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Nannie J. Osborne, early pioneer woman and benefactor


Nannie J. Little was born in Lexington, Kentucky Mar. 14, 1842 and died in Selma, Alabama, Dec. 20, 1917 and is buried at Ainsworth in the Park Cemetery. She was married to George Osborne probably in the State of Illinois. A daughter Nannie M. Osborne was born about 1860 in Illinois and married Wm H. Hogan in Ainsworth May 15, 1889.

Nannie J. Osborne settled in what is now Brown County, Oct. 11, 1879, at Bone Creek, Nebraska, Unorganized Territory. A postoffice may have been established at Bone Creek postoffice as early as August or September of 1878. However from information just discovered the post office may have been located in an entirely different spot than was formerly believed. The papers signed by Ed T. Cook when the Postoffice was to be established gives the location as about the center of Section 27, Township 31, and Range 21 or about 6 or 7 miles northeast of the present day Ainsworth. Mrs. Osborne was assistant postmistress at one time.

Nannie Hogan in her story given to Miss McAndrew (former principal of schools at Ainsworth) states that the postoffice was moved to Mrs. Osborne's log cabin. The northwest quarter of Section 26, Township 30, and Range 22 includes that area in Ainsworth where the Walter Coulthard residence is located.

Mrs. Osborne and her daughter, Nannie, came to the area to cook and serve meals to the cowboys working on the Cook and Towar Ranch. Mrs. Osborne's living quarters were in the north end of the building, which was built of logs. Mr. Cook's quarters, including the post office, were in the south side of the building, with a long hall like room between. Mrs. Hogan in her interview with Lila McAndrew said the Osborne's lived near Fort Hartsuff, about six miles from Ord.

Mrs. Osborne had to return to Ord the spring after moving to this area. She and Nannie rode horseback on side saddles to the Dick Ray ranch the first day, down on Gracie Creek, (about 75 miles according to Mrs. Hogan). As no one was home they went in, fixed tea and lunch, and went to bed. About midnight Dick Ray and his men returned. They saw horses in the barn with the Cook brand and the side saddles on the.porch, so they knew who was there. Mrs. Osborne called out and identified herself. On the way back Mrs.Osborne and Nannie stopped at the Potter's, then went on to Ray's ranch again. When the men fed Nannie's pony, it became sick. The Osborne's got to the head of Long Pine Creek about dark. Little Charlie would always lead the way home, but did not this time. Mrs. Osborne and Nannie were to a certain extent lost. They saw two fires off to the northwest, but did not know toward which to go, so decided to go to the Bassett place, but after several unsuccessful ,.attempts they could not find the trail. They decided to go back to a hole in the creek bank! They had two blankets. Nannie laid on her blanket and held the horses reins. Coyotes howled at times. A drizzling rain set in and turned to snow. Cute, the dog, stayed outside but they called him in to keep their feet warm. At daybreak they started out again. A lone pine tree could be seen about 15 miles away. After traveling a while they saw riders in the distance, who proved to be Mr.Cook and two cowboys coming to find them. They got home safely.

A Mr. A. N. Bassett had a ranch near the head of Long Pine Creek. This may have been the Bassett ranch the Osborne's attempted to find. Perhaps one of the lights they saw was the lantern atop a high pole at the Cook ranch which was to guide travelers.

Mrs. Osborne's preemption proof was for the Southwest Quarter of Section 23, Township 30, N. Range 22 West of the 6th P.M. which would indicate an out right purchase at the rate of $1.25 per acre or a total of $200.00 as shown by the certificate issued by the North Platte, Nebraska land office on Oct. 6, 1881.

Mrs. Osborne's testimony on the papers signed, stated in part "her address was Bone Creek, Nebraska, Unorganized Territory and that she settled the land Oct. 11, 1879 and built a house." She also states that the improvements owned were" one dwelling house, one stable and corral, valued at $200.00." The deed to this land is recorded in the Brown County records in Deed Book 1 at page 226 and the deed bears the Certificate number 472 which is the same as the papers from the National Archives.

There are also papers for a homestead. In this application she stated that "I, Nannie J. Osborne of Unorganized Territory, Nebraska, do hereby apply to enter, under Section 2289, Revised Statutes of the United States, the Northwest Quarter of Section 26, Township 30 N of Range 22 W, containing 160 acres." Signed Nannie J. Osborne and dated Oct 6, 1881. The house was reported to be 22 x 24 ft, 1 story high, with an addition 12 ft. sq., one barn, chicken house and well,valued at $1,000.00. The patent is recorded in the Brown County records in Deed Book 1 at page 151 and 152. The certificate number is 569.

Printed on the bottom of the homestead paper is this interesting note: "It is required of the homestead settler that he shall reside upon and cultivate the land embraced in his homestead entry for a period of five years from the time of filing the affidavit, being also the date of entry. An abandonment of the land for more than six months works a forfeiture of the claim. Further, within two years from the expiration of the said five years he must file proof of his actual settlement and cultivation, failing to do which, his entry shall be canceled. 1 the settler does not wish to remain five years on his tract, he can, at any time after six months, pay for it with cash or land warrants, upon making proof of settlement and cultivation from date of filing affidavit to the time of payment."

Nannie J. Osborne was married for the second time to John A. Buchan in Benton County, Iowa, January 1,1869. She divorced him in Valley County, Nebraska about August 27, 1879. She resumed using the name of Osborne so very likely had court action somewhere allowing her to continue using that name. Mrs. Osborne's signature shows the name written "Osborne", however in various places the name has been written without the "e" . In fact there is a document recorded in the Brown County records stating that "the said Nannie J. Osborn and Nannie J. Osborne, are one and the same person, not withstanding the discrepancy in names." This affidavit by P. D. McAndrew appears in Book 5 of Misc. records, page 78 in the County Clerk 's office.

Land was donated by this woman for the court house site with the restriction "that if not used for the court house the land would revert to Ainsworth Precinct." She also gave land for the First Congregational Church and for the Methodist Church. The names of N.J. Osborne and Nannie Osborne appear on the petition requesting that Ainsworth be incorporated Dec. 10, 1883. The petition was granted Dec. 11, 1883 by the County Commissioners, as shown in Commissioner book 1 at page 35.

The Western News, Ainsworth, NE., under date of May 2, 1884 has the following news item: " Mrs. N. J. Osborne has purchased the ferry boat at the mouth of Plum Creek, and hired Mr. Carnahan to run the same, free of charge to parties crossing the Niobrara river. The farmers on the north side of the river will appreciate this act of generosity on the part of Mrs. Osborne." A large ad also appears in this issue the Western News. "FREE FERRY, NIOBRARA RIVER AT MEADVILLE. Mrs. N.J. Osborne having purchased the new Ferry Boat at the mouth of Plum Creek, now proposes to run the same FREE OF CHARGE. Those wishing to cross to the north side of the river should bear this fact in mind."

However, the minutes of the County Commissioners in Record Book 1 at page 66 contains the following information. "Ainsworth, Neb., Aug. 2, 1884. On motion the following claims against the county were allowed. Nannie J. Osborne Ferry Boat $96.70" Then on Mar. 27, 1885 the following was entered into the minutes of Record Book 1 at page, 93. "Ferry boat at Meadville sold to Mead and Stokes for $100.00." It would appear that Mrs. Osborne kept the ferry boat about three months. So far no record has been found to show from whom Mrs. Osborne purchased the ferry. On 9 Dec. 1885 the Commissioners accepted the bridge built across the Niobrara river at Meads ferry. The bridge was built by King Iron Bridge Company and the Clerk was ordered to draw a warrant on the Bridge fund of 1885 in the amount of $1,000.00. The entry on this matter is in Commissioner Book 1 at page 113.

The Western News again under date of May 2, 1884 carried the following item that "Mrs. Osborne takes 500 extra copies of the News this week which she will send to parties in the east." This fits with the item which appears in the 1884 Atlas of Brown County which contains write ups on early settlers of the county, and the write up on Mrs. Osborne reads "Real Estate. Native of Kentucky. Settled in 1879. Proprietor of a large portion of the Town site of Ainsworth; proprietor "Osborne Opera House." Town lots for sale in Osborne's Addition to Ainsworth. P. O. Ainsworth."

Mrs. Osborne built the Opera House, which was located on Lots A & B in Osborne's Subdivision of Lots 7 & 8 Block 4 of Ainsworth. Part of the Opera House was used as a Court House. About four rooms may have been used. Rooms No.1 & 2 were used as District Court rooms from July 1, 1884 according to the minutes of the Commissioner's meeting. The County rented these rooms until a court house was built. The rent was $20.00 a month, to be paid quarterly in advance. This information is in Book 1 at page 57 and 58. The opera house windows were screened in about July 23, 1885 according to a news item in the Ainsworth Journal.

The Commissioners on 23 June 1884 by resolution accepted from Mrs. Osborne the donation of a building then being used as a jail and located on the court house block. Mrs. Osborne was the proprietress of the Osborne House. A grand opening ball was held on Sept. 20, 1889 with music furnished by Emo's orchestra. It was. advertised as the largest and best equipped hotel from Norfolk to Chadron. Dr. George Remy had a room at the hotel with an outside stairway so people could awaken him and not disturb others at the hotel. A traveling Dentist also stopped at the Osborne and set up office at various times.

The Osborne House was sold to Mrs. Hattie Bailey Aug. 2, 1900 and was reported to be one of the biggest deals in Ainsworth, that had taken place in several years. The building, lots and everything that pertained to the hotel was transferred. Mrs. Osborne supposedly retired to her cottage. Mrs. Osborne's house stood about where the old auditorium stood but was moved to the lot where it now stands by Mr. John Brill as the house was in the street and had to be re-located. A historical maker was dedicated in July 1981 at the site in memory of Mrs. Osborne. The house is better known as the Coulthard house.

A letter from Nannie Osborne and Nannie Hogan to Lilliam Jones contains the following. " T.J. Smith edited the first paper All we early settlers had to drive 75 miles to O'Neal to take out papers on our land. When Momma and I were returning there was a dreadful rain and wind storm. Caught us between Long Pine, and the ranch. I had been deathly sick on the way and when the storm caught us, we had to turn back and go to where we had seen some haymakers. We were in a buggy. I think it was the only one in the country. We borrowed or hired it. We were both so wet and cold we shook the buggy. The haymakers let us sit under their load of hay and they built a fire to warm us. Then about 12 0' clock Mr. Cook and two cowboys came to hunt us. Saw the fire and came and took us on home to the Ranch " .

Nannie Osborne died in Selma, Alabama although the death certificate lists her name as Mrs. Jennie Osborne. Mrs. Osborne was a Charter Member of the Ainsworth Woman's Relief Corps, which was organized in 1883. The funeral was held from the Congregational Church with Dr. O. O. Smith in charge and a history of her life was given by. L.LAlder. Music was furnished by a quartet and burial was made in the Park Cemetery.

Among gifts to the Sellor Memorial Museum are the following items that belonged to Mrs. Osborne and which were donated by the daughter, Mrs. Hogan. A photograph; a large leather covered truck brought to Scotia, NE, in 1872 then to Fort Hartsuff near Ord, then to Ainworth in 1879. A clothes brush and a scarf owned by Mrs. Osborne. Four silver spoons engraved with Nannie Osborne's initials were brought by Pearl Keech at the Osborne sale 45 years ago. Mrs. Keech sent them to Marie McLaughlin and asked to have them placed in the log cabin. This would have been July 18, 1954.

This story was compiled and written by Brown County Historian and former Brown County Clerk, Marilyn A. Calver. It is used here with her permission. She has a very great love of history and preservation of it. She has been a member of the Brown County Historical Society and worked for the preservation of its history very diligently. A big Thank You to her and all the members of the Brown County Historical Society.