefarious business. This, 
with the information obtained from a man by 
the name of Mclndeffer. who was acting as a 



sort of spy for the cattlemen and who, by the 
way, was hanged as a cattle thief in No Man's 
Land, a few years afterward, so it is said, so 
impressed the OHves that they determined to 
arrest Ketchum. Notwithstanding the enmity 
that was known to exist between Bob Olive 
and Ketchum, Sheriff David Anderson, of Buf- 
falo county, made Olive a deputy to arrest 

In the company of two rough and reckless 
cowboys, named Barney Armstrong and Pete 
Beaton, Bob Olive started for the home of 
Mitchell and Ketchum on the 27th day of 
November, 1878, with Mclndeffer as a guide. 
When they arrived at the homestead of Mr. 
Mitchell, the latter and Ketchum were pre- 
paring to go to a neighbor's, by the name of 
Dowse, to return a borrowed animal. Mrs. 
Mitchell was preparing to go with them. Be- 
fore they started, a stranger rode up and asked 
if he could have his horse shod. Ketchum 
explained his plans for the day and asked the 
man to come the following day and he could 
shoe the horse. The stranger agreed to do 
so and rode away to rejoin Bob Olive and the 
other two men. who were hidden behind a 
small hill to the south of Mitchell's house. 
Having failed to get ]\litchell and Ketchum 
separated by the ruse of getting the horse shod, 
the men now rode boldly up toward the set- 
tlers, who paid no particular attention to them, 
as men on horseback were the rule and not 
the exception in those days. Mrs. Alitchell 
had already taken her seat in the wagon, and 
the men were tying the animal to the hind axle 
of the vehicle. 


When within a short distance the cowboys 
made a dash on their horses, four abreast, and 
Bob Olive shouted to Ketchum to throw up 
his hands, as he was an officer of the law, at 
the same time presenting his revolver. Ketch- 
um threw up his right hand with a forty- 
four Colt's revolver in it, and both men fired 
at the same instant. Several shots' were ex- 
changed, resulting in the breaking of Ketch- 
urn's left arm. As soon as the shooting 

commenced the older man, Mitchell, grabbed 
his Winchester and took deadly aim at Olive, 
who discovered him and shouted : "My God, 
old man, don't shoot!" but it was too late. 
Mitchell's finger had already pressed the trig- 
ger and the bullet sped forward to do its fatal 
work. Olive reeled in his saddle and the 
cowboys prevented him from falling. He 
gasped: "Boys, I am done for." Support- 
ing him on his horse, they turned and rode 
rapidly away, followed by bullets from Ketch- 
urn's Winchester, which was loaded by a 
girl named Tamar Snow, a step-daughter of 
Mitchell, Ketchum being unable to load the 
gun himself on account of his broken arm. 
He fired the last shot at a range of 200 yards, 
just as the cowboys dropped out of sight be- 
hind the rise of ground previously referred 
to. One of Ketchum's bullets cut a scarf 
around Beaton's neck in two, drawing blood, 
and another shaved off one side of the rim of 
his hat, close to the head. Another went 
through Armstrong's foot. Mclndeffer, who 
afterward described the encounter, declared 
that Ketchum came as near being the devil as 
any man he ever saw, and that he believed 
he would have killed every one of them, even 
with one broken arm, if they had not gotten 
out of the way. As soon as the cowboys got 
• out of reach of the flying bullets, Olive was 
laid on the ground and a consultation held. 
The wounded man was then taken to the dug- 
out of one Harrington, who lived about a 
quarter of a mile further down the creek, 
where Olive made his will and sent for his 
wife. He died three days afterward. 

As soon as the cowboys disappeared from 
sight Mitchell and Ketchum packed up their 
few movable belongings and started for their 
former home in Merrick county. As soon as 
the news of the shooting spread over the coun- 
try there was great excitement among the 
cattlemen and cowboys, and the same night a 
large force returned to the Mitchell house, 
undoubtedly to wreak vengeance on the two 
men, but finding them gone they set fire to 
the house and burned up the roof, that being 
the only part of it that was combustible. 




When they arrived in Merrick county 
Mitchell and Ketchuni went to the house of 
George Gagle, and a Dr. Barnes was sent for 
to attend to Ketcluim's broken arm. The next 
morning, acting upon the advice of friends, 
and having found a place of safety for Mitch- 
eirs family, the two men started back to Cus- 
ter county to give themselves up to the author- 
ities for the killing of Stevens. On their way 
they passed through Loup City and consulted 
with Attorney Aaron Wall, who advised them 
to proceed no farther, as the cowboys would 
certainly lynch them. They remained several 
days in Loup City and then went to the house 
of J. R. Baker, on Oak creek, in Howard coun- 
ty, where they were arrested by William Letch- 
er, sheriff of Merrick county, and E. W. 
Crew, sheriff of Howard county — giving 
themselves willingly into the custody of the 

I. P. Olive had offered a reward of S700 
for their arrest and several officers, among 
whom were Crew, of Howard county, Ander- 
son, of Buffalo county, Gillan, of Keith coun- 
ty, and Letcher, of ^Merrick county, were an.xi- 
ous to capture them in order to secure the re- 
ward. But after the capture. Crew and Letch- 
er were unwilling to assume the responsibility 
of taking the prisoners to Custer county and* 
£)f turning them over to the cowboys. They 
were finally taken to Buffalo county and lodged 
in the jail at Kearney, in charge of Sheriff 
Anderson, for safe keeping. The prisoners 
were at first held without legal authority, as 
Olive had given the warrant for their arrest, 
issued in Custer county, into the hands of Bar- 
ney Gillan, sheriff of Keith county, to serve. 

The prisoners had engaged Thomas Darnall. 
of St. Paul, and E. C. Calkins, of Kearney, as 
counsel. Their attorneys endeavored to have 
the prisoners retained in the jail at Kearney, 
having reasons for believing they would be 
lynched if taken to Custer county. The feel- 
ing at Kearney was against Mitchell and 
Ketchum. as the people had been led to believe 
that Olive had been shot while fulfilling his 
duty as an officer of the law. A dispute arose 
among the sheriffs as to a division of the re- 

ward oft'ered by I. P. Olive for the arrest, but 
Olive declined to pay the money until the 
prisoners were delivered in Custer county. A 
proposition was finally made to Sheriff Ander- 
son to take the men to Custer county, for 
which service the others agreed to pay him 
fifty dollars. This proposition was declined 
by Anderson, unless he were paid enough to 
enable him to employ a sufficient number of 
men to guard the prisoners. It was at last ar- 
ranged that Gillan should take the prisoners 
to Custer county, as he held the warrant for 
their arrest, and he promised to notify their 
attorneys, Darnell and Calkins, so that they 
could accompany their clients. As Gillan was 
a sheriff, and his desperate character was un- 
known to Darnell and Calkins, they thought 
everything was all right. Nevertheless they 
kept their eyes on the jail to prevent any at- 
tempt to remove the prisoners by stealth. 


On the forenoon of December 10th, Darnell, 
fearing that the prisoners were about to be 
taken away, kept close watch until the west- 
bound emigrant train came in. After its ar- 
rival at Kearney he waited at the depot until 
he thought it was about time for it to pull out, 
when he started to leave. In the meantime 
Gillan had taken the prisoners from the jail 
and hustled them into a car just as the train 
was pulling out. Darnell telegraphed to Gil- 
lan at Elm Creek, asking him if he would hold 
the prisoners at Lexington until the next train. 
Gillan replied that he would do so. Darnell 
also telegraphed to Captain r^lcXamar, an at- 
torney at Lexington, requesting him to see 
what was done with the prisoners when they 
got off the train at that city. Lexington was 
the home of I. P. (Jlive. and here he was 
surrounded by many friends and employes. 
The train pulled into Lexington about three 
o'clock in the afternoon, and Olive and his 
friends were waiting at the depot with wagons, 
into one of which the prisoners were immedi- 
ately loaded, and a start made for Custer 
county. Captain McXamar was unable to 
prevail on Gillan and (^live to wait for the 
arrival of Darnell from Kearnev, and believ- 



ing it was the intention to mob Mitchell and 
Ketchum, he followed the wagon train for 
some distance. Seeing that they were being 
followed, the wagons separated, but McNamar 
kept after the one containing the prisoners un- 
til it became so dark that he lost the trail 
among the hills. The Olive party kept on all 
night, until they met Olive's men from the 
ranch on the South Loup, about five miles 
from the Olive ranch, where the transfer of 
the prisoners from Gillan to Olive took place. 
The names of the men who received the pris- 
oners were Dennis Gartrell, Pedro Dominicus, 
and Bion Brown. After the delivery of the 
prisoners to Olive's men, Sheriff Gillan and 
Phil Dufrand walked away a short distance 
while the Olive men started with the prisoners 
to a place known as the "Devil's Gap," in a 
wild canyon about half way between the Loup 
and Wood River valleys, some five miles south- 
east of where Callaway now stands. O'.ive 
and Gartrell drove the wagon containing the 
prisoners, and they stopped under a small elm 
tree. A couple of ropes were passed over a 
limb and Gartrell tied one of them around 
Ketchum's neck, while Pedro Dominicus fas- 
tened the other around the neck of Mitchell. 
Ketchum was first drawn up. Olive then took 
a rifle and shot ^Mitchell, after which the latter 
also was drawn up until he dangled beside 
his companion. 

The bodies of the two unfortunate men were 
found at about three o'clock in the afternoon 
of the following day, by a party of men, 
among whom were Captain McNamar, Anton 
Abel. Louis Wambsgan. George Sandford, AI 
Wise, County Judge Boblits, and perhaps oth- 
ers. When found the bodies were frightfully 
burned — that of Ketchum still hanging to 
the limb, while that of Mit:hell was resting on 
the ground. 

After hanging ^Mitchell and Ketchum. the 
Olive gang rode about one mile toward the 
Olive ranch, where two of the men were given 
fresh horses with which to return to Lexing- 
ton. It will probably never be known who 
did the burning of the bodies, or how the 
same was done, but it ■ is generally supposed 
that these two men, crazed with drink and 

fired with the thought of revenge for the kill- 
ing of one of their number, resolved to put the 
finishing touch on the terrible night's work by 
pouring the contents of their liquor flasks over 
the hanging bodies of their victims and setting 
them on fire, as they had to pass along that 
road to get back to Lexington. The evidence 
at the trial was convincing that the bodies had 
been burned, although an attempt was made 
to prove that Mitchell's clothing had caught 
fire from the powder of Olive's gun, and that 
although the fire had been put out, it caught 
again after the men departed from the spot. 
A careful examination of the spot disclosed 
the fact that the fire had been carefully 
whipped out for quite a circle around the bod- 
ies, thus proving that some one must have 
been present during the burning; otherwise 
the whole country would have been burned 
over, as the grass was as dry as tinder. It 
does not appear, however, that Olive was a 
party to, or had any knowledge of, this part 
of the crime. 

Steps were immediately taken to arrest the 
perpetrators of the crime and bring them to 
speedy justice. The whole state was aroused 
by the tragedy, but the well known desperate 
character of most of the men concerned in it 
made the question of apprehending them a 
very serious one. 

judge; gaslin's story 

Judge William Gaslin thus relates the meth- 
ods employed to arrest the criminals : 

"I first heard of the lynching of Mitchell 
and Ketchum while on a train on my way from 
Nebraska City to Sidney, where I was to open 
court the next morning. When I opened court 
there was such an excitement that there was 
no disposition or readiness to do business, and 
upon seeing an article in the newspaper pub- 
lished at Kearney by the Eatons, denouncing 
the governor for not taking active steps to 
bring about the arrest of the murderers, and 
complimenting me by saying that there was 
one man in Nebraska who would see that the 
perpetrators of the crime would be brought to 
justice, and the man was Gaslin, I called my 
reporter, F. M. Hallowell, who resided at 



Kearney, and instructed him to proceed to that 
city on the first train and tell Eaton not to 
make further mention of my name in connec- 
tion with the matter, as I had a plan to cap- 
ture the desperadoes and did not want my 
name mentioned for fear of putting them on 
their guard. Late that afternoon I adjourned 
court and took the train east for Lexington, 
where quite a number of the Olive gang lived. 
I found assembled at the residence of Attorney 
General Dihvorth a number of the law-abiding 
citizens of the city, armed to protect them- 
selves against the outlaws who had threatened 
the lives of those who should attempt to bring 
them to justice. Among these I now recall 
Captain [McNamar, an attorney, and Jack Mac- 
Coll, clerk of the district court. I learned that 
the officials of Custer county, where the lynch- 
ing was done, could not be expected to render 
much assistance. I left on the first train for 
Kearney, to look up the law and see if L as an 
examining magistrate, could not issue warrants 
for their arrest, which plan I divulged to no 
one. I was in constant touch with General 
Dihvorth, soon satisfied myself that I had the 
authority, and set to work preparing com- 
plaints and warrants to have the outlaws ar- 
rested. After I had matured my plan I met 
J. P. Johnson (then residing in Kearney, three 
score and ten, hale and hearty), and in con- 
versation he remarlted that if the officers were 
afraid to arrest the criminals he would furnish 
men to do it if I would deputize them. I 
informed him that I had confidentially ar- 
ranged for a meeting of the sheriffs of Dawson 
and Buffalo counties, General Dihvorth and a 
sacred few others, and invited him to attend. 
There were present at this meeting, in Judge 
Savidge's office, the Judge, J. 1'. Johnson, Gen- 
eral Dihvorth, the two sheriff's, and myself. 
I told these men the conclusion I had come to, 
and the complaints having been filed before 
me, I made out the warrants for the arrest 
of the criminals and offered them to Sheriff' 
James of Dawson county, and Sheriff Ander- 
son of Buffalo county, both of whom declined 
to take or serve them, on account of a fear of 
their lives, as they said. 


"I then turned to Johnson and asked him 
to give me the names of the men he agreed to 
furnish, which he did, and I deputized them, 
there being, I think, five or six of them, and 
gave them to Johnson for delivery. One of 
the men deputized was Lawrence Ketchum, a 
brother of the man who was lynched, and an- 
other was a powerful young fellow by the 
name of Young, a deputy sheriff' of Clay coun- 
ty. A third was named Pingree, and the 
fourth was a man from Illinois. A plan was 
arranged, in strictest secrecy, for a part of the 
deputized men to go across the country to Cus- 
ter county to arrest part of the gang who were 
at the Olive ranch. Another party was to 
board a freight train at Kearney about mid- 
night, which arrived at Lexington a little be- 
fore daylight. The railroad people were in 
the secret and stopped the train a little before 
Lexington was reached, where the officers left 
the train and walked into town, where they 
eft'ected the arrest of all the gang who were 
ir the city. Lawrence Ketchum, Bob French, 
and others went from Kearney, and were as- 
sisted by some of the constables of Lexington. 
When the other party arrived at the Olive 
ran;h they found that the men they were after 
had fled the country. Among them was the 
delectable Barney Gillan, sheriff of Keith 
county, who had delivered Mitchell and Ketch- 
um over to the murderers, and who secured 
the $700 blood money paid by Olive. On the 
afternoon of Sunday the parties who arrested 
the desperadoes at Lexington landed them in 
Kearney on a freight train, where they were 
put in jail and a strong guard placed over 
them. Thousands of people were at the train 
when it arrived with the prisoners. Some of 
the prisoners, I think, were subsequently taken 
to the state prison for safe keeping until the 
.■\pril term of the district court in Adams coun- 
ty, where the trial had been set, the prisoners 
waiving preliminary examination before me. 

TURNS st.\te"s evide.nci-: 

■'.\11 kinds of lawyers ^ good, bad, and in- 
different — were employed by the defense, some 



for ability and legal lore, and some to insult 
and bulldoze tbe court — for which they occa- 
sionally got fined for contempt. The trial had 
not progressed long before the prosecuting at- 
torney secretly informed me that he had made 
a secret arrangement with one of the prisoners, 
Bion Brown, to turn state's evidence, and to 
testify on behalf of the prosecution. Brown 
was in jail with the other defendants, heard 
and knew all their plans, and daily communi- 
cated the same to General Dilworth, the pros- 
ecuting attorney. He said at one time that 
they talked of having their friends, who were 
in disguise in the town, shoot General Dil- 
worth and me and have horses ready for the 
prisoners, who would be enabled to escape in 
the excitement. I then gave orders for no 
one to occupy the gallery opposite where I 
sat, and I had a large number of bailiffs secret- 
ly heavily armed scattered over the court room, 
with nothing to indicate they were officers. 
One day it was reported that a number of the 
Texas friends of the prisoners were secreted 
in the hills near the Platte river, armed to the 
teeth and provided with good horses with 
which to swoop down on the court and liber- 
ate the prisoners. Other things came to the 
knowledge of Sheriff Lewis Martin of Adams 
county, a most excellent officer, which induced 
him to procure a company of regulars from 
Omaha, which was sent by the commanding 
officer as soon as possible. The soldiers were 
tented on the public square of Hastings, op- 
posite the hall where the court was being held. 
The legislature appropriated $20,000 to be ex- 
pended in the prosecution of the case, to be 
paid out on vouchers approved by me, a part 
of the money being paid for the subsistence 
of the soldiers. Bion Brown and Pedro, the 
Mexican, were used as witnesses for the pros- 
ecution, the latter testifying through an in- 
terpreter. A better witness I never heard tes- 
tify. On cross-examination he testified almost, 
if not exactly, to what he did in direct. 

"The trial commenced in Hastings in April 
and continued almost through the month. Some 
of the ablest lawyers of the state were en- 
gaged on the case, among them being General 
Dilworth, the prosecuting attorney; District 

Attorney Scofield and John M. Thurston, for 
the state ; and F. G. Hamer, General Connor, 
and Hon. James Laird for the defense. An 
indictment was found against Ira P. Olive and 
eleven others for the murder of Luther Mitch- 
ell, and I. P. Olive and Fred Fisher were 
placed on trial to answer for the crime. There 
were about 100 witnesses, among whom we 
find the names of Captain McNamar, Anton 
Abel, Louis Wambsgan, James Kelly, Phil Du- 
frand, George Sandford, A. C. Woodworth, 
David Blackman, George Arnold, Sheriff 
O'Brien, Dan Haskell, James Gray, H.' C. 
Stuckey, S. C. Stuckey, John Myers, Andrew 
Pancake, E. S. Finch, W. H. Kilgore, and S. 
R. Ritchie. Phil Dufrand and Bion Brown, 
two of the defendants, turned state's evidence 
and testified against their associates in the 
crime. The witnesses for the prosecution tes- 
tified to the facts substantially as heretofore 
related, while the witnesses for the defense 
confined themselves to testifying as to the 
good character and reputation of I. P. Olive." 
The arguments of the attorneys were lengthy, 
able, .and eloquent, and the case was given to 
the jury on the evening of April 16th. Be- 
fore morning the jury arrived at a verdict, to 
the effect that I. P. Olive and Fred Fisher 
were guilty of murder in the second degree, 
Judge Gaslin immediately sentenced the two 
men to the penitentiary for the rest of their 
natural lives, and they were taken to the pen- 
itentiary forthwith. 


Immediately after the sentence of Olive and 
Fisher their friends began proceedings for 
their release. The following year their ef- 
forts were successful, the supreme court hand- 
ing down a decision to the effect that the pris- 
oners had a right to trial in the county where 
the crime charged against them was committed. 
This not having been done, the prisoners were 
sent to Custer county for trial. Custer county 
had recently been organized from territory 
that had formerly been in two different judicial 
districts. The court held that the county was 
not now in any judicial district, and conse- 
quently the prisoners could not be tried before 



any district judge. This was the decision of 
two of the supreme judges, but Judge Samuel 
Maxwell, the third member of the court, dis- 
sented from this view, in what is said to be one 
of the ablest legal documents ever prepared in 
the supreme court of Nebraska. 

Under this decision the only court having 
jurisdiction over the case was the county court. 
Accordingly Olive and Fisher were brought 
before Judge E. J. Boblits, but from some 
mysterious cause no complaining witnesses put 
in an appearance and the prisoners were dis- 

The county judge's docket at that time was 
kept in an account book, and the court pro- 
ceedings are mixed up with notes of sales and 
purchases of calves, steers, and cows, together 
with memoranda of expenses for hay. barbed 
wire, and other ranch requisites. The follow- 
ing, which we find on the same page with some 
items of expense incurred in the plastering of 
the judge's house, shows the disposition that 
was made of the celebrated Olive case : 

St.\te of Nebraska] gg 

Custer County ) 
In County Court Before E. J. Boblits, County 

1. P. Olive, W. F. Fisher, in custody of 
Sheriff O'Brien, the court finding no complaint 
on county docket and no complaining witness- 
es, the court orders that the prisoners be dis- 
charged till further proceedings can be had. 

This 17th day of December. 1880. 

E. J. Boblits, County Judge. 

The decision of the supreme court of course 
put an end to the proceedings against the other 
defendants, but in the meantime most of them 
had been allowed to escape from the various 
jails in which they had been confined, and as 
far as we know Olive and Fisher were the 
only ones that ever had to do any time in the 
penitentiary for ])articipating in the Alitchell 
and Ketchuni tragedy. 


The story of the Haunstine murder and ex- 
ecution, which occurred in the latter part of 
the '80s. is given by James Whitehead, uho 
was a resident of Grant precinct, where the 

murder was committed, and who had access to 
all the facts. 

"The murder of Hiram Roten and William 
Ashley by Albert E. Haunstine occurred No- 
vember 9, 1888. It was regarded, and time 
has failed to change the sentiment, as one of 
the most unprovoked homicides known in the 
history of this county. The murderer and his 
victims lived in the same neighborhood — Ro- 
ten valley. Toward the latter it was not shown 
that Haunstine had the slightest resentment 
or enmity. He had, in fact, for a time made 
his home with Hiram Roten, at whose hands 
and those of his young wife he had received 
the best of treatment. Mr. Ashley, who was a 
relative of Roten's, and lived close by, was 
not so well known to Haunstine, yet they were 
on friendly terms. The school-house of the 
district of whicli Roten and .Ashley were offi- 
cers, was located near their homes. A clock 
and some lumber had been taken from the 
school-house, and the fact of the missing goods 
was discovered while yet the tracks of the 
wagon and team of the supposed purloiner 
• were fresh and easy to trace. As this was 
but one instance in many of recent occurrence 
in the neighborhood, IMessrs. Roten and Ash- 
lev determined they would thoroughly investi- 
gate, and, if possible, detect the culprit. 

"We are not certain as to the length of time 
they were absent before their friends became 
uneasy and instituted a search. Some days, 
however, had elapsed, when a searching party 
visited Haunstine's home, which was back from 
the road and isolated, and found it unoccu- 
pied. In looking around they discovered the 
bodies of the missing men. near the house, 
partly covered by hay. Subsequent events dis- 
closed the fact that on reaching Haunstine's 
house and making their business known, he 
delivered to them the clock, which he con- 
fessed to having taken from the school-house ; 
that while they remained within no words or 
truulile occurred, but when they left the house 
and started for their wagon he took dciwn his 
rifle and shot them while their backs were 
turned, killing them instantly. He then 
searched them and secured about fortv dollars 



in money, their watches and a rifle and re- 
volver. Their team he tied in an old deserted 
sod house on an adjoining claim, and, gather- 
ing together a few household effects, he and 
his wife started to get out of the country. 
They went to Arnold, changed teams, and 
drove down the South Loup river to near 
Madison, where Haunstine hired out to husk 
corn. He worked three days, sold his team 
and then started for Columbus, where his wife 
had already gone. Just as the train was Hear- 
ing town it was flagged by officers who were 
on his track, and he was taken by surprise and 
captured while sitting in the smoker with his 
rifle across his lap. 

"He was tried at the ^larch term of the 
district court. H. AI. Sullivan, who was 
county attorney, had been consulted by the 
prisoner prior to his election, and had. there- 
fore, some scruples against acting as prosecu- 
tor. As a substitute, however, he employed 
Judge Wall, of Loup City, who, with the firm 
of Blair & Campbell, represented the state. 
The defense was conducted by C. L. Gutterson, 
A. R. Humphrey, both of Broken Bow, and 
X. \'. Harlen, of York. Haunstine was found 
guilty and was sentenced to be hanged on 
September 6th following. The case was ap- 
pealed to the supreme court, and he was again 
sentenced to be hanged, April 17, 1891. His 
defense was insanity, and before the date fLxed 
for his execution he acted so strangely that a 
jury was called to determine his mental condi- 
tion. The trial lasted three days. Public sen- 
timent against the prisoner was so strong that 
a good deal of trouble was experienced in se- 
lecting a jury. The following named persons 
were finally agreed upon : J. I. Dillenbeck, 
T. A. Thum, James Dinwiddie, Frank New- 
beck, J. C. Hunter, C. U. Richardson, John 
Curry, Nolan Webb, A. R. Huckleberry, A. 
Cross, T. H. ]\IcCarger, and J. L. Compton. 
The witnesses for the defense were Airs. Dr. 
Talbot, Miss Anna Crawford, Mrs. William 
Blair. O. M. Kem, William Blair, William 
Hartsell, John Miller, Charles Parkhurst, and 
Robert Norcutt. For the state were : Dr. 
Carter, physician at the state penitentiary ; Dr. 
Knapp, superintendent of the insane asvlum 

at Lincoln; Dr. C. Pickett; Dr. J. J. Pickett, 
county physician ; Dr. C. H. ^^lorris ; Sherifl:" 
Jones ; and Rev. O. R. Beebe, — all of whom 
with the exception of Dr. Knapp (Who said 
that without a more extended observation he 
was not prepared to state whether Haunstine 
was sane or insane), pronounced him sane, 
and believed that his condition was a feigned 
one. The prosecution was conducted by the 
attorneys who had managed the case from the 
beginning, while to the defense was added H, 
AI. Sullivan, whose term of office as county 
attorney had expired. It was one of the hard- 
est fought and most ably conducted legal bat- 
tles ever witnessed in Custer county. Air. 
Campbell (then county attorney) was a lawyer 
of long practice ; he was familiar with every 
turn and detail of the case, and his associates 
were men of exceptional ability. Judge Wall, 
especially, ranked high as a trial lawyer, was 
keen and resourceful, a good reasoner and an 
eloquent pleader. Gutterson, Humphrey, and 
Harlan were experienced and well informed 
practitioners, and the addition of Sullivan 
made a quartette that combined the qualities 
well nigh invulnerable. They were, however, 
placed in a most trying position. The preju- 
dice against the prisoner was marked and uni- 
versal. No circumstance connected with the 
killing of his victims could be urged in pallia- 
tion. It was a cold-blooded, unprovoked 
butchery of two respected and highly es- 
teemed citizens, and public sentiment demand- 
ed his execution. The date of hanging was 
fixed for the following day, and a vast multi- 
tude had assembled from all parts of the coun- 
try and from dift'erent portions of the state as 
well. The determined expression and sullen 
silence of the crowd was ominous. Represen- 
tatives of the press from Lincoln, Omaha, and 
elsewhere were present, awaiting the hour 
when the prisoner should atone for his crime. 
Adjoining the court house and facing its south 
door, the gallows was being erected and the 
din of the workmen's hammers was distinctly 
heard in the court room. None was more 
keenly alive to the situation and the odds 
against him than the prisoner's counsel. By 
mutual agreement the principal plea in his 



behalf was made l)y ]\Ir. Sullivan. He re- 
mained calmly in his seat until the proper 
moment arrived. \\'hen he arose to address 
the jury no sound save the breathing of the 
audience could be heard. With a few prelim- 
inary remarks, in which he avowed his belief, 
and that of his associates, in the irresponsibil- 
ity of the prisoner, he pushed eagerly forward 
into the very heart of the matter. The scene 
that followed was bewilderingly rapid in trans- 
formations : his appeal seemed absolutely to 
swell with indignation. Every look, word, and 
gesture showed the intensity of his feelings. 
Those who wure opposed to him in their be- 
lief as to the mental condition of the prisoner 
were forced to admire the determined and in- 
trepid courage manifested in the face of all 
opposition. As by the legerdemain of some 
skilled magician, that vast audience was 
swayed and moved by the passionate appeals 
of the orator and the dramatic episodes that 
marked its delivery. The prisoner alone sat 
unmoved. The veteran judge, who for years 
had sat upon the bench and listened to the most 
powerful pleadings of attorneys of note and 
orators of national renown, was visibly . affect- 
ed by the eloquence and earnestness of the 
young lawyer, and afterward, in conversation 
with the writer, paid high tribute to his splen- 
did eilfort. But no power on earth could save 
his client. The sword of justice, so long sus- 
pended, was about to descend. The judge de- 
livered his charge and the jury retired to their 
rooms for deliberation. They returned to the 
court room several times for further instruc- 
tions, and for the reading of different ])arts of 
the testimony. They also examined the cell, 
and appeared to be according the doomed man 
every chance. At two o'clock in the morning 
they came into court with a verdict of sanity. 
The prisoner received the verdict with the 
same stolid indifference that had character- 
ized his a])pearance during the wlmlc inquiry. 
When, however, the time arrived that had been 
designated by the court as the fatal morning, 
the doomed man seemed to have thrown off 
the mask and was, apparently, trying to fit 
himself for his impending fate. He requested 
Sheriff Jones to call in Father Haley to ad- 

minister the necessary consolation in the last 
moments of his earthly career. At half past 
ten o'clock the priest visited the jail and learned 
his wishes. He requested the priest to come 
early next morning and prepare him to die a 
sincere Catholic. At the appointed hour Fath- 
er Haley visited the jail, explained the doctrine 
of his church, and stated the necessary condi- 
tions for one who embraces the Catholic faith. 
Being satisfied as to the prisoner's sincerity 
and disposition to become a Catholic, he heard 
his confession, had him make the profession 
of faith, and administered the sacrament of 
baptism, according to the rites of the church. 
"In the meantime a rumor had been floating 
about that a telegram had been received by 
Sheriff Jones from Governor Boyd, grantiiig 
to the condemned a reprieve for thirty days, 
which, upon investigation, proved true. After 
the fact became generally known, great in- 
dignation was freely expressed. About three 
o'clock in the afternoon the immense throng 
became restless, and muttered threatenings be- 
gan to be heard on all sides. 


"Just at this critical moment, before the 
thunder cloud of discontent and distrust of 
the law could burst forth, the calm, digtiified 
person of Judge Hamer appeared upon the 
stone steps at the front door of the court house, 
and he briefly, in a clear, ringing voice, ad- 
dressed the people as follows: 

"Fellow Citizens of Custer County: I have 
been trying to administer the law in this coun- 
ty, as I interpreted it, fairly, carefully, and 
candidly — so carefully that no decision hand- 
ed down by me upon this bench has been re- 
versed. Have patience ; the majesty of the 
law will be maintained. I have always found 
the people of this county law-abiding citizens ; 
I have always found them ready to defend the 
innocent and ])unish the guilty. If. as I have 
been informeci, there seems to be a disposition 
to murmur at the law's delay, arising among 
you, I pray you be patient. Pause ; make no 
mistake. This man whom you would have ex- 
piate his offense upon the gallows to-day was 
tried by a fair and impartial jury of his coun- 
trymen and found guilty. As he had a perfect 
right to do, lie apjtoaled his case to the supreme 
court, and there the verdict of vour jurv was 



sustained and he was again sentenced to be 
hanged. Where there is a question of the 
sanity of a prisoner under sentence of death, 
the law provides that upon notice from the 
sheriff of the county it becomes the duty of 
the district judge to cause a jury to be em- 
panelled to make inquiry as to the sanity or in- 
sanity of such prisoner. I received such a 
notice. Such a jury was called, and, after 
careful inquiry, pronounced him sane. I de- 
sire again to call the attention of the people 
to the fact that, as to the prisoner, he stands in 
this position : He was tried and convicted. 
He was again convicited and is now ready for 
execution. I therefore ask you to do your 
duty as law-abiding citizens. I want to say 
to you that the arm of the law is all powerful 
if it can have the support of honest men. [ 
know Governor Boyd, and I believe that he is 
an honest man. He must have had good rea- 
son for granting this reprieve. We do not 
know what showing may have been made to 
him. There are always two sides to a ques- 
tion, and I believe that we should have patience 
and trust the man that your ballots have placed 
in such a high position. You have yet no rea- 
son to complain. Wait. You will be protect- 
ed. Telegrams have been sent, but as yet wc 
have received no answer. You have no reason 
to doubt yet. I am aware of the fact that the 
burden of taxation upon you is already heavy 
— no one knows this better than I — but the 
expense has already been made. No further ex- 
pense is to be incurred. I therefore ask you, 
as honest men, as law-abiding citizens, that you 
do nothing rash. Let it be said that the law 
has triumphed in Custer county, and that jus- 
tice reigns. 

"James Whitehead, James S'tockham. and 
Judge Wahl each addressed the crowd and 
succeeded in quieting them. Judge Hamer, 
James Whitehead, and James Stockham later 
called upon the Governor, to obtain assurance 
tliat no further obstacle would be offered to 
the execution of the sentence, and they were 
informed that as far as any action of his 
might be concerned, their trip was utterly 
useless. He intimated that he proposed to of- 
fer no further delay than that provided for in 
liis order of respite, and should not have of- 
fered that had he been informed in time of 
the result of the investigation of Haunstine's 
alleged insanity. 


"Thirtv davs thereafter, at an earlv hour 

in the morning, the streets of Broken Bow 
began to fill with people from the surrounding 
country, to witness the closing ceremonies of 
the doomed man's career on earth. The cen- 
ter of attraction for the crowd appeared to be 
the enclosure of rough boards adjoining the 
south end of the court house, which hid from 
public gaze the scaffold from which the mur- 
derer was to be dropped into eternity. The 
doors of the court house were closed against 
the admission of all except those who had a 
permit from the sheriff, and a wire fence was 
placed about the shed containing the scaft'old, 
at a distance of about twenty feet. It had 
been decided to have the execution at one 
o'clock, but this was not known to the public 
generally. Accordingly as early as nine o'clock 
in the morning the crowd began to gather, in 
order to be on hand when the time came. The 
scaffold was fenced in by a high board wall. 
Time wore on slowly until noon ; the crowd 
gathered until fully 2,000 men, women, and 
children blocked the street on the south side 
of the court house. Noticeable among the num- 
ber were many women with babes in their 
arms. Prominent among those present were 
many relatives of the men murdered, all eager 
to witness the doomed man pay the death 
penalty. We would add here that the rela- 
tives of the doomed man were esteemed and 
highly respected citizens, well known to our 
people, who sympathized deeply with them in 
their great trouble, whi;h. through no fault of 
theirs, had come upon them. 

"About 12 :30 o'clock a thrill of excitement 
went through the crowd when Eli Roten ap- 
peared on the top beam of the scaft'old which 
projected above the fence, and threw a block 
of wood over into the yard. This was a signal 
which had, seemingly, been agreed upon, 
whereupon about fifty men sprang over the 
wire fence, shoved the guards aside, and in 
less time than it takes to tell it, the high fence 
was lying flat on the ground and the gruesome 
gibbet stood in plain view of everybody. It 
was a moment of intense excitement, but 
Sheriff Jones stepped upon the scaft'old and 
exacted of the crowd a solemn promise to re- 
main outside the fence and interfere no further 
with the proceedings. Haunstine. accompa- 



nied by Father Haley and Slieriff Jones, mount- 
ed the scaffold. He looked for a moment over 
the sea of upturned faces and in a full, steady 
voice, without a tremor, he said : 

"Ladies and Gentlemen — I desire to ask 
forgiveness from any one here whom I have 
offended. I also want you to forgive me for 
all the trouble and expense I have been to the 
county. I also ask all to take warning from 
me, and learn to do right before it is too late. 
Remember that little things grow into large 
tilings and the committing of little sins led me 
on to the commission of the crime which has 
brought me where I now stand. Again I ask 
all to forgive me, and hope you will not neg- 
lect to seek salvation. 

"Father Haley then whispered a few parting 
words of consolation, pressed the crucifix to 
the doomed man's lips, placed a cross and a 
string of beads around his neck, and exactly 
two minutes before one o'clock the trap was 
sprung. The strain of the shock was too much 
for the rope, which parted like a thread, letting 
the unfortunate man fall in a licaj) to tlie 
ground. The second fall broke his neck and 
in thirteen minutes he was pronounced dead, 
by the physicians in attendance. His body was 
taken into the sheriff's office, where it was 
prepared for burial by W. J- Woods, after 
which it was turned over to his brother, who, 
in the silence of the night, took the remains 
to his home in the southwest part of the coun- 
ty, where they were quietly interred. Thus 
ended the tragedy which opened that bright 
November morning in 1888. It was an impres- 
sive, a horrible scene, and one which few who 
witnessed it will ever care to see repeated. 


"In prcjiariiig the alx)ve account of the first 
and only legal execution that has ever taken 
place in Custer county, years after the com- 
mittal of the crime, we have had access to the 
records, and from the attorneys engaged have 
sought additional information ; but it is to the 
local papers that so faithfully chronicled the 
events and daily happenings in the community 
that we are principally indebted for the details 
given, prominent among which we mention the 
Custer Leader, the KepKblieaii. the Meriia Kee- 

ord. the CalUncay Courier, and the Stale Jour- 


Some time in the early spring of 1885 Jo- 
seph Y. Province and his family, in which 
there were several boys, settled on the South 
Loup near the mouth of Spring creek. He 
had homesteaded a quarter-section in the 
Tirighton ranch and one upon which pre-emp- 
tion papers had been previously taken out. He 
had hardly established his residence before a 
man named Stephen Long claimed the place 
by right of relinquishment papers from the 
man who had made the former pre-emption 
entry and began building a house on the place, 
not far from the Province home. 

Concerning the feud that followed, and that 
later ended in a gun fight and the death of 
Province, an early writer tells the story as 
follows : 

"This man Long was a single man and an 
employe of the Brighton Ranch Company. 
The feud thus started between the rival claim- 
ants to this land ended later in the kilHng of 
old man Province. 

"It will be remembered that the land within 
this immense pasture, comprising some fifteen 
square miles of territory, was government land 
subject to entry by homesteaders, and was sim- 
ply appropriated by the cattle men without war- 
rant of law. As soon as settlers began to file 
on claims within its fence the ranch company 
had as many of its employes as possible file 
on claims, in order to retain for its use the 
claims thus taken. Long is said to have been 
one of these employes, and from this time on 
constant quarrels occurred between him and 
Province, pending the decision of the land 
office as to the rightful owner of the claim. 
There were charges and counter charges. At 
one time, we believe, the ranch company had 
the Province boys, George Sickler, and John 
McDermott, arrested on a charge of cattle 
stealing. John McDermott demanded a sep- 
arate trial, and the company proved that he 
helped to kill a 1,600-pound beef and carried 
one hind-quarter two miles in a two-bushel 
sack. Jcilin S. Kirkpatri:k (now a member of 



the Nebraska supreme court commission), then 
a young man. just starting in business in Cus- 
ter county, had John's case in hand. He took 
advantage of this evidence, made an eloquent 
plea, showing that his client was a man who 
weighed but 110 pounds, yet had been charged 
with carrying one-quarter of a 1,600-pound 
beef two miles in a two-bushel sack. The 
jury was out about fifteen minutes, and it is 
said they agreed among themselves that they 
believed the prisoner was not guilty, but if 
he had done as the testimony said he did, Mac 
had earned the beef. The cases against the 
Province boys and Sickler never came to trial.'' 


On Thursday morning. April 9, 1885, Mr. 
Province started to Broken Bow, leaving two 
sons, aged about twelve and fourteen respec- 
tively, to plow. Shortly after the departure 
of Province. Long appeared where the boys 
were at work, armed with a Wincliester, and 
ordered them to quit or he would shoot. The 
boys immediately quit work and started after 
their father, overtaking him before he ar- 
rived at Broken Bow. Mr. Province came on 
to town and contemplated getting out a war- 
rant, but being advised not to do so, returned 
home -during the evening. The next morning 
he went out and commenced plowing where 
the boys had left off. A few hours later John 
McDermott came galloping into Broken Bow 
with the news that Mr. Province had been shot 
down by Stephen Ijong or Charles Powell. 
Dr. Daum immediately started for the scene 
of the tragedy and found that Province was 

On Saturday morning. Dr. Hull, county 
coroner, summoned a jury and, in company 
with a large number of citizens of Broken Bow 
and the surrounding country, visited the place 
where the murder had been committed. There 
all the available testimony was taken. The 
first witness examined was ^laria Powell, wife 
of Charles Powell, who lived in the house with 
Long. In her testimony Mrs. Powell said that 
she was in the house when the shooting oc- 
curred; Mr. Powell and Mr. Long had gone 
out of the house; Mr. Long had a Winchester 

and Mr. Powell a needle gun ; did not see the 
men when the shooting commenced, and did 
not see outside until after Mr. Province was 
shot; heard Province call for Mr. Long to 
come on. he was ready for him. She thought 
Province had fired five shots, Long two, and 
her man the last shot. When the shooting was 
over she saw Long and Powell in the dooryard, 
and Mrs. Province coming down to where 
her husband was lying. I asked Mr. Long: 
"Did you hit him?" He said: "I guess I did, 
for he fell." The men stayed about the house 
until after dinner and then went down to 
Allyn's lower ranch. 

Philip S. Province, a son of the deceased, 
said he was plowing with his father ; that Steve 
Long and Charley Powell came out of the 
house and shot two or three times, and that 
his father then shot at them several times with 
a revolver. The men were about seventy-five 
yards distant when the firing commenced, and 
he was sure his father did not commence shoot- 
ing first. After they had fired several shots 
he saw Long behind a wagon and Powell on 
the west side of the house. They kept on fir- 
ing and Province fired several shots at them 
with his revolver, and also with a shotgun 
which he had with him. He then started for 
the house and had gone about twenty feet 
when he fell. The shooting took place about 
eight o'clock in the morning. 

Joseph Y. Province, supposed to be on his 
death bed, but in sound mind and memory, 
doth depose and say : 

S'tephen D. Long, and, I think, the man 
living in the house with said Long, on the 10th 
day of April, 1885, about eight o'clock in the 
morning, came out and commenced shooting 
at me, with repeating rifles, as near as I could 
make out. I shot back at them. I was in my 
field plowing, about fifty yards from said 
Long's house, when the firing commenced. 
After they had shot once or twice I shot back. 
I shot five times, one with a single-barrel shot 
gun and balance with a revolver. Buck shot 
No. 3 was in the shot gun. They shot a dozen 
or more shots. After I had shot all in my 
weapons, as I thought. I called to them to 
stop shooting ; I would give up ; but they kept 
on shooting until one of them hit me. I do not 
know which one hit me. When said Long 



came out I said: "Xow draw your revolver 
on me if you want to." I was on my way to 
my liouse when I was shot. I was about 100 
yards from said Long"s house when I was shot. 
Joseph Y. Province 
(His (X) Mark) 
^Vitness to his mark. Jasper X'^ewlan. 

Sworn and subscribed to before me, in the 
town of Custer, countv of Custer, and state of 
Xebraska, this 10th day of April. A. D. 1885. 
Ben'Jamix L. Brisbane, 
Town Clerk for the Town of Custer. 

The following verdict was returned by the 
coroner's jury: 

State of Xebraska. 

Custer County. 

At an inquisition held at the late residence 
of Joseph Y. Province, in Custer county, Xe- 
braska, on the 11th day of April, 1885, before 
W'yman Hull, coroner of said county, upon the 
body of Joseph Y. Province, lying dead, by 
its jurors, whose names are hereunto sub- 
scribed, the said jurors, upon their oaths, do 
say that the deceased came to his death by 
means of a gun-shot wound, inflicted by a bul- 
let discharged from a gun in the hands of one 
Stephen Long or one Charles Powell, whom 
the jury find made a felonious assault upon 
the said deceased, on the morning of April 10, 
1885, with repeating rifles, each of said parties 
firing several shots at deceased, one of which 
shots struck and produced the death of said 
Joseph Y. Province. 

I. T. Merchant, Foreman. 
A. W. Gandv. 


H. A. Gr.xham. 
C. J. Elliott. 
Geo. Cudebec. 

Shortly after the shooting Long and Powell 
hid themselves in the hills. When the sheriff, 
C. P. Foote, arrived on the spot on Saturday 
he found about seventy-five armed men there 
in a state of great excitement, vowing venge- 
ance against the murderers. The sheriff 
tried to reason with them, but thev were not 
disposed to listen to him. He said they had a 
perfect right to be there if they were there to 
see the law carried out, but if they were there 
to commit another deed of violence he advised 
them to disband and go home. This enraged 
the mob the more, and a petition was gotten 
up on the spot, calling upon the sheriff to re- 
sign, which was signed by about fifty persons 

on the butt of a musket. A messenger came 
from the murderers that they would give 
themselves up if they were guaranteed pro- 
tection against violence at the hands of the 
citizens. This assurance was given and Long 
and Powell were arrested and taken before T. 
B. Buckner, a justice of the peace, where they 
waived examination. A mittimus was issued 
and the prisoners taken to the jal at Lexington. 
for safe keeping until their trial in the dis- 
trict court, a number of citizens having de- 
clared that the men would never be tried in 
Custer county, but that they would be hanged 
without a trial. 

As soon as the sheriff had left with the 
prisoners, the mob which was left behind, in- 
stead of returning to their homes, proceeded 
down the river to the \\'hite House, the head- 
quarters of the Brighton Ranch Company, 
where lived \ irgil Allyn, the foreman. Mr. 
Allyn was absent at Lexington at the time, and 
the citizens set about sacking and looting the 
place, from cellar to garret, helping themselves 
to everything in the shape of eatables and 
drinkables they could lay their hands on. As 
Mr. Allyn was one of the highest livers in the 
country, it is needless to say that the hungry 
mob had a feast the like of which few of them 
had enjoyed since they came to the county. 
Among his other supplies the foreman had a 
cask of rare old wine, which he kept for the 
especial entertainment of the guests at the 
numerous banquets that were held at the White 
House. The discovery of this treasure was 
hailed with a shout by many of the mob, and a 
goodly number of them began to load up on 


At this stage of the proceedings an old, gray- 
headed man, who was among them. realizing the 
danger of adding intoxication to the already 
inflamed passions of the men, seized a hatchet 
and knocked in the head of the cask, letting 
the contents run out on the ground. This 
brave act probably saved Custer county from 
an added blot ujwn her already blackened 
record, and for his timely interference at this 
critical time the name of Isaac Merchant should 



be revered for all time to come. After having 
satisfied their appetites, the raiders loaded up 
all the canned goods and other provisions they 
could find about the place and carried them 
to the widow Province, the cooler heads only 
preventing the others from burning the house 
before they left. On their way back a log 
house belonging to the Brighton Ranch Com- 
pany was burned. The house was of cedar 
logs and was valued at $1,000. By this time 
Allyn had heard, in Lexington, of what was 
going on, and started at on:e for Iiome to pro- 
tect his property. Fortunately, before his ar- 
rival, the mob dispersed, else there would, in 
all probability, have been more trouble of a 
serious nature, as he brought a posse of armed 
cowboys with him. 

The session of the district court in which 
Long and Powell were tried convened on Mon- 
day, July 6, 1885, with Judge Francis G. Ha- 
mer on the bench. A special venire of 120 
were summoned to try the case. The em- 
paneling of the jury commenced before noon 
on Monday and was not completed until ten 
o'clock on Tuesday. The following jurors 
were chosen : L. Sutton, West Union ; John 
K. Cooper, Ortello ; S. H. Read, Merna ; Will- 
iam Hyatt, Myrtle; C. A. Wetherby and J. 
Snell, Keota; H. Gage, A. C. Blakeslee, W. H. 
Henderson, Wood River ; H. C. S'tuckey, 
Georgetown ; J. L. Oxford, Lillian. 

The attorneys for the state were H. ^I. Sin- 
clair (district attorney), Aaron Wall, and 
Thomas Darnell, while the defendants were 
represented by Attorneys McNamar, Greene, 
and Chapman. After a hard-fought battle the 
jury returned the following verdict : 

The State of Nebraska ] 

vs. j-ss. 

Stephen Long and Charles PowellJ 

We, the jury in this case, being dulv em- 
panelled and sworn, do find and say that we 
find the defendant, Stephen Long, is guilty 
of manslaughter, as charged in the indictment, 
and recommend him to the mercy of the court ; 
and we find the defendant, Charles Powell, not 
guilty. Louis Sutton, Foreman. 

In due time the following sentence was pro- 
nounced against Stephen Long by Judge 
Hamer : 

It is therefore considered and adjudged by 
the court that the said defendant, Stephen 
Long, be imprisoned and confined in the pen- 
itentiary of the state of Nebraska, at hard 
labor, for the period of four years and six 
months, and that he pay the costs of this pros- 
ecution, and that he stay committed in the 
hands of the sheriff of Custer county. Ne- 
braska, until the sentence of this court be 
complied with or he be otherwise legally dis- 

After serving about two years of his time. 
Long was pardoned out, on account of ill 
health, and he died in about a month thereafter. 


[The following account of the shooting of a 
half-breed Alexican was published in the Cal- 
la'way Courier, in July, 1887] : 

For some time past numerous complaints 
have been made of robberies committed by 
unknown parties in unoccupied houses. Ev- 
erything seemed to be acceptable to the thieves. 
Monday afternoon Mr. Simon Landis came 
into town and swore out a warrant before 
Justice Deems for the arrest of two men, names 
unknown, who had robbed him of harness 
and other articles to the value of thirty-six 
dollars, and had also stolen some carpenter 
tools from the house of Henry Schuette. 

The warrant was placed in the hands of ^Ir. 
Fred Jephcott, constable of Noel, and L. ^I. 
Holman, constable of Callaway, for service. 
These gentlemen immediately started up the 
valley in pursuit, struck the trail at Finch- 
Hatton's ranch and followed it to Arnold, 
where they got a fresh team and were joined 
by the Arnold constable, Mr. Brown. The 
party followed the trail north to Hackberry 
canyon, and all along the road heard of the 
depredations committed by the robbers. They 
had at one place left their old wagon and taken 
a better one, but the trade was to their injury, 
for the wagon they stole had wire wrapped 
around a loose tire and left on the road a dis- 
tinct mark that was easily seen. They also 
stole a gT.m, four silk handkerchiefs, and a 
revolver. The Callaway constable held the 
trail while the Arnold contingent scouted 
around. After finding the search in the can- 
yon useless, the party went on up the road to 



Anselmo, where they again changed horses. 
From there the pursuers followed traces of the 
robbers to a point three miles north of Dale, 
when thej' found the robbers had doubled in 
their road and gone to Luce's canyon. When 
the constables got there they found that the 
robbers had gone to Merna the night before 
(Monday) and stopped there over night. 

By this time the constables were tired out, 
having traveled a day and a night without 
rest or food, so they went on to Broken Bow. 
having sent out scouts to scour the country 

Sheriff Penn being absent from Idwu. the 
con.stables. with some deputies, started out 
with two teams. The Callaway constable, L. 
M. Holman. the Noel constable, Fred Jeph- 
cott, and Joseph Trout, with a driver, were 
in one wagon, and the rest of the party were 
in the other. At about dusk they met a man 
on the main road at the mouth of the canyon, 
who told them that the robbers were coming. 
The officers then separated into two parties, 
the Callaway party taking to the riglit and the 
others to the left. 

This canyon is si.x miles north of Broken 
Bow, one-half mile north of Peter Mohat"s 
stock farm, on land belonging to the Hunter 
ranch, since known as Dead Man's canyon. 
At the edge of the canyon they met the rob- 
bers in a wagon with bows but no cover. Mr. 
Jephcott, who took command, immediatelv on 
seeing them shouted "Halt!" telling the rob- 
bers to surrender, as his party were officers 
come to arrest them. No attention was paid 
by the robbers, when Mr. Jephcott ordered 
them to halt three times more. 

.\t the fourth warning the officers saw a 
flash through the dusk, and could plainly see 
the men reaching for their Winchester rifles, 
which were hanging on the bows on each side 
of the wagon. The word to fire was then 
given and the Callaway party opened upon the 
robbers, being immediately followed by the 
Arnold party. At the first fire, one of the 
men who was sitting on the side of the wagon 
furthest away from the Callaway party, sprang 
from the wagon to the ground, dead. A rifle 
bullet had passed through his body, entering 

at his left side and passing out at the right. 
The other man fell to the bottom of the wagon 
box and the horses went tearing down the 

The officers at once followed and overtook 
the team a mile and a half away, but the other 
man had escaped, on a saddle horse that had 
been tied to the wagon. Half an hour after 
the slaying Sheriff Penn arrived on the scene. 
He at once took passession of the wagon, the 
team and the corpse of the dead man. and 
brought them to Broken Bow. 

The half-breed Mexican was about twenty- 
five years of age, si.x feet tall and well built. 
Inside his shirt, covered with clotted blood, 
was found a badge of the Cincinnati detective 

The wagon-box was half full of miscella- 
neous articles, which they had probably stolen. 
Among them were several guns, revolvers, 
saddles, clocks, carpenter tools, silk handker- 
chiefs, and other articles. A coroner's jury 
was empaneled and immediately brought in a 
verdict that the killing was justified and that 
the officers were blameless. 


It was April 1, 1887, "all fool's day," an 
appropriate date for the fool escapade pulled 
off by Billy Degan and Hugh Fitzpatrick at 
Anselmo. They boarded an early freight train 
out of Linscott. and. not being able to re- 
strain themselves until they reached Anselmo, 
commenced their gun play in the caboose. 
They pulled off a series of cowboy stunts cal- 
culated to terrorize the passengers. The late 
L. H. Jewett was on board that morning and 
afterward stated that the crowd was a little 
too rough for him. Wlien Anselmo was 
reached the two cowboys left the train and 
lost no time in ])reparing to give the town an 
exhibition of high life in the far west. 

The Anselmo people had been warned that a 
visit from the cowboys was on the program, 
and thus they were in a manner prepared to 
receive their expected guests. Billy Frischauf, 
a saloon-keeper, came to C. D. Pelhani and 
asked him what he should do. ^Ir. Pel ham 
advised him to close his saloon, and be it said 



to the credit of Frischauf, he fohowed the 
good counsel of his adviser, and not a drop of 
whisky was sold in his place during the whole 
of that fatal day. John Anderson, another 
saloon-keeper, also promised to shut up his 
place during the stay of the cowboys. Ander- 
son did close his saloon in the morning, but 
having some business out of town, he turned 
his keys over to his brother, Frank, who un- 
locked the door and ran the place wide open 
all day. Things soon began to assume a lively 
aspect in the little village, and A. F. Mc- 
Knight, the man who pumped water for the 
railroad company, using horse power, brought 
his team over to the livery stable, saying that 
he had told the company that their locomotives 
could get no water at Anselmo, as cowboys 
were painting the town and he did not propose 
to run the risk of getting shot. The boys were 
using the pump-house as a target. 

A noticeable feature of the occasion was that 
one of the cowboys appeared to be a gentle- 
manly sort of fellow and took no active part in 
the shooting, but apparently tried to keep his 
companion within bounds. The other, how- 
ever, crazy with bad whisky, determined to 
have all the fun he could get out of the spree. 
One of his antics was to place old tin cans on 
the tops of hitching posts in the street and then 
shoot them full of holes, regardless of the dan- 
ger to passers-by, who had to seek safety 
by getting behind buildings. When he got 
tired of this diversion he shot a hole through 
the stovepipe inside a furniture store, the bullet 
almost grazing the head of Mr. McDowell, 
who was managing the business for J. H. 
Brandebury, the proprietor. 

In the meantime some of the citizens had 
had a conference to discuss the advisability of 
sending for the sheriff, but they decided to wait 
a little while, hoping that the rowdies would 
cool off and behave themselves. The boys 
went to Anderson's saloon, where Degan, the 
tougher of the' pair, was having a fine time 
marching around in drunken gyrations and 
shooting holes in the floor and ceiling, when a 
bullet from his revolver accidentally penetrated 
the toe of a young man by the name of Mur- 
ray. The report immediately flew about town 

that the cowboys had shot a man. and the 
following telegram was immediately dispatched 
to Broken Bow: 

Anselmo, Nebraska, April 1. 1887. 
Sheriff' Custer County, Broken Bow, Nebr. : 

Cowboys are terrorizing the citizens of An- 
selmo, and one man has been shot through the 
foot. We ask your protection. 

(Signed) . Walter S'cott 

C. D. Pelh.\m 

Charlie Huntington let the cowboys have an 
old dray horse, and another was procured at 
a livery stable kept by one Bassey. Mounted 
on these steeds the two rode into Pelham's 
store, helped themselves to cigars, rode out 
and across the street to the store of Weander 
Brothers, where they got something else. By 
this time it was getting along in the afternoon, 
and the citizens were anxiously awaiting the 
arrival of the sheriff', who was expected every 
moment. After visiting all the stores in town, 
Fritzpatrick and Degan returned to the saloon, 
where they attempted the novel feat of play- 
ing a game of pool on horseback, Degan firing 
off his gun occasionally to emphasize his points. 
It was in the midst of this diversion that 
Sheriff Penn and his deputy arrived, pulling 
up at Pelham's barn. Tom Kimes and Charlie 
Murray rode out of the barn and Penn, mis- 
taking them for the cowboys, brought his Win- 
chester to his shoulder and commanded them 
to throw up their hands. Pelham apprised 
Penn of his mistake, much to the relief of the 
frightened young men. At this juncture an- 
other report from Degan's revolver rang out 
and Penn inquired ; "What shooting is that?" 
"Cowboys in the saloon," was the reply. 

The cowboys were soon given a tip that the 
sheriff was in town, when they immediately 
rode out of the saloon into the street, where 
they got a glimpse of the officer, surrounded 
by a crowd of citizens, in front of the livery 
barn. They fired a parting salute from their 
six-shooters and rode out of town to the 
northwest. Penn and his men followed them 
to a house situated on a triangular piece of 
ground on the outskirts of the village. From 
this house a road went directly north and an- 
other ran parallel with the railroad track in a 
northwesterlv direction. The latter road was 



taken by the cowboys, who proceeded as far 
as the hand-car house and then came to a 
standstill. Penn and his men halted at the 
dwelling house above referred to, where they 
waited to see what the boys were going to do. 
After about fifteen minutes Fitzpatrick and 
Degan turned the heads of their horses around 
and slowly approached the sheriff's party. 
Penn placed his deputy, Jones, and Humphrey 
Smith, who had volunteered to assist him, at 
the northeast corner of the house guarding 
the road from the north, which passed on the 
east side of the building. He gave them strict 
orders that in case the cowboys came their 
way to first demand them to halt ; then, if 
they did not stop, to shoot their horses ; and 
finally, if they still refused to surrender, to 
shoot them. Penn took his station near the 
southeast corner, that being the point to which 
the boys were apparently approaching. When 
within a short distance from the house they 
turned and rode directly east, striking the road 
running north and south, and were rapidly 
nearing the deputies. One of the men shouted 

out: "Here they come!" and Penn rushed 
over from his corner and commanded : "Throw 
up your hands ; I am the sheriff of Custer 
county !" The boys paid no attention to the 
command. Eye witnesses say that the horses 
were shot first, Fitzpatrick's animal becoming 
frantic. He held the bridle rein with his left 
hand and was reaching behind to grasp the 
saddle to keep from falling off, when Smith, 
thinking he was reaching for his revolver, 
fired and shot him through the heart. It was 
afterward learned that Fitzpatrick was un- 
armed, having thrown his revolver away be- 
fore he rode back to town, possibly thinking 
that in case he was arrested it would go easier 
with him if it was found that he did not carry 
a weapon. Degan"s horse was also shot, and 
refusing to surrender, the rider then and there 
met the same fate at the hands of Penn. An 
inquest was held and a verdict returned to the 
effect that the two cowboys had been killed 
while resisting arrest at the hands of officers 
of the law. 



Westerville — Might Have Been County Seat — A New Town Laid Out — Lee's 
Park — Other Dead Ones — Comstock — The Beginning of Callaway — J. Woods 
Smith has a Dream — Town Christened — Smith was an Advertiser — A New 
Townsite — A Town Fight is On — "Podunk" News Items — ■ Acknowledges the 
"Corn" — More Improvement — Build a Mill — The Train Arrives — Moving Day 
at Night — Callaway up to Date ^ The County Seat — The Broken Bow — The 
Town Grows — Twenty-five Miles for Butter — The Town Still Grows — First 
Town Officials — Railroad Comes — Big Buildings Go Up — Gets to be a City — 
Modern Buildings Go Up — • Plenty of Good, Pure Water — Broken Bow to Date — 
The Public Service Club — Present Officers — The Town of Arnold — A Big Cel- 
ebration ■ — Village of Berwyn — The Hustling Town of Merna — Atkisson Speaks 
FOR Merna — ■ Mason City — Present-day Business Interests — Oldest Inhabitants 
— • Federal Officers — Sargent — Ansley — Ansley's Banks — Ansley's Mercantile 
Establishments — Ansley's Mills. Shops, Livery Stables, etc. — Ansley's Lumber 
and Coal Yards — Ansley's Shipping Association — Ansley's Drug Stores — Ans- 
ley's Professional Men — Ansley's Electric-light, Water, and Telephone Systems 
— Ansley's Newspapers — Ansley's Postoffice — Ansley's Patriotism — Ansley's 
Library — The Story of Anselmo — Postoffice History — Town Improvements 
— Anselmo Newspapers — Anselmo Fights the Kaiser — Anselmo 
Churches — Anselmo Fraternal Societies — The Story of Oconto 

Credit to Custer county eleven good towns. Merna. Wescott, Algernon, Lee's Park, first 
with a combined population of nine thousand and second Callaway, Dale. There is no re- 
one hundred souls. Eleven towns in which sponse. Only one of these places maintains a 
the people are progressive, wide-awake, and store and not one has a postoffice. The town 
prosperous. No other county in the state has is dead and the streets have been plowed and 
as many good towns. No other county has as are occupied by corn and wheat, alternately, 
many miles of railroad, nor does any other Some of these towns were so large and had 
county parade as many miles of river valleys, such a good start that they deserve extended 
This extent of fertile valleys and railroads is mention. One of these is Westerville, which, 
what makes so many towns in the county pos- by the failure of the railroad to build through 
sible. its valley, lost its opportunity. 

Notwithstanding there are eleven towns of 
the description given, there is a village grave- 
yard in which lie buried nine towns which once In 1886, thirty-two years ago, Westerville 
lived and thrived and were on the map, for a was the principal town in Custer county, as it 
few short years, before they ended their was situated in the eastern part, where most 
troubled careers. of the settlements were made, and it had a 

Call the roll : \\''esterville. \\^est Union, Old considerable trade. Clear creek flows along 




the north and east sides, but why it was named 
"Clear" creek they never knew, for it has been 
muddy ever since they saw it, some forty 
years ago. On the north bank of Clear creek 
is the flouring mill, operated by water power. 
Several years ago, in the '80s, they had very 
heavy rain storms during the spring, danger- 
ously raising Clear creek. The water worked 
its way under the banks and caused great 
pieces of earth to cave into the water. The 
people feared that some of the buildings near- 
est the bank would be undermined. The 
flouring mill stood so close to the water, that 
men had to work night and day to save it. 
One man, standing on the bank, happened to 
look behind him 
and saw the ground 
cracking all around. 
He had scarcely 
time to escape when 
that portion upon 
which he had stood 
dropped into the 
water below. 


The reason Wes- 
terville is not the 
county seat of Cus- 
ter county, we are 
told, is because the 
first settlers were 

not willing to make a 
sacrifice of about one hundred dollars deemed 
necessary to secure this distinction, and while 
Westerville slumbered and felt secure. Broken 
Bow worked and soon won the prize. This 
was mistake number one for Westerville. 

Two county fairs were held here, one in 
1883 and the other in 1884. In the fair held 
in 1884 two things were of very much interest 
to the people, a turtle that had been taken from 
Clear creek and a fawn that was captured a 
few miles north of there. The turtle was 
nearly as large as a washtub, in which it wa.*; 
exhibited. A number of the people of Broken 
Bow attended the fair in 1884. The question. 
"Where shall the county fair be held next 
year?" was submitted to the people, and when 

the votes were counted it was found that Wes- 
terville had lost the privilege of having it. a 
privilege which she never regained. Mistake 
number two for Westerville. 

In Westerville's most prosperous days they 
had several dry-goods and grocery stores, a 
large hardware store, over which was a pub- 
lic hall, three hotels, a flouring mill, two black- 
smith shops, a cutlery store, a good public 
library, a bank that carried on quite an exten- 
sive business, printing offices, a drug store, 
and a good school and church. They could 
boast of two doctors, Waterbury and Morris. 
J. A. Armour, afterward county judge, was 
the town lawyer. 



In the spring of 
1883 Merna took a 
boom. D. S. Lohr 
put up a frame 
building, south of 
Brotherton's store, 
and hopes ran high 
as imagination pic- 
tured a growing 
city, but it proved 
a delusion, for Lohr 
soon moved his 
store, building and 
all, some five miles 
up the valley, where 
he founded the town of Dale. 

This led to the formation of a townsite com- 
pany at Merna, and a town was located and 
laid out in section 36, two miles northwest of 
Brotherton's store, and within three miles of 
Dale. Authority was granted by the post- 
office department at Washington to move the 
postoffice to the new site. Mr. Brotherton 
formed a partnership with Milton Casteel and 
J. D. Strong, and a great department store was 
opened. W. E. Warren built a shack and 
hung out a mortar and pestle, which indicated 
to all concerned that he had a fresh assortment 
of drugs and a limited supply of stomach bit- 
ters for sale. If the business side of these 
ventures is not a pleasant memory to the gen- 
tlemen concerned, the old croquet ground and 

Westerville Mill and Pond 



the old sod town-hall, which came into exis- 
tence through their untiring energy, will al- 
ways be an oasis in that desert of uncertain 
business prosperity. 

Later a blacksmith shop, a frame hotel, and 
another store made their appearance, but to- 
day the old townsite is plowed as a field and 
yields its store of grain to feed Custer county's 
helpless poor, as it is a part of the county poor 

rXiring the summer and fall of 1886 the B. 
& M. Railroad was e.xtended from Grand 
Island to Alliance, and the Lincoln Townsite 
Company purchased Brotherton's old claim 
and relocated Merna on the site of its birth. 
This settled the townsite controversy and the 
future of IMerna was assured. 

The town grew rapidly into a respectable 
village, with many lines of trade and various 
industries represented. Brotherton and War- 
ren moved from the new Alerna back to the 
old site, and rush of population from the east 
caused houses to spring up like mushrooms 
after a rain. Mr. Wilson was a pioneer grain 
dealer, building the first elevator. The busi- 
ness has been widened under the management 
of his son, L. W. Wilson, until now they buy 
grain at three points in the county. 

lke's p.\rk 

In April, 1884, the town of Lee's Park was 
laid out in Custer county, oii the town line, 
and the same year, the Lilly & Houder addi- 
tion to Lee's Park was laid out, adjoining the 
original town, and in Valley county, with the 
postoffice in \^alley county. Then came quite 
a little boom for a new town. A general mer- 
chandise store was built by Lilly & Houder, to 
which the postoffice was removed ; then fol- 
lowed a blacksmith shop, a hotel, a wagon 
shop, and a feed stable. This little town was 
progressing finely when the B. & M. Railroad 
concluded to outdo the Union Pacific Rail- 
road, and so built past Loup City, the 
terminus of the L^nion Pa;:ific Railroad, 
and stopped at Arcadia, five miles from 
Lee's Park. The little town held out for a 
while, but the railroad town of Arcadia took 
away, its vitality, and after some struggles the 

town of Lee's Park was no more. All the 
buildings were torn down or removed, and an 
attempt was made to take away even the post- 
office. The attempt was nearly, or quite, suc- 
cessful, as the postofiice was actually removed 
to Arcadia, but prompt action was taken by 
patrons of the office, and an order came for 
its return, only a day after its removal. The 
postoffice was afterward removed from Valley 
county across the line into Custer county, 
where it remained until mail delivery made it 
unnecessary. The fact that originally the 
postoffice was in Valley county, and is now in 
Custer county, has caused some confusion as 
to the real location of Lee's Park, some think- 
ing it in Valley, and some in Custer county. 
The name of the town and postoffice has also 
been confused with the name of the valley. 
Originally the postoffice had the same name as 
the valley, but Jay Hamlin, while postmaster, 
had the name of the office changed to Lee 
Park, consequently the name of the postoffice 
is Lee Park, and the name of the valley is 
Lee's Park. 

At the time of the laying out of the town, a 
cemetery association was formed, and five 
acres of land were purchased from W. S. De- 
lano, and laid out as the Lee's Park cemetery. 
Trees were soon set out and cared for, and in 
consequence the cemetery is a fine one. The 
following year the Catholic cemetery was laid 
out, one-half mile north of Lee's Park ceme- 


When the railroad was built up the Middle 
Loup valley, Wescott was not in line. The 
road went on the other side of the river and 
the town of Comstock was located just north 
of the river. Wescott could not survive the 

Algernon, on the Muddy, was put ofif the 
map in much the same way. The railroad com- 
pany located its depot where Mason now 
stands, and Algernon surrendered. Merna, 
old I\Ierna, was three miles off the road when 
the Burlington located its line and depot at the 
present site of Merna, and the town had to 
move. There was a first Callaway and a sec- 



ond Callaway (see story of Callaway) before 
the arrival of the Union Pacific Railroad. 
Both of these towns are no more, both capitu- 
lated and helped to form the present town. 
The stroke that killed old Merna, killed Dale. 
Without a railroad it was left stranded. West 
Union was in the way of the river line of rail- 
road and if Sargent had not been made a ter- 
minus of the line West Union would have 
gotten a railroad and have been on the map 
as a good Custer county town. 

Towns, then, died and were buried, and 

new townsite, which was named in honor of 
him. Frank Lemon opened up a grocery 
store in this building. On September 25th 
James Hines began the blacksmithing busi- 
ness. On October 1st Frank and John Currie 
began buying grain, commencing at the same 
time the erection of an elevator. On October 
3d the railroad company opened its station for 
business, P. C. Croaker agent. On October 
4th Dierks Lumber & Coal Company, John 
Dierks, manager, unloaded its first shipment 
of coal at this point. On October 10th Robert 


:ii herl 


their streets, that were once marked for the 
avenues of commerce, hear no sound save the 
rattle of the harvester and the chug of the 
passing autos. The story changes to live 


The village of Comstock, the youngest town 
in Custer county, is located on the east bank 
of the Middle Loup river, on the Aurora and 
Sargent extension of the B. & M. Railroad. 
The town was located and surveyed in 1899. 
A store building was moved over from Wes- 
cott, bv W. H. Comstock. and located on the 

Stone began buying stock, with H. H. Wheeler 
as agent, followed in December by Mr. Parks, 
both building stock 3'ards. In October a gen- 
eral hardware and implement store was 
opened. The postoffice opened for business 
November 19th, with S. T. Stevens as post- 
master. The hotel was completed and opened 
to the public in November, but was soon found 
too small for the proper accommodation of 
the traveling public. A feed and sale stable 
was in operation in December. Walter Ham- 
mond opened a barber shop in December, and 
Albert Apperson commenced the draying busi- 
ness at the same time. In Januarv, 1900, M. 




Vg' g^^3 





Section of Residence District in Com stock 

Farmers & Merchants Bank, Comstock 

Main Street, Comstock 

Woodmen Fraternity Building, Comstock 

General Store of Wescott, Gibbons & Bragg, at 



I. Fried opened with a line of implements. 
Elias Cleveland finished his dwelling and 
moved into it in February. J. F. Westcott, 
contractor and builder, moved into town in 
February, but did not complete his dwelling 
until the following Alay. F. H. Kernohan 
had his brick store and residence read)' for 
occupancy in May. In September J. W. Com- 

Rf.sidence of Charles D. Bragg, at Comstock 

stock opened a harness store and repair shop. 
In December Wescott & Gibbons moved their 
general merchandise store from the west side 
of the river and began business in Comstock. 
In January, 1901, Frank Hammond began 
business in a new blacksmith and wagon re- 
pair shop. R. R. Bangs moved into the hotel 
in January. C. N. McWorthy built his house 
for a residence, millinery and dressmaking 
store in February. In March the ^Modern 
Woodmen commenced the erection of a two- 
story building, the ground floor to be used as 
a drug store, bank, and meat market, and the 
upper floor for a public hall. A commodious 
schoolhouse was built in the fall of 1900. The 
first child born in the village of Comstock 
was Helen Apperson, February 23, 1900. 
Concerning the town to-day, E. F. Skolil 
makes the following resume : 

Comstock is a thriving, growing and up-to- 
date town on the .\urora and Sargent branch 
of the Chicago, Burlington & Ouincy Rail- 
road, located in the Middle Loup valley on 
the east side of Custer county and about at 
the center of the state of Nebraska. It is an 
all-around good and prosperous little town of 

over five hundred inhabitants. It contains 
three churches, Congregational, Methodist, 
and Latter-Day Saints, three good and pros- 
pering general merchandise stores — ^Ves^ott 
Gibbons & Bragg, the leading store, estab- 
lished in 1886; F. C. Dworak, established in 
1900; J. C. Kiker. established 1917. Two 
good banks — the Citizens State Bank, the 
leading bank, established in 1906; and the 
Farmers' & ?klerchants' State Bank, estab- 
lished in 1909. The banking resources of this 
little town are over $600,000. which tends to 
show that it is a prosperous and growing town, 
as it is only about eighteen years old. Com- 
stock can well boast of the two most modem, 
up-to-date bank buildings in the county. Two 
good lumber j'ards — • Dierks Lumber & Coal 
Company, starting in business about the time 
the town was platted, and S. A. Foster and 
Company, in 1911. Two good hardware 
stores, and furniture store in conjunction with 
one of them — -J. T. Arthur, established in 
1907, succeeding S. T. Stevens — and C. E. 
Brandt, established in 1914, succeeding R. R 
Bangs, who conducted a hardware and furni- 
ture store for over ten years previously. One 

■mmm- ' 

Residence of Edvv.\rp F. Skolil, at Comstock 

blacksmith shop, one of the most up-to-date 
and neatest drug stores in the county, owned 
by E. C. Gibbons and operated by J. D. Rock- 
hold since 1912. One harness shop, estab- 
lished with the town by J. \\'. Comstock and 
still owned by him and operated by his son, 
A. L. Comstock. Two good implement stores, 
two automobile garages, one livery barn, one 



butcher shop, one barber shop, one pump and 
general-repair shop, one of the largest and 
best flouring mills in that part of the state, 
(owned and operated by C. F. EUer), one 
farmers' live-stock shipping association, two 
live-stock dealers, one hotel, one of the best 
and most up-to-date restaurants in th's sec- 

Residence of Robert S. Stone, Com stock 

tion, under the name of Woodman Cafe, 
owned by W. E. Gibbons, E. F. Skolil and 
Aley Shafer, established in 1918 in the Wood- 
man Fraternal building. One modern moving- 
picture theater, established in 1912 by Charles 
D. Bragg and E. C. Gibbons, along with an 
electric plant from which the people of Ccm- 
stock are deriving much good and comfort, as 
the service is as good as in large cities. One 
grain elevator, owned by W. T. Barstow al- 
most since the town originated. One printing 
office where the Comstock Kck's is edited and 
published and which deserves a great deal of 
credit for the prosperity and advancement of 
this town. One large and modern opera 
house, in the Woodmen Fraternal building, 
which was built in 1917, and contains also a 
large banquet hall and two large stores on the 
main floor. 

In Comstock there are the following lodges : 
Knights of Pythias. Independent Order of Odd 
Fellows, and Modern Woodmen of America. 
One doctor, four cream stations, one city hall 
one telephone exchange (which has been un- 
der the good management of E. B Wait since 

1917 and is all rebuilt and giving good ser- 
vice), four coal yards, one good public 
school, with eleven grades. Comstock has 
some fine residences, a growing park, and the 
best sidewalks in the state. 

Following are the members of the town 
board in 1918: E. F. Skolil (chairman), John 
F. Westcott, Ed. B. Wait, J. C. Kiker, and S. 
T. Stevens. Comstock has had four success- 
ful Chautauquas and many elaborate Fourth 
of July celebrations. Chautauquas and lecture 
courses have been maintained for many years. 


One of the most enterprising towns of Cus- 
ter county is Callaway, located on the South 
Loup river, in the midst of a valley that is 
beautiful and fertile enough for an Eden. The 
town is on the Kearney branch of the Union 
Pacific Railroad. 

Citizens State B.\nk, at Comstock 

The following record of the early settle- 
ment and growth of the town was written by 
George B. Mair several years ago and is re- 
liably authentic. 

"The most of those who were here in the 
beginning and who took an active part in the 



organization of the town have removed to 
other parts. The birth of Callaway, in the 
minds of the citizens of to-day, is apparently 
in the dim, distant past — a dust-covered tradi- 
tion, and as an introduction to the historj' of 
Callaway a brief account of the settlement of 
the territory contiguous may not be out of 

"Probably the first settler to locate in the 
South Loup valley between the present towns 
of Callaway and Arnold was Frederick 
Schreyer, who came in June, 1875, with a 
large family, and located a claim about four 
miles above Callaway. Mr. Schreyer soon 
found himself in 
trouble with the 
cowboys, who at- 
tempted to drive 
him away. He was 
a shining mark for 
practical jokes at 
the hands of the 
cowboys, and ac- 
cepted in dead earn- 
est everything they 
did to torment him. 
When they attempt- 
ed to stampede a 
herd of cattle over 
the roof of his dug- 
out, or destroyed 
his watermelon patch, and such other innocent 
diversions, Mr. Schreyer positively refused to 
see the point of the joke. 

"The next settler to arrive in the valley was 
David E. Sprouse, who located two miles 
northwest of the present town of Callaway. 
In October of the same year came Ira Graves 
and George T. Ricker, in search of land, the 
former filing on a homestead and timber 
claim, adjoining the future town, and the lat- 
ter locating a mile north of the Sprouse claim. 
Charles C. Kingsbury and Mark Schneringer 
came about the same time. In 1880 came N. 
M. Morgan, M. N. Deems, H. B. Schnerin- 
ger, Noah Welch, Norman Brendle, Gabriel 
Payton. Ira McCnnncll. the ^^'llipples, and per- 
haps others. 

"A postoffice was establislied in .\ugust. 

1880, which was given the euphonious name of 
"Letup," with Ira Graves as postmaster. On 
petition of Ira Graves and Clara P. Graves 
the name of the office was changed to Delight 
in September of the same year. Mark Deems 
was installed as mail carrier, his route being 
from Custer to Arnold, and from Olax ( now 
Oconto) and Lexington to Delight, all of 
these offices being supplied from Plum Creek. 
"The county was organized into townships 
in 1883, and the territory embracing the entire 
southwestern part of the county was named 
Delight township, by N. M. Morgan, the first 
supervisor. Out of the origial township the 

towns of Grant, 
Elim. and Wayne 
have since been 
formed, leaving the 
township of De- 
light with seventy- 
eight square miles. 
At the time of the 
settlement here, 
there was no other 
settlement between 
the Platte valley 
and \'ictoria creek. 
During the few 
years that follow- 
ed, newcomers ar- 
rived almost week- 
ly, imtil there was quite a community. In 1885 
Mr. Graves induced John !Moran. a merchant 
of Olax. to build a store on his farm, which 
stood on the northeast corner of the property 
now owned by John Frederick. The question as 
to who is entitled to the credit of founding the 
town of Callaway has been often disputed, and 
will be perhaps never fully determined to the 
satisfaction of all. but from what we can learn, 
J. Woods Smith is fully entitled to whatever 
honor the distinction confers, as it was in his 
brain that the scheme originated which materi- 
alized in the laying out of the town a few 
months later. 


"As Mr. Smith tells it, Callaway was first 
conceived in the lobby of the Paxton hotel at 

[Photo by S. D. Butcher] 

The First Building in CAi.i.A\v.\y 



Laying Corner Stone of Callaway High School 

Callaway Hotel 

Masonic Temple at Callaway 

Residence of Hall B, Schneringes, Callaway 

Plant of Callaway Mill Company 



Omaha, in the fall of 1885. While reading the 
morning paper, he chanced to come across an 
item stating that the Omaha & Republican 
Valley Railroad was going to survey a line 
up the South Loup river the next spring, to 
intersect with another road, which was to be 
surveyed up \^'ood River valley from Kearney. 
Mr. Smith went to a map which was hanging 
on the wall, and at once made up his mind 
that the point where these two roads came to- 
gether would be an ideal place for a town. 
With his usual decision, Mr. Smith had a town 
laid out and thickly pojjulated — in his mind 
— within five minutes. He immediately com- 
municated the scheme to Hon. A. B. Chard, a 
personal friend, and the two started for Cus- 
tur county to look over the situation. They 
foimd the location even more promising than 
they had anticipated, and made partial ar- 
rangements for the purchase of the Graves 
farm for a townsite, intending to return early 
in the spring to complete the deal. When 
spring came, Mr. Chard had other business 
and Mr. Smith proceeded alone. Upon his 
return to Delight he was unable to close the 
deal with Mr. Graves, and he succeeded in 
making an arrangement whereby the claims of 
Albert and M. H. Deems, comprising the east 
half of section 11, township 15. range 23, 
were secured for a townsite. the Deemes tak- 
ing shares in the syndicate in payment for 
their land. Mr. Smith also purchased of C. 
W. Gray the northwest quarter of section 11, 
on his own account, which is the land upon 
which the railroad addition to Callaway was 
afterward platted. E. B. Needham, capitalist 
from St. Paul, Nebraska, also took an interest 
in the townsite company, and the work of plat- 
ting was commenced at once. 


"The town was named in honor of S. R. 
Callaway, then general manager of the Union 
Pacific Railroad, and the streets were named 
after the general ofificers of that road and the 
members of the townsite company. The first 
to erect a building in the new town was Dr. L. 
Michael. The second building was erected by 
Harry E. O'Neill, for his brokerage business. 

which theretofore had been conducted on his 
claim half a mile west of town. The next 
building was a store by Albert Deems. Then 
John Moran moved his general store down 
from the corner of Mr. Graves' farm, Baker 
& Yates put up a store and put in a stock of 
groceries, Smith Brothers put up the opera- 
house building and put in a stock of hardware. 
These were followed in quick succession by 
W. B. Maze, hardware ; Smith & Needham, 
lumber and coal ; Maze & Burbank, flour and 
feed ; Rogers & Johnson, the Bank of Calla- 
way ; Theron E. Webb, drug store ; C. W. 
Root, drug store, moved from Arnold ; Hol- 
way & Schneringer. livery ; L. Palmer, feed 
stable; Lewis & Holman, meat market; ^L L. 
Savage, furniture store ; Clark & Owens, real 
estate, loans, anil insurance ; B. L. Brisbane, 
real estate; C. C. Hayes, James Suhr, black- 
smiths ; Alex ilallert, G. A. James, restaur- 
ants ; P. Wymore, John Calligan, McConnell 
& King, Tidey & Smea, carpenters; F. A. 
Clarke & Company, general store, moved from 
Arnold ; ]\L H. Deems, Hotel Excelsior, op- 
erated by A. L. Mathews ; J. C. Naylor, law- 
yer; George H. Lafleur, barber shop. On 
August 19th appeared the first issue of the 
Callazi'ay Standard, which was published and 
edited by Charles A. Sherwood, a first-class 
printer imported by the townsite syndicate. 
On Sunday, August 8th, a small hurricane 
swept down the valley and partially wrecked 
most of the buildings that were in the course 
of construction, among them being the opera 
house. Dean's hotel, and the Baker & Yates 
building, but the damages were soon repaired 
and work progressed rapidly. 


"The new town boomed all summer. J. 
\\'oods Smith, its founder and promoter, was 
well known all over the state. He also had 
the knack of getting himself interviewed in 
the Omaha papers every time he visited that 
city, and the result was that Callaway was 
soon the best advertised town in Nebraska. 
^^'hile to the ordinary individual Callaway ap- 
peared destined to become a prosperous vil- 
lage, in the Utopian vision of J. Woods Smith 



nothing less than the state capital awaited it. 

" During the summer of 1886 the Omaha 
Bee said : 'Callaway is six weeks old, with 
fifty houses ; a hotel, seventy by fifty-six feet ; 
an opera house, forty-eight by sixty feet; and 
a population of 200 inhabitants. Its repre- 
sentation in business houses is excellent, 
though at present it is in need of a watch- 
maker and jeweler and a harness man. A 
first-class outfit for a newspaper, to be called 
the Callau'ay Standard, together with an edi- 
tor, have already been shipped, and the first 
sheet of the new journal will appear next 
week. It will be followed by the issue of a 
rival paper one week later. The crops in the 
vicinity are said to be the finest in the state, 
and Mr. Smith says that he has never seen 
finer corn than they are now cutting down on 
the site upon which the town is built. 


"The survey of the railroad was completed 
that summer and the grading done. The 
grade is still there, from Pleasanton to Calla- 
way, but no iron has ever been laid on it. The 
Wood river line was graded soon afterward, 
but it was not until four years later that the 
road was finished from Kearney to Callaway. 
This scheme materialized in the formation, of 
the New Callaway Townsite & Improvement 
Company, with C. W. H. Luebbert, president ; 
N. M. Morgan, vice-president ; Harry E. 
O'Neill, secretary; Ira Graves, treasurer; John 
Reese, solicitor. The land was purchased of 
Ira Graves, the site of New Callaway platted, 
and inducements oft'ered to old-town business 
men to move up. as it was expected that the 
New Callaway promoters had influence enough 
to secure the depot. The inducements, how- 
ever, did not draw any of the old-town people 
away, except Harry O'Neill. Upon the or- 
ganization of Callaway the postoffice had been 
moved from Mr. Graves' farm to town, and 
the name changed from Delight to Callaway. 
Harry O'Neill was postmaster when he moved 
up to the new town, but he had to leave the 
postoffice behind. 


"The old-town citizens patrolled the street> 

at night with shotguns, to prevent the post- 
office from being stolen. A newspaper plant 
was purchased by the New Callaway Syndi- 
cate, and on June 29, 1887, the A^ezv Callatvay 
Courier was born in a frame building which 
was then located near the present residence of 
John Frederick, with M. C. Miller as 
editor. Then commenced one of the biggest 
townsite fights in the history of central Ne- 
braska. The new town was derisively chris- 
tened 'Podunk' by the old-town people, and 
the new Callawayites were termed 'Mudhens.' 
The failure of the Wood river line to be built 
that fall, put somewhat of a damper on the 
New Callaway project. The few residents of 
the town, who had been induced to locate with 
the understanding that it was to have the 
railroad depot at once, became discouraged and 
moved away. In October, 1887, when the 
writer first arrived on the scene from Chicago, 
to assume charge of the Nc2v Callazi^ay Cour- 
ier, he found the two rival towns lying on 
their arms awaiting developments. Every 
business enterprise in New Callaway had gone 
away except the Courier, but it was doing a 
flourishing business. It was published in the 
frame building later occupied as a photograph 
gallery by Isaac Bryner. It was then located 
on the comer of Pearl street and Third ave- 
nue. New Callaway. On the corner diagonally 
across the street, was a gopher hole, and the 
two other corners were occupied by a bullfrog 
and another gopher. The Courier had a big 
circulation, and was well filled with advertise- 
ments from merchants of Broken Bow, Cozad, 
Lexington, and Arnold ; but it had none from 
Callaway, as that would have been considered 
high treason by the old-town people, and would 
have been sufficient reason for a boycott 
against the ofifender. The Courier, however, 
did a flourishing business, and became famous 
all over this part of the state, as the paper 
that was published in the town that had no 
other business. 


"Sometimes, when local news were scarce, 
the Courier was filled out with local items 
from Podunk. Here are a few samples : 



"One of our prominent quails made a Hying 
trip to Triumph yesterday. 

"One of J. Woods Smith's cows was over 
visiting friends in Podunk yesterday. 

"One of Morgan's brindle steers was taking 
in the sights of Podunk Tuesday. He is a 

"Several influential prairie dogs have inti- 
mated their intention to locate in Podunk early 
in the spring. Still the boom continues. 

"We acknowledge a pleasant visit one day 
this week from a black dog with one ear 
partly chewed off. Call again. You will al- 
ways find our latch string out. 

"One of our jack rabbits fell on a slippery 
sidewalk Monday and as a result he now walks 
with a limp. 

"The stake which marks the site of the First 
National Bank, at the corner of Hayfield 
square, was knocked over by a bay cow on 
Wednesday. It ought to be repaired at once. 

"One of our most respectable and highly 
esteemed coyotes was villainously assaulted by 
Graves' dog while out taking a walk Monday. 
Such rowdyism is a disgrace to Podunk. 

"Three coyotes from Sand Valley gave a 
concert in Jake Horn's corncrib Saturday 

"Three strange jack rabbits were in town 
all day Thursday, looking around our streets. 
Their business was not ascertained, but it is 
supposed they were locating a railroad depot. 

"Intense excitement was caused in our city 
Tuesday by the appearance of a man coming 
toward town from the east. Business was en- 
tirely suspended and the whole town turned 
out to see him, but he turned south at the cor- 
ner of Smith's cornfield and escaped. 

"Our friend McConnell says he is not much 
of a believer in signs, but he believes animals 
often know what is going to happen in the 
future. The other evening as he was going 
home wondering whether the railroad depot 
would be located at Callaway or Podunk, a 
big bullfrog jumped out of Wiggle creek and 
said 'Podunk! Podunk! Podunk!' On the 
strength of the tip Mr. ^McConnell has invested 
in several corner lots. 


"During the winter of 1887 the weather was 
very cold, and as coal had to be hauled from 
Cozad, there was sometimes a dearth of fuel. 
The office building was made of boards that 
were mostly knot holes, and unplastered, con- 
sequently not over warm, and the paper was 
not infrequently 'run off' when the temperature 

on the outside was below zero, and not much 
higher inside. It was frequently the duty of the 
editor to sally forth after dark, into a handy 
cornfield, with a two-bushel sack, to rustle 
enough fuel for the ne.xt day. One day a man 
whose field had been visited pretty often, came 
into the office and wanted to know how much 
it would cost to have a notice put in the paper. 
He said somebody was stealing his corn and 
he thought a piece in the paper would scare 
them off. We made a deal to publish a warn- 
ing against the offender for a dollar and a 
half, and no more corn was stolen from that 
field during the remainder of the winter. This 
shows the power of advertising. 


"During 1888 M. L. Savage built the pres- 
ent postoffice building. The Seven \'alleys 
Bank building was also built the same year, as 
was a new store, by F. A. Clark & Company. 
The S'even Valleys Bank had been established 
the year previously, by J. Woods Smith and 
others. The Union Bank was established in 
1888 by J. Woods Smith, J. E. Decker, and J. 
H. Decker. The spring of 1889 came, and 
still no railroad. The town was at a stand- 
still. The New Callaway project was practi- 
cally dead and the Xcii' Callaway Courier 
moved to the old town and became the Calla- 
way Courier. George B. Mair, the editor and 
publisher, was appointed postmaster, purchased 
the postoffice building and added another 
room, which has since been used as a printing 
office. R. E. Brega came to town during this 
year and established himself in the law busi- 
ness. Railroad rumors were rife and the 
Kearney & Black Hills Railroad Company 
was organized. 


"The magnificent water power afforded by 
the South Loup river had commended itself 
to the business men of Callaway, and many 
meetings were held to talk up the project of 
erecting a flouring mill, to be operated by 
water power. These meetings resulted in the 
formation of the Callaway Milling & ]Manufac- 
turing Company, which was composed of most 



of the business men. In the fall of 1889 work 
was commenced on the dam across the Loup 
river, and the wheels of an up-to-date, modern 
roller mill began to move in the spring of 1890. 
A proposition to vote $8,600 bonds for the 
purpose of assisting the Kearney & Black 
Hills Railroad to build from Kearney to Calla- 
way, was submitted to the township and car- 
ried almost unanimously. 

the; teaix arrives 

"Work on the old right of way commenced 

sand dollars. A number of business enter- 
prises located in the new town, and liberal in- 
ducements were held out to the old town to 
move up in a body. It was supposed that the 
location of the depot would cause everj-thing 
to rush to the Railroad addition at once, but 
such was not the case. Many of the old-town 
people were interested in old-town real estate, 
and if the town moved to the new addition it 
would become practically worthless. It was 
evident to a disinterested onlooker that the 
railroad addition was bound to win in the end, 

[Photo by S. D. Butcher] 

Street Scene in Callaw.ay in 1895 

at once, and on the 7th day of October, 1890, 
the first regular passenger train pulled into 
Callaway. The depot was located neither in 
the old town nor the new. but half way be- 
tween, on the farm of J. Woods Smith, which 
was purchased by the Callaway Improvement 
Company, on. which to lay out a new town of 
Callaway, now known as the Railroad addi- 
tion. Engineers of the railroad company laid 
out the town on a grand scale, large enough 
for a city of the first class, and some very good 
buildings were put up, among them being the 
Grand Pacific hotel, at a cost of over ten thou- 

but the old-town people made a bitter fight, 
J. Woods Smith, being interested in the new 
town, moved his opera-house building over and 
also established a store there, in what was 
known as the Improvement building. Van- 
green Brothers moved up to the new town. A 
new drug store was established, with Dr. F. J. 
Greer as manager ; Dierks Brothers and the 
Gilcrost Lumber Company put in yards ; a 
brick 3-ard was established ; and a large two- 
story building, known as the Grand Army 
building, was erected for store and lodge pur- 
poses. The newcomers who were attracted to 



the locality by the advent of the railroad were 
not, of course, interested in the townsite fight, 
and mostly located in the new town. 


"Being satisfied that there was but one way 
for the contest to end. and wishing to bring it 
to a close as soon as possible, the postofifice 
was moved to the new town at midnight, by 
G^^orge B. Mair, without previous notice. The 
following morning, when the people of the old 
town found out what had happened, their 
wrath knew no bounds and all sorts of threats 
were indulged. The Courier was moved to the 
new town at the same time. So incensed were 

master general. In a few months the depart- 
ment reinstated the postmaster, but the loca- 
tion of the office was fixed in the old town, 
whither it had been taken by the inspector at 
the time of his visit. Soon after this the en- 
tire old town capitulated and moved up to the 
new town, followed by the postoffice sorge 
months later. 

"The year 1891 was a season of big crops, 
and the new town enjoyed quite a boom. 
Money was plentiful and the business men had 
a fine trade. Many new buildings were erect- 
ed, among them being two large grain eleva- 
tors. The town was full of traveling men and 
strangers, and the townsite syndicate had suc- 

IPIwto by S. D. Butcher] 

A Mixed Comtxg ixto Callaw.w, Octorer 7, 1890 

they, that the peoi)le of the old town refused 
to mail their letters at the .postoffice, but sent 
them to the neighboring offices to be mailed. 
.\t the arrival of every mail they sent a mes- 
senger up to the postoffice with a sack, who 
collected all the mail for the old town business 
men and carried it down to tlie Bank of Calla- 
way, where it was redistributed. In the mean- 
time they were procuring signatures to a peti- 
tion and protest, wliich was forwarded to the 
postoffice department and which brought a 
postoffice ins]x-ctor to investigate. The in- 
spector concluded that the postmaster had act- 
ed without due authority in moving the office, 
and his resignation was asked for. The post- 
master declined to resign, and he was removed 
and a temporary postmaster appointed by the 
inspector, pending the final decision of the post- 

ceeded in interesting a number of eastern cap- 
italists in the town. Arrangements had been 
made for a big excursion at some future date, 
but in the meantime poor crops and partial 
failures followed, culminating in the drought 
period of 1894 and 1895. which drove away 
half the population of the county, and in which 
Callaway dwindled down from a hustling town 
of 600 people to a dead village of a little over 
200. The people became almost panic-strick- 
en, and a cry went out for help that was re- 
s]ionded to from ocean to ocean_ with a gen- 
erosity that has never been equaled. Grain, 
food, and goods of all kinds came into the 
country by the carloads, from almost every 
state in the Union, and serious sufifering was 
prevented. The railroads, which have been 
said to have no souls, disproved the assertion 



at this time, and they gladly offered free trans- 
portation for solicitors and supplies during all 
that trying period. Since then this locality 
has enjoyed fair crops. On the night of 
March 15, 1901. the principal business block 
was completely destroyed, entailing a loss of 
about fifty thousand dollars. This has result- 
ed in the passage of a fire-limits ordinance by 
the village board, and preparations are al- 
ready being made to rebuild the burned dis- 
trict with fine modern brick buildings." 


The following firms, and* business and pro- 
fessional men lived in Callaway prior to 1900 
but were not mentioned in the foregoing article 
by George B. Mair : 

. Drugs: \\\ J. Bean, E. R. Vining, Charles 
Root ; F. J. Drum, well machinery ; A. Pearson, 
photographer ; attorneys : John Reese, J. C. 
Naylor, and James Yates ; hardware : Bennet 
Maze and Charles Whaley ; David Hopkins, 
grocery and confectionery ; Walter Wood, 
furniture, Charles Gaines, manager ; Holway 
& Schneringer, first livery man ; W. G. Gar- 
lock established a brick yard and made brick. 

The following are Callaway business en- 
terprises since 1900 not mentioned be- 
fore : \\'. I. Harrow, bakery ; J. E. Felk- 
er. jewelry; M. F. ^'erry and Emma \'an 
Eman. milliners ; K. C. Kim, photograph- 
er ; Farmers State Bank (John Frederick, 
Sr., president, and John Frederick, Jr., 
vice-president) ; live-stock dealers, John Fred- 
erick ; Farmers Shipping Association ; Farm- 
ers Elevator Company, William Reader, man- 
ager : Callaway Elevator Company, D. F. 
Burker, manager ; Kearney & Black Hills Rail- 
road. E. I\I. Wellman, agent ; Higbee & Keyes, 
hardware ; Charles Curtis & Company, hard- 
ware ; Frank Hagin, restaurant ; Claude Pierce, 
restaurant ; M. C. Schneringer, undertaker ; 
general merchants: Campbell & Tidd. Helton 
Roberts Company, \'angreen Brothers, W. L. 
Grimes: drugs: Robert Weiland, Walter 
Wright : variety store, Clara \'angreen ; post- 
master, John Moran ; barbers : Lewis Brothers, 
Dan Pearson, Tobe \'angreen ; physicians : J. 

F. Davies, Albert Johnson ; chiropractors, Lib- 
bie Leonard and Charles F. Nye. 

Callaway has a first-class water and electric- 
light system ; telephone exchange ; four good 
church buildings (Episcopal, Methodist Epis- 
copal, L'nited Evangelical, and Catholic) ; an 
up-to-date high-school building, of which W. 
A. Rosin is superintendent ; four large, brick 
garages, as good as there is in the county. 
The Ford garage has a floor space of 12,500 
square feet. They are represented by Walter 
Brittan, Charles Carothers, Henry Ridder,'and 
Sherrel & Lowe Brothers. Real estate: ^Ic- 
Grew & Brabham, J. D. Troyer, George H. 
LaFleur, H. H. Andrews, L C. Shupp. R. E. 
Brega, lawyer, real estate, and insurance. The 
Callazcay Queen, Thomas Roberts, A. W. Ros- 
in, James C. Naylor, owners, and James C. 
Naylor editor. 

The population of Callaway is about 900. 
The Callaway Milling Company has one of the 
best flouring mills in the state, operated with 


The city of Broken Bow is located in town- 
ship 17, range 20, in the center of the county, 
near the head of the Muddy, a creek that runs 
through the town. The city enjoys the ad- 
vantage of fine schools and has seven churches, 
in whi:h religious services are maintained. It 
has had no saloons for years. Business is good 
and the population is gradually increasing. 
Broken Bow is the county seat of Custer coun- 
ty. It is known far and near on account of 
the oddity of its name. The name was sug- 
gested by a chain of circumstances, rather than 


In 1880 Wilson Hewitt, who was a home- 
steader near where the city is now located, on 
request of the few settlers in the vicinity, peti- 
tioned the government for a postoffice at his 
place and sent in a name he thought was ap- 
propriate. The postoffice department approv- 
ed the application for an office, but rejected 
the name, as a similar name had been granted 



on another petition. Two or three other names 
were sent in, but were rejected for the same 
reason. Mr. Hewitt was a blacksmith and a 
hunter, and while out hunting one day he 
found, on an old Indian camping ground, a 
broken bow and arrow, which he carried home 
with him. He put them in a box in his shop, 
with some old irons, and thought nothing more 
about them. Some time afterward he received 
notice that the third name he had sent to Wash- 
ington had been rejected, and, going to the 
box after a piece of iron, he picked up the 

nier owner of the bow. or any of the facts con- 
nected with it, is known. 

Air. Hewitt prized the broken bow as a 
relic and intended to keep it as a souvenir of 
the town's christening, ■ but one day the hired 
girl was cleaning up around the yard and put 
the bow into the fire, with other rubbish. It 
was discovered, however, in time to save a 
fragment of it. The part saved is now in 
possession of E. R. Purcell, editor of the 
Custer County Chief, and is highly valued. 

The townsite was located and plat filed in 

[I'hoto by S. D. Butcher] 

Old Marble Top Hotel, Broken Bow, in 1886, with Dr. Hull .^nd His Favorite Ponies 
IN Front. Location now Occupied by the Realty Block 

broken bow, and the name, "Broken Bow," 
came to his mind quickly. He determined to 
send it in as the name for his postoffice, sat- 
isfied that there was no other place of the 
same name in the state. He consulted his 
wife, and she being willing, the name was sent 
in and was accepted by the department. Just 
how the Indian bow came to be broken and 
left on the old camp ground, is only a matter 
of conjecture. i\Iany stories have been invent- 
ed to account for it, and one old settler, Mrs. 
M. A. B. Martin, has written an Indian legend 
concerning it, which is rojiroduccd on another 
page. Nothing whatever concerning the for- 

June, 1882, by Jess Gandy. The postoffice, 
which was then kept by C. D. Pelham, who 
had a small stock of goods half a mile from 
the townsite, was moved to the new city, and 
hence Mr. Pelham enjoys the distinction of 
being the first merchant of Broken Bow, as 
well as its first postmaster. Wilson Hewitt 
had been elected county clerk the ])revious fall, 
and near the proposed townsite had built a 
sod house, which he occupied as his oftice. The 
county treasurer. C. T. Crawford, and the 
county superintendent, D. M. Amsberry, oc- 
casionally held forth in the same building, in 
the discharge of their respective official duties. 



Soon after the townsite was laid out, the town- 
site promoters provided temporary frame 
buildings for the county officers. County Clerk 
Hewitt and County Judge J. S. Benjamin oc- 
cupied a room on the west side of the public 
square, and the county treasurer and the coun- 
ty superintendent a building on the east side. 
This arrangement was continued until the fall 
of 1884, when the county built a frame building 
large enough to accommodate all four of the 
offices. The question of relocating the county 
seat was an issue during the summer and fall, 
and in this Broken Bow defeated Westerville, 
its rival. The county seat had been located 
previously near the South Loup, but the site 
had never been occupied, as the county records 
were always kept at the homes of the several 
county officers. The victory inspired courage, 
and many important battles have since been 
fought and won b}' a combined effort of the 
citizens. One of the first houses built was a 
sod building, by R. H. Miller, on the corner 
where the Broken Bow State Bank now stands. 
This was used for the family residence and 
also for a printing office. Mr. Miller estab- 
lished the first newspaper of the town, the 
Custer County Republican. The first issue of 
the Republican was June 29, 1882. The paper 
is still published in the city, and not only 
claims the distinction of being the first news- 
paper published at Broken Bow, but of being 
the oldest paper in the county. The present 
editor and publisher follows at the end of a 
long procession of former owners. 


During- the summer of 1882 the following 
families located in the new town and engaged 
in business : Jess, James P., and A. W. Gandy, 
J. S. Kirkpatrick, C. W. West, J. H. Fleming, 
T. E. Wheeler & Company, G. W. Trefren, 
C. T. Crawford, C. D. Pelham, J L. Oxford, 
and R. H. Miller. J. P. Gandy built a log 
house in which he kept a few goods and ac- 
commodated the traveling public with meals 
and lodging until a hotel was erected. J. H. 
Fleming built the first hotel, on the corner 
now occupied by the Grand Central. As the 
lumber and all building- material had to be 

freighted from Kearney by teams, it was a 
tedious task to build. By August Mr. Flem- 
ing had the Broken Bow hotel, a two-story 
structure, nearly completed to accommodate 
the public, and guests frequently had to put up 
with scanty fare, owing to lack of teams with 
which to freight the necessary provisions,- but 
as Mrs. Fleming was a most excellent cook 
she made the best of what she had, and all 
were satisfied. 


Frequently a team would be sent twenty-five 
miles to purchase butter, and would return with 
only a few pounds. J. H. West was the pro- 
prietor of the first drug store, and G. W. Tre- 
fren established a law office, being followed 

Broken Bow St.^te Bank 

soon by J. S. Kirkpatrick, who was afterward 
a member of the Nebraska supreme-court com- 
mission. Mrs. T. E. Wheeler & Company put 
in the first stock of general merchandise, in 
October, 1882. Mrs. Wheeler had come from 
Aurora in August and contracted with the 
townsite company to build a store room in con- 
sideration of bringing in a stock of goods. 
She freighted the goods from Grand Island, 
by way of Loup City and Westerville. That 
winter Mr. and Mrs. Wheeler lived in the 
back part of the store room, with only a car- 
pet for a partition. C. T. Crawford built 
and occupied his house as a residence, restau- 
rant, and treasurer's office, the same fall. J. L. 
Oxford, one of the county commissioners, built 
the first feed barn, just east of the present site 
of the Grand Central hotel, near where ]\Ir. 
Lee's barn now stands. Jess Gandy put in the 



first butcher shop that summer, and bought his 
first beef from Judge Benjamin, who Hved on 
a homestead adjoining the town on the north. 
The first school was taught by !Mrs. M. E. 
Lewis, in a sod house. 


With the spring of 1883 the population had 
more than trebled. Frank Crable added a lum- 
ber yard, a much-needed branch of business. 
H. G. Rogers, a silent partner of T. E. Wheeler 
& Company, located here, bringing with him 
an additional stock of dry goods, valued at 
$10,000. He built a new store building in 

publish it until June, 1888, when the plant 
was sold to the Central Nebraska Bank. R. 
H. Miller succeeded Mr. Beebe as editor. 

The first church was built by the Methodists, 
in 1883. It was the first bri:k building in 
town. During this year the townsite was en- 
larged by additions made by J. P. and A. \V. 
Gandy, and the sale of town lots to prospec- 
tive residents became brisk. The students of 
Blackstone were increased by two that winter, 
James Ledwich, who engaged in the law and 
real-estate business, and who later became one 
of the prominent men of the county, and C. J. 
Elliott, who came from Illinois, returning to 

[Plu'tc (iv i'. D. Dulchcr] 

First Printing House in Broken Bow 

which to accommodate his goods, and Mrs. T. 
E. ^^'heeler & Company added a line of hard- 
ware. -Miss Litta Mengle put in a stock of 
millinery and associated with her Miss Laura 
Morrison as dressmaker. Marcus Reyner add- 
ed the second drug store, and' in October of 
the same" year L. H. Jewett established the 
Custer County Bank, which was the first bank 
in town, with S. H. Burnham. of Lincoln, as 
president, and ^Ir. Jewett as cashier. Silas 
A. Holcomb, subsequently governor of the 
state and at present a member of the state 
board of control, located in the town that sea- 
son and engaged in the practice of law. S. C. 
Beebe, publisher of the Custer Cotiifty Leader, 
moved his paper from \\"esterville to Broken 
Bow in the spring of 1883. and continued to 

that state after a few years. Up to this time 
the town had been without a practising physi- 
cian. The only one in the vicinity was Dr. R. 
C. Talbot, who lived on a homestead some 
eight miles away, and who protested against 
practicing medicine. Dr. Wyman Hull ap- 
peared on the scene and Dr. Talbot proposed 
to him that if he would lo;ate in town he 
v.ould turn over all his practice to him. The 
inducement was sufficient, and Dr. Hull at once 
secured a sod house that J. P. Gandy had built, 
and moved his family to Broken Bow. The 
Doctor did not prove a drawing card as a 
physician, and soon fitted up rooms in his 
house and engaged in the hotel business. As 
rains were quite frequent in the early days, 
his guests were frequently disturbed in their 



slumbers by the roof leaking. To remedy this 
annoyance the Doctor covered the house with a 
heavy coating of cement, which gave his hos- 
telry the name of "The Marble Top." Mrs. 
Hull and daughter were fine cooks and good 
entertainers, while the Doctor was a happy 
hustler for business. They soon built up one 
of the best paying businesses in the town and 
the Marble Top became a celebrated name. 

In 1884 the population of Broken Bow large- 
ly increased, and the demand for both resi- 
dence and business houses caused a number of 
buildings to be built. L. Lavender and W. D. 
Garlock, brickmakers, put in two yards and 
manufactured enough brick to supply the de- 
mand. The Commercial hotel was built that 
season, by J. P. Gandy and A. W. Gandy. D. 
M. Amsberry and G. W. Runyon built the 
three brick store rooms on the north side of 
the public square. A brick schoolhouse, in the 
southeastern part of town, and two dwelling 
houses, by Isaac Merchant and Steve Chaple, 
were built in the fall, and the frame buildings 
put up were numerous. With the influx of 
1884 came Judge H. M. Sullivan, who has 
ever since been a leading citizen and closely 
identified with the development of the town, 
the county, and the state. A. R. Humphrey, 
who was subsequently commissioner of public 
lands and buildings, located here in 1884. 

This season County Treasurer Talbot and 
County Superintendent Amsberry moved their 
families to town and each put up a residence. 
Among the new enterprises started in 1884 the 
principal were : Holland & McDonald, hard- 
ware and implements ; the Broken Boiv Tunes, 
by Trefren and ]\Ieseraull ; Kloman & .\rnold, 
bank; Moore & Wright, real estate. 


The village was incorporated that spring and 
the first officers appointed were: Isaac Mer- 
chant, president ; J. S. Kirkpatrick, Jess Gandy, 
and D. M. Amsberry, trustees; and E. P. 
Campbell, city attorney. The first officers 
elected were: Isaac Merchant, H. A. Graham, 
D. M. Amsberry, and J. S. Kirkpatrick, trus- 
tees; H. M. Sullivan, attorney; E. P. Campbell, 

In 1886 the town received another substan- 
tial boost, by the arrival of R. O. Phillips, pres- 
ident of the Lincoln Townsite Company. He 
bouglit a half-section of land adjoining the 
town on the north, at big figures, and it re- 
sulted in corner lots going sky high. This was 
soon followed by the B. & M. Railroad sur- 
veyors up the Muddy valley, who included 
Broken Bow in their line of survey. Not only 
townsite speculators and business men rushed 
in to secure desirable town property, but with- 
in' a few months homesteaders had filed on all 
the desirable farming land in the vicinity. 
Among those who preceded the locomotive, or 
came soon after its arrival in that year, were : 
Freisheimer & Haeberle, druggists; S. B. 
Thompson and House, and B. S. Lilly, real 
estate agents ; C. B. Hayes, boots and shoes ; 
J. C. Bowen, grocer; Hans Dierks, lumber; 
Bogue & Sherwood, lumber ; the Chicago Lum- 
ber Company; W, H. Cline, general merchan- 
dise ; W. J. Woods, furniture ; Wilde & Squires, 
hardware; S. B. Frost, restaurant; S. A. Bar- 
stow, contractor and builder ; Eklwards & Emil, 
blacksmiths and wagonmakers ; C. A. Thum, 
clothing; J. H. Inman, agent for the Lincoln 
Townsite Company. The railroad addition 
was surveyed and put on the market and a 
number of new buildings erected or commenced 
on the new addition, including a number of 
residences as well as business buildings. On 
the old townsite was built the Pacific hotel and 
Graham Brothers' store, which have since be- 
come the Grand Central hotel, one of the best 
equipped and best conducted hostelries in cen- 
tral Nebraska. 


The B. & M. Railroad let no time go to waste 
after the survey was made. On August 26, 
1886, the road was completed to Broken Bow 
and the first locomotive made its appearance 
in Custer county's rapidly growing capital. 
C. E. Wilkinson, of Lincoln, was the first sta- 
tion agent and telegraph operator, and after- 
ward served as mayor of the city. In the lat- 
ter part of this year O. P. Perley, a capitalist 
of Maine, located here and invested a large 
sum of money in the Custer County Bank. On 



the 15th of February, 1886, it was organized 
as the First National Bank, with S'. H. Burn- 
ham, president ; L. H. Jewett, cashier, and O. 
P. Perley, assistant cashier. The following 
year the Central Nebraska Bank was estab- 
lished, with O. J. Collman, president, and J. 
H. Inman, cashier. The North Side Opera 
House block, the Inman hotel, the bank build- 
ing, and a number of smaller buildings for both 
business and residence purposes, were erected 
on the Lincoln Townsite Company's addition. 
Also in 1887, G. W. Frey built the large flour- 

among which we may mention the Union 
block (by Taylor Flick, H. Walton, and M. 
Reyner), the Realty block, the Inman and 
Globe hotels, Walton's and Blackman's barns, 
Morrison & Candy's and W. C. Luce's feed 
mills, the Baptist. United Brethren, Presby- 
terian. Catholic, Christian, and Episcopal 
i.-luirclies. the court house, two brick school- 
houses, the postofifice. and the I. O. O. F. 
building. The waterworks plant was put in 
under the supervision of C. A. Weeks, by a 
local company. The Bank of Commerce was 

IPhoto by S. D. Butcher] 

First into Broken Bow, August 26, 1886 

ing mill later owned and operated by S. J. 
Lonergan. A large planing mill was built the 
same year, by S. A. Barstow. 


In this year were established the additional 
business enterprises of T. j\I. & J. W. Salis- 
bury, dry goods ; Thompson, Wilson & Drake, 
dry goods ; Ryerson & Leslie, books and sta- 
tionery ; H. Walton, drugs ; and the Custer 
County block was built by R. C. Talbot. G. W. 
Trefren, and D. M. Amsberry ; also an opera 
house by Trefren and Hewitt. The growth 
of the city continued gradually until 1894, 
many substantial buildings being erected. 

established in 1889, with C. J. Stevens, presi- 
dent, and F. M. Rublee, cashier. 


In 1888 the town had outgrown the rank 
of a village, and it was organized as a city of 
the .second class. The first officers were : O. 
P. Perley. mayor: B. S. Lilly. J. L. Cobb. S. 
A. liarstow, Hans Dierks. councilmen ; E. P. 
Campbell, city clerk: H. Al. Sullivan, city at- 
torney. In 1894, owing to a severe drouth 
and a financial panic, the population of the 
city decreased fully one-third, and several of 
the business houses suspended in the year fol- 
lowing;. The number included Kloman & 



Arnold's bank, the Central Nebraska National 
Bank, Barstow's planing mill, William H. Cline, 
D. S. Lohr, Graham Brothers, and many oth- 
ers. Since 1895 the population has been grad- 
ually increasing, and several business tirms 
have been added. The population in 1890 had 
reached over 1,600, and in 1894 it was esti- 
mated at 1,800. In 1895 the number did not 
exceed 1,100. The census of 1900 gives the 
population as 1,375. The census of 1910 
boosts the population to 2,200, while the pop- 
ulation to-day will probably reach 3,000. 

In 1910 the' 
p o p u 1 a tion 
reached 2,260 
according to 
the govern- 
ment census. 
The business 
interests have 
kept pace with 
the population 
and to-day it 
is the largest 
trade center 
between Alli- 
a n c e and 
Grand Island. 




Carnegie Library at Broken Bow 

In 1910 the 

new high-school building was erected, at a cost 
of $40,000. Building materials were cheap 
and an exceedingly fine building was erected 
at a remarkably low cost. In the same year a 
two-story, brick city hall was erected, on South 
Tenth avenue. It is the most commodious 
town hall west of Grand Island. It has base- 
ment, jail, with ground-floor apartments for 
the fire-fighting apparatus. In the upper story 
is the council chamber and an auditorium with 
chairs for seating about 500 people. 

On the corner of Broadway and Tenth 
avenue the Baptist congregation erected a 
$15,000 brick church, with basement and all 
modern fixtures. (See description in Chapter 

Three more good buildings went up in 1915. 
The Security State Bank built a white-tile 
building on the northwest corner of the square 
and the Independent Order of Odd Fellows 
built the Lyric theatre, with a fine lodge room, 
and offices over head. The front of the build- 
ing is of white, tile-faced brick. 

The third building to go up in 1915 was the 
Carnegie public library, a neat, tile-roofed 
building, costing over $10,000. The odd de- 
sign of this building makes it very noticeable. 
Both the I. O. G. T. building and the library 

are on the 
west side of 
Tenth ave- 




In the spring 
of 1888 a 
group of the 
citizens, see- 
ing the need 
of an a d e- 
quate water 
supply, and 
almost forced 
to take such 
action on ac- 
count of the 
p r o h i bitive 
rate for fire insurance, undertook the task 
of organizing a stock company and build- 
ing a waterworks system. The articles of 
incorporation are dated March 28, 1888, the 
capital stock was $50,000, and the names of 
the incorporators are : S. J. Lonergan, O. J. 
Collman, D. M. Amsberry, A. W. Gandy, Mar- 
cus Reyner, John Reese, S. A. Holcomb, L. H. 
Jewett, James Holland, Wilson Hewitt, G. N. 
Rawson, and George W. Sturdevant. 

After prospecting along the railroad, a lo- 
cation in block 3, F. Reyner's addition, in the 
southeastern part of the city, was selected for 
the pumping station, being the only place 
where a sufficient flow of water was found. 
In the latter part of the year 1903 the city 



purchased the waterworks system from Frank 
H. Young, who had become the owner of the 
controlling- interest in the stock and who had 
been managing the plant most of the time since 
it was constructed. 

In 1916 the old pumping station, which had 
supplied water for the city continuously for 
twenty-eight years, was abandoned and a new 
plant constructed, to do both the street light- 
ing and pumping. The plant is located on 
Eighth avenue, on the south side of the rail- 
road right of way. Here an abundant flow of 
water was secured at a depth of about 160 feet. 
Two wells were sunk, eight inches in diameter, 


At the present time the city has a fine park, 
three large, brick school buildings, seven 
church buildings, city hall, court house, li- 
brary, four banks, six grocery stores, four dry- 
goods stores, four hardware stores, three meat 
markets, five garages, three lumber companies, 
two novelty stores, three millinery stores, one 
men's-furnishing store, three jewelry stores, 
three drug stores, one book store, two 
grain elevators, two furniture stores, three 
hotels, three restaurants, and numerous oth- 
er business places of miscellaneous na- 

DiERKs Block, Broken Bow 

and from the top of each, when disconnected, 
there flows a good stream of pure water. The 
equipment for pumping consists of two elec- 
trically driven centrifugal pumps, each a com- 
plete imit, and either one of sufficient capacity 
to meet the present demand for water. 

The storage is provided by a concrete reser- 
voir, on the hill south of town, holding about 
160,000 gallons and affording a pressure of 
sixty pounds in the business part of town. 
The mains have been extended until the city 
now owns about six miles of cast-iron mains, 
all in good condition, and supplying about 530 
consumers. The city has been most fortunate 
in the abundance and purity of its water sup- 
ply, not a single case of disease ever having 
been traced to this source. 


The commercial organization of Broken 
Bow^ is called tlie Public Service Club, as the 
above caption would indicate. It was organ- 
ized in ]\Iay. 1913. Its first president was E. 
R. Purcell. E. P. Steen being the first vice- 
president, with the following constituting the 
board of directors: A. E. Anderson, J. G. 
VanCott, A. H. S'ouders, E. P. Walter, J. S. 
Afolyneux, Emery F. Bush, James Lomax, 
Charles J. J. Masin, C. A. Currie. 

The following were the charter members : 
J. S. Molyncux, George Ayers, E. P. ^Valter, 
Carl P. Jeffords. J. G. \'anCott, C. L. Mullins, 
Alpha Morgan. J, C. Lomax. L. D. George, 
A. E. Anderson. E. R. Purcell, C. A. Currie, 
George A. Kiffin, Emery F. Bush, J. G. Leon- 



Residence of N. T. Gadd, Broken Bow 

Residence of Judge James R. Dean, Broken Bow 

Residence of J. M. Kimberling, Broken Bow 



ard, D. M. Amsberry, Lewis E. Tanner, A. H. 
Souders, E. P. Steen, Charles J. J. Masin, A. 
J. Elliott, C. W. Bowman, R. S. Kuns, Horace 
F. Kennedy, W. F. Forest. 

The object of the organization is to bring 
together men of unquestioned character and 
intelligence who are desirous of promoting the 
welfare and prosperity of the city of Broken 
Bow and the vicinity. Its aim is to secure 
the co-operation of the people in the commu- 
nity representing the agricultural, real estate, 
banking, commercial, manufacturing, profes- 
sional, and educational interests. It is not to 
supersede or antagonize any existing business 
or social or- 
g a n i z ation, 
but, by con- 
sultation and 
united eflfort, 
to work to- 
gether for the 
common good, 
to aid and en- 
courage ex- 
periments for 
more produc- 
tive farminti": 
to secure loca- 
tion of factor- 
ies and other 
enterprises ; to 
promote com- 
mercial progress and disseminate valuable com- 
mercial and economic information ; to buy, sell, 
lease, and sub-lease real estate ; to increase so- 
cial activity, confidence, and harmony among 
all our people mutually engaged in useful occu- 
pation ; and finally to use all legitimate means to 
protect and foster the business and social wel- 
fare of the members of this corporation. 

In the Masonic Temple building the club has 
fitted up elegantly furnished rooms, which 
make luxuriant a])artments and accommodate 
every social feature for which the club exists. 

At the present time the following constitute 
the corps of officers and the personnel of the 
diiiferent committees. The names of the dif- 
ferent committees indicate the extent and char- 
acter of work carried on b\- the club. 

Public Squ.\re P.\rk, Broken Bow 

Present officers — N. T. Gadd, president; 
^I. S. Eddy, vice-president; E. P. Walter, sec- 
retary ; L. D. George, assistant secretary ; and 
J. C. Lomax, treasurer. 

Board of Directors — N. T. Gadd, Frank 
Kelly, A. R. Humphrey, J. S. Molyneux, J. G. 
\'anCott, A. E. Anderson, E. R. Purcell, C. S. 
Tooley, M. S. Eddy, N. D. Ford, and A. Mor- 

War Board — N. T. Gadd, Frank Kelly, A. 
R. Humphrey, J. S. Molyneux, J. G. VanCott, 
A. E. Anderson, E. R. Purcell, C. S. Tooley, 
M. S. Eddy, N. D. Ford, A. Morgan, E. P. 
Walter, and L. D. George. 

New Indus- 
tries — W. C. 
Schaper, Wil- 
liam Darnell, 
S. W. Jacoby, 
and William 

Municipal — 
A. R. Hum- 
phrey, Dan 
Kc])lar, L. A. 
McClain, J. 
K. Hewitt, 
and R. H. 

— Dr. C. L. 
Mullins, H. 
O. \\'ittmayer, E. S. Holcomb, G. I. Sellon, 
and C. S. Tooley. 

Field Meet — Arthur Melville, E. F. :\Iyers, 
and J. K. Hewitt. 

Finance — E. S. Holcomb, A. E. Anderson, 
and E. P. Walter. 

Auditing- — Charles Luce, Tom Brown, and 
C. S. MaVtin. 

Public Improvement — George Aj'ers, John 
Tierney, W. G. Purcell, J. C. Lomax, and 
Emery Bush. 

Mercantile — .\. M. Drew, C. S. Tooley. 
Alvin Burke, A. H. Souders. and George 

Bowling Alley — Father Cornelius, Foster 
Jackson, C. H. England. J. G. \'anCott, and 
C. A. Martin. 



Booster — ?Iarrv Knapp, L. E. McWilliams, 
Joe Trevitt, J. F. Wilson, and J. G. Leonard. 

Chautauqua — A. E. Anderson, M. C. War- 
rington, W. Schneringer, J. S. Molyneux, 
Frank Kelly, L. W. Wilson, T. W. Bass, and 
A. ^Morgan. 

Agricultural — H. P. Gates, James Martin, 
John Squires, Homer Rupert, and C. W. Wil- 

Entertainment — T. \V. Bass, John P. Rob- 
ertson, H. D. Huntington, Clyde Wilson, 
Henrv Avers, H. Possehl. and L. E. Cole. 

established a store in his sod house, in 1882. 
The village was laid out in 1883, and a large 
building was erected by S. E. Edwards, the 
same being occupied by Blum Brothers, as 
a general store. In 1884 Ben Hardin estab- 
lished a general store, and William Ray 
launched out in the blacksmith business; R. 
E. Probert opened a hardware store, C. L. 
Long a drug store, and S. Leland & Sons 
erected a large water-power flouring mill. In 
1877 a postoffice had been established at the 
Arnold & Ritchie ranch, three-quarters of a 

Rooms of Broken Bow Service Club 

House — A. E. Anderson, A. H. Souders, 
and A. AI. Drew. 

Good Roads — Frank Kelly, James ^lartin, 
Ras Anderson, J. S. McGraw, and M. S. Eddy. 


Arnold was named in honor of George 
Arnold, who located in this vicinity in 1875, 
and who was a member of the ranch firm of 
Arnold & Ritchie. The original village site 
was located in section 28, township 17, range 
25, in the famous S'outh Loup valley, near the 
west line of Custer county. Nebraska, the land 
having been homesteaded by R. E. Allen, who 

mile from the present site of the village, but 
in 1881 it was moved to the residence of R. 
E. Allen. Dr. J. H. Murray located here in 
1884 and here he practiced his profession 
until 1890. In the year 1886 John Finch and 
A'irgil Cannon opened a drug store, Alex Rob- 
ertson a bank, and Miss Mary Robertson a 
millinery store. A large hotel and various 
other business enterprises soon followed. In 
1891 Arnold boasted of a population of about 
150, and the following lines of business were 
represented: A. G. & M. E. HofTman, gen- 
eral merchandise ; Allen & Son, hardware, im- 
plements, and livery; Frank Anson, hotel; C. 



C. Parsons, Ijarber shop ; Albert Hansberry, 
jeweler; F. E. Needham, grocery and meat 
market ; Joseph Pease, blacksmith shop ; Ben 
Hardin, general store, hardware, and under- 
taking; T. H. B. Beach, general merchandise 
and dealer in live stock ; David R. Parks, ice 
dealer; John Finch, druggist; R. E. Allen, 
dealer in live stock ; B. E. Robinson, physician ; 
W. ~Sl. ISeach, postmaster; Alvin Harris, mill- 
er. At that time the village supported an ex- 
cellent school, with Aliss Amv Robinson in 

of the center of section 27, township 17. range 
25 ; thence west along said half-section line 
to a point sixty rods east of the center of 
section 28. township 17, range 25; thence 
north to the place of beginning." 

The following named gentlemen were ap- 
pointed as first trustees of the village : John 
iMuch, B. E. Robinson, F. E. Needham, J. M. 
Samuelson, and F. M. Spegal. 

At the present time Arnold has a population 
of about 350; a ten-grade school, with Pro- 


.•*^ir .^ 

An Eaki.v I )av i\ arxold 

charge, and Christian. Methodist, and Baptist 

On the 9th day of February, 1909, the coun- 
ty board of Cu.ster county passed favorably 
upon a petition praying that the following de- 
scribed tract of land be incorporated as a vil- 
lage, to be known as the village of Arnold : 
"Beginning at a ])oint on the half-section line 
sixty rods east of the center of section 21, 
township 17 north, range 25 west; thence run- 
ning east along said half-section line to a 
point sixty rods west of the center of section 
22. township 17. range 25; thence south to a 
point on the half-section line si.Kty rods west 

fessor E. C. Pickett at the head as principal, 
J. \". Reader as intermediate teacher, and Miss 
Eeora Hardin as primary teacher. The two- 
room school building, which afforded ample 
accommodation for several years, was much 
too small for the rapidly increasing school pop- 
ulation during the present school year, neces- 
sitating the use of another room for the lower 
grades. A large and modern school building 
will be erected this year and, possibly, anoth- 
er grade added. Three churches. Christian. 
Methodist, and Baptist, all supporting resident 
pastors, are ministering to the spiritual needs 
of the comnuinity. .\t this writing, (some 




Street Scene at Arnold 

Finch Drug Store, Arnold 

rrr r i 

Masonic Temple at Arnold 


Residence of John Finch, at Arnold 

Residence of E. L. Cleveland, at Arnold 



time ago), the following lines of business are 
represented: Ben Hardin, general merchan- 
dise and hardware ; B. E. Robinson, physi- 
cian : W. H. Judkins. hardware and furniture ; 
the Farmers State Banl<, D. S. Bohrer, cash- 
ier; F. H. Gilcrest & Company, lumber, coal, 
and implements ; Dierks Lumber Company, 
lumber and coal ; John Finch & Son, druggists ; 
Arnold Mercantile Company, dry goods and 
groceries ; Parons Brothers, harness shop ; John 
Manara, barber; Ray & Reed, meat market; 
F. D. Reynolds, dentist; IMrs. J. Elsie Logan, 
physician ; Morrow & Backes. contractors and 
builders; H. J. Bedford, publisher Arnold Sen- 
tinel; Charles Beardsley, jeweler and opto- 
metrist; Mrs. Charles Beardsley, restaurant 
and bakery ; Duckett & Maddox, hardware and 
furniture: Helton & Roberts, general merchan- 
dise ; the Peoples State Bank, W. H. Jennings, 
Jr.. cashier ; Knox & Logan, real estate and 
insurance ; Mrs. H. R. Black, shoes and no- 
tions ; S. McCants, dry goods and groceries ; 
iSlcCants & Sauter, meat market; John P. 
Long, farm implements ; Confal Brothers, 
garage; S. Leland, roller mills; Grooms & 
Stewart, blacksmith shop; Phifer & Son, liv- 
ery, feed, and dray ; Nansel & Lohr, livery, 
feed, and dray; N. E. Paine, blacksmith shop; 
H. E. Bishop, cement-block factory and build- 
er; Arthur Down, lather; Mrs. Gertrude Par- 
sons, hotel ; Charles McGuire, postmaster ; 
John Samuelson, well-maker and plumber; 
Gus Morrow, painter; G. G. Gunter, plasterer 
and bricklayer: William Collins, restaurant; 
Wood & Smith, hotel ; Finch, Robinson & 
Meads, real estate; P. G. Houghton, real es- 
tate; Dr. M. A. Rown, chiropractic; T. S. 
Wood, contractor and builder; R. S. Wood, 
painter; F. J. Smith, cement-block maker and 
plasterer; Stevens & George, barbers; Mark 
S. Tapley, plumber; C. V. Rutner, auto livery. 
The Beatrice Creamery Company, David Cole 
Creamery Company, and the Farmers Co-oper- 
ative Creamery Company have stations here. 


When the railroad was completed and the 
first train reached Arnold, a gala day was 
])lanned and six thousand people entered into 

one of the greatest celebrations ever held in 
Custer count}-. The following is a newspaper 
account of the event : 

"Tt seems hardly possible that a town of less 
than 1.000 inhabitants could entertain within 
its gates 6,000 guests at one time and do it in 
such a perfect and satisfactory manner that 
out of the vast throng not a single complaint 
was heard. And yet this is the record Arnold 
placed to its everlasting credit on Friday of 
last week, when it celebrated "Railroad Day.' 
It was a great occasion and a great gathering, 
the crowd being one of the largest that has 
ever assembled in any town in the county. 

"For many weeks this hustling and enter- 
prising business town was preparing for the 
celebration, and all credit is due to the loyalty 
of its citizens and residents of the neighboring 
country, who so promptly responded to the 
demands made upon them and worked together 
as a unit in successfully putting through an 
affair that will for all future be marked as a 
red-letter day in the history of Arnold. 

"From early morning, people commenced 
pouring into town from every point, and large 
numbers had arrived the night before. Bro- 
ken Bow contributed about 150 of its population 
to the occasion, aiid it took twenty-eight autos 
to convey them there. Callaway sent 400 dele- 
gates. Oconto 200. Merna and Anselmo about 
100, and Grand Island 150. Gandy, Stapleton, 
Gothenburg, and all towns located west of 
there sent large delegations. 

"But it was when the Kearney special ar- 
rived that the biggest bunch of humanity 
dropped into town. The train was composed 
of ten coaches and was crowded to the roof, 
there being between 1.500 and 2,000 people 
aboard. It was a great sight to see them 
scramble from the windows of the coaches in 
their haste to reach the scene of festivities. 

"Xo stranger's money was any good there, 
— everything was free, and then some ! Even 
the stores were closed, so as to preclude the pos- 
sibility of any dioughts of a 'rake-off.' Every 
detail had been looked after so minutely, by 
competent management, that the visitors had 
no trouble in getting just what they wanted 
at the right time and in the right place — and 



in a hurry, at that. That was tlie beauty of 
it. There were no delays, and the whole af- 
fair glided along like a well constructed piece 
of mechanism using the finest quality of lubri- 

"There were four blocks of gaily decorated 
streets, the red, the white, and blue bunting 
being so arranged as to present a very at- 
tractive appearance. Another artistic feature 
was the placing of poles at about thirty foot 
intervals, the top of each being festooned with 
a flag of welcome. Every business place and 
residence sported some kind of decoration, and 
if ever a town presented a gala appearance, 
Arnold was certainly it. Five good bands were 
in attendance and there was music galore. 
Grand Island and Kearney both sent excellent 
bands, as also did Brady and Callaway. Ar- 
nold has a good organization of its own, which 
furnished pleasing music that was highly ap- 
preciated by the visitors. 

"The feeding of such a multitude of hun- 
gry people was by no means an easy task, and 
called forth no little ingenuity on the part of 
the management to properly manipulate it. 
But it was done as it should have been, and 
if any person left town carrying with him 
that 'gone feeling' about his stomach, it was 
strictly his own fault and could not be laid at 
the door of the hospitable hosts and hostesses. 

"And the food — there were mountains of it. 
Wagon-loads of buns, gallons and gallons of 
pickles, great mounds of juicy roast beef, 
oceans of coffee, so aromatic as to cause one 
to linger around in blissful ecstacy and just 
sniflf and sniff ; also pyramids of home-made 
pies and cakes, not bought ones, understand, 
but every one made by- the good housewives 
and daughters of that vicinity, who are well 
up in that sort of thing and thoroughly under- 
stood the art of preparing wholesome dainties 
for hungry people. No pure-food problem in 
the cooking they put up — it's the genuine 
article and plenty of it. 

"The dinner was served cafeteria style. 
There were two large tents and as one en- 
tered the first he was given a wood plate, then 
came a sandwich, next a pickle, further on 
great slices of roast beef and pork, then fol- 

lowed a big wedge of pie and a huge slice of 
cake, a tin cup containing coffee and then the 
knife and fork. About this time, your plate 
was so loaded down with good things that it 
was difficult for you to carry in that manner, 
so you passed into a second tent, seated your- 
self and proceeded to transfer the food to a 
place where it would do the most good. Then 
you passed out, deposited the cup among a 
heap of others, dropped the knife and fork 
into a receptacle placed there for that purpose, 
and threw the plate away. If your hunger 
was not satisfied, you were at perfect liberty 
to return to the first tent and repeat the per- 
formance. Talk about picnics. This had all 
the others of a like nature faded to an in- 
significant blur. And the best part of it was, 
the people were pleased. How could they help 
from feeling so, after the royal entertainment 
they had received? 

"Air. and Mrs. S. H. Reed, living in the 
oldest sod house in Arnold, issued invitation 
dinner-tickets to the railroad officials and heads 
of commercial clubs and their families. There 
are three large rooms in the house, and in 
each was a long table loaded with food and 
delicacies of all descriptions. Here the diners 
feasted to their hearts' content, and all voted 
Mr. and Mrs. Reed to be the very paragons, 
of what a model host and hostess should be. 

"The afternoon was devoted to speech-mak- 
ing, music, and sports. Judge C. L. Gutterson 
and County Attorney Beal, of Broken Bow, 
both made short talks, as also did Rev. Mr. 
Fagin, of the Arnold Methodist church. They 
all spoke along congratulatory lines and high- 
ly complimented the citizens of Arnold upon 
the splendid eft'ort they had made. 

"Although the citizens all worked so well 
together, it necessarily remained for some one 
to supervise, and no small amount of credit 
is due Messrs. John P. Long, J. !M. Samuelson, 
John Finch, and Rev. Mr. Fagin for the whole- 
hearted way in which they circulated among 
the people and made them feel at home. Bro- 
ken Bowites who were so fortunate as to be 
present, declare it to be the best arranged cele- 
bration they ever attended in this part of the 











(J X 

— C3 
■J-. ,_ 




■3 J 



"The Arnold Sentinel, edited by J. H. Bed- 
ford, got out a souvenir edition for the occa- 
sion, numbering twenty-four pages. These 
editions, which were given to the visitors free 
of charge, contain all kinds of useful informa- 
tion about Arnold, its pioneer days and rapid 
growth of late years. The pages are finely 
illustrated with local scenes and pictures of 
prominent residents. It is a handsome edition 
and well worthy of the energetic town it repre- 


At the time of this writing the village of 
Berwyn is thirty-two years old, and if it is 
small for its age, let it be understood that the 
size in no way reflects on the enterprising 

BiuDsEVE View of Berwyn' 

spirit of the citizens. It is a convenient trad- 
ing point and community center for the people 
on the adjacent farms and makes no preten- 
sions to being anything else. 

It was laid out in 1886, by the Lincoln Town- 
site Company, on the north side of the rail- 
road grade that was then being extended up 
the Muddy valley. The location centers on the 
section line which runs east and west between 
sections 16 and 21, township 16 north, range 
19 west. The half-section line running north 
and south through these sections divides the 
town east and west and forms the principal 
business street. In the same summer, J. O. 
Taylor, a substantial pioneer farmer, erected 
on the new townsite the first store and 
put in a stock of dry goods and groceries. 
About the same time R. P. McKnight put up 
another store building and used it jointly for 

a store and restaurant. Later, McKnight made 
application for a postoffice and was himself 
commissioned the first postmaster of Berwyn. 
The following winter the Dierks Lumber Com- 
pany established a branch office and put in a 
fine stock of lumber and such other accessories 
as generally pertain to the lumber business. 
A little later the West elevator was erected and 
a blacksmith here located early the next spring. 
About this time W. H. Mauk and H. S. Wayse 
put in a general hardware store, and the town 
was well started if not full fledged. It is to- 
day a prosperous vilage of modest proportions, 
with a population of about 300. 


One of the best little towns in the central 
part of the county is Merna, located twelve 
miles northeast of the county seat, on the main 
line of the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy 
Railroad. For many years it enjoyed the dis- 


tinction of being the grain market of the coun- 
ty. Before the Union Pacific was extended to 
Arnold and much of the grain from the West 
table found an outlet through that town, Mer- 
na handled and shipped more grain than any 
other town or railroad point west of Lincoln. 
In the days when the West table grain came 
down the west hill, Merna kept three elevators 
working almost night and day. She developed 
then the energy and push which present to- 
day a neat, brick-built village w.ith modern 
homes and all municipal improvements. 

The citizens of Merna are patriotic to a de- 
gree and in every war-drive have far exceeded 
their allotments or quotas. One of the most 
remarkable public sales ever held in the county 









« 1 










was the Red Cross sale held on the streets of 
Merna in May, 1918, in which donated articles 
to the amount of $4,400 were sold and the pro- 
ceeds contributed to the American Red Cross 
war work. This sale far exceeded the one 
held in Broken Bow one week previously, and 
stimulated the people of Anselmo to make a 
$6,000 sale one week later. 


H. K. Atkisson, one of the leading spirits 
of Merna, who has been long in the town, 
gives us the following concerning town his- 

"In 1881 W. G. Brotherton took a claim 
where the town of Merna now stands, build- 
ing a small sod house, which he occupied with 
his wife, as a home, postofifice and store, he 
being the second postmaster. Mr. Sam Dun- 
ning had been the first postmaster and the 
town was named after his daughter. Other 
early settlers in the community were C. P. 
Foote, Scott Hanna, S. H. Read, Reuben Gor- 
don, Warren Gordon, William Reede, Andy 
Somner, Joe S'iltter, Samuel Dunning, Al. 
Thomas, Charles Thomas. Most of these men 
were unmarried, there being but three women 
in the settlement — Mrs. Brotherton, j\lrs. 
Foote and Mrs. Dunning. These people were 
all farmers and homesteaders. In 1883 the 
postofifice and store, which comprised the town, 
were moved two miles west and north, in sec- 
tion 36, and a townsite company formed. J. 
D. Strong, Milt Casteel and W. E. Warren 
were added to the community at this time. 
Warren built a little shack and sold drugs, 
and Strong and Casteel formed a partnership 
with Brotherton in the general store. In 1886 
the Lincoln Townsite Company purchased 
Brotherton's claim and relocated the town on 
its former site, and the 'town' moved back 
again. In the fall of 1886 the railroad was 
built through the place and on to Anselmo. 
The town has grown not rapidly, but steadily, 
and is now a prosperous village, with good 
farms surrounding it. and real estate sells at 
a figure that the pioneers would have consid- 
ered an impossible dream in the early days. 

"The postmasters have been as follows : 

Samuel Dunning, W. G. Brotherton, C. P. 
Foote, R. J. Kelly, J. S. Francis, and Joe Fen- 

"The first newspaper was published by E. 
R. Purcell. After his removal to Broken Bow 
the town was without a paper for some time. 
Then a young man named Miller started a 
paper. This was not very long-lived and again 
the town was without its local news. Then 
Albert Lazenby tried the field of journalism 
and found it barren. In 1906 F. E. Pinch 
came into the town and, being an old news- 
paper man, established a paying business, nam- 
ing his new paper the Merna Postal Card. Af- 
ter two years he disposed of his business to 
Claude Hall, who was the owner and pub- 

1^ ^» 



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wrr^*-.".- I 

J -? 


V '■■;■■■ -■.-■■ .■•",•• aSI 

" v" ,•■ 




\.y ::--■ 


Residence of Dr. J. H. Morrow, Mern.\ 

lisher for some four or five years, when he sold 
it to Mr. Dutton, who is the present owner 
and editor. The name has been changed to 
Merna Messenger and it is a live local paper, 
receiving a good support. 

"Merna at the present time is prospering 
very satisfactorily. During the last year the 
large, brick store building belonging to H. K. 
Atkisson and occupied by the firm of C. R. 
Atkisson & W. Davis has been built, also the 
fine garages of B. S. Wells, and W. Ferritor. 
Several fine dwelling houses have been erected, 
among them are the homes of Mrs. W. H. 
Reeder, John Hipsley, Mrs. J. S. Francis, 
Miss Anna Kloven, and H. K. Atkisson. The 
business of the town consists of two general 
stores, one grocery store, two banks, one drug 
store, four garages, two blacksmith shops, one 
collecting agency, one hotel, one restaurant, 
one exclusive auto agency, one real-estate 



agency, two hardware stores, two machinery 
agencies, one jewelry store, one furniture and 
undertaking establishment, one moving-picture 

J. C. Moore has arrangements made for a 
new brick garage to be erected as soon as the 
material can be secured. 

"The professional men are represented by 
two physicians, one dentist, three clerg>'men 
and a splendid corps of teachers in the public 
school. Merna has had fine Chautauquas for 
the past five years, and a lecture course every 

valley, is located on the Grand Island and Wy- 
oming branch of the B. & JNI. Railroad, fifty- 
seven miles northwest of Grand Island, twenty- 
three miles southeast of Broken Bow, and 
forty-five miles north of Kearney. The loca- 
tion of Mason City, situated, as it is, in almost 
the central part of the southeastern quarter of 
Custer county, is worthy of the attention of all 
who desire to locate in a town for which not 
only nature but also circumstances have pro- 
vided for so abundantly, and one which will 
undoubtedly make a busy, hustling town of 

fl^ . .._.—< - ■-■■:- .■•, 


UliuiL, by S. D. Butcher] 

Mason City Twenty Ye.\rs Ago 

year, much longer than that. The Chautau- 
quas are well attended and self-supporting, the 
lecture course not quite so fortunate, as there 
are so many other attractions during the lec- 
ture course season. 

"Merna furnished one soldier to the Span- 
ish-American war, Roy Luce, who after the 
close of that unpleasantness returned safely 
and is at present living in Colorado. In all 
the contributions for the present war ^lerna 
and vicinity have done their part." 


Mason City, the "Queen City" of the ^luddy 

importance. The townsite was located by the 
Lincoln Land Company in April, 1886. The 
land on which the town now stands was pur- 
chased of Nels Anderson and Mrs. George W. 
Runyan, 160 acres being secured from each of 
these parties. About one-half of this 320 acres 
has been platted into lots, the other half being 
held by the company for the same purpose in 
case the growth of the town demands it. The 
slope from the hills to the valley is gradual, just 
sufficient for good drainage. Nearly all the dif- 
ferent branches of business, trades, and profes- 
sions are represented here by a live and ener- 
getic set of people. The following is a full 



of the different branches of business, and those 
who represent them as recorded by j\I. C. 
Warrington in 1901 : 

The Mason Cit}^ Banking Company, with P. 
H. Marley, president, J. J. Marley, vice-presi- 
dent, and R. B. Walker, cashier. In addition 
to the banking business, Mr. Marley is exten- 
sively engaged in the real-estate business. The 
Mason City Transcript is the only newspaper 
published in Mason City. The paper was es- 
tablished by Martin & Dellinger in June, 1886. 
M. C. Warrington, the present proprietor and 
editor, has had active control of the paper 
since August. 1886, making him the oldest 
editor in point of service and continuous con- 
nection with one paper in Custer county. For 
some years past the editor has been ably as- 
sisted in the publication of the paper by Will- 
iam A. Anderson. The mercantile business 
of Mason City is represented by E. G. Bur- 
rows, general merchandise ; W. C. Elliott, gen- 
eral merchandise : T. J. Wood, general mer- 
chandise ; O. H. Moomey, general merchan- 
dise ; S. M. Chase, general merchandise ; A. 
O'Brien, hardware and groceries ; G. P. Meek, 
fruit and groceries ; Hurley & Warrington, 
hardware, harness, and farm machinery ; P. A. 
Carlson, veterinarian; John M. Browning, ho- 
tel; J. H. McAdams, furniture; H. C. Chase, 
Jr., successor to Chase Brothers, druggist: J. 
P. Nelson, harness and machinery ; I\Ioomey 
Brothers, butchers ; Deardorf & Duke, farm 
machinery. Miss Nannie Serven. millinery ; 
Mrs. O. H. Moomey, millinery; M. L. Lamb, 
collections and insurance ; L. S. Ellsworth, at- 
torney and solicitor ; John Meek, livery ; Dr. 
A. E. Robertson, physician and surgeon ; John 
Taylor & Son, blacksmiths; J. T. Castellaw, 
blacksmith. Grain dealers : Central Granaries 
Company, W. C. Rusmissel, agent; Tierney & 
Wirt, James Fairfield, agent. Dierks Lumber 
& Coal Company, E. Myers, agent ; M. B. 
Bunnell and James Fairfield, live stock ; H. L. 
Crowley, dray and express; M. E. Kellenbar- 
ger, agent for the B. & M. Railroad; J. H. 
Welch, miller ; G. F. Frasier, barber ; Weimer 
Brothers, painters and paper hangers ; Harvey 
Myers, photographer; H. W. Snook, optician 
and jeweler; Mason City ]\Iill, John Seeley, 

proprietor (former owner, J. W. Willis). The 
postoffice was established in 1886, George W. 
Runyan, postmaster, who was succeeded, in 
the spring of 1887, by W. C. Rusmissel. In 
April, 1889, L. B. Hill was appointed post- 
master. M. C. Warrington succeeded Mr. Hill 
in September, 1893, and served until January 
1, 189S, when he was succeeded by R. K. Mil- 
ler, who is still postmaster. 

The first merchant to do business in the vil- 
lage was A. Gates, who opened a store in July. 
1886, in a small shed building. R. B. Walker 
was Mr. Gates' clerk. Mr. Gates retired from 
business in 1900. The first railroad train to 

'W , 

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MUIII Jill k ■ 


Residence of John T. Wood, at Mason City 

enter the townsite was on July 27, 1886, and 
the then few residents of the town had a joy- 
ful celebration. Mason City was incorporated 
in 1887, and the school district, No. 169-, was 
also organized in 1887. The schools of the 
village have always been kept up to the high- 
est standard of excellence. 

There have been some exciting occurrences 
in the history of Mason City. In November. 
1886, a store building owned and occupied by 
Mack & McEndeflfer, was destroyed by fire, 
and three persons, J. J. Hoagland, Malcolm 
]\Iiller, and ^Malcolm McEndeffer. lost their 
lives. On July 2, 1892, a cyclone visited 
Mason Cit}' and vicinity, and damage to the 
amount of $20,000 was done in the village. 
The schoolhouse. two churches, and many 
other buildings were destroyed. A great deal 



of damage was done also in the country sur- 
rounding the town. 

The religious interests of the people of 
Mason City were well looked after. There 
were three church buildings — the Baptist, 
J. R. Woods, resident pastor ( this was the 
first church organized, and had a large 
membership) ; the Methodist Episcopal' people 
erected a handsome edifice in 1899; the Catho- 
lic church organization has a neat and com- 
modious place of worship, and services were 
supplied by Rev. Father Flannigan, of Dale. 

The valley of the Muddy, in which ^lason 
City is so favorably located, is from two to 
three miles wide and has been so often de- 
scribed by the enthusiastic tourist that to speak 
now of its superior advantages and adapta- 
bility- in the requirements of the farmer and 
stockman would be superfluous. It is tra- 
versed throughout its length by the ^luddy, 
a clear stream of pure, sjiring water, which 
at many places, and particularly at Alason 
City, has been utilized as water power of an 
almost unlimited capacity, by simply throwing 
a short dam across it. The valley at this point 
is about three miles broad. Going north 
across the valley we come to the hills, which 
at a glance seem rough, but a closer inspection 
discloses beautiful sequestered parks, broad 
terraces and level prairie land, very inviting 
to the eye of the agriculturist. Actual expe- 
rience has demonstrated the soil of these lands 
to be as rich and productive as the vallev land. 
Even the rougher hills and steeper declivities 
show the prolific nature of the soil by covering 
themselves to the very top with a luxuriant 
growth of grass that affords for stock a pas- 
turage second to none in the Union. Further 
north a few miles is Clear creek valley, from 
two to three miles in width, thickly dotted 
over with unmistakable signs of thrift and 
prosperity. Here is one of the oldest settle- 
ments in the county, and the farmers are com- 
fortably wealthy and happy. This valley ex- 
tends from the northwest to the southeast, and 
is almost parallel with the Muddy valley, with 
which it unites some distance below. Mason 
City is reached from this valley through can- 
yons which nature has provided as natural 

road-beds, with easy road grades over the sum- 
mit. An arm of this valley is called Elk val- 
ley and winds up. to the high lands and spreads 
out, forming Lee's Park, a broad expanse of 
level land of several thousand acres in extent, 
and containing a thriving settlement of well- 
to-do farmers. This country is all tributary to 
Mason City. For a distance of three or four 
miles south of the town the country is gently 
rolling, well adapted to cultivation and graz- 
ing, and answering well the description of the 
country on the north side, except instead of 
terminating in several valleys, it rises to a 
level valley called "The Basin," which contains 
some ten square miles of extraordinarily rich 
farming land and is occupied by a class of 
farmers that would do credit to any country. 
What we say of the people of the basin, how- 
ever, may equally apply to those of the whole 
country we are describing. They are Ameri- 
cans, as a rule, of education, and intelligence, 
with here and there one of the better class of 
Germans, Swedes, Danes, and Norwegians. 

From !Mason City, in every direction in the 
liighlands, we find, in addition to the valleys 
and tables mentioned, a system of narrow val- 
leys, small tables, high parks and terraces, 
separated by hills too steep and irregular for 
cultivation, but richly covered with a generous 
coat of native grass, which affords pasture 
much superior to the longer grasses upon the 
meadow of the valleys and tables. This pas- 
ture has a peculiarity which distingitishes it 
from all others. The grass is equally nutri- 
tious in winter and summer, and stock will 
fatten here in January, when there is nothing 
in a state of nature in the meadow to sustain 
life. The valley of Elk creek, one of the beau- 
tiful little valleys of Custer county, is almost 
wholly tributary to Mason City. This valley 
is settled by a good, thrifty class of farmers, 
who have fine homes and farms and are a 
prosperous and happy people. The shiftless. 
restless, migrating homesteader, who remained 
long enough to prove up and get a mortgage 
on his land, has given way to the more thrifty, 
more prudent, and more industrious farmer 
and stock-raiser. The business men and farm- 
ers of the southeastern quarter of Custer 



county welcome the on:oniing years with a 
feeling that there is still greater prosperity 
for all who apply business methods, honesty 
and industry to their transactions. 


In the last decade and a half. Mason City 
has not made pretentious growth, but her 
business interests have been solidified and es- 
tablished on a permanent and paying basis. It 
makes no pretensions to be a city and has small 
ambitions in that direction. It does claim, 
however, to be a thriving village, with every 
facility for home-making that could be ex- 

Concerning its business status at the present 
time M. C. Warrington, to whom the public 
is indebted for this stor\' of Mason City, has 
this to say : 

"Nearly every line of business and industry 
is well represented in Mason City. The dififer- 
ent lines are represented as follows : The 
Mason City Banking Company is the oldest 
bank in Custer county, having been established 
in May, 1886, by Austin V. Hathaway. It is 
capitalized at $25,000. and is recognized as 
one of the solid financial institutions of Custer 
county. Its officers are : R. B. Walker, presi- 
dent : P. H. Marley, vice-president ; and Cor- 
nell Newman, cashier. Mr. Walker, under 
whose management it has been for the past 
fifteen years, has been connected with the bank 
for more than a quarter of a century. Mr. P. 
H. Marley, who is now a resident of Los An- 
geles, California, and who still retains large 
interests in Custer county lands, has been con- 
nected with the bank for thirty years, and it 
was his guiding hand which safely piloted the 
bank through the dangerous shoals and rough 
seas of panics and financial distresses, and 
drouth which overwhelmed the country in the 
'90s. The Mason City Banking Company has 
a large clientele of patrons and carries heavy 

"The Farmers State Bank is another insti- 
tution in which the people of Mason City take 
pride. This is comparatively a new concern, 
when its competitor is taken into considera- 
tion. The Farmers' State Bank w^as founded 

nine years ago and its officers are : C. B. 
Lauridsen, president ; E. W. Hiser, vice-presi- 
dent, and John T. Wood, cashier. The bank, 
which is capitalized at $25,000, has a list of 
customers and patrons and carries a line of 
deposits which make it the envy of many older 
institutions. . Since its establishment the Farm- 
ers' State Bank has been under the exclusive 
personal management of John T. Wood. Mr. 
Wood is a pioneer of Custer county, coming 
here at an early age, in 1884. He has had ex- 


perience as a farmer, merchant, and public 
official, serving four years as register of deeds, 
of Custer county. This bank erected for its 
own use, in 1916, a fine $12,000 building. 

"The Mason City Transcript, Mason City's 
only newspaper, so long owned and published 
by M. C. Warrington, is now owned and edit- 
ed by J. F. Peebles, who is ably assisted by his 
wife. The Transcript has a big circulation in 
the country surrounding the town and is a fac- 
tor for much good in the community. The 
paper is Democratic in politics. 

"W. C. Elliott, E. G. Burrows, S. M. Chase, 
and H. L. Crosley have large stocks of gen- 



eral merchandise. Mr. Elliott is the pioneer 
merchant of Mason City, commencing busi- 
ness in 1891. A. O'Brien, a resident of Cus- 
ter county since 1882, now carries on an ex- 
clusive hardware store, but until recently also 
carried groceries. C. E. Bass & Company, 
with J. G. Bass as manager, carry hardware, 
farm implements, automobiles, windmills, 
pumps, etc. George J. Anderson is proprietor 
of the only meat market. R. H. Duke has the 
exclusive drug store. J. C. Nelson & Com- 
pany have a harness and shoe-repairing store. 
Mrs. G. A\'. Whitehead has millinery and la- 
dies' furnishings. Chase Brothers and Charles 
O. Lamb are proprietors of automobile gar- 
ages. Mr. Lamb is completing a new cement- 
stone garage building, fifty by a hundred feet, 
for his business. !Meek & Hawkins are pro- 
prietors of the livery barn. W. N. Hurley 
and J. W. Taylor are the village blacksmiths. 
Schultz Brothers, L. L. Narrazon, and T. J. 
Wood are the carpenters. Hans G. Arp and 
the Farmers' Shipping Company handle live 
stock. G. F. Frasier and Cleir Chrisman are 
barbers. W. C. Taylor is proprietor of a flour 
and feed store. A. A. Coxon and son main- 
tain a restaurant. M. S. Fairfield has temper- 
ance drinking parlors. ~SL C. Carroll is resi- 
dent agent and distributor for the Standard Oil 
Company, which has a large plant here. \M11- 
iam F. Davis has the hydraulic-well and wind- 
mill business. E. W. Edwards and son have 
an automobile-repair shop. W. C. Elliott and 
F. S. ^loomey are proprietors of the fine opera 
house, which contains three large store rooms 
on the first floor and a splendid hall and office 
rooms on the second floor. This beautiful 
building was erected in 1912. Dr. Ralph M. 
McClaughan is our resident dentist. Dr. A. C. 
Rumery and Dr. P. H. J. Carothers are 
the physicians who administer to the ills of 
the people. Dr. Carothers also maintains 
a fine, large hospital in connection with his 
practice. The Mason City Flour Mills is 
another local institution of which the town 
is justly proud. It is a large four-story 
structure, equipped with model machinery 
and uses water power furnished by Muddy 
creek. A. A. Karinow is proprietor and 

enjoys a prosperous business. H. A. Doane 
owns and operates a cement plant in which 
a number of men find employment in the 
summer months. The Hotel Melvin is 
owned by Frank N. ^lossm'an, and is operated 
by Charles Kennedy, a popular landlord. The 
Farmers' Shipping Company, a co-operative 
association, owns the creamery and handles 
cream, poultry, and live stock. Frank G. Hall 
is manager. The Central Granaries Company 
runs the elevator, with J. ^^ ■ Fairfield as man- 
ager. Levi King and F. N. Mossman are land 
agents. The two banks also deal in lands. 
The pleasure and recreation of the people of 
the town are supplied by two motion-picture 
theatres, one owned by Lamb & Miller, the 
other by F. S'. Aloomey. There are two lum- 
ber and coal yards, Dierks Lumber & Coal 
Company, and the J. H. ^Melville Lumber 
Company, W. S. Moore, local manager." 

The fxistoffice at Mason Citj' was established 
in the month of October, 1886, with George 
\\'. Runyan as postmaster. For the first six 
months of the town's history the mail facili- 
ties were very poor and caused endless annoy- 
ance. The mail was brought across the coun- 
try on a Star route to Algernon and then 
brought to Mason City by some one who vol- 
unteered to go after it on mail days. The let- 
ter mail was taken care of by H. B. Austin, 
cashier of the bank, while the paper mail was 
thrown into a box, for each individual to help 
himself. After holding the postoffice a few 
months Mr. Runyan resigned and was suc- 
ceeded by W. C. Rusmissell. On the change 
of administrations in 1889, Captain L. B. Hill, 
an honored veteran of the Civil war, was ap- 
pointed postmaster. M. C. Warrington was 
postmaster from 1893 to 1898, when he was 
succeeded by R. K. Miller, who is also a Civil 
war veteran. J. W. Fairfield succeeded Mr. 
Miller, and was succeeded in turn by W. C. 
Rusmissell, who is now postmaster. The post- 
office has kept pace with the growth of the 
town and the surrounding country, and has 
two rural free-delivery routes and one Star 
route, supplying mail to a large territory. J. 
C. Spencer and Leo Spencer, father and son. 
are carriers on the free-deliverv routes, and 



E. \y. Edwards on the Star route. It is rather 
an unusual incident that all the men who have 
been postmasters of ]\Iason City live here yet 
except Mr. Runyan, who resides at Broken 


Among the present citizens of Mason City 
u'ho were residents during the first year of the 
town's history are VV. N. Hurley, H. L. Cros- 
ley, M. C. Warrington, and W. C. Rusmissell. 
Those who have lived in the town twenty-five 
years or more are : Messrs. T. J. Wood, G. F. 
Frasier, J. P. Nelson, E. G. Burrows, and 
]\Iesdames W. N. Hurley, H. L. Crosley, M. 
C. Warrington, Belle ^'. Robertson, Martha 
Chase, J. P. Nelson. Niels Anderson, from 
whom the west half of the townsite was pur- 
chased, with his family, has been an honored 
citizen of the village since he sold his home- 
stead, in the spring of 1886, to the Lincoln 
Land Company. 


M. C. Warrington bears the distinction of 
being the only ]\Iason City man who has been 
honored by appointment to a federal office out- 
side of home. He is now register of the LTnit- 
ed States Land office at Broken Bow, having 
been appointed in Alay, 1916. ]\lr. Warring- 
ton was postmaster of Mason City under the 
second administration of Grover Cleveland. He 
has also been member and chairman of the vil- 
lage board, and has served as village clerk and 
treasurer, justice of the peace, chairman of the 
township board, besides serving ten years on 
the school board. 


Sargent, a hustling village of over 800 in- 
habitants, is situated in the northeastern part 
of Custer count)', in the midst of a fine agri- 
cultural and stock-raising district. It is lo- 
cated on the north side of the Middle Loup 
river, about one mile from that stream. Sar- 
gent is one of the oldest towns in the county, 
having been laid out in 1883. The first bank 
in the county is located here. The first build- 
ing erected was the general store of J. K. 
Spacht. in the summer of 1883, and the loca- 

tion was the middle of a field of wheat. The 
town grew rapidly and was particularly lively 
in the summer of 1888, when the B. & AI. 
Railroad grade was built, and it was expected 
that the cars would be running into the town 
that fall. Owing to a big strike on the sys- 
tem, the road was not completed at that time. 
The drouth years of the early '90s caused the 
town to dwindle down to a mere shadow of its 
former proportions. In the fall of 1899, how- 
ever, the railroad was built from Arcadia to 
Sargent, making the latter the terminus, and 
since that time the town has had a very sub- 
stantial growth. The Independent Telephone 
Company, of Broken Bow, extended its line 
to Sargent in the fall of 1900. The same fall 
was erected a fine, two-storv frame school 

City Watkr Tower, Sargent 

building, which now houses one of the best 
schools in the county, under the charge of 
three teachers. Sargent has two churches, the 
Congregational and the ]\Iethodist. It has 
several fine business blocks, two newspapers, 
two banks, two grain elevators, and a cream- 
ery, with other lines of business well repre- 
sented. Following is a complete business di- 
rectory of the town, March 8, 1901 : 

Armstrong, D. E., windmills, pumps, and re- 
pairs; Austin, J. S., racket store, general mer- 
chandise ; Barstow & Perrin, hardware, paints, 
and harvesting goods ; Bridgiord, Ben, drug- 
gist, R. W. Hicks, manager (Mr. Bridgford 
is an old pioneer and came to IMason City in 
1886 with a drug store, which he ran seven 
vears, and he is now located at Ord, Nebras- 
ka) ; Brown, M. F., contractor and builder; 
Brumbausfh, G. W., Commercial hotel and 



Residknce of James W. Luxdy, Sargent 

Maix Street, Sargent 

wMM-'J « ilM 

Residence of A. P. Smith, Sargent 

Residence of Dr. C. H. Fenstermacher, Sargent 

Residence of W. B. Kexyon, Sargent 

Main Street, Sargent 



livery; Brown, E. R., Windsor hotel; Seers, 
Robert, contractor and builder; Currie Grain 
Company, grain and coal ; Custer County 
Bank, James Haggerty president, Charles C. 
Gardner cashier, does a general banking busi- 
ness; (Charles C. Gardner is also postmaster 
and local agent for telephone line) ; Cropper, 
W. T., farm machinery ; creamery, Beatrice 
Creamery Company proprietor ; *Conhiser & 
Haggerty, general merchandise and groceries ; 
Davis & Company, furniture, carpets, and un- 
dertaking goods ; Dierks Lumber & Coal Com- 
pany, lumber, coal, and building material, 
Frank Phillips manager; Fenstermacher, C. 
H., physician and surgeon ; Freeman, Charles, 
liquors and cigars ; Farmers & Alerchants 
Bank. A. P. Cully, president. Charles Nicolai, 
cashier, does a general banking business ; 
Graham, E. J., dentist; Geiser & S\vanson, 
farm implements and hardware; Groff, Mrs. 
H., restaurant ; Hendrickson, Charles, billiard 
hall; Harris, C. L., contractor and builder; 
Jacques & Barstovv, grain and coal ; Leader, 
newspaper, A. H. Barks editor and proprietor ; 
Leininger, P. H., live stock ; Little & Company, 
Farmers' Meat Market; McGregor Brothers, 
blacksmiths; IMorris, Miss Gertrude, dress- 
maker; ]\Iitchell, R. J., groceries, successor to 
B. W. Sullivan; Nelson. W. H., painter and 
paperhanger; Olson. T.. restaurant; Perrin 
hotel, S. L. Perrin proprietor; Parks, C. W., 
live stock, successor to Parks & Cram ; Pizer, 
J. B.. New York Store; Savage. E. P.. real 
estate and insurance, agent Lincoln Land 
Company ; Savage Brothers, Star livery barn ; 
Saunders, Walter, shoe and harness shop, gen- 
eral merchandise ; S'pacht & Lakeman, grocer- 
ies and general merchandise ; Saville, F. N., 
barber shop; Scriber, L. A., liquors and ci- 
gars; Semler. J. D., meat market; Shaw. D. 
M., brick mason and plasterer ; the Nezv Era, 
newspaper and job office. J. C. L. Wisely ed- 
itor and proprietor ; Toliver, John, auctioneer 
and salesman, restaurant and bakery ; Tobias, 
A. A., jeweler and optician; Troxell & John- 
son, hardware ; Waynick. L W.. druggist, 
physician and surgeon ; Werber, Rudolph, har- 
ness shop; R. H. Monroe, agent for the B. & 
^^. Railroad and Adams Express Company; 

Rev. Leslie, pastor of the Methodist Episcopal 
church ; Rev. Jones, pastor of the Congrega- 
tional church; Professor H. H. Hiatt, princi- 
pal of the Sargent schools, his assistants being 
Miss Mamie Cooper and Miss Nightengale. 


Ansley is an enterprising town of LOOO pop- 
ulation, located in the southeastern part of 
Custer county, on the main line of the Chicago, 
Burlington & Ouincy Railroad to the north- 

The county around it is adapted to farming 
and stock-raising and these are the chief occu- 
pations of the people. The first settlement was 
made in the year 1886, in whi:h year the Lin- 
coln Land Company purchased froiu Anthony 
Wilkinson, a ranchman, the land upon which 
the town now stands, and platted the town, 
naming it in honor of a lady by the name of 
Ansley who had invested considerable money 
in real estate here. The first frame building 
erected was occupied by a lawyer by the name 
of George Snell. The second building was 
the store building of Edgar Varney, which he 
moved over from Westerville. These struc- 
tures were soon followed by others, among 
them the Van Sant House, later known as the 
Commercial hotel, the drug store of Sam 
Royds, two bank buildings, the stores of E. H. 
Burrows and A. H. Shepard and the Eureka 
hotel. The private residences of E. H. Gaines 
and Dan Hagin were erected in 1887 and that 
of C. J. Stevens in 1888. Among the first 
citizens of Ansley may be mentioned A. H. 
Turpen, O. P. Allphin, Mrs. H. Stevenson, C. 
J. Stevens, Edgar Varney, Dan Hagin, E. H. 
Gaines, E. H. Burrows, D. A. Van Sant, Sam 
Royds, Thomas Blowers, A. H. Shepard, C. 
M. Dorr, James Davis, F. E. Gosselin, and A. 
L. and E. A. Butler, to whose enterprise and 
business judgment in those early times are 
largely due the later progress and prosperity 
of this community. Mr. E. H. Burrows, one 
of the old citizens, describes his first visit to 
Ansley in these words: 

"I first struck the town in the luiddle of 
May, 1886. At that time, there was a tent and 
a wagon-load of lumber to mark the spot where 





-^^^^ |n -J 





Rf.sihence of Cr.ARr.NiT. Al ackf.v, Axsley 

Residence of J. T. McGowax, 

Residence of C. H. I-. Stfixmeier, at Ansley 

First Xatioxai, Bank axd Stf.ixmeier Buh.dixg, 

Moderx Woodmen Hau., Anseey 



the future metropolis of the southeastern part 
of Custer county was to be. I selected my lot 
for a building site at that time and went back 
east for a while, to await developments, re- 
turning about the 7th of July. On my return, 
I found more tents and more lumber on the 
ground, and a few shanties in the course of 
erection. We were compelled to haul our 
lumber for building purposes by wagon from 
Kearney, over si.xty miles, which brought the 
price of six-dollar-a-thousand knot-holes up to 
the price of 'B' select. While staying at An- 
sley this time, I boarded at the West End ho- 
tel, a fine structure built of 'B' select, with 
kitchen, dining room, office, parlor, bathroom, 
and bedroom combined. Everybody was good- 
natured and the landlord expected his guests 
to 'double up' every night with whoever he 
saw fit to assign us, and at the first peep o' 
day the clerk would come and shake us, say- 
ing, 'Time to roll off them tables ; the girls 
want to set the tables for breakfast,' with which 
request we cheerfully complied, pulling on 
our shoes as quickly as possible, going out of 
doors and leaning up against the knot-holes 
until the bell rang for breakfast, when we sat 
up to the table. The waiter then called out 
from the kitchen, 'Tea or coffee, which? you 
fellows on the north end.' Of course we said 
'coffee' because it had more body than tea, 
which prevented us from seeing what was 
floating about between the bottom and top of 
the cup. The waiter brought in a plate of hot 
biscuits and another with eggs and bacon, set 
them on the table and said. 'Now, boys, help 
vourselves.' We waited for some time, won- 
dering if we were expected to use our hands 
for plates and our fingers for knives and 
forks. We finally asked the waiter if that was 
the intention. He replied, 'Come off the dump! 
Shoo ! Shoo ! Shoo ! There is your tableware.' 
And sure enough there it was. We had failed 
to remove the cover of fat. saucy flies that had 
taken possession of our plates as if they had 
expected to be waited upon first. S'uch was 
my first experience with Ansley. When I ar- 
rived a third time, after an absence of four or 
five weeks, I found that a great change had 
been made — from a brown prairie to a busy 

village. I found about twenty buildings, in 
dift'erent stages of erection, my own among 
them, which was partly inclosed. I scraped a 
lot of shavings together, spread down my 
blankets and slept under my own vine and fig 
tree. But, alas ! not alone. After I fell asleep, 
I dreamed I was a boy again and went down 
to the creek to take a swim, and just as I was 
ready to take a plunge into the water, I fell 
backwards into a bunch of nettles. I awoke, 
and as soon as I got myself located, I realized 
that it was not nettles, but fleas." 

The railroad was put through Ansley in the 
fall of 1886. Mr. Fred Gosselin was the first 
operator. The putting of the railroad through 
not only brought Americans, but also folks 
from across the seas to share in the bounties 
of this western country. One of these, Mrs. 
Anna Thessen, in a letter from Mason City 
addressed to ]\Ir. E. P. Gaines and dated June 
16. 1918, tells of her first visit to Ansley: 

"As I read the question in your advertise- 
ment, I thought that I would send in a few 
items. It is thirty years ago. the 21st of this 
month, that I, a young girl of seventeen, fresh 
from Germany, came to Ansley. As I couldn't 
talk American, I did the next best thing and 
got an English-German dictionary, in which I 
looked up such words as 'hotel,' breakfast,' 
'how much,' 'coft'ee,' 'tea,' 'team.' 'livery barn,' 
and so on. and that way found the hotel, 
asked for breakfast, paid for it, Ifired a team 
and was taken to the farm of John Graf. The 
hotel was called the 'Cottage Hotel' and was 
kept by either Mrs. \'an Sant or Mrs. Alex 
Moore : anyhow it was one of the two. The 
livery barn was kept by Ed. Sloan and was 
standing west of Harry McNulty's restaurant. 
I also bought candy at Edgar Varney's store. 
The bank, I think, was run at that time by C. 
J. Stevens." 

The motto of .\nsley is: "Push, that's .\n- 
sley,'' and the enterprise and thrift of its busi- 
ness men have proved its proper applicability. 
They are, and have generally been, men of 
unselfish service, broad vision, and community 
pride — -men whose aim is, and has been, to 
serve the community as well as themselves. 
And whatever this town may become, it will 



owe much to those sturdy pioneers who, in 
defiance of hail, hot winds, and drouth, blazed 
the trail that others have followed to success 
and opulence. 


The first bank in Ansley was established in 
the year 1888, by C. J. Stevens, F. M. Rublee, 
and B. F. Ilaeke, and was known as the 
Ansley Banking Company. In 1902 C. Mackey, 
Frank Young, and T. T. \'arney bought out 
the banking company and reorganized it as 
the First National Bank. It continued as 
such until 1916, when it was changed to the 
State Bank of Ansley. Its present officers 
are : President, C. Mackey; vice-president. B. 
J. Tierney; cashier, R. A. Studley; assistant 
cashier, E. O. Morris ; other stockholders and 
directors, Andrew Sherbeck and Anthony Wil- 
kinson. Its present capital and surplus aggre- 
gate $40,000 and its deposits $500,000. 

In the year 1887 Peter Fowlie and William 
West organized the Bank of Ansley, but this 
failed in the year 1890. 

The Farmers' State Bank was organized in 
1905. Its first president was Walter E. New- 
comb and its first cashier was George E. 
Ri:litmyer. Mr. Newcomb was succeeded by 
Frank Baker and he by George E. Ri:htnlyer, 
who continued as president up to the time of 
his death. October 1, 1917. The present offi- 
cers are : President, Frank Baker ; vice-pres- 
ident, Lewis S'. Newcomb ; cashier. Grover A. 
Holeman ; assistant cashier, A. C. Van Home. 
In the 1907 panic this bank never refused to 
cash a check. Its present authorized capital is 
$25,000 and its deposits amount to over 

The Security State ISank was organized 
February 5, 1915. Its first president was A. 
P. Dobesh and its first cashier was F. N. 
Austin. Its present captial and surplus amount 
to $21,000 with deposits of $220,000. Its re- 
sources have increased from $57.8-K).97 in 
August, 1915. to $244,983.89 in August. 1918. 
Its present officers are: President. William 
Ihlow : vice-president, Henry Schmid : cashier, 
E. P. Gaines ; assistant cashier, D. C. Thomp- 


The first merchant in Ansley was Edgar 
\'arney, who moved his store over from Wes- 
terville and put it in charge of his son, T. T. 
Varney, in the early part of the year 1886. 
The same year, Thomas H. Blowers also 
moved from Westerville. About the same 
time, W. D. Fritz opened up the first hard- 
ware store, in the building with Edgar Varney. 
The following year saw the advent of E. H. 
Burrows, A. H. Shepard, Gaines & Hagin, and 
the Butler Brothers. Burrows continued in 
business up to the year 1912. when he disposed 
of his interests to E. L. Kellc}- and removed to 
Los Angeles, California. A. H. Shepard was 
in business up to 1916, when he disposed of his 
stock of goods to his son, Archie H., and his 
daughter, Myrtle C, and entered the post of- 
fice. Gaines & Hagin ran their business until 
1909, when they dissolved partnersliip, Hagin 
disposing of his interests to Gaines and. later, 
starting a new store, which he continued to 
run until 1913. Gaines continued at the old 
stand up to the time of his death, January 2, 
1915, when his sons disposed of his stock of 
goods. Thomas H. Blowers, in the early part 
of the '90s, traded his mercantile business for 
the milling interests of A. W. Hawk, who 
operated it with C. J. Stevens and I. Clark 
about ten years. Of the present merchants, 
C. J. Stevens started his present store in 1895, 
J. H. Kerr in 1899, F. P. Hawk in 1903, L. F. 
Landmesser in 1907, J. H. \'arney in 1914, and 
Shepard & Shepard in 1916. 

The first furniture and undertaking estab- 
lishment in An.sley was run by Fred Gosselin, 
who opened it in 188') or 18')0. The R. G. 
Applcgarth Furniture and Undertaking Com- 
pany have been in businesss since 1906. Mr. 
Applegarth died in the year 1916, since which 
time the manager, H. D. Reed, who has been 
with the company from the has had sole 
charge. Mattley & Hoover and C. J. Stevens 
both carry a line of furniture, while the for- 
mer also do an undertaking business. 

The first hardware dealer was W. D. Fritz, 
but the Butler Brothers and Gaines & Hagin 
also carried a full line of hardware and farm 
machinery. In 1902 W. S. Mattley began sell- 



ing hardware and farm machinery, disposing 
of his business to his brother, Charles E., in 
May, 1914. In April, 1916, the firm became 
Mattley & Hoover, through the. admission of 
C. B. Hoover. U. W. Thompson sold farm 
machinery from 1903 to 1913. The present 
dealers in farm machinery are J. D. Knapp 
and Hiser & Detwiler. Mr. Knapp has been 
in his present business since 1906 and Messrs. 
Hiser and Detwiler since 1914. 

From the start, all of the general mercantile 
stores carried lines of clothing. (Jur present 
clothier is Roscoe G. Secord, who keeps a full 
line of men's furnishing goods — hats, boots, 
shoes, rubbers, neckties, and collars. Our 
tailor. Otto Winter, who came in September. 
1916, also takes orders for suits, besides doing 
a cleaning and pressing business. 

The first milliner in Ansley was Miss \\'\\- 
helmina Alengel (now Mrs. M. C. Warrington, 
of Mason City), who opened a shop the year 
that the village was started. Then came Miss 
Nettie Worden (now Mrs. R. M. Hayslip). 
She was followed by Mrs. Mary Wakelin, and 
she by ]\Iiss Augusta Worden. Later the 
Worden sisters, then Mrs. Hoover and Mrs. 
Holman, entered the millinery business and 
conducted it for several years. The present 
milliner is Miss Mary Geeseman, who has 
been in the business since 1914. Others who 
have carried a line of millinery since the be- 
ginning of the town have been E. H. Bur- 
rows, A. H. Shepard, and C. J. S'tevens. 

ansley's mills, shops, li\'ERy st.\bles. etc. 

The first blacksmith was C. M. Dorr, who 
came at the founding of the town, or soon 
after. A few months later. William Davis 
entered into business with him. This part- 
nership continued for several years, when 
Davis sold out his interest to Dorr, who con- 
tinued to run it for a few months longer, 
when he finally dsposed of it to Joel F. Lan- 
num. Later William Burdett went into the 
carriage and wagon business in the same build- 
ing, hiring a blacksmith to do his iron work. 
Shortly after the location of Dorr, Charles 
Gessright opened up a wagon shop on the lot 
where the home of T. N. Southard now stands. 

Dana AI. Saville was also a blacksmith here, 
removing from Westerville in May, 1904, and 
continuing in business until October, 1914, 
when he was forced to quit, by reason of ill 
health. The present blacksmith is George 
Gravley, who came to this place in 1914. 

The first barber shop was run by A. H. 
Turpen. The present barbers are S. P. \'ar- 
ney and R. D. Breeden. 

In the fall of 1886, A. W. Hawk and his 
son, C. W.. bought from the Martin Brothers 
the Algernon flouring mill, which, in 1890, 
they moved to Ansley. This mill they later 
traded to Blowers & Clark. It finally came 
into the hands of C. J. Stevens, and it was 
burned in the year 1906. 

Ansley's first carpenters were O. ]\I. Geese- 
man, Sid. Harris, Ed. Harris, Racine \\'iget, 
Henry Klick, Jack Storey, Henry Hogg, and 
Al. Hoover. The first baker was J. A. Alauler. 
He came in 1903 or 1904. He was followed in 
1909 by J. F. Russell, who has been in the 
business ever since. 

Joe Moore opened the first garage, in 1908. 
In 1915 Templin & Wozney built their large 
garage, at a cost of $6,500. This garage is 
now run by the Marsh Auto Company, com- 
posed of H. Guy Marsh, G. H. Holeman, and 
A. C. \'an Home. The garage of E. A. But- 
ler & Son w^as erected in the fall of 1916, and, 
including stock and fixtures, represents the 
value of $20,000. E. A. Butler and his son, 
Harry, are salesmen for the Ford automobile 
company, of Detroit. The Hollenbeck garage, 
which makes a specialty of repairing cars, is 
run by the manager, C. R. Woolley. E. H. 
Xorden runs a machine shop and makes a 
specialty of automobile repairing. 

The first shoe repairer was Henry Abbey. 
Next came E. Clark, who sold his shop to 
Frank Mills, who in turn, in 1905, disposed 
of it to its present owner. Perry Foster. Mr. 
Foster also carries a full line of footwear. 

A. J. Hookum has just installed a new Sano 
mill, with the capacity of fifty barrels of flour 
per day. The first meat market was run by 
Anthony Wilkinson. Others who have en- 
gaged in the meat business are John Davis. 
William Zimmerman, Clerk Hanna, O. H. 



Mooniey, W'es. iNloomey, Jake Paine, Norton 
Amsberry, Fred Simpson, E. B. Hyatt, George 
Hatfield, Will Garten, and Al. Govier. The 
present markets are the Ansley market, con- 
ducted by Perry Lanum, and the Sanitary 
market, conducted by Fred Maulick. 

The first to engage in the well business was 
George Haines, about 1889. Henry Wakelin 
and Al. Harvell also were engaged in this 
business in the early years of Ansley. E. A. 
Butler sold windmills and well material from 
the commencement of the town. Hiram Cur- 
tis has been in the business since 1897, moving 
into his new building in 1917. 

In 1887, Joe Rambo opened the first livery 
barn, where Butler's garage now stands. 
This building was later removed to the Lan- 
um lots and is now one of the buildings be- 
longing to Grand and John Lanum, who use 
it for a feed and sale stable. Others who have 
been engaged in the livery business are Alex. 
Moore, At. Sloan, James McMannus. Wallace 
Busic, F. P. and C. W. Hawk, Russell & Lan- 
um, W. O. Phillips, and E. F. Hollenbeck. 

D. A. Van Sant opened the first hotel in 
Ansley, the Commercial House, in August, 
1886. It was afterward sold to Mrs. Eggle- 
ston, who ran it for a number of years. It is 
the building now occupied by Pat's Cafe. The 
Central hotel was opened by Fritz & Michael, 
on the lot that lies just east of the postoffice. 
The Cottage hotel stood where Harry Mc- 
Nulty's restaurant now stands and was con- 
ducted for a number of years by Mrs. Alex. 
Moore. Harry McNulty and ^Irs. Edna Gay- 
lord now conduct the two restaurants of the 
place, while our large rooming house is owned 
by Mrs. R. M. Hayslip. 

J. W. Comstock has been in the harness 
business continuously since the beginning of 
the town, in 1886 — first with a partner. Henry 
Abbey, and latterly, in 1907. with Fred Mills, 
since which the firm has been known as Com- 
stock & Mills. 

The jewelry business in Ansley was first 
represented by Henry Kirk, who came either 
in 1886 or 1887 and occupied a building near 
where the postoffice now stands. After three or 
four years, he disposed of his stock and left 

the town. He was followed by Elsa Harsin, 
who had his shop with Walter Theobald, drug- 
gist. When Charles Hare bought the Theo- 
bald drug store he also purchased Harsin's 
jewelrjf equipment, and he continued to mend 
watches up to the time of his death. In the 
meantime a jeweler by the name of Snook 
opened a shop in the little building formerly 
occupied by S. P. Vamey as a barber shop. 
He must have been a very good man, for, al- 
though we have consulted a score of tlie old 
citizens, we have been able to obtain but three 
facts in regard to his life : he was a jeweler, a 
Seventh-day Adventist, and his name was 
Snook. When Charles Hare died, in 1905, A. 
L. Butler purchased the jewelry business, 
which he has conducted ever since. 

D. A. \'an Sant was the first drayman and 
the first to make a business of moving build- 
ings. He moved the flouring mill of Hawk & 
Son from Algernon to Ansley, in 1890. The 
present draymen are Clyde Pinckley and .Vndy 

The Star Theatre is owned by Mrs. Joyce 
Wellman and is operated by her manager, 
William Burdett. 

There are at present seven creamery agen- 
cies in Ansley. The David Cole Company, of 
Omaha, is represented by A. W. Kimball ; the 
Lincoln Pure Butter Company by Norton 
.\msberry ; the Beatrice Creamery Company 
by J. D. Knapp; the Kirschbaum & Sons 
Creamery Companj', of Omaha, by Fred 
Maulick : and the Farmers' Shipping .\ssocia- 
tion, and the Fairmont Creamery Company by 
A. J. Hookom and William Mannen. 


The first lumber company to do business in 
Ansley was the Chicago Lumber Company, 
which entered the field in June. 1886. Its 
representative was a young man by the name 
of Cox, and he. with a small pile of lumber, 
landed here i)efore any buildings were erected. 
In the fall of 188') the Stevenson Lumber 
Company was established. Its manager was 
Brome Stevenson. The father of the manager 
was the first man to die in Ansley — from the 
efifects of injuries received in being thrown 



from a buggy. In this same year E. A. "and 
A. L. Butler went into the coal business, re- 
maining in the same until 1894, when E. A. 
went to work for the International Harvester 
Company and A. L. engaged in the restaurant 
business, removing the fixtures from Seward. 
The Dierks Lumber Company, which has been 
on the ground for a number of years, is rep- 
resented in this place by its genial manager, 
O. D. Dean. Its investment here is $60,000. 
The J. H. Melville Lumber Company, succes- 
sor of the Turner Lumber Company, repre- 
sents an investment of $27,000. Its manager 
is Percy Reed. Both yards deal in coal and 
lumber. The Farmers' Shipping Association 
also deals in coal.' 


B. |. Tierne}- began in the grain and live- 
stock business in Ansley in the year 1887 and 
has been engaged in this line continuously ever 
since. In 1917, alone, he transacted business 
to the value of $100,000. The Farmers' Grain 
& Livestock Shipping Association was organ- 
ized in 1909. Its organic capital is $10,000. 
Its stockholders number 125 and it has paid-up 
capital of $21,000. Its president is A. P. 
Dobesh; secretary, James Allen; and manager, 
Sam. P. Negley. 


The first druggist was Sam Royds, who 
was also postmaster. He came in 1886 and, 
upon his death, in 1888. his wife (now Mrs. B. 
J. Tierney), succeeded him. She conducted the 
business until it was sold to Charles H. F. 
Steinmeir, in 1906. Mr. Steinmeir now con- 
ducts a Rexall store and the value of his en- 
terprise is estimated at $40,000. The second 
drug store in Ansley was that of Rev. Walter 
Theobald, a Baptist minister, and it was opened 
shortly after that of Royds. This store was 
later disposed of to Charles B. Hare and was 
run by him for a number of years — until his 
death, in September, 1905, when the stock was 
sold to C. H. F. Steinmeir. Shortly after 
the death of Royds, his clerk, O. P. Allphin. 
opened a drug store, and he continued in busi- 
ness imtil 1912, when the stock was disposed 

of to Dr. E. A. Hanna. Hanna, in turn, dis- 
posed of it, October, 1917, to Charles Chand- 
ler, who now conducts one of the best pharma- 
cies in the state. The value of his investment 
is $15,000. 


The first lawyer on the ground was George 
Snell. Shortly afterward J. A. Armour moved 
over from Westerville ; he later served two 
terms as county judge. In the spring of 1888. 
came Hugh McConelly. Judson C. Porter be- 
came an inhabitant of the village in 1898 but 
died in 1903. J. R. Rhodes hung out his 
shingle October 1, 1893, and has practiced his 
profession here ever since, with the excep- 
tion of four years (1894-8) which he spent 
in Broken Bow, as county judge. F. M. Bent- 
ley began the practice of law in Alarch, 1904, 
but died two years later, in December, 1906. 
N. Dwight Ford, the present county judge, 
was also a resident of Ansley for some time. 
Ansley's first physician was Dr. C. H. 'Slov- 
ris, who practiced here from 1886 to 1893. 
Part of the time contemporaneously with Dr. 
Alorris was Dr. Hawes, who left the town in 
1894. Other physicians who have practiced 
in Ansley are Drs. Thomas, Anderson, AIul- 
lins, Imah, and Jennings. Dr. Grace M. Lewis, 
a sister of ]\Irs. J. H. Kerr, also practiced 
medicine here, from 1898 to 1902. Of the 
present physicians. Dr. E. A. Hanna came 
here from Elmo, Alissouri, in 1895; Dr. W. R. 
Young came in 1897; Dr. C. L. Housel, in 
1907; Dr. R. P. Higgins, in 1913; and Dr. H. 
C. Stadden in 1916. Dr. Hanna is a graduate 
of the Ensworth Medical College, at St. Jo- 
seph, Missouri ; Dr. Young, of the State Uni- 
versity' of Iowa ; Dr. Housel, of the Lincoln 
Aledical College ; Dr. Higgins of the Univer- 
sity of Nebraska, and Dr. Stadden of the 
Creighton College of Medicine. Dr. House! 
and Dr. Higgins have been serving their coun- 
try in the medical corps, in connection with 
the world war. 

Ansley's first located dentist was Dr. Kra- 
mer, now of Hyannis, Nebraska. Dr. W. A. 
Housel opened his office in Ansley upon his 
graduation from the Lincoln Dental College, 



in 1905. His assistant is Dr. Curtis McCal- 
lister, also a graduate of the Lincoln Dental 


Ansley was the first village of the state, west 
of Grand Island, to have both city water and 
electric lights. The Ansley Electric Light & 
Power Company's plant was built and owned by 
C. J. Stevens and was enfranchised by the vil- 
lage, September 20, 1892. The waterworks 
company was organized and the plant complet- 
ed in 1893. For this purpose, four thousand 
dollars' worth of bonds were voted and issued in 
1892. The light plant, however, was destroyed 
by fire in the fall of 1904. Peter W. McTag- 
gart & Company succeeded the Electric Light 
& Power Company, October 1, 1906. This 
plant, in turn, was also destroyed by fire, 
April 13, 1910. It was succeeded by the Mu- 
nicipal Light & Power System. June (>. 1910. 
This latter plant was completed the following 
year, at the approximate cost of $21,000. 

The first telephone company in .\nsley was 
known as the Central Telephone Company and 
the plant was installed in the year 1903. The 
first manager was A. L. liutler ami the first 
operator was Miss Grace Butler, now Mrs. 
Fred Maulick. The first 'phones in town were 
those of A. L. Butler, E. A. Butler, and J. H. 
Hiser. The present telephone company, known 
as the Ansley Telephone Company, had its 
origin in the year 1909, through the purchase 
of the plant of the Central Telephone Com- 
pany. Its present officers are: C. J. Stevens, 
president : John McCullough. vice-president ; 
Roy Patterson, secretary; R. A. Studley, 
treasurer. It has local and long-distance con- 
nections and 682 subscribers. 

.\NSLEV"S .\i;\\ SI'APERS 

The following facts relative to the ncws- 
pap)ers of Ansley have been furnished liy Mr. 
C. N. Harris, himself at one time a publisher 
in the village. .\ short time after .Vnsley was 
founded, James W'estervelt purchased the 
Jl'cstcni Echo of W'esterville and, removing it 
to Ansley, published it here. This name was 

later changed to the Ansley Chronicle, with 
two brothers. Will and Harve Chapman, as 
joint editors. In 1895 the plant was sold to 
Thomas Wright, who was its sole editor until 
about 1902. Alxiut the year 1900 A. H. Barks 
started the Citizen which, aljout 1902, was 
combined with the Chronicle and called the 
Chronicle-Cilicen, Wright and Barks being 
joint editors and publishers. About two years 
later Barks sold his interest in the paper to 
Wright, who continued to publish it until 

1907, Barks starting a new paper, the Xebras- 
kan, which was discontinued after a few issues. 
Then, in 1905, Barks purchased the An^osy 
of Dr. McArthur, of \\'esterville, moved it to 
Ansley and published it fierce In 1907 he pur- 
chased tlu' Clironicle-Citizen of Wright and 
combined the two papers under the name of 
the Argosy and Chronicle-Citizen. June 1, 

1908, this plant was sold to C. N. Harris, who 
continued to publish the paper as the Argosy 
until July 11. 1914. when the establishment 
was destroyed by fire. Thereafter the town 
was without a paper until the beginning of 
l')15, when Wright ])urchased the Beacon 
plant at Broken Bow, moved it to Ansley and 
began the publication of the Ansley Herald 
which he continued until June, 1918, when he 
sold it to J. A. Wallace, of Gilby, North Da- 
kota, its present editor and publisher. During 
the years 1894-6 James Amsberry published in 
.Vnsley a Populist paper, which was called the 


The first postmaster was Sam Royds, ap- 
pointed. He died before his term expired and 
his wife, now Mrs. B. J. Tierncy, filled out 
the term. In their order the postmasters, 
since Royds, have been Major E. S. Ellison, 
.•\. H. Turpen, T. T. Varney, Thomas Wright, 
E. P. Gaines, and .\. H. Shepard. The first 
rural route was established in 1904, with Joe 
Hyatt as the carrier. There are at present 
three regular and two Star routes. 


The sons of .-Xnsley have fought both in the 
Philippines and the world war. Those who 



fought in the first were E. A. Miller, C. C. 
Cooper, H. L. Kerr, C. V. Pinkley, William 
Lawson, Oliver Winch. Seymour Burton, Nat. 
S. Sims, F. C. Rucker, Lemuel Clay, Alvin 
Coxan, Parlie Busic, Fred Peterson, and Wal- 
ter Ashworth, the last named having- died of 
disease, in the Philippines. 

Up to August 15, 1918, Ansley had made 
the following contributions to the financial 
support of the government. She has pur- 
chased bonds to the amount of over $151,000; 
she has bought war savings stamps to the 
amount of $53,000 ; she has contributed to the 
Red Cross $4,441.75; to the Young Men's 
Christian Association, $1,100; and to the 
Knights of Columbus, seventy-five dollars. 
The town has stood ready to do all that was 
demanded of it in the giving of its sons and 
the contributing of its wealth to the cause of 

Up to August 15, 1918, ninety-nine of our 
boys have answered the call and were either in 
training camps or on the battlefields of 
Europe. They are ; Argyle Knapp, Art Dobesh, 
Paul Martin, Hermie Dewey, Dr. C. L. Hou- 
sel, Albert Thessen, Dr. R. P. Higgins, Claude 
Hoover. Orrie Amsberry, Walter Anderson, 
Raymond Dtwey, Glen McCollister, Perley 
Comer, Clyde Oglevive, Earl Harris, Earl 
Case, Clyde Geeseman, Edwin F. Lund, Lee 
McCollough, Wehland Hayslip, William Mc- 
Cormack, Harvey Porter, Roy Shepard, Will- 
iam Moore. Rosil Draper. Floyd Junk, Fred 
Grafif. George Martin, Arthur Stuckey, Nor- 
man Spalding, Leon Fowler, Art James, Will- 
iam Rigby, Clark Springman, Clyde Wills, 
Everett Carothers, Ray Lockhart, Richard 
Thessen, Otto Price, William Mackey, Arthur 
Hein, Lawrence Berry, Ernest Wilson, Glen 
Brisbane. Clififord Paine, Roy Burton, Law- 
rence Bristol, Earl Fox', Charles Armour, Fred 
James, Lawrence Lowery, Fenton McEwen, 
\'ernon Devine, Harry Zahn, Ralph Smith, 
Richard Thessen, H. R. Norden, Edwin Bur- 
rows, Harry Hilldebrant, Joseph W. Cassell. 
Roscoe Coleman. Ivo Dewey, Earl Watson, 
Levert Farrel, Emil ]\Ialm, Noel Ritenour, 
Fritz Baalhorn, Sam Hoblyn, Roscoe Rhodes, 
Edgar Haines, Frederick E. Butler, Clinton 

Applegarth, Bert Morrison, Clarence C. Ar- 
nold, Charles H. Munn, Wesley J. Anderson, 
John A. Crist, Alfred B. Mills, William Dud- 
ley Pester, Harry B. Duncan, Kresten Ray 
Jensen, Clyde Willis, Fayette Corlin, Henry 
Brown, James Rigby, William Ray Van Sant, 
Chester Harris, Wesley James Anderson, Hen- 
ry Wrasse, G. Herbert Evans, Lynn Payne, 
Walter -Smith, .\ldcn Draper, Glen Glover, 
Frank Bubak, Jesse Holeman, Harry Hicken- 
bottom, Leslie Nider. 

Ansley! Fairest city of the prairie ! May no 
portentous cloud arise to darken thy horizon ! 
May thy sons ever be strong and thy daugh- 
ters fair. And may the coming years behold 
naught but thy unfolding glory and increas- 
ing strength. 


The Ansley public library was first started 
by the Woman's Federated Club, in the fall 
of 1916, with books donated by the members 
and with a small purchase of new books. In 
1917 the township elected a library board, 
consisting of Dr. W. R. Young, Mrs. D. W. 
Thomson, B. J. Tierney, F. B. Housel, and 
Lewis Newcomb. They also put a three-mill 
levy on the township for library purposes. At 
present we have on our shelves about 500 
books and have made quite an extensive pur- 
chase besides. A large number of masra- 
zines have also been donated. The books are 
free to all residents of the township, but non- 
residents are assessed twenty-five cents per 
quarter. The board has an application in 
with the Carnegie library people and is await- 
ing their decision. If the decision is not favor- 
able, a move will be made to build a building 
ourselves. The library is open Saturday 
afternoons and evenings. The weekly output 
of books is from thirty to fifty. ?\rrs. H. L. 
Fowler is the librarian. 


[The story of .-\nselmo is contributed by 
Mrs. J. C. Moore.] 

The village of Anselmo derived its name 
from Anselmo Smith, who was a civil engi- 
neer and who platted the towns along the Bur- 



_^ \.-aiV J *""."■ 

1— Main Street, 2 — Street Sce.nm-; in Anselmo. S—Community Build- 
ing, Anselmo 



lington Railroad for the Lincoln Townsite 

When he arrived on the ground where the 
town was to be platted, he was so impressed by 
the beautiful surrounding country, that he 
suggested this site would bear his given name, 
and to harmonize with this he named the 
streets and avenues after the men who settled 
on the land in the early '80s, namely, ~\[. R. 
Foster, Harvey Said, and Walter Scott. 

Anselmo Smith, being a man of vision, in 
looking through his field glass, probably fore- 
saw the future of the village that was to bear 
his name. Looking north and west, before 
him lay the virgin soil, which few thought it 
necessary to cultivate, and the great, dry, 
sandy plains which up until this time had been 
left to the hunter and his prey. 

To the south and east the engineer saw the 
beautiful agricultural valleys of Eureka, Or- 
tello. Dale, Victoria, and New Helena, over- 
shadowed by vast table land, together with 
Victoria creek, rising in the plains to the west, 
passing underground through Anselmo and 
coming to the surface again, in the form of 
mineral springs, in the New Helena valley. 

A pioneer with vision, once looked beyond 
what had been done and saw what might be 
done, then did it. H. B. Andrews, one of 
the pioneers of the early '70s, saw in these 
vast prairies an opportunity to make a fortune 
out of the cattle business, and how w-ell he 
succeeded, would be a history in itself. For 
the next quarter of a century, Mr. Andrews 
was a familiar figure in the saddle, looking 
after his vast interests. C. R. IMathews, an- 
other pioneer of the early 70s, who blazed the 
trail across the tortuous west, found ample 
compensation for the travail he endured, in 
the superb fruitfulness of his labors — coming 
as he did from far away Virginia. Only the 
pioneer can appreciate his early struggles. 

The common remark, that the world is now 
in the engineering age, is well borne out by 
the history of the years now under considera- 
tion, namely the spring and fall of 1886. It 
was signally manifest, in that it marked the 
entrance of the first train over the Chicago, 

Burlington & Ouincy Railroad into Anselmo 
— a line of railway having been surveyed from 
Grand Island to the Black Hills — and An- 
selmo was platted in the fall of 1886 (Novem- 
ber 20). 

Henry Kelley erected the first building in 
the village, to be used as a drug store ; C. F. 
Graves followed with a building to be used 
as a grocery store. Dorr Heffleman was al- 
ready on the ground, located in a tent, in 
which, while his building was in the course of 
construction, he conducted a bank, afterward 
known as the First Bank of Anselmo. 

While the town was being built, Harvey 
Said conducted a hotel in a sod house one- 
half mile from town. The first restaurant and 
short-order house was built liy Thomas Flood, 
followed by what were then called modern 
hotels — the Bowman House, built by Crate 
Bowman ; the Poor House, erected by Charles 
Poor ; and later the Ong House, which is now 
known as the City hotel. The Bowman 
House was transferred to a new location by 
Moore Brothers, in 19n, and named the Com- 
mercial hotel. The present owner of the 
property is Al. Willet. The Poor House has 
long since gone out of existence. Weander 
Brothers conducted the first general store, 
after these came E. C. Gibbs, C. D. Pelham, 
1 lumphrey Smith, T. R. Brayton, T. P. Riley, 
lames Phillips, William Fishroff, Fairchilds 
& Bodine, J. H. Brandenburg, Joe Michele, 
Hugh McKee, Pierce Cain, C. L. Tupper, Kel- 
ley Sisters, Doctors Stack, Hamilton, Kelley, 
and Gilligan, Thomas Russell, Otis Scovill, 
John Jessen, Kloman and Arnold, James Zane, 
William Stater, James McDermott, William 
Boyd, and others. 

These were the merchants and business 
men of Anselmo from its infancy until 1895, 
and all did a thriving business. Then An- 
selmo met with reverses, on account of the 
drouth of 1894, and time passed slowly for 
the next two or three years, when business 
revived again, with G. M. Williams, store and 
postoffice; Lee Gordon, general store; H. K. 
Atkisson, general store ; Wilson Brothers, ele- 
vator; W. E. Warren, elevator; Dierks Bro- 



thers, lumber ; H. B. Andrews, stock buyer ; 
Charles Smith, hardware ; Warren & Bass, 
general merchandise. 

The old corporation was revived, after a 
slumber of four years. A village election was 
held and gave to the village board the fol- 
lowing personnel : F. C. Wilson, chairman ; 
H. K. Atkisson, clerk; W. E. Warren, Henry 
Kelley, and Crate Bowman as village trustees. 
The little town once more began to show signs 
of life, and so went Anselmo until 1903, when 
come J. J. Tooley, with the Anselmo State 
Bank; jNIoore Brothers, general merchandise: 
B. C. Empfield, hardware, (succeeded by W. 
H. Danielson i ; Frank Taylor, meat market ; 
\\'illiams & Johnson, general merchandise. 

Among the prominent business firms and 
corporations now in the city are Moore Bro- 
thers, wholesale automobile dealers ; Anselmo 
State Bank, with Charles Sanders president 
and Dave Christen cashier; People's State 
Bank, with Henry Kelley president and R. E. 
Thompson cashier; Farmers' Mercantile Com- 
pany, Aloin Daily manager; ^loulton & Bass, 
general merchants ; Williams & Taylor, gen- 
eral merchants; W. W. Bass & Company, and 
Moore Brothers, hardware ; J. W. Crist, Frank 
Taylor, meat markets; Kelley & Wills, H. S. 
Mittonberger. drug stores; John Runner, 
jeweler; Mrs. Barr, hotel: Jay Barton, res- 
taurant ; Henry Doty, T. P. Alaroney, pool 
halls ; Harrington Brothers and George Tap- 
])an. dray lines; Henry Morrisey, Roy Par- 
sons, barbers : Jack Wells, blacksmith : H. L. 
Day, Frank Willson. wells and windmills; 
Dierks Lumber Company. Melville Lumber 
Company, Central Granaries Company, Far- 
mers' Elevator company ; J. R. Kalar. doctor ; 
Moore Brothers, Dennis & Mc^lurtry. Will- 
iam Knight, Thomas Mahar. garages; M. C. 
T^conard, R. H. Miller, real estate; C. G. Emp- 
fielfl, J. E. Fodge. contractors; Anselmo En- 
terprise. R. H. Miller editor: Mrs. ^lay 
Gibson, millinery. 


The first postoffice in the vicinity of An- 
selmo was named Wirt, with W. E. Ross post- 

master; it was located two miles north of 
Anselmo. In the spring of 1886 Joe Michele 
was appointed postmaster at Anselmo and the 
Wirt postoffice was discontinued. 

With the different administrations of the 
government Anselmo's postmasters changed, 
and in the following order the local postal ser- 
vice was efficiently looked after by Hugh Mc- 
Kee, Harvey Said. Henr\' Kelley. Granville 
Adkins, George Williams, Henry Kelley, Roy 
Atkisson, B. C. Empfield. Fred Brechbuhl, and 
Patrick Leonard, the present postmaster. 


From the early beginning of Anselmo the 
people of the community were optimistic and 
determined, as was well represented by men 
who made life a success. The buildings in the 
beginning were of frame construction, neatly 
planned and well taken care of. 

.Anselmo has always been blessed with real 
"boosters" — men who had enough faith in 
the town to put their money back of their 
ideas — ^ such men as Dorr Heffleman, William 
Moore, David Christen, Fred Brechbuhl. 

Confident progressiveness has been mani- 
fested by the organizations of the Workmen 
and Masonic orders. Moore Brothers, F. C. 
Wilson, the community (in building the Com- 
munity Hall) and others who had seen the 
bright side of an optimistic life. 

A municipal water system was established 
and a voluntary fire department was organ- 
ized in 1911. On April 21, 1913, Anselmo 
had its first electric lights installed, by Christen 
& Brechbuhl. 

It may not come amiss here to mention the 
beginning of the Ford motor car in Custer 
county. On May 17, 1910. the firm of Moore 
Brothers made a contract with the Ford 
Motor Company and estimated forty cars for 
the Custer county territory. On May 26, 1910, 
they received their first shipment, and on the 
following Sunday they delivered the first car. 
to E. Knoell. of New Helena, .\nselmo was 
also the beginning of the Dodge Brothers' 
production in Custer county, by Moore Bro- 
thers. This firm received the first Dodge car 



]\Iai-ch 11, 1915. This car was sold May 12, 
1915, to Jacob Geiser, of Sargent, who still 
owns it. 


Anselnio very early in its existence had a 
newspaper, called the Sun, which illuminated 
the darkness that then prevailed. The first 
issue was from a tent, with S. I. MeserauU as 
its editor. J. H. Zerung, Ben Sanders, J. J. 
Tooley, and others tried their hands at making 
the Sun shine, liut it eventually lost its lumi- 
nary power, in 1890, causing a total eclipse, 
and was finally gathered into the bosom of 
whomsoever represents Abraham in the news- 
jiaper heaven. 

The Enterprise was founded by B. C. Emp- 
field and H. G. Campbell, and the first number 
made its appearance May 11, 1906. A few 
months after the establishment of the paper 
Mr. Empfield sold his interest to his partner, 
Mr. Campbell, who conducted its affairs until 
within otie week of the close of the first 
volume, when he sold it to O. C. Anderson, 
who had been in the business of painting and 
paper-hanging in Anselmo for some time. He 
assumed charge with the issue of No. 52, 
volume 1, and conducted it for a little over 
two years, when he disposed of the plant and 
good will to Sherman Bly, of Hastings. Mr. 
Bly assumed charge with the issue of No. 10, 
volume 2, published July 10, 1908. 

During this year the paper was increased to 
its present size, and with No. 50, volume 3, E. 
E. Philpot became the editor. He continued in 
charge of the paper until the first number of 
volume 7 was issued, when the paper was pur- 
chased by K. K .Smith, who issued his first pa- 
per under No. 2, volume 7, on ]\Iay 10. 1912. 
After two and one-half years, C. ^I. Anderson 
became the owner and publisher. He remained 
in charge until August 1, 1917, when the busi- 
ness was sold to R. H. Miller, the present pub- 

In its initial number the editors announced 
the politics of the Enterprise as non-partisan, 
which, however, is not interpreted as being 
owned by a non-partisan league. The Enter- 
prise has filled its niche as a paper for Anselmo 

and vicinity, and is enjoying the liberal pat- 
ronage of the community. 


The American soldier and sailor of to-day 
stand in the public view as do no other indi- 
viduals. Anselmo has contributed her share 
to the conflict. All honor to them ! Men die 
for no better cause than theirs. 

Those who have responded to the call of 
their country from Anselmo and vicinity are : 
Adlai and Elwyn Johnson, Ed. Baird, Walter 
Smith, Ervin Miller, Hubert Wilson, Harry 
Frye. Albert Campfield, Harold Kepler, Oak 
Kepler, Ora Dennis, Joe Wanischke, Walter 
Spooner, Ray Ross, Ralph Lewis, Fred Carr, 
Scott Winchester, Ray Adams, Nay Dishman, 
Russell Lehmanowski, Frank Crist, Davis 
Crist, Henry Cain, Dr. C. L. Wills, Lawrence 
Ray, George Spelts, ^lartin Gallington, Willard 
Mayfield, Talmage Smith, Ivan Province, Fred 
Hodapp, Shirley Parkison, and Peter Muys. 

Few events in the history of Anselmo have 
been more inspiring than the zealous response 
to the appeal of the war fund, Red Cross, 
Young Men's Christian Association, and 
Knights of Columbus. 

Anselmo has risen to the occasion mag- 
nanimously, gloriously. She has given sterling 
evidence not only of her patriotism, but also 
of power of organization, power of pushing a 
big thing through. 


Religion, the great bulwark of our ideal 
democracy, providing ever for the betterment 
of the masses, is represented by three denomi- 
nations, namely : Methodist, Catholic, and 

The ]\Iethodist church- building was located 
in 1887, on a little knoll overlooking the town, 
with James Eads as pastor. The little build- 
ing in a few years outgrew its usefulness, and 
in 1902 a modern structure was erected, on 
the corner of Dorr street and Foster avenue. 

Long cherished hopes and ambitions were 
realized by the Catholic people of Anselmo 
and vicinity when, in 1905, St. Anselm's 
church was dedicated. Previously to this date 



the mission was attended, from Dale, by 
Father Flanagan. Rev. M. L. Daley suc- 
ceeded Father Flanagan, and was successful 
in raising the money to build the church. Then 
came Rev. Father Donnelly, and during his 
administration the parsonage was built. He 
was succeeded by Rev. Thomas Minogue, the 
present pastor, who has built up the parish to 
one of the choicest in the Grand Island diocese 
and who enjoys the good will and esteem not 
only of his own congregation but also of the 
public at large. 


Social and fraternal orders had their begin- 
ning in Anselmo in the year 1895, when the 
Ancient Order of United Workmen was or- 
ganized, on March 23, with Arthur P. Smith 
as master workman. Then followed Cedar 
Lodge, No. 185, Degree of Honor. The camp 
of Modem Woodmen of America was organ- 
ized February 20, 1900, with Frank Britton, 
venerable counsel. The Modem Brotherhood 
of America was organized March 5, 1900. The 
Odd Fellows were organized on March 20, 
1904, with M. J. Johnson as noble grand. The 
Masonic lodge was instituted June 7, 1905, 
with J. T- Tooley. master, and Chal Empfield. 
secretary. The Eastern Star was instituted 
May 8, 1907, Nettie Tooley, worthy matron. 
The Royal Neighbors was organized Febru- 
ary 8, 1909. Woodmen of the World was 
organized June 27, 1913, Joseph C. IMoore, 
counsel commander. 


Oconto is located on the Kearney & Black 
Hills branch of the Union Pacific Railroad, 
fifty-two miles from either end, thus making 
it the exact center of one of the most pros- 
perous and paying branches of the Union 
Pacific system. It is situated in the Wood 
River valley, known over the central United 
States as one of the most prosperous and fer- 
tile valleys to be found. 

Oconto was located in the fall of 1887, by 
the Lincoln Townsite Company, which bought 
160 acres of land, of Wallace Highbee, for 
that purpose. R. G. Crossett and a ]\Ir. John- 

son built the first general store, hauling the 
material from Plum Creek, now the town of 
Lexington, and the same building is now oc- 
cupied by the Jones Drug Company. The next 
store building was moved from Lodi, being 
the pioneer building used as a store in this 
portion of Custer county, and having been 
built by John Moran, now postmaster of Cal- 
laway. This building was occupied by W. D. 
Cox as a general store. H. Bockman built 
the first hotel and Lewis Wambsgan built the 
first livery stable, which was run by Gottlieb 
Bensler. Mr. Crossett, at the same time, acted 
as first postmaster. 

On April 25, 1905, Oconto was honored 
with the first edition of the Oconto Register, a 
paper started and edited here by Bryner Broth- 
ers, Fred and Walter, who conducted the paper 
for a few years, when Fred bought the interest 
of his brother Walter, who moved to Eddyville, 
purchasing the paper there. Fred edited the 
Ijaper, and also acted as postmaster, until 1913, 
when he sold the newspaper plant and busi- 
ness to F. J. Dunn, of Callaway. Mr. Dunn 
manipulated the type for a couple of years, 
when he sold the paper to F. C. Ferguson, who 
was editor in chief until the fall' of 1917, when 
he sold to Ashton Henderson, of Callaway. 
Mr. Henderson conducted the paper but a 
short time, when it was again sold, to the 
Queen Publishing Company, making it one of 
a line of papers owned by this company, along 
the Kearney & Black Hills branch of the 
Union Pacific Railroad. U. A. Brown was 
temporarily placed in charge as manager, but 
at the present time Fred Bryner, the original 
editor, is conducting the news-gathering. 

Oconto has been given state-wide prom- 
inence by Orel Jones, of the Jones Drug Com- 
pany, who has just closed a five years' term 
of service for the state, as a member of the 
state examining board in pharmacy, and this 
past year he was state delegate to the National 
Association of Boards of Pharmacy as well as 
to the national meeting of the .\merican Phar- 
maceutical Association, whose meetings were 
held at Indianapolis, Indiana. 

In the world-war crisis, Oconto went over 
the top in everything asked of it. In the 



f . 



m "i"^|g| 

:i'ti{iNt'. </■ [ UtOr^'olVebr " 

Street Scene at Oconto 

A Residence Street in Oconto 

BiRDSEVE View of Oconto 

Oconto Depot anu Eeevator 

A Business Section op Oconto 



stamp, bond. Red Cross, and other war activi- 
ties it was to be found near the head of the 
column. It has been well represented in the 
flighting' part, by about fifty of its best young 
men, and more were awaiting their call at the 
time when the historic armistice came. There 
has been maintained also a home guard organ- 
ization of seventy-seven members, wiih G. 
Campau as captain. 

Educationally, Oconto had one of the first 
schools in this part of Custer county. In 1909 
a nice, four-room building was erected, only 
three of the rooms being occupied until 1913, 
when the fourth teacher was added. At the 
present time there is an accredited eleventh- 
grade high school, with Miss Georgina Tolbert 
as principal ; Miss Helen Paine, grammar 
teacher; Miss Nellis O'Nele, intermediate; and 
^liss Allegra O'Nele, primary teacher. 

Oconto has three churches. The Catholic 
church was the first to be established, in 1889, 
and Rev. Father Pedlock, of Kearney, offi- 
ciated. At the present time Rev. Father 
Moynihan is pastor. The Episcopal church 

was organized in 1890, being supplied from 
Kearney. In April. 1901. a clnirch building 
was completed and dedicated by the United 
Evangelical church, with Rev. V>. Hillier, now 
presiding elder for this district, as one of the 
first pastors. The following pastors have 
served since then : Rev. J. H. Williams, four 
years : J. F. Hendricks, one year ; H. S. Tool, 
four years : J. A. Lemming, one year : Frank 
Majors, one year; J. X. ]\Ielton, three years: 
and W. H. Carries is completing his first year. 
At the present time Oconto is considered one 
of the best business towns in this part of the 
state, all classes of business being well repre- 
sented by hustlers in their respective lines. 
Oconto has a doctor, a weekly paper, two well 
stocked drug stores, two restaurants, two 
banks, two lumber yards (which also handle 
coal ) , three garages, three well stocked general 
stores, two cream stations, two blacksmith 
shops, two implement dealers, a harness shop, 
two barber shops, electric lights, two elevators, 
and one of the most up-to-the-minute opera 
houses to be found. 


The Beginning — Districts Organized — First County Institute — The Mason City 

Schools — Broken Bow — Ansley • — ANSiiEMO — Arnold — Callaway — Comstock — 

Sargent — Oconto — Merna — Jaynesv lle — Berwyn — Lower Lodi — District 

No. 97 — King — HoosiER Valley — Longwood — Sand Valley — In General 

The present-day school system of Custer 
county has long been heralded to the world 
as one of the best in the central west, and the 
fa;ts bear out the reputation. No county in 
the state has made greater development or 
achieved such a signal success in forty years. 
The initial years were largely handicapped by 
conditions which must always prevail in a new 
country. There was no money for school pur- 
poses and the first districts had to resort to 
all kinds of schemes to secure any kind of 
school privileges. 

The first school houses were built of sod, 
and from these the entire system has devel- 
oped until to-day there are to be found in 
every town in the county great brick structures 
into which all grade-schools granduate fine 
classes of young Custerites. The road from sod 
to brick has been long and the toil of develop- 
ment sometimes irksome but the tireless efforts 
of the teachers and the sacrifice of the patrons 
have banished the "soddy"' and ushered in the 
great, brick high school. 

For the data which follow the present coun- 
ty superintendent of public instruction, C. T. 
Grimes, is to be given credit. 


The people of Custer county have always 
held the education of children in high regard, 
and the very first settlers gave the matter 
considerable attention. In the spring of 1874 
Mr. and ]\lrs. E. D. Eubank settled in the un- 
organized territory which afterward became 
Custer county. 

At that time there was neither school dis- 
trict nor school, but during the fall Mrs. Eu- 
bank brought this important matter before the 
settlers and they were delighted to have her 
organize and conduct a private school for 
them. She gives the following account of her 
experiences : 

"We could not have a public school, because 
there were no funds. At last I concocted a 
plan. I would organize a neighborhood school. 
'But where is your salary to come from?' my 
husband asked. I replied, 'I will teach with- 
out any stinipulated salary. I will take what 
each feels he can give.' Accordingly I drew 
up a subscription paper and presented it to 
my neighbors. They were delighted. They 
had very little money, but there were vast 
herds of elk and many antelope and deer; the 
men were good marksmen, and killed many 
elk. So it came to pass that the most of my 
salary consisted of elk meat. This was in the 
winter of 1874-5. That fall, 1875, we built a 
kitchen of logs, and when it was completed 
I used it for a school-room. That was the 
first school in what is now Custer county." 

About the same time the cause of education 
was attracting considerable attention along 
Victoria creek, in the community of New 
Helena. During the summer of 1876 a private 
school was taught by Miss Callie Dryden. in 
the home of Mrs. Forsythe. In order to se- 
cure a certificate. Miss Dryden would have to 
make a long and unhappy journey over to 
North Loup, in Valley county, where the su- 
perintendent, having supervision over the 




Eari,y-dav Schoolhouse at MiunuRN 


. .:• lO?;'--^ -^i«aI. 

Arnold Schcwuhulse anu ruHiLS 

First Schoolhouse in New Merna 
District and Probably the First 
One Built in the County. Orig- 
inally IT HAD A Son Roof 

South Side School, Broken Bow 

Oconto Public School 



schools of this section, then resided. This the 
young" lady refused to do. To overcome this 
inconvenience Judge Mathews, the sage of 
New Helena, evolved a new plan. He decid- 
ed to conduct the examination himself. Ac- 
cordingly he drew up his questions and sub- 
mitted them to the teacher. She wrote her 
answers in the best manner she could, con- 
sidering writing material to be had and other 
inconveniences. After she had completed her 
writing the Judge gathered up the answer pa- 
pers and carried them to North Loup. He 
laid the case before the county superintendent, 
Oscar Babcock, who, after due consideration, 
decided that the case was very unusual, but 
nevertheless, the exigencies of the occasion de- 
manded that the certificate should be issued, 
and it is altogether likely that no other Custer 
county certificate was ever issued in such 
manner. The next year the lady secured a 
regular certificate from S'uperintendent Eu- 
bank, and she was one of the first certificated 
teachers in Custer county. Dtiring the sum- 
mer of 1878 was erected a splendid cedar-log 
building which for several years served the 
people as an educational and social center. 
This building is still standing. 


In the fall of 1877 E. D. Eubank, the first 
superintendent of Custer county, was elected 
and for four years he was busy organizing 
new districts and re-arranging boundary lines 
to meet the rapidly changing centers of popu- 
lation. During his term of four years he 
formed twenty-seven school districts. 

Early in the administration, petitions were 
received from the people of what are now 
districts No. 1 and No. 2- No. 2 was the 
first preesnted, but a remonstrance was filed 
against the formation of the district and action 
on it was deferred. Later, the objections were 
finally withdrawn, but not until after another 
petition had been presented, and thus it came 
about that the first petiton presented resulted 
in the establishing of the second district by 
number, that is, No. 2. 

District No. 3 was organized in 1880, cov- 
ering the greater part of the southwest quarter 

of the county and comprising 900 square miles 
of territory, but before this organization was 
eft'ected Alfred Schreyer taught a term of 
school in an upstairs room in the home of 
David Sprouse. The next year a sod house 
was built, and for many years it was the seat 
of attraction for almost every kind of pubHc 
entertainment, from preaching" and Sunday 
school on down to political meetings and gen- 
eral elections. 

Before the close of the year 1881, districts 
Nos. 23, 26, 27, 34, and 42 were carved 
out of this territory, and within a short time 
thereafter Nos. 71, 88, 89, and 102 further 
reduced the size. Before the close of the year 
1885, Nos. 106 and 113 were cut otT, and so 
the territory of this district continued to be 
divided and subdivided until nearly a hundred 
schools are now being supported within the 
limits of what once was district No. 3. 

About the year 1882 settlers came into the 
county in great numbers, and educational 
affairs became very interesting. Schools were 
established in almost every part of the county. 
D. M. Amsberry, superintendent from 1882 to 
1888, organized more than 160 districts, and 
changed the boundaries in many places. 

The first teachers' examination ever held in 
Broken Bow was conducted by Superintendent 
Amsberry, on the third Saturday in January, 
1882. Miss Raymond was the only person tak- 
ing the test. 1 


During the month of August, 1882, Mr. 
Amsberry organized and conducted the first 
county institute for the county. It was held 
in a wareroom of the lumber yard at Wester- 
ville. Only a few teachers were in attendance 
and the superintendent was his own general 
manager, instructor, and conductor of the 
whole affair. The next year he changed his 
place for holding the institute, called it for 
Broken Bow and held it in the room now oc- 
cupied by the Custer County Chief. He se- 
cured the assistance of several experienced 
instructors and laid the foundation of what has 
come to be one of the important factors in the 
educational system of Custer county — the 
teachers' institute. 







c u 

W 3 

fc !Z 








The following description of the Mason City 
schools, written by M. M. Warrington, will 
give a suggestive idea of the varying scenes 
and changes through which most of our 
graded schools passed — from the little sod 
shanty to the splendidh' built and well equipped 
institutions of learning that adorn all of our 

"The town of Alason City was started in 
April, 1886, and continued to grow in rather 
an apathetic manner until the arrival of the 
railroad, in July of that year, and then things 
went on with a boom. 

"Among the things to be provided were 
school facilities. The only building in the way 
of a schoolhouse in sight was one of sod, 
north of Muddy creek, near town, which w^as 
the schoolhouse of the district as it was then 

"Henry M. Kidder, a young attorney who 
had cast his fortunes with the embryo city, 
was employed to teach the fall term of school, 
which was attended by the boys and girls 
from the town. The population of the town 
grew so rapidly in the fall months that the 
winter term of school was held in a sod house 
north of the railroad track, near where the 
railroad section-house now stands. Miss 
Lincoln Groat was the teacher, this term being 
under the old district arrangement. 

"School district No. 169, the Mason City 
district, was organized in March, 1887, by 
electing John A. Hall director, C. H. Coricks 
moderator, and Mrs. Ellen O. Gates treasurer. 
The lady finally refused to qualify, and Jud- 
son C. Porter was appointetd treasurer in her 
place. J. J. Tooley, now secretary of the state 
banking board, was elected teacher, which 
position he held for three years. The first 
term of school was held in a store building 
which had been moved from old Algernon. 
The second school vear another teacher for 
the primary department was added, in the per- 
son of Mrs. J. H. Kerr. 

"The red-brick schoolhouse. of two rooms, 
was built in the summer of 1888. This build- 
ing was partially destroyed by a cyclone on 

July 2, 1892. One story of it was rebuilt that 
year, and a vacant store-room rented for the 
primary department. This arrangement con- 
tiiuied for two years, when an additional frame 
structure of two rooms was built. The pres- 
ent two-story-and-basement school building 
was erected in 1905. The first high-school 
work done in the Mason City schools was 
under the superintendence of J. H: Hays, in 
1895 and 1896, when the first class was grad- 
uated. Now seven teachers are employed in 
the Mason City schools, and the schools oc- 
cupy a prominent place among the other good 
schools of Custer county." 


Broken Bow school district was the twenty- 
fifth district to be formed within the county. 
It came into existence during the last part of 
the closing years of Superintendent E. D. 
Eubank's term of office. The first school was 
taught in the spring of 1881, by Mrs. Martha 
E. Lewis, wife of Moses Lewis, who resided 
on his homestead a mile east of the north part 
of the city. Since her three boys, John, Amos, 
and George, constituted the greater part of 
her pupils, the school was taught in her sod 
house. In the fall the school was moved to a 
sod shanty located a block north of where the 
Grand Central hotel now stands. 

The school site had previously been located 
a mile or more from town, and to remedy this 
inconvenience, the director, C. D. Pelham, 
called a meeting of the district, at the post- 
ofifice in Broken Bow. The site was placed 
where the South Side school now stands and 
in the next year a new house was put up. In 
the meantime school was held in a frame store- 
room on the southw'est corner of block No. 2 
of the original townsite. In 1885 a new frame 
building was put up in the southeast part of 
town, but this w^as abandoned when the North 
ward school was formed. During the year 
1888 the present South w^ard building was 
erected, and it was not until January 1, 1911. 
that the full, complete system, including the 
high school was established. The Broken 
Bow high school represents an outlay of about 



$50,000 and is not only the best in the county, 
but also one of the modern and well equipped 
high schools in this part of the state. 


The Ansley district was organized during 
the year 1888, with Aliss Michael as teacher. 
Her school was composed of twelve pupils. 
The school population increased very rapidly, 
so that in 1890 a second, or primary, teacher 
was employed. It was not long until a larger 
building was required and this, after rapid 
succession, was supplanted by the present 
beautiful, brick structure, erected at a cost of 
$27,000. with an equipment valued at $8,000. 
The district employs ten teachers, carries a 
course of twelve grades, is accredited as a 
normal training high school, and has an en- 
rollment of about 300 pupils. The personnel 
of the present school board is as follows : A. 
F. Pinkley, president ; E. P. Gaines, secretary ; 
J. T. IMcGowan, treasurer; and H. D. Reed, 
n. P. Scott, and E. O. Morris. Professor 
Clem Wilder ha? been engaged as the super- 
intendent for the year 1918-19. 


The Anselmo district came with the busy 
times between 1884 and 1887, with J. A. Homis 
teaching the "young idea how to shoot." He 
carried on his work in the Methodist church. 
In 1888 a two-room building was put up and 
two teachers were employed. This number 
of teachers was found adequate to the needs 
of the district until 1905. when a third was 
found necessary. 

The present beautiful, brick schoolhouse 
was erected in 1916, at an expense of $11,000, 
four teachers being employed and eleven 
grades introduced. That same year the 
school was organized as a high-school district. 
The school equipment is valued at $7,000, five 
teachers arc employed, and more than 150 
pupils are enrolled. Already the building has 
come, to be too small for the accommodation 
of the rapidly increasing school population, 
rnul the people are beginning to plan for an 
addition to their educational plant. 


No community in the county has shown a 
greater interest in school affairs than that man- 
ifested at Arnold. The district was found 
necessary during the early '80s, but because of 
the lack of railroad communication with other 
points, the school population did not increase 
very rapidly. In 1911 two teachers were in- 
troduced and an attempt at high-school work 
was begun. Progress was made so rapidly 
that by the fall of 1915 it was found possible 
to open the school in a most beautiful, con- 
venient, and commodious brick structure that 
had cost, including equipment, the goodly sum 
of $25,000. 

The district is accredited for high-school, and eleventh-grade work is given. 
Six teachers are employed. Like many other 
school plants in Custer county, this one has 
become inadequate and before many years will 
have to be enlarged. 


During the closing year of Mr. .\msberry's 
term of office, the Callaway high-school dis- 
trict was organized. It was one of the hun- 
dred or more to be carved out of the original 
and interesting district No. 3. The first build- 
ing was greatly impaired, and a second was 
erected in its stead. Not only was this struc- 
ture found to be too small, but the location 
proved unsatisfactory, hence, in 1906, the pres- 
ent site was secured and new building erected, 
at a cost of practically $30,000 for the entire 
plant. The school grounds are ample, and are 
well provided with trees and shrubbery, thus 
giving a very attractive appearance. 

The school maintains eleven grades, em- 
ploys seven teachers, and has enrolled as many 
as 325 students. 


District No. 28, including the village of 
Comstock, was the first to be organized by 
Superintendent Amshcrry in the early part of 
the year 1882, and Mrs. Ida Strop was in- 
stalled as teacher. Her school was made up 
of ten or twelve pupils, varying in age from 



five to twelve years. For some time the 
school did not grow very fast, and not until 
1907 or 1908 was any attempt made at organ- 
izing a high school. From 1911 to the pres- 
ent time a good eleven-grade school has been 
maintained. There are six teachers, with 155 
pupils. The present building was erected in 
1905 and with furniture, grounds, and fixtures 
represents an investment of $10,000. 


S'argent not only has a very progressive 
people, with enthusiasm for the education of 
the youth of the community, but also one of 
the most beautiful, convenient, and expensive 
school equipments in Custer county. The dis- 
trict was organized in 1884, with Mrs. A. R. 
Humphrey as teacher. Twenty-five pupils en- 
gaged her attention. 

In 1897 a second teacher was found to be 
necessary, and from that time the school has 
increased in enrollment and grown in impor- 
tance. In 1914 the school site was changed 
and a new house was erected, at a cost, in- 
cluding furnishings, of about $30,000. 

The school carries twelve grades and is 
fully accredited to the State University. It 
is also accredited for high-school purposes. 
The school requires. and employs ten teachers. 


The Oconto district was one of the last 
graded schools to be established. Originally 
the territory of this district was a part of dis- 
trict No. 34, but in 1896 the people from the 
country turned out at the school meeting in a 
body and voted to move the schoolhouse out 
of the village and to locate it more than a mile 
in the country. This so much displeased the 
villagers that they immediately petitioned the 
county superintendent to detach a part of the 
territory and form the present district No. 256. 

One teacher was employed until 1908, when 
a second teacher was engaged. During the 
year 1909 the present building was erected 
and a third teacher was added to the corps of 
instructors. The school now employs four 
teachers, gives eleven grades of training and 
enrolls 120 pupils. 


The Alerna district seems to have been 
named after a previously discontinued district. 
In the early days cattlemen had a custom of 
organizing large tracts of land into school 
districts. They invariably chose territory on 
which very few, if any, settlers lived, so that 
a school would not be needed. Two purposes 
were accomplished by this plan. First, it 
avoided the school tax and, second, it pre- 
vented the annexation of unorganized terri- 
tory to other organized districts for school 
taxation. In the course of time the county 
superintendent would discover that the district 
existed only in name and he would give some 
new district that number. This, it seems was 
the case with district No. 15. However, in 
1884, there being a school population of more 
than twenty pupils within the community, the 
county superintendent granted the petition that 
added the Merna district to the list of schools. 
Miss Affie Gordon was the first teacher and 
twenty-five pupils were enrolled. 

In 1905, a high-school, with f(nir teachers, 
was supported. Three years later the present 
building was put up, at an expense of $25,000. 
Nine teachers are employed and 193 pupils are 
attending school. 


District No. 33 has been constantly in the 
lime light since the year 1914, and has been 
written and talked about a great deal. ]\Iany 
magazines, including the Ladies' Home Jour- 
nal and practically every farm paper in the 
United States, have written articles about this 
school. The picture of the building and a 
depicture of its floor plans have been printed 
in many publications. The plant was erected 
in 1915, at a cost of about $4,500. It has a 
teacherage, a barn, and a complete equipment. 
Two teachers are employed and ten grades 
are taught. 


When the state rural-school inspector visited 
Berwin in 1916, he was quite generous in his 
commendations of the Berwyn school property, 
which he declared to be one of the best three- 



teacher buildings he had ever seen. When 
completed the entire plant cost about $7,000. 
It stands on an elevated plat of ground and 
faces down the main street of the village. 

Considering the fact that the school district 
is very small and the village itself has just 
recently begun to grow, the people deserve to 
be given great credit for their school. A good 
ten-grade course is given and the teachers 
have been unusually strong in their work. 


Unfortunately the Lodi community has two 
schools where one could well supply all the 
needed school advantages, thus dividing the 
interest and needed success. District No. 7}i 
has for the past three years employed two 
teachers and maintained a good ten-grade 
school. The people are interested in such 
affairs and are looking forward to a better 
school condition. Ten grades are maintained 
and successful work is being done in eacli. 


Nine miles northeast of Broken Bow an- 
other ten-grade, two-teacher school is main- 
tained. It was opened in September. 1917. is 
growing in popularity, and the number of at- 
tendants is increasing. Grades nine and eleven 
are open to students. 


District No. 32 is an interesting two-teacher 
school, organized in 1917. It is located in the 
valley of Muddy creek, about seven miles 
southeast of Broken Bow. The people are en- 
thusiastic over their new building and the re- 
sults of their efforts. The building is well 
equipped and the grounds contain numerous 
new playground devices. The ten-grade work 
usually done in such schools is being accom- 


In the sand-hill region of Custer county has 
lately been organized what is known as the 
"Hoosier Valley High School." It was formed 
by combining districts Nos. 210. 252, and 262. 
It is composed of fifty sections and has about 
ten miles of railroad to help defray the ex- 
pense of the school. \\'hen completed the 

plant will comprise a two-room school, with a 
teachers' residence, a good well, and a barn. 
This will be the first school of the kind in the 
county and its progress will be watched with 


The Longwood school is especially interest- 
ing because of its splendid building and 
grounds. It is the best equipped one-teacher 
school in the county and one of the best of its 
kind in the state. The building has a large 
school-room, a porch, a vestibule, a cloak- 
room, library, dinner room, and a full base- 
ment, which is reached either through the 
dinner room or from an outside entrance. This 
plant is standard as to light, heat, and ventila- 
tion. The entire plant is valued at $3,000. A 
good salary is paid the teacher and, of course, 
none but a good teacher is ever secured. 


.-\bout seven miles southwest of Callaway, 
in a beautiful community known as Sand 
\'alley, is found a very successfully conducted 
ten-grade school. It is district No. 95. It 
came into usefulness with the rush of school 
organizations between the years 1882 and 
1888. This school is well located and well 
equipped, with two pleasant rooms, so ar- 
ranged that they may be thrown together, thus 
forming a large assembly room. It is well 
lighted and heated. Trees have been planted 
and a splendid well, with a windmill, adds to 
the advantages. There is a barn for horses 
and a large yard for carriages. The course 
covers ten grades. 


For the last five or six years the school 
sentiment of the county has grown to a very 
high order. Nearly all of the schools have 
good, comfortable houses which are well kept. 
More than 150 room-furnaces are in use and 
a half hundred wells give good drinking 
water. The teachers are earnest, progressive, 
and thorough; the children are interested and 
happv. and the patrons are earnestly endeavor- 
ing to bring the Custer county schools up to 
the realization of what they should be — 
"Things of beauty and a joy forever.'" 


A Cowboy Preacher — A Storv of Early Church Work — And Now the Method- 
ists — The Ansley Church — The Broken Bow Methodists — Gates and Walworth 
— Arnold Methodist Church — S'argent Methodists — Merna Methodists — Wes- 
terville Methodist Church ■ — Methodist Church of Callaway — ■ Baptist Pioneer 
Work — The Baptist Churches that Live — • The Broken Bow Church — New Bap- 
tist Church at Broken Bow — AL-^son City Church — The Merna Baptist Church — 
The Ansley Baptist Church Organized — The Eudells — Lomax and Lodi — Bethel 
Union — Highland — The Free Methodist Church — The Presbyterians — Broken 
Bow Presbyterians — The Ansley Presbyterian Church — Episcopalian Work in 
THE County — Callaway Protestant Episcopal Church — The Broken Bow Episco- 
pal Church — The Church of God — Christian Church — Christian Churches of 
Arnold, Liberty, Broken Bow, Anselmo, White Pigeon, Ansley, Coburg, Mason 
City, Lillian, Sargent, Banner Schoolhouse, and Milburn — Custer County Cath- 
olics — Beginning of Catholic Work in Dale — The Broken Bow Catholic Church 
— -The Oconto Church and Mason City Church — Ansley Catholic Church — 
United Brethren in Christ — The United Brethren Begin at Custer Center — • 
Sunday Schools in Custer County — County Sunday School Association — 
The Reorganization Works Well ^~ State Sunday School Convention at 
Broken Bow — Comparison of Convention Attendance 

Governor Bradley once said that at the end 
of every buffalo's tail was a Alethodist preach- 
er going west. That was a fine tribute to the 
pioneer work of the Methodist people. It is 
a tribute, too, that they deserve in connection 
with Custer county, as subsequent history of 
Methodism in the county will disclose. 

But on the Middle Loup at least one buf- 
falo's tail was ornamented with a Christian 
preacher instead of a Methodist, and that ani- 
mal seems to have led the herd, for the preach- 
er referred to, the Rev. E. D. Eubanks, was 
probably the first preacher in the county and 
the one who preached the first sermon and 
performed the first marriage ceremony. 

In 1875 Rev. Eubanks held services in dif- 
ferent homes of the Douglas Grove commu- 
nity, and accordingly he was the first repre- 
sentative of his denomination, or of anv de- 

nomination, to pre-empt the field for Christian 

Also in the same year came a Methodist 
preacher, by the name of Lemin, and held the 
first Methodist services of which any record 
can be found. Rev. Lemin, like Rev. Eubanks, 
made the homes of the people the sanctuaries 
of worship. It was in the home of A. A. Hig- 
gins that the first Methodist quarterly meeting 
was held by the pioneer divine. Rev. Lemin 
is, therefore, credited with beginning Meth- 
odist work some time late in the fall of 187.5. 

.\s will be seen under the head of Baptist 
Pioneer Work, a Rev. J. P. Cook began the 
denominational work for the Baptists by hold- 
ing services and conducting Sunday schools in 
the settlers' homes of Lee's Park, in 1878. 

In 1880 a minister from West Virginia set- 
tled in the New Helena district and, like the 




other pioneer preachers, began a series of 
house meetings. His denomination is not re- 
corded by the historian who chronicles his 
advent in the country, but as the work he be- 
gan was followed up by that of a Presbyterian 
minister, L. L. Burbank, who came afterward, 
the work of the Rev. Stevens is accredited to 
the Presbyterians. 

This puts the denominational work of the 
churches in Custer county in the following 
order: First. Christians or Disciples; second, 
Methodists; third, Baptists; fourth, Presby- 
terians. Other denominations early on the field 
were the United Brethren, the Lutherans, the 
Catholics, the Church of God, the Free Meth- 
odists, and perhaps others were among the 
pioneers, but their advent did not affect the 
order named above. 

viction that he was 'divinely called" to preach 
that he could find neither rest nor peace until 
he had consecrated himself to the ministrj-. 
Ordained by the Evangelical Association, he 
had been engaged in the work about three 
years when, in the fall of 1885, he preached 
his first sermon on Buffalo Table. It was the 
first religious service or meeting that some who 
were there had attended in two years. His 
efforts were well received and in due time he 
made fortnightly appointments, which, in con- 
nection with other points, he continued to fill 
for three years. As an evangelist and organ- 
izer this unlettered Bonarges had but few 
equals, and, measured by results, he attained 
a success denied to many whose entire lives 
had been devoted to the study of theology and 


One of the pioneer preachers who seems to 
have been effective and practical in his work, 
even if he was lacking in theological training, 
is described by James Whitehead as a cowboy 
preacher, in the following paragraph, written 
twenty years ago. He is not credited with any 
denominational affiliation : 

"Although most of us had held membership 
in dift'erent churches in our former homes, no 
minister of any denomination had come among 
us, and no preaching services had been held in 
that vicinity. With the erection of a school- 
house we were anxious to make amends for 
this apparent neglect and begin life aright in 
our new home. Mr. Crewdson, who was an 
Episcopalian, assured us he had a man in mind 
that could be secured, and soon thereafter ser- 
vices were announced with Rev. L. G. Brooker, 
'The Cowboy Preacher,' officiating; owing to 
reports that had reached us relative to the 
man's past, great interest was attached to this 
first sermon. The Rev. Brooker, or 'Rrooker,' 
as he was commonly called, was a character as 
unique, and possessed a personality as striking 
as in their day did Lorenzo Dow or Peter 
Cartwright. He owned and lived upon a fann 
in Platte valley, twenty-two miles to the south, 
had been converted some four years before, 
and became so stronglv imbued with the con- 


The late E. N. Bishop leaves us this story, 
in which early church work is graphicallv pic- 
tured : 

"Early in the spring of 1880 a preacher 
from Harper's Fern,', West Virginia, named 
Stephenson, took the claim now owned by 
Robert Ross and commenced preaching at New 
Helena, but as he tired of keeping bach.' he 
returned east and left the people without a 
minister. Learning that a Presbyterian min- 
ister of the name of Burbank, living at George- 
town, on the South Loup, could be procured 
to preach once a month, the people of all de- 
nominations interested sent for him. He came, 
organized a Presbyterian church, and preached 
about two years, or until the Methodists made 
arrangements to start a class which included 
this appointment, on the Westcrville circuit, 
with preaching every two weeks. Some yea'rs 
later, I have forgotten the date, a preacher of 
the name of Ross, living in Indiana, offered 
to come to Broken Bow if the church there 
would pay his fare to Grand Island. As 
Broken Bow was not able to support a preach- 
er at that time, the class at Gates united with 
them and helped to pay the pas.sage of the 
Indiana preacher to Grand Island. He came, 
reorganized the class and preached in the old 
sod schoolhouse. near where the Gates school- 



liouse stands at this time. Since that time this 
church has always maintained an organization 
and Sunday school, even keeping a minister 
during all the years of 'the drouth. About 
1888 the Christian church organized a society 
at the White Pigeon schoolhouse, and have 
maintained it ever since, as have also the Free 
]\Iethodists at the Oxford schoolhouse and the 
Lutherans at Round Valley. In the fall of 
1880 A. N. Peale taught a three months' 
school in district number 13, now generally 
known as the Oxford district. As this was 
the first and only school within fourteen miles, 
the children either went to it or went fishing. 
During the first years of our settlement the 
ranchmen and new settlers consumed every- 
thing the farmers could raise, but when farm- 
ing became more general and on a larger 
scale, and new settlers ceased to come in so 
fast, the farmers commenced to raise hogs to 
consume their produce ; consequently when the 
fall of 1890 came, the country was full of hogs. 
Having no corn to feed them, some of the 
farmers sold their stock hogs to eastern feed- 
ers, some knocked them in the head, while 
others let them stand around and squeal. 
Under these conditions church work had a 
hard beginning." 


The ]\Iethodists now cover the county with 
ten circuits or stations, the headquarters of 
which are located in Ansley, Arnold, Anselmo, 
Berwyn, Broken Bow, Callaway, Mason City, 
Sargent, Merna, and Westerville. 

The denomination owns fifteen church 
buildings, valued at $60,000. Two of them, 
the Sargent and Arnold buildings, are modern 
brick edifices, of the latest type, and would do 
splendid credit to much older communities. 
There are ten parsonages now in the county, 
all for the most part modern cottages, which 
as many iNIethodist preachers with their fami- 
lies occupy. These parsonages are valued at 
$20,000. The ten pastors receive good salaries 
and the churches have a combined member- 
ship of 1,856, with a family constituency of 
approximately 3,600 persons. 


Prior to the founding of Ansley, Methodist 
itinerants rode over the hills and valleys, 
preaching in schoolhouses and homes. One of 
these men was Rev. J. C. Dorris. In Sep- 
tember, 1886, Rev. William Esplin, who was 
homesteading seven miles southwest of Ansley, 
was appointed as the first regularly located 
pastor of the Methodist body of Ansley and 
vicinity, and preached alternately at Plea- 
sant Valley and at this point. At firsti 
services were held in the new Burlington 
depot, but when the Presbyterian church 
was built, the services were held there. The 
church was organized July 12. 1887, and 
in 1890, under the pastorate of Rev. D. M. 
Ellsworth, the present church building was 
erected. The pastors who have served this 
church up to 1918 are as follows : William 
Esplin (1886-7), Francis Brock (1887-8), D. 
M. Ellsworth (1888-90), H. H. York (1890- 
1891), B. F. Peck (1891-2), John P. Crane 
and D. W. Denny (1892-3), L. W. Chandler 
(1893-5), A. Gibson (1895-7), W. H. For- 
syth (1897-1900), M. S. Foutch (1900-1901), 
L. W. Chandler (1901-3), Selden Ewing 
(1903-5), Raymond Rush (1905-8), John 
Carton (1908-9), W. S. McCallester (1909- 
1914), R. H. Carr (1914-15), E. O. Johnson 
(1915-16), W. L. Hadsell (1916-18). Under 
the pastorate of Rev. O. E. Johnson, the 
church building was greatly improved, by the 
addition of a basement. The church now has 
a membership of 200, a Sunday-school en- 
rollment of 180, an Epworth League member- 
ship of thirty, and a Woman's Foreign ]\Iis- 
sionary Society of twenty members. The 
officers of the church are: Trustees, J. H. 
Hiser, T. F. Elliott, Albert Arnold, E. O. 
Morris, W. O. Phillips, Andrew Sherbeck, and 
A. J. Hockom ; stewards, L. S. Newcomb, 
Mrs. George Nelms. O. D. Dran, Mrs. Clem 
Wilder, Mrs. A. J. Hockom, and R. M. Hay- 
slip; Sunday-school superintendent, L. S'. 
Newcomb ; president of the Epworth League, 
Mrs. Curtis McCallister; president of the 



Woman's Foreign ^Missionary Society, Mrs. L. 
S. Newcomb. 

The first Methodist class was organized in 
the Chicago, Burlington, & Quincy depot, July 
12, 1887, by the Rev. William Esplin. Nine- 
teen charter members formed the roll of this 
new class. The names of these members are 
as follows: ^Irs. D. A. \'ansant, C. J. 
Stevens. W. A. Cross, T. T. Daniels, James 
Davis. ^Irs. James Davis, William Hawk, 
Sarah Gilbert, Anna Hawk, May Hawk. J. 
Harson. Mrs. J. Harson. Mary McCarger, J- 
AI. Porter, Mrs. 
J. yi. Porter, and 
C. D. Munson and 


Broken B o w 
has alwaj's been 
the county's 
stronghold of 
Methodism. The 
first Methodist 
church of tlie 
county-seat town 
is one of the 
strongest church- 
es in the county, 

of any denomination. It was organized in May, 
1883. In the same month of the class organiza- 
tion, the first sermon was preached by Rev. M. 
R. Pierce, in a store building. The following 
were the charter members of the class: W. A. 
Candy, A. M. Graham, Howard Graham, L. 
McCandless, J. S. Benjamin, John Roland, L. 
Trefren, Emma McCandless. Bertha Gandy. 
H. J, Reeder. \\'esley \"annicc. W. ^1. Her- 
bert, and L. H. Jewett. 

Since the organization of this class, ser- 
vices have been maintained without any inter- 
ruption, and in later years, with added strcngtli 
of numbers in the membership, came added 
influence and prominence in the community. 

The pastors of this church began life in a 
two-room sod parsonage and in this palace of 
"prairie marble" many couples were united in 
marriage and started on their careers 3s pio- 

Methodist Episcopai, Church .\t Broken Bow 

neer home-makers. !Many social functions 
held sway in the neat rooms of this sod bun- 

In 1883. the same year of the organization, 
a small, brick church was erected in the south 
part of town, and this did duty as Alethodist 
sanctuary and community auditorium until 
1898, when the present structure, on the block 
west of the court house, was erected, under 
the direction of the Rev. W. H. D. Hornaday. 
This structure is still in good repair and its 
auditorium is the largest in the town. It was 

built at a cost of 
seven thousand 

The second par- 
sonage, and the 
one which sup- 
planted the pio- 
neer soddy, was 
erected in 1886, 
during the pas- 
torate of the Rev. 
F. H. Calder. 
This dwelling was 
afterward o u t- 
grown, and the 
third parsonage 
erected in 
during the 
George P. 
the second 
Two years 

first pastorate of the Rev. 
Trites, who is to-day closing 
year of his second pastorate, 
ago (1916) the parsonage was again re- 
modeled, and was made thoroughly modern. 
The present membership of this church is be- 
tween three and four hundred. Thej- maintain 
a live Sunday-school, ladies' society, and all 
missionary societies working in connection 
with Methodist polity. 

In the roster of pastors who have served 
this church are many of the strongest Meth- 
odist preachers of the state, among whom are 
R. H. Thompson, A. A. Randall, and the pres- 
ent incumbent, the Rev. George P. Trites, 
who is a strong man in the pulpit, a faith- 
ful pastor, and who, withal, belongs to that 
class of genial spirits commonly called "good 




Gates and Walworth are country churches. 
They were intended to be city churches, but 
the respective cities of Gates and Walworth 
have been slow to materialize ; consequently, 
the churches stand in country places, each 
beside a lone store and postoffice. 

The first Methodist service at Gates was 
held in the sod house of Stillman Gates, who 
was one of the river pioneers. This service 
was conducted by Rev. M. R. Pierce, in 1884. 
The class was organized the same year, with 
nine charter mem- 
bers : Mr. and 
Mrs. Stillman 
Gates, Mr. and 
Mrs. R. Young, 
]\Ir. and Mrs. Ed. 
Bishop, Mr. and 
Mrs. W. J\I. Her- 
bert, and Will 

The present 
church building 
was erected dur- 
ing the pastorate 
of the Rev. J. M. 
Eads, in 1905. 
The pastoral work 
at tliis point is 
supplied from An- 

John W. Cole, 
whether a rever- 
end or not, is not recorded, held the first Meth- 
odist service in Walworth, in 1881, in the home 
of John Wdlker. A Sunday school was organ- 
ized in the same year. There were but few 
charter members who constituted the first 
class. Only the names of Mr. and Mrs. John 
Predmore and Mr. and Mrs. John Walker are 
recorded. The present church building was 
erected in 1907. 


One of the best Methodist churches in the 
county is the Arnold church, concerning which 
no data have been obtainable. It is the strong- 
est church of the community and has a corps 

Methodist Episcop.m, Church .-^t Arnold 

of stalwart supporters. They have a fine, new 
church, built in the year 1915, during the pas- 
torate of Rev. ]\Ir. Gettys. The church has 
been served in the past by such men as Rev. 
George B. Mayfield, Rev. Charles Bottom, and 


The Methodists were among the first on the 
ground at Sargent, yet little data are obtain- 
able. They commenced with a very few mem- 
bers and have steadily grown until to-day 

they really have 
the best church 
property of any 
church of their 
denomination in 
the county. Here- 
with is submitted 
a splendid picture 
of the church, 
which was built 
a few years ago. 


A splendid lit- 
tle church has 
been maintained 
by the Methodists 
of Merna since 
1885. The first 
sermon of this de- 
nomination was 
preached by the Rev. John F. Haney, who is to- 
day a resident of Broken Bow. The first class 
was organized by Henry Reeder. The present 
church building was built in 1901, by the Rev. 
W. C. Swartz. It is a small, four-gabled 
building, with class-room attachments, and 
makes a very neat appearance, in its location 
on the principal street of Merna. The attrac- 
tive five-room parsonage was built in 1909. 

The phenomenal success of the Alethodists 
is largely due to their pioneer work. They 
never neglected the sparsely settled country. 
Wherever they could find a Methodist home, 
there they had a Methodist sanctuary. And if 
a "circuit-rider," a "local exhorter," or "class 



leader" could be procured, a Methodist ser- 
vice was held, a Methodist Sunday school or- 
ganized, and Christian work commenced in 
that community. 


The date of the Westerville organization is 
not given in any record at hand, but it was 
efifected some time in the early "SOs and was 
one of the first churches in the county. Mrs. 
Floy Lee:h Cannon, who wrote the Wester- 
ville story in 1900, makes the statement that 
the Westerville Methodist church was the 
first frame church-building erected in the 
county. The church bell, which was placed in 
the belfry, was the first church bell that ever 
rang out upon Custer county air. It was 

First Methodist Episcopal Church at 

freighted from Kearney, and its Sunday morn- 
ing performances gave the Westerville church 
a citified air of unusual dignity. Mrs. Cannon 
also makes the statement that a Rev. Mr. 
Brooks was the first regular minister and that 
Rev. Mr. Hale, of the Orleans district in wes- 
tern Nebraska, was one of their early pastors. 
The church to-day is prosperous, and main- 
tains regular services, with Rev. Mr. Gettys 
in charge. 


In the early winter of 1880-81 Rev. Asbury 
Collins, one of the bold pioneer preachers 
whose labors are known throughout the whole 
of western Nebraska, preached the first ser- 
mon in or near the settlement of Delight. This 
service was held in the sod schoolhouse, which 
stood at the foot of the hill, one mile west of 

the present site of Callaway. At. Mr. Collins' 
next appointment, which was probably in Jan- 
• uary, 1881, he organized a society of the Meth- 
odist Episcopal church, with nine members, 
four of whom lived in the immediate neighbor- 
hood, the remaining five coming as far as ten 
miles from their homes in W'ood River val- 
ley. Mark H. Deems was appoited class- 
leader, which office in the church he held until 
he moved away from Callaway. Mr. Collins' 
work was principally organizing new churches 
and forming new circuits, and he came to De- 
light only once a month during the spring and 
summer following the organization, of the 
church. In the summer of 1881 Rev. Charles 
H. Savidge, a local preacher from Wisconsin, 
came into the community and lived with his 
son at the Cottonwood ranch, about three 
miles from Delight postofitice. Because of his 
own heavy work, ]\Ir. Collins placed the church 
at Delight in the hands of Mr. Savidge, who 
preached regularly for over two years. 

In the fall of 1884 the church received, for 
the first time, a minister regularly appointed 
by the annual conference — Rev. D. M. Ells- 
worth, who had just come from Illinois. Mr. 
Ellsworth had shipped his goods to Kearney, 
where the conference was held that year. In 
order to have a home for his family, he filed 
a homestead on a quarter-section of land and 
put up a little house. The preaching places 
in the circuit were Delight, Roten \'alley, and 
Cliff. There had- been a gradual increase in 
the membership, and after a protracted meet- 
ing, held in a sod schoolhouse, in the winter 
of 1884-5, the membership was thirty-five. 
The salary paid this year was $3-K), to which 
was added $123 from the missionary society 
of the church. In the summer of 1885, the 
people united in building a neat sod church, 
on the timber claim of Ira Graves, not far 
from the sod schoolhouse where they had here- 
tofore worshipped. The trustees were Ira 
Graves, Mark H. Deems, I. F. Miller, O. C. 
Murphy, and W'illiam Engels, who were 
elected by the quarterly conference July 18th. 
The lumber for the roof and floor of the new 
church was hauled from Cozad, a distance of 
fortv miles, and the chairs for seating from 




Plum Creek, now Lexington. The church 
was dedicated in November following, Rev. 
George W. Martin, presiding" elder. During 
this year Arnold was added to the Delight 

^Vhen the town of Callaway was laid out, in 
the summer of 1886, the services were moved 
from the church, which was nearly a mile out, 
to the dining room of the Deems hotel, then 
in course of erection. After the hotel was 
completed and occupied, the church services 
were held in Smith's hall, over a hardware 
store owned by Smith & Needham. This hall 
was commonly known as the "Callaway Opera 
House." For its use the church paid two dol- 
lars each Sunday and the same amount for 
each prayer meeting or extra service. 

Rev. Thomas H. Thurber was the next pas- 
tor, coming to the charge in the fall of 1886. 
His family made their home in a sod house 
belonging to Mark H. Deems and reserved by 
him when he sold his homestead for the town- 
site. Mr. Thurber himself was "holding 
down" a claim in Dawson county, and so 
moved his family back to the claim in the 
spring, where they remained until he made 
final proof, in the fall. Mr, Thurber was re- 
appointed for another year, and immediatelv 
after his return from conference, the people 
commenced the building of the first frame 
church in the town of Callaway, The build- 
ing cost $1,000 and was considered at that 
time quite an undertaking, but the trustees and 
members were determined in their efforts and 
the people of the community responded gener- 
ously. The church was dedicated December 
4, 1887, by Rev, I^eslie Stevens, at that time 
presiding elder. Only $300 yet remained un- 
paid, but to those who had already contributed 
all they felt able, it seemed like attempting the 
impossible to try to raise that amount. Un- 
willing to fail at the last moment, eight men 
agreed together to give each twenty-five dol- 
lars more, and when the call was made and 
these eight in succession subscribed so lib- 
erally, others also responded, and in a few 
minutes the whole amount was raised. After 
returning from their homestead, the pastor's 
family had occupied a single room over one of 

the stores in the town, for which they had to 
pay twelve dollars per month, and it was not 
difficult to see that a parsonage was an actual 
necessity. Accordingly, as soon as the church 
was completed, the trustees took shares in the 
building and loan association and immediately 
commenced work on the parsonage. It was 
completed in February, 1888, and from that 
time a good home — small, but cozy and com- 
fortable — has been ready for the Methodist 
minister and his family. The securing of a 
church building and parsonage may be con- 
sidered as closing the pioneer history of the 
Methodist church of Callaway, and, having 
laid aside its swaddling clothes, it has had only 
the ordinary experience of a church — hard- 
ships, opposition, and varying degrees of suc- 
cess — important in themselves but not of 
sufficient interest for a pioneer history, 


The following facts and data concerning the 
inception and progress of Baptist work in 
Custer county have been furnished by ]\Irs, J, 
H, Kerr, of Ansley, who for a number of 
years, has been the clerk of the Baptist Asso- 

The first work inaugurated by the Baptists 
in the early days, when pioneers were 
struggling with the conditions incident to all 
new countries, was the holding of intermittent 
services in Lee's Park, by Rev. J. P. Cook, an 
aged Baptist minister, familiarly called Father 
Cook. Father Cook was a scholarly man, with 
a theological training, and during his early 
ministry held some very important pulpits. He 
homesteaded on the Middle Loup in the spring 
of 1878, and, following his natural inclination 
for missionary work, gathered the settlers to- 
gether in some available home, and held 
preaching services and maintained Sunday 
school work. His work in Lee's Park re- 
sulted later in the organization of a small 
Baptist church, which held together for a few 
years, but in the process of western moving 
and shifting, the constituent members moved 
to other localities and the church was short- 

The second Baptist minister to adopt Cus- 



ter county as a missionary field was the Rev. 
Amos Weaver, who preached his first Custer 
county sermon in the fall of 1880. in the home 
of Mr. and Mrs. D. M. .Amsberry, on the 
Muddy creek. Rev. Weaver, too, was a sem- 
inary man and was then engaged in western 
missionary work with his field of labor mostly 
in Valley county. During the last session of 
the Baptist Association, held June 28-30, 1918, 
at Mason City, the announcement of his death, 
which occurred only a few weeks before, was 
made. The association interrupted its busi- 
ness and caused a tribute to be paid to his life 
and character, besides ordering a fitting reso- 
lution of respect to be incorporated in the asso- 
ciational minutes. 

The Baptists were the third denomination 
to begin work in the county, and since the in- 
ception of church organization, in 1881. nine- 
teen Baptist churches liave been organized 
within the limits of the county. These have 
had a more or less checkered career. Out of 
the nineteen, only eleven survive until this 
present time. In the eight dead churches, like 
in the seven churches of Asia, there was much 
to commend. Their work is done, and the 
workers, for the most part, have transferred 
their Christian activities to other fields. Among 
the churches that were, and now are not. is 
the Baptist church of Clear Creek, which was 
organized some time late in 1881, by Rev. I. 
D. Fleming. This was the third church or- 
ganized in the county. It sun'ived but a few 
years. W. T. Powers, then of Westerville, 
was the church clerk. The second in this list 
of deceased churches was the Oconto Baptist 
church, organized in 1884, by Rev. J. E. 
Ingham, assisted by B. W. Southwell, of Gib- 
bon, and I\Iark King, of Broken Bow. I. H. 
Edmisten was the first clerk of the Oconto 
church. Rev. J. W. Osborn, a general mis- 
sionary, preached the first Baptist sermon in 
Oconto. The Oconto church lasted five vears. 
No building was ever erected, and since 1889 
no Baptist work has been maintained. 

Lee's Park church was organized probably 
in 1888, but we have no records or informa- 
tion conceming its organization. It was ad- 
mitted into the association in 1889, and prob- 

ably passed out of existence without ever hav- 
ing a settled pastor. 

Ash Grove Baptist church, Dale \'alley 
Baptist church, and Ortello Baptist church, 
have likewise a paucity of recorded history. 
We know but little conceming them. The 
Ortello church seems to have died the same 
year the Dale church was born, but removals 
soon disbanded the Dale church. Of the Ash 
Grove church there are absolutely no avail- 
able records concerning its work, other than 
it died in 1894. 

Some time in 1887 Rev. William Elliot 
organized a church known as the Union \'al- 
ley Baptist church, eight or nine miles south 
and west of the present site of Broken Bow. 
This church flourished for a little season. 
Within the year 1888 they built a sod meeting- 
house and they maintained for some time com- 
munity services. There is no record that they 
ever had a settled pastor. J. Q. Daggett, who 
was then a regularly ordained Baptist min- 
ister, preached for them and did considerable 
pastoral work. The following year, 1889, the 
little church encountered the difiiculties of a 
changing, shifting population, and after a few 
of the stalwart leaders moved away, the few 
remaining members disbanded. 

In 18*^4 a church was organized at Spring 
Creek, with Rev. D. S. Hulbert, pastor. That 
is all the record that is obtainable of the Spring 
Creek organization. 


The Baptists of Custer county now main- 
tain eleven live and more or less prosperous 
churches. All of them, with one exception, 
have buildings adequate to their needs. They 
have seven parsonages, located as follows : Lo- 
max. Arnold, Merna, Broken Bow (two), Ans- 
ley, and Mason City. This parsonage property 
is worth approximately $12,000. 

Ever since 1884 an associational organiza- 
tion, made up of delegates from the various 
churches named, has been maintained. The 
first session was held in I'.roken Bow October 
24. 1884. Five churches were represented in 
that meeting, namely : Broken Bow, Oak 
Springs (now Ma.son City), Clear Creek, 




Oconto, and ^lerna. The late Edmund King, 
of Broken Bow, was elected moderator and J. 
H. Edmisten of Oconto, was elected clerk. 
Since that time, without any iterruptions, the 
association meetings have been held at some 
place where the delegates have been the guests 
of the entertaining church. For the last 
eighteen or twenty years. D. M. Amsberry, of 
Broken Bow, has served as moderator and 
]\Irs. J. H. Kerr, of Ansley, has served as 


The county seat being the metropolis, it 
naturally would be expected to have the 
strongest church, and in this expectations are 
realized. This was the first Baptist church 
organized in the county. The date of its or- 
ganization was July 5, 1881. Lucky or un- 
lucky, there were thirteen charter members — 
Edmund King, Emily King, Mark King, Mar- 
tha King, Cyrus King, Moses Lewis, Martha 
Lewis, Henry C. Reyner, Emma Reyner, Jacob 
Mauk, Catherine Mauk, S'amuel A. Miller, and 
Laura ]\Iiller. 

The church was organized by Rev. I. D. 
Fleming, who served as first pastor. In 1885 
they erected a small but commodious building 
that met the needs of the little congregation in 
those days. ' In 1897 thts building was re- 
modeled, enlarged, and made more attractive. 
In 1887 this church built the first Baptist par- 
sonage of the county, a building which still 
stands, on lower Broadway, and is owned by 
W. A. Tooley. A few years later, another 
parsonage was built, on the corner of Broad- 
way and Tenth avenue, beside the remodeled 
church. This building is a five-room cottage, 
modernized, and located, as it is, in close prox- 
imity to the church, it makes an ideal home for 
the janitor. Last year, 1917, the church bought 
a valuable property in the same block, fronting 
on Broadway, and converted it into a pastori- 
um, located in a beautiful grove of maple and 
mountain ash. It adds much to the appearance 
and value of the church property and equip- 
ment. Since the organization of the church 
the following pastors have served, in the order 
named : Rev. I. D. Fleming. Rev. J. E. Ingham, 
Rev. D. W. Hall. Rev. Charles Davis. Rev. 

James Sheppard, Rev. A. J. Fleming. Rev. E. 
G. Boyer, Rev. T. F. Schlosser, Rev. J. S. 
Hadden, Rev. J. W. Megan, Rev. W. S. Rich- 
ards, Rev. S. P. Morris, Rev. A. \V. Yale, 
Rev. A. AI. Lavack, Rev. J. D. Brady, Rev. A. 
T. Norwood, Rev. A. E. Rapp, Rev. W. L. 
Gaston, Rev. J. B. Taylor, and Rev. W. L. 

In 1912, during the pastorate of Rev. A. E. 
Rapp, a new building enterprise was under- 
taken. The old church, on the corner of 
Broadway and Tenth avenues, directly south 
of the court-house, was sold and moved away, 
and preparations were made for the erection 
of a modern brick edifice in its place. 

At this time Rev. Rapp tendered his resig- 
nation, and the succeeding pastor. Rev. W. L. 
Gaston, who was a resident of the county, was 
called to the pastorate and assigned the task 
of building the church. Mr. Gaston is now 
(1919) serving Nebraska as assistant secretary 
of state. 

The membership of the church, however, 
were united, harmonious, and in working 
spirit, and the task was not a hard one. Gen- 
erous assistance was given by the members of 
other churches and the town people generally. 


In striking contrast to the primitive sod 
sanctuary, or the private dugout, in which were 
set up the first altars before which Custer 
county pioneers worshiped, is the modern 
brick edifice standing on the corner of Broad- 
way and Tenth avenue in Broken Bow. Be- 
cause of the striking contrast, a description 
of the church, written five years ago, just 
before the church building was dedicated, is 

The final dedicatory services of the hand- 
some new Baptist church, which is now fully 
completed, will be held the coming Sunday, 
both morning, afternoon, and evening. This 
splendid house of worship as it stands, cost 
approximately $15,000 and is thoroughly 
modern in every particular. The finely 
equipped basement, with its spacious Sunday- 
school room, is worth going some distance 
to see. 



This place can be turned into the finest 
banquet room in the city and is perfectly 
equipped ih the way of culinary paraphernalia. 
Up-to-date lavatories and toilets also are to 
be found here. This banquet room, by the 
way, served to splendid advantage during the 
land registration. The ladies of the church 
conducted a dining-room here at all hours of 
the day and night, and during the two weeks 
succeeded in taking in a magnificent sum of 
$1,200 or over. This will make a good show- 
ing in the church-debt fund. 

But it is up in the auditorium, where the 
beautiful colored windows of opalescent glass 

as the Good Shepherd, which was donated by 
the Junior and Busy Bees classes. 

The Talbot memorial is on the south side, 
and was given by the children of Dr. and Mrs. 
R. C. Talbot, while the children of Mr. and 
Mrs. Jacob F. ^Mauk have donated a like 
memorial. Then there are the windows given 
by the boys' and primary classes, the prevail- 
ing colors in them being delicate shades of 
green and yellow. 

On the west, immediately back of the choir 
gallery, is a very unusual window, there being 
no other like it in the United States. It is an 
original design by Rev. W. L. Gaston, pastor 

Baptist Church at Broken Bow 

are, that the visitor is really impressed. Tliese 
windows, of which there are sixteen, were man- 
ufactured in St. Joseph, Missouri, and are 
really works of art. In the large hall of the 
church is the American flag window, which 
was donated by the Ladies' Missionary So- 

On the east side of the auditorium are two 
column windows in green and amber, one 
presented by the Sunday school to Mr. and 
Mrs. D. M. Amsberry ; while the other is a 
King memorial, presented by the relatives of 
Edmund and ^lark King, who were promi- 
nently connected with the church in an early 
day. Between the column windows is a rich 
and beautiful piece of coloring, showing Christ 

of the church. Across the top of the window 
is a double bar of music with the words : 
"Praise God From Whom All Blessings 
Flow." This window was dbnated by the 
choir, in honor of Mrs. Willis Cadwell, who 
has been the church organist for many years. 
The color scheme of this window is about the 
same as the rest. 

Directly in the west is a square window, in 
the center of which, portrayed in rich color 
is Hoflfman's "Ecce Homo." which shows the 
agony of Christ, on whose head is the crown 
of thorns. This is the gift of Mrs. W. L. 
Gaston and children, Gladys and On^in. Next 
to this is a memorial window, donated by 
Frank Kelsev in honor of his mother. 




In the pastor's study, the Ladies' Aid So- 
ciety has placed its window. Another window 
in the west is modest in design and is histori- 
cal, not to say vmiqiie. At the top is a picture 
of the old church and pastorium. Below the 
picture are names of all charter members and 
complete list of pastors up to the present time. 
There are also the names of the present offi- 
cers and the building committee. This is a 
gift of the young ladies of the church. There 
is only one other window like this in the world, 
and that is in the Baptist church at Creston, 

On the north side of the lecture room is a 
Calvary window, showing the scene of Cal- 
varv in the distance, with three crosses. It is 
an elegant painting and is the gift of the young 
men. The Bible-class window is also shown 
on the north side. 


Ten days after the organization of the Bro- 
ken Bow church, another Baptist church was 
organized, at Oak Springs, in the vicinity of 
old Algernon. This was called the Oak Springs 
Baptist church. John A. Hall was elected as 
first church clerk. This church seems to have 
been a strong, vigorous organization, com- 
posed of representative people who were alive 
to their opportunity and very willing to make 
sacrifices for the cause. Rev. I. D. Fleming 
was the organizer and first pastor of this 

With the building of the Chicago, Burling- 
ton, & Ouincy Railroad up to the Muddy, old 
.Algernon disbanded and the Oak Springs 
church removed to Mason City, where it is to- 
day a strong, prosperous organization. The 
church has passed through many trying times 
and has encountered many difficulties, but its 
members have hung together, weathered every 
storm, and are now out on the open sea of 
smoother sailing. The evolution of their 
church buildings would be hard to describe, 
other than to say that to-day they have a beau- 
tiful, commodious, not over-pretentious edi- 
fice, which will meet their -requirements for a 
few more years. 

In 1Q17 the church tore down the old pas- 

torium and erected a new one in its place. The 
new building is the finest pastorium owned by 
any denomination in the state, west of Grand 

The membership represents a good deal of 
wealth, so that the church is able to secure 
the services of able preachers and maintain 
all branches of denominational work. The 
membership approximates two hundred. Dur- 
ing later years they have been served by strong 
men, among whom the present pastor. Rev. 
Paul Scheuk, rates high. 


The Merna Baptist church was organized 
in 1884, by J. E. Ingham, assisted by ]\Iark 
King. Rev. William Elliott was called as first 
pastor and F. M. Frazier was church clerk. 
Here was a handful of devoted spirits, who 
were never able to make much progress but 
who have maintained worship, erected an edi- 
fice and a pastorium, and who at the present 
time maintain a local pastor. 

This organization seems to have nearly col- 
lapsed, and later, in 1887, there was a reor- 
ganization, by Rev. Sterns, of Grand Island. 
He conducted revival meetings, which resulted 
in a number of conversions and increased the 
membership to thirty-five. 

About this time the Lincoln Townsite Com- 
pany promised a lot to the denomination that 
built the first church. The Merna Baptist 
church took advantage of this oflfer, and at once 
solicited a building fund, as a result of which 
the present building was dedicated in the fall 
of 1887. 

The charter members, with the exception of 
two, have either died or moved away. The 
exceptions are J. B. Smith and Mrs. Nona 
Filkins. .\mong the pastors who have served 
the church are Rev. W. M. Jewel. W. A. Far- 
rell, F. A. Reisner, J. D. Brady, W. L. Gaston. 
and the present incumbent, the Rev. C. C. \'an 


The Baptist church of Ansley was organ- 
ized September 19, 1886, at the close of a 
sermon by the Rev. J. E. Ingham. There 



were thirteen charter members, as follows : A. 
B. Fleming- and wife, C. F. Davis and wife, 
JMrs. Jane Amsberry. ^I. S. CofTman. Walter 
W. Theobald and wife. Mrs. E. H. Burrows, 
Mrs. Cliarlotte A. Stevenson, James Wester- 
velt and wife, and J. G. Amsberry. It was 
first represented at the Custer Association, 
held at Broken Bow, September 24, 1886, by 
the following delegates: Mrs. Charlotte 
Stevenson. W. W. Theobald. James Wester- 
velt, and the pastor, J. E. Ingham. Meetings 
were first held in the town hall and afterward 
in the Presbyterian church. The church en- 
tertained the Custer Association in September, 
1887. Rev. Theobald came next as minister 
and preached until Rev. L. W. Gowen was 
called for part time. Rev. Mr. Gowen was 
pastor also at Mason City and continued to 
serve the two churches until November, 1889. 
Having no church building and losing by re- 
moval its efficient church clerk, W. W. Theo- 
bald, and by death one of its most faithful 
members, Mrs. E. H. Burrows, it had no reg- 
ular services from 1889 to 1899. On .\ugust 
8, 1899, Rev. S. C. Green, secretan,- of the 
Nebraska State Baptist Association, reorgan- 
ized the Baptist church, the meeting being 
held in the parlor of ]Mrs. C. R. Stevenson. 
Those going into the new organization were : 
Mrs. Charlotte Stevenson, J. H. Kerr and 
wife, N. Amsberry and wife, Arthur, Myrtle, 
and Minnie Meyers, A. H. Lewis and wife, 
E. J. Ov.'ens and wife, and \erla and Esty 
Lewis. The officers chosen were : Rev. J. 
R. Woods, pastor for part time ; deacon, N. 
Amsberry: clerk, A. IT. Lewis; trustees. J. H. 
Kerr, Henry Zimmerman, and E. J. Owens; 
treasurer. Mrs. J. II. Kerr. On August 20, 
1899, the church was given recognition and 
again received into the Custer Association as 
a Baptist church, regularly organized. In 
1901 J. H. Kerr was appointed to iiurclia?e 
three lots for the church building. These lots 
were located on Main street, and on October 
25, 1903, the church was dedicated. In Febru- 
ary, 1906. two more lots were purchased and 
a parsonage built. In 1917 a basement was 
built, at a cost of $2,000. Pastors who have 
served the church : J. E. Ingham, L. W. 

Gowen, J. R. Woods. D. J. Briggs. \\. K. 
Markland. J. M. F. Heuman. Frank C. Bar- 
rett. F. A. Conners. R. Richards. C. T. McKee, 
J. T. Brown, C. A. Spaulding, and the present 
pastor, R. Richards. The church has always 
been a missionary church and has contributed 
largely to all the denominational interests. In 
1911 a branch of the church was organized at 
Happy Hill schoolhouse. J. E. Staab. Lyman 
Amsberry, and Ray Zimmerman being the 
officers. The present membership is 165. The 
church property is valued at $8,000. The 
i:resent officers are: Pastor. R. Richards; 
deacons, N. Amsberry, William Ililow. and 
Chester Loyd; trustees, J. H. Kerr, William 
Price, and W. J. McCullough ; treasurer, Mrs. 
J. H. Kerr ; Sunday-school superintendent, J. 
B. Jones ; Sunday-school secretary, Elsie But- 
ler ; Sunday-school treasurer, Mrs. Mabel 
Lewis ; organist. Miss Crissie Southard ; cho- 
rister. Mrs. J. H. Holeman ; B. Y. P. U. presi- 
dent, Mrs. Fannie Austrand. At the reorgani- 
zation of the church in 18W, a Mission Circle 
was formed, of whicli Mrs. J. H. Kerr has 
always been the president. \lrs. E. W. Pester 
is at present the secretary-treasurer. 

In 1906 a new parsonage was built, which 
has since been improved and modernized, and 
it is to-day occupied by the incumbent pastor, 
Rev. R. Richards. 


Rev. J. M. Maxwell, an able and educated 
minister, from Indiana, located at Cumro and 
in 1886 organized the first Eudell Baptist 
church, with Nc George as church clerk. 
Shortly after its organization, a sod church 
was built, and this served the purposes of the 
congregation and community for a number of 
years — until it was replaced by the frame 
building which is now in use. The work in 
this community has been steady, never large, 
but always the faithful resident members have 
sustained Sunday-school and, most of the time, 
]ireaching servicer. 

The church to-day is under tlie pastoral 
care of Rev. W. C. ^^'alcott. who serves this 
church in connection with the field at Sumner. 
In 18'il a Itranch of this church was organized, 



by the Rev. J. M. I\Iax\vell, at a [xiint six 
or seven miles east of the first church, and 
this newer branch organization is now called 
the Second Eiidell Baptist church. 

The career of the second church has been 
much the same as that of the first. A few 
substantial Baptist families, such as those of 
William Eleo and B. F. Nicholas, have con- 
tributed both the life and support of the church 
for the last twenty years or more. At present 
the church employs a pastor for half time. 
Rev. W. E. Stilson serves this church and also 
that of Bethel Union, eight miles north of 
Broken Bow. 


Owing to the missionary work of O. A. 
Buzzell, two small churches were organized in 
the Wood river and South Loup country, at 
Lomax and Lodi. These organizations were 
effected some time in the early '90s. Both 
have secured frame buildings and a comfort- 
able parsonage has been built at Lomax. These 
are both rural churches and preaching ser- 
vices have been more or less intermittent. In 
each neighborhood, however, reside one or two 
staunch Baptist families, who have managed 
to keep church expenses paid and the church 
door open. At the present time both churches 
are without pastors. 


On January 20, 1901. the Bethel Union 
church, eight miles north of Broken Bow, was 
organized in the home of Mrs. Amanda Hol- 
comb. Seven persons were present, and only 
a few charter members were obtained, but 
meetings were held in a schoolhouse and the 
people of the community, generally, gave the 
church their support. Several additions were 
made to the church as the result of evangelistic 

In 1906 the church built the present build- 
ing and dedicated it. free of debt. The regu- 
lar services have been maintained most of the 
time since. The Rev. J. R- A\'oods served as 
pastor for a number of years next after the 

Rev. W. L. Gaston, then of ]\lerna, com- 

menced afternoon services in August, 1909, 
and continued them every two weeks until the 
close of 1915. Since that time the church has 
been without services most of the time. Rev. 
W. E. Stilson is present pastor and is spend- 
ing much time upon the field. Only a few of 
the original members remain, removals and 
death having changed entirely the first church 


The Highland church is the baby church of 
the association, as the result of a meeting held 
on the extreme west and southern rim of the 
West Table, by the Rev. F. A. Reisner, in the 
fall of 1916. A few families were banded to- 
gether into a church organization, known as 
the Highland Baptist church. 

The work they have been doing, which con- 
sists mainly of maintaining a Sunday-school 
and an occasional preaching service, has been 
largely of a union character. Rev. C. C. Van 
Gorkon, pastor of the Merna church, is now 
serving the Highland church with afternoon 
appointments. The organization has no build- 
ing, but maintains services in a schoolhouse. 


The Free Methodist church of Ansley has 
a membership of twenty-five, but they are hold- 
ing no services at present. They own a par- 
sonage, the value of which is $1,800. The 
trustees of the church are M. V. Hawk, J. H. 
Brand, and John Daniels. This denomination 
has a small following throughout the countv. 
but their work has been intermittent and con- 
fined to localities in the country pre:incts. They 
have no church buildings at the present time 
and no county organization. 


The first Presbyterian services of which 
there is any record were held in the home of 
S. C. Stuckey, on Burr Oak creek, in 1879, by 
Rev. Air. Cornett, who was then located at 

The first Presbyterian organization, as 
stated elsewhere, was in the New Helena 
district, in 1880, at which time a minister 
named Stevenson, from ^^'est \"irginia, lo- 



cated on a New Helena homestead. Steven- 
son stayed but a short time, perhaps less than 
one year, but during that time effected a local 
organization of some nature, which later was 
carried on by Rev. Lysander T. Burbank, who 
in the same year located in the vicinity of 
Burr Oak. Afterw^ard, however, this New 
Helena and Lillian work was taken over by the 
Methodists, who supplied the preaching sta- 
tions from Westerville. 

Some time in the spring of 1880 a Presby- 
terian church was organized at Burr Oak, by 
a Rev. Mr. Little, who was the first synodical 
missionary to do Presbyterian work in Custer 
county. Rev. 
Dr. Burbank, 
who arrived in 
Custer county 
October 1, 1880. 
came to assume 
the pastorate of 
this church, 
which he served 
for a number of 
years without 
salary. Aside 
from being a 
preacher, Dr. 
Burbank was a 
physician, and 
he practiced 

medicine up and down the South I^oup in the 
early days. The records show that he was a 
student under Mark Hopkins, the illustrious 
president of Williams College. President Gar- 
field and ex-Senator John J. Ingalls were both 
upper-class men in this institution while Dr. 
Burbank was an undergraduate. 

This Burr Oak church is maintained at the 
present time, but has no pastor. 


The Presbyterian church of PIroken Bow 
was organized in 1885, by a Rev. Mr. Dore- 
mus, who at the time was serving the Ansley 
church. The charter members were E. A. 
Hemsworth, Mrs. Hemsworth, G. H. Tuttle. 
Mrs. Addie Tuttle, Mrs. Jennie Biggerstaff, 
Mrs. R. E. Martin, and Mrs. Kimel Barnes. 

Presbyteri.xn Church .\t Broken Bow 

For some time services were held in a public 
hall, the congregation awaiting the time when 
they felt they would be able to build the church 
home they required. This was done in 1893. 
A very commodious, beautiful structure, for the 
time, was erected on the north side of the rail- 
road, on Tenth avenue, at a cost of about $3,500. 
The Rev. George Bailey was pastor during the 
building and dedication of the church. This 
was at the time the best church building in the 
county. In 1904 the structure was destroyed 
by fire, and it was rebuilt in the fall of the 
same year. It was dedicated in April, 1906. 
The following account of the dedication is 

from a denomi- 
national paper 
published at the 
time : 

''More than a 
year ago this 
church lost its 
pleasant house 
of worship 
through a visita- 
tion of fire, and 
the people were 
forced to meet in 
a rented hall — 
as in the early 
days of their or- 
ganization. At 
once they began to plan for a new church 
which would be larger and more conven- 
ient than the one destroyed. As a re- 
sult of their energy' and liberality, a building 
costing about $6,000 was dedicated on April 
10, during the session of Kearney presbytery, 
which was being held at Broken Bow. 
Rev. George A. Ray, D. D., of St. Paul, 
preached the dedicatory sermon ; the pastor. 
Rev. A. A. ^Mitchell, conducted the formal ser- 
vice of dedication. Rev. Dr. Thomas C. Clark, 
of Grand Island, offering the prayers. During 
this same session of the presbytery a formal 
call was presented from the Broken Bow 
church to Rev. A. A. Mitchell, and he 
was installed as pastor, on the evening of 
April 11, 1906. Since that time the church 
has had renewed life, receiving on one Sab- 



bath forty new members into its commu- 

While Rev. A. A. Alitchell was not settled 
as pastor until the time of dedication, he had 
been acting as stated supply and it was due 
to his labor that the church was built. 

The church has a membership of approxi- 
mately 150 and is a very liberal contributor 
to every denominational and benevolent cause. 

The church erected a manse which is a 
splendid, two-story, modern structure, equal 
to all the needs of a minister's family. The 
present pastor. Rev. A. H. Frazer, has been 
eight years with the church, loved. by his peo- 
ple and respected by the community. 


The Presbyterian building was the first 
church structure erected in Ansley. It was 
built in the spring of 1887 and was dedicated 
in July of the same year. Rev. Mr. Sexton, of 
Seward, officiating. The first pastor was Rev. 
Mr. Doremus. Being the only church in the 
town, it was used by all denominations until 
each was able to erect a church edifice of its 
own. Several ministers, whose names are not 
now remembered, served the church before 
1893. But in that year Rev. Mr. Alitchelmore 
became its pastor. He continued in that'capa- 
city up to 1894, and thereafter, on account of 
the drouth, the church stood vacant for sev- 
eral years. The next pastor was Rev. Paul 
Naylor, since whose pastorate the ministers 
whose names we have been able to secure, have 
been Rev. Mr. McCachran, Rev. Mr. Strick- 
ler, and Rev. Mr. Thomas. The church is now 


Although the people of the Protestant Epis- 
copal church were not among the early pio- 
neers, they have, nevertheless, been mission- 
aries of no mean dimensions. They have 
operated, in a small way, in most of the towns 
of the county. Their people were among the 
early settlers in most localities, although, in 
most instances, not numerous enough to war- 
rant the establishing of a church. 

.■\t the present time they maintain service at 

Broken Bow and Callaway, where they have 
strong churches and good equipment. 


While an occasional service was held in 
Callaway by the missionary resident of Broken 
Bow, under the direction of the Right Rev- 
erend George Worthington, bishop of the dio- 
cese of Nebraska, it was not until the conse- 
cration of Right Reverend Anson R. Graves, 
January 1, 1890, and the setting aside of the 
jurisdiction of the Platte, that any regular 
services were held in Callaway. Bishop 
Graves visited Callaway Alay 16, 1890, and 
arranged for regular services by Rev. W. S. 
Sayres, rector at Broken Bow. Under his 
active encouragement and help, Holy Trinity 
church was erected and the misison built up. 
The church building cost $1,500 and was 
erected in 1890. To the ceaseless energy of 
Mrs. Georgia Ingram, more than to any other 
one person, is due the credit for the erection 
of the largest church building in Callaway. 
Its corner-stone was laid, with due Masonic 
ceremonies, November 25, 1890, this beinsr the 
first instance in which this symbolic service was 
held in Custer county. The officers present 
were : M. W. Robert E. French, grand mas- 
ter ; and R. W. Lee P. Gillett, grand custodian. 
They were assisted by forty master Masons, 
local and visitors. Broken Bow sent twenty- 
six Masons. In the furnishing of the church 
many beautiful and useful articles were re- 
ceived from various liberal churchmen, among 
which were : Silver communion service, by 
the sons of O. M. Carter, Omaha ; Holy Bible, 
Church of the Heavenly Rest, New York; 
bell, John Taylor & Company, Laughborough, 
England; altar linen, altar hangings, and dos- 
sal curtain, beautiful white set, Mrs. Georgia 
Ingram, San Diego, California ; purple set, 
Mrs. Graves, wife of the bishop; green set, 
Ladies' Guild ; alms basin. Rev. R. G. Osborn, 
of Platte Collegiate Institute ; corner stone, 
cross, Mr. Osborn, of Kearney granite works ; 
candlesticks, gilt and silver, Arthur Bird ; 
vases, V. G. Gurinian. 

The year 1893 brought a financial panic 
and a failure of crops. A tornado, on June 4, 



1894, threw the church off its foundation and 
injured everything in the building. In this 
year of misfortunes, the church was moved to 
a new location, was repaired, a furnace was put 
in, and a rectory built, necessitating an expend- 
iture of $950 in cash. By some strange co- 
incidtence, the greatest niaterial advance to 
Holy Trinuy church has seemed to come in 
times of greatest financial depressions. The 
church was consecrated, free of debt, January 
1, 1895, and organized as a mission, under the 
rules of the bishop of the Platte, July 7, 1895. 
The jurisdiction of the Platte was abolished 
and the jurisdiction of Laramie took its place 
in 1898. At first, services were held once a 
month, sometimes once in two months, but the 
church has so prospered that since 1900 regu- 
lar morning and evening services have been 
held every Sunday. The rector does mis- 
sionary work along the Kearney & Black 
Hills Railroad and around Callaway. The 
following rectors have had charge -of this 
mission under Rt. Rev. Anson R. Graves. S'. 
T. D.. bishop of Laramie: Rev. W. S. Sayres. 
Rev. S. A. Potter, Rev. H. E. Robbins, Rev. 
Austin F. ^Morgan, Rev. E. P. Chittenden, 
Ph.D., Rev. John Powers, Rev. A. E. Os- 
born. Rev. R. A. Russell. Rev. Charles Fer- 
guson, Rev. R. AI. Herdman. Rev. J. M. Bates. 
The number of communicants on ]\Iay 1. 1''01. 
was fifty. The, then, official members of the 
church were : Senior warden, H. H. An- 
drews ; junior warden, George O. Benger; 
clerk, !Mrs. Clara Benger : organist. Miss 
Emily Holloway; lay-reader. H. H. Andrews. 
To the chief shepherd of the flock. Bishop 
Graves, is due chief praise for his good work 
in his mission, giving it the best of his clergy 
and ever raising funds to improve its prop- 

The Ladies' Guild of the Protestant Ejiis- 
copal church was organized by the Rt. Rev. 
Anson R. Graves at the time of his first visit 
to Callaway, on May, 16, 1890. This organi- 
zation was completed Alay 27, 1890, by the 
adoption of the by-laws and the election of the 
following officers. President, Mrs. Lydia F. 
Bird; vice-president. Mrs. Catherine E. Nixdn : 
secretary, Mrs. Georgia .\. Ingram ; treasurer. 

George S. Smith. The following mem- 
bers were first enroUetl : Mrs. Lydia F. Bird, 
Mrs. Anna Tyson, ]\Irs. Catherine E. Nixon, 
Mrs. Etta Bergman, Mrs. Georgia A. Ingram, 
Mrs. Fannie Sherwood, Mrs. Martha Pike, 
^liss Lucy J. Johnston. From this nucleus 
sprang not a large but a very active guild, 
which has been the mainstay of Holy Trinity 
church. The history of the guild is the history 
of the church. The guild really was the prime 
mover in building and furnishing the church. It 
purchased the historical organ — the organ 
which for years was the only one in town, one 
which was used to every occasion, and which 
finally, through the liberality of the guild, 
found a resting place within the church, where 
it now dispenses sacred music as sweetly as 
it did secular harmonies in its youth. The 
guild furnished the seats of the church, the 
communion rail, and the altar. It paid for 
half of the English bell and paid freight and 
custom duties on it. The bell was a half-gift 
from John Taylor & Company, Laughborough. 
England. So not only is the church in com- 
munion with the Church of England, but the 
congregation assembles every Sunday at the 
ring and call of its English bell. The guild 
has supported in ])art the rector's salar\-, paid 
incidental expenses, se.xton and organist, and 
made up deficiencies in general. During the 
drouth of 18<50. the guild disbursed needful 
articles to the indigent and worthy poor, and 
the same was true of the great drouth of 1894. 
It is the active, working organization of the 
church, rich in good deeds and worthy of the 
highest praise. The officers at that time were : 
President, Mrs. Hattie Andrews ; secretary, 
Mrs. Clara Benger; vice-president, Mrs. Jo- 
sephine Phillips: treasurer, Mr. H. H. An- 
drews. The membership is about twenty. 

Holy Trinity Sunday-school membership has 
remained about stationary. The superinten- 
dent, from the time of organization, has been 
H. H. Andrews. Teachers : Olive Phillips, 
Mabel Decker, Enima Conly. Emily Holloway, 
and Emily Brcga. 


The ministrations of the Episcopal church 



were first brought to Broken Bow during the 
days of the late Bishop Worthington, who, in 
1886, sent Rev. M. Fullforth out from Omaha 
to look over the field. There being but a small 
handful of Episcopalians in this community 
at that time, Rev. Mr. Fullforth called them 
together during his church ser^'ice in August, 
1886, in what was then the Opera House. 
This new church was organized as St. John's 
Protestant Episcopal church. Later that year, 
or in the early part of 1887, Rev. Dr. Zahner 
came to Broken Bow and obtained something 
like $800 in subscriptions for building a 
church, the land being given by the Lincoln 
Land Company for that purpose. In 1887, 
following a short 
stay by Dr. Zah- 
ner, came the 
Rev. Oliver J- 
Booth, who was 
the first settled 
rector. The 
church services 
were held in va- 
rious places, 
a m o n g which 
were the Bur- 
lington hotel and 
the homes of 
some of the 

members. It was during the Rev. Mr. Booth's 
pastorate that a church building was erected. 
Operations were begun in April, 1889, and 
finished in September of the same year. The 
first service held in the new edifice was a 
marriage ceremony. Bishop Worthington paid 
an episcopal visit to this new field in Septem- 
ber, 1888. 

During the time between Bishop Worthing- 
ton's visit and the completion of the church 
building, Bishop A. R. Graves was made 
bishop over this part of the state of Nebraska, 
and he made his first visitation to Broken Bow- 
January 9, 1890. At the time of this visit a 
subscription for supporting a clegyman was 
begfun, and also a fund for wiping out the in- 
debtedness created by building a church. 

The woman's guild, which was organized in 
Februarv. 1887, offered their services, took 

Broken Bow Church and Rectory 

over the indebtedness of the church and 
pledged themselves to pay it off at a rate of 
$200 each year for five years. 

Between the resignation of Rev. Mr. Booth, 
in October, 1889, and the arrival of the Rev. 
\V. S. Sayres, May 30, 1890, services were 
not held with any regularity. Upon Mr. 
Sayres taking charge of the work the services 
were held weekly, except for one Sunday each 
month, when he went to Callaway for service. 
This arrangement prevailed until January, 
1893, when the Callaway church obtained a 
rector for itself, thus releasing Mr. S'ayres 
for other work, in Ansley, where he managed 
to hold services every Sunday afternoon. In 

June. 1893, the 
church received 
its first coat of 
]) a i n t. V e r y 
shortly after this, 
July 4th, Mr. 
Sayres resigned 
to take up work 
in another field. 
During his stay 
here he held ser- 
vices at different 
times in Litch- 
field, Mason 
City, Ravenna, 
Ashley, Custer Center, Merna, Sargent, 
West LTnion, Hyannis, Sand X'alley, and Cal- 

From July 12 to September 28, 1893, this 
work was taken charge of by Rev. F. M. 
Bacon, deacon, and Broken Bow was given 
weekly service. Throughout the following 
year the Rev. R. L. Knox had charge of the 
work. Mr. Knox, upon leaving Broken Bow, 
took charge of the church at Arapahoe. His 
place was filled in Broken Bow by the Rev. H. 
E. Robbins, deacon, who remained until July 
30, 1895. During a period of nearly two years 
only occasional services were held by ordained 
clergAnnen, the interim being supplied by lay- 
readers. The Rev. George Green was in 
charge of St. John's church from June, 1897, 
until the following August. In October, 1897, 
the Rev. J. B. VanFleet took charge of the 



work, and after remaining- one year, he re- 
moved to Norford, Nevada. 

From October, 1898, to September, 1899, 
the Rev. Charles Ferguson had charge, and 
during his pastorate he held a monthly service 
at Callaway, where he resided during his last 
month in the state, whence he went to Tucson, 
Arizona. While in charge of Broken Bow and 
Callaway, lie prepared for publication his book 
entitled "The Religion of Democracy." 

Then followed a period of more than two 
years during which the sacraments of the 
church were administered only occasionally, 
the most of the services being conducted by a 

From January, 1900. to May, 1902, the Rev. 
Walton H. Daggett held the pastorate in 
Broken Bow. It was during his charge here 
that many minor improvements were made in 
the church building and the rectory, which 
had been provided by the Woman's Guild. 
Among the improvements in the church were 
an altar, brass candle-sticks, brass cross, a 
hymn board, etc., besides vestments for the 

The Rev. William H. Nanders then took up 
the work, and he remained from May. 1902, to 
Januarv, 1910. During his pastorate other 
improvements were added to the church and 
rectory, the rectory being enlarged. 

Mr. W. C. J. Dinnville, a lay-reader, had 
charge of the work from IMay, 1910, to No- 
vember, 1912. While in charge of this work 
he pursued his theological studies, and in 
March, 1911, he was made a deacon, by our 
present bishop, Rt. Rev. George Allen Beecher, 
D. D. 

From November, 1912, until 1914, the Rev. 
L. A. Arthur, of Grand Island, ministered 
occasionally to the jjeople of Broken Bow, and 
early in 1915 the Rev. F. A. Henry took up 
the work. He remained until ^larch, 1918. 

Sunday, June 9, 1918, Rev. T. W. Morgan, 
deacon, was advanced to the priesthood, in St. 
John's church, and he immediately took charge 
of the work of this parish, of which he has 
since continued the rector. 


The early work done by the pioneer preach- 
ers of the Church of God should be recorded 
along with the account of work done by de- 
voted men of other denominations. This body 
of devoted people have never lacked in en- 
thusiasm, and when it is considered that they 
have not been backed by a large denomination 
which could render outside support, and have 
l)een led by an unpaid ministn.-. they have 
made a creditable showing. Their pioneer 
work was done mostly at Weissert and Berwyn. 
The most prominent, and perhaps the ablest, 
of their preachers is the Rev. Richard Bellis, 
who during the years has conducted farming 
operations in connection with his ministry. 
The fertile fields of Custer county soil, if not 
the spiritual fields of Custer county churches, 
have rewarded Rev. Bellis and his good wife 
with a competency for their old age, so that 
they now live in comfortable retirement on 
their farm near Berwyn. 

This denomination maintains at the present 
time, two organizations, in Custer county, one 
at Weissert, where they have a frame church 
building, and the other at Berwyn, where they 
have a very neat, three-gabled building, nicely 
furnished, and adequate for the needs of the 
small town. These two churches are served 
by the Rev. John Armour, who, like his pre- 
decessor, depends upon the good soil of the 
realm for the staflf of life, and "eats his bread 
in the sweat of his brow." Rev. John Armour, 
preacher and farmer, is young and vigorous, 
and his Sabbath ministrations are carried on 
with a zeal and fervor unrestrained by the 
farm labor of the week. 


Rev. \\'. .\. Baldwin, of Broken Bow, has 
furnished the following summary: 

To Elder E. D. Eubank, now a resident of 
Broken Bow, must be given the honor of open- 
ing Custer county to the plea of the Disciples 
of Christ, commonly known as the Christian 
church. He moved here in 1874, and settled 
on the Middle Loup river near Wescott. In 



common with all preachers of this communion, 
he was full of the desire to preach the gospel 
wheresoever he foinid himself, and it was not 
long until he began to gather the people togeth- 
er for worship. Mrs. Eubank led in forming a 
Sunday school, as well as gathering the few 
children of the neighborhood into her own 
home for a day school. As a result of this 
beginning, there was effected, in 1875, a small 
organization, with Mr. Guthrie as elder, and 
this continued to hold services for a time. The 
members thus drawn together in this early day 
mostly united with the church at Sargent, at 
the time of its organization. 

Elder Eubank had the experience that often 
met the pioneer preacher, and frequently had 
to w'alk to places of meeting. At one time he 
was called across the Loup for a funeral, and 
went o\-er in the morning on the ice. On his 
return, in the afternoon, he was taken to the 
river in a conveyance by one of the neighbors, 
who drove away at once and the preacher 
wended his way to the ice. A change had 
taken place during the day, and, before he was 
very far along, the ice was showing signs of 
breaking up. Finally he had to wade the 
water, "midst floating ice, because of a rift 
that separated him from the shore. He 
preached the first funeral sermon in the county 
and married the first couple — Edgar Denial 
and ]\Iiss Josephine Eubank. He served as 
the first county superintendent of schools. Two 
other men preached in those early days at 
Wescott — Elders Reuben [Manning and S. A. 
Kopp. Both of these have passed to their re- 
ward, Mr. Manning being buried at Sargent 
July 26, 1918. 


The next organization effected was at Ar- 
nold, or more correctly at Henry Brothers' 
cattle ranch, then occupied by ^Morgan S. 
Parks and William W. Frazier and family. 
Elder Landis J. Correll, a veteran pioneer 
preacher, held services April 1, 1883, with 
about twenty-five persons present. Regular 
preaching was had thereafter, and on July 
11. 1884. the church was formally organized. 

with the following charter members ; L. J. 
Correll, Martha Correll, Marcellus Sargent. 
Lena Sargent, William W. Frazier, Laura J. 
Frazier, Charles Tremmel, Mrs. Charles 
Tremmel, A. Mofifett, Mrs. A. Moflfett, Anna 
M. Saunders, Allen Holeman, and Amos S. 
Gamble. The record of the first officers is 
not available, but Elder Correll continued to 
minister to the congregation for a number of 
years and doubtless served as elder. 

Twelve members were added during the 
year of 1884 and as a result of a meeting held, 
in the fall of 1885, by Elder Henderson and 
L. J. Correll, nine others united with the 
church. During this year a frame building 
was erected, at a cost of $1200, and was dedi- 
cated by R. C. Barrow, state evangelist, De- 
cember 19, 1885. February 14, 1886, John T. 
Smith, of Nebraska City, conducted a series 
of revival meetings, lasting four weeks, and 
seven members were added. Again, in 1893, 
Evangelist Smith was called, and twenty-one 
additions resulted from the meetings held. 
"Father" Correll, as he was familiarly called, 
still served as pastor. 

All of this time a regular Bible s:hool was 
conducted by the church, but the names of 
officers cannot be given. D. A. Youtzy fol- 
lowed L. J. Correll as pastor. Owen J. Owens 
served six months in 1897 ; E. D. Eubank a 
like period in 1890; Ford A. Ellis, from April 
to September 1, 1906, during his vacation 
while attending Cotner University ; and E. J. 
Ratcliflfe in 1907; N. S. Carpenter in 1908; 
Ford A. Ellis again in 1911-12; J. G. Slick 
one year, 1913; G. W. Gentry, part of 1914; 
and F. H. Gerrett a part of 1916-17. School 
is held regularly every Lord's day, with an 
enrollment of fifty. John M. Saunders is the 
superintendent. The church now numbers 
eighty-three members, with the following of- 
ficers; Elders, Charles Sanderson, John 
Samuelson, Warren Copeland ; deacons, 
George Ransier, John Backes, Charles Backes, 
Oral Gunter, Harry Shaw, Arthur Scott; 
trustees. John Backes, Charles Sanderson, 
John Samuelson; deaconesses, Lydia Backes, 



\'erda Smith. Sis. Bassett ; clerl<. Etta Backes; 
treasurer, Martha A. Morrow; organist, Oma 


The church at Liberty was organized on 
Clear creek, about ten miles east of Ansley, 
following a meeting held by M. A. Sweeney 
in October, 1883. There were about twenty- 
five charter members, of whom John Sargent 
and A. W. Hyatt served as elders. About the 
year 1886 H. L. Burns held a meeting at the 
•Kimball schoolhouse. seven miles northwest of 
where the first church was organized, and a 
new organization was efifected. of which 
Bradford Rose. Cain Moody, Ernest House, 
and Joseph Hyatt were deacons. The two 
churches came together in 1887. midway be- 
tween the two locations, on the farm of J. W. 
Bryan. There they built a large sod meeting- 
house, in which they continued to worship. 
under the name Liberty Christian church, un- 
til the year 1903. when a neat and comfortable 
frame structure was built, the same having 
been dedicated the same autumn, by the state 
secretary, W. A. Baldwin. The following min- 
isters have served as pastors, begiiming with 
the first organization, in 1886: A. M. Sweeney, 
C. A. Miller, H. L. Burns. E. D. Eubank, S. 
A. Kopp. Jesse R. Teagarden. J. P. Waldron, 
Carl Knapp, Fred (lalliger, P. G. Dennis, and 
Charles A. Shook. At this writing the or- 
ganization is defunct, through death and re- 
moval of the members. A number of the 
remaining members are now identified with 
the Banner church, organized by Charles A. 
Shook, in December, 1917. 


The beginnings of the Christian church in 
Broken Bow date back to May, 1886, when the 
state evangelist, N. B. Alley, formed an or- 
ganization which met for a time in the Baptist 
church building and then, again for a brief 
period, in a hall. Among the charter member? 
were John \'an Horn, J. B. Farrell. J. J. 
Brown and wife, David Brinson and wife, W. 
S. Boyce and wife, ]\Irs. Xcllie Humphrey, 
W. R. Wiley, B. W. Blair. Xettie Atkinson, 
and E. E. Hastings. The evangelist appointed 

the following officers : Elders, J. J. Brown, 
W". R. Wiley, and B. W. Blair ; deacons. John 
\ an Horn and E. E. Hastings; deaconesses, 
M. Louisa Brown. Nettie Atkinson, and Mrs. 
Nellie Humphrey. The work did not flourish 
for a time, because of lack of pastoral care, 
and in December, 1886. Elder E. D. Eubank 
held a meeting of a month, in the Baptist 
church, thereafter serving the congregation as 
its pastor. During this meeting three trustees 
were elected, as follows : John \'an Horn, 
David Brinson, and J. J. Brown. This church 
has enjoyed the usual vicissitudes meeting 
those who would establish the Lord's work 
on the very frontiers of advancing settlements 
and civilization. Periods of growth and ex- 
altation were intermingled with times of -de- 
pression and discouragement. The common 
lot of a new organization in the midst of a 
moving and shifting population was theirs. 
But throughout the years the church has been 
able to maintain its organization and for the 
most part has had pastoral oversight. The 
loss of the original records makes it uncertain 
whether the following list of preachers is ex- 
actly correct, but it is substantially so. Follow- 
ing E. D. Eubank, they are as follows : D. A. 
^ outzy. Porter. Pace. Surgeson. Shields, 
Sherman Hill, J. R. Teagarden. T. L. Mc- 
Donald, George Boomer, L. R. Harman. C. \'. 
.\llison. A. J. Hargett. J. S. Early, N. T. 
Harmon. Z. O. Doward. W. C. Lessley. J. E. 
Ferguson, and the ])resent pastor. W. A. 
Baldwin. Several of these were supply men 
only and some were students, serving only 
through vacations. J. R. Teagarden served 
at several different periods, being called to 
the work in connection with other business. 
In 1S87 a frame building was erected, at 
the comer of Eleventh avenue and P street, 
and tliis housed the congregation during the 
years intervening until 1''07. when J. S. Early 
was serving the church. Mr. Early took up 
Viork begun in the summer by A. J. Hargett. 
who was filling llie pastorate in his vacation, 
lie had raised a part of the subscriptions to- 
ward a new building and a lot was secured 
on the corner ;it Tenth avenue and () street. 
I'nder the businesslike le;idershi]) of Mr. 



Early the present house of worship was com- 
pleted, at a total cost of $6,000. It was dedi- 
cated by F. M. Rains, of Cincinnati, Ohio, 
secretary of the Foreign Christian Missionary 
Society. The old church building and site 
were sold to J. C. Moore, who converted the 
building into a comfortable residence, which 
is now occupied by the pastor, W. A. Baldwin. 
This church has always maintained a Bible 
school from the earliest days. The first list 
of oiificers was lost with the records. It now 
has an enrolment of 105 and the officers are 
as follows : Superintendent, Mrs. W. R. ]\Ior- 
gan ; assistant superintendent, G. Dillard 
Lesslev ( at this time serving his countrv and 

Christun Church at Broken Bow 

humanity "Somewhere in France") ; secretary, 
Miss Alice Francis; treasurer, Miss Bessie 
Latzke; pianist. Miss Atlanta Tuttle. The 
school is following modern methods in Liible- 
school work, using graded lessons in the pri- 
mary and intermediate departments. Two 
strong Bible classes among the seniors are 
taught by J. C. Aloore and Hon. C. W. Beal. 
In the matter of membership in the church, 
the earlier information is lacking, but it has 
grown with the passing of the years. At 
present the roll shows 231 members, including 
an absent list of more than forty. Alany re- 
vival meetings have been held and have always 
given additional names to the list of members. 
Alany students from other places have come 
in and then returned to their homes. This, in 

part, accounts for the large list of non-resident 

The present officers are as follows: Elders, 
J. M. Fodge, E. W. Morrison ; deacons, C. 
W. Beal, B. F. Williams, B. H. Headley, 
J. D. Lemmon ; deaconesses, Mrs. Belle Bar- 
ratt. Mrs. E. I. Irvin, Mrs..G. E. Pennington, 
Mrs. W. R. Morgan; church clerk, H. C. 
Kimball ; treasurer. Dr. G. E. Pennington ; 
trustees, J. C. Moore, B. E. Williams. B. H. 
Headley ; chorister, Mrs. E. I. Irvin ; pianists, 
Mrs. Mabel Darnell, Miss Ethel Roberts. 

Officers absent in the service of the United 
States at the time of this writing are : Elder 
G. Dillard Lessley, Hospital Train No. 39, 
American Expeditionary Force ; deacons 
Mauritz Malm, Company B, 342. 89th Divi- 
sion, Machine Gun Battalion, American Ex- 
jjedition Force ; Walter Ellis, Headquarters 
Company 339, Field Artillery, 88th Division, 
American Expeditionary Force. 

Two women's societies arc maintained, the 
Sisterhood doing a social and helpful work in 
the affairs of the church. President, Mrs. C. 
H. Holcomb ; secretary, Mrs. William Dar- 
nell ; treasurer, Mrs. G. B. Landis. The mis- 
sionary society known as the Christian 
Woman's Board of Alissions Auxiliary, with 
Miss Maude Baldwin president ; Mrs. J. H. 
Johnson, secretary; and Airs. H. C. Kimball, 
treasurer. Mrs. J. Beckwith is literary super- 

The Young People's Society of Christian 
Endeavor has a membership of fifteen. Jiliss 
Bessie Latzke is president; Miss Atlanta 
Tuttle, secretary and treasurer; Miss Ethel 
Roberts, corresponding secretary. 


In 1887. at the Grandview schoolhouse. a 
Sundav school was opened, with Charles Jones 
as superintendent. Preaching services were 
conducted by George Dixon. The work was 
continued until, in 1889, as the result of a 
meeting held by J. R. Teagarden. in which 
some twenty-five persons were converted, an 
organization was consummated at Windy 
Point schoolhouse. Practically the same group 
who were interested in the first work, went 



into the latter. This church met with varying 
degrees of success and failure as the years 
slipped by. In May, 1911, S. R. McClure, 
evangejist of the Nebraska Christian Mission- 
ary Society, who was in a meeting at Lillian, 
visited Anselmo and, finding there a desire 
for the work to be revived, he arranged to 
begin a meeting in the town the same month. 
The results were unexpecfedly gratifying, 
eighty-four persons coming out on the side 
of the Lord. Steps were immediately taken 
to build, and by the time the meeting closed 
the new house was well along toward com- 
pletion. It was fully fitted out that summer, at 
a cost of $2,000, and in the early fall it was 
dedicated, by W. A. Baldwin, state secretary 
of the missionary society that had supported 
the evangelist in the work. Of the eighty-four 
persons coming into the church during the 
meeting, fifty-three were received by confes- 
Kion and baptism. Twenty of the former 
members joined with the new material to 
form the new congregation. Frank Reeder 
served as pastor for a short time thereafter, 
as he had been preaching for them previously. 
A Bible school has been maintained regfularly, 
and William V. White is now the superin- 

The following preachers have served the 
congregations during the period from the be- 
ginning: George Dixon, E. D. Eubank. Frank 
J. Emerson, Ford A. Ellis, J. R. Teagarden, 
Frank Reeder, W. C. Lessley. Mr. Lessley 
has been serving, as his time would permit, 
for several years and is still looked to for 
preaching when he can give them time. Will- 
iam White is elder, and Mrs. William White 
is church clerk. There are about thirty 


At White Pigeon schoolhouse, E. D. Eu- 
bank held services and organized a small 
congregation into a working church in 1888. 
Most of these members later became members 
of the Lillian church. It remained a preach- 
ing point for a number of years. 

The Christian church of Ansley was or- 

ganized in Alarch 1889, following a meeting 
held in a hall over C. J. Stevens" store, by the 
state evangelist, R. C. Barrow. The charter 
members were Dan Hagin, Mrs. Dovia Hagin, 
Frank Hagin, John Sargent, Laura A. Sar- 
gent, Simon Rigby, Alice Rigby, Mary Hagin, 
George Rich, Marie Rich, Fanny Gaines, ^Irs. 
Anthony, and Jeanette Stevenson (now Mrs. 
Frank Housel). The officiary consisted of two 
elders, John Sargent and George Rich, and 
two deacons, Dan Hagin and Simon Rigby. 
In 1892 the present house of worship was 
erected, at a cost of $3,000. and it was dedi- 
cated in Augvist of that year, by Dr. W. P. 
Aylsworth. dean of the sacred-literature de- 
partment of Cotner L'niversity. The succes- 

Christi.\n Church .\t Axsuey 

sion of pastors is here recorded: W. H. 
Hedges, Fred Hagin, J. Sherman Hill. J. \\'. 
Walker. George Bailey, Jesse R. Teagarden, 
C. \'. Allison, T. C. :McIntyre. D. G. \\'agner. 
F. D. Hobson, P. G. Dennis, and the present 
pastor, Charles A. Shook. The church now 
has an active membership of 153 and an out- 
lying membership of about thirty-five in th? 
church organized at the Banner schoolhouse 
in December, 1917, by the pastor, Charles A. 
Shook. It has a Bible school enrollment of 
about 150, with an average attendance of 
seventy-one. C. W. Hawk is the present sup- 
erintendent. The Chi'istian Endeavor Society 
has thirteen members and Miss Eva S'tuckey 
is president. There is a strong woman's mis- 
sionary society, known as the Christian 
Woman's Board of Missions .-Xuxiliarv, with 



thirty members. Airs. J. T. AIcGowan is its 

The present officers of the church are: 
Elders, Frank Housel, Charles W. Hawk, J. 
N. Trout, E. C. Moody, and Charles A. 
Shook; deacons, J- T. AIcGowan, William 
Housel, Roy Waters, B. F. Crouch, and Ed. 
Ming; clerk, J. T. McGowan ; treasurer, W. 
C. Housel. 

This church has sent out one preacher, Fred 
Hagin, son of Dan and Mrs. Dovia Hagin, 
and he has been for some years a missionary 
in the foreign field, at Tokio, Japan. This 
has been one of the strong churches of the 
Disciples of Christ in this county. It has 
maintained its vitality and has a prominent 
place in the village of Ansley and the com- 
munity round about. 


The church at Coburg began its work in a 
sod schoolhouse, about the year 1890, E. D. 
Eubank and Reuben Manning leading in the 
organization and afterward both of these men 
ministered to the congregation. The list of 
charter members is not available, but the offi- 
cers chosen were as follows : Elder, L. L. 
Wood : deacons, J- S. Amos, John Jorn ; clerk 
and treasurer, Richard Eubank. A Bible school 
was organized, with Richard Eubank as super- 
intendent. Regular services were maintained, 
with occasional vacancies in the pastorate. In 
1913 a meeting-house was constructed, and it 
is now the home of the congregation. 

The following preachers have serv^ed : S. A. 
Kopp, E. D. Eubank. R. D. McCance. H. L. 
Denton, A. O. Startwood. A. L. Field, N. C. 
Carpenter, and J. S. Reel, the last named be- 
ing the present minister, in co-operation with 
the Sargent church. The present inembership 
is forty-five and the officers are : Elders, J. 
Jorn, Emmet Bebout, Lester Thompson ; 
deacons, Elmer Galaher, Wayne Amos, J. L. 
Amos, Roy Durham, Charles Bedford, Henry 
Eggers; clerk, Mrs. J. L. Amos; treasurer, 
Lester Thompson : Bible-school superinten- 
dent, Wayne Amos. The enrollment of the 
Bible school is sixty-three. The value of the 
church property is $2,000. During the life of 

this congregation two of its young men have 
declared for the ministry. 


In October, 1906, O. A. Adams, pastor of 
the church at Ansley, with Louis Epler as 
singing evangelist, held a meeting in the opera 
hall at Mason City resulting in an organization 
with the following officers : Elders, Sherman 
Knox, Oren Dolen ; deacons, George Chipps, 
Vannie Reed, William Davis, Ross Rhodes; 
church clerk, Oren Dolen. 

The following named persons were charter 
members: Mrs. W. T. Whitehead, Mrs. Will- 
iam Russmisell, George Chipps, Ella Chipps, 
Blanche Weaver, Hannah Anderson, Ovidia 
Anderson, Iva Browning, Bessie Reed. Viola 
Gouley, Oren Dolen, Vannie Reed, William 
Davis, Rose Davis, Jennie Weaver, Lewis 
Weaver, Mabel Chipps, Howard Chipps, 
James Gouley, Ellen Gouley, Ross Rhodes, 
Sadie Thorne, Mary E. Shelton, Martha E. 
Dolan, Sherman Knox. Frances Knox, Marie 
Knox, Frank Knox, Feli.x Shelton, Elva 

The following preachers have ministered to 
the church : E. D. Eubank, J. R. Teagarden, 
William Sumpter, Fred Galiger, Carl Knapp, 
F. C. Wilson, George P. Brammel. Early in 
1907 the church began the erection of a house 
of worship, and it was- completed in June. It 
was dedicated June 16th, by State Secretary 
W. A. Baldwin. The church has maintained 
a Sunday school, which was for a time under 
the superintendency of W. T. Whitehead. At 
times the congregation was without preaching 
and suffered from removals and the inability 
to support a pastor. At the present time there 
are thirty names on the records, with Mrs. R. 
F. McCloughan, clerk and treasurer, and Mrs. 
W. T. Whitehead, superintendent of the Sun- 
day school. 

The beginnings of the church at Lillian are 
found in a meeting held by Elder S. A. Kopp 
in the Lillian schoolhouse. An organization effected December 12, 1906, following the 
meeting. They called Elder Kopp as their 



pastor and he served them until his death, 
March 28, 1910. The officers elected were: 
Elders, W. W. Barnes. O. L. Swick, I. P. 
Bell; deacons. W. F. Myers, C. H. Leisure; 
clerk, Harry Swick. 

The following- named persons united to 
form the organization: Wm. W. Barnes. Mrs. 
Lorena Barnes, Lura Barnes. Mrs. Alice Bart- 
lett, Eva Bartlett. Ethel Bartlett, Isaac P. Bell, 
Mrs. ^lary Bell, Jabez Bowman, Mrs. Sarah 
Bowman, James Dare, Mrs. Mary Dare, S. 
A. Kopp, Charles H. Leisure. Robert Metzger, 
\\'illiam F. Myers. Mrs. Kittie Myers. Oliver 
L. Swick. Mrs. Hope Swick. Later, protracted 
meetings were held by the pastor and brought 
in a large number of the young people of the 
community, most of them young men. At one 
time the pastor baptized thirty at the Broken 
l)Ow church. A Piible school has been main- 
tained since the spring before the church was 
organized. W. W. Barnes serving as its first 

.A. house of worship was planned and 
erected on a site adjoining the school grounds, 
in the fall of 1908, and was dedicated in Jan- 
uary following, by N. T. Harmon, pastor of 
the Broken Bow church. It is a most com- 
fortable building and has become a center of 
community interest in that portion of the 
county. Following the death of its pastor, the 
church was served by E. D. Eubank, Frank 
Reader, Joseph Lamm, and W. C. Lessley, 
who is still the [jastor, having served since 
September, 1914. L'nder his ministry the 
work has grown and prospered. The present 
officers are: Elders. W. F. Myers. O. L. 
Swick. ; deacons. E. H. Myers. S. D. Myers ; 
clerk and treasurer, D. E. Banning; superin- 
tendent of Bible school, William J. Books. 

This church has maintained its ]M-eaching 
service and worship, with the communion, 
since the beginning, without interruption. 
Pastorless at times, it yet went steadily for- 
ward in the support of worship, never for- 
getting to assemble on the Lord's day. The 
success of this work lies especially in its faith- 
ful leadership. Maintaining preaching service 
only on alternate Lord's days, it has neverthe- 
less demonstrated the power of the local rural 

church to do its work successfully. The 
country church need not die if its members are 
simply faithful. 


The Sargent church came into being as a 
result of a meeting held by State Evangelist 
Samuel Gregg in March, 1908. J. H. Currie. 
of Bradshaw. Nebraska, having business in- 
terests and large acquaintance in the Sargent 
district, asked the state missionary society to 
consider that field and send this evangelist, 
whom* he was supporting through the society, 
to organize a church in that town. The Con- 
gregational church was secured for the meet- 
ing and the organization resulted, following 
that meeting. The first officers were : Elders, 
L. L. Wood. C. C. Davis ; deaco;is. J. D. 
Crownover, Charles Howland. .\. B. Hartley, 
W. B. Kenyon; clerk. Zella M. Wood; treas- 
urer. A. C. Davis. Sixty-three persons joined 
in the new organization, as follows: Allona 
Wood. Lena Kaohn. Ernest Kaohn. Ross 
W'^ood. Irma Crownover. Harold Crownover, 
Kenneth Crownover. Sadie Hesselgesser. 
Jeannie Kenyon, !Mrs. W. B. Kenyon. A\'. F. 
Abbott, Mrs. Emma Wyckoff. Mrs. Livia 
Kaohn. Mrs. W. F. Abbott. O. W. Davis. Mrs. 
(X \\'. Davis. Florence Debusk. Rufus Mann- 
ing. Alfred Grim, Mrs. Inez Grim. Mrs Laura 
Core. James Debusk. Lucy Debusk. Grace De- 
forest, Mrs. Westopher, Mrs. Forest Abbott. 
Mrs. Sarah Evans, Elsie Chase, Paul Chase, 
C. H. Chase, Mrs. C. H. Chase. L. L. Wood. 
Minerva Wood. W. H. Wood. Zella M. Wood. 
E. M. Wood. Gustie Wood. Seth Austin. Mrs. 
J. D. Crownover, J. D. Crownover. A. C. 
Davis, R. J. Kennedy. A. B. Hartley, Mrs. A. 
B. Hartley. O. S. Pulliam. W. B. Kenyon, C. 
Howland. Eliza Brumbaugh. Mrs. C. .V. Lim- 
inger. Mrs. Alice Pulliam. Delia Sturm. Mrs. 
Ella Armstrong, Candace Lawson, Mrs. C. 
Howland. Robert Hesselgesser. Emma Hes- 
selgesser. J. D. Holt. Augusta Kaohn. Euniqe 
Kaohn. John Clifton. Sr., John Clifton, Jr., 
P)essie Hartley, Mabel Hartley. 

R. D. McCance liecame the pa.stor of the 
new church, and later called Z. O. Doward 
for a meeting, the same being held in a taber- 



nacle structure on the main street. A move 
to build a new house of worship followed, and 
resulted finally in the purchase and remodeling 
of the Congregational church building, in 
which the church had been meeting, maintain- 
ing a vfnion Bible school with the Congrega- 
tionalists. The building purchased is still the 
home of the church. The membership at this 
time is 110, and the Bible school has an en- 
rolment of 120. Services are maintained reg- 
ularly, under the ministry of J. S. Reel, and 
in connection with the Coburg church, each 
taking half-time services. The ministers who 

Christian Church at Sargent 

have served the church are : R. D. ]\IcCance, 
W. Bailor, H. E. .Denton, Mr. Field, A. O. 
Swartwood, N. C. Carpenter, and J. S. Reel. 


Rev. Charles A. Shook, pastor of the Ansley 
church, held a meeting in the Banner school- 
house in November, 1917. There were twelve 
conversions, and, on December 26th following, 
an organization was effected, with fifteen char- 
ter members. Regular services have been 
maintained, and Mr; Shook has preached for 
them in the afternoon. A good Bible school, 
now numbering forty-five members, has been 
kept up, with Frank Sadler as superintendent. 
The church now numbers twenty-seven and is 
known as the Banner Christian church. 


In March, 1917, Rev. W. C. Lessley, of 
Broken Bow, and pastor of the churches at 
Lillian and Anselnio, held a meeting in the 
Community hall at ]\Iilburn. In spite of bad 
weather and worse roads, the meetings were 
well attended and a decided interest was mani- 
fested. There were twenty-si.\- conversions, 
and arrangements were made for the evangel- 
ist to visit them regularly on Sunday after- 
noon each alternate week during the summer 
and winter. A Bible school was organized, 
meeting every Lord's day. In February, 1918, 
Rev. W. C. Lessley held a second meeting, 
resulting in forty-five conversions. An or- 
ganization was asked for, and the new con- 
verts, with a number of the people of the 
community who were members of different re- 
ligious bodies, came together late in February, 
at which time the Milburn Church of Christ 
was organized by Rev. Mr. Lessley, with 100 
members. Officers were chosen as follows : 
Elders, Mr. Reynolds and G. W. Simmons; 
deacons, Bryan Holmes, Mr. Pike, Mrs. Hol- 
comb, and Mr. Daley; church clerk, Aliller 
Books ; treasurer, Robert Farley. Mr. Rey- 
nolds was made superintendent of the Bible 
school, numbering si.xty to seventy-five, and 
he still holds that office. Eight members have 
since been added to the organization and 
preaching is maintained every alternate Lord's 
day, morning and evening. Services are still 
held in the Community hall. The present offi- 
cers are the same as at the beginning, save 
that John Kramer is now the treasurer. The 
congregation looks forward to the erection of 
a house of worship as soon as war conditions 
will permit. 

In concluding this sketch of the work of 
the Christian churches — Disciples of Christ — 
in this county, it should be said that much of 
the record sources are meagerly kept and in 
some cases lost entirely. The early preachers 
were more interested in winning souls to 
Christ than in keeping accurate account of the 
history they were making. Many of the mat- 
ters that would be most interesting in this late 
account, are entirely omitted. There are a 
number of places where preaching, and for a 



time regular, services were held, that did not 
develop into a formal organization. Such a 
place is New Helena, where the work was 
maintained for a time. At this time there is 
no work there. 

In the county the total membership affiliated 
with the churches is 990. There are nine 
houses of worship, one of them unoccupied. 
These, at a moderate estimate of their value, 
in the light of cost and state of repair, is 
$27,800. There are nine Bible schools con- 

as best they could to their communicants. 
They have manifested, always, the spirit of 
strong conviction and extreme generosity. 
They have been responsive to all public appeals 
and been general contributors to the public 
welfare. They have been party to no de- 
nominational factions calculated to disrupt the 
general harmony of the religious status pre- 
vailing in the county. Custer county has had 
no exhibition of denominational animosity. 
Good will and harmony prevail to-day 

[Photo by S. D. Butcher] 

Dale C.\tholic Church and Parsonage 
The parsonage was later destroyed by fire 

ducted regularly, with an enrollment of 715. 
At this time there are five preachers resident 
in the county, namely: Elder E. D. Eubank, 
Broken Bow : Rev. W. C. Lessley, Broken 
Bow ; Rev. Charles A. Shook. Ansley ; Rev. 
W. A. Baldwin. Broken Bow : and Rev. J. S. 
Reel, Sargent. The church at Liberty is dis- 
banded and that at Mason City has no pastoral 


Among the pioneers of the county were 
many Catholics and in a very early day they 
began their church activities and administered 

throughout the county, and this statment is 
true of the years past. Credit is given to Frank 
Kelly for the following data concerning Cath- 
olic work in the county. 


Rev. T. P. Haley, writing in 1901 gives the 
following summary of Catholic work in the 
Dale vicinity : 

"The Dale mission was established some 
time in 1882, by Rev. Father Boyle. The first 
ones to ask for a ])riest. as far as the writer 
knows, were J. J- Downey and Robert Mc- 
Carthy. Father Boyle was the first priest, and 



visited Dale valley in 1882. to administer to 
the wants of the few families that first settled 
there. He made the Dale mission a regular 
station. Mass was said alternately at each 
house. During Father Hayes' administration 
the people made preparations to build a 
church. The building was to be of brick and 
for the purpose of obtaining the material with 
whi:h to build the church a brick yard was 
laid out on one of ]\Ir. ^McCarthy's claims. One 
hundred thousand bricks were made and 
burned for the church. Lumber was purchased 
and hauled from Grand Island, a distance of 
150 miles. About this time the people had 
spent over $800, but on account of the new. 
railroad which was to be built through this 
section to the Black Hills, the church was not 
built at that time, as difficulties arose as to 
where the church should be located. Some 
wanted it on their farms or near their homes, 
while others wanted it built at Merna or An- 
selmo. The old settlers advocated building it 
at Dale. Father Hayes' last visit to the mission 
found matters in a worse condition than ever. 
In June, 1886, Father Hayes was appointed 
pastor of the church at O'Connor, Greeley 
county, and his assistant. Father Haley, was 
made pastor of Kearney and its missions, 
which included Dale. To his surprise, when 
he visited Dale mission, he found a divided 
people, caused by the disputes as to the loca- 
tion of the church. After a consultation with 
the principal members of the missions, it was 
decided to lay the matter before Bishop 
O'Connor. This was some time in July, 1886. 
In about a week Bishop O'Connor ordered the 
church to be built at Dale. It is easy to im- 
agine the joy of the old settlers — J. J. Dow- 
ney, Robert McCarthy, William Couhig, Con 
Fleischman. William Walsh, Robert Kelley, 
George Grove, Chris. Grove, William Brook- 
man, and Charles Michael — when they learned 
of the bishop's decision. A subscription list 
was opened and the necessary preparations 
made to begin work as soon as possible. The 
bricks already burned were of poor quality 
and not sufficient in quantity for a brick 
building. Some were used for the foundation 
of the residence and church and for the chim- 

neys. The balance were sold, out of which 
was realized some $400. There was a loss of 
about the same amount. Nearly all the lum- 
ber that had been hauled from Grand Island 
had been made use of by some kind friends 
who thought it well to help themselves. A 
few pieces of dimension lumber, with the 
shingles, remained for the use for which they 
had been purchased. The lumber for the 
church and residence was purchased from 
Goodman, Bogue & Company, of Kearney, and 
shipped to Broken Bow, then hauled to Dale 
by team, the hauling being done by the mem- 
bers of the mission. On the sixth day of 
November, 1886, Father Haley was appointed 
the first resident pastor of Dale. He arrived 
on the above date, at the beginning of one of 
the worst blizzards 'the state has ever had. 
For three days he was snowbound at the home 
of J. J. Downey. When the storm was over, 
the foundation for the residence was begun. 
Many hands made light work. In a few weeks 
the residence was partly completed. Father 
Haley moved into and lived in it for nearly 
two years before it was properly plastered. 
Mass was said in the south half of the resi- 
dence until the church was built. One fine day 
in November' — the very last day of the month 
— several of the old settlers met to break 
ground for the church. While so doing, 
George Grove said to Father Haley : "Father, 
to-day is St. Andrew's day ; would it not be a 
good idea to name the church St. Andrew's 
church?' Father Haley paused, and said: 
'Men, what do you think?' They all assented, 
and hence the church of St. Andrew's at Dale 
received its name. The church was built, but 
was not completed for several years. Not- 
withstanding the difficulties under which the 
church and residence were built, sufficient 
notes were given by the members to pay the 
debt, and these were deposited with the lum- 
ber company to pay for the lumber. Father 
Haley governed the parish with success, and 
in October, 1888, a successful mission was 
given bv the famous Father Ramen, for which 
the people gave him $118.25 for one week's 
work. After this mission. Father Hocheisel 
was sent to Dale as an assistant to Father 



Haley. January 8th, Father Hoeheisel was 
appointed pastor of Dale, under the super- 
vision and direction of Father Haley, who then 
moved to Broken Bow, to take charge of that 
church and the missions attached. Father 
Hoeheisel remained but a short time as pastor 
of Dale, and Father Donahue was sent to take 
his place. He in turn was succeeded by Father 
Flood, who was followed by Father Flanagan, 
the present pastor." 


One of the missionary spirits who did much 
of the initial Catholic work in Custer county 
was Rev. Father Thomas B. Haley, who 
labored in the county from 1886 to 1897, at 
which time he was assigned to the work at 
North Platte. Father Haley was a very de- 

C.\Tnoi,ic Rectory at Broken Bow 

voted worker and exceedingly popular with his 
own people and the community in general. For 
some time the Dale mission was the center 
from which Father Haley did his church work. 
Later he removed to Broken Bow and made 
the mission at this place his residence and 
headquarters. S't. Joseph's church, of Broken 
Bow, was dedicated July 29, 1888. After the 
removal of Father Haley this charge was 
ser\'ed by Father Donnelly. Among priests 
also serving here were Father Moser and 
Father Minogue, the latter of whom is now 
in charge at Anselmo and Dale. Both served 
at Broken Bow church and rendered splendid 

In 1917 one of the best rectories to be found 
anywhere in the middle west was built and 
furnished, and it is at present occupied by 

Father James Hermese and his assistant. 
Father Cornelius, both very excellent young 
men, who are devoted to the parish work and 
generally popular with the people of the com- 
munity. The mission here consists of approx- 
iniatelv thirty families. 

Catholic Church at Oconto 

the oconto church -and mason city church 

During the regime of Father Haley a church 
was built at Oconto, in 1891, and in the pre- 
ceding year the church at Mason City was 
erected. The Oconto church is still main- 
tained, is a progressive body of devoted peo- 
Y>\e. and it constitutes one of the strongest 
missions, if not the strongest, that the Catho- 
lics have in Custer county. 


The Ansley congregation of the Catholic 
church had its origin in the early days of the 
town, mass first being said in the home of Mrs. 

Catholic Church at Sargent 

B. J. Tierney. Later, in the year 1911, a small 
but beautiful church structure was erected, at 
the cost of $3,800, under the labors of the Rev. 
Father Moser, of Broken Bow. On the night 



of October 21, 1917, this building was burned 
to the ground, since which time the congrega- 
tion has been worshiping in the old Presbyte- 
rian building. However, plans are already being 
laid for the erection of a larger church building 
in the near future. Among the priests who have 
been pastors of the church in recent years, may 
be mentioned Father Moser, Father Kavan- 
augh, Father Gleeson, Father Mathias, and the 
present incumbent. Father Cornelius. The par- 
ish comprises thirty-six families and the board 
of trustees is composed of Thomas EJcrry, B. J. 
Tiernev, and A. F. Dobesh. 

the drouth of 1894 the mission was disorganized 
bv removals. The second was served by S. 
Dean, J. E. Hawley, and B. E. Smith. The last 
was the only one that survived the drouth and 
the removals incident to the early history of 
our county. In 1883 and 1886 G. F. Deal or- 
ganized the church in Broken Bow, and the 
following year the Ortello circuit, comprising 
the Mount Hope, Ortello, Custer Center, and 
Union Valley appointments, was cut of?. It 
thus remained until 1894. Broken Bow church 
was built in 1887 and was served by G. F. Deal, 
D. W. Proffit, F. W. Brink, and C. D. Stro- 

Catholic Church and Rectory at Anselmo 


The United Brethren in Christ were among 
the pioneers in Custer county, coming in the 
late "70s. Rev. W. S. Sponner was the first 
preacher of this denomination to hold regular 
services in the county, preaching about the year 
1876, on the Muddy, near Mason City, and also 
on the Middle Loup, near where Sargent now 
is. Under his supervision. Rev. A. L. Pense 
organized a class near Algernon in 1880. and 
one in Lee's Park in 188L In 1882 J. F. Green 
preached at Algernon, Box Elder, Pilot. Lee's 
Park, Westerville, Lone Tree, Custer Center, 
and Ortello. From these were organized, in 
1884. Algernon, Westerville, and Custer mis- 
sions. The first was served by J. F. Green, 
T. Aikman. J. E. Hawley, S'. Dean. B. E. Smith, 
\V. C. Williams, and T- L. Brown, and during 

mire. From 1894, after losing almost the whole 
membership by removals, the church was 
closed until 1897, when F. M. Bell took charge, 
and the church slowly but surely regained its 
strength. L. L. Epley had charge in 1900. The 
people of Custer Center deserve much credit 
for their loyalty to the church through the 
years. In Hoosier valley a class was organ- 
ized in 1897, by C. W. Bohart. and in 1900, 
one was organized at the Marquis schoolhouse. 
This church has sufifered from removals more 
than any other church in the county. Among 
those who have been well known tliroughout 
the count}' and who were active in the early 
work of the church we would name J. S. Kirk- 
patrick, D. F. Weimer. G. R. Street, J. J. 
Pickett, J. C. Alaulick, W. M. Harrell, and M. 
F. Blankenship. 



For the compilation of the facts set forth 
above, this vokime is indebted to the Rev. L. 
L. Epley, for several years a presiding elder 
in the United Brethren denomination. 


M. F. Blankenship volunteers the following 
information concerning the inception of 
United Brethren denominational work in the 
county, a work which began at Custer Center. 

"Some time during the winter of 1882-3, 
Rev. Theodore Squires came to the home of 
M. F. Blanken- 
ship, preached 
the first sermon, 
and left an ap- 
pointment to re- 
t u r n in t w o 
weeks. At the 
appointed time a 
good-sized audi- 
e n c e greeted 
him, and the 
minister, at the 
close of the ser- 
vice, invited all 
who wished to 
unite with the 
United Brethren 

church to meet him on the following \\'ednes- 
day at the home of J. S. Kirkpatrick. in the new 
town of Broken Bow, which had been laid out 
in ^larch, 1882. At the time appointed, a class 
was organized, consisting of John S. Kirk- 
patrick and wife, James Courtney and wife, 
and M. F. Blankenship. who was chosen class- 
leader. James Courtney was chcsen class 
steward and the class was named the Custer 
Center Class. In a few weeks, Rev. John F. 
Green was sent to preach for the little church. 
For two years thereafter he served them faith- 
fully, and was loved and respected by all. Our 
number increased and religious interest was 
aroused until we began to feel that a church 
building was a necessity, but we were all so 
poor we did not feel able to build. The writer 
was led to speak to J. S. Kirkpatrick about it. 

United Brethren Church at Broken Bow 

but he thought it was a pretty big undertaking. 
We asked him to draw up a subscription paper 
and we would do the soliciting and give the 
ground for the building. J. S. Kirkpatrick 
did so, heading the paper with ten dollars op- 
posite his name. M. F. Blankenship placed 
his name next, with another ten dollars. Then 
came C. T. Crawford, with a ten-dollar pledge, 
and R. H. ^liller, with live dollars. This was 
encouraging, for now they had a fund of 
thirty-five dollars to start with, and they felt 
sure that the church would be built. In May 
they met and laid up the walls of sod. A few 
days later. M. F. Blankenship w^as plowing in 

his field east of 
the church, when 
a man drove up 
with a mule 
team and asked 
if he was the 
man who was 
building the 
church. He re- 
plied that he 
was as much in- 
terested in it as 
any one. The 
man told him 
his name was 
David Weymer, 
that he was on 
that, with M. F. 
on his return he 
him and give ■ 
on the church 

his way to Kearney, and 
Ijlankenship's permission, 
would stay all night WMth 
him ten dollars to apply 
building fund. Mr. Blankenship 
the man he would be quite welcome, in- 
deed, and true to his word, he did as he 
said he would do. In June two of their bach- 
elor neighbors (John R. Street and Elmer E. 
^lorris) volunteered to haul the lumber from 
Kearney for the roofing of the building, and 
by the last of the month, they had it inclosed 
but it was seatless. We had no money, so we 
built some sod pedestals, laid boards on them, 
scattered some hay on the ground floor, and 
we were ready for service. The next Sunday 
the whole neighborhood assembled in the new 
church, as much pleased as they would have 



been if they had been in the finest building in 
the state. We now had a place to worship, 
and with great pride we wrote our friends in 
the east that we had a church in our neigh- 
borhood. At the first meeting in this new 
building, we organized a Sunday school. S. 
S. Southmayd was the first superintendent. In 
December following, we floored our new 
church and put in a few seats. By Christmas 
eve we not only had a floor and seats but we 
also had a rostrum. They were homely, but 
good enough, and we felt proud of our success. 
We had a Christmas tree. The exercises were 
a success, and we have often thought that we 
never saw a happier man than was Judge W. 
W. Cowels on that night. In fact, everybody 
seemed happy. During the following summer 
we finished the seating and our church was 
completed and paid for. 

"In 1902 the old sod church was torn down, 
and in its place was erected a nice little frame 
building, which was finished and dedicated in 
the spring of 1903. This church building is 
twenty-six by thirty-six feet, is in a good state 
of preservation, and regular services are still 
kept up. At the present time Rev. G. B. 
Weaver of Broken Bow is the pastor in 


The following comprehensive account of 
Sunday-school work in Custer county is given 
by J. ^I- Fodge. who is the veteran Sunday- 
school man of the county. He and his good 
wife have lived in Nebraska forty-seven years 
and in Custer county thirty-five years. For 
thirty-four years ]\Ir. Fodge has been actively 
engaged in Sunday-s:hool work — a Sunday- 
school superintendent for thirty-three years, 
and president of the county Sunday-school 
conventions for a number of years. 

"In assuming to give to the public a very 
brief history of the organization and growth 
of the Sunday schools of our county, I little 
thought of the obstacles and difficulties which 
would have to be overcome in order to gather 
data from which to give a true history. After 
much fruitless correspondence and begging for 
information from those who were, in many 

cases, participants in the organization of some 
of the first schools in the county, and after 
weary months of awaiting answers from living 
witnesses, I am forced to conclude that the 
Sunday schools, like very many other objects 
and enterprises which go to make up the his- 
tory of a people, state, or county, have failed 
to keep records of any kind, or at best very 
imperfect records, so that I shall not attempt 
to give a history of this, one of the greatest 
factors in the civilization and Christianization 
of our great comonwealth. 

"In the context to follow, I shall endeavor 
to give to the public in a general way some- 
thing of the development and growth of the 
Sunday-school cause since my residence in 
the county, from the information at my com- 
mand. Knowing that he who chronicles past 
events for the scrutiny of the public often re- 
ceives criticism and even ridicule, I shall at all 
times be governed by the truth as I vmderstand 
it. Suffice it to say that such a daring, heroic^ 
and God-fearing people as make up the citizen- 
ship of our county, would not live in any place 
long without raising to the God of our fathers 
some altar as a remembrance of His mercies 
to them since leaving the old home, which 
could be done in no more appropriate way 
than by meeting together to read His work 
and study His dealings with the children of 
men. Indeed, to such an extent were they per- 
meated by this spirit of reverence and thank- 
fulness, that in some cases where a little settle- 
ment was formed, even though there were 
none among them who prayed, they would 
meet and form an organization for the purpose 
of praising God and civilizing the community. 
In some cases this work was begun by mis- 
sionaries, and in others by some local minister, 
who, with his family, had come west to find a 
temporal home. 

"In this connection I am indebted to Elder 
E. D. Eubank for an account of the organiza- 
tion of the first Sunday-school in the county, 
in what is now Douglas Grove township. This 
school was organized in the spring of 1875, 
by Mrs. E. D. Eubank, who was elected super- 
intendent and secretary, with a membership of 
twelve, who met at the home of Elder Eubank. 



It bore the name of 'Christian Union Sunday 
School,' and uf)on appHcation to I. D. Gage, 
state missionary of the American Sunday 
School Union, was supplied with second-hand 
books. It was afterward moved to the home 
of Charles Hales and changed to a ^lethodist 
Episcopal school, and eventually it ceased to 
exist. Prior to the uprising of the Indians, a 
few men of adventurous and hardy spirit who 
had settled with their families here and there 
over parts of the country — on the South Loup. 
Clear creek. Middle Loup, and Victoria creek — 
abandoned their homes until the dangers were 
jjast. Not until about the year 1880 did the 
pioneers with families settle in numbers suffi- 
ciently strong to begin work for the purpose 
of bringing about a higher state of civilization 
and Christianity in their respective neighbor- 
hoods. We are informed that on the ^fiddle 
Loup, near where Walworth now stands, also 
on Clear creek near Westerville. schools were 
organized in the year 1881, but we can give 
no particulars. During the years 1881 and 

1882 the settlements in the county extended 
further west, chiefly along the streams, and in 

1883 schools were formed at Broken Bow, 
Custer Center, .Arnold, Delight, Rose Valley, 
and Ortello. 

"Elder F. M. Graham, a local minister of 
the M. P. denomination, gathered a few per- 
sons at the old sod schoolhouse just north of 
Merna, in May of that year, and the school has 
continued ever since, except, perhaps, the first 
winter, and now numbers a membership of 
more than one hundred. The Ortello school 
was organized by D. F. Weimer. in June, at 
his own home, with his family, A. L. Embree 
and J. H. Edwards — nine persons in all — as 
members. A year later the place of meeting 
was changed to the Ortello schoolhouse, where 
it continues to meet during the whole of each 
year. Rev. Savidge. a Methodist minister, 
having located near the present site of Calla- 
way, a Sunday-school was organized. This 
languished after a year or two, but was reor- 
ganized in 1886, after the town of Callaway 
was started. In 1883 or 1884 Elder Correll, 
of the Christian church at Arnold, gathered a 
few persons at his home and organized the 

first Sunday-school in that vicinity, and the 
year following both the Alethodist and Baptist 
people started at or near the same place. 

"During 1884 and 1885 schools were organ- 
ized on the South Loup at Burr Oak and Eu- 
dell : on Clear creek near Myrtle and Lee 
Park; on the Muddy near Algernon and 
Mason City ; on the Middle Loup at Sargent, 
West Union, Oxford schoolhouse near Mil- 
burn ; in 1885 on Wood river near Lodi, at 
Stop Table, Roten \'alley. Sand Creek, Cliff, 
Alaple Grove, Berwyn, and Keota. many of 
which have continued to flourish both summer 
and winter, wielding a most healthful influ- 
ence for good in the respective localities ; while 
others did 'run well for a season' and then, 
when the dark days of drouth and jianic came, 
succumbed. Up to 1886 the work was carried 
on in the county locally. Then, as my memory 
serves me, a movement was made toward or- 
ganizing a county association, for more per- 
fect work and for the purpose of organizing 
schools in every settlement, which had by this 
time spread over nearly the entire county. 
Among those who were prominent in this 
movement were Rev. E. A. Russell, a Baptist 
state Sunday-school missionary, located at 
Ord : Rev. English, of Arnold ; I. N. Atkisson, 
D. AI. Amsberry, Willis Cadwell, W. A. Gil- 
more, and Dr, J. J- Pickett, of Broken Bow ; 
J. H. Blair and D. S. Weimer. of Ortello. A 
call was made for a meeting of Sunday-school 
workers at Broken Bow, a program was 
prepared and a date fixed for holding a county 
convention. .A. temporary organization was 
efifected by electing as president, I, N. Atkis- 
son, and as secretary, Willis Cadwell. \\'hen 
the convention met. a permanent organization 
was made by adopting a constitution and by- 
laws. The county was divided into four dis- 
tricts, each part of the county to be under the 
supervision of a vice-president of the county 
association, elected by that body. It was the 
intention of the association to divide each of 
the districts into minor districts, to be known 
as township associations, with a vice-president 
for each of them, under whose supervision a 
Sunday-school would be organized in every 
comnnmitv. This outline of work succeeded 



admirably in the southeast and northwest 
quarters especially, to such an extent that in 
every settlement a school was organized, but 
in the northeast and southwest quarters there 
was not such perfect organization — in fact, 
the southwest district was practically unreore- 
sented in the county association until ten years 
later. In the years following, this association 
held annual conventions until the year 1891, 
when, for some unexplained reason, there was 
no call niade by the president for the executive 
committee to meet and prepare a program, so 
in 1892-3-4 the president, D. S'. Weimer, hav- 
ing removed from the county, leaving the as- 
sociation without a head, it ceased to exist. 
JMany schools in the county died, partly from 
lack of the fostering care of county and district 
associations, but perhaps more because of the 
discouragements incident to the excessive 
drouth of 1892-3-4, coupled with the panic 
which followed — many families removing from 
the county, leaving homes and all that had been 
gathered about them since their settlement. 
This languishing condition of the cause led 
some of the more zealous workers to take the 
initiative .steps in the resurrection of the county 
association, or the formation of a new one. 
Accordingly, in the fall of 1895. a call was 
made for those interested to meet in Broken 
Bow, for the purpose of taking action in the 
matter. The response thereto met fully the 
expectations of those who had taken the lead- 
ing steps, the different parts of the county be- 
ing represented. The records of the former 
association not being obtainable, it was voted 
to form a new county organization. This was 
done by electing L. W. F. Cole, of Sargent, 
as president, and Mr. Herring as secretary, 
and by appointing Airs. Herring, W. C- Elliott, 
of Mason City, and J- M. Fodge, of Ortello, as 
a committee on constitution. The county was 
again divided into districts, each with a vice- 
president, selected by the district association. 
Among those prominent in this organization 
were T. J. Strickler, W. H. Hornday, George 
Bailey, H. Lomax, E. J. Pittaway. Mrs. Daniel 
Hagin, W. C. Elliott, and others, whose names 
I do not recall. By means of this association 
new enersfv w-as sfiven to the schools over the 

county, new schools were organized, annual 
conventions were held, and a pledge of fifty 
dollars made by the old association to the 
state association was paid, followed by a more 
hopeful outlook for the future. The officers 
of the county association were : E. J. Pittaway, 
president; Rev. Mr. Burns, secretary; and 
David McGugin, P. Wymore, R. E. Allen, and 
W. C. Elliott, executive committee. 

"Many of the noble men and women who 
were active in the upbuilding of the Sunday- 
school work, have gone to other fields to labor ; 
others have been called to their reward beyond 
this life, and their works do follow them ; 
while yet others are still doing the Master's 
work, awaiting that call. Whatever else can 
be said of the eflforts and labors of these con- 
secrated ones, all must admit that a high state 
of civilization and Christianity pervades our 
society by reason of the upholding of the 
Master's standing in this line of work. 

"The result of this reorganization of the 
county association was to line up and get in 
touch with the schools of the county, establish 
new ones where it could be done, and to divide 
the county into four districts, with a president 
for each district, to be elected by and from 
the schools that comprised that district, the 
president of the district to be vice-president of 
the county, and a member of the executive 
committee of the Custer County Sunday- 
school Association. The duties of said district 
president were to establish sub-districts, hold 
convention, therein each year, and to make an- 
nual report to the county convention, as to 
number of schools, pupils, and officers, th2 
number of conventions held, and such other 
items as would give the county association 
complete information as to the Sunday-school 
interests of his district. 

"For example, the reports from the several 
districts, through their presidents, to the coun- 
ty convention in 1899, showed in the county 
fourteen district conventions held ; and 
seventy-six schools, with average enrollment of 
3,339 pupils. Is not this well worth the eflfort 
to organize and to encourage the people to 
put forth an effort in every community to 
studv God's Word, to band together as Chris- 



tian workers to counterbalance the work of 
the evil one? 

"Following are the names of persons who 
have been elected and served as president of 
the county association since its organization, 
in 1886, for one or more terms, up to and in- 
cluding 1918-19: I. N. Atkisson, J. J. Pickett, 
I. W. F. Cole, D. F. Weimer, T. A. Moss, 
E. J. Pittaway, Uriah Keeler. H. Lomax, J. R. 
Dean, and J. M. Fodge, the last named having 

J. M. Fodge 

For many years president of Custer County 

Sunday School Association 

been re-elected consecutively each year since 
May 27, 1905. 

"In giving this account of the work of the 
Sunday-schools and the association, with what 
has been accomplished by their efforts, we 
canot. if we would dare, give the credit for 
the success to any one, or to all of the presi- 
. dents above named, although all have enjoyed 
the esteem of their friends and some have held 
positions as law-makers, place on the supreme 
bench of our state, comity offices, and other 
places of trust and honor in the formation of 

our commonwealth, and some- only the humble 
public place. Yet to them is due only a share 
of the credit. 

"We recall with all of appreciation the 
faces and names of the many whom we have 
met so often in the almost third of a ct'ntury 
since the beginning of our labors in this county 
for the cause of the Alaster, and whom we 
learned to love and esteem. In the ministry 
we may mention the following names: Correll, 
Graham, Hagin, Stromire, Tubbs, English, 
Maze, Strickler, Brink, Stromire, Moss, Brad- 
ley, Richards, Wagner, Rasey, Smith, Sumner, 
Tool, Hall, Bell, Megan, Burns, Baress. and 
Cadwell. Of the laymen: Judson, Chumbley, 
Woody, Wymore, Hagin, Drums, Kerr, Da- 
mon, Cole, Barns, Chesley, Samuelson, San- 
derson, Burrows, Foster, Walburn. Hanley, 
Lucas, Moomey, Pierce, Eastman, McGregan, 
Mason, Nichols, Narragan, Franklin, Mills, 
Needham, Skillman, Amsbern,^ Conant, and 
Walton and Allen, with a host of others that 
space forbids to mention. All of these unself- 
ishly gave their influence, counsel, time, and 
voice to encourage the cause that was so dear 
to their hearts in those pioneer days. 


"In these days of large things, big jobs, 
collossal undertakings, we realize perhaps, 
more than ever, the benefit, encouragement, 
enthusiasm, inspiration, and determination we 
receive when we rub up against some one who 
has done things, has won, has overcome ob- 
stacles that seemed insurmountable, and we 
are more determined because that one has 
overcome some big task. 

"It was because we had come in contact 
with such persons in the Sunday-school work, 
met them in our county and state conventions, 
and realized that they had become specialists 
in their work; it was because of this encour- 
agement that your county officers were em- 
boldened to think that 'Big Custer' might 
entertain the state Sunday School Association 
convention. It was with trepidation that wc 
dared to speak to our most progressive and 
staunch workers, because of the magnitude 



of the undertaking, the possibility that we 
could not make a win of it. 

"Then it was that we remembered that 
others had been able to do it, and so, as we 
went over the county with the state secretaries, 
meeting the workers of our county in district 
conventions in the year 1914, we suggested 
to them the idea, asking their help, and re- 
ceiving some encouragement, we determined 
to put the matter up to the county convention, 
which was done and their approval secured. 
We immediately set in motion, plans to get 
the co-operation of Broken Bow, and the back- 
ing of the business men was soon obtained. 

"It was then that the work was begim, by 
the appointment of the necessary committee 
to arrange the details, to carry the Broken 
Bow proposition and invitation to the board 
of managers of the state association, which 
would meet, at Aurora, in June, 1914. 

"When the convention assembled, Custer 
county Sunday-schools and association were 
greatly in evidence. With a large delegation 
from the county, with badges, banners, and 
}"ells, with Scripture mottos. Big Custer was 
put on the map. Result, the 1915 State Sun- 
day School Association convention was coming 
to Broken Bow. 

"To many of our people this was their first 
opportunity to meet the lecture-speakers and 
specialists in Sunday-school methods and 
modern equipment, and all this would surely 
leave some ideals and aspiration in the minds 
and hearts of some young workers, the im- 
press of noble, spiritual men and women. But 
the greatness, and magnitude of the job was 
yet before us. Would we be equal to the 
occasion? Could we do what we had promised 
the workers of the year ago? The task was 
yet before us. 

"In the meantime every phase of the work 
necessary to meet, greet, and welcome the 
great host that would surely come to us, had 
been looked after, so that every one was en- 
tertained and cared for in the homes and pub- 
lic houses. The spirit of doing great things 
had caught our people to a degree that 
brought praise and compliments from our 
guests, from the first to the closing day of 
the convention." 

What was the Broken Bow state convention, 
as to numbers and enthusiasm, as compared 
to former conventions ? We will let State 
Secretary W. H. Kimberly tell: "I want to 
say, friends, to the people of Broken Bow, and 
to the Custer county association, that this is 
the record-breaker convention ; the registra- 
tion has gone nearly 600 above the high mark 
of former conventions. We never before 
spoke to such large audiences. We never saw 
so much enthusiasm in the convention work: 
entertainment and management have been of 
the highest order. We have never had 
smoother working machinery. The officers of 
the state association thank the committees, the 
people of Broken Bow. and the officers of 
Custer County Sunday School Association for 
our great convention." 

The enrollment of the state convention was 
thirty per cent, greater than any previous con- 


Year 1914 Year 1915 

Total attendance 796 1646 

In convention town 390 813 

In state outside 406 833 

Mileage delegates ■ 2394 6983 
Number counties 
represented 56 61 



Ax Earlv-Day Feed — A Stag Party Performance — Fux with a Meek-eyed Bron- 
cho — A Pioneer Picnic — An Old Settlers' Association — 1883 was the Boom Year 
— Old Settlers' Association of S'outh Loup — Ancient Free & Accepted Masons — 
Independent Order of Odd Fellows — !Modern Woodmen of Custer County — Ans- 
ley's Lodges — Mason City Lodges — Royal Neighbors of Arnold — The Grange — 
Woman's Clubs in Custer County — Shakespeare Club — Callaway Sorosis Club — 
History of Browning Club — The Book Lovers' Organization — Broken Bow Art 
Club — Arnold Women's Improvement Club — The Broken Bow Woman's 
Club — Sargent Woman's Cli'b — Woman's Club. of Axsley 

Nowhere on the planet can he found a 
more sociable people than the Custerites have 
always been. In pioneer times they were not 
given to overmuch formality, but possessed 
that free and easy sociability and hospitality 
that always mark the western people. They vis- 
ited in each other's homes, they congregated in 
the schoolhouses, they held public celebrations, 
a picnic was a favorite way of spending the 
day, informal dinner parties were served as of- 
ten in the society of forty years ago as in that 
of to-day, according to population. Many of 
the prominent settlers had, before their migra- 
tion, belonged to lodges of the east, and. with a 
lodgeman's nose for smelling out fraternal kin- 
ship, they formed their cliques and clans, 
which ripened into warm friendship before 
enough kindred spirits had arrived to form 
the lodge. 

To illustrate some of the gatherings of pio- 
neer days, elsewhere in this chapter will be 
found an account of a stag party and broncho 
entertainment which gives a very vivid por- 
trayal of early society, before the advent of 
' women. Reference is made to Mrs. Stuckey's 
dinner-party story, to show the improvement 
in society after the advent of women. 

AN early-d.\y feed 
Mrs. H. C. Stuckey gives this glimpse of 

early-day society "pulling oft" a dinner party : 
"We would arrange to get together, as 
many as possible, on some set day, and go all 
together to the ranch of some neighbor. We 
never sent any warning when we might be ex- 
pected, but we were always welcome, always 
had a good dinner, and the cook was never 
put out. Let me describe a ranch dinner of 
the olden time. This, of course, is an invited 
dinner. There were no menu cards, but there 
were turkey, chicken, quail stuffed with 
oysters, chicken salad, all kinds of vegetables, 
jellies and preserves made from wild fruit 
which grew in abundance in the canyons, 
cakes and dainty desserts of various kinds, 
cofTee, tea, or chocolate. The table was al- 
ways beautiful, no matter how plain the sur- 
roundings. No fine paintings adorned the 
walls, but many pretty things for the table had 
been brought from eastern homes. Sometimes 
there was a knife short, but the butcher knife 
was drafted into service and proved an excel- 
lent substitute. Perhaps there were not enough 
chairs to accommodate all of the guests, but 
several molasses kegs, with which tlie ranch 
always abounded, were l')rought into requisi- 
tion : a long board was laid on them and cov- 
ered over with robes, which made a seat good 
enough for a king — a cattle king, at least. 
The hospitality of ranch days was unlioundcd 




— ■ not the chilly and what-did-you-cnme-for 
hospitality of to-day." 


Anent the hilarious times of early days, 
when whole-hearted hospitality was extended 
by every ranch to anybody that might pull the 
latch-string, and where neighbors were always 
welcome to shove their feet under the table or 
crawl into a bunk, R. E. Brega, of Callaway, 
gives an interesting account of an early-day 
stag party that took place on the Benger & 
Brown ranch, which was then located in 
Brown valley, about five miles southwest of 
the present Callaway. Brega describes it some- 
what like this : 

"On that memorable occasion there w-ere 
present: Charles Thornburg, M. E. Schnerin- 
ger, Fred Brown, George O. Benger, J. J. 
Douglass, R. E. Brega, and others, now for- 
gotten. The first act on the program was to 
kill a sheep, the next to elect a cook, and by 
the way, in those days, the men were all pretty 
good cooks. The balance of the programme 
went round in circles. In turn, each told a 
story, sang a song, danced a jig, or played a 
tune on an old accordeon which Fred Brown 
brought from England, and the awful 
screeches of which told stories of neuralgia, 
rheumatism, and gout — and made the screech 
owls green with envy. 

"At the end of each round, there was served, 
lamb, ram, sheep-meat, or mutton, together 
with pancakes and cofifee. This continued 
through the night, until the lamb had entirely 
disappeared, and the pancakes ceased to be 
made, for lack of flour. 

"That you may better determine the degree 
of enjoyment experienced by the participants, 
it is added that forty-eight hours later, George 
and Fred were located under a hay-staok, 
sound asleep — while the sheep wandered on 
the hills far aw'ay." 


A diverting record is that which follows : 

"In early days they enjoyed life in various 

ways and one of the great factors of our early 

life, were the antics of the playful broncho. 

To get an innocent tender-foot on 'Sky- 
scraper,' 'Starjumper,' "Dynamite," 'Thunder- 
bolt,' or some other 'cowboy-buster,' afforded 
much amusement, and I recall now, how 
mean we were, for the higher he went, and 
the harder he fell, the better we liked it. \[y 
sides ache wdien, I think of one instance. Finch- 
Hatton Brothers had just received a friend 
from England, who was making a short stay, 
and who was afterward known as Frank Ban- 
nister. Frank was a very humane and kind- 
hearted fellow. He thought it was wrong — 
very wrong — to put a heavy saddle on a little 
broncho, and, in addition, he thought it v>'as 
unnecessary. To be brief, he presented a very 
forcible lecture along this line, and insisted 
that we should use light saddles or ride our 
horses bare-back. Still further, to back up his 
assertions, he longed for an opportunity to 
demonstrate the correctness of his idea, re- 
marking, 'If I only had what you term a mean 
horse, I would be glad to show you how nice 
he would act.' Well, this was something 'soft.' 
We had been looking for him for a long time, 
and before he concluded his sermon on the 
pony, Frank Brega slipped into the barn and 
brought forth a very pretty black mare called 
'Deceiver.' By way of introduction, I will say 
that Al Wise, a noted broncho man of those 
days, had given her up as a bad job, and sent 
her further west. This pony was quiet and 
verv' gentle about the barn, which fact had 
given rise to her name, 'Deceiver.' 

"Air. Bannister's nerve was with him ; he 
threw a blanket on the pony, and was on her 
back in a jifify. Round and round he went! 
Not a pitch : not a buck. The crowd felt like 
— the boy the hen ran over, but our time was 
yet to come. "All things come to those who 
wait.' Yet the crowd was imjiatient. Finally 
the pony was called to a halt just in front of 
the cabin door. Then it was that our punish- 
ment commenced, for how he did boast ! "I 
will now,' he said, 'be able to go back to Eng- 
land and tell the people how the pony will be 
spared in the future.' In this manner he con- 
tinued for a time that seemed like ages, when 
a gentle wind came to our relief. A small 
whirlwind turned over a paper near the pony. 



Ii would take an eye-witness with a circus ed- 
ucation to tell the rest. "He didn't know it 
was loaded,' but it went off just the same. 
He struck the building like a thousand bricks. 
How the crowd did double up and howl. They 
had laughing-stock enough to last six months. 
Frank has been in this country now manv 
years, and no one has ever heard him talk of 
light saddles since, and if you see him riding, 
take notice that he rides a forty-pounder." 


Twenty-six years after the organization of 
the county, the old settlers organized an Old 
Settlers" Association and arranged for the first 
annual picnic, to be held at Broken Bow, 
August 5, 1903. The account of the picnic, 
as it appeared in a local paper at the time, is 
inserted here, to show the spirit of the pio- 
neers at that time and also because, it contains 
\aluable data: 

"The first annual picnic of the Old Settlers' 
Association of Custer county, held in the pub- 
lic park at Broken Bow, August 5th. was a 
far greater success than was anticipated by 
any one. The crowd commenced to gather 
early, and by eleven o'clcKk quite a represent- 
ative number of people had assembled. In the 
forenoon a business session was held, at which 
time officers were elected for the ensuing year. 
The officers are as follows: President. L. H. 
Jewett; first vice-president, J. E. Cavanee ; 
second vice-president, J. R. Land ; secretary- 
treasurer. E. R. Purcell ; historian, George B. 
Main \\'ith the exception of Mr. Lang the 
officers were the same as for the preceding 

"At twelve o'clock, dinner was spread in the 
park, and a very large number of picnic parties 
were scattered about the grassy plots in the 
splendid shade. It is estimated that about 500 
people occupied the park during the noon 
hour. At 1 :30 o'clock the Broken Bow band 
gave a half-hour concert, while the people 
were assembling. At two o'clock the gather- 
ing was called to order and the program com- 
menced. By this time the crowd had swelled 
to immense proportions, and upward of 1,500 
people congregated around the speaker's 

stand. President Jewett called the meeting to 
order, and made a very appropriate speech. 
The address of welcome on behalf of the city 
was then delivered by Mayor E. R. Purcell. 
Harr}- O'Neill, of Omaha, speaker of the day, 
was introduced, and entertained the audience 
for half an hour with a splendid talk. Mr. 
O'Neill is one of the old-time residents of 
Custer county, and his speech, as well as his 
presence here, was enjoyed by all. The Ryer- 
son quartette then favored the audience with a 
choice selection, after which Daniel Sage, the 
long-haired poet, read one of his popular 
poems. Mrs. Stuckey, Broken Bow's popular 
singer, also favored the audience with a se- 
lection, which was heartily applauded. An- 
other number on the program, which was ap- 
preciated, was a poem written by Tommy 
Burlin, and it was read by Mrs. G. O. Joyner, 
of Ortello. Mrs. Alice Dowse Sims read a 
paper descriptive of the first settlers of the 
northeast corner of Custer county, which was 
very entertaining. 

"The balance of the program was given over 
to reminiscent talks from quite a number of 
old-time residents of Custer county, and this 
part of the program was a genuine treat to 
everyone. Among those who spoke were J. 
I\L Fodge, Jess Gandy. H. M. Sullivan, Mrs. 
Moses Lewis, Alpha Morgan. Jud Kay, C. H. 
Jeffords, J. D. Ream, and G. R. Russom. 

"The award of medals was an interesting 
feature of the day. The following are the 
winners : The earliest male settler of Custer 
county in attendance at the picnic, L. R. 
Dowse, of Comstock, who dates his residence 
from August, 1873. ^Irs. L. R. Dowse won 
the medal for the earliest female settler of 
Custer county in attendance at the picnic. She 
came here in January, 1874. The earliest male 
child born in Custer count)', in attendance at 
the picnic, was John F. Bell, of New Helena. 
Mr. Bell was born in New Helena, in March, 
1876. The oldest female child born in Custer 
county, in attendance at the picnic, was found 
to be Mrs. Alice Dowse Sims, daughter of 
Mr. and ^Irs. Dowse, who won the medal for 
the oldest settlers. ^Irs. Sims was born Feb- 
ruary 22. 1875. The four winners were called 



to the platform, where the medals were pre- 
sented by Mr. Fodge. The committee on 
these awards consisted of J. M- Fodge, John 
Reese, and J. J. Douglass. 

"The unsuccessful contestants for these 
medals were as follows : For oldest male settler 
Florian Jabobs, New Helena, November, 1875. 
For the oldest female settler, Mrs. Nc George, 
May 20, 1875. For the first-born boy, Lilburn 
Oxford, born July 22, 1876 ; and C. O. Taylor, 
born January 26, 1880. For the first-born 
girl, Mrs. Hattie Carr Osborne, born Septem- 
ber 6, 1878; Mrs. Maude Noble Gliem, born 
September 11, 1878; Miss Myrtle Allen, born 
February 28, 1881 ; Miss :\Iadge Potts, born 
May 25, 1881. 

"Mr. Dowse, who up to the present time 
holds the record of being the oldest member 
of the association in attendance at the picnic, 
has been a resident of Custer county for al- 
most thirty years. Whether he will be able to 
retain this, we cannot say. It is the intention 
of the association to award these medals each 
year, to the oldest settlers and the earliest 
born who are in attendance at each picnic. 
The program continued until nearly five 
o'clock, but the visiting and intermingling 
continued in the park for several hours later. 
The day was a decided success from every 
standpoint. The weather was all that could be 
desired, the program was replete with splend- 
did things and the sociability of the crowd was 
a feature that was noticeable on every hand. 
It is a foregone conclusion that the old settlers' 
picnic of this county will be a great event 
every year. The membership of this organ- 
ization at this time numbers something like 
300 people, and it will no doubt continue to 
grow until the membership reaches into the 
thousands. Next week we expect to publish 
the papers that were read at this meeting. 

"Among the very old settlers who were in 
attendance at the pi:nic in this city on Wed- 
nesday, we note the following: 1873: Mr. 
and Mrs. L. R. Dowse, of Comstock. 1874; 
J. R. Forsythe, New Helena ; Mr. and Mrs. 
J. R. Lang. Algernon : \\'. H. Comstock. Corn- 
stock.* 1875: William O. Boley, New Helena; 
Mr. and Airs. H. C. Stuckey, Tuckerville; Mrs. 

Nc George, Cumro ; Florian Jacobs, New He- 
lena ; J. J. Douglass, Callaway. 1876 : John E. 
Myers, Georgetown ; John F. Bell, New He- 
lena. 1877: R. E. Glass, Broken Bow. 1878; 
Mr. and Mrs. D. M. Amsberry, Broken Bow; 
J. E. Cavenee, Georgetown. 1879: J. O. Tay- 
lor, Berwyn ; J. G. W. Lewis, Broken Bow ; 
Jules Haumont, Elton. 1880; E. Taylor, 
Broken Bow ; J. D. Ream, Broken Bow ; Jacob 
Mauk, Broken Bow ; Mrs. M. E. Lewis, Bro- 
ken Bow; C. S. Elison. Ansley; W. P. Trew, 
Georgetown; P. F. Campbell, Georgetown; 
Mr. and Mrs. Jess Gandy, Broken Bow ; James 
Lindly, Anselmo; A. L. Morgan, Cumro; C. 
W. Hoagland, Gates; J. H. Price. Broken 
Bow ; Mr. and Mrs. James Daly, Merna ; Mr. 
and Mrs. James Wood, Merna ; R. R. Robin- 
son, New Helena ; John Snyder, New Helena ; 
W. T. Powers, Broken Bow ; J. H. Alolvaney, 
Georgetown; Mrs. I. A. Reneau, Broken 

AN OLD settlers' .\SS0CL\TI0X 

The first old settlers' association ever or- 
ganized in the county, so far as obtainable 
records show, was the old settlers' association 
■ of the northwest quarter of Custer county, 
which was organized in 1890. At this time 
the oldest settlers in the district would have 
been residents only nineteen years. The meet- 
ing for the organization of this association 
was held in the home of J. J. Joyner. seven or 
eight miles west of the present town of Merna. 

At this time temporary officers were elected. 
J. J. Joyner was made temporary chairman 
and D. V. Joyner temporary secretary. A 
committee, consisting of J. M. Fodge, S. H. 
Read, and S. K. Redman, was appointed to 
report on form of organization. The commit- 
tee made an informal report, and after its 
adoption the permanent officers were elected, 
as follows; J. J. Joyner, president; J. M. 
Fodge, first vice-president ; S. H. Read, second 
vice-president ; W. M. McCandless. third vice- 
president ; G. O. Joyner. secretary. The pro- 
gram committee of that year's ])icnic consist- 
ed of J. K. Cooper, Joe Kellenbarger, and 
Mrs. H. C. Fodge. 

From this time on until the present time. 



the associalion has not failed to hold its an- 
nual picnic. These occasions have always been 
of a very enjoyable nature. The minutes of 
the association have been well kept and the 
organization is to be congratulated upon the 
data they have compiled. The minute book, 
whi:h contains the membership roll, gives the 
names of 231 old settlers, with the respective 
years of their settlement. 

1883 \\ AS THE BOOM VE.XR 

The dates of settlement show that of the 
first one hundred, two came in 1874. one in 
1875, one in 1876. two in 1878, two in 1879, 
eleven in 1880. three in 1881, twenty-one in 
1882, thirtv-four in 1883. eighteen in 1884. 

Association of the South Loup was organized. 
Then was held our first picni-. The thought 
of organizing and holding an annual picnic 
was first suggested by Mr. William lirown, 
who now resides, I believe, in Buffalo county. 
The grounds were located by Mr. Brown, Mr. 
Sammie Robinson, and Nc George. Tlie 
s])eaker at our first celebration was Rev. .\lex. 
Boyd, who recently moved to Illinois. 

"Speakers, distinguished for their ability, 
from diflferent parts of the country, have en- 
tertained us year by year. .Among them we 
remember Rev. Crist, N. Dwight Ford, J. J. 
Douglass, Rev. W. L. Gaston, and Judge Sut- 
ton, of Omaha. Judge Sullivan, of Broken 
Bow, addressed us last vear. His address was 

[Photo by S. D. Bulclier} 


four in 1885, and one in 188(). Thirty-three 
present of this hundred came in the years 1882, 
1883, and 1884. Those were the influx years, 
not only of the northwest quarter of the coun- 
ty but also in all parts. 

OLD settlers' .\SS0C1.\TI0.\ OF SOfTH LOl'P 

One of the most successful and aggressive 
old-settlers' organizations of the county is the 
South Loup association, which has been in ex- 
istence for ten years, and holds annually a 
picnic, the atendance and entertainment of 
which are famous throughout the county. 

Mrs. Xc George, in a brief paper written not 
long since, outlines the inception and details 
the history of this organization. Because of 
its historic value the paper is here submitted : 

"Ten years ago, in 1908. the Old Settlers" 

replete with patriotism and stirred the red 
blood of every patriotic citizen. 

"We elect officers annually. Mr. James E. 
Jones was our first president and has served 
in this capacity a number of times since, which 
proves that some officers at least, 'are bom, not 
made.' Mr. William Shoemaker is our ]ires- 
ent president, and I am sure you will concur 
with me in the dictum that he has done splen- 
didly in giving us a pleasant and happy time 
together to-day. We have always been helped 
with the programmes rendered, and amused 
with various sports, but best of all is the greet- 
ing from old friends. The spoken word, the 
hearty handshake, and the forming of new 
acquaintances year by year, is a wonderful 
ins])iration. « 

"Roughly speaking, at our first gathering 



there were 500 people in attendance. At that 
time we were made happy at the prospect of 
the association being a success, by there being 
two automobiles on the grounds, one owned 
by Mr. Lambert Johnson, of Sumner, and the 
other owned by Mr. \'enus Goodwin, of the 
same place. Now all have noted the difference 
in this respect to-day. 

"Since the first year or two, the increase in 
attendance has been plainly manifest, and a 
thousand people would not be an exaggeration. 
Last year was a record-breaker and there were 
probably L500 people on the grounds. To-day 
we miss some familiar faces, — those of per- 
sons who have left us in recent years and 
months, among them being Air. George Lash, 
Mrs. Ezra Wright. Airs. Whitman Robinson, 
Mrs. Walter Brown, J\Irs. George \\^illiams, 
Mr. Eulie Brown, Mr. Joseph Cherry, Mr. 
Adelbert Mason, Mr. David Downey, Mrs. A. 
L. Downey. Most of these, if living, would 
be here to-day. Alany of our younger men 
are in our national cantonments, training for 
service. Two boys from this immediate local- 
ity who were with us one short year ago are 
now in France. One, Arthur Stuckey, born 
and reared partly in a nearby neighborhood, 
sleeps the last, long sleep in France to-day. 

"It has been the endeavor of the association 
to keep the morale high and to make the an- 
imal picnic a day in which all can find enjoy- 
ment of a high order." 


The annals of Alasonry in Custer county 
date back to the coming of the settlers. .Al- 
though no lodge was organized until 1885, 
eight years after the organization of the coun- 
ty, a number of the settlers were Masons and 
connected with lodges in their former homes. 
The late Frank H. Young, who during the 
last forty years had been the first apostle of 
Alasonrv in the county, if not in the state, 
joined the Alasons in 1874, and in 1877, the 
year that the county was organized, he attend- 
ed for the first time the grand lodge of the 
state. Thereafter he attended every session 
of the grand lodge up to and including the ses- 

sion of 1917. This remarkable record made 
him an attending delegate for forty consecu- 
tive annual sessions. With the record of such 
a man, and those of other kindred spirits, the 
work of Masonry had place in the county be- 
fore the organization of the first lodge. 

Credit is due to Alpha Morgan for the fol- 
lowing epitome of Free Masonry history in 
the county : 

The records of the Grand Lodge, Ancient 
Free and Accepted Masons of Nebraska, show 
that on July 13, 1885, a dispensation was grant- 
ed by the then grand master, Monoah B. Reese, 
late supreme judge of the supreme court of 
Nebraska, to fifteen Alaster Masons to open 
a lodge at Broken Bow, under the name of 
Custer Lodge, L'. D., with Frank H. Young, 
as worshipful master ; James M. Kelsey. senior 
warden ; and Hollis G. Rogers, junior warden 
of the new lodge. In addition to the above 
named brethren, the fifteen named included 
Isaac Merchant, Robert H. Miller, Leander H. 
Jewett, Michael Conley,' James Lindly, Har- 
vey Said, William H. Russell, Thomas T. 
Williams. Cornelius R. Tratt, Albert G. B;- 
mis, Charles Kloman, and Ira AI. Foster. 

Brother Edward F. AlcClure informs us 
that during the previous spring he inter- 
viewed Robert H. Aliller, the then editor and 
proprietor of the Custer County Republican, 
and suggested the calling together of the Free 
Alasons of the county for the purpose of tak- 
ing steps to organize a lodge. This undertak- 
ing may be judged when we consider that 
above named gentlemen lived from Lee's Park, 
on the east, to where now Callaway is, on the 
west ; from New Helena, on the north, to near 
where Oconto is, on the south — a varying 
distance of sixty miles apart. 

Brother McClure took it on himself to write 
each of these brethren a letter setting ^orth 
the object of the meeting, and fixed the time 
at the convening of the spring term of the dis- 
trict court, which was presided over by Judge 
Savage. The place of meeting was the Com- 
munity building, which is now a part of the 
Burlington hotel, and the upstairs of which 
w'as a hall for all manner of meetings, as well 



as for holding court. At that meeting steps 
were taken that resulted later in the granting 
of the disp)ensation. 

The records available show that Milo F, 
Young, the father of the first worshipful mas- 
ter, was the first initiate, and James D. Ream 
the second to be inducted into the mysteries. 
During the first year the degrees were con- 
ferred on Charles Penn. Robert P. McKnight, 
Emerson H. Potts ( from near where Lomax 
now stands), Edmund King, Harvey B. An- 
drews. Walter C. Hedwell. Diah \\"oodruff, 
George E. Carr. Osborne P. Perley, William 
G. Brotherton. and James G. Brenizer. Bro- 
ther Brenizer had already received the first two 
degrees, in Keystone Lodge, Number 2, lo- 
cated at Phillips, Nebraska, but by request 
was "raised" in the new lodge. All of above 
named were more or less active in the develop- 
ment and advancement of the new county, and 
one frequently meets with their names among 
the county records, in some capacitv or an- 

When we realize that the scope of territory 
covered by these different brothers and the 
amount of work accomplished during the year, 
as well as the conditions under which the 
work was done, we cannot but help compare 
our present surroundings and wonder what 
we would have done under the same condi- 
tions. Brother McClure tells us that the ante- 
room had cracks through which "a cat could 
be thrown." and when the cold, chilling bla.';ts 
of the north wind would swoop down upon 
them during work, the candidate, as well 'as 
the brethren, would hug the stove in real earn- 

At the annual meeting of the grand lodge 
in June. 188(1. a charter was granted the nev.- 
lodge, under the name of Emmet Crawford 
Lodge, Number 148. The selection of this 
name was due to the fact that in January. 
1886. Captain Emmet Crawford, of the Regu- 
lar Army, was murdered by a company of 
Mexican soldiers just across the border. lie 
was buried at Kearney. Nebraska, April 11, 
1886, having a military and Masonic funeral 
— one of the largest funerals ever held i'.i 
the state. Regular .Army officers came from 

Colorado, ^lissouri. and other places, as de- 
tailed, while numerous members of the craft 
were present, not only from Nebraska, but 
also Kansas, Colorado. Iowa, and Missouri. 
Captain Crawford was a member of Richmond 
Lodge. Number 230, Philadelphia, and the 
manner of his death not only excited the in- 
terest of army and fraternal circles but caused 
governmental inquiry and action. The burial 
having occurred a few weeks prior to the 
meeting of tlie grand lodge of Masons in 
Omaha, and the grand secretary. Brother 
William R. Bowen. being an ex-officer of the 
United States army, suggested the name for 
the new lodge, and it was adopted and ac- 

At the time Emmet Crawford Lodge was 
instituted, the nearest lodge to the east was at 
Grand Island, while to the west there was none 
in Nebraska. Its jurisdictional territory was 
much larger than many of our ea.stern states, 
but in population it was "few and far be- 
tween." As the distance to travel in going to 
and from lodge was great, and the roads led 
across the treeless prairie, regular meeting- 
night was fixed on Saturday night on or be- 
fore the full of the moon, so that the weary 
sojourner would have the light of that lumi- 
nary to cheer him on his way. 

While the surroundings, furnishings, and 
buildings were primitive as compared with 
those of to-day. yet to hear those old-timers 
tell it. they had many an enjoyable evening in 
concourse with their brethren, interspersed 
with an occasional banquet and dance, typical 
of the whole-heartedness of the times. 

The first Alasonic funeral, that of Edmund 
King, who was shot and killed by a dwarf, 
Ed. Demerrit, was held on December 16. 1888, 
a goodly number of brethren from adjoining 
towns being present to assist. 

As the settlement of the county increased, 
new centers sprang up, so it was not long 
until other lodges were formed, and in August, 
1887, Mason City received a dispensation, on 
the petition of eight Master Masons ; also 
Merna Lodge was formed, on the petition of 
nine Master Masons; while in February. 1888, 
Gladstone Lodge, of Ansley, was established. 



on the petition of sixteen Master Masons, the 
last two being recommended by Emmet Craw- 
ford Lodge. 

On November 24, 1890. the members of 
Merna and Emmet Crawford Lodges, were 
invited by the most worshipful grand master. 
Robert E. French, to assist in the laying of 
the corner-stone of the Protestant Episcopal 
church at Callaway. This was the first cor- 
ner-stone laid in the county under the auspices 
of the Masons. At this meeting, steps were 

by John Finch, wlio was re-elected and served 
for fifteen consecutive years — the longest 
record of all in the county. 

December 10, 1904, on petition of eleven 
brethren, a dispensation was granted to form 
Anselmo Lodge, with Brother John J. Tooley 
as master; George E. Carr, senior warden; 
and L-a M. Foster, junior warden. 

October 18, 1912, twenty-two Master Ma- 
sons petitioned for a dispensation, which was 
granted, to form Swastika Lodge, at Sargent, 

Laying Corner Stone of Masonic Temple at Anselmo 

tatccn for the formation of a lodge of Free 
Masons, so that on January 31, 1891, a dis- 
pensation was granted, on the petition of nine 
Master Masons, for Parian Lodge, at Calla- 
way, with Brother Frank H. Young as its 
master; Michael Conley. senior warden; and 
Andrew J. ^McMurtry. junior warden. This 
was recommended by ]\Ierna Lodge. 

On November 17, 1893, on the petition of 
fourteen Master Masons, a dispensation was 
granted to open a lodge at Arnold, under the 
name of Cable Lodge. Albert G. HofTman 
was named as its first master, in which office 
he continued two vears, and he was succeeded 

with Brother Fred F. Cram as its master ; E. 
Miller, senior warden ; and Andrew F. Phil- 
lips, junior warden. 

To the parent lodge, Emmet Crawford, each 
of these lodges looked for assistance, which 
it received, either in contribution of members 
at the time of formation, hcl]) in conferring 
the degrees, or such other aid as was needed. 
In their turn each of these have contributed 
to the parent by furnishing members for the 
"higher" degrees, such as chapter, council, 
and commandery, for Broken Bow has each of 
these bodies and is prepared to confer all the 
degrees of Ancient York Rite Masonry. 



The total membership of the lodges of the 
county, as furnished by report to the last 
grand lodge, is 662. Add to this 138 Royal 
Arch Masons, 100 Royal and Select :Masters, 
eighty-five Knights Templars, and some 300 
that belong to the Scottish Rite, one can have 
a fair idea of the interest taken in the myste- 
ries of Masonr_\- by the inhabitants of the 

Several of the lodges own their own homes, 
and many thousands of dollars have thus been 
expended in the upbuilding of their respective 
communities, by the erection of handsome 
buildings, used for lodge halls and business 
blocks. Perhaps those of Ansley. Anselmo. and 
Callaway are more worthy of special mention, 
as the buildings of the fraternity in those towns 
are splendid monuments to the zeal, industry, 
and self-sacrifice of the brethren. Each of 
these buildings has fine appointments and is 
beautifully furnished, tending to make one feel 
that true f'ratcrnalism prevails. 

The grand lodge has at different times rec- 
ognized the spirit prevailing, and has never 
hesitated to come when called upon for special 
ceremonies, such as the laying of comer-stones 
for public buildings, as well as lodge halls, 
the dedication of these halls, the holding of 
funerals of distinguished members, and other 
work of similar order. 

Then, too, there are in the county, many of 
the members of the order who have received 
the highest honors that can be bestowed. 
Bi other Reuben B. Mullins is now the only 
thirty-third-degree Mason in the county, and, 
indeed, it is an honor to be thus recognized 
for some meritorious act. The late Julius J- 
Wilson served the craft as grand high priest 
of Royal Arch Masonry in the state, duriiig 
the year 1909. AI])ha Morgan served as grand 
master of Masons during 1913 and 1914, and 
later as grand patron of the Order of Eastern 
Star. Judge X. Dwight Ford is the retiring 
grand patron of the Eastern Star, and Henry 
H. .Andrews is now grand sentinel of the same 

The late lamented Frank H. Young served 
the craft well, having held all the grand lodge 
offices of An:ient ^'o^k Masonrv that it was 

within the power of the craft to bestow, as 
well as that of grand patron of the Eastern 
Star. Reference has been made, elsewhere, 
to the record made by Brother Young in at- 
tending every consecutive session of the Grand 
Lodge for full forty years without break or 
interruption. In this connection it should be 
stated that during that time all the money 
allowed by the grand lodge for mileage and 
expenses was turned back into a charity fund 
for a children's home which he had planned 
and hoped to establish. The fund so started, 
e:rew until it reached $100,000. then its incre- 

Frank H. Youxg 

ment became available for use. lentil this 
l)rin:ipal amount was reached not a dollar was 
ever used, so in a very large sense Frank II. 
Young was the founder of the cottage home 
for children, located in Fremont, and owned 
and maintained by the Masons. This home 
was built in 1915. For nine years Brother 
Young was the president of the Nebraska Ma- 
sonic Home, at Plattsmouth, Nebraska, whicii 
institution has furnished home and comfort for 
a great many aged peojjle. In jjoint of attend- 
ance at grand lodge Mr. Ynung ranked sec- 
ond in the state. To augment his record of 
forty consecutive sessions at grand lodge he 
has a record of thirty-six consecutive sessions 
of the grand chapter and twenty-nine consecu- 



five sessions of the grand commandery of the 

In the general statement concerning the 
work of Masons in the county ^Ir. Morgan 
has given a skeleton outline, and very modest- 
ly has refrained from mentioning any of the 
service rendered the order by himself. I\[;". 
Alpha Morgan is one of the prominent Ala- 
sons of the state. He has passed through all 
the chairs of the grand lodge, and while grand 

Grand Master, Masonic Grand Lodge 

master made a record of which his fellow 
craftsmen are proud. At the present time he 
occupies the exalted capitular position of 
grand king and in two years more will pass 
to the higher honors of grand priest. 

Outside of fraternal circles Mr. Morgan is 
one of the first citizens of the county. An 
attorney of note and prominence in the county 
bar, he is a graduate of the law department 
of the Iowa State University, and he has been 
a resident of the county since 1887. 

John J. Tooley is now deputy grand master 
of the state, and the brethren feel confident 
that he will be advanced to the higher position, 
that of grand master. 


The Independent Order of Odd Fellows 
comes in for its share of importance, in the 
part it played in the early history of Custer 
county. It came with the pioneers, more than 
forty years ago, but no organized effort was 
made among the Odd Fellows of the county 
until the citizens of Broken Bow applied for a 
charter and Broken Bow Lodge, No. 119, was 
formed, June 21, 1884, with eleven charter 
members. Dr. R. C. Talbot, of Broken Bow, 
whose name appears on the charter, is the only 
one of that number still living-. 

The first meeting was held in the old city 
hall, — • a building which now forms a part of 
the Burlington hotel, — the officers at that 
time being: N. H. Hopkins, noble grand; A. 
W. Gandy, vice-grand ; L. H. Jewett, secre- 
tary. In decided contrast to the old meeting 
place is their present home, a beautiful white 
glazed-brick, fire-proof structure, which was 
erected and dedicated in 1916, at a cost of about 
$20,000. They now have one of the best halls 
m the state and a membership of 179. 

In point of membership, W. G. Purcell is 
the oldest member in Custer county, having, 
joined the order in 1882, and he has served a 
major part of that time as secretary of Broken 
Bow Lodge, No. 119. 

The different branches of the order in this 
city have been highly complimented, by reason 
of the fact that each has been represented at 
the grand bodies in the jurisdiction of Ne- 
braska. Mrs. Margaret Holcomb, of Re- 
bekah Lodge, No. 110, was president of the 
Rebekah assembly the year 1911-2. W. G. 
Purcell was grand patriarch at the session of 
the grand encampment October, 1906; Octo- 
ber, 1907. Dr. T. W. Bass was grand master 
of the 1912-13 session of the grand lodge, Ne- 
braska jurisdiction, and in point of member- 
ship was the youngest grand master to serve, 
having come into the order April 23, 1900. 
During his administration the membership of 



the state made a healthy growth. He was 
representative from the Nebraska jurisdiction 
at three sessions of the sovereign grand lodge 
— at Minneapolis. Minnesota; Atlantic City, 
New Jersey ; and San Francisco, California. 

Since the organization of the Broken Bow 
Lodge, have been organized in the county, 
lodges at Arnold, Callaway. Oconto, Anselmo, 
Merna, Berwyn, Ansley, Mason City, Sargent, 
Comstock. and Westerville. with a total mem- 
bership in the county of 1,139. The lodges 
in Custer county are in a flourishing condi- 
tion, many of them owning their own homes. 


Custer Camp, No. 4477. was organized at 
Broken Bow in 1897, with a very small mem- 
bership. The Modern Woodmen of America 
is probably the strongest fraternal-insurance 
organization in this country, and the local 
camp at once became a popular one. It has 
grown rapidly in numbers, until at the present 
time it has a membership of 330 and is second 
in size of all the camps in this part of the state. 

Custer Camp holds its meetings the second 
and fourth Tuesday evenings of each month, 
in the new I. O. O. F. building. The present 
officers are : N. Dwight Ford, venerable con- 
sul ; Thomas H. Brown, adviser ; E. H. Hol- 
comb, banker; G. T. Robinson, clerk; and M. 
M. Runyan. escort. 


Ansley Lodge, No. 156. Independent Order 
of Odd Fellows, was organized December 8, 
1887. Charter members : George W. Baugh, 
Daniel Hagin. E. H. Gaines. Robert J. Mills, 
Thomas J. Wood. O. M. Geeseman. Dana M. 
Saville, A. R. Humphrey, Edgar .V. Hains- 
worth, J. J. Brown, and D. M. Amsberry. 
The present membership is 119, and the oldest 
member is C. S. Ellison. The present officers 
are: Noble grand. William Price; vice-grand, 
.\. L. Real; treasurer, S. G. McCoUistcr; sec- 
retary. L. D. Russell. Meetings are held ev- 
ery Wednesday evening. 

The Ansley Rebekah Lodge was organized 
October 17, 1908, with the following charter 
members: Hcnrv Schmid. A. Tina Hare, 

Agnes Carothers, John Thornton, A. H. Tur- 
pen. R. J. Holeman. E. G. Taylor. C. C. Ta- 
bor. C. E. Lawson, J. H. Carothers, Laura 
Turpen. Minnie Taylor, Mary Carothers. Eliz- 
abeth Geeseman, Hattie Thornton, Emilie 
Schmid, Hernia Lawson, Jennie Geeseman, 
and Ogle Varney. The lodge is at present in 
good working order. During the ten years 
of its life, it has lost but one member by 
death. Sister Anna Harris, who answered to 
the last call on June 20, 1918. During the 
past year, the lodge has received by initiation, 
transfer, and reinstatement, twenty-one mem- 
bers. Our present membership is sixty-two 
Present officers: Noble grand, Agula Spring- 
man : vice-grand, Emily Real ; secretary. Ad- 
die Fowler; treasurer. Marv Nelms. "Our 
motto is friendship, love and tnith ; our aim 
is peace, harmony, and prosperity." 

The charter for Gladstone Lodge No. 176, 
Ancient Free and Accepted Masons, was is- 
sued February 18. 1888. to Francis M. Rublee, 
Brougham Stevenson, \\'illiam O. Chapman. 
William D. Fritz, James F. Sharpless, Hiram 
H. Wirt, E. R. Burrows. Philip M. Evans, 
James W. Fairfield. Marion G. Hayes. John 
W. Russell, C. J. Stevens. Thomas T. Williams, 
Thomas A. White. James M. Scott, and Isaac 
Clark. The first meeting was held Febniary 
20, 1888. with the following officers: F. M. 
Rublee, worshipful master ; Brougham Steven- 
son, senior warden ; William O. Chapman, 
junior warden ; Clark J. Stevens, treasurer ; 
Edwin H. Burrows, secretary ; William D. 
Fritz, senior deacon; Alex. Grierson, junior 
deacon ; I'hilip M. Evans, tyler. Lodge was 
opened in entered-apprentice degree. The first 
petition was received from Josiah .\. .\rmour, 
and he was the first to be initiated in the en- 
tered-apprentice degree, March 19, 1888. The 
first meeting was held in Stevens' hall, and the 
entered-apprentice degree was conferred the 
same evening on Samuel Royds, Isaac A. 
Reneau. George E. Snell, and J. A. Armour. 
On April 2. 1888, Lee P. Gillette, grand cus- 
todian, was present. The present Masonic 
temple was built al a cost of $10.72.i.08, and 
was dedicated November 19. 1914. the dedi- 
catory service being in charge of Brother 




Robert E. French. The building committee 
consisted of C. J. Stevens. A. F. Pinkley, John 
Davis. John W. Scott, and J. H. Kerr. Tlie 
lodge now has a membership of 133, of whom 
108 are ]\Iaster Masons and twenty-five in ihe 
other degrees. The past masters up to the 
present time are: F. M. Rublee (1888), W. 
O. Chapman (1889), E. H. Burrows (1890), 
C. J. Stevens ( 1891), E. L. Cleveland, 1892), 
J. A. Armour ( 1893-6), J. S. Fairfield (1897), 
E. L. Cleveland (1898), C. R. Hare (1899- 
1901), John Davis (1902-3), A. F. Pinkley 
( 1904-5 ). J. W. Scott ( 1906-7). W. R. Young 
(1908-9), Levi Pringle ( 1910-11). J. H. Kerr 
(1912). N. D. Ford ( 1913-4), C. H. F. Stein- 
meir ( 1915), T. T. Varney ( 1916), R. J. Mills 
(1917). and E. P. Gaines, the present incum- 
bent, 1918. 

Ansley Chapter, No. 203, Order of the East- • 
ern Star, was organized April 10, 1906, with 
the following charter members: A. F. Pink- 
ley, W. R. Young, William Burdett, J. W. 
Scott, D. A. VanSant, John Davis, ]\Irs. L. ^1. 
VanSant, Mrs. Jemima Scott. Delia Stott, 
Florence Stevens, Mrs. Jennie Stevens, Mrs. 
Eliza Pinkley, Mrs. Lottie Shepard, Mrs. Fan- 
nie Gaines, Carrie VanSant, C. J. Stevens, E. 
H. Gaines. C. E. Mattley. J. H. \'arney. Ed- 
gar Varney, and Mrs. Isabella Burrows. Its 
first officers were: Worthy matron, Mrs. Je- 
mima Scott ; worthy patron, John Davis ; A.M., 
Mrs. Fannie B. Gaines ; secretary, ^Nlrs. Lizzie 
M. \'anSant: treasurer, Mrs. Isabella Bur- 
rows : conductress, ]Mrs. Eliza Pinkley ; asso- 
ciate conductress. ]\Iiss Delia Scott. The 
present membership is ninety-six ; the oldest 
member is Mrs. Amelia \'arney. and the young- 
est member is Miss Ellen Boyden. Present 
officers : Worthy matron. Ogle \^arney ; 
worthy patron, E. W. Rayson ; A.^I.. Mrs. 
Delia Lockhart ; secretary, Mrs. Grace Maul- 
ick; treasurer, Mrs. May Morris; conductress, 
Mrs. Clara Gaines, associate conductress. Mrs. 
Elsie Mackey. 

The ?^Iorning Star Camp, Royal Neighbors 
of America, was organized May 25, 1898, with 
the following officers: Oracle, Miss Jeane 
Wright ; secretary. Miss Ethel Burns. The 
following were the charter members: Mary 

Carlin, Marcus Richtmyer, Mrs. M. Richtni}-- 
er, Charles Hare, F. E. Wolford, E. H. Bur- 
rows, John Thornton, C. J. Cummings. Thom- 
as Harris, E. L. Cleveland, James Davis, W. 
Burdett, F. W. Carlin, A. H. Turpin. W. B. 
Young. L. H. Hoover, John Scott, Charles 
Cummings, Eugene Haines, Sarah Beach, Jen- 
nie Pixley, C. W. Hamilton, Alice Hamilton, 
Laura Wigent, F. A. Wigent, Frank Watson, 
Day Watson, G. A. Allen, Charles Mitten, 
C. E. Lawson, Elizabeth Boyd, Hannah AT. 
Scott, Debbie Boyd, James Hiser, Josephine 
Hiser, Hattie Thornton, Emma Wolford. Hes- 
ter House, Emma Hare, Dora Weath, T. C. 
Berry, Dr. E. A. Hanna, Clara Wakeley. Delia 
McGowan, Jemima Scott. William Smith, Mrs. 
William Smith, Mollie ^'arney, J. W. Corn- 
stock, Mrs. J. W. Comstock. Mrs. William 
Burdett. Mrs. James Davies, E. B. Pinkley, 
A. F. Pinkley, and Emma Fox. At the pres- 
ent time, there are 121 members — eighty-nine 
beneficiary and thirty-two social. The present 
officers are: Oracle, Lilly Wilkinson; vice- 
oracle, Mary Lawson ; treasurer, Amelia 
Schmid ; chancellor. Anna Pester ; physicians, 
Drs. Young and Hanna ; secretary, Mrs. E. A. 
Butler; managers, J. W. Scott, Grace Maulick, 
and Gertie Horton. 

Ansley Camp. No. 1234. Modern \\'oodmen 
of America, was organized October 24, 1889, 
with eleven charter members, as follows: J. 
S. Thomas. H. A. Goodrich, Ed. Fowler, A. 
H. Shepard. H. W. Comstock, G. W. Baugh, 
O. F. Smith. J. H. Chapman. I. F. Secrist. 
Peter Fowler, and C. R. Hare. The first of- 
ficers were: ^'.C.. J. S. Thomas; W..A.., ?I. 
A. Croodrich ; banker. Ed. Fowler ; clerk, A. 
H. Shepard; escort. J. W. Comstock; watch- 
man, G. W. Baugh ; sentry, O. F. Smith ; phy- 
sician, J. S. Thomas ; managers, J. H. Chap- 
man. I. F. Secrist. and C. R. Hare ; delegate, 
J. S. Thomas: alternate. G. W. Baugh. The 
camp was organized by the deputy head con- 
sul, N. W. Noble. The only two remaining 
charter members are A. H. Shepard and J. W. 
Comstock, and the present membership' is 340. 
The oldest member is Dan Hagin. who was 
born February 12, 1842, and who was adopted 
March 27, 1891. The youngest member. C. 



L. Morton, was born January 1. 1900, and 
adopted June 1, 1918. The present officers 
are: P.C, J. H. Gonge : consul, J. B. Jone- ; 
adviser, John Springman ; banker. E. I'. 
Gaines: clerk. Perry Foster; escort, Roy Pat- 
terson : watchman, D. P. Scott : sentry. W. K. 
Kimball; physicians. E. A. Hanna and W. K. 
Young: managers. J. H. Gonge, H. F. Spring- 
man, and J. 11. Jones. 


IM. C. Warrington gives the following data 
concerning the lodges of Mason City : 

"The first lodge organized in Mason Cit}' 
was Alason City Lodge No. 100. Ancient Or- 
der of United Workmen, which was accom- 
plished in December, 1886, and for many years 
this was a prominent fraternal society. 

"Mason City Lodge, No. 170, Ancient Free 
and .-\ccepted Masons was granted a dispensa- 
tion in the year 1887, with Judson C. Porter, 
worshipful master ; A. B. Johnston, senior 
warden; W. .A. Runyan, junior warden: Rob- 
ert Walker, secretary : Dr. Hiram C. Chase, 
treasurer ; AI. C. Warrington, senior deacon ; 
James Gouley, junior deacon. A charter was 
granted the following year. This lodge is 
still in a flourishing condition, and is proud of 
the fact that its Service Flag has seven stars. 
The fraternity owns and occupies its own prop- 
erty and expects to erect a handsome temple 
after the termination of the war. 

"The Independent Order of Odd Fellows is 
represented in Alason City by a live working 
lodge, which was instituted in November, 1890. 
This lodge has a large and enthusiastic mem- 
bership, owns its own property, and has in 
contemplation the erection, at a not distant 
date, of a substantial new home. 

"A thriving organization of the Modern 
Wodmen of .America — Custer Camp. No. 
1157 — has long been a fixed institution in 
Ma.son City. The membership of this camp 
is large and 'log-rolling" meetings, to keep the 
members interested and to add new ones, are 
of frequent occurrence. 

"Last, but not least, save one only, in mem- 
bership, of Alason City's fraternal and benefi- 
ciarv orsjanizations is that of the old soldiers. 

Stone River Post, No. 247, Grand Army of 
the Republic. Few. indeed, are the old veterans 
of the Civil war who make up the membership 
of this post, but with that degree of duty and 
loyalty which marked the period of their lives 
which they so gallantly devoted to the cause 
of their country, with unfaltering devotion to 
the tlag, they maintain their organization and 
have occasional meetings, to delve in days that 
are passed." 


The .\rnold Camp of the Roval Neighbors 
of America was organizetl Alarch 31. 189S, 
with twenty-one charter members. The follow- 
ing were the first officers: Oracle. Mrs. Alay 
Finch : vice-oracle. Airs. Eliza Daily : chan- 
cellor. Airs. Carrie Ewing ; recorder, Aliss 
Dessie Chambers; receiver. Airs. Clara Alills; 
marshal. Airs. Edna Harden : inner sentinel, 
Airs. Alary Hansbury; outer sentinel. Airs. 
Ada Pierce. Within the period of the history 
of this interesting camp. Airs. Alay Finch was 
oracle twelve years: Airs. Alary Backes, vice- 
oracle, fourteen years : Airs. Gertrude AlcCant, 
recorder fifteen years ; Airs. Harriett Coufal, 
marshal, fifteen years. At the present time the 
camp has forty-seven members, besides a num- 
ber have moved away. In the life of the camp 
it has lost only two members by death. — one 
social and one beneficiary. 

The Arnold Lodge of the Daughters of Re- 
bekah was instituted Alarch 6, 1916, and at the 
time of this writing is two years and rive 
ir.onths old. It has a total of seventy-four 
members, of whom forty-eight wqre charter 

Alarch 13. 1917. the members organized a 
Rebekah kensington, which has taken up work 
for the Independent Order of Odd Fellows' 
home, and also Red Cross work, besides donat- 
ing money to the Red Cross. 

This lodge has bought fifty dollars' worth of 
war-savings stamjis and has done all it could 
to help win the great world war. "Three of 
our members are in service now and more are 
to go soon." is the statement made for this 
lodge ]irior to jhe close of war hostilities. 




During January, 1911, a National Grange 
organizer was surveying Nebraska with a view 
of organizing Granges in tlie state. On being- 
invited by J. D. Ream to come to Custer 
county, and assured that he would find an au- 
dience that would be interested in listening to 
a discussion of the Grange organization and 
its work, he came early in February and found 
a fair audience awaiting him. Although this 
community had been noted from its earliest 
settlement for the progressive tendencies of its 
people and for the organized efforts it had 
made along social and educational lines, yet 
there were present only seven who had faith 
enough in the community push and energy to 
feel sure they could maintain a successfid 

A temporary organization was effected and 
arrangements made for the organizer to re- 
turn later. By the time the organizer returned, 
a sufficient interest had been aroused to make 
possible a permanent organization. A canvass 
was made of the surrounding territory, anrl 
Granges were organized in Tappan \'alley, Lill- 
ian, East Table. Union, Dutchman. Fairview, 
New Helena, Highland, etc., and a State 
Grange was organizeed at Broken Bow No- 
vember 1st. The Central Nebraska Pomona 
Grange was organized at the same time and 
of the same C. P. Jeff'ords was elected master 
and secretary. 

The organization spread steadily until over 
fifty .subordinate and four Pomona Granges 
had been organized in the county and a won- 
derfully increased interest in rural conimunitv- 
life conditions had been created. The rural- 
school problem was one of the first things the 
Grange grappled with, in real earnest, because 
the little, inefficient schoolhouses were recog- 
nized by the Grange workers as being very 
detrimental to the good work and growth of 
the Grange, and also very detrimental to the 
development of ideal rural-life conditions in 
general. The work of the Granges in this line 
bids fair to bring splendid results in the near 
future to the state at large. 

These Grange organizations have done much 
good by bringing the people of the rural con;- 

munity together, getting them acquainted and 
giving them a chance to clasp hands with each 
other in their social, educational, and co-oper- 
ative work, thus helping break the monotony 
and isolation of rural life and broadening their 
field of labor. Especially has this been true 
with the vounger members. 

In the co-operative line, scores of carloads 
of coal, lumber, fruits, salt, sugar, flour, and 
livestock have been handled, and two large, 
successful co-operative stores have been estab- 
lished in the county as a direct result of the 
work of the Grange. And there is no way of 
measuring the number of lives it has bright- 
ened and cheered or the number of those to 
whom it has brought a broader vision of the 
opportunities of life and their duties to those 
around them. 

Among the many faithful workers in [he 
good work of the Grange in Custer county 
may be mentioned J. A. Dietz and wife. S. A. 
Dean and wife, W. W. Bishop and wife. Ralph 
Johnson and wife, T. A. Ely and wife. L. O. 
\\'elch and wife, John Staab and wife. W. 
Miller and wife, Alvin Daily and wife. H. 
Jacobsen and wife, W. D. Holden and wife, 
George Pelkey and wife, and a great host of 
others who have done what they could to help 
make the rural communities of Custer county 
better places in which to live and to give to the 
younger members of the communities broader 
conceptions of the opportunities and responsi- 
bilities of life in general. 

woman's clubs in CUSTER COUNTY 

The women of Custer county have always 
been the peers of their stronger consorts, not 
to say their lords and masters. A fitting trib- 
ute can never be paid those brave wives and 
mothers who endured the hardships incident 
to the time in which they lived. They did their 
work and laid the foundations of home culture 
and refined ideals in such a manner that the 
present womanhood of Custer county stands 
high in the estimation of all intelligent classes. 
To-day the women of the county have more 
time for self-culture and elevating pursuits 
than in the pioneer days of the past ; for that 
reason, the following list of improvement, so- 



cial, and literary clubs, organized and main- 
tained by women, can be presented. 


The Shakespeare Club, the oldest study club 
of Broken Bow. was organized January 11. 
1895, with a membership of four, and was 
known as the Four Leaf Clover Club for sev- 
eral -years. For the past twenty-three years, 
the Shakespeare Club has held weekly meet- 
ings, and its programs have consisted of the 
study and discussion of the great dramatic writ- 
ings, research work in history, art, and litera- 
ture, and interpretations of the music of the 
Shakespeare plays. During the later years, the 
personnel of the club has been increased to a 
membership of twelve. In January, 1918, it 
•decided to suspend meetings until after period 
of war, in order to devote more time to Red 
Cross work. 


The Callaway Sorosis Club was organized 
April 2, 1909. It was the first club organized 
in Callaway. The organization was effected at 
the home of Mrs. A. L. Matthews. The first 
year's officers were: President. Mrs. J. D. 
Caupsey; vice-presidents, Mrs. T. C. Grimes 
and Mrs. F. M. McGrew ; secretary, Mrs. J. 
D. Laughlin ; treasurer. Mrs. R. E. Brega. 
Other charter members were Mrs. John Fel- 
ken, Mrs. Riggle. Mrs. Ray Bennett. Mrs. Ira 
Shupp. Mrs. Roy Grimes. 'Sirs. Arthur Higlec, ■ 
Mrs. Walter \\'right, Mrs. O. C. ^Murphy, 
and Mrs. Allen. The work has been along 
the literary line and has included P.ay \"icw 
work, with some miscellaneous programs. 
This club joined the state federation in 1910 
and was the first Custer county club to join 
that -federation. 


In the fall of 1910 a group of ladies gath- 
ered at the home of Mrs. .\. R. Humphrey, cl 
Broken Bow, and.organized a club, the purpose 
of which was to study the works of Robert 
Browning. Mrs. H. T. Bruce was elected pres- 
ident, and the work began with enthusiasin 
under her efiicient leadership. The ISniwning 

Club has always been strictly a study club and 
has studied some of Browning's most difficult 
works. The first two years the club studied 
"The Ring and the Book" with shorter poems. 
In the spring of 1912 the club, with a number 
of other Broken Bow ladies, had the pleasure 
of listening to a lecture on "Rabbi Ben Ezra" 
by Professor O. H. Venner, of the literature 
department of the Wesleyan University. 

In the spring of 1914. occurred the death of 
one of the charter members, Mrs. A. R. 
Humphrey, who had always been a very loyal 
worker and who has been greatly missed by 
the members of the club. In the fall of lOl-j 
the club decided to take up the study of Brown- 
ing on a university basis, and accordingly be- 
gan the study of the dramatic poems, as 
outlined by Professor Frederick Ames Struff, 
of the University of Nebraska. The poems 
studieil were "Count Gismond." "Rabbi Ben 
Ezra." "My Last Duchess." "Saul." "Andrea 
Del Sarto." "A Death in the Desert." "Childe 
Roland to the Dark Tower Came." "Cleon." 
and ".\n Epistle." 

In the summer of 1916 the club was again 
bereaved, by the death of Mrs. H. M. Sullivan, 
who had endeared herself to all the members. 
In 1916 the chib studied "Paracelsus" and 
"Pippa Passes." In 1917 the poems studied 
were "Strafford." "Parleying with Charles Ari- 
sen," "Old Pictures in Florence." "Sordello." 
"Christmas Eve," and "Easter Day." 

The members of the club patriotically de- 
cided that for the duration of the war they 
would devote their time to Red Cross work 
as well as study. 


In the summer of 1'>11 a Chaulau(]ua class 
of Broken Bow decided that they preferred to 
study the history and literature of the different 
countries. A meeting was held, officers elected, 
and i^lans rather indefinitely made for the 
1 "11-12 year. 

A book committee. Mrs. J. G. Leonard and 
R. G. Moore, outlined the work for the first 
year — the French year. The French history 
was taken as the basis for the study, with his- 
torical novels, by the greatest French authors. 



ill their chronological order, interspersing the 
history lessons. 

The officers for this year were: Mrs. J. G. 
Leonard, president; ]\Irs. Leo Dean, vice-pres- 
ident ; Mrs. R. G. Aloore, secretary-treasurer. 
The members for this year were Mrs. R. G. 
Moore, Mrs. Leo Dean, Mrs. Charles Luce, 
Mrs. Emery Bush, Mrs. Will Osborn, Mrs. 
James Leonard, Mrs. William Lovelace, Mrs. 
[ohn Turner, Miss Martha Fodge, and Miss 
Eva Cad well. 

The course was successful and passed all 
expectations of the club members. Each year 
they have improved in their methods of study. 
They were pioneers in club circles of the city 
and introduced such features as the use of wall 
maps, Perry pictures, printed yearly programs, 
and study of the music and art of the countries 
under consideration. 

The 1912-13 year was German year, with 
Bayard Taylor's German history, and German 
novels and poems. The 1913-14 year was the 
English year, with Greene's English history, 
and, for the most part, the great English po- 
etical classics, such as Milton's "Paradise 
Lost," Spencer's "Faerie Queen," and others. 

In 1914-15 they studied the home country, 
taking John Fiske's L^nited States history, and 
\-arious novels describing different parts of the 
country, such as Cooper's "Last of the Mohi- 
cans," telling of the Indians ; S. Weir Mitchell's 
"Hugh Wynne," depicting the Quakers; Irv- 
ing's "Knickerbocker History of New York," 
showing the life of the early Dutch in New 

In 1915-16 they used the general history and 
the greatest literary work of some of the coun- 
tries, taking "The Divine Comedy" for Italy 
"Don Quixote" for Spain, the "Iliad" for 
Greece. In 1916-17 the work was the plays of 
Shakespeare. In 1917-18 they studied Old Tes- 
tament history, using for text-books four vol- 
umes of Professor Kent's "Historical Bible." 

The officers for the year 1917-18 are: ^Mrs. 
A. A. Alden, president; Mrs. Ralph Thomp- 
son, vice-president ; Mrs. Horace Kennedy, 
secretary-treasurer; ^Irs. James Leonard, 
chairman ; and ]\Iiss Eva Cadwell and Mrs. 
Alden, book committee. 

The present members are Mrs. A. A. Alden, 
Mrs. Ralph Thompson, Mrs. Horace Kennedy, 
Mrs. Emery Bush, Mrs. James Leonard, Mrs. 
Charles Luce. Mrs. Gains Cadwell, and Miss 
Eva Cadwell. The club meets every Monday 
afternoon from the last Monday in September 
to the first Monday in June of each year. 


January 5, 1915, Mrs. H. T. Bruce and the 
active members of her china-painting class or- 
ganized the Broken Bow Art Club. The pur- 
pose of this club was to engage in a syste- 
matic study of pictorial art in all its forms ; to 
attain some knowledge of the use of oils and 
water colors, while specializing in mineral 
paints ; to become acquainted with the best 
paintings; and to learn to judge values in ail 

The club has been very successful in the 
pursuit of these objects and met regularly at 
fortnightly intervals until the early spring of 
1918, when it disbanded temporarily, to take 
up war work. 

In addition to the activities described above, 
the Art Club has placed framed copies of good 
pictures in the public library of Broken Bow, 
and in both ward-school buildings. 


It would be hard to find a more wide-awake, 
energetic club than the Women's Improvement 
Club of Arnold. They were organized in 1913 
and in the same year federated with the state 
federation. Mrs. Charles Beardsley and Mrs. 
Will Jennings were the prime movers in the 
matters of organization. 

The first officers were as follows: Presi- 
dent, Mrs. Fred Britten; vice-president, Mrs. 
William Jennings ; treasurer, Mrs. Tom 
Backes ; secretary, Mrs. E. L. Cleveland ; and 
corresponding secretary, Mrs. Charles Beards- 

The federated clubs' bulletin published in 
June, 1918, an extended article on the activi- 
ties of this club, under the ca]5tion of "A Live 
Club." The club gave in 1917, "The Nebras- 
ka Institution Entertainment," for the benefit 
of the public ; they also held a schoolhouse 



meeting and did much work to secure the co- 
operation of parents in school work. By the 
request of the school authorities the Shake- 
spearean department gave the court scene 
from "The Merchant of \'enice" at the school- 
house, for the benefit and instruction of the 
pupils and school patrons generally. 

Arnold has the distinction of giving more 
money to the Young Women's Christian As- 
sociation than any other town in the county. 
This was made possible by the leadership of 
this club. 

The ladies of the club have been instru- 
mental in establishing a public library and n 
public drinking fountain, and have purchased 
two centrally located lots for the erection of a 
club building. This fine record has been made 
while all kinds of war work have been car- 
ried on. At the present time the club has 
forty-seven members, and the officers are: 
President, Essie Haskell ; vice-president. Lil- 
lian Anson; recording secretary. May Conrad; 
corresponding secretary, Jessie Brunt ; treas- 
urer, Jennie Backes ; and reporter. Maude 


The Woman's Public Service Club of Bro- 
ken Bow was organized in 1914. for the pur- 
pose of co-operating with the Public Service 
Club and doing what they could along civic 
lines. The officers for the first year were : 
Mrs. A. Morgan, president; Mrs. E. P. Walter, 
vice-president ; ^Irs. C. W. Bowman, treasur- 
er; Mrs. A. E. Anderson, secretary. During 
this year, prizes were given for children's gar- 
dens : the club assisted also in putting on the 
Chautauqua and keeping up the social life of 
both clubs. 

In 1915. at the County Fair, prizes were 
awarded for bird-houses, needlework, and 
cookery. .At Cliristmas time a donation was 
given to the .Associated Charities of Broken 
Bow, fruit sent to both county and city jails, 
and flowers to the hos])ital. In 1916 they again 
assisted in Chaittaucjua work, made arrange- 
ments for short courses in domestic science, 
and donated ten dollars to the state peniten- 

tiary, to be used to purchase music for the 
prison orchestra. 

In October, 1916, they joined the State 
Federation and drafted the Nebraska nurse 
bill that same month. At Thanksgiving time 
they gave a donation to the Associated Char- 
ities and sent magazines and books to state 
jjcnitentiary. In April the Nebraska nurse 
bill was passed, the federated clubs of the 
state having endorsed and supported this bill. 
In March the first year's course in domestic 
science was conducted by the State Extension 
Bureau, with an enrollment of sixty-five. The 
club gave garden prizes and held a two days' 
canning school. In August it co-operated 
with the Chautauqua. It bought a fifty-dollar 
Liberty Bond in October and started to work 
for the Woman County Agent. The club held 
an art exhibit in November, and presented a 
picture to the high school and each ward 
school. The officers for 1918 are: Mrs. M. 
S. Eddy, president ; I\Irs. L. W. Wilson, vice- 
president ; Mrs. A. E. Anderson, treasurer; 
and Mrs. Will Darnell, secretary. 


A few ladies met in the month of June, 
1915, for the purpose of organizing a ^loth- 
ers' Club in connection with the Maccabee 
lodge. At this meeting ^Irs. George Mair 
was elected president, and Mrs. L. D. George, 
vice-president. The ladies forming the or- 
ganization were Mrs. George ^lair. Mrs. L. 
D. George. Mrs. Edwin Myers, Mrs. Dr. 
Hurst, Mrs. Lillie King, and Mrs. Delia M. 

No special work was taken up until Septem- 
ber of the same year, when Mrs. Edwin Myers 
was made chairman of the programme com- 
mittee. At this time the membership had 
grown from six to nineteen. A constitution 
was drawn up and adojited. From this time 
on the club studied, in full, the program 
mapped out in the ironuiii's Home Companion 
for that year, on "Cliild Training" and "The 
1 lome." 

The club was admitted to membershi]) in 
the Nebraska Federation of Woman's Clubs 



in September. 1916. changing its name at that 
time from the Mothers" Ckib to The Broken 
Bow Woman's Club. 

Since its affiliation with the state federa- 
tion, the \\'oman's Club has been very active 
in various lines of philanthropic work. The 
field of its endeavor is broad and comprehen- 
sive. It is a means of personal instruction 
and intellectual development, as well as a dili- 
gent, energetic, and efficient agent of civic im- 

The work for the club year of 1918-19 is de- 
])artmental. The work of each department in 
the state federation will be correspondingly 
represented by a department chairman. Chie 
program will be given by each department 
during the year. 

The officers of the club for the ensuing- 
year are: I\lrs. J- H. ]\lelville, president; 
Airs. J. F. Bahr, vice-president : Mrs. Jules 
Haumont, secretary; and Airs. T. C. Grimes, 

S.\RGEXT woman's CLUB 

This club was organized in January, 1915, 
under the name of Sargent Emanon Club, and 
the naine was changed to Sargent Woman's 
Club in July, 1918. It was organized by Mrs. 
Leota Hartley. The first officers were: Pres- 
ident, Airs. Leota Hartley ; vice-president. Airs. 
Lizzie Alorris. 

The object has been to secure a wider in- 

formation, with a view to improving intellec- 
tual and social conditions, and work is thor- 
oughly planned for the present club year. Of- 
ficers at the present time are: Airs. Etta 
Reier, president ; Airs. Xellie Phillips, vice- 
president; Airs. Flora Cropper, recording sec- 
retary ; Airs. Lizzie Morris, corresponding 
secretary : and Airs. Lulu Hicks, treasurer. 

wom.\n's club of .\NSLEY 

The Woman's Club of Ansley was organized 
in 1916 and has been actively engaged in pub- 
lic improvements. The members established a 
public rest-room and have maintained it since 
the first year of their organization. In this 
room they have the nucleus of a public library, 
in which are some 400 volumes. They are now 
working to secure a Carnegie library building. 
The course of study for the regular club meet- 
ings includes a course in parliamentary law, 
conducted by Airs. J. H. Ford. The club was 
federated in 1917. Airs. S. W. Thompson is 
president, and Mrs. L. H. Fowler is librarian. 

The club was first organized under the name 
of The Woman's Improvement Club, but this 
name was changed to the Woman's Club at the 
time of its becoming identified with the Ne- 
braska Federation of Woman's Clubs. Airs. 
C. H. England, of Broken Bow, assisted in its 
organization. The first president was Airs. 
Earl Cooper, and the first secretary was Airs. 
C. S'teinmier. 


The First Election — Had Some "Pep," However — Ix Scrappy Days — A Joixt 
Debate — The Populist Version — Through Republican Goggles — The "Populist" 
Movement in Custer County — First County Ticket — The Cat Creek Cluc — Like 
A Lamb to the Swallowing — The Republican Party Organizes — The Repub- 
licans Split — The Democratic Party — \'ery Prominent Politically — 
The Primaries of 1918 — The Election of 1918 

The political solidarity of Custer county has county. Later this territory became a part of 

always been a source of comment on the part Custer county. 

of careful observers. Political lines have nev- The election was held on the seventh day of 

er been closely drawn. In the early days, local Xovember. 1876. at which time Edward Xeil- 

politics had small place. In his candidacy for son. J. L. Banker, and D. J. Caswell were 

any office the man, if he were competent and judges and W. H. Comstock and James ^^ ag- 

popular, was not handicapped by a political oner were clerks of election, 

creed. Nor was there any political creed to In all, fourteen votes were cost as follows : 

which he must subs;ribe in order to be elected. 
Personal characteristics and qualities were the 
only things that counted. In the early Re- 
publican conventions, many who are now 
wheel-horses of the Democratic party affil- 
iated heartily and served on many important 
committees. This indicates the lack of acid 
tests, and shows that the early conventions 
were a free-for-all, in which a man was pitted 
against a man and not a partisan against a 

THE FIRST election 

The first election ever held in the territory 
which now comprises Custer county was held 
at Douglas Grove, before the county was or- 
ganized. A few years ago, among the papers 
of the late Captain W. H. Comstock, was found 
the poll-book of this election, which was held 
in Xovember, 1876. 

At tiiat time the territory west of \'alley 
county was attached to \'alley for judicial 
purposes, and a corner, twenty-four miles 
square, was cut off and known as Garber 

Isaac ]\Ierchant, Xew Helena : Edward Xeii- 
son, Xew Helena ; Lewis Dowse. Douglas 
Grove ; J. P. Dowse. Douglas Grove : James 
Lee, Lee Park ; J. L. Banker, Douglas Grove : 
W". H. Comstock, Douglas Grove: D. J. Cas- 
well. Douglas Grove : Frank Ingram. Douglas 
Grove ; Frank Ohme. Lee Park ; Samuel \\ ag- 
oner. Douglas Grove ; James \\'agoncr. Doug- 
las Grove; James O.xford, Douglas Grove: A. 
A. Higgins, Douglas Grove. 

At that time the precinct was overwhelm- 
ingly Republican, as out of the fourteen votes 
cast, only one saw fit to vote the Democratic 
ticket. Thomas J. Majors, who was then run- 
ning for congress, received twelve votes. Si- 
las Garber was running for governor, Othman 
A. .\bbott for lieutenant governor, and eacii 
received twelve votes. At this election Will- 
iam H. Comstock and Isaac Merchant were 
elected justices of the peace, each receiving 
fourteen votes. Lewis Dowse received one 
vote for constable. I. T. Merchant fourteen, 
and Tames Wagoner twelve. W. H. Com- 




stock received one vote for road overseer, and 
D. J. Casvi'ell fourteen. 

In those days Nebraska had onl}' six elec- 
toral votes, and this part of the world was 
known as the forty-fifth representative dis- 
trict, instead of the fifty-sixth, as now. It 
was entitled to only one representative, in- 
stead of two ; Daniel D. Grow was running 
for that office and received the magnificent 
total of thirteen votes. 

HAD SOME "pep" however 

\\'ith the passing of the first years, the set- 
tling up of the country, the coming of leaders 
from the more politic counties of the east, 
political lines were more sharply drawn. Three 
prominent parties have for part of the time 
held the lime light. These are the Republican, 
Democrati:, and Populist parties. 

In the days of the '90s, when the Populists 
formed a merger with the Democrats and made 
the Republicans their common foe, there were 
lively times, and spirited contests were staged 
for several years. The newspapers during this 
time were exceedingly partisan and injected 
a good deal of life into the political cam- 


As an indication of how the papers lam- 
basted each other and lambasted their politi- 
cal enemies, we quote the following from an 
editorial which appeared in the Custer County 
Chief, issue of October 14, 1898: 

"We are at a loss to know just what is the 
political faith of our much esteemed contem- 
porary, the Callazcay Indcf'cndcut. In the last 
few issues, C. W. Beal has been roasted to a 
turn. L. E. Kirkpatrick has been scored reg- 
ularly, Eastman and Taylor have received sid^ 
swipes, Holcomb has been touched up, Jim 
Amsberry has got a clip under the chin and a 
dip over the ear, the Chief has been given its 
choice between a political grave or bolt, 
Hughes Brown has received a few punches, 
and Judge Shinn, after a breathing spell, has 
again been poked in the short ribs. It is there- 
fore eminentlv proper that the Ausley Chroni- 
cle and the Broken Bozt.' Republican should 

compliment the Independent's bold stand and 
pass bouquets back and forth. Brother Webb 
is a scrapper from Scrapville and if his pluck 
holds out he will no doubt be able to scrap the 
whole state ticket before the campaign closes." 

.\ JOINT debate 

In the fall campaign of 1898 Norris Brown 
was the Republican candidate for congress, 
while W. L. Greene was the independent or 
"Populist" candidate. Great interest centered 
in a joint debate between the candidates. They 
met in the arena at Broken Bow, and we give 
below the accounts of the meeting as they 
appeared in the Chief and the Republican at 
that time. 

The Chief, which championed the Populists, 
gave the following account : 

the populist X'EKSION 

"It is not only customary, but natural, in 
disc-ussing the merits and demerits of a joint 
political debate that each party should stand 
up for its candidate, and in this connection 
we have already heard many times about the 
terrible drubbing Brown gave Greene, and also 
how Greene mopped the earth with Brown 
at the joint debate held in this city yesterday 
between the two candidates for congress in the 
sixth district. We have no desire to be un- 
fair in mention of this debate and will give 
the facts as we saw them, and as we believe 
they were. The meeting was called to order 
at about 2 :30 o'clock and the audience, which 
was about equally divided between Republi- 
cans and Populists, was decidedly small for 
an event of this kind. However, the people 
kept dropping in until the crowd reached about 
250 to 300 people. James Stockham presided 
as chairman and Simon Cameron and E. R. 
Purcell acted as time-keepers. Mr. Brown 
opened the debate with one hour. Mr. Greene 
then followed with one hour, Mr. Brown then 
followed with twenty minutes and Mr. Greene 
with thirty minutes, and Mr. Brown closed 
with ten minutes, making the time one hour 
and a half each. Brown, in his opening, made 
a very good address and established himself 
as a good speaker. He attacked Greene's 



record in congress, charged Greene with false 
statements in a circular issued to the people 
of the sixth district two years ago. relative to 
the jjrice of cereals, and cjuoted a lo:al paper 
at Kearney as proof, and attacked his state- 
ment regarding the per capita circulation of 
the country. Had the meeting closed at the 
conclusion of this speech, the people would 
have given Air. P.rown credit for a good hour's 
talk. Mr. Greene then took the platform, and 
as he warmed up to his subject, the attitude 
of the audience changed, and in less than ten 
minutes he had established himself as master 
of the situation, and his eloquen;e and good 
natural arguments carried conviction to the 
heart of every fair-minded man. He took up 
the statements and charges of Air. Brown in 
their order and literally tore them to pieces. 
Instead of quoting from local papers, Mr. 
Greene took the official reports of the govern- 
ment and clinched every argument in the most 
convincing manner. Mr. Brown, on his sec- 
ond appearance, plainly showed the hot fire 
he was under, and made but few points that 
required answering. Mr. Greene then made 
his closing speech of thirty minutes, and Mr. 
Brown only occupied about one-third of the 
ten minutes allotted to him to close. The 
audience had become restless, and fifty or more 
people got up to leave when Mr. Brown took 
the platform for the last time. Xorris Brown 
makes a good address, but as a debater he is 
not in it with W. L. Greene, and those who 
lieard the debate from beginning to end do 
not wonder that the Republicans have en- 
deavored to pull him off from the joint meet- 
ings. These debates will without question 
increase Greene's majority in every county in 
the sixth district." 


The current issue of the Republican has a 
report of the same affair, but everything seems 
to have looked quite dift'erent through Repub- 
lican goggles. Of course, political bias had 
nothing to do with these dift'erent versions. 
The difference was all due to different styles 
of literarv taste. The "(jreene" style appealed 

to the one party but "Brown" was the favorite 
color of the other, so we are to presume that 
the divergent accounts were due to color pref- 

"The Greene-Brown debate this afternoon, 
held in the North Side opera house, was a 
great disappointment to the 'Pops.' They had 
not only advertised the debate well in their 
papers, but had billed the county with large 
posters to induce the Pop brethren to give 
Tonsilitis Bill an old-time crowd. After all 
their eft'orts, not more than 300 people, men, 
women, and children, were present. There 
were not, all told, seventy-five Pop voters 
present, and one of them, instead of worship- 
ing their idol, at the conclusion of the debate 
mounted the rostrum and congratulated Xorris 
iirown. Judge Greene made a strong and 
pathetic appeal, with tears in his eyes, for the 
Pops to lay aside personal differences and 
vote for none but Pop nominees. His whole 
<lemeanor and speech only impressed his audi- 
ence more forcibly, that of demagogues he is 
the chief. He claimed to be the original Poj), 
and stated he advocated the principles now 
held 1)\' the Populist ]3arty when he was a 
beardless }outh. He maintained, with all his 
force at his command, that times are worse 
and |)rices of farm products lower than they 
were in the worst days of Cleveland's admin- 
istration. He asserted that if Brown would 
prove that a single prophecy he made two years 
ago in his circ