A Record of Settlement, Organization,
Progress and Achievement
SAMUEL CLAY BASSETT
NOTE: This is a 2-Volume work. Volume I is, as mentioned above, a record of settlement, organization, progress and achievement. Volume II is a collection of biographies. While Volume II includes genealogical information, Volume I is full of details of life of the early settlers and their struggles and successes. At the bottom of this page are links to the various portions of Volume I and to Volume II.
NEBRASKA--A LAND FLOWING WITH MILK AND HONEY
For centuries the supremest praise possible to bestow upon any land has been, "A land flowing with milk and honey." Were some modern Moses to send out spies in this our generation, in search of a promised land, and were these spies to traverse this our land, in the fall of the year, when the harvests are ripe, what possible phrase could those spies invent which would briefly and more fittingly express its richness and fatness, its home-making and nation-making qualities?
For the purpose of this toast and this occasion let us consider as "this land of ours" the twelve states lying in the valley of the Mississippi and Missouri rivers, and of which states our own Nebraska is by no means the least in importance.
"A land flowing with milk and honey."
A land fertile and fruitful, a land abounding in running waters, sweet and wholesome, a land having a healthful climate has been the supreme desire of all people, of all nations since time had a beginning. To possess such a goodly land, to enjoy it as a heritage and to transmit it to posterity, mankind, in all ages, have labored and endured, have suffered toil and privation, have fought, bled and died.
Where, let me ask, in this wide, wide world, can you find a valley of like area so fertile and so fruitful and of such producing capacity? Where a climate more healthful and invigorating? Where a land whose waters, sweet and wholesome, are more abundant and unfailing?
And where, let me ask, can you find a rural population of 16,000,000 souls having so small a percentage of illiteracy, so small a percentage of poverty, so small a percentage of wretchedness, so small a percentage of vice and crime?
Where can you find a people among whom you would prefer to make your home, to have for your neighbors and friends, among whom to do your life work and to enjoy the fruits of your labor? A people whose character, whose enterprise, whose public spirit, whose customs, whose habits, whose form of government, whose traditions, whose religious beliefs, together with the goodly land which they inhabit, you would rather leave as a heritage to your children and your children's children?
This land of ours.
The heart of a continent.
The bread basket of the world.
The desire of all the earth.
A land to be enjoyed and by us transmitted as a heritage to our children and our children's children.
A land flowing with milk and honey.
S. C. BASSETT.
Gibbon, Neb., 1913.
A DREAM-LAND COMPLETE Dreaming, I pictured a wonderful valley,
A home-making valley few known could compare,
When lo! from the bluffs overlooking Wood River
I saw my dream-picture, my valley lies there.
Miles long, east and west, stretch this wonderful valley;
Broad fields of alfalfa, of corn and of wheat;
'Mid orchards and groves the homes of its people-
The vale of Wood River-a dream-land complete.
Nebraska, our mother, we love and adore thee:
Within thy fair borders our lot has been cast;
When done with life's labors and trials and pleasures,
Contented we'll rest in thy bosom at last.
S. C. BASSETT.
A lot of people never take time to read the preface of a book, seemingly thinking it don't [sic] amount to anything and is put in because it is a customary thing to do. Now, if the readers of this history-real students of history- will take the time to read this preface they will better understand the idea, the plan, the purpose, which the editor has constantly kept in mind in compiling this history of Buffalo County and the achievements of its people.
First-Much time and effort has been given to gathering a history of the organization of the county in 1855 and up to the reorganization in 1870; that period in which no official records seem to have been kept, at least preserved; that period in which it seems that the people who dwelt in Buffalo County understood little and cared less about legal methods of doing county business; that period in which, while the county retained its name and boundaries and in some sort of a way elected county officers, that the County Commissioners of Hall County levied the taxes, the county treasurer of Hall County collected them, keeping such taxes in a separate account, and the commissioners of Hall County audited and authorized the payment of claims against the County of Buffalo. There seems no warrant of law for so doing the county business, but it was so done. The county, once organized and its business conducted in accordance with legal provisions, there is little in that feature of its history of special or unusual interest.
Second-Let us turn to the achievements of its people, which are of absorbing interest to a student of history and ought to be of intense interest to every citizen of the county.
In the beginning our lands were in a state of nature, our resources wholly unknown.
What were and have been the ideals of our people in the civilization we have striven for?
What have we, as a people, achieved, as we have labored and struggled, suffered and endured to accomplish the purpose in mind?
The first concern of our people has been to establish a home, this our highest ideal. In the beginning, in 1870, there was not within the borders of the county any place, any habitation, worthy to be called a home; today there are in our county more than four thousand homes, where abide a happy, contented, prosperous people.
The assessed valuation of the property of the people of the county for taxation purposes (not including the assessed value of railroads) in 1870 was $23,668. A like valuation of the property of the people (not including railroads) in 1912 was $6,186,707, the real value being quite seven times the assessed value. This
represents in a measure what we have achieved in the development of our resources, in the accumulation of material wealth.
Next to the home the highest ideal of our people in civilization has been the public school. From the very beginning our people have taxed themselves to a reasonable limit of their resources in support of the public school. In the beginning there was one school district, comprising all of what is now Buffalo and Dawson counties. Today there are within the borders of Buffalo County 120 school districts. In the year 1914-15 more than five thousand school children were enrolled, the payroll of teachers exceeding eighteen thousand dollars each school month. The people of the county are now (1915) expending approximately, one-fourth of a million dollars annually for support of the public school; have expended for this purpose alone more than eight million dollars since the year 1870. This is why there is a public school in easy walking distance of every child of school age in the county.
This is why our children, reared in the county, educated in our public schools, have gone forth into the world, into states too numerous to mention, yes, gone to the uttermost parts of the earth, and made good; achieved success not only in a material way, but far better, in being largely useful in the world, helping to advance the cause of a higher civilization.
It will be noted that in the very beginning the settlers in the county began the organization of churches, the charter membership being in many cases as few as four, six or eight. It will be noted that church organizations have increased each year in number, the membership increasing many fold, so that in the year 1915 there is a church organization and a church building within easy reach of every family in the county.
One of the ideals of our civilization has been to provide organizations for social purposes, where people might meet on common ground, having a common purpose, and enjoy each other's society.
Such societies as the Masons, Independent Order of Odd Fellows, Workmen, Woodmen, Knights of Pythias, Grand Army of the Republic, Woman's Relief Corps, Woman's Club, the Grange and others too numerous to mention. It will be noted in this history that as early as 1872 there was organized a lodge of such a nature, and from time to time other like organizations. These have continued in existence, increasing each year in membership, so that such social, beneficial, and fraternal societies are within the easy reach of our people, and have proven a most important factor in our civilization.
In the beginning there were no established highways, not a stream bridged; transportation and communication slow and tedious.
Our people have established highways, convenient, accessible, all over the county; all streams are safely bridged, and people readily pass from place to place, quickly and in ease, comfort, if desired in luxury.
In the early days the isolation endured by many was distressing, almost intolerable to endure. When the telephone was discovered our people, living on farms, at once made use of it. On their own motion, by means of the labor of their own hands and the limited means at their disposal, there began the construction of farmers' telephone lines, and today the county is covered with a network of such farmer lines, and a telephone can be found in practically every
home in the county. The isolation of the farm home is gone, is a thing of the past, never to return. This achievement of our people is of great interest to students of history; its value, and importance can hardly be estimated.
As the people of the county developed its resources there came a higher standard of living, a higher ideal in civilization. Public libraries have been established, higher grades established in our public schools, woman's clubs for the study of music, art, literature, household economics. The best of current literature is found in great abundance in the homes of all our people, and there is available much more of leisure for the enjoyment of life. The achievements of the people of Buffalo County since the year 1870 have been marvelous, and we as a people do not appreciate the manifold blessings we thus enjoy. It has been the steady purpose in compiling and editing this history to illustrate, record, magnify if you please, the achievements of the people of the county; not of individuals, but of us, the people. For there is not one who has been a resident of the county for a considerable number of years who has not contributed in some measure to the remarkable achievements which have here taken place.
In the compilation and preparation of the copy for this history the editor has received the most hearty encouragement and assistance on every hand, from friends it is not possible to here name or number, for all of which he hereby expresses appreciation and most hearty thanks. Where parties have kindly contributed special articles due credit is given, and hearty thanks and appreciation here expressed. There are some who have given in generous measure of their time and talent and to whom the editor here makes public acknowledgment of appreciation and thanks greater than mere words can express, to Mrs. George L. Prouty, Mrs. Max A. Hostetler, Joseph Owen, Shelton; C. B. Bass, C. A. Clark, Mrs. Herbert Smith, Ravenna; J. C. Mahoney, Poole; F.L. Grammer, Pleasanton; F. D. and Ross Brown, Miller; L. A. Wight, Gibbon; John N.Dryden, Mrs. C. V. D. Basten, Robert Haines, Prof. C. N. Anderson, Mr. and Mrs. George Bischel, Dr. M. A. Hoover, Mrs. F. G. Hamer, Mrs. E. R. Holmes, Mrs. C. O. Norton, Hon. J. E. Miller, F. J. Switz, J. H. Dean, county clerk, T. N. Hartzell, city clerk, of Kearney, and L. B. Cunningham, Glenwood, Iowa.
The compiling, the writing, the editing of this history has been a labor of love, made possible by reason of encouragement and kindly assistance of dearly loved friends dwelling in all portions of the county. May this, our united effort, as it goes forth into the world, prove of some use, some benefit to those who come after us.
S. C. BASSETT,
Echo Farm, Gibbon, Neb., February 14, 1916.