History of Buffalo County
and Its People
by Samuel Clay Bassett
THE COUNTY SEAT--THE FIRST COURTHOUSE--HAULING WOOD FROM THE LOUP RIVER--FIRST TERM OF COURT--LIST OF GRAND AND PETIT JURORS--OFFICERS OF THE COURT--BOUNDARIES OF JUDICIAL DISTRICT--REMOVAL OF COUNTY SEAT--BUILDING A SECOND COURTHOUSE--USING THE OLD COURTHOUSE--ACADEMY AT GIBBON--BAPTIST COLLEGE--UNITED BRETHREN COLLEGIATE INSTITUTE--COMMERCIAL COLLEGES -- FARMER'S INSTITUTE.
THE COUNTY SEAT
When on the first day of December, 1869, Governor David Butler called a special election to be held in Buffalo County, in order to reorganize the county, he designated that the election be held at the schoolhouse in Precinct No. 1, which was in the immediate vicinity of Wood River Center, and thus Wood River Center became the county seat of the reorganized county.
At this point, in the dwelling of Patrick Walsh, in an ironbound box, secured from Fort Kearney by Sergt. Michael Coady and presented to the county, all the records of the county were kept, the same being in possession of County Judge Patrick Walsh. The official meetings of the county commissioners were held at this point, Wood River Center, until the arrival of the colony in April, 1871. On May 13, 1871, a meeting of the commissioners was held at Gibbon. At this meeting the commissioners authorized the holding of their meetings at Gibbon, it being a more convenient point. About this date, Sergt. Michael Coady, county clerk, who resided at Fort Kearney, being in the military service of the United States, appointed Frank S. Trew, deputy county clerk and the county records were placed in Mr. Trew's keeping. George Gilmore had erected a cheap frame building, 12 by 16 feet in size as a land office. This building was used also by Mr. Trew as a land office and in this building was kept the county records and it was also used by the county as the office of the county clerk, county judge and county treasurer, Patrick Walsh being county judge and by appointment county treasurer. At the regular election held October 10, 1871, the county seat was, by vote, located at Gibbon. At the same election Aaron Ward was elected county clerk, Edward Oliver, treasurer; C. Putnam, superintendent of schools; O. E. Thompson, sheriff; B. F. Sammons, and W. F. McClure, commissioners. As recalled Frank S. Trew served as deputy county treasurer. On May 22, 1872, the county records were transferred to a building erected for a private residence being at this date (1915) the residence of Mr. F. M. Riggs. On this removal the county clerk was authorized to expend not to exceed $50 for a desk and other furniture for his office. The county offices and county records were kept in this
HISTORY OF BUFFALO COUNTY
buildiiig, for which a rental of $10 per month was paid by the county until February, 1873, when on the completion of the new courthouse the offices and records were transferred to that building.
On April 20, 1872, the commissioners, W. F. McClure and B, F. Sammons, ordered a special election to vote on the proposition of issuing courthouse bonds. This election was held May 7, 1872, and resulted as follows:
For bonds, 121 ; against bonds, 55; majority for bonds, 66. On June 8, 1872, Charles F. Driscoll, an architect from Omaha, appeared before the commission and was authorized to furnish plans and specifications for the courthouse building. He received for drawing plans and specifications the sum of $423.
To build this courthouse there was issued $20,000 in bonds, bearing 10 per cent interest and dated July l, 1872. They were twenty-year bonds, optional after ten years. It might be of interest to state that these bonds, are still unpaid (1908); they were refunded in 1888 at 7 per cent interest; in 1893, refunded at 5 per cent interest; in 1800 at 3 60-100 per cent interest. The interest on these bonds from July 1, 1872, to date, 1908, approximates $51,480. The original bonds were sold to Farr & Trew, bankers at Gibbon, for 87½ cents, that being 5 cents higher than the bid of any other bidder.
On July 13, 1872, ten bids were received for the construction of the courthouse and jail, the jail being in the basement of the building. The contract was awarded to H. B. Dexter of Omaha to complete the building for $16,025. Mr. Dexter further agreeing that the brick would be manufactured at Gibbon. Mr. Dexter at once began the construction of the courthouse. The stone for the foundation and the lumber to be used were shipped from Omaha. The brick were made from clay and sand found in the immediate vicinity of Gibbon and it was planned to burn the brick with wood procured from the Loup River in the north part of the county, a distance of about twenty-five miles by the route necessarily traveled. The contract to cut the wood was taken by W. F. McClure and he was assisted by John Silvernail and Samuel Mattice. J. S. Chamberlain took the contract to haul the wood at $6 a cord and among those who hauled wood for this purpose were J. S. Chamberlain, W. W. Gibson, S. C. and B. C. Bassett, Bray Brothers and W. F. McClure. McClure hauled with a horse team, the rest with oxen. With three yoke of oxen two cords of wood could be hauled at a load, by doubling the teams from the Loup through the sand, a distance of about four miles. There was a drive of about twenty miles without water, making it necessary to drive in the night a portion of the trip as the oxen could not stand it without water if driven in the heat of the day. It required three days, with good luck, to make the trip with oxen, and it usually took longer as breakdowns occurred or wagon tires became loose, often in the night, when the wheel must be taken off, the tire heated over a wood fire, strips of burlap tacked on the wagon
The county received in cash for these bonds
The county has paid, approximately, in interest.
The county has yet to pay on bonds
HISTORY OF BUFFALO COUNTY
wheel felloe and the tire, when heated as hot as the green wood would heat it, crowded back on the wheel and cooled with all the water carried in the little five gallon kegs used on such trips. A loose tire was greatly dreaded as it meant a delay of some hours. The wood cut for this purpose was both cottonwood and oak. It was cut on the south side of the Loup, opposite the mouth of Beaver Creek on section 9, Garfield Township, the timber being on an island in the bend of the river and had thus been protected from prairie fires by having water on both sides of the timber.
There was no money in hauling this wood at $6 a cord and the last brick made were burned with coal, it being impossible to develop sufficient heat with the green wood. It might be mentioned that in tearing down this courthouse in 1908,brick used in the inside walls were found that had not been heated sufficiently hot in the making or burning to destroy the grass roots that had grown in the clay of which the brick had been made. Some of the men who hauled wood on this contract carried at times nothing but green corn to eat on the trip, and while green corn is a most toothsome article of food, especially as a side dish where a variety of foods comprise the meal, yet when one has corn for breakfast, corn for dinner, corn for supper, corn, corn, corn, it somehow loses its delicious toothsome flavor, especially when eaten cold. In the drive of about twenty miles, without water, in hot weather and hauling a heavy load, the oxen sometimes became so thirsty as to become unmanageable and it was necessary to unhitch from the load and go some miles to the water. At such times the oxen, frantic with thirst, would break away and bawling run like mad for water and drink till it seemed their hides would burst.
One serious accident occurred in the building of the courthouse. While working in a sand pit on the north side of Wood River, to secure sand for the construction of the building, the sand caved in and thereby William Brady lost his life. Mr. Brady was a member of the colony, a soldier of the Civil war, Company F, One Hundred and Twenty-third New York Infantry. His death occurred on September 17, 1872. He left a wife and four small children and none of the early settlers had a more arduous, laborious struggle than did Mrs. William Brady to support and educate her family of children. She met this struggle, extending over many years, with fidelity and true courage and success crowned her efforts.
Just when the courthouse was completed the county records do not show. Final settlement was made with Mr. Dexter, the contractor, on April 1, 1873. The first meeting held in the new courthouse was on Washington's birthday, February 22, 1873. It was a public gathering of the people on the occasion it now seems, of the formal acceptance of the courthouse. The gathering was in the evening and among the other exercises was an address by Col. H. D. Niles, a local attorney. The exercises concluded with a dance, music for the same being furnished by the Thomas Brothers Orchestra, George, Aleck and Thorn Thomas, homesteaders living in the eastern part of the county. The first entry in the journal of the District Court in and for Buffalo County, is as follows: "The first term of District Court was called (as the law provided) for March 3, 1873. Judge failed to appear therefore I adjourn District Court until March 4, 1873.--Aaron Ward, clerk of the District Court in and for Buffalo County, Nebraska." The court was adjourned from day to day until March 6th when an order was
HISTORY OF BUFFALO COUNTY
received from Judge Maxwell adjourning court until April 3, 1873. This order was issued from Plattsmouth, Nebr.
In the Buffalo County Beacon of March 22, 1873, is given the names of grand and petit jurors, drawn to serve at the ensuing term of the District Court to be held at Gibbon on the 3d of April next: Grand Jury--A. D. George, J. P. Smith, A. Clark, F. D. Boardman, Miles B. Hunt, W. H. Kinney, Ed Oliver, Henry Dugdale, H. Hilficker, Aaron Scott, J. E. Judd, H. Fieldgrove, D. P. Crable, J. N. Keller, DeWitt Brown, S. W. Grant. Petit jury--G. Flehearty, George Hoge, David Harpst, William Patterson, E. S. Marsh, B. F. Sammons, Ira D. Bishop, George Norris, W. H. Barnes, J. Danner, C. O Childs, Miller H. Fagley, I.C. Starbuck, W. C. Sunderland, L. B. Cunningham, D. B. Allen, S. S. Curry, David Anderson, G. W. Tovey, Charles Lisch, Barny Foot, E. T. Jay, Robert Goar, W. Hewitt.
In regard to the first term of the District Court the journal records as follows: "At the adjourned March term, 1873, of the District Court of the Third Judicial District in and for Buffalo County, Nebraska, held at the courthouse in Gibbon in said county on the 3d day of April, 1873. Present Samuel Maxwell, judge of said court: M. B. Hoxie, district attorney; O. E. Thompson, sheriff; and Aaron Ward, clerk of said court." The sheriff read the names of (grand) jurors summoned by him and the follow reported present: A. D. George, J. P. Smith, A. Clark, W. H. Kenney, H. Dugdale, H. Hilficker, Aaron Scott, H. Fieldgrove, D. P. Crable and S. W. Grant. The court ordered that the sheriff complete the panel by selecting talesmen from those present, resulting as follows: J. W. Wiggins, S. V. Seeley, C. Putnam, J. M. Bayley, T. Q. George and P. K. Drury. C. Putnam was appointed foreman and the jury duly sworn and instructed. The first case was C. B. Parsons vs. Simon Murphy. The plaintiff filed stipulation and the case was settled without going to a jury. Henry D. Niles presented a certificate from the District Court of Ohio and was duly admitted to practice as an attorney. Norton H. Hemiup presented a diploma from the Supreme Court of the State of New York and was admitted to practice in this district. C. B. Parsons presented a certificate from Iowa and was duly admitted. James A. Smith was also admitted to practice upon presenting his certificate from Indiana. The grand jury reported "no indictments" and the jail in a satisfactory condition. It does not appear that a petit jury was impaneled and doubtless the only case before the court was the one mentioned. There is a tradition that at this term of court Judge Maxwell was presented with a pair of gloves or mittens as a token of respect and esteem as well as a souvenir of the occasion. If this be true the judge had need of them if he was out of doors on the wind swept prairies of the state on the 14th and 15th days of the same month when raged the memorable storm of '73.
At this first term of District Court held in the county it is interesting to note, so far as can be learned, whence came these persons who had a part in the holding of the term of court, representing as it did "The majesty of the law." The judge of the court, the clerk and three members of the grand jury, including the foreman were from the State of New York, the sheriff and one member of the juty natives of England, and of the other members of the jury, three came from Pinnsylvania, three from Massachusetts, two from Ohio, and one from Missouri.
HISTORY OF BUFFALO COUNTY
As the writer recalls from memory Messrs. F. G. Hamer, A. H. Connor and D. Westervelt were practicing attorneys in the county although their names are not mentioned as being in attendance at this term of court: Including these among the attorneys, three, Messrs. Connor, Hamer, and Smith, came from Indiana, Mr. Hemiup from New York, Mr. Niles from Ohio and Mr. Parsons from Iowa. Mr. Niles was the only attorney residing at Gibbon, his office being in the courthouse; the other attorneys resided at Kearney Junction. Of the twenty-three persons mentioned in the court record as performing duties in connection with the holding of this first term of District Court at least thirteen of the number were soldiers of the Civil war.
In the Civil war it was the custom in the formation of brigades, divisions and corps, to include in these formations regiments from many different states, as it tended to a spirit of emulation and inspiration reaching to every officer and private connected with a regiment. This spirit--pride of birth, country, state, what e'er one pleases to term it, pervades all classes, even those engaged in the making and execution of the law. Able attorneys, learned judges are inclined to give more weight, to place a greater degree of dependence upon a statute or a decision of the court coming from their own native state, and especially is it true that legislators are extremely jealous as regards the superiority of the laws in force in the state whence they came. In the making and executing of the law some of the results, that to a "layman" seems wholly unexplainable, when traced back to the original source are found to have had as a first cause this same spirit before referred to. The township organization law, enacted by the Nebraska Legislature in 1883 is a case in point as regards the making of the laws. This law, as a whole, required things to be done which it was utterly impossible to do. On investigation it was found that the committee which framed this law was composed of men who came from various states. New York, Ohio, Iowa, etc., having township organization and each member of the committee considered the law of his native state in this respect much the best. The result was that the Nebraska law was made up of sections taken bodily from the statutes of the states mentioned without careful supervision to make sure the various provisions would harmonize as a whole; the result, the requiring of impossible things to be done. This spirit of emulation on the part of early settlers, coming as they did from many different states,together with the fact that they were all, men and women, comparatively young, also hopeful, ambitious, courageous, has had much to do with the wonderful growth and development of the county and state.
At the date of holding the first term of District Court, the Third Judicial District in the state, of which Buffalo County formed a part, comprised not only all the territory north of the Platte River except the counties of Douglas and Sarpy, but that part of Dawson and Lincoln counties south of the Platte and all territory west of Lincoln County. The area of this Third Judicial District exceeded 50,000 square miles, an area greater than is comprised in either of the states of Ohio, Pennsylvania or New York.
Under the constitution of the state in force from 1866 to 1875 the Supreme Court was composed of three judges, to each of whom was also assigned the duties of district judge. The three judges in 1873 were George B. Lake, Daniel
HISTORY OF BUFFALO COUNTY
Gantt and Samuel Maxwell, the latter being assigned the Third Judicial District.
Under the state constitution adopted in 1875 there was created the Fifth Judicial District, embracing the counties of Buffalo, Adams, Webster, Franklin, Harlan, Kearney, Phelps, Gosper, Furnas, Hitchcock, Dundy, Chase, Cheyenne, Keith, Lincoln, Dawson, Sherman, Red Willow, Frontier and the unorganized territory west of said district.
In 1887 the Legislature created the Tenth Judicial District, embracing Buffalo, Dawson, Custer, Lincoln, Logan, Sherman, Keith and Cheyenne counties and the unorganized territory west of Logan County.
In 1891 the Legislature created the Twelfth Judicial District, embracing Buffalo, Dawson, Custer and Sherman counties.
In 1911 the Legislature changed the boundaries of the Twelfth District to include Custer, Sherman and Buffalo counties.
Before the first courthouse was completed agitation had begun for removal of the county seat. Time is too short, eternity too near, printer's ink and white paper too expensive, to even attempt to relate the history of a county seat fight. On August 24, 1874, the county commissioners, W. F. McClure, Patrick Walsh and J. E. Chidester, were induced to declare the courthouse unsafe and to order that no meetings except for county purposes be allowed in the building. On August 29, 1874, a petition was presented to the commissioners asking for a special election for the relocation of the county seat. On October 13, 1874, a special election for the relocation of the county seat was held, resulting in its removal to Kearney. The records do not show the number of votes cast for and against this question.
In the removal of the county seat the records were loaded in the night on a farm wagon by Joseph Scott, county clerk, and his deputy, F. G. Keens, arriving at Kearney Junction about 2 A. M., and were deposited in a heap on the floor of the Chandler Building, being guarded until morning by F. G. Keens, then a lad of twenty-one years. The Chandler Building then stood on the lot now occupied by the Presbyterian Church. This building is still standing on the west side of Central Avenue and is occupied as a millinery store. About July 1, 1875, the records were removed to the R. R. Greer Building on Twenty-fourth Street, just west of the Catholic Church, and remained there until January 4, 1876. The Greer Building is still standing (1912) ,on the east side of Central Avenue and is occupied by Greeks as a shoe shining parlor. Much of the early history of the county government was enacted in the Chandler and Greer buildings, while occupied as county offices, one of the most exciting and important events being the auction sale of lots in School Section No. 36, upon which lots then sold many of the buildings of the present City of Kearney now stand. During this period the sessions of the District Court were held in More's Hall, now (1912) the upper floor of the Gilcrest Lumber Company Building on Central Avenue. One of the inducements offered for the removal of the county seat was that the South Platte Land Company and the Union Pacific Railroad Company would donate to the county a site for a courthouse and also erect a building for courthouse purposes. The site donated is the one now in use by the county and which, for a consideration of $1, was deeded to the county December 27, 1875, and thereon was erected in 1875 by these two companies a cheap frame building, two
HISTORY OF BUFFALO COUNTY
stories high, and used by the county until the erection of the present courthouse. This building was first occupied by the county on January 4, 1876. At its own expense the county erected, on the present courthouse site, a small 1-story brick building, with fireproof vaults, for the safe keeping of county records, and in this building were the offices of the county clerk and treasurer. The frame building erected by the Union Pacific Railroad Company for use as a courthouse, when no longer needed for that purpose, was moved to another location, veneered with brick, and is now being used as the W. C. T. U. Hospital.
In 1886 a proposition was submitted to the voters of the county, and adopted, whereby a five-mill levy for the term of three years was authorized, the proceeds of the same to be used for the building of a courthouse. The understanding of the voters was that the cost of the completed courthouse would not exceed the amount of the levy voted, estimated at about $45,000, but the larger per cent of the levy was used in the foundation of the proposed courthouse and it was necessary for the voters to authorize the issue of county bonds in the amount of $45,000 with which to complete the courthouse building, making the actual cost of the present building $90,000. In the light of history, as viewed by the writer, the courthouse proposition has been unsatisfactory and disappointing from the date of the voting of the bonds to build the first courthouse until the present time. It was by means of representations, later found to be not true, that promoters induced the voters to authorize the issue of the $20,000 in bonds to build the first courthouse, and it was promoters, with city lots to sell, who secured the location for the present courthouse site at a point entirely unsatisfactory to the people of the county.
The casual reader of this history of the first courthouse in Buffalo County, whether he be an early settler or late comer, will be quite apt to exclaim: "What a waste of money! What utter foolishness on the part of some one or more persons that taxpayers should have been compelled to squander more than $70,000 in paying for a courthouse that was used by the county less than two years for courthouse purposes."
It seems best to complete, in a brief manner, the history of the first court house, the uses to which it was put, and possibly when this is understood it will appear that the erection of the building was not after all an entirely useless waste of public money. In 1875 there was established in the courthouse building an academic department of the Gibbon schools, District No. 2. Prof. W. S. Campbell was at the head of this academic department for two years. County Superintendent of Schools J. J. W. Place visited the schools on December 13, 1875, and in his official record reports as follows: "Spent the day in visiting the academic school in Gibbon. The scholars are enthusiastic in their studies. Lessons mostly perfect. Twenty-three scholars present. Prof. W. S. Campbell is an able teacher; he holds the only first grade certificate in the county."
On November 28, 1876, County Superintendent John Swenson records: "Visited the academic school at Gibbon. About thirty-five pupils in attendance, many of whom live out of the district and others have moved in to take advantage of this school. The brilliant success of this school is greatly owing to the personal character of Professor Campbell both as a man and as a teacher. There is need of another teacher in this department."
HISTORY OF BUFFALO COUNTY
Prof. M. T. Mallalieu succeeded Professor Campbell and for three years fully maintained the high standing of this school and the excellent work accomplished by the students in attendance. The necessity and importance of this school at that date can hardly be appreciated by those conversant with present educational advantages only. In all the territory of Central and Western Nebraska, at the dates mentioned, there was not a high school nor a school where the educational advantages offered were much above the present eighth grade in our common schools, hence it was that the academic department of the Gibbon schools offered superior educational advantages to students from a large territory and more especially to those students desiring to fit themselves as teachers in our common schools, and students came long distances to attend this school.
Equally as important and far-reaching in results were a series of county farmers' institutes held in the courthouse building from 1874 to 1880, at which were presented and discussed problems relating to the agriculture of the county, and the lessons there learned, the seed there sown, have brought forth fruit in great abundance to all the people of the county. In the growth and development of the county education has been the most important factor. This wonderful growth and development can be best illustrated by a brief comparison. In 1870 the population of the county was 103 and the value of all property for purposes of taxation $788,988, and 97 per cent of this amount was that of the railroad and telegraph companies. In 1900 the population of the county was 20,254, and the valuation of property, for purposes of taxation, in 1908, $35,276,110. The total amount of taxes levied in 1870 was $13,484.56, and in 1908 $298,998.91.
In 1882 there was established in the courthouse building the Nebraska Baptist College, at the head of which was Rev. G. W. Read, assisted by Rev. George Sutherland, now (1912) president of the Baptist College at Grand Island. This college was well attended and did excellent work in an educational way, but because of a more central location and financial considerations was removed to Grand Island in 1885. In 1886 there was established a collegiate institute under the control of the United Brethren Church, Rev. C. M. Brooke, principal. The attendance at this college was in excess of 100 students, and the educational advantages offered were of a high order. This college, after three years, removed to York, Neb., and takes rank as a leading college of the state. At a later date commercial colleges were conducted, first by Prof. U. S. Conn and last by Professors Boggs and Moody in 1904, so that for some thirty years the "First Courthouse" has been a temple of learning instead of a temple of justice. As before stated, there was pressing need, in the early history of the county, of schools offering the advantages of higher education, and by reason of the sheltering walls of the abandoned courthouse such advantages were provided and made use of by hundreds of students. From an educational standpoint it is believed Buffalo County never made a better investment of public money than in the erection of "The First Courthouse." In the '90s the courthouse was sold to School District No. 2, Gibbon, for the consideration of $1, the object being to enable that district to secure the permanent establishment of a commercial college. This project failed, and in 1908 the building was torn down and in its place erected an up-to-date high school building at an expense of approximately $25,000. Of the some 400,000 brick used in the construction of the courthouse building about 100,000 were used in the high school building.
BRIDGING THE PLATTE AT GIBBON AND KEARNEY JUNCTION--CONTRACT PRICE FOR GIBBON BRIDGE, $16.50 PER RUNNING FOOT--CONTRACT PRICE FOR KEARNEY BRIDGE, $8.50 PER RUNNING FOOT--"IT IS THEIR SKUNK AND THEY MUST SKIN IT," WRITES THE EDITOR OF THE BUFFALO COUNTY BEACON--MUCH BITTERNESS IN THE FACTIONAL FIGHT OVER THE BRIDGE QUESTION--DRIVING THE FIRST PILE FOR THE KEARNEY BRIDGE.
The first bridge across the Platte River in Buffalo County was south of Gibbon and completed in the spring of 1873. The contract price for this bridge was $16.50 per running foot, including approaches, and H. T. Clark of Omaha was the contractor. The bridge was built at the joint expense of Buffalo and Kearney counties. The contract was let at Lowell, county seat of Kearney County, at a joint meeting of the county commissioners of both counties, the two commissioners on the part of Buffalo County being W. F. McClure of Center Precinct and B. F. Sammons of Shelton Precinct. The county bonds voted to build this bridge bore 10 per cent interest and are not at this date (1912) wholly paid, but have been refunded by bonds bearing 3 6-10 per cent interest. The settlement of the Republican Valley to the south began in 1872-73 and the nearest railroad point for all that section, for at least one hundred miles, was at Lowell on the Burlington and at Gibbon and Kearney Junction on the Union Pacific, the Burlington having also made junction with the Union Pacific Kearney Junction in September, 1872. Large quantities of lumber and household supplies were needed by the settlers south of the Platte and Kearney Junction business men were greatly handicapped on account of lack of a bridge across the Platte.
A proposition to vote county bonds to build a bridge south of Kearney Junction was twice submitted to the voters and defeated, the defeat creating much bitterness of feeling as between Kearney Junction and the eastern portion of the county. In the Central Star, Moses H. Sydenham, editor, puplished at Centoria (near old Fort Kearney), under date of January 1, 1873, appears the following: "The people of Buffalo County are to vote a second time on the issuing of bonds for the purpose of building a bridge across the Platte River between Kearney Junction and Centoria. The first proposition not being satisfactory to the people generally was voted down.
"* * * Enterprising men have commenced to do business at Kearney Junction and it is only natural that they should seek to command all the trade
HISTORY OF BUFFALO COUNTY
possible of this great region of country, so soon to receive its large acquisitions of persevering pioneers."
On March 18, 1873, the county commissioners submitted to the voters of Kearney Junction precinct a proposition to bond that precinct for $23,000 to build a bridge, the bonds to bear 10 per cent interest.
This proposition carried and after litigation in the courts a contract was let by the county commissioners, W. F. McClure, Patrick Walsh and D. A. Crowell, to build a bridge of like specifications as the one south of Gibbon, the lowest bid being $8.50 per running foot. It was T. H. Clark, who received $16.50 per foot for building the Gibbon bridge, who bid to build a like bridge at Kearney Junction for $8.50. The writer does not believe, and neither was it generally believed, that the county commissioners who let the contract for the Gibbon bridge were paid by Mr. Clark to award him the contract, but rather that there was little or no competition in bridge building at the time the first contract was let and that Messrs. McClure and Sammons had no knowledge as to a fair price for the work. As a matter of history of the times and the rivalry that existed as between the citizens of Gibbon and Kearney Junction it is interesting to read the ilic following editorial found in the Buffalo County Beacon, published at Gibbon, A. J. Price, editor, which appeared in the issue of March 22, 1873. First is quoted the petition for voting the bonds: "We, the undersigned citizens of Kearney Junction Precinct, Buffalo County, Nebraska, are in favor of Kearney Junction voting bonds for $25,000, for the purpose of building a bridge across the Platte River at or near Keamey Junction." The editorial reads: "The above statement was presented to the commissioners on Tuesday last, numerously signed, and, though it is not a petition for an election, yet Walsh and Crowell issued proclamation for an election to be held in said precinct, Commissioner McClure voting no and ordering his protest to be recorded. These bonds have been twice defeated by a large majority in the whole county, the people having sense enough to keep their property free from such a damaging incumbrance; and we shall be astonished if the small territory of Kearney Junction Precinct votes to issue these bonds. If they do it will certainly bankrupt them as badly as several counties in Iowa are bankrupted, where many have sold their property for half its worth to get rid of the ruinous tax. But it is their own skunk and they must skin it.
"We warn them that they can safely console themselves with the idea of any trick or catch, for 'eternal vigilance' shall guard the people's interests, and so sure as they rush into this speculation, recklessly determined to dance, so surely they shall themselves pay the fiddler."
After many delays, caused by injunctions and other court proceedings, work was begun on the Kearney bridge. It was a great day when the first pile was driven. Kearney Junction had a population of 245, according to a census taken that year by J. W. Leland, and every male citizen of the town was in attendance at the ceremony attending the occasion.
The following account, published in the Central Nebraska Press, Webb & Rice H. Eaton, editors, gives an interesting report of the proceedings:
HISTORY OF BUFFALO COUNTY
"THE FIRST PILE DRIVEN
"A LARGE AND ENTHUSIASTIC CROWD AT THE RIVER
"THE CITIZENS OF THE TOWNSHIP SUPERINTEND THE WORK
"SPEECHES, ETC., ETC.
"Yesterday at 3.30 P. M. was the hour appointed to commence the operations of driving the first pile for the bridge over the Platte River. Most of the male inhabitants of the town assembled on the bank of the stream by the appointed time, all anxious to see a commencement made. The route had been surveyed and under the direction of Capt. L. R. Moore, the first pile was placed in position immediately south of Colorado Avenue, and at 4.56 o'clock, September 24, 1873, the ponderous cast iron hammer of the pile driver came down for the first time upon the first pile driven for the bridge that is soon to connect the north and south banks of the Platte, opposite this point. The Stars and Stripes had been nailed to a staff, and by Mr. Keens (F. G. Keens) was nailed to the driver. Everyone felt glorious and even the appearance of Sheriff Thompson (O. E. Thompson) with his pockets full of injunctions did not affect or stay matters in the least, for our folks have become so used to these little documents that they consider them part of the program on all important occasions. After the pile had received four or five hard thumps from the driver, Judge Hemiup (N. H. Hemiup) was called for and in a neat little speech of fifteen minutes told the people of the importance of this internal improvement, alluded to the trouble we had experienced in getting as far as we have, counseled obedience to the laws of the land and prophesied a bright future for Kearney and the surrounding country.
"He was followed by Judge Connor (A. H. Connor), who spoke about the same length of time. The judge spoke with much emphasis, denounced the enemies of the bridge in strong language, said we had been fought step by step in this bridge matter, but we had defeated the enemy wherever we had met them, and closed his remarks amid loud cheers from the assembly. The crowd then dispersed and the driver proceeded to finish the work of driving the first pile."