BLAINE COUNTY 
NEBRASKA

Named for James G Blaine (1830-1893), an American Statesman. 
Established 5 March 1885. 

AFRICAN AMERICANS OF BLAINE COUNTY, NEBRASKA

 

This page is dedicated to the African-Americans who pioneered in the sandhills of Nebraska. 
They not only endured the normal hardships of pioneer life, but they also "pioneered" in that there were few of their racial heritage in this area during the early days of settlement. 
Blaine NEGenWeb is pleased to be able to present this little known piece of our history,
and the history of Amos Harris, and William Alfred Young,




Amos Harris is buried at Grand Island, Hall, Nebraska.  His headstone reads as follows:



AMOS HARRIS
D;  Feb. 23, 1911
Colored Cowboy
Brought to Nebraska 
by I. P. Olive 
in 1878 *
Unfortunately his tombstone is not correct.
 Amos Harris did not come to Nebraska until 1880, and he is not listed with the Olive gang

 

     As Amos Harris could neither read not write, very little of his life in known.  He didn't know when or where he was born.

      It is said he came from Texas with the Olive Brothers in 1878 on a cattle drive.  For a short time, he stayed with the Clive Brothers near the head of the North Loup River.  Later, he, George Sawyer, and Bob Ross worked on the Figure Four Ranch which was also near the head of the North Loup River.

     He carried a raw-hide rope which he, himself, had braided.  He was considered to be on of the best ropers in the sandhills.

     With George Sawyer doing the writing, a wedding was arranged with a black girl living near Rockville, Nebraska.

     Mr. Harris had a "shack" on the North Loup, south-west of the confluence of Goose Creek and the North Loup River, about where the William Jensen ranch in now.

     The news is the Brewster Democrat in 1898 States:  "Mrs. Amos Harris came in on the stage from Halsey to Purdum.  Mr. Harris received six hundred head of cattle that would be summered between Hawley Flats and Purdum.  He did not own the cattle but was responsible to see they didn't drift too far from river water as he had no windmills or large tanks.

     Amos was a bit man, weighing over two hundred pounds.  He was very witty, much like by everyone.  He was called "Nigger Amos" but in an affectionate manner.

     My grandmother, Mrs. C. B. W. Cox, served meals in Brewster for twenty-five cents.  Amos Harris ate there when he was in town.  He never came in the front door, always to the back and would eat with my grandmother at the kitchen table.  Amos had been brought up in this tradition from the South.

     Mr. Harris died in Grand Island, Nebraska, in 1911 and was buried there.  The black people in Grand Island bought the headstone for his grave.  Only his name and date of death are on the stone as no birthdate was known.

SOURCE: Blaine County History, Vol. 1, 1988, Curtis Publishing, by Tim Cox, F260,  p. 314.

 

Remembering Amos Harris, beloved cowboy and huge man

African-American stood 6-3, weighed over 250 pounds and spoke five languages

SOURCE On-Line:  Grand Island Independent, Silver Salute. 
  Published:  Thursday, January 19, 2003  *

Marilee Malicky is president of the Garfield County Historical Society. **

* Permission to reproduce this article has been given by Peter Letherby, Associate Editor of Grand Island Independent.
** Marilee Malicky has also agreed to the used of this material

 

Courtesy photo
Irwin Dodge (left) ‹ who stood 6 foot, 
1 inch tall, and ranched east of Elyria ‹ was one of Amos Harris¹ good friends. The above picture of the two was taken when Amos was about 40 years old.

By Marilee Malicky
For The Independent

Amos Harris was the beloved black cowboy of the Loup Valley area and known as "One of God's True Noblemen" and as a "Prince of a Man."

Amos was born south of Galveston, Texas, on the Brazos River, a son of freed slave parents. His exact birthdate, unknown even to himself, is questionable -- either the 1840s or the 1860s.

Amos' obituary stated that he was 65 years old in 1911. However, his first marriage certificate stated that he was 27 in 1897, which would have made him 41 when he died in 1911.

Amos told of making five trips up from Texas on the Chisolm Trail. On one of these trips, the cattle were sold to the Ed R. Cook and the George Towar ranches near Ainsworth.

The wide-open spaces must have appealed to Amos as he decided to stay here. He married Eliza Young of Boelus in 1897, and they started a ranch 18 miles north of Brewster on the Calamus River.

Amos took in cattle from Valley, Garfield, Loup and Greeley counties and fed them for a dollar a head and then returned them in the fall. He was an excellent cowboy and stories abound of his deeds.

Although he could read and write and spoke five languages, including fluent Gennan, he was not wise in the ways of the law and lost his ranch to a homesteader. He and Eliza moved to Ord and, in 1903, she died "under the surgeon's knife." Amos was devastated.

Amos was a huge man. He stood approximately 6 foot, 3 inches tall and weighed between 250 and 300 pounds.

Belva Lowery wrote an article on Amos Harris for the Garfield County Historical Society Museum, after she conducted an in-depth study and interviews for the University of Nebraska television station KUON-TV in 1969. In the article, Lowery says of Amos:

"He got so much joy out of small things and his happiness and cheerfulness were infectious. Lawyers, bankers, lumbermen, editors, farmers, men, women and their children all added their recollections of him with loving pride. They remembered him as picturesque, courteous, friendly and happy."

Amos married Elizabeth Jane Fears in 1908, he was 38 and she 20. In 1909 he homesteaded a ranch in Wheeler county. Amos started suffering small strokes and died on Feb. 23, 1911.

He is buried in the Grand Island Cemetery, however the tombstone incorrectly states that he came to Nebraska with I. P. Olive in 1878. Amos did not come until 1880, and he is not listed with the Olive gang.



Blaine's neighbor, BROWN COUNTY, features an article about its early pioneer rancher, Ed T. Cook.
Amos Harris was an employee of Mr. Cook.  You can read this article by clicking on the book below.


 

WILLIAM ALFRED YOUNG


Another Negro, Mr. Billy Young, had a blacksmith shop in Dunning for years.  He died in Dunning I have a branding from Mr. Young made for my father in the 1920s.  I've hear many of the Dunning ranchers offer to buy Mr. Young a drink at P. C. Riggs' but he never drank with them.

SOURCE: Blaine County History, Vol. 1, 1988, Curtis Publishing, by Tim Cox, F260,  p. 314.




William Alfred Young
1875 - 1940


William Alfred Young, son of Mr and Mrs Anthony Young, was born near Dannebrog, NE on Aug 8, 1875, and passed away in Dunning NE on Feb 18, 1940,at the age of 64 years, six months and 10 days.  He spent his childhood and grew to manhood near Dannebrog.  Here he farmed the homestead of his parents, and being a lover of music, played in the local band.  In 1901 he was united in marriage to Miss Lula Shores.  To this union was born one daughter, Glenora.  In 1908, the family moved to a ranch northeast of Halsey, where they lived until they moved to Dunning, about 1918.  For these many years he has served the surrounding territory as blacksmith.  He has been preceeded in death by his parents, two sisters, and one brother.  He is survived by his wife; his daughter, Mrs. Guy Sayers of Alliance, NE; one brother, Ambrose V. Young of Quincy, IL; one sister Helen Buxton of Omaha NE and four nephews and four nieces.  Brother Young was always interested in civic advancement, community betterment and moral and religious enlightenment.  He was a member of the Full Gospel Church, and as a Christian, was ready to lend his support to any cause.  His cheerful manner should be an example to all who came to know him.  He was informed, tolerant, and conscientious.  As far as possible, he tried to please both God and man.  One of his expressed desires was to "be in the center of God's will."  Children loved him; grown people respected him; and all who knew him paid him honor.  His passing has left a vacancy in this part of the sandhills that no one else can fill.  All of us unite in extending our sincere sympathy to those bereaved and in paying our last respects to this friend to man and servant of God.  
Would that there were more like him

SOURCE:  Blaine County Booster Newspaper, Thursday, February 22, 1940.


 

A NOBLE MAN

Composed by Clarence Mac Duryea
(while in the 8th grade) to honor

William "Billy" Young

I know a man in my home town
Who toiles and works all day
For just enough to go around
Through life's own pleasant way.
He never says an insulting word,
To make a fellow mad,
He never has been known to urge
A person to do bad.

 He goes to church each Sunday morn
And learns about the Christ;
He reads the Bible each night and morn,
To lead a better life.
He would help a little child in need,
And spare his life for them,
Because he is the son of God,
Who gave his life for men.

 He helps the children fix their toys
In time he has to spare,
And helps the farmers fix their carts
With a true and honest care.
If all men, women, girls and boys
Were so good as not to swear,
They too shall go to the Golden Gate,
Sorrow and sadness are not there.

SOURCE: Blaine County Booster Newspaper,
Thursday, February 22, 1940

 

 

O.B. ZERVER

       SOURCE: Blaine County Booster Newspaper, Dunning, NE, Thursday, March 7,1940.  Author, anonymous.


Folks, sometimes I wish we didn't live in such an out of the way place.  I
guess the sensless taker is gonna have a hard time findin us.  Sometimes I'm
glad we live where we do.  Then again I wish we lived out more in
civiliesation.  Why some of us up this way didn't even know our ole friend
BILLY YOUNG had went away an left us till after his funerel.  I sure hated
that cause we thot a lot of Billy.  I heard they was a big funerel.  Peepul
came fer miles aaroun.  Everybody liked Billie.  He had more sense than
lotsa white folks.  I ust to go over to his rench north of Halsey.  Then
when he set up his shop in Dunning I always liked to go in an talk with him
when I was over there.  He had a big heart in him.  An it was white clear
thru.  If I didn't have the money to pay him for work he done for me he
would wait till I could pay it.  He never liked to ast anybody for what was
comin to him.  Onct when I seen him I was down in the dumps.  The kids had
the flu.  I was say in det an didn't have no money coming in.   I think I
had bin havin some kinds trouble with a naber over a fue dollars he owed me.
"Well Obie, how are you gittin along?" says Billie in a friendly way and
held out his hand.  I tole him how things was goin an how I felt about it.
As soon as I got thru, he smiled an said, "Well, Obie, it's never so bad but
it could be worse.  It could be worse, Obie."  Well you know I got to
thinkin about that an the more I thot about it the more it seemed like he
was rite.  He made me feel a lot better.  An by the time I got hom I felt so
much better Lutildie thot I had a streek of good luck til I told her  about
it.  Well we got to thinkin about all we had to be thankful fer, an Folks, I
don't know whether I ot to admit it but I gess we bawled a little that time.
Well, since Billy has went away an left us an we didn't even know atall I
jus aint felt like doing nothin.  Folks, I don't see why it had to be.  I
wonder how this "could be worse" as Billie used to say.  Folks, if thays any
heaven Im sure Billy went there.  Folks, I feel so bad I wanta say somethin
I dont dare put in the paper.  An I aint puttin this on.  
One of my best friends is gone.

you can learn more about african - americans who were part of nebraska's pioneering
history at the mardos on-line library that is part of NEGenWeb Project.
Just click on the books below - - and it will take you there.

Click on the town below to return to Blaine NEGenWeb's HOME PAGE.

Created and copyrighted for Blaine NEGenWeb, 13 February 2003, Patricia C. Ash