© MJH for Buffalo County NEGenWeb Project, 2001

History of Buffalo County
and Its People

by Samuel Clay Bassett




The first postmaster in Buffalo County and editor of the first paper published in Buffalo County and in the territory of Nebraska west of Omaha.


   The first newspaper published in the territory now embraced in Buffalo County was The Huntsman's Echo at Wood River Center (now Shelton) from April, 1860, to August 1, 1861. The editor was Joseph E. Johnson, who also appears to have been one of Nebraska's first editors.
    Several copies of The Huntsman's Echo are on file in the library of the State Historical Society and in consulting this file one learns much of the history of the county and its people in territorial days. The Huntsman's Echo carried a quite full line of advertising, discussed men and measures of public importance in the free and breezy western style but of necessity had little of local news. The editor was a most pronounced democrat, a warm friend of J. Sterling Morton, who seems to have been a standing candidate for office and from the columns of The Huntsman's Echo we learn that Mr. Morton, in the interests of his candidacy for office, visited Buffalo County and spoke on the streets of Wood River Center, and, at the June election in the year 1866, received thirty-two of the forty-two votes cast in the county for governor and in the October election in the same year, Mr. Morton being a candidate for Congress, received seventeen of the twenty-nine votes cast in the county.
    There seems no question that Mr. Johnson was a man of much more than ordinary abilities and the writer has been inclined to question just why a man of his attainments should have located and engaged in the publication of a newspaper at a point where in those days there was no local patronage for its support.


    Mr. Johnson had been a strong advocate of the building of the Union Pacific Railroad and of its location on the north side of the Platte River and as the location had been determined previous to his arrival at Wood River Center, possibly he had in mind that in the near future a city might be established, when the road was built, at the point where he had located. There is every reason to believe that had he remained at Wood River Center during the building of the road, that with the influence exerted by an ably edited newspaper, the division station of the Union Pacific, now at Grand Island, might have been located at Wood River Center instead; possibly the state capital, who can tell? While Mr. Johnson was editing a newspaper at Council Bluffs and Omaha, there had been established by the general government, a military road described as follows: "From Florence, (about five miles north of the present City of Omaha) via Elkhorn City, Fremont, North Bend, Emerson, Buchanan, Columbus and Nebraska Center to New Fort Kearney." Also at the same date, June 14, 1858, there was established a military road from Bellevue, via Hazelton connecting with the first mentioned at Elkhorn City. As Mr. Johnson had traveled the Platte River trail to Utah and return in 1850 there seems little question that he foresaw that when the Union Pacific was constructed it must pass in the immediate vicinity of Wood River Center and that possibly an important city might be established at that point. Mr. Johnson was a Mormon, having two wives and numerous children on his arrival at Wood River Center in 1859. In 1860, it is related, another woman came from an Iowa point to whom later, in Utah, he was married, and possibly the increasing prejudice against the Mormons and especially polygamy caused Mr. Johnson to abandon this suggested financial venture and remove to Utah, there to dwell among a people more in sympathy with his beliefs and practices.
    By permission we copy from the Morton History the following brief sketch of Joseph E. Johnson, Nebraska's first editor, as prepared by his son, C. E. Johnson, a resident of Salt Lake City: "Joseph Ellis Johnson was born April 28, 1817, at Pomfret, New York, being one of a family of sixteen children. At the age of sixteen, he moved with his parents, who had been converted to the faith of the Latter Day Saints, to Kirtland, Ohio. After this he followed the fate of the Saints through their various persecutions till he got as far west as Council Bluffs, Iowa. At Nauvoo, Illinois, he was married to Harriet Snyder, the ceremony being performed by the Mormon prophet, Joseph Smith. At the time he went to Council Bluffs in 1848 it was known as 'Miller's Hollow,' afterwards 'Kanesville.'
    "Here he built the first house in Pottawattamie County, was postmaster for five years and obtained the change of name from 'Kanesville' to 'Council Bluffs.' Here he was a member of the first city council for many years. He established and published the Council Bluffs Bugle in 1852. The Bugle had much to do with getting the capital of Nebraska Territory established at Omaha. Here he opened the first store on the site of Omaha, and from here sent the first train (ox team) load of goods to the Denver, Colorado, (then known as Cherry Creek) mines. In 1854 he published the Omaha Arrow, the first paper published on Nebraska soil. In the same year he accompanied the first party of explorers for a railroad crossing on the Missouri River and the Loup Fork of the


Platte River. He wrote the first article published favoring the North Platte route for the Pacific Railroad and contended for the same until so located. He crossed the plains in 1850 and went to Utah, in order to see the country, returning shortly with intention of soon removing to Utah. In 1857 he published the Crescent City (Iowa) Oracle, and laid out the town of that name. In 1858 he published the Council Bluffs Press. In 1859 he moved to Wood River (Center), Nebraska, and for three years published the Huntsman's Echo. At this point he had a large outfitting store for the accommodation of the many who were rushing to the gold fields of California. He had also a printing office, bakery, hotel, daguerreotype studio, etc. In 1861 moved to Utah, bringing a long train of teams loaded with all manner of goods and chattels. * * * On November 6, 1882, he was taken sick with pneumonia, from which he died December 17, 1882. He had three wives, all of whom survived him and were present at his deathbed. He had twenty-seven children and many grand children."-- (C. E. Johnson, Salt Lake City, Utah, October 16, 1905.) To be historically correct and give due justice it is perhaps best to state that the Omaha Arrow was doubtless the first newspaper published for, but not in, Nebraska Territory, as the Arrow appears to have been printed at Council Bluffs, the first issue bearing date of July 28, 1854. The first paper printed in the territory appears to have been the Nebraska Palladium, at Bellevue, and the first issue on November˙14, 1854. On the last page of this issue appeared the following: "This is the first column of reading matter set in the Territory of Nebraska. This was put in type on the 14th day of November, 1854, by Thomas Morton."
    Early settlers in the county state that the store of Mr. Johnson was not extensive in character and that in connection with the store and newspaper he also conducted a blacksmith shop and repair shop for wagons and that the repair shops were much the more profitable as a business. In one of his newspapers Mr. Johnson advertises himself as follows: "General outfitting commission merchant, keeper of Council Bluffs Mansion; as carrying on wagonmaking and blacksmithing and keeper of a bakery and eating saloon." The following, some wholly, some in substance, are taken from the Huntsman's Echo, July 26, 1860: "A few miles above on the Platte and Wood rivers, there are numerous herds of buffalo. Across the river it is said, they are coming over from the Republican in innumerable multitudes, and many, famishing for food or water--whilst making for the Platte for a drink, are frightened back by emigrants and travelers, yet make immediate efforts to gain the water, but are again driven back by the report of fire arms, and, we are told, many thus perish before they reach the water." * * * On September 6, 1860: "Buffalo are continually coming about our farm, ranch and office, bothering us by eating our vegetables, cropping the grass, bellowing and kicking up a dust generally; and not being able to stand it longer we sent the boys and Doctor (Doctor Farner of Council Bluffs, Iowa, who was en route for Denver with a stock of drugs) out to drive them away. This resulted in prostrating the carcasses of two, and as dogs and wolves are scarce we had to breakfast, dine and sup from their flesh since. We shan't try to stand it, and give timely notice that the echo of fire arms will be a common thing in this neck of the woods, unless these fearfully, frightful looking creatures desist from peeking into our office, and discomposing our printer. At (Fort) Kearney, it


seems, they almost came into town. The driver of the express from Denver, was compelled to bring his team to a walking pace near (Fort) Kearney because of the buffalo thronging the road."
    September 6, 1860, "The Huntsman's Echo regrets to learn that clouds of grasshoppers migrating south have for several days been doing considerable damage at some of the ranches above."
    September, 1860, "It is reported that a band of thirty Cheyennes (Sioux) had recently made a descent on the Pawnee camps, but were routed with the loss of much of their own equipage."
    September 6, 1860, describing a trip along Wood River it is said, "there was found rich, brown clusters of grapes--large, juicy and sweet, though in a state of nature. Of plums we never saw as large, or quality better, growing wild; we enjoyed them to a fullness. Trees cut by beaver and numerous paths, slides and dams are found along Wood River. The editor has received a present of the largest and finest watermelon of the season from J. E. Boyd, who has a most delightful and eligible farm seven miles above--comfortable buildings, several hundred acres fenced and near two hundred acres in crops, a pleasant and agreeable lady and a pretty baby."
    On September 13 the editor again notes that buffalo are destroying his garden and says, "we could not stand it longer, but started Sam, who intercepted his progress before he had done much damage to our garden, and banging away--

" 'The well-aimed lead pursues the certain sight,
And death in thunder overtook his flight.'

    "The flesh being secured our t'other half, self and the balance, have been regaling on roast, broil, fry and stew, ever since."
    On November 2d: "Last week on two occasions, from our office, we witnessed the playful pranks of several antelope, and again a sprightly red fox came up near the enclosure, but cut and run when Towser came in sight. A nice race they had but Reynard made the best time. A week ago three large white wolves hove in sight, and played around on the prairie at a safe distance--the same chaps, probably, that made a tender meal from a good-sized calf of ours that had been running out. The buffalo have taken our caution and for two weeks have not troubled us or annoyed our printer." On this date the editor also says: "Yesterday Messrs. Kountze and Porter called on us whilst on their trip providing for the distribution of the balance of the telegraph poles along the route. Come on with your forked lightning! Strike for the great western ocean, the land of gold and glittering stones and ore." Reference is here had to the telegraph line being constructed from Omaha to Fort Kearney and which was completed to Wood River Center November 2d and to Fort Kearney November 4, 1860.
    September 13, 1860: "The people of the Pike's Peak mining district, together with all concerned, will be pleased to learn that after being swindled, gouged, imposed upon, and literally robbed in the matter of mail facilities and service, by that arch-monopoly, Jones, Russell & Co., for nearly two years they are now provided by the department, at American rates, a mail from Omaha, by this place


and Fort Kearney, once a week and back. The Western Stage Company, the most punctual, accommodating and reliable in mail service, has the contract and have already sent out one mail." This is believed to have been the first mail route established by the general Government, passing through Buffalo County. On August 11th it is related this stage company made a record trip from Fort Kearney to Omaha in thirty-three hours carrying six passengers.
    In the winter of 1860-61 the editor of the Huntsman's Echo visited the Pawnee Indians on their reservation at Genoa in Nance County and in the February 21st issue gives the following interesting account of this visit: "The Pawnees number at present about four thousand souls and a fraction over, and when 'at home' live in a cluster of huts built with crotches and poles, covered, top and sides, with willows, then with grass and dirt, giving the appearance at a little distance of an immense collection of 'potato hills,' all of a circular shape and oval. The entrance is through a passage walled with earth, the hole in the center at the top serving both for window and chimney, the fire being built in the center. Along the sides little apartments are divided off the main room by partitions of willow, rush or flag, some of them being neatly and tidily constructed, and altogether these lodges are quite roomy and comfortable, and each is frequently the abode of two or more families. In these villages there is no regularity of streets, walks or alleys, but each builds in a rather promiscuous manner, having no other care than to taste and convenience. The tribe is divided into five bands, each being under a special chief or leader, and the whole confederation being under one principal chief. Each band has its habitation separate and distinct from the other, three bands living in villages adjoining and all composing one village, the other two villages some little distance. There is frequently some considerable rivalry between the several bands in fighting, hunting and other sports, and not infrequently one band commits thefts upon the effects of another."
    In the issue of April 25, 1861, speaking of the agricultural prospects of the Wood River Valley the editor says: "Corn, wheat, oats, rye, barley, potatoes, and all sorts of vegetables and roots grow to perfection. For melons and other vines the fruit is almost spontaneous. The timber consists of cottonwood, elm, ash, hackberry, box elder and oak. Eighteen miles below there is a sawmill, lumber $30 per thousand. There was a one-horse grist mill at Wood River Center. The vast emigration going up the valley at that time demanded far more of the products of the region than the supply. Corn brought from $1.25 to $2.50 per bushel, flour $5 to $7 per 100 lbs., butter 25 cents per pound, eggs 25 cents per dozen, and potatoes $2 per bushel. We have growing apples, peaches, English gooseberries, currants, raspberries, and strawberries, set last year. All stood the winter fine and look well." It is related that in the two summers' life of the Huntsman's Echo the far-seeing editor prophesied as to the future greatness of the Wood River Valley. In the last issue, August i1, 1861, appears the following:


    "Friends and patrons- -adieu. We have 'secessed,' and tomorrow, shall start westward and shall probably become a citizen of Utah, and perhaps-soon our


Echo may be re-Echoed from the tops of the mountains. We go from turmoil, strife and bloodshed, to seek quiet in the happy, peaceful vales of Utah. This republican reign of terror, blood, tyranny and oppression is too much for our democratic style of free thought, free speech and freedom,-when men who may chance to differ in opinion with wild, blood-thirsty fanatics, are threatened and sometimes despoiled or murdered. * * * Should our life and abilities be spared, our friends may find our foot-marks, through the boundless West, and again hear the shrill, oracular notes of the old bugler, re-echoed from the vales of the mountains. Again, adieu."
    Mr. E. Oliver, now a resident of Shelton, and who was employed by Mr. Johnson to work in his garden, states that Mr. Johnson took great pride and pleasure in tilling the soil, not only raising quantities of vegetables, but was also a lover of flowers and small fruits to which he gave much attention. The store and printing office was in a building fourteen feet square, built of hewn logs, and was located on the bank of Wood River, east of the main street. In front of this store was the Overland Trail; across the trail, to the south, was the house in which Mr. Johnson lived, and his garden extended to the south as far as the present railroad tracks. This garden was enclosed with a fence built of poles. After the removal of Mr. Johnson to Utah, the store building was used as a residence by the families of E. Oliver and A. Meyer.
    As the Huntsman's Echo mentions migrating grasshoppers as destroying crops in 1860 it might be of interest to mention that a rainfall record had been kept at Fort Kearney from 1850 to and including 1861, and that the rainfall for the years 1859-60-61 was the least for any years during that period, being 16.10 inches in 1859, 16.85 inches in 1860, and 19-34 inches in 1861. This is the least rainfall, for a period of three years, as appears in the rainfall record kept at Fort Kearney and Ravenna between the years 1850 and 1914. The least rainfall record in any one year in this time, 1850 to 1914, being 15.67 inches in 1894.


    The first postoffice established in Buffalo County was at Wood River Center in 1860. The first contract to carry mail was let by the general Government in 1850. This was a monthly mail between Independence, Mo., and Salt Lake City, Utah. This mail was carried over the Oregon Trail, through Nebraska Territory south of the Platte River and via Fort Kearney to Utah. This contract was let to Samuel H. Woodson of Independence, Mo. In 1859 this contract was transferred to Russell, Majors and Waddell, and the initial or starting point was made Nebraska City. The celebrated Pony Express was put in operation in 1860 between St. Joseph and Sacramento, passing south of the Platte via Fort Kearney. Previous to the breaking out of the Civil war Missouri was a hotbed of secession and the home of border ruffians and more and more emigration to the Pacific Coast followed the trail north of the Platte River. In the latter '50s the Western Stage Company of Iowa extended its route to Fort Kearney, following the military road established by the general Government in 1858, from Bellevue and Florence via Fremont, Columbus, Nebraska Center to Fort Kearney. In August, 1860, the Western Stage Company were awarded a contract by the general


Government to carry mail over this route as far west as Fort Kearney. Previous to this date it seems that the mail between Omaha and Fort Kearney up the valley of the Platte was carried and charged for the same as freight or express, the rates of course being high. These extortionate rates for carrying mail doutbless [sic] account for the rather violent language used towards Jones, Russell & Co. in the Huntsman's Echo of September 13, 1860.
    Through the kindness of Senator Norris Brown it is learned that the records of the Postoffice Department show that the postoffice at Wood River Center was established August 20, 1860, and discontinued May 28, 1864. The postmasters at Wood River Center were as follows: Joseph E. Johnson, August 20, 1860, to September 30, 1862; Henry Peck, September 30, 1862, to July 18,1863; Edward Huff, July 18, 1863, to May 28, 1864. Thus it seems that Joseph E. Johnson was the first editor of a newspaper for Nebraska Territory, the Omaha Arrow, July 28, 1854; the editor and publisher of the first paper printed in Buffalo County, and the first postmaster in Buffalo County.





   It has generally been understood and accepted that the first organization of Buffalo County was in the year 1870, the appointments to office in the county being made by Governor David Butler on petition of Patrick Walsh, Martin Slattery and Sergeant Michael Coady, the tradition being that Governor Butler named Patrick Walsh as probate judge with power to appoint temporary county officers and that Probate Judge Walsh did so name and appoint the first county officers and yet, there are official records which disclose that there was a county organization in Buffalo County in territorial days, possibly dating from the year 1855 when the county was first named and its boundaries established. These records seem to disclose that the said county was divided into one or more precincts and that there was elected county officials. In the office of the secretary of state there is an election return from Buffalo County for the year 1859 as follows: "This is to certify that at a general election held in the several precincts of and for the County of Buffalo and Territory of Nebraska on Tuesday, October 11, A. D. 1859, the following named persons received the number of votes annexed to their respective names for the following described offices:
   "Estabrook had 292 votes for member of Congress.
   "William W. Wyman had 292 votes for territorial treasurer.
   "Robert C. Jordan had 292 votes for territorial auditor.
   "Alonzo D. Luce had 292 votes for territorial librarian.
   "William E. Harvey had 292 votes for territorial commissioner of schools.
   "James G. Chapman had 292 votes for district attorney, First Judicial District.
   "In testimony whereof I have hereunto attached my name for official purposes this 12th day of October, A. D. 1859. "(Signed) GEO. MILLER, "County. Clerk of Buffalo County, N. T."
   It is understood that in the canvass of the returns for member of Congress and for territorial officers the votes from Buffalo County, as above certified to,


were thrown out (not counted), on the ground that Buffalo County was unorganized.


   The Huntsman's Echo was published at Wood River Centre (now Shelton) in 1860-61. The following account of an election of county officers, taken from the Huntsman's Echo of November 2, 1860, makes certain that there was a county organization in Buffalo County in territorial days and previous to the year 1870. Files of the Huntsman's Echo are in possession of the State Historical Society and from which the following account of the election is taken:


    "The election on Tuesday last (November 6th) in our county went off as quietly and pleasantly as we ever witnessed. Forty-two votes were cast, thirty-nine of which Mr. Morton (J. Sterling Morton) received and the three others were given to J. P. Daily. Our humble self (Joseph E. Johnson, editor of the Huntsman's Echo) received the largest number of votes for representative of the Hall County district. Henry Peck was elected probate judge; J. H. Wagner, Joseph Huff and Thomas Page, county commissioners; P. H. Gunn, sheriff; L. Vanalstyne, coroner; J. E. Boyd and J. H. Wagner, justices of the peace; J. E. Lloyd, treasurer and register; Edward Huff, county clerk; P. H. Gunn and John Evans, constables; and our learned self (Joseph E. Johnson) superintendent of schools.
   "We did not see one drunken or boisterous man through the day and we enjoyed the fulness of democratic harmony and union. So much for Buffalo County and her industrious, peaceful and democratic law-and-union-loving citizens."


   The records in the office of the governor disclose that "On September 16, 1862, Buffalo County was ordered to enlist its quota of men to fill the ranks of the First Nebraska Regiment."
    If Buffalo County was unorganized to whom was this order issued? In the muster roll of the First Nebraska Regiment, found in the office of the adjutant general, Department of Nebraska, Grand Army of the Republic, are the names of men who enlisted in the First Nebraska whose address are given as Fort Kearney. Among the names is that of John Oliver, who it is known was a resident of Buffalo County and later, in 1870, served as sheriff of the county, and it is believed that of the enlistments in the First Nebraska Regiment at Fort Kearney at that date, a portion, at least, of the number were credited to Buffalo County, the office or place for enlistment being Fort Kearney.


    That there was a county organization in Buffalo County previous to the year 1870, attention is invited to a special act of the Territorial Legislature passed and approved February 12, 1866.


    It will be noted that while this act is "to continue the organization of the County of Buffalo, Nebraska Territory," it has especial reference to the office of probate judge in said Buffalo County. Attention is invited to the fact that this is a special act of the Legislature applicable to Buffalo County only.
    At the session of the Legislature this act was passed, Isaac Alberton represented the counties of Platte, Merrick, Hall, Buffalo, Kearney and Lincoln in the Territorial Council and John Walliohs the counties of Platte, Hall, Buffalo and Merrick in the House.
    This act may be found in the "Statutes of Nebraska-1867," compiled by E. Estabrook, and in part is as follows:
    "An Act to continue the organization of the County of Buffalo, Nebraska Territory.
    "Section i. Be it enacted by the Council and House of Representatives of the Territory of Nebraska: That the probate judge of the County of Buffalo, Territory of Nebraska, is hereby authorized and required to appoint all officers in said county necessary to complete county and precinct organizations; said persons so appointed to qualify before and file their bonds with said probate judge, the same to be approved by him and to be of the same amount and tenor as now provided by law, and to hold their offices respectively until the next general election succeeding their appointment and until their successors are elected and qualified.
    "Section 2. Said probate judge is further authorized and required to demand and receive all records, books and papers belonging to said county,, and safely keep the same until the proper officer in whose custody they may severally belong, shall have been appointed and qualified as provided in the foregoing section of this act.
   "Section 3.***.
    "Section 4. This act shall take effect and be in force from and after its passage.
   "Approved February 12,1866."


    In this chapter covering the organization of Buffalo County it has been shown that in the year 1850, in the County of Buffalo, Territory of Nebraska, an election was held, in which 202 votes were cast and the election returns certified to the secretary of state for the territory by George Miller, county clerk of Buffalo County, Nebraska Territory. It is further proposed to show by official records in the office of the secretary of state that in the year 1866 elections were held in Buffalo County, Territory of Nebraska, certified to by a county clerk who used an official seal of the county.
    The first election returns in the office of the secretary of state in which it appears that a seal was used by the county clerk of Buffalo County, Nebraska Territory, is as follows:
    "This is to certify that at an election held in the several precincts of Buffalo County, Nebraska Territory, on Saturday, the 2d day of June, A. D. 1866, the following named persons received the number of votes annexed to their respective names for the following, described offices, to-wit:


    "Governor--J. Sterling Morton, 32; David Butler, 10. Secretary of State--Chas. W. Sturgis, 32; T. P. Kennard, 10. State Auditor--Guy C. Barnum, 31; John Gillispie, 10. State Treasurer--St. John Goodrich, 33; Augustus Kountze, 9. Chief Justice--Wm. A. Little, 35; O. P. Mason, 7.˙ Associate Justice--E. W. Thomas, 33; B. E. B. Kennedy, 33. Associate Justice--L. Crounse, 9; George B. Lake, 9. Representative in Congress--John R. Brooks, 32; T. M. Marquette, 9. For the constitution, 1 vote. Against the constitution, 41 votes.
    "In testimony whereof I have hereunto attached my name and the seal of said county this 4th day of June, A. D. 1866.
County Clerk."
Seal of
Buffalo County,
Nebraska Territory.

    On the same date as the foregoing is the following:
    "This is to certify that at an election held in the several precincts of Buffalo County, Nebraska Territory, on Saturday, the 2d day of June, A. D. 1866, that the following named persons received the number of votes annexed to their respective names for the following described offices, to-wit:
    "U. Kummer received 34 votes for state senator, Fifth Council District. James E. Boyd received 42 votes for state representative for joint district of Platte, Merrick, Hall and Buffalo counties.
    "In testimony whereof I have hereunto attached my name and the seal of said county this 4th day of June, A. D. 1866.
County Clerk."
Seal of
Buffalo County,
Nebraska Territory.

    At this election James E. Boyd was elected as representative in the Territorial Legislature. Joseph Boyd, who certified to the election returns as "county clerk," was a brother of James E. Boyd.
    It will be noted that James E. Boyd was elected a justice of the peace and also county treasurer of Buffalo County at the November election in the year 1860.
    In the office of the secretary of state may be found the returns of an election held in Buffalo County in October, 1866, as follows:
    "This is to certify that at a general election held in the several precincts of Buffalo County, Nebraska Territory, on Tuesday, the 6th day of October, A. D. 1866, the following named persons received the number of votes annexed to their respective names for the following offices, to-wit:
    "Delegate to Congress--J. Sterling Morton, 17; T. M. Marquette, 12. Territorial Auditor--Frank Murphy, 18; John Gillispie, 12. Territorial Treasurer--John S. Seaton, 18; Augustus Kountze, 12. Territorial Librarian--Robert D. Jordan, 16; R. S. Knox, 12. Member of Congress--Algeron S. Paddock, 16; John Taffe, 11.
    "In testimony whereof I have hereunto attached my name and affixed the seal of said county this 13th day of October, A. D. 1866.
County Clerk."
 Seal of
Buffalo County,
Nebraska Territory.





    We now come to the history of the organization, or more appropriately, the reorganization, of Buffalo County in the year 1870.
    On May 30, 1854, President Franklin Pierce signed the Nebraska-Kansas bill by which act Nebraska became a territory.
    On March 4, 1867, on proclamation of President Andrew Johnson, Nebraska became a state. As before noted, at the second session of the Territorial Legislature which convened December 18, 1855, Buffalo County was named and its boundaries defined. Of the other counties in the territory named and their boundaries defined, not one adjoined Buffalo County. In fact until the year 1858 there was not a county adjoining Buffalo County. The establishment of Fort Kearney in 1848, the fertility of the Wood River Valley, the enormous emigration over the; trail north of the Platte River, doubtless led many people to make temporary settlement along the trail and within the limits of Buffalo County at first named and bounded. When the county was named and its boundaries defined in 1855, Nebraska Center was named as its county seat. In the year 1860 the county seat was known as Wood River Center and now known as Shelton. It was at Wood River Center that the election of county officers was held in the year 1860 as reported by the Huntsman's Echo. From the earliest history which we have of the county there was a "center," a village as it were, at that point.
    It is not difficult to understand why county organization in Buffalo County became disorganized under the territorial form of government and other conditions which existed at that date, when we consider that all lands comprised in said county (except the Fort Kearney Military Reservation) were Pawnee Indian lands until ceded to the general Government in the year 1857. That these landwere not surveyed and opened to settlement until the year 1867. That in the year 1871 Indians were still hunting wild game over the prairies of the county. That the first piece of land owned by an individual in the county was the "Boyd Ranch," purchased from the Government by Joseph Boyd in the year 1867, and that when the county government was reorganized in the year 1870, there was not a land owner by purchase, by deed, by pre-emption or by homestead claim


the county except James E. Boyd, owner of the Boyd Ranch, who was then living in Omaha. In territorial days and previous to 1870, settlers in the county were not land owners, were not home builders; with a few exceptions such as the Walshs, the Olivers, the Dugdales, the Owens, the Slatterys, the Nutters, August Meyer, and a few others, they were a migratory class and if one held a county office he, seemingly, did not deem it important to keep an official record of his administration of the office and when he "moved on," as most of them seem to have done, he took with him whatever of official record of his office he possessed.


    The tradition as it relates to the re-organization of Buffalo County is substantially as follows: In the year 1869 Patrick Walsh, Martin Slattery, together with Sergt. Michael Coady, who was stationed at Fort Kearney in Kearney County, and others, sent a signed petition to Governor David Butler asking that an election be called in the county preliminary to the organization (or reorganization) of the county. In response to this petition Governor Butler issued a proclamation, of which the following is a copy as found in the official records of the executive office of the state:

"State of Nebraska-Executive Department

    "Whereas: The county of Buffalo in this state became disorganized in the year 1867 by the removal of the county officers to the territory of Wyoming, and
    "Whereas, A large number of the citizens of the said un-organized county of Buffalo have united in a petition asking that an election be called for the purpose of choosing county officers preliminary to the organization of said county,
    "Therefore, I, David Butler, Governor of the State of Nebraska, by virtue of the authority in me vested, do hereby order that an election be held in the school house in precinct No. 1, of said Buffalo county, from 9 o'clock a. m. to 6 o'clock p. m. on Thursday the 20th day of January, 1870, for the purpose of choosing three county commissioners, one county clerk, one county treasurer, one sheriff, one probate judge, one county surveyor, one county superintendent of schools, one coroner, three judges and two clerks of election, and, I hereby designate and appoint Edward Oliver, Patrick Walsh and William C. Booth as judges, and C. S. Johnson and William Nutter as clerks to conduct said election in accordance with the 'Act for the organization of counties' approved June 24, 1867, and the election laws of the state.
"In testimony whereof I have hereunto set my hand and
caused to be affixed the Great Seal of the State of Nebraska.
"Done at Lincoln this 1st day of December in the year of
our Lord, One thousand, eight hundred and sixty-nine.
"By" the Governor.

"(Signed) THOMAS P. KENNARD, "Secretary of State."


    The special election for the reorganization of the County of Buffalo was held at the schoolhouse in Precinct No. 1, on Thursday, January 20, 1870. The


   returns of this election in. the office of the secretary of state disclose the result as follows: Probate judge, Patrick Walsh; county clerk, Martin Slattery; county treasurer, Henry Dugdale; county sheriff, Roger Hayes; road supervisor, Angustus Meyer; coroner, J. T. Walker; county surveyor, Geo. P. Russell; county conmissioners, A. C. McLane, Thomas Wood, Edward Oliver.
    Judges of Election--Edward Oliver, Patrick Walsh, Wm. C. Booth.
    Clerks of Election--C. S. Johnson, William Nutter.


    The first regular election in the county was held October 11, 1870.
    The officers chosen at this election to serve until their successors were elected at the October election in 1871.
    All voters were required to register in advance of an election; there were thirty-five registered voters in the county and thirty-eight tax payers.
    The result of the election, so far as given was as follows: Probate judge, Patrick Walsh; county clerk, Michael Coady; county treasurer, Henry Dugdale; county sheriff, John Oliver; county commissioners, Charles Davis, Wm. C. Booth, Edward Oliver.
    Thomas K. Wood was chosen superintendent, but it is not known whether he qualified or not. At a meeting of the county commissioners, November 1, 1870, the following resolution was adopted: "On motion, P. Walsh was appointed superintendent of schools in Buffalo County in case Thomas K. Wood, elect, doesn't qualify." Sergt. Michael Coady was not a resident of the county, being stationed at Fort Kearney, but he accepted the office of county clerk and furnished the new-born county an iron-bound box, secured at Fort Kearney, for the safe keeping of the records. All the records of the county were in the keeping of Patrick Walsh, who, in addition to his duties as county judge, was also deputy county clerk, deputy treasurer and deputy superintendent, but it appears that Sergeant Coady was present at all meetings of the commissioners and that his advice was sought and followed in all county affairs. It appears that Sergeant Coady was a friend in need and a friend indeed to all early settlers.





In recording the proceedings of the first meeting of the board of county commissioners one would naturally expect to find entered of record the proclamation of Governor Butler calling the special election held on January 20, 1870, together with the result of the election and at least giving the names of the officers-elect, but nothing of this character appears in the minutes of this first meeting and while the returns of this election, as now on file in the office of the secretary of state, disclose that A. C. McLane, Thomas Wood and Edward Oliver were elected county commissioners, the minutes of this first meeting, now on file in the office of the County clerk, disclose that County Commissioner-elect A. C. McLane was not in attendance and that Samuel Boyd (a younger brother of James E. and Joseph Boyd) served as one of the commissioners. Herewith is copied the minutes of this meeting:
    "The first meeting after the organization of the county.
    "At a special meeting of the board of county commissioners of Buffalo County, held pursuant to public notice, at Nebraska Center on the 26th day of February, 1870. Present, Thomas K. Wood, Edward Oliver, Samuel Boyd, commissioners. Resolved, that the County of Buffalo, in the State of Nebraska, be divided into three precincts, Nos. l, 2 and 3, the first precinct to be bounded on the east line of Hall and Buffalo counties and on the west by the west end of section 31, Union Pacific Railroad (the section referred to is now embraced in the corporate limits of the City of Kearney); and Precinct No. 2 to be bounded on the east by the west end of section 31, Union Pacific Railroad, and on the west by Stevenson Siding, Union Pacific Railroad; and Precinct No. 3 to be bounded on the east by Slevenson Siding, Union Pacific Railroad, and on the West by western line of the county. (The Stevenson Siding referred to is, as recalled, now known as Odessa.
    "Resolved, that all county business hereafter, until next election, be transacted in Schoolhouse District No. 1 in said county.
    "Resolved, that all horney cattle, be valued at the following rates as taxable


property: From one year old to two years old, $10 per head; and from two years old upward, to be valued at $30 per head.
    "Resolved, that all whisky saloonkeepers shall pay $25 per annum and $25 per annum for each billiard table; also John Oliver was appointed sheriff and assessor for Buffalo County. On motion the meeting adjourned.
"County Clerk.
"By Patrick Walsh, his deputy."

    While from the above minutes it appears that John Oliver was appointed assessor for the county, it appears that later James Oliver was appointed and served as assessor, thus being the first assessor in the county.
    On July 5, 1870, at a regular meeting of the county commissioners taxes were levied as follows:

General fund ................... 6 mills
Sinking fund ................... 2 mills
School fund .................... 2 mills
Poor fund ...................... 1 mill 
Total ..........................11 mills

    The total valuation of the county for taxable purposes in 1870 was $788,981; 97 per cent of this amount ($760,008) was the value of railroad and telegraph property and only 3 per cent that of personal property of settlers, there being only one quarter section of deeded real estate in the county, that, the "Boyd Ranch." As will be noted the levy for county purposes was 11 mills, which included 2 mills for schools; deducting the school tax we have 9 mills levied for county purposes in 1870.
   It may be of interest to compare valuations and tax levies as between 1870 and 1908. The total value of all property in the county for taxation purposes in 1908 was $35,276,110; of this amount $1,468,045.35 was for railroad, telegraph and telephones, or about 4 per cent of the total compared with 97 per cent of the total in 1870. The levy for county purposes in 1908 was 8 mills as compared with a 9-mill levy in 1870. In 1870 there was raised $7,100 for county purposes; in 1908, $56,441, an increase of 800 per cent. This statement includes only county expenses and does not include state, school or village taxes.
    Herewith is copied the record of the county commissioners wherein was allowed the first claims against the county. These claims were allowed at a meeting held January 3, 1871, and the record is as follows:
    "The following bills were presented and by careful examination were ordered:

Patrick Walsh's bill as follows,                                      
Furnishing county with stationery one year ................... $150.00
Issuing 11 warrants ............................................ 11.00
For O'Niel's trial .............................................. 5.85
Services as probate judge, one year, Patrick Walsh ............ 100.00
County seal and express on treaurer's books ..................... 7.75
As superintendent of schools, year .............................. 8.00
Salary to P. Walsh as deputy county clerk one year, $150, and to      
   M. Coady, county clerk, $175 ............................... 300.00
Issuing certificate of election, $2, going to Grand Island ...... 8.00
Assistant register (of voters) ................................. 15.75
Total due Walsh and Coady to January 3, 1871.................. $606.30"


    It is interesting to note that Mr. Walsh served and drew salary as county judge, superintendent of schools and deputy county clerk, also that the county paid $1 each for warrants issued. At a meeting of the county commissioners held in 1870, W. H, Platt of Grand Island was employed as county attorney at a salary of $150 per year and traveling expenses. At a meeting of the county commissioners held July 5, 1871, the following was adopted: "Resolved by the board that W. H. Platt be and is hereby authorized to collect the Union Pacific Railroad taxes for the years A. D. 1868 and 1869 for payment of which he is to receive receive the one-half of all he collects, otherwise no pay." On August 15, 1871, in the commissioners' record appears the following: "On motion the county treasurer is hereby authorized and allowed to settle with the Union Pacific Railroad Company, and to receive from said company the sum of $4,297, taxes for the years 1868 and 1869 and the sum of $10,703 taxes for the year 1870 and that he be empowered to receipt in full for the taxes due from said company for the above years mentioned." "On motion it was ordered that a warrant be struck to W. H. Platt as attorney for the collection of taxes of 1868 and 1869 for $2,148.50, being: one-half of the taxes collected for said years and the same to be paid from the taxes collected from said years, a proportionate part to be taken from each fund."
    From the records it appears that P. Walsh was at this date, July 5, 1871, serving as county judge and also as county treasurer, while Sergt. Michael Coady was serving as county clerk, with F. S. Trew as deputy clerk. It is recalled that when it became known that W. H. Platt had received over two thousand dollars for collecting county taxes, and which, it appears, he had only to ask for in order to have paid, there was a great outcry raised and it was openly charged that all the county officers were engaged in the steal. At the October meeting of the commissioners it is recorded that "The Hon. W. H. Platt generously returned county warrant No. 52 with $826.35 due thereof for cancellation, being the one issued at last meeting of county commissioners for collection of delinquent railroad taxes for years 1868 and 1869." In the records of the county commissioners, it later appears that O. A. Abbott of Grand Island was employed by the commissioners to prosecute W. H. Platt in the endeavor to secure a return of the money paid him for collection of delinquent taxes, and while it appears that the county paid $45.35 as costs in such a suit there is no record, so far as can be learned, that any further portion of the money thus paid Mr. Platt was refunded.

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