© MJH for Buffalo County NEGenWeb Project, 2001

History of Buffalo County
and Its People

by Samuel Clay Bassett





William Nutter, aged twenty-five years, and Dinah Hingham, aged eighteen yeaars, were married in Lancastershire, England, in 1853. In the family of William Nutter there were nineteen children, all from the same parents, and Mr. Nutter recalls seeing fifteen of these children seated together at his father's table. In Mrs. Nutter's family there were seven children. Mr. Nutter from his earliest youth was taught the spinner's trade and worked at his trade until he rose to the position of foreman of the card room before leaving England. Mrs. Nutter, as a small child, wound bobbins for weavers and when older worked in cotton and woolen mills. About this date there were many Mormon elders in both England and Wales and large numbers of the people in these parts of England were converted to the Mormon faith and emigrated to Utah. At first polygamy was not preached as a part of the Mormon faith or practice, but about this date (1852-54) its preachers becoming more bold, announced that Mormons of deep piety and who gave liberally to the church were permitted more than one wife. Mr. Nutter was converted to the Mormon faith and earnestly advocated its cause, though it seems that he gave little thought to its polygamous feature as it did not appeal to his nature or mode of life. Mr. Nutter was so imbued with the truth of the Mormon faith that he attempted to convert his mother, who had already borne nineteen children, from her own faith to that of the Mormons, but without success. Two children, the eldest a daughter named Olive, and the second a son


named Moroni, after one of the most prominent characters in the Mormon Bible, had been born to Mr. and Mrs. Nutter when in the spring of 1855, in company with 700 other Mormon emigrants, they took passage on a sailing vessel named the Juventa, their destination, Salt Lake City, Utah. This vessel, the Juventa, had been condemned as unseaworthy by the British government, but the condemnation seems not to have prevented the use of the vesssel to transport Mormon emigrants. The passage cost about thirty dollars for each person and included board. Five weeks were required for the trip and they landed at Philadelphia, Pa. Mr. and Mrs. Nutter were without means when they landed, but had been led to believe that plenty of work at good wages could be had on arrival and that they could earn enough to enable them to pursue their journey to Utah. As both had worked all their lives in cotton and woolen factories, they fully expected to find like employment on arrival, but were disappointed. Mr. Nutter finally secured work in a truck garden at $3 a week, working from daylight till dark. Work was so scarce at the time that many worked for their board and it is related that an aged man, toothless, who worked for his board, was found fault with because he took so much time at his meals. About this time the eldest child, Olive, died of summer complaint and was buried in Philadelphia. After a few weeks Mr. Nutter found employment in a cotton factory but was taken sick and being without any means, was compelled to ask for and received a ticket of admission to an almshouse, but could not get admission for his wife and child. The family went together to the almshouse, arriving in the evening. The superintendent, on coming to the door, demanded in a loud, coarse voice, "What in h-1 did you come at this time of night for ?" This brutal reception so angered Mr. Nutter that he left the building, and passing down the street, it being a warm evening and the people sitting on their porches, inquired where he might find lodging until he was able to find work. He was taken to a building called "House of Industry," established by the Quakers for those out of work and without means, where the family were provided with clean beds and good food until employment could be found. When able to seek work Mr. Nutter found a man who promised work on a railroad in the State of Delaware and who furnished transportation on a sailing vessel but furnished nothing to eat and the family became very hungry when a negro cook took pity and gave them a meal. Here Mr. Nutter worked two weeks and then found work for himself and wife with a farmer but neglected to fix a price and when they came to leave had little coming--just enough to pay their passage back to Philadelphia. They started on Saturday and at midnight the vessel cast anchor until Monday morning and the family became very hungry. On arriving at Philadelphia, an Englishman, whom they met, gave them some money and referred them to a friend in Gloster, N. J. where they found employment in print works, and where they remained for two years. At this place the second child, Moroni, died and was buried in Gloster, also John N., the second son was born in 1855. In the fall of 1857 the family returned to Philadelphia and Mr. Nutter found work at his trade at $1 a day wages, but soon came the panic of 1857; and all manufacturing ceased. In the spring of 1858 Mr. Nutter found employment at his trade, as foreman of the card room at $40 a month wages. In the year 1857, twin boys were born, Wil-


William H. and W. Hingham. The one named W. Hingham died in early infancy and was buried beside his sister Olive in Philadelphia.
   The family remained in Philadelphia until enough had been earned to enable them to reach Utah. They left Philadelphia in the spring of 1859 and going to some point on the Ohio River traveled down that stream and up the Mississippi and Missouri rivers to Florence, near Omaha, which was an outfitting and starting point for Mormon emigrants. Mrs. Nutter recalls that they were three days making the distance from St. Joseph to Florence occasioned by their boat repeatly getting aground on sand bars. On this trip the family were accompanied by Samuel Stamworth, wife and child, Mrs. Stamworth being a sister of Mr. Nutter. At Florence Mr. Nutter purchased a yoke of oxen, a new wagon, a cow and food sufficient for the entire journey. Another family furnished a yoke of oxen and shared the wagon with Mr. Nutter's family during the journey. The train consisted of seventy-five wagons, mostly drawn by two yoke of oxen. A daughter of Hiram Smith, later president of the Mormon Church, and her husband and children accompanied the train, the captain of the train being John F. Smith, a son of Hiram Smith. All emigrants were supposed to carry sufficient provisions to last the entire journey but many were wasteful and were entirely out before, the end of the journey. Mrs. Nutter says she feared more than wild Indians these half famished emigrants when they came demanding food.
   A few days before the Smith train left Florence, a hand cart train (that is a party carrying all their belongings in hand carts which they pushed or pulled) darted out ahead of the Smith train and reached Salt Lake City some two weeks in advance of the Smith train. Owing to the crowded condition of their wagon, Mrs. Nutter walked the entire distance, riding less than twenty-five miles. Rice was the principal food of the family, this with milk from their cow furnishing a most satisfactory meal. The captain of the train, John Smith, had frequently traved the trail. He was a very profane man and a drunkard. When drunk he would not allow the train to break camp, and they were much delayed on this account. On one occasion he did not break camp until after noon and then announced that they would travel in the night to make up lost time. For fear that William H., the baby, might fall out the wagon in the dark and be injured, Mrs. Nutter tied him with a rope to the wagon bows. While driving in the night, on this occasion, a teamster in lighting his pipe, frightened his oxen and this in turn caused a stampede of other ox teams and loose stock, cows and other cattle. Mrs. Nutter had milked their cow previous to starting and was carrying the milk in a pail in order to have it for their supper when they camped. In the stampede she was knocked down and the milk spilled but she was not injured. One child was seriously injured and wagons broken so that it was necessary to make camp in order to make repairs. Late in the night the captain of the train came back cursing and swearing because they had not continued the day's drive until the camp was reached.
   Mrs. Nutter relates that on the ship Juventa, at Florence and on the trail occasional religious services were held and related an incident connected with one of such services held on the trail by the captain of their train who was also an ordained elder or preacher. Captain Smith had issued an order for religious services to be held at camp headquarters in the evening and commanding every


one to be present. This service Captain Smith conducted in person during which he stated that in being ordained an elder he was also given the power to pronounce curse on anyone, and the party so cursed could not remove same. He then said he had lost a valuable knife costing $5, and he knew someone with the train had it, that if the knife was not returned he would pronounce a curse on the one having it. At this point a Welshman jumped up and said he had the knife.
   During this journey twelve children died of whooping cough, one of the number, the daughter of Mr. Nutter's sister, Mrs. Stamworth. John N. Nutter recalls being awakened before daylight to take a last look at his little cousin, who lay dead in a cracker box, much too short for a comfortable bed, and who was buried in a grave beside the trail early in the day so as to not delay the journey of the train. Accompanying this train was a family, husband, wife and three children; they were possessed of considerable means, had three good horse teams, a good wagon, and abundant outfit for the journey. The three children sickened and died and were buried beside the trail. The drunken captain of the train neglected to caution the emigrants not to allow their animals to drink of the alkali water and as a result this family lost some of their most valuable horses and finally the husband of the family buried his wife beside the trail, without a coffin, on the high divide, where it is reported that the waters from one spring flow one part towards the distant Pacific and the other part towards the distant Atlantic.
   The greatest suffering on the part of the emigrants on this journey was for want of water while crossing the alkali plains and in the mountains; much of this suffering would have been avoided but for the drunken captain who sometimes failed to advise where water could have been found and thus save long drive between camps; also had the emigrants known the distance to the next water camp they might have carried water at times to help relieve the great thirst often endured. This journey, begun in early summer, was completed after the harvest of small grain in the settlement in Utah, but in time to find work in the harvest of potatoes and other vegetables. There was no welcome on the part of the Mormon Church or those in authority, to these emigrant members of the Mormon Church, who, leaving kindred and friends, the land of their birth, the homes of their ancestors for many generations, and who had, amid poverty, toil and undreamed of privations, at last reached the so-called "promised land," the dwelling place of the "Latter Day Saints of God."
   There was no preparation in advance for their coming; no provision for their comfort or necessities. Did one complain to an elder of the church that he hail only a dry crust to eat and no means to buy more, he was told to soak his bread in water, and if he lacked for vegetables was informed that potato tops were said to be better than nothing. Ox teams and good new wagons were valuable property in Utah, and, at much less than their real value, Mr. Nutter traded his oxen and wagon for ten acres of sandy land some miles from the City of Salt Lake, and also included in the trade was a lot and a house built of "dobe" or sun-dried brick. Timber for fuel could be had in the mountains some five miles or more distant. Work could be had but the pay consisted of produce, not cash. Everything not raised in Utah commanded extravagant prices. The English are great lovers of tea. To purchase one pound of tea it is related one Englishman drove to the mountains, cut and hauled a load of wood to the city, a trip, coming


and going, of thirty miles. Mr. and Mrs. Nutter soon learned that polygamy, as preached in England and practiced in Utah, were quite different propositions. In Utah, any man could have all the so-called wives he could manage to get possession of and incoming trains were watched for, and young women made plural wives of, in many cases over the objections and protests of their parents. Girls only thirteen or fourteen years of age thus became mothers of children by becoming plural wives of Mormon officials as well as of men who held no official connection with the Mormon Church, simply were members of the church. The Nutter family soon became greatly dissatisfied with the so-called Mormon religion and Mr. Nutter, from a firm believer in the Mormon religion, came to be a non-believer in any form of religious belief, and so continued to the end of his life.
   The breaking out of the Civil war greatly pleased the Mormon leaders who claimed the war had been prophesied by Brigham Young as punishment for the persecution of Mormons by Gentiles, and that the Gentiles in the eastern states would destroy each other and that the Indian tribes in the West would assist in the destruction. All this was believed by the Mormon people and discouraged any who thought of leaving. Helen, the second daughter, was born in Utah in 1860; in 1862 the family arranged to leave Utah. They traded their real estate property for two yoke of oxen and a wagon, and provided food for the journey but had no cow. Mrs. Nutter had taken with her to Utah a loom, thinking she might get work at her trade. This loom she traded for a gold watch. They left Utah in the month of June, accompanied by two other families, one by the name of Morgan. On the first day's journey, when some ten miles east of Salt Lake City, they were overtaken by Mrs. Allen, with whom they were acquainted. She was barefoot, and had nothing except the clothing she wore. She begged to be allowed to accompany them on their journey. Mr. and Mrs. Allen were quite well educated people and had arrived in Utah with considerable property. Since their arrival Mr. Allen had taken younger wives and practically deserted his first wife, leaving her destitute. When he saw that his wife was determined to leave Mr. Allen had agreed that Mrs. Allen might have a yoke of steers with which to make the journey, but neither Mr. Nutter nor Mrs. Allen dared to return for the steers for fear they might not be permitted to again continue their journey. The Allens had in store some flour at a Mormon station east of Salt Lake City and of this flour Mrs. Allen secured two sacks which were added to the food supply of the party. A few miles west of Fort Laramie the Nutter family met a westbound immigrant train engaged in burying three of their number who had been killed by Indians, These three persons--two men and one woman--driving a good team of horses and a fine saddle horse hitched to the wagon, had tarried at a trading post near the fort in order to make a few purchases. Some Indians were at the trading post and tried to trade for the saddle horse but without success. It is supposed the Indians followed the party and attacked and killed them. The members of the train with which the three persons were traveling, becoming uneasy that they did not rejoin the train, halted and sent back a party which had just found them dead and their horses gone. At Fort Laramie Mrs. Allen traded a ring which she wore for a pair of coarse shoes, she having come barefoot thus far on the journey. The Nutter family had planned to cross the Platte


River at Julesburg, coming down on the north side of that river. At this point they met some Indians who threatened to kill them if they crossed the river, so they followed the trail on the south side until they reached Fort Kearney, crossing the Platte at that point. When Mrs. Nutter was asked if they had any trouble in crossing the Platte she answered "Not at all." When asked to describe just how they crossed, she said: "Mr. Nutter walked on the near side, driving the oxen; Mrs. Allen and myself waded in the river on the off side and with whips kept the oxen from turning back. The water was not deep except in the main channel where it came nearly up to the wagon box."
   The Platte River at this crossing is 1½ miles from the north to the south bank; there are numerous small islands or toe-heads as they are called locally, so that the total width of all the channels is about four thousand feet. The crossing was about three miles in length, extending from a point half a mile west of the fort on the south side to a point some two miles west of the fort on the north bank. The Platte was a treacherous stream to cross, having numerous quicksand holes and a fall of about eight feet to the mile. In time of high water in the main channel the water often came up to the wagon box and with the tremendous fall ran at a furious rate. With a strong wind, in time of high water, the waters were forced into one channel, washing out holes ten or more feet in depth. The writer forded the Platte at this crossing in 1871 and saw a dozen or more large, strong army wagons, sunken in quicksand holes and abandoned in mid-stream, when doubtless attached to each one of these wagons were four or more pair of strong, government mules driven by experienced drivers, while the brave, sturdy pioneers, men and women, who by toil and privation demonstrated for the benefit of future generations, the possibilities of the then Nebraska Territory as a place for comfortable homes and happy families, thought it "no trouble at all" to wade waist deep in the swift running waters of this broad and treacherous stream and by means of whips and shouting encouraged their half frightened oxen to drag across its sandy bottom a heavily loaded wagon containing the small children of their families and all their earthly belongings. The objective point of the Nutter family on leaving Utah, had been the Wood River Valley, near what is now the Village of Shelton in Buffalo County, some fifteen miles east of Fort Kearney, as they had been most favorably impressed with this locality on their overland journey to Utah. When they were near this point they overtook a freighting outfit en route to the Missouri River. Mrs. Allen was extremely anxious to continue her journey eastward and so Mr. Nutter arranged with the freight "boss" to convey Mrs. Allen to Omaha. There were no women with the freighting outfit but the "boss" agreed to protect Mrs. Allen during the journey. The Nutter family never again heard in any manner from Mrs. Allen--one among many thousands of other victims, deceived, wronged, outraged, robbed, many murdered, by that foul blot on civilization, and more so on the American nation, the Mormon Church.
   The Nutter family purchased a "squatter's right" to a claim on Wood River about two miles east of the present Village of Shelton, trading therefor one of the two yoke of oxen. Mrs. Nutter traded her gold watch for a cow and here began anew the struggle for a living and a home. During the fall Mr. Nutter found work putting up hay for use at Fort Kearney and in the winter in cutting


and hauling wood to the fort. Mr. Nutter had never worked at farming, except while in Utah, and had never raised any corn. In the spring of 1863, they planted a small acreage of potatoes and other vegetables and managed to break and plant eighteen acres of corn. In planting this corn a hole was cut in the sod with an ax and the kernels of corn dropped in the hole. No weeds grew, in those days, on newly broken sod and this corn was not cultivated in any manner. Mrs. Nutter assisted in the out-door work. From these eighteen acres they harvested and sold 600 bushels of corn selling at $1 per bushel--$600 in all. This corn was purchased by the Holiday stage line operating on the south side of the river.
   This was more money than the Nutter family had ever had at one time before and Mrs. Nutter relates that the first article that she ordered when they received the money for this corn was a pair of men's boots, No. 5, for which they paid $5. There being no store nearer than Omaha an order was made for the things needed and sent by a freighting outfit which in time delivered the goods. In the spring of 1864 the family planted a considerable acreage of corn and vegetables, planting their corn quite early and thereby secured the promise of a bountiful crop, while those of their neighbors who planted late had their crop destroyed by grasshoppers which appeared in considerable numbers destroying the unripened corn.
   In August, 1864, occurred the "stampede," memorable in the history of Nebraska Territory for the horrible atrocities committed by the cruel Cheyenne Indians. Space does not permit only a mere mention of the stampede; suffice to say practically all settlers in the Territory of Nebraska, except in the near vicinity of the Missouri River, deserted their homes and traveled with all possible speed towards the eastern border of the territory. Awakened in the dead of night and notified that the dreaded Indians were on the war path, the Nutter family hastily placed their household elects and children in their wagon, hitching thereto their two ox teams and took the trail for the Missouri River, every moment in dread of attack by the savage Indians. Is it any wonder that in the hurry incident to this sudden leaving of their home that baby Helen should have been overlooked and been left asleep in a drygoods box used as a cradle? Some considerable distance had been thus traveled before Helen was missed and the team halted while the anxious father returned for her. During the time the family had been living on the Wood River claim, two daughters, Onie and Leonie, had been born, so that the mother's arms were full even without the baby daughter Helen. The great fright which Mr. Nutter received on this occasion seems not to have left him until he reached England. He had heard of the horrors of the Civil war then raging in "the states," of the massacre of settlers by Indians in Minnesota, knew of the degradation and misery of Mormondom from which he had lately escaped and his one desire seems to have been to once again reach "Old England." At Omaha the family disposed of all of their belongings, at what then seemed fairly good prices. Their first objective point was Quebec, Canada, as Mr. Nutter greatly feared that he might be compelled to take part in the Civil war. Of the journey from Omaha to Quebec, Mrs. Nutter can recall nothing as to route or mode of travel. One thing she recalls with much vividness; it is the great astonishment she felt when crossing


"the states," probably Iowa, Illinois and Michigan, that the people on the farm were busily at work in the fields or in building houses or barns, and in the cities larger buildings were being erected, while she had thought that in "the states" everybody was fighting and being killed.
   At Quebec they engaged passage on a vessel for Liverpool, England. The passage was paid in English money, or at the rate of $3 of United States money for $1 of English money. The passage took two weeks and when the family reached Liverpool they had not a cent to pay fare to their former home. Mr. Nutter pawned his watch for that purpose. Here the baby Helen was again forgotten, she being asleep in the station with the rest of the family on the train ready to start. Mr. Nutter at once secured work at his trade of spinner, but in less than two weeks was longing to be again on his claim in Nebraska Territory He wrote to his former employer in Philadelphia for work and back came a letter with passage money, and Mr. Nutter leaving his family in England returned to Philadelphia and began work in the factory as foreman of the card room. On this trip Mr. Nutter was a passenger on the City of Boston, a magnificent steamship, which on its return voyage disappeared and was never heard from. Mrs. Nutter remained in England six months before joining Mr. Nutter in Philadelphia. While in England the twin daughter, Leonie, died and was buried in England, and a daughter, named Elizabeth, was born. Mr. Nutter remained in Philadelphia until the spring of 1869, when he came to Nebraska and purchased a "squatters right" to the southeast quarter of section 8, town 9, range 13 west, in Buffalo County, paying therefor, with the improvements--a log house, log barn and corral--about three hundred dollars.
   He secured work as a section hand on the Union Pacific Railroad and in July Mrs. Nutter and the children arrived. In the spring of 1870, not being able to purchase a team, they hired some land plowed, and this they planted in potatoes and other vegetables and corn, from which he raised good crops. His corn he sold for 50 cents per bushel and the potatoes were placed in a cave until spring and sold for excellent prices to members of the Soldiers' Free Homestead colony, some seventy-five families, which made settlement near that point in April, 1871. The crop of 1870 enabled the family to purchase a yoke of oxen and a cow and through the kindness of Sergt. Michael Coady of Fort Kearney he secured an old Government wagon. At the time of the stampede, before referred to, he had nearly ready for the harvest a considerable crop of both corn and vegetables; and which crop was harvested and sold by returning settlers after the stampede scare was over. Returning settlers state that this crop sold for about one thousand dollars, but it is more than probable that this amount is greatly in excess of the amount actually received. For the crop raised in 1864 Mr. Nutter received from one of the settlers who returned after the stampede one cow.
   With the coming of the colony referred to schools were at once established and the children of the family were prompt to take advantage of this opportunity to acquire an education. Also the older children were of an age where they were helpful in opening up the new farm and tilling the same. The home of this family soon became one of the best improved farms in the county. In the '80s there was on this farm a bearing orchard of 2,000 trees. When this orchard


came into bearing there was great loss by reason of wormy apples. Mr. Nutter finding little of value in recognized authorities in regard to this pest of his orchard, set apart a room in his house and made a scientific study of the pest, pursuing his investigations with all the zeal and close attention to details that would be expected from a graduate of a scientific department of the State University with the initials of a degree attached to his name. The results of Mr. Nutter's study and investigations in this connection were deemed so important that the professor of horticulture of the State University visited Mr. Nutter and secured the results of his investigations and embodied them in a bulletin issued by the station and from these and like investigations came the present method of spraying fruit trees for the destruction of many kinds of fruit pests. In 1886 Mr. Nutter erected, at that date, one of the finest farm houses in the country. The house is octagon in form, 16 feet on a side and 18 feet in height. It has what are termed modern conveniences, such as hot and cold water, toilet and bath room, furnace, etc. The rooms are spacious and well furnished. It has abundant porch room and a well kept lawn with ornamental trees and shrubs. He also erected at the same date a convenient barn. After the return of the family to Nebraska in 1870 there were born the following children: Hingham, Alice, Jane, Frank, Louisa and Mirabeau D., in all fifteen children, ten of whom are living and of legal age. All these children were given the benefit of a common school education and some of them have been for years teachers in the public schools.
   Mr. Nutter took but little interest in state and national affairs. He was for many years a subscriber to such magazines as Popular Science Monthly and North American Review, and in his library was a quite complete set of Spencer's works, also the published works of Darwin, Tito Vignoli, Stallo and others. He was a strong believer in free trade from an English standpoint. He was at all times industrious and performed an incredible amount of labor and yet he was, by many, regarded as a "dreamer" because, while his hands were employed about the labors of the farm, his thoughts were almost wholly given to the contemplatioin of some profound subject.
   All the property accumulated by Mr. and Mrs. Nutter has been by industry and economy, as Mr. Nutter never speculated, nor, so far as known, had any source of income other than his farm. Mr. Nutter was born in 1828 and died at his home on May 13, 1908. He was buried in Riverside Cemetery, near Gibbon. No historical account of this family is at all complete that does not include some further mention of the mother of this family; she enjoyed little in the way of educational advantages and at the age when she should have been playing with her dolls was helping to earn the family living by winding bobbins for the weaver's shuttle. She it was who loyally, patiently, uncomplainingly followed the varying fortunes of the family, seemingly never discouraged, always hopeful, doing her full share of work most laborious, enduring her full share of all privations bearing fifteen children, two pair twins, five of the children dying in early youth or infancy and being buried in widely separated graves, one in England, one in New Jersey, two in Pennsylvania and one in Nebraska. As the years came and went she came to be the financier of the family. She it was who saw that the children had food in plenty and of good quality, that they were com-


fortably clothed, and while to her the profound theories of Huxley and Darwin and Spencer and the fine spun theories of free trade and protection were as mysterious as the letters of the Greek alphabet, yet she it was who saw that the children were regular in attendance at school and attended to the cares and duties assigned them. In furnishing, from memory only, on request, something of the history of her family, its travels, its privations, its toils and struggles at times for the barest necessities of life, its times of great peril and sore affliction, she was much more likely to recall some humorous feature or incident than one of peril or great privation and seemed not to realize that people who thus meet and overcome such almost insurmountable obstacles, and at last secure by industry, economy and integrity a comfortable home for themselves and their immediate family are true heroes and heroines of real life. Notwithstanding all the toils and privations incident to her life and travels, Mrs. Nutter in the seventy-third year of her age pursues her daily task with a vigor of step and a sprightliness of movement to be envied by many a person still on the sunny side of life.





   The stampede that occurred in August, 1864, marks an event of great importance in the early settlement of the county and state. With no knowledge of the actual conditions and circumstances existing at the time of this stampede, it has been difficult to understand why all the settlers in the vicinity of Wood River Center (now Shelton) should have deserted their homes, when it appears that not a hostile Indian was seen at that time by these settlers; also that no hostile Indians were seen on the north side of the Platte River, at least not within 100 miles to the west of Wood River Center settlement. These settlers had been living for years in daily dread of attack by Indians, had been continually on the lockout for them, and Indians had frequently attacked one or two white men settlers when found alone and the Indians could surprise them. James Jackson states that two were killed by Sioux Indians in 1863, a few miles west of Wood River Center. "Ted" Oliver relates that he spent many long hours on the roof of their loghouse watching for Indians for some years preceding this Stampede, For these and other reasons it has been thought best to determine as far as possible the reasons for the stampede of these early settlers, and after giving the subject much study and consideration, the writer offers the following suggestions or reasons for this fright and stampede. From the date, 1847, when the Mormons first made settlement in Utah until the completion of the Union Pacific Railroad in 1869, Mormon sentiment dominated the trail between Florence on the Missouri River and Salt Lake City, Utah. Thousands of Mormon emigrants passed each year over this trail in charge of Mormon elders who regularly made the journey back and forth. Along the trail from Florence as far west as Fort Kearney were settlers, largely Mormon emigrants, some of whom tarried a brief time and then journeyed on to Utah; others remained and made permanent homes, as did the Olivers, Owens, Nutters and others of the early settlers in Buffalo County. Commencing in 1860 a great and terrible Civil war was raging in the "states," the real cause of which Mormon emigrants had little knowledge. The


Mormon leaders preached that this war was sent as punishment on the Gentiles for their persecution of the Mormons, and that while the war raged the Indians of the Northwest would raid the settlements along the border and murder the settlers. A year or more previous to the stampede Sioux Indians had raided the settlements in Minnesota and massacred a thousand or more of the settlers. All these things naturally kept the settlers in Buffalo and Hall counties in a state of apprehension of Indian attack.
   A narration of some events which did occur in this connection will show that the apprehension on the part of the settlers was well founded. In conversation with Lieutenant Governor Hopewell, in November, 1908, he stated that in July, 1864, he was a "bullwhacker" on a Government freight train loaded with supplies and journeying from Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, to Fort Laramie, some three hundred miles west of Fort Kearney. There were twenty-five wagons in the train, each wagon drawn by from six to eight yoke of oxen, and they averaged about fifteen miles a day. The conditions were so peaceful along the trail that the men were not generally armed, although most of them carried revolvers. Indians visited their camp daily, probably Pawnees, as this was Pawnee territory-begging for food or anything which pleased an Indian's fancy. On July 4th the train reached Fort Kearney, making a brief stop and continuing the journey on the trail south of the Platte. On July 6th, when opposite the mouth of Plum Creek (near the present Village of Lexington), they saw where Indians had committed depredations on an emigrant train. The train crossed the Platte near Julesburg, two days being required to make the crossing, it being necessary to unload some of the freight and to double teams on each wagon. At Fort Laramie the men with the wagon train were issued guns and ammunition, and on the return journey there were seventy-five wagons in the train and about one hundred armed men. Near O'Fallon's Bluffs the train passed through a large camp of Cheyenne Indians (old men and squaws), and a day or two days' journey farther east saw at a distance a large body of Indian warriors. From this band a small number, mounted, detached themselves, taking a course as if to intercept the wagon train. The train boss ordered the train into camp, and when the small party of Indians rode up "how-howing," the men had their guns handy. These Indians remained but a short time, when as if by signal they rode off at full speed. The train was not molested, but when it reached the mouth of Plum Creek they found where a train of eleven wagons had been destroyed and there were a large number of fresh graves beside the trail. Farther east they saw additional evidences of Indian depredations.
   Capt. H. E. Palmer, in his "History of the Powder River Expedition of 1865" (Nebraska State Historical Society, Vol. II), relates many incidents of this raid by the Cheyenne Sioux. From his account the following is quoted: "In August, 1864, I was ordered to report to General Curtis, who commanded the Department of Kansas, at Fort Leavenworth, and was by him instructed to take command of a detachment of the Eleventh Ohio Volunteer Corps, sixty men, every one of them lately Confederate soldiers with John Morgan in his raid into Ohio, captured there and confined at Columbus. They had enlisted in the Federal service under the pledge that they were to fight Indians and not rebels. I was to conduct those men to Fort Kearney, and there turn them over


to Captain Humphreyville of the Eleventh Ohio. On my way out, near Big Sandy, now Alexandria, in Thayer County, Nebraska, I met a party of freighters and stage coach passengers on horseback, and some few ranchmen, fleeing from the Little Blue Valley. They told me a terrible story, that the Indians were just in their rear and how they had massacred the people just west of them, none knew how many. All knew that the Cheyennes had made a raid into the Little Blue Valley, striking down all before them. After camping for dinner at this place, and seeing the last citizen disappear towards the states, I pushed on toward the Little Blue, camping in the valley, and saw two Indians about five miles away on a hill as I went into camp. The next day passed Ewbank's ranch, and found there little children from three to seven years old, who had been taken by the heels and swung around against the log cabin, beating their heads into a jelly. The hired girl was found some fifteen rods from the ranch, staked out on the prairie, tied by her hands and feet, naked, and her body full of arrows and horribly mangled. Not far from this was the body of Ewbank, whiskers cut offf, body most fearfully mutilated. The buildings had been burned and the ruins still smoking. Nearly the same scene of desolation and murder was witnessed at Spring ranch. Camped that night at Liberty farm. Next day passed trains, in one place seventy wagons loaded with merchandise, en route for Denver. The teamsters had mounted their mules and made their escape. The Indians had opened boxes containing dry goods, taking great bolts of calicoes and other cloths, carried off all they wanted, and scattered the balance, all they could, around over the prairie. * * * These Indians had attacked the troops at Pawnee ranch under command of Capt. E. B. Murphy of the Seventh Iowa Cavalry, and had driven them into Fort Kearney, although he had with him about one hundred and fifty men and two pieces of artillery. By this time the main body of the Indians was far away in the Republican Valley, en route for the Solomon River. I followed their rear guard to a point near where the Town of Franklin, in Franklin County, on the Republican, now stands. Camped there one night and then marched north to Fort Kearney. On that day's march we saw millions of buffalo."
   This raid on the Little Blue was made by the Cheyennes under the command of Black Kettle, One-Eyed George Bent, Two Faces and others. Mrs. Ewbank and Miss Laura Boyer were carried away captives. We ransomed them from the Indians, who brought them to Fort Laramie in January, 1865. Just prior to this outbreak on the Little Blue a number of the same Indians had attacked a train near Plum Creek, thirty-one miles west of Fort Kearney, on the south side of the Platte, and killed several men. From Plum Creek they moved down the Little Blue, passing south of Fort Kearney.
   This band of Indians, says Captain Palmer, was attacked by Colorado troops under command of Col. J. M. Chivington, on November 29, 1864, in their camp on Sand Creek, about one hundred and ten miles southeast of Denver. The Indians were surprised, and according to the very best estimate five hundred or six hundred were killed--men, women and children.
   The story of this memorable stampede, as relates to settlers in what is now Buffalo County, as told by some who took part, is in substance .as follows: It had been a quiet, peaceful summer in the Wood River Valley in 1864. The set-


tilers had been busy with their farming operations and there was promise of a good crop of corn, and the vegetables, potatoes, beans, etc., were already being gathered and sold at Fort Kearney. On August 9th, James Oliver and Thomas Morgan, settlers living on Wood River, about midway between the present villages of Gibbon and Shelton, had gone to Fort Kearney with a load of vegetables, leaving their wives and children to keep company together at the home of Mr. Morgan. News of the outbreak reached the officers at the fort while Oliver and Morgan were there, and they were not allowed to return home to their families, but were pressed into service to defend the fort. Another settler by the name of Cook was also at the fort and he was sent to warn the settlers and to advise them to gather at Wood River Center prepared to defend themselves.
   The homes of these early settlers, some built of logs, some of sod, some dug-outs (holes in the ground), were all on the south side of Wood River, close to that stream, and the one farthest west was that of J. E. Boyd, the Boyd ranch, about one mile west of the present Village of Gibbon. Thus it was, in the dead of night, that Messenger Cook called these settlers from their sleep, informed them that the Indians were coming in great force, advising not to strike a light, as it might attract the attention of the Indians, but to go as quickly as possible to Wood River Center. Before daylight all the settlers within miles of this common center had been warned and had assembled, many with little more clothing than when awakened from their sleep. August Meyer, now (1908) living at Shelton, a German, who had served five years in the regular service, was chosen captain and at once organized his force as best he could, establishing a line of pickets. At this center there was being built a log stable, yet without a roof. Into this stable the women and children were placed, while all awaited the coming of the Indians. When morning came one settler mounted his horse and started towards his home. He soon returned in great haste, saying he saw a band of Indians on the north side of Wood River in the rear of his home. After a long anxious time of waiting, four men, mounted, were sent to see what had become of the Indians the settler reported to have seen. When this party returned they reported that in the rear of the ranch, and across Wood River, was a bunch of buffalo feeding, and doubtless in his fright the settler mistook these buffalo for Indians. So far as can be recalled, the following are the names of persons and families residing at that date in what is now Buffalo County and most of whom gathered at Wood River Center on the occasion of this stampede; J. E. Boyd and family, John Britt, George Burke, Crane brothers, Cook and family, H. Dugdale and family, Mrs. Francis and children, Huff and family, French George, Augustus Meyer and wife, Edward (Ted) Oliver and wife, James Oliver and family, Mrs. Sarah Oliver and her children, Robert, John, Sarah Ann, Jane and Eliza, Mrs. David Owen and son, Joseph Owen, Thomas Morgan and family, Payne and family, Thomas Peck and family, Jack Staats and family, Story and family, Tague and family, Mrs. Wilson and children, William Nutter and family.
   During the day James Oliver and Thomas Morgan returned from Fort Kearney, bringing further news of the murders and horrible atrocities perpetrated by the Indians. The settlers remained at Wood River Center during the day and succeeding night, when it was agreed best for all to leave and each


family returned to their home, placed in wagons their household belongings, hitched to the wagons their ox teams and driving their few head of cows and other cattle, took the trail for Missouri River. In the haste of this leaving of home under such conditions, it is small wonder that one child was left asleep in the cradle and not missed until the parents were some distance on the trail, when it was discovered that baby Helen had been left behind and the wagon was halted while the anxious father hurried back for the little one. In the arms of mother were twin daughters only a few months of age. Except at Grand Island, where some of the settlers had thrown up breastworks and prepared to defend themselves, the entire country as far as the Missouri River was with a few exceptions deserted. When the fleeing settlers reached Omaha they found the stores closed, every able-bodied man pressed into service and armed, and mounted men patrolling the country for miles outside the Village of Omaha. Omaha, at that date (1864), was a straggling village with a population about the same as the present Village of Shelton. At an election held in 1864 (Morton History, Vol. I, page 495) Douglas County had cast 971 votes for delegate to Congress out of a total of 5,885 cast in the Territory of Nebraska. This would give Douglas. County a population of approximately four thousand, with a population in the City or Village of Omaha of approximately one thousand. Most of the fleeing settlers from the Wood River Center settlement pursued their journey into Iowa. William Nutter and family continued on to England, going by way of Quebec. The female members of the Oliver and Owen families remained in Iowa for a year before returning to their Wood River homes. James Oliver, Thomas Morgan and others returned in time to gather the crops on their claims. Augustus Meyer, Edward (Ted) Oliver, George Burke and John Britt did not leave during the stampede, but remained to care for their property. They were not molested and saw no hostile Indians.
   Mr. Meyer was in the employ of the Western Stage Company, in charge of their stage station near Wood River Center, where was kept a relay of horses, and Mr. Meyer states that his sense of duty to his employers would not permit of his leaving the stage property at such a time, and further, he had seen no Indians and did not greatly fear an attack. Mr. Meyer, a German, had served five years in the regular United States service, a portion of the time at Fort Kearney, and had been discharged from the service at Fort Kearney in 1861, since which time he had been in the employ of the Western Stage Company, first at Boyd's ranch, and later at their station near Wood River Center.
   The press of that date, 1864, in the Territory of Nebraska, roundly denounced the general Government for its failure to protect emigrants on the trail and settlers on the plains from attack by hostile Indians, and it seems that such denunciation was in a measure deserved, for it appears that no effort whatever was made by those in command at Fort Kearney to protect or come to the relief of settlers during this raid; in fact, two of the settlers, James Oliver and Thomas Morgan, were pressed into service to defend the fort, while their wives and children were left to the mercy of savage and barbarous Indians. When the settlers returned to their homes after the stampede they found small details of soldiers from the fort stationed at the Boyd ranch, Wood River Center and at settlements farther east toward Grand Island, in order to protect both the settlers


and also the emigrants traveling the California and Oregon trail. It should not be forgotten that this memorable raid occurred in the closing year of the great Civil war when every soldier was needed in the stupendous struggle for the preservation of the Union, and it also appears that the garrisons in the western forts and the troops employed to fight the Indians were largely captured Confederate soldiers who preferred service in fighting Indians (not rebels) rather than to remain prisoners of war, confined in armed camps.

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