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

Country01i3     Country01i4     Country01i5     Country01i6     Country01i7     Country01i8     Country01i9


A History of the People of the Purdum Community
By the Purdum Project Club


Purdum is located in the northwest corner of Blaine County.  

Transcribed by Donna Collier Dietrich and Proof-read by Jeanne Rogers Barnard for 
Blaine NEGenWeb, January 2003


Today the grass grows long and green on the Buffalo Flats where once the buffalo roamed.  Cattle grow sleek and fat on the range and crops overflow the bins at harvest time.  Comfortable homes, a small white church, a school, and business thrives where nomadic Indians once placed there tee pees for the night and later hardy folks grasped for a toe hold in a land that resisted settlement.

How different our country must look today:  In order that we may learn of our ancestry we have asked their sons and daughters of the first settlers to unlock their treasure house of knowledge and help up record for ourselves, our children and generations to come.

If at times, these people do not agree on a specific event remember these people may have lived several miles apart and in a separate community.  We consider Purdum and the surrounding ranches one community today while in the 1890’s it was probably several.   (Signed the Purdum Project Club).


Country01i3 What year did you folks come to Buffalo Flats?

John Keller--------------------------1884
Flossie Ewing Andrews----------------1887
T. C. Jackson------------------------1883
George Purdum------------------------1885
Sam Teaford--------------------------1888
Sam White----------------------------1886
Edna Bivens Fink---------------------1884
Katherine Walter Caldwell------------1884
Lew Simonton-------------------------1896
Parker Giles-------------------------1898
Hubert Cox---------------------------1885
Susya Schlasman McMurtry--------late 1880s

Country01i4 How did they come?

We boarded the train in Wabash County, which incidentally is near our present home, and went to Chicago.  I can remember sleeping on the floor in the crowed railroad station, waiting for our train to take us to St. Louis, the only R. R. Bridge across the river.  From there we went to Grand Island.  Father had purchased a team of horses and a wagon and met us there.  It took a week to get to Grand Island from Wabash.  A cousin of my folks came along to help mother with the children, as we were all under 10, but he found work near Grand Island, so father, mother, a sister, Dessie, three brothers, Frank, Schuyler, Roy and I stated driving old Kit and Dan and heading for what is now Purdum.  When dark came we would stop at homes and ask to stay all night.  People were very friendly.  If there were not enough beds, we children slept on the floor.  It took four days to get to Buffalo Flats.  The first night we arrived, we stayed with Ed Oldhams who lived in a sod house which was located where the house owned by Blanche Baker now stands.  Oldhams knew we were coming up the river so they kept a light burning in the window for us.               (Written by Sam White)

Country01i5 What kind of buildings were the first houses?
Most of the homes were built from sod which was plentiful and dirt cheap.  In fact, it was the only native material here.  Most of the people said there were very few willows growing along the rivers and no trees.  George Purdum, however, had a home made from adobe brick covered with siding.
Country01i6 What did you do for water for use in the home?

At first we hauled water from a spring on Mr. Jackson’s place.  He had sunk a barrel into the ground which would fill with water and we used from it until we made a well near our own home.  We had to dig a hole, deep enough to find water making a wall with boards as we dug.  The soil was pulled to the top in a bucket on a rope.  It was about 20 feet to water.  Before we could afford a pump, we drew water up with a bucket on a rope. (Written by Sam White)

A well was dug by hand about 26 feet deep, a rod from the house.  It was curbed up with 4-12 inch boards nailed into a square with 2 sections forming the curbing.  A galvanized bucket, about the size of a stove pipe 3 foot long with a pale in the bottom to let the water in, was lowered into the well with a rope which ran through a pulley about six feet above the well curbing.  The bucket when full would be raised hand over hand and poured into other pails or tubs for the livestock. (Written by John Keller)

Country01i7 What were the first crops and how were they harvested?

The first crops were the usual corn, wheat, and oats grown mostly from seed brought with them from Tecuseh.  The grain was mostly fed to the stock.  The crops were harvested with an old-fashioned binder, and were shocked and threshed with a horse powered threshing machine.  This machine was furnished by either McCormicks or Turners from Hawley Flats. (Written by Edna Bivens Fink)

Corn mainly, potatoes, garden truck, and lots of watermelons.  These crops were harvested by hand.  A husking pig was used to husk corn.  Some pigs were made from a large spike and a piece of leather.  The point of the spike was flattened and bent into a hook.
(Written by Susya Schlasman McMurtry)



How were these crops stored?

We didn’t raise enough to be a big problem.  Most everything was fed to our livestock, or traded for supplies. (Written by Sam Teaford)

Country01i9 Where was your closest trading center? And railroad?

The railroad was built through Halsey in 1887.  My father helped to build it leaving Mother and we children home alone during the week.  Mother baked bread for several of the bachelors who lived in the neighborhood.  They would bring her a 100 lbs of flour and pay her $1 for it after it was baked into loaves.  They would pick it up once a week. (Written by Sam White)

  Flour cost 50 cents a bag. (Written by Hubert Cox)

  The first trading post was at Ainsworth.  Our family would go to Ainsworth to purchase supplies for the community with a four horse team and covered wagon.  It took four days to make the trip and it was made about every three months. (Written by Edna Bivens Fink)

  We used wheat for grinding into flour and corn was ground into meal.  My father would take a wagon filled with 30 bushels of wheat to Wood Lake to be ground.  It would take him a whole week to make the trip, and then he would have good flour to share with the neighbors. (Written by Sam Teaford)


 In schools what subjects were studied?

The teacher stayed with us and we had school in our home for five months each year, as it was 5 miles to the sod school house east of Purdum.  I never attended a public school until I was in the 7th grade.  The teachers who taught in our home were: Myrtle Vandegrift,       $15 a month; Mattie Teaford; Gertrude Evans, $20 a month; Effie Ferguson; Ruby Dodds; Ethel Martindale.   My 7th year Carl, Loyd and I drove a team and spring wagon to the Purdum School where Charley Flory was the teacher.   (Written by Edna Bivens Fink)

I still have my common school diploma showing I had completed the “course of Study” in the common branches required by law to be taught in the public schools of the State of Nebraska”.  Namely, Orthography, Reading, Penmanship, Arithmetic, English Grammar, Geography, United States History, Physiology, Civil Government, and Drawing.

After I received a diploma I taught the home school for two terms.  Some of my first pupils were Lew Simonton, the Jackson girls and Sam Teaford.   (Written by Sam White)

  I went to school to Mrs. Sanford Olham, and Mrs. Everitt Noble.  There were two sod schoolhouses, the first was about a half mile west of Sam Teafords place and the next was built about a mile west of the present school north of the road.   (Written by Herbert Cox)

Country01i4 What kinds of food did you have?

The meats were usually put into large wooden barrels in strong salt brine, or much of the beef was salted and dried.  Vegetables were kept in a dugout of some sort. My folks usually made fifty gallons of sour kraut every fall and in later years raised enough cane to make at least 50 gallons of sorghum after a mill became available. Corn meal mush with skin milk was usually the breakfast dish, a pan or two of corn bread for dinner and soda biscuits in the evening from boughten or Sandhills made flour.  We were seldom ever short of potatoes or Rabbit gravy.  Rice and raisins was usually our Sunday dinner treat or a mess of frog legs. My family was never without a few hogs.   (Written by John Keller)

Some of the meat was dried and smoked.  A good many of our vegetables were dried.  In later years the tin can was used.  We had very few fruits and these were mostly wild fruits.  There were many wild plums, grapes, choke cherries, and sand cherries.  My mother dried some of these.   (Written by Sam Teaford)

We ate a lot of cornbread as we would raise the corn in the summer and we had a hand grinder to grind it into meal.  We could buy a dark grade of flour at Mr. Hoef’s Mill at Johnstown.  It was a rare treat to have white bread at first.  One year we raised a good crop of pumpkins and Mother made a pumpkin butter spread to eat on our bread.  Sugar was, also, a rare treat and was rationed very sparely when we could get it.   (Written by Sam White)

We butchered our own hogs and sugar cured the hams and bacon.  We depended on the cured pork and chickens for our summer meat.  During the winter beef could be kept frozen.   One farmer would butcher a beef and neighbors would take a quarter.  When that quarter was gone another would butcher and it would be distributed around.  Mother sometimes fried down sausage, packed it into jars and covered it with lard to keep.  We dried sweet corn and some green beans but lived mostly on the root vegetables, squash, and cabbage that could be stored during the winter.  Later mother canned corn, beans, peas, tomatoes, etc. using the cold pack method.
(Written by Susya Schlasman McMurtry)

Country01i5 Tell us about the clothing the pioneers wore?

Whatever clothing they brought with them was supplemented by hand made clothing.  It wasn’t too long though until some clothing needs could be bought.   My mother was a good seamstress.  She made men’s and boy’s shirts.  Am sure she could make overalls and pants, too.  I’ve seem her sit down on the floor many times with a newspaper and a pair of scissors and cut out a pattern for whatever she had in mind to make.   (Written by Katherine Walter Caldwell)

When we left Indiana for Nebraska we took a supply of clothing with us.  We wore these as long as possible until they were patch upon patch and then we still wore them as there was scarcely enough money for food.  Some people who had money packed up and left the country, but we had to stay.  The ones who stayed were in the same financial circumstances so nothing was thought about having to go looking shabby. The following ditty grew out of this situation:  
                                                                                        We are out here,
                                                                                        We have to stay,
                                                                                        We are too poor,
To get away.

The few clothes we had our Mother made.  During the lean years the community would receive barrels of clothing.  Nothing went to waste.  Every scrap was salvaged.   The boys in our neighborhood wanted to look like cowboys, so we wore hats.  I have a picture of the first sod school house in the Purdum community and I was wearing a broad rimmed hat.   Most women would knit socks in the winter, also, mittens.  We went barefoot in the summer-(Oh! How I remember those cactus!).  We bought shoes in the winter when we could afford them.   (Written by Sam White)

We all wore warm clothing.  My mother knit each one of our family a pair of wool socks every year.  As soon as the weather was warm enough in the spring we went barefoot.   Our clothes were patched as long as Mother could find a patch.   We had warm coats and Mother used to make cotton flannel mittens.   (Written by Sam Teaford)

Country01i6 What did you use for fuel?

Fuel in the Sand Hills Country was cow chips, corn cobs, and we usually had some corn to mix in.  I remember one winter when corn was so cheap and no sale, we burned some corn.   (Written by Susya Schlasman McMurtry)

  Fuel was scarce.  Anything that would burn we hoarded very carefully.  At first there were no cows so there were no cow chips but Mr. Bivens had a few sheep and they would dry the droppings to use for fuel.  We saved every corn stock and cob for fuel.  Sod houses were a good protection and we wore all the clothes we could get on to keep us warm.  The only stove we had was a little cook stove which served a dual purpose. (Written by Sam White).

  There were very few willows along the river but a few Cottonwoods and Box Elder.  We used twisted hay and cow chips for fuel.  There were just as many ashes as there was fuel.   (Written by Edna Bivens Fink)

Country01i7 What did you do for a doctor?

Dr. A. B. Cox and Dr. C. B. W. Cox (father and son) homesteaded.  Dr. C. B. W. Cox came in 1885.

Dr. C. B. W. Cox had a set of saddle pockets in which he carried his medical instruments.  For his services he took meat, butter, or whatever the patient had to offer.

Dr. Cox had a brown Texas cowpony that he rode on his calls.  Once, after they had moved to Brewster, Dr. Cox was called to Purdum and when he came home several days later he carried with him a quarter of beef.   (Written by Hubert Cox)

Country01i8 Who was the midwife?

When we first came it was most any mother in the community.  Mrs. Dr. Cox always went along in a case of that kind and my mother and Mrs. Ed Oldham were often called.  Sometimes there was no doctor present.   (Written by Sam White)

  I am sure Mrs. S. W. Bivens gave me my first bath as she was the closest neighbor at that time. (Written by John Keller)

Country01i3 Were there sand fleas when you came?
Now this is really a question!  Yes, there were a great plenty of sand fleas at first but where did they go?  The tiny black gnat that was so pesky in the early days seems to have disappeared along with the pesky gray striped Rose or June bug.   (Written by John Keller)

    Country01i2    Country01i3    Country01i4  Memories of . . . Country01i6 Country01i7 Country01i8  Country01i9



We came to Buffalo Flats in the spring of 1888.  We came as far as Halsey by the way of the Burlington Railway which had just been completed.  We brought our two horses, a cow or so, a few pigs, chickens, and our personal belongings in a box car.  As we were making this trip by train we became acquainted with the Pitt Family who settled in the Brewster vicinity.  We have known them all through the years.

Our first home was a Soddy.  Our floors were wood but there were many who had nothing but dirt floors.  We dug our own well by hand and carried water to the house in a wooden bucket.   We used candles for light for some time and we made the candles.  For ironing we had the one piece sod iron.   We had a trundle bed but we also had the regular type beds. We used oil cloth on our table and for special occasions it was a red checkered cloth or perhaps for some real special occasions we used the white linen.

These questions I have tried to answer as I remember them and I have enjoyed doing it.  It brings back many memories.

In the early day I can remember Old Dr. Pappie Cox, who was a doctor and lived near Purdum.  He was related to Hubert Cox in Brewster territory.  Old Dr. Pappie Cox as every one called him is buried in the Purdum cemetery.  At a later date we had Dr. Erwin, who lived near Purdum, too.  In later years Dr. Erwin served our territory from both Brewster and Dunning.  Old Dr. Cox lived at that time on the Roy White Place.   (Written by Sam Teaford)




Our first lights were a twisted flannel rag in a pan of grease.  Later we used coal oil lamps.

We used straw or hay ticks for bedding but later found that shucks were better.  In our sod houses sometimes our beds were a pile of straw in the corner with comforters on top.

We had music, too.  There were fiddlers or violins.  Mr. Jack Robinault played for all the dances all over the country.  We organized a brass band in the community about 1890.  George Sheik was the Director.  That broke up and another was organized about 1897 and another about 1911.  Some who were in the bands were Hollie and Homer Cox, Sam and Frank White, Sam and Ralph Teaford, Les and Frank Coats, Wm. Cady, played the tuba and Jack Robinault, the snare drums. (Written by Sam White)



I so wish to mention a few early events that I can still recall.  The first is the 1888 blizzard.  I was less than 3 years old, and like most kids after being cooped up  a dark room for a long while, I wanted to see out of doors.  Finely Father opened the door just enough so we could peek out and that was enough to satisfy us.  Less than a month later we got a baby brother.

The next 4th of July, I got my first close up look at Indians while at Brownlee for its first celebration.  Several Squaws looked over the top of the wagon box and tried to pick me up out of my hay nest.

The experience of going on what my folks later termed their wild goose chase began when they started out to find a new cattle range free from small corn fields.  1892 was an unusually wet spring and the cattle always had enough water except for the last miles between the Gordon Creek and the Snake River.  The last day was real hot and caused cattle to rush into the river.  Several of the calves were drowned.  After we had moved the cattle to Wamaduza Valley, we came to a deserted claim shack just ahead of a big thunder storm.  Here we camped for the night.

Sister Gertrude was knocked unconscious by a bolt of lightning and all were nearly eaten alive by fleas that had taken refuge in that shack

To the best of my knowledge, it was the railroads that erected the first windmills in these parts for their water supply.  There were no windmills in the valleys where running water could be had for stock for quite some time.

I do know that it was my father that erected the first windmill on a school section in the Calf Creek Valley when the creek went dry during the summer.

At first for beds people used just hay filled ticks laid on the clay floors double and triple as there was little room in a two or more sod house.

The first wedding that I can remember was when Bernice Bivens married Ed Rush at the Bivens home.  I believe she later became Mrs. Jess Ewing.  I believe I will have to claim the distinction of being the first kid born between Brownlee and Brewster, and perhaps Carl Bivens the next.

When my parents first located in the North Loup Valley in May 1884, Almeria, was the closest store and post office.  The Sawyer Brothers, and the Northrup Ranch, and the homestead shack of R. R. Greenland were all the people between the K. L. R. Ranch and Almeria in the spring of 1884.  According to what I can remember from my parents said history.  But during the same summer and fall quite a few others came to homestead and take tree claims.

The S. W. Bivens family who came a short while after we did were our closest neighbors.  There three youngest children were nearly the same age as we were.  Edna Bivens Fink and my sister Ruth were quite chummy and  played the organ a great deal.  My parents brought a small organ all the way from Pennsylvania and the Bivens family also had an organ.  We still have an old style Edison phonograph record that has a recording of Edna and Ruth playing and singing made over sixty years ago.

In answering most of these questions, I see that I have went into more detail than was necessary.  I suppose the main answers can be sorted out to fit the occasions as I have answered as near as I can recall from my own memory and from what I can recall my older brothers and my parents tell of the pioneer days, and I have really enjoyed having the opportunity to do so.
  (Written by John F. Keller)



We came by train from York County to Halsey.  My Father came before the family and didn’t get our letter when to meet us.  We arrived in Halsey in the night and walked through the sand hill to a little sod hotel.  Mr. Greenland was in Halsey and he took us to Purdum to our two room sod house.

We stored our potatoes in the cellar and some of our vegetables we put in sand in the cellar.  My mother dried sweet corn and put cucumbers for pickles in a salt brine, she also did the same with green beans.

Grace Oldham and Sam Teaford was the first wedding after we came to the country.
  (Written by Hulda Neubauer Johnston).



I am not sure of the first weddings but I remember when Gertrude Simonton and Jay Keller were married, then there was Homer Cox and Edith Dentler, Grace Oldham and Sam Teaford, Alma Keller and Sam White.  I believe Holly and Gertrude Cox were married before we arrived in Purdum.

My father was the second Sheriff of Blaine County.  That was before I was born and I believe before he and mother were married.  There was a Dr. W. D. Irwin and Mr. C. B. Cox, father of Hubert Cox of Brewster, before the telephone someone had to go to Brewster for the  doctor.  They would usually go on horseback, and stop along the way and change horses.  The doctors had to come by horse and buggy----We never sent for the Doctor until all known home remedies failed.
  (Written by Susy A. Schlasman McMurtry).



Dad went bare footed in the summer but I expect he had shoes in the winter for they went back to Ord for the winter for the first year.
Yes, there were rattlesnakes.  My sister was nearly bitten by one.  Mother had sent her out in her little chair and they had a small dog that began barking.  Mother went to see about her (Clara) and the snake was coiled ready to strike.  Somehow Mother was able to save her.
(Written by Flossie Ewing Andrews)



We used old-fashioned kerosene lamp sand lanterns.  We used old-fashioned sad irons heated on the range.  The mattress on my bed was a tick filled with hay, then a feather tick over that.  Father made the bedstead, just slats and no springs.

We had the first organ that I remember and my folks brought it from Tecumseh, along with a black walnut dresser, and a high-headed black walnut bedstead.  They also brought a flour chest that would hold about five hundred pounds of flour.  This besides a heavy black walnut table was the only furniture that we had that my Father didn’t make.

John Good and my brother-in-law Lafe Frizzell both played violins for dances.

I don’t remember the first baby born in the community.  The first person I remember being buried in Purdum was _____ Shriner from about fifteen miles west of Purdum.  They said the country was so healthy that they had to shoot a man to start a cemetery.  This cemetery was about a mile south of Purdum back against the hills.  The graves filled with water and the cemetery had to be moved.  The only other burials I remember in the old cemetery were George Sheik’s baby and the little Wolcott girl who was accidentally killed when cultivator shovels fell on her.
  (Written by Edna Bivens Fink)



Dies, Bebouts, Shieks, Lowes, Walcotts, (Walcotts had turkeys and their gobbler gave me a bad time when we visited there one day.)  The Body Brothers, native of England came later as well as the Bivens family and Sauls.

Will and Tom Body came from N. Y. state in 1882, a few years later they came to Nebraska and helped build the B&M Railroad (Burlington) from Grand Island to Alliance.  Later Tom Homesteaded with his brothers Will and Jack in the West Purdum community.  The Burlington came through Halsey during 1886 or thereabouts.

It was there when my mother’s parents, youngest brother, and youngest sister (Aunt Jo) came from Germany and joined the folks on the farm in 1888.  Halsey was just a spot in the landscape with few accommodations to offer.  When they arrived in Halsey they could find no one to take them to Purdum so they walked from Halsey.  Aunt Jo related that walk to Purdum was one hill after another.

Mail was very uncertain.  The folks hadn’t received the letter telling them when they would arrive.

Our dog Muppy is worthy of mention, he was an intelligent, black Shepard, a good watch and cattle dog.  Grandmother Lotzien would take Muppy and walk to the top of a low hill northwest of the low hill northwest of the house.  A couple of the milk cows were breechy—always jumping the fence and going into the corn field across the river.  On top of the hill she would lift Muppy up on his hind legs, then, give the command.  Muppy would stop, look back to see if Grandmother was still on the hill.  She would give a yip and wave her arm and away the dog would go.

Muppy and I dug out a bull snake in the pasture one day.  There was quite a sizzle when we got down to the snake.  Rather startling since I didn’t know what the dog was digging for.

The early settlers were hardy folks, resourceful and inventive for if one method didn’t work another was resorted to.  They always got things done.  They made do with what they had.  Their life was a real challenge that was met courageously.  One thing though never happened.  Grandfather Lotzien could not be induced to eat corn-he said it was for horses.

The first couple to marry that I can recall were William Body and my mother’s sister Alvena.  They were married in Broken Bow.

Another thing I might mention is what home remedies were used.  This is a list of some of the items kept in our homes.  A bottle of whiskey always.  Arnice for bruises, camphor, turpentine for antiseptic and to take out soreness, nitre for fever, carbolic acid an antiseptic, paregoric for pain and to induce sleep, sassafras and chamomile for teas, Epson salts a purgative, caster oil, sweet oil for ear aches, mustard plaster and onion poultice for bad lung congestion, onion and sugar syrup for colds.  Yes, and Castoria.

Later there seemed to be a plaster fad---to be stuck on the body for various aches.  Aunt Lillie, Uncle Carl Lotziens wife kept skunk oil.  She wouldn’t take any of this herself but the children had to down it or else.
  (Written by Katherine Walters Caldwell)


We came to Halsey, Nebraska from North Manchester, Indiana by train.  We shipped some furniture by freight on the C. B. & Q Railroad.  We arrived January 10, 1896.

Our first house was a sod, laid up in  1896.  We lived in it until 1908.  Then we built the baled hay house.  It lasted 47 years.

At  that time Purdum had a very small store first run by Mrs. George White.  Later by Parker Giles.  Broken Bow was the largest town and the U. S. Land office was there.  Most of the homesteads were filed on at that place.  Darius Amsberry was the Land office Manager.

Many hogs were raised.  Two or three families would get together at one place and a butchering day.  Sometimes as many as eight two or three hundred pound hogs were butchered at one time.  Also, almost beef hanging up on a windmill tower for six months.  It got very black on the outside but was awful good meat.  At that time there were no crows or magpies to bother it and no cloth was put around it.

In the schools which averaged about five months.  The regular studies of reading, writing, and arithmetic with geography and grammar were taught.

The writer went to school until he was seventeen years old and then didn’t finish the eighth grade due to being unable to get to school only about four months in the year.

The fuel was principally cow chips, until corn was raised in quantities large enough so that corn cobs were added to the fuel list.  Most of these were picked up out of the pig pens, and when they got warmed up in the house they really put out quite a perfume that no company has been able to imitate to date.

There was a Doctor (Dr. Irwin) at Brewster and one could get him by driving with team and rig to Brewster and when one could get him, and get back depended mostly on how long it would take to get him sobered up, some clothes on him, and get him loaded up.  One man in Brewster, Mr. Peter Erickson was a good helper to get the Dr. sobered up.  He used plenty of strong, hot coffee and cold water.  By the time he got to the patient he was rearin to go and really was a smart man.

For bedding, mostly home made quilts were used.  They were made with thick and heavy cotton batting.  Some people had blankets if they could get them.  Sheets were used on top of the feather beds, and straw ticks under the feather beds.  No springs were available so just slats were used and one could sure tell when the straw tick was about wore out.  Those slats sure shone through quite prominent.

S. H. Oldham had the first organ and the first piano.  Then L. A. Cox got an organ.  The third one was purchased for the school house.  They were all bought from mail order houses.

The land east of Purdum was Buffalo Flats.  The land to the west was British Valley, north of Thedford in the McCreath Louden District.  South and west of that it was Antelope Valley.  Prairie Chickens, Grouse, Ducks, and Geese were plentiful and we shot and sold on the market.  They helped a lot of settlers financially and for home consumption.   (Written by L. L. Simonton)

Etta Mae Giles for Bweta, and Junior and Etta Mae Giles—children of Parker and Carrie Giles.) 

The Giles family came to Goose Creek 1884 to 1886.  George Giles and his sons, Lawrence, Parker, and Richard each took a homestead on Goose Creek Valley.  Lawrence was Charles Gile’s father.  Parker was the father of EttaMae, Bweta and Junior.  Richard was the father of Everett.  Grandfather Giles decided to buy the store at Purdum.  We think he bought it from a White.  Lawrence and Parker both managed the store for Grandfather but which was first or last we don’t know.  Parker was in the store in 1896 and 1898.  Lawrence took it from Parker, Bweta says.

Carrie F. Cooper whose parents lived on the Dismal River south of Halsey to teach the Purdum school in the fall of 1895.  It was not a nine month school as we know a term.  At Christmas time, the people made quilt blocks for her.  Each block had the name of a person in the community.  One block has the name, Mrs. Teaford, 1805.  The school house was of sod.  Several of the pupils were nearly as old as the teacher.  Among the pupils were Sam White, Sam Teaford, and Roy White.  Miss Cooper boarded with the Sanford Oldham family.  I believe Mrs. Olham was the country superintendent of Blaine County.

When her term was over, Miss Cooper, she had decided to marry the store keeper and live in the Purdum community.

The wedding date was May 12, 1896, the bride, Carrie F. Cooper, the groom, Parker Giles.  The place S. M. Cooper home on the Dismal.  When the couple came to Purdum the next day they came across the hills from the Dismal to Halsey and on to Purdum.  The day was very hot and the bride arrived with a severe case of sunburn.  So housekeeping was set up in a small sod house east of town in what is now the White’s field.  For many years two or three trees marked the place.

 The stock of goods at that time was very different from those the Harsh Store carries today.  A few I remember hearing about are: crackers in large wooden boxes and clerks took them out in any amounts the customers wanted.  Molasses in barrels and customers brought their containers when they wanted to buy some.  Butter was bought and dumped in butter firkins (wooden tubs), the good butter was the strong or stale.  The wife’s boiler or tubs were borrowed when the firkins ran out.  The cream separator relieved the women of having to churn all the cream into butter.  Wild game was bought by stores and provided some much needed income to these early settlers.  The game was shipped to the larger cities by the store as was the butter.  According to our standards of sanitation, the bacteria count must have been high on much of the food sold because dried  fruits, as example came in large amounts and had to be handled and measured.  Since the Purdum store was the nearest one to the people on the creek, they would trade there.  Mrs. John Stoll told me her father paid five dollars for two sacks of flour, probably a fifty pound bag at the least.  Dry goods was also sold in these stores.

 In 1898, it was decided to start a store on the creek and Parker was to manage it.  That summer Parker built a sod building for the store, a sod house, a sod barn, and a sod hen house on his homestead, which he had filed January 2, 1886.  When November came, things were ready for the move.  Grandfather sold the Purdum store to the Holly Cox’s at that time.  In notes mother had she mentioned moving the stock of goods.

When looking for the wedding certificate of the folks so I learn how to spell the Ministers’s name I found the certificate telling of the appointment of Parkerson R. Giles as postmaster at Purdum, Nebraska.  It was dated May 6, 1897.

Belian was the name of the minister who married the folks.  He must have been the minister who served the Purdum area from things I have heard.

Names on that Quilt made from the blocks that the people gave Mother are: Edith M. Cox, Frank Greenland, Samuel K. Teaford, Dec, 1895, Mrs. E. S. White, Charlie Hammon, Mattie S. Teaford, Sadie B. Cox, Grace A. Oldham, Jimmy Oldham, Dora Hickman, Gertrude L. Teaford, Ralph E. Teaford, Mrs. Teaford, Dec 1895, Homer G. Cox, Haner W. Cox (Big), Same White, Myrtle Hickman, Roy White, Dora Hickman, Parker R. Giles, Frank White, Ray Hickman, Albert Greenland  (This article was written by Etta Mae Giles for Bweta, and Junior and Etta Mae Giles—children of Parker and Carrie Giles.) 



One of these women deserving mention was a member of a family by name of Harvey who lived in Loup County with the first settlers there.  One daughter, Della, married Mr. R. R. Greenland in the year 1883.  Della Harvey knew only the life of the pioneer so did not hesitate at age of sixteen years to become the wife of a cowboy who wished to develop his own homestead.  Mr. Greenland had located his homestead on the bank of the North Loup extending south to the amount of one hundred sixty acres.  He chose this spot for the sole reason of having found a large spring near the bank of the river.  It was the only large one found for many miles around there.  He brought his wife to his new home in the summer.  “I came to what is now Blaine County in 1883.  We camped out the last night on Hawley Flats.  It being rather wild and desolate looking I had great fears that something might creep upon us in the night.  Soon after retiring my husband was sleeping soundly, but not so for me.  I never closed my eyes all night but kept watch by looking east and west and north and south expecting any moment that something would attack us.  But morning came at last and we were still alive.  When I mentioned my fears to my husband he only laughed and said “Why, I have been sleeping out on the prairie every summer for seven years and nothing ever harmed me.”

“We spent our first two years living in a dugout.  We had to drive fifty miles to get lumber to line the walls and supply roof and floor.”

One of the most exciting incidents while in the dug out, happened one washday.  I had just finished spreading the clothes over a pile of brush which was an improvised clothes line when I turned around and saw cattle coming from every direction.  I knew I must not let them get too near as they might walk over the roof of the dugout and crush it in.  Arming myself with the only available thing, the fire shovel, I went out to drive those cattle away.  I had no trouble in getting them started as they were more frightened than I.  As I was walking back to the house I heard faint footsteps.  I glanced around and looked squarely into the face of a long-horned Texas steer.  You may be sure I quickened my pace.  I ran in and I closed the door just as he stepped upon the doorstep.  After I had disappeared, he turned away no longer curious.

My most terrifying experiences with a blizzard happened in the spring of 1892, the thirteenth day of May.  We had been having a great deal of rainy weather.  My husband had been waiting for a fair day to go to the county seat, some twenty-five miles distant.  April the twelfth was a fair day so he took the lumber wagon and a team of work horses to make the trip.  It took at least two days in all.  We had not raised a crop for two years so had only hay for fuel.  Mr. Greenland had left a large pile near the house before leaving.

Late in the evening clouds began to appear, it started to mist, then changed to rain, which came down in torrents for hours.  As it became colder the rain turned to snow and we were in the midst of a terrible blizzard.

The next day, I burned the last spear of hay.  I must keep the babies warm.  The storm was so severe I could not step outside the door to get any more hay.  I thought of the straw ticks on the beds so removed them and burned that to the last piece.

Late in the afternoon I thought I must go to the barn to try to help the stock.  I took my eight year old boy and fought my way out.  Each animal was covered with a coat of ice; long icicles hung from their nostrils and their eyes were lumps of ice.  What could I do?  The  storm seemed to increase in it fury and I despaired of ever getting home again.  But I must!  I had left our four month old baby asleep in her cradle.  As we stood waiting, there came a lull in the storm and some way we got back to the house.  Never in my life have I been more thankful than to receive the shelter of that dear, old, sod house.  No sound has ever quickened my heart of beats like the crying of my little, baby girl.

In looking back over those years of hardships and privations, I realize that they were the happiest years of our lives.    Then we were young, had health and strength, and all of the future.  Now we are nearing the end of the journey, there is not much to work for, or any one who needs us.
(This story was taken from History and Development of Blaine County, Nebraska, by Belle J. Dunn, January 20, 1927.)



How well I can remember the blizzard on January 12, 1888, when we lived at Purdum, then called “Buffalo Flatts.”  The morning was so calm you could hear a rooster crow a mile distant and about 10 o’clock, or perhaps a little later, after all the children in the sparsely settled new country schools were assembled at school a huge black cloud appeared across the northwest and shortly after a terrific cold wind, accompanied by a wall of snow, swept the country.

Many heroic efforts by a number of teachers over the plains area were performed, many of whom perished in the storm, and a number who survived lost their hands or feet, and some both, from freezing.  In the winter of 1900-01 I attended school with a young man who had lost both feet and hands during that storm as his teacher had tied all the pupils together with a rope, then tying the little band to a dwelling not far from school.  There were several children lost their hands or feet in the band and the teacher almost lost her life.

I’m wondering if the pupils of today appreciate the advantages of an education of today as compared with those times?  I am afraid they do not.

Blaine County was organized as a county, less than two full years previous, in 1886.  E. H. Riggs was the first County Clerk, acting for a man named Smith who could to qualify.  I have forgotten who was the first County Treasurer, but do remember that Judge Aiken was County Treasurer in the early days and during his tenure of office was mortally wounded by some men while he had in his charge some men accused of cattle stealing and that John J. Mandeville, now deceased, was appointed Treasurer to fill out the term.  This tragedy took place, after dark, at an old sod stable about one-half mile south of where Walter Hannah’s ranch buildings now stand.

The first Board of County Commissioners were composed of Russell O. Dunning, T. C. Jackson and Taylor S. Northrup.  Jack Robbinault was the first Sheriff.

Through the mercy of Divine Providence I have been permitted to live in Blaine County and to share in its days of depression and sorrow, in mirth and prosperity, and as I look back over the years, I consider it a privilege and pleasure to have spent so many years among some of the best people in God’s Universe and still consider, all advantages and disadvantages taken into consideration, Old Blaine County and its people the best place on earth.   (Written by Hubert Cox)



My father, T. C. Jackson, came to Buffalo Flats in 1883.  He filed on a timber claim where E. B. Arnold’s place is now and on a homestead just east of it.  He lived in a dugout on the side of a bluff and got his water from a spring down on the meadow.  He was born in 1856 at East Middlesex, PA.  His mother was Pennsylvania Dutch girl.  We have two quilts that she pieced for which she wove the muslin.  I have heard my father tell how they took their grist to the mill to have it ground, how the local blacksmith built their stoves and a shoemaker came around once a year or so to make their shoes.

His mother died when he was about five years old and He and his sister Mettie and brother Tunis were cared for by their father’s youngest sister for a few years until their father remarried in 1863.  In 1867 they moved to Lincoln, Nebraska.  His father took a homestead just across the street from where the Wm J. Bryan home is located.  After their father died in 1877 their stepmother remarried and her new husband persuaded her to sell the homestead and use the money to move to Oregon.  The title was never clear because it had been sold without the consent of her stepchildren and the quarter section stood vacant for many years after the city had grown up all around it.

My father was one of the men who helped to organize Blaine County in 1886 and he was one of the first board of County Commissioners, the others being T. S. Northup and R. O. Dunning.  He also taught the first school after district seven (7) was organized in 1887.  When the big blizzard blew up in 1888 he sent the children home as rapidly as possible as they had very little fuel on hand.

My mother was born in Chicago in 1861.  Her parents had emigrated from near Prague in Bohemia in 1860.  Her father found work in his brother’s harness shop until it burned down in the Chicago fire in 1871.  They then moved to Decatur, Michigan and later to Boone, Iowa.  In 1887 she was teaching High School in Fairmont, Nebraska and boarding with Mr. and Mrs. S. H. Oldham.  She seems to have contracted homestead fever along with them.  They came out early in the spring and she followed as soon as her school was out.  Their homesteads were south of Dunn’s, in what was Sam Teaford’s pasture.

My father’s sister and brother spent part of their summer with him on his homestead, and my mother told about one time when she and Mettie were invited to visit.  I suppose it was at Mrs. Whites.  The boys, Frank and Sam came after them.  My father loaned them his team of horses so the ride wouldn’t take so long as with the ox team but the boys drove the horses at the same gait as they were accustomed to with the ox team.

The railroad came to Halsey in 1887 so my Mother came by train.  I don’t know if the Oldhams did or not.  They came to Halsey to meet her.

Mr. and Mrs. Oldham started a Methodist Sunday School as soon as they were settled.  It was never discontinued even for a short time.  It was held in the sod school house until the church was built in 1908.  The attendance was quite large.  I recall that my mother’s Bible Class reached across the two back rows of seats in the new church.  There were also quite sizeable young folk’s and primary classes.  The young people’s class included every one who wasn’t married yet.  Mrs. Oldham taught it until 1910 or 11 when they moved to University Place and after that Tom Simonton was the teacher for several years.

T. C. Jackson and Mary Skliba were married in the spring of 1889.  He had proved up on his homestead so they lived on hers until 1892 when she also got the title to hers.  He then built a two room sod house on his timber claim on the site where the house now stands.  Later he added a kitchen on the west.  The well a square dug well just north of the kitchen.  The bucket was pulled up hand over hand on a rope that passed over a pulley.  About 1903 he hired Mrs. Trussell’s father, Mr. Graham, to drill a well for him.  This well was two or three rods north of the house.  It was about one foot in diameter, cased with wood and operated by a windlass.  The drilling rig was operated by horses.

The Graham family was among the early settlers.  Their homestead was just north of my father’s timber claim.  They moved to Thedford soon after Susie married M. B. Turssell.  The first school house was on their place, just across the trail road from our house.  My father and O. M. Walcott taught there.  About 1890 the school house was moved to a site one-half mile east of Greenland’s house on the north side of the road.  Two sod school houses were build on this site.  It was in the second of these that Mary and I started to school in January 1900.  Sam White was the teacher and our school mates were Frank, AB and Ruth Greenland, Tom and Lew Simonton, Margaret Mc Kee, Bill Murray, Morris Oldham and Roy White, who was a great trial to his brother.  We played “Fox and Goose” outside in the snow, and inside in bad weather on a “Fox and Goose” board with corn for the geese.  Everyone walked to school except in very bad weather when we might get a ride in the back of the lumber wagon on a bed of hay with a comforter over our heads.  This school house was used until 1911 when the frame school house was built which is still in use.

Mr. Loder was the carpenter who built the school house, also the Compton School house, and the church.  Mr. and Mrs. Loder homesteaded in the hills north in what is now part of Neubauer’s pasture.   He was an excellent musician and gave generously of his time and talents to his neighbors. He conducted a singing school and supervised the music for Memorial Day, Christmas, Easter and other special occasions.

There was no musical instrument in the immediate neighborhood prior to about 1900.  I can remember that my mother gathered a bunch of young folks to our house to practice new songs for the 4th of July celebration.  She had learned the tunes first by the do-re-mi-fa- system.  Singers included Mollie and Gertie Cox, Homer Cox, Edith Dentler, Tom and Gertie Simonton, Sam White and probably others.  Long about 1900 the Sunday School decided to purchase an organ.  Grace Oldham had attended school for two years at Nebraska Wesleyan University, where she spent most of her time studying piano, so they knew they would have some one to play it.  She gave lessons to some of the younger girls, including Margaret McKee and Susie Schlasman.  Margaret became organist for the Sunday School for several years.

A tragedy occurred in the summer of 1904 when Ruth and Ruby Greenland contracted diphtheria.  Gertie Cox had the responsibility of seeing that some one took dinner over there every day for the family and the nurse they had.  One morning Kyle Cox arrived at our house all breathless-he was then five years old.  He played with Kent all morning, at dinner time he began telling us how his mother had waked him up that morning and told him he was to go over to Jacksons.  My mother fixed him with her eye, “Kyle” she said, “Did your mother send you here on an errand?”  “No” he said, we don’t have an errand, we have a bicycle but I didn’t come on that, I ran all the way.  She proceeded to search him and found a note pinned to his pocket telling her she was to furnish dinner that day, so she scratched up what she could in a hurry and took it over.

The Telephone Company had organized three or four years before this and most every one except us had telephones.  My father thought he couldn’t afford one, which was the reason for the note.  The little girls died after several days.  It was a terrible blow for Mr. and Mrs. Greenland.  They had already lost several children, and the loss of their two little girls was almost more than they could bear.

Long about 1895 or 96 a company seems to have been organized in Boone, Iowa, my mother’s old home town, for the purpose of building an irrigation systems for this Sand Hills country.  An engineer named Bennett, who was some sort of connection by marriage of my mother, came here to do the job.  He lived at our house as one of the family for several months while he worked on it.  He built a wooden water wheel.  It was about twelve feet long and eight feet or so in diameter as I recall it.  He also built a couple of pontoons or boats which were anchored on either bank of the river, and the water wheel was suspended between them.  A standpipe some fifty or sixty feet high was also erected.  It was as high as the fields above the river where the water was supposed to be used.  When every thing was in readiness the neighbors all gathered for the demonstration.  The wheel pumped the water all right and it ran out of the top of the stand pipe, but that was as far as it ever got.  I suppose the money was all gone by that time.  The old water wheel, or the skeleton of it, stood on the river bank for many years.  We would climb over it when we went down to the river for fishing or bathing or to pick the red lilies that grew all over the meadows then and blossomed in July.

When the petition for the Post Office was sent to Washington, the signers suggested “Buffalo Flats” for a name.  The department didn’t think much of it and chose instead the name of one of the signers, Geo. Purdum, for the new office.  He and Mr. Greenland were probably the first settlers on the flats.  Purdums lived on the place which now belongs to Susie McMurtry, and the house was an adobe building on the site of the old frame house which now stands there.  Purdums had quite a large family.  They moved down near Ord in the early 1890’s.  There must have been some earlier talk of moving for I’ve heard my mother tell how Joe Purdum said he was going to Missouri and dig apples. 

Mr. Purdum seems to have been an intelligent and public spirited man who was held in great respect.

Mr. Greenland had been an early day cowboy and grazed cattle all over what was than the open range.  When he decided to marry and settle down he took his homestead and timber claim on the Buffalo Flats.  Mr. Greenland was an Athiest and so didn’t provide any support for the Sunday School but was well educated and responsible member of the community and a very good business man.

Mr. and Mrs. Levi Cox came to Purdum, Homer told me, in 1888 when he was nine years old and Hollie a few years older.  Levi Cox is best remembered for his many years as Sunday School Superintendent.  There could not have been a better one, kindly, dignified, with a gift of home spun eloquence, he had a simplicity and sincerity that endeared him to everyone.  About the year 1898 Hollie Cox purchased the Purdum Store from Parker Giles, who then moved to Elsmere and started a store there.  He also got the Post Office established there and suggested the name that was adopted.  He married Carrie Cooper about this time.  She had been the Purdum School teacher before her marriage.

The Purdum store was housed in a sod building when Hollie purchased it.  He replaced it with a frame building a couple of years later and also built the big house now owned by Greta McCreath.  It had to be large enough to accommodate the traveling salesmen of that era, who would come over on the mail stage one day and return to Halsey the next day the same way.  Hollie and Gertie were both busy with the Store and Post Office and Telephone Exchange and the cooking and house keeping at the Motel were attended to by a capable series of pioneer girls, among whom were Henrietta Haseberg, Anna Haumann, Katie Lowe, Edla Lilly and Verda Wilson.

A.H. Schlasman was an early settler in the valley.  He purchased the Purdum place when Purdums moved away.  He had married a young widow, Mrs. Maggie McKee, who had a little daughter also named Margaret.  She was a member of a pioneer family, the Reeds of Burwell,  Mr. and Mrs. Schlasman were noted for their generosity and hospitality.  He was also quite a sportsman and always kept a bunch of dogs.  Mrs. Schlasman was a famous cook.  Their daughter Susie was born about 1895 or 96.  Mr. Schlasman sheated the adobe house with wood siding and it stood until 1924 when it was blown down by a tornado.

About the turn of the century the men of the neighborhood organized a “Woodmen of the World” lodge, and constructed a sod hall for a meeting place.  It was on the road between the store and Hollie’s house.  Just inside the door of the left side was a partitioned off area where they hid their goat and other lodge paraphernalia.  The hall served as a general meeting place for funerals, Memorial Day services, Thanksgiving dinners, and almost everything except Sunday School, and the school programs which were always held at the school house.

The first band in the neighborhood was organized and led by Geo Sheik who lived a mile or so west of the store.  It included only men.  Later, about 1909 or 10 a band was organized by a German named Weber who had homesteaded in the hills between Elsmere and Johnstown.  He had also bands at several other places including Elsmere.  The members of his band were both boys and girls and ran ranged in age from Hollie Cox who was probably the oldest member here to his son George who was then about six or seven and a spectacular performer.  “That boy could get music out of a gas pipe” Hollie said.

We depended a good deal on wild fruit in the early days.  My father would take a couple of days off in September and go to Halsey where he would fill the wagon box with wild plums.  If he could still find choke cherries he would pile the laden branches on top of the plums.  We would sort over the plums and cook them as soon as they got mellow, then they were pitted by hand, cooked with sugar and stored in big stone jars.  This plum preserve, or “Numesa” as we usually called it in baby talk, was our main stay with bread, butter and milk.  It was rich and strong but tasted pretty good especially if stirred up with cream or mixed with the oatmeal porridge.  We had, as far back as I can remember, quite a patch of gooseberries north of the house.  We canned large quantities and also sold them for $1 per bushel.  I remember one year a couple named Lee from Brownlee drove down for a bushel of berries and spent the Fourth of July with us.

About 1897 my father entered into a contract with the Crete Nurseries for the commercial raising of fruit.  Mr. Stephens furnished the trees, we furnished the ground and labor, and the returns from fruit sold were to be divided 50-50.  It was quite a disastrous experiment for both of them as the trees didn’t do very well here.  We did grow quite a lot of our cherries for several years, also some apples, raspberries, strawberries, currants, dewberries, mulberries, etc.   We earned our pin money in our early years by picking cherries at 1 cent per quart box. And better yet we didn’t have to eat so many wild plums.

An interesting sight in early days were, the prairie dogs that were always popping out of their holes and whistling.  They seem to have shared their burrows with the rattle snakes.  When the ground was plowed for the first time they used to wrap the horses legs to protect them from the rattlesnakes.  Finally came the time when all the ground was plowed and not a prairie dog was left.

My mother made all our clothes including my father’s shirts, and denim pants.  She had a sewing machine as far back as I can remember.  I suppose most women did, however, Mrs. Greenland made all her girls dresses by hand.  I don’t know if she did all the boys sewing or not.  My mother also knit all our winter stockings and mittens.  We had one good summer dress each which had to do for about three years and while we were quite small we each had a “flannel dress” for winter which was made from some donated hand-me-downs from her family.  We wore this flannel dress every day under our pinafores and for dress up we wore it without the pinafore over it.

All our washing was done on a wash board until about 1902 when we bought a wooden tub washing machine from Geo Sheik.  It had three long spokes sticking down from the lid which agitated the clothes inside when a handle bar on the lid was pushed back and forth.  We also acquired a hand wringer about this time.  After the clothes were out thru the machine they were boiled in the wash boiler and rinsed in two waters.  All this water of course had to be carried in buckets from the well and heated over a cob or cow chip fire.

Our kitchen was papered with pages from the “Youth’s Companion”, and the other two rooms with flowered wall paper, stuck on with flour paste.  Our kitchen furniture consisted of a square table and about seven or eight straight wooden chairs, a small kitchen table, two knife drawers, and two shelves below, and three feet wide.  For the other rooms there were three wooden beds with tall head boards, and woven springswith husk ticks, a whatnot, a hanging bookcase, a rocking chair, and a large wooden box in which we kept the comforters during the summer.  For at least two years we kept warm with a hay stove.  It consisted of a base and lid, and two metal drums, which were alternated, while one was in use the other was taken out and filled with hay or trash to wait its turn.

The kitchen floor was made of boards about eight inches wide that had to be scrubbed with soap and brush every week.  The other floors were covered with woven rag carpet over a cushion of hay.  The carpets were taken up every spring at house cleaning time, and thrown across the clothes line to be pounded.  The hay which was only dust after a years use was swept out and replaced with fresh hay before the carpet was tacked down again.

After the Nebraska Public Library Commission was established about 1910 my mother always sent for a couple of traveling libraries every winter.  There were about forty books in a library and we kept each for about three months, and paid the transportation cost.  These Libraries meant a lot to us and the neighbors made pretty good use of them too.

The Fourth of July was the great day of the year for everyone.  We wore our very best clothes and some of the young ladies brought a tent on at least one occasion and retired there for two changes of costume during the day, the last time to dress for the dance.  A wooden platform was built for the dance, but I was to young to attend so that’s all I knew about it.  Then of course there was the store booth, with a big bundle of bananas for a centerpiece.  This was the only time when we ever saw bananas.  There was also oranges, pop, candy, gum, trinkets and all kinds of fire arms, fire works and fire crackers.  Every child tried hard to have at least 50 cents in spending money for the Fourth.  The day before was spent in preparation.  There was the first frying chicken of the summer to be killed and fried.  Some hills of potatoes were sacrificed to get the tiny little new potatoes to mix with the first garden peas in a cream sauce.  There were hard boiled eggs pickled in beet juice, and beets of course.  No potatoes so no potato salad and no coffee.  There was lemonade in a barrel and free home made ice cream also.  There were lots of cakes and pies and one year Mrs. Lafe Frizzell (Dora Bivens) brought the first Angle Food and Devil’s Food that had ever been seen or heard of in these parts.  She was on a visit to home folks.  In the afternoon there was a ball game and all kinds of horse races and foot races.  For the morning program there was always a patriotic address by a visiting celebrity, if we could find one, patriotic songs, and recitations by the school children.

My mother always waked us in the morning with a bunch of fire crackers in a dish pan.  The lunch was packed in the wash boiler and stored under the back seat of the spring wagon, for the trip to the grove.  The first celebrations I remember were held in Greenlands grove, later they were mostly held in Walter’s grove.

This is a story of a pattern of life now ended, and of events that helped shape it as remembered by a daughter of pioneer parents.  It is largely the story of my own family because that is the only one about which I knew enough to write in any detail.  There were many pioneer families whose contributions to the development of the region were more significant.  I believe it is quite accurate as far as it goes.  It would be a much better story if my father could have written it, or some of the other real pioneers.

Thinking of old times and of old time Fourth of July celebrations may cause us to ponder whether we aren’t losing sight of some of the virtues that helped make American great.  The pride in our Country and her history that inspired their children, the rugged self reliance and independence that tamed a wilderness, the simple faith and trust that were a heritage from our Pilgrim forefathers are perhaps needed more than every amid today’s confused challenges.  Tomorrow seekers after truth may be able to rediscover and revive them.
(Written by Iris Jackson Ihmsen aided by her sister Mary Jackson Arnold)



I came from the anthracite coal regions of Pennsylvania to Omaha in the summer of 1873.  In the spring a man named Simpson and I came to what is now Kent, Loup County.  The only inhabitants at that time were the elk, deer, and the wolf.  The buffalo trails were plain but they were gone.  I prempted a claim here and more settlers came that spring.

Through sickness and loss of funds I had to abandon my claim.  I went back to Omaha where I became acquainted with Mr. Paxton who had a big cattle ranch on the North Platte River, North of Ogallala.  I went to work for him in the spring of 1877.  He claimed thirty miles of the north side of the Platte.  He had a ranch at each end and three corrals, a horse ranch at the east end on the south side where horses ranged during the winter.  They kept about 20 thousand head of cattle and branded about four thousand calves a year.

These cattle were range herded on the owners range during the summer.  In the fall and winter they would go where they pleased.  They never crossed the river unless forced on account of the width and depth of the river and quicksand.  At that time there were no ranches between the North Platte River and the Niobrara River, west of the head of the Loup River.   The cattle would drift into this area and winter fine but they became very wild as they saw no people.

I worked for Paxton until 1880, then, I went to work for Pailerson and Stearns.  They had a ranch on the Dismal.  I helped drive about three thousand head of cattle east of the Black Hills in the Dakota Territory and they offered me winters work on the ranch where I took the cattle.  I concluded to come back to Nebraska.  I road down horseback and got to where Blaine County is now, sometime in November 1880.  I went on down the river to below Taylor and visited with Mr. B. J. Harvey who was one of the first settlers in Loup County and who later became my father-in-law.

Early in the winter of 1881 I came back up the river and went to work on  the Northrup ranch on Hawley Flats and for the Finch-Hattan ranch until they sold their land and cattle.  Then I went to work for F. A. Lisk.

Lisk was a new man to the country, also new to the range cattle business.  He lived at Kearney, Nebr, and stayed there most of the time.  When he was away he left me to run the ranch.   Besides his ranch five miles west of the Buffalo Flats he claimed the lakes that were in what is now Brown County as his winter range.  The first time I rode up on the hill where I could see what is now called Willow Lake I was certainly surprised.  There was very little timber in the country then and none at all at these lakes, with the exception of a grove of gray willows which I found growing at the northeast end.  I named this lake, Willow Lake right then and there.  I couldn’t very well name it anything else.  It will always be a mystery how those willows got there.  They are not common and they were the first I’d ever seen.  They were 30 to 40 feet high and it was certainly a fine grove before they were cut down.

I named five lakes besides Willow,  Enders Lake, I called Spring Lake, Clear Lake, I called Crystal Lake, Willow Long, Twin, and Skull Lakes still go by the names I first called them.

The only name Lisk ever gave to anything was Calf Creek because there was a creek farther west called Cow Creek.

I worked for Lisk from 1881 until the spring of 1884 when I went to work for Northrups again as foreman.  After the round-up was over about the first of July, I quit Northrups on account of the sickness of my wife.  I had been married by this time to Mary Harvey of Loup County and had a little patch of sand of my own on the Buffalo Flats.   (Signed R. R. Greenland) Taken from the Blaine County Booster, Dunning, Nebraska.)

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Created for Blaine NEGenWeb, 28 January 2003, Patricia C. Ash