History of Buffalo County
and Its People
by Samuel Clay Bassett
KEARNEY -- KEARNEY JUNCTION TIMES -- CENTRAL NEBRASKA PRESS -- KEARNEY HUB -- KEARNEY DEMOCRAT -- KEARNEY ENTERPRISE -- NEW ERA STANDARD -- KEARNEY MORNING TIMES -- WATSON RANCH -- CITIZENS WHO HAVE GAINED OFFICIAL STATE DISTINCTION -- FOUNDING OF KEARNEY -- INCORPORATION OF TOWN OF KEARNEY -- NEWSPAPERS -- EARLY REMINISCENCES -- SCHOOL ESTABLISHED -- SOCIETIES -- CHURCHES -- BANKS -- ORGANIZATION OF SCHOOL DISTRICT NO. 7 KEARNEY -- ORGANIZATION OF FIRST CHURCH IN COUNTY -- ORGANIZATION OF W. C. T. U. IN COUNTY -- VISIT OF MISS FRANCES E. WILLARD, NATIONAL PRESIDENT OF W. C. T. U. -- ORGANIZATION OF WOMAN'S HOME MISSIONARY SOCIETY -- PRESENTED WITH A DEED OF FIRST LOT DISPOSED OF IN ORIGINAL TOWN OF KEARNEY JUNCTION.
Of the history of the City of Kearney mention is made in various ways in this volume. Because the founding of the city was unique, no other city in the state founded under like conditions, a quite lengthy history is herein given under the title, "Founding the City of Kearney." To the student of history it seems most unfortunate that promoters and boomers should have so largely had control in the development of the city in the years of its early history.
The reaction which followed the boom period was most disastrous in a financial sense and for a considerable period retarded the further growth of the city. The extent to which promoters and speculators boomed the city and the reaction following is perhaps best made plain by the relation of the following bit of history bearing on the point. In the '90s, following the boom period, Capt. L. D. Forehand was employed to take the enumeration of school children in School District No. 7, and in this district is embraced the City of Kearney. It was required that the enumerator visit each dwelling house in the district. Mr. Forehand relates that for his own information he made note of the number of dwelling houses and the number vacant. He found 1,400 dwelling houses in the city 700 vacant. Of these vacant houses hundreds were moved out on the farms of Buffalo County, some of them quite twenty miles from the city. As a matter of history it might be added that few if any of the promoters remained as citizens of the city. Like birds of prey, when the bones were picked clean (when the bubble burst), they departed for fresh fields, greener pastures.
It is well to state that some of the buildings erected during the boom period have been of lasting benefit The Opera House Block, built at an expense of about ninety thousand dollars, still remains a landmark, its hall a source of much pleasure and usefulness to the people of the city and surrounding country.
HISTORY OF BUFFALO COUNTY
The City of Kearney of today (1915), the county seat town of Buffalo County, with a population of 6,202, as recorded in the 1910 United States census, is a substantial city, well supported by the country tributary thereto, assured of future growth and prosperity by reason of its location in the midst of a country having a soil of great fertility and abounding in agricultural resources as yet largely undeveloped. While certain features of the life and activities of the city and its people are treated elsewhere somewhat in detail, it may be said, that it is a city of homes, wide streets bordered with ornamental trees, miles of sidewalks and beginning in the year 1913 its principal streets and avenues are being paved.
Through the center of the city runs the Lincoln Highway, a great national highway extending across the continent from coast to coast and in the year 1915 a "seedling" mile of pavement was laid leading westward from the city.
The city owns a public waterworks system, with direct pressure, the mains extending to all parts of the city and to the cemetery, furnishing pure water for domestic purposes and the best of fire protection.
There is a privately owned gas plant and electric light and power plant, a history of which is elsewhere given. A city sewerage system was installed in the year 1888 at an expense of $70,000, city bonds for that purpose having been voted. The city cemetery is beautitfully [sic] located on the bluffs overlooking the city and Platte Valley, title to the Kearney cemetery grounds having been acquired June 28, 1876.
A city library, conveniently located, on valuable lots generously donated by Mrs. C. O. Norton, and under the efficient management of Mrs. Pauline Frank as librarian, is a strong educational force in the city and also reaches out to school districts and smaller towns adjacent to the city. An interesting history of Kearney public library achievements is elsewhere given by Mrs. C. V. D. Basten.
The public schools of the city are the pride and boast of its people and in the matter of school buildings, school equipment, the educational advantages offered are fully up-to-date in all particulars. The postoffice of the city is housed in a Government building, beautiful in design and finish, an ornament to the locality. In a beautiful park, conveniently located, there has been maintained a Chatauqua course for several years. There are two hospitals with up-to-date equipment and managed in accordance with scientific methods. The Buffalo County bar has numbered among its members men eminent in their profession and of recognized ability. The medical profession in the city is represented by men of ability, large experience and extensive practice. In the nature of things, in the history of the city, there have been bank failures, but to relate the history of such failures can serve, in a history way, no good purpose. The banks of the county seat town of 1915 are conservatively managed, fully serve the financial interest of the city and county, and are safe depositories of public and private funds, the last reports for the year 1915 showing a total of capital stock, $125,000; surplus, $108,041; deposits, $1,631,725.
Since the year 1876 there has been maintained, at Kearney, a company of state militia but whether continuously or not history does not disclose. In the beginning the company was known as "The Kearney Guards" with E. C. Calkins as captain, R. A. Julian, first lieutenant, James Jenkins, second lieutenant.
HISTORY OF BUFFALO COUNTY
In the year 1915 it was known as Nebraska National Guard, Company L., Fourth Infantry, "Norris Brown Guards." Captain, Lyn J. Butcher; first lieutenant, W. E. Harper; second lieutenant, F. G.Tracy.
A woman's club organized in 1888 was among the first of such clubs organized in the state and has proven a helpful factor in the social and educational life of the city.
In a newspaper way the city from the beginning,has been well and abundantly served. The Kearney Junction Times, L. B. Cunningham editor, was established in October, 1872, before the Town of Kearney Junction was incorporated. Later the name was changed to Buffalo County Journal and enjoyed a county wide circulation and exerted a strong and helpful influence through the county.
In February, 1873, The Central Nebraska Press was established by Webster and Rice H. Eaton, the latter managing editor. It was understood that "Web" Eaton received, as subsidy to induce the publication of a daily at Kearney Junction, lots donated by promoters interested in the sale of city lots. This publication, daily and weekly, served in an efficient manner, the interests of the city and surrounding country, taking rank as one of the leading papers of the state. The Press (weekly) passed into the hands of W. C. Holden and in a large sense became the personal organ of its editor, used too often to "get even," as it might be termed, rather than in the dissemination of news and the upbuilding of the community. In the history of the press of Buffalo County, W. C. Holden, as an editor, is in a class by himself as one given to what in later days was termed "muck raking," he seemed to take pleasure and delight in personal attacks on individuals, through the columns of his publication, and it would have occasioned little surprise had he been killed by some whom he thus attacked. It is true, that in some cases the provocation was great, and the parties guilty as publicly charged, but the Press under Mr. Holden's management lost public favor, public influence and public support.
In the year 1888, M. A. Brown, R. H. Eaton and others organized the Hub Printing Company and began the publication of The Daily Hub and also continued the publication of the original Central Nebraska Press, whose publication began in the year 1873. The Press was at first issued as a weekly but later, the Semi-Weekly Hub.
Mr. Eaton soon retired from editorial connection with the Hub, to become postmaster of Kearney, and M. A. Brown became publisher and editor.
The Hub in the twenty-five years of its publication has been the leading paper published in the county both in general circulation and as a molder of public opinion. In local news it covers both the city and county. The Hub carries a strong editorial page. As an editorial writer Mr. Brown shows wide reading and acquaintance with the thought of the day; his editorials are brief, timely, never dull or out of date and are widely quoted in the press of the state.
The Kearney Hub and The Kearney Hub Publishing Company represent in large measure the life work of M. A. Brown; a work useful and helpful to mankind.
From the silver anniversary edition of The Kearney Daily Hub, 1913:
"The Hub was founded upon the rather shaky foundations of the old Central Nebraska Press, established in 1873, by Webster and Rice Eaton. In the fall
HISTORY OF BUFFALO COUNTY
of 1888 the present editor and manager of the Hub came to Kearney upon the solicitation of a then Kearney citizen who had been visiting in Beatrice. The writer had a few months before disposed of the Beatrice Express, was comfortably situated in Beatrice and was not looking for a new location; but he visited Kearney, was pleased with what he saw, and impressed with the possibilities of the newspaper field in Central Nebraska. Rice Eaton and J. P. Johnson owned the plant of the Central Nebraska Press, which they had just revived. The writer bought the Johnson interest, retained Mr. Eaton, and organized the Hub Publishing Company. The writer was business manager and managing editor. Mr. Eaton for a short time conducted the editorial column. The name was changed to the Hub at the writer's suggestion, in harmony with the then greatly advertised fact that Kearney was the 'hub' of the continent, 1,733 miles from Boston and 1,733 miles from San Francisco.
"Then trouble began. Immediately followed the Kearney Daily Enterprise, subsidized with money and land by the 'boom' interests rampant at that time. The Kearney Journal was then printed as a daily but ceased publication long ago. The New Era was a weekly printed by Rhone Brothers, who disposed of the plant; it became the New Era-Standard, and the last publishers dropped the name and substituted the Times. Other newspapers have started up meantime. The Democrat, weekly, survives. But no other newspaper printed in Kearney twenty-five years ago, except the Hub, is now living. The boom went up the flume and caused many wrecks. Drouth came and the country was poverty stricken. Came also the panic and widespread insolvency. Nothing, barring pestilence, was lacking. The experience of those years, looked back upon, seems now like a frightful dream.
"So far as the Hub was concerned it had ceased to hope. There was nothing left except 'grit' and the determination to hang on. In 1896 the Hub was down in the lowest financial depths. In 1897 the writer effected a turn by means of which he secured entire personal control. The editor, his wife, and two daughters went to work to rebuild the paper's fallen fortunes."
THE KEARNEY DEMOCRAT
In the year 1891, The Kearney Democrat was established with F. L. Wheedon as editor and publisher. The Democrat has steadily grown in excellence and influence and its editor has achieved much in experience and wisdom. The Democrat has been a helpful factor in the development of our civilization towards higher ideals and has been the leading newspaper in the county in support of temprance legislation, the abolition of the open saloon.
As a local, county seat newspaper it has won an enviable rank.
While its editorial page shows study, investigation and a deep interest in matters relating to conditions affecting the City of Kearney, the state and the nation, its editor has seemed to have little interest in the development of the agricultural resources of the county the most vital of our interests in a material way.
One feature in the history of the Democrat is of special interest to a historian, and possibly has a bearing on both the success and influence of the Democrat as
HISTORY OF BUFFALO COUNTY
a newspaper and that is, that payments of subscription are acknowledged in its columns by a notice so skillfully and diplomatically worded as to give pleasure and, as the saying is, "leave a pleasant taste in the mouth."
THE KEARNEY ENTERPRISE
During the "boom" period there was started a daily known as The Kearney Enterprise. It was a subsidized publication, advertised to publish dispatches of the press association, and as a disseminator of world-wide news of the day, to equal dailies published in the metropolitan cities.
As a newspaper publication it might appropriately be described as a "hummer" a "sky rocket." It was short-lived.
About the year 1884 was established The New Era Standard, Rhone Brothers editors and publishers. It was understood it was established in the interests of George W. E. Dorsey, who was a candidate for Congress in the then "Big Third" District, and later elected. The Rhone Brothers were job printers, by trade and by preference, and the Standard was, with them, a secondary consideration.
For a time it enjoyed a considerable circulation, but did not win favor as a disseminator of local news or a strong, convincing force in the shaping of public opinion.
The Kearney Morning Times was established in 1906. Its publisher, T. B. Garrison, Sr.; editor, Martin F. Blank. The several changes which have occurred in both the ownership and editorial management of the Times, have not had a tendency to establish a fixed policy or to develop force and strength as a molder of public opinion, which should be the ideal, the goal, striven for by every newspaper publication and in the realization of which time is an important factor.The editor of the Times in 1915 was F. W. Brown.
THE WATSON RANCH
During the boom period in the life of the city, there was established, within the incorporated limits of the city what was known as The Watson Ranch. It embraced several hundred acres of land devoted, to farming, along certain lines, on an extensive scale. The ranch was largely a promotion scheme and was featured extensively in advertising sent out from Kearney. It attracted more than state-wide notice and was given much space in not only the daily press but in agricultural journals. The value and importance of the alfalfa plant was just beginning to be recognized in the state and on the Watson Ranch, about one thousand acres were devoted to alfalfa growing and with marked success. Unusual efforts were being put forth to encourage and develop the dairy business in the state and on the Watson Ranch, was kept one hundred or more milk cows, a large dairy barn built, a creamery established, and R. K. Emily, an experienced creamery man who had won high honors in a national competition of butter exhibited was employed to manage the creamery. The poultry yards
HISTORY OF BUFFALO COUNTY
were extensive. As recalled, some two thousand cherry trees were planted and for years furnished fruit in great abundance.
While the Watson Ranch is, in 1915, but a memory, it served, in its day a useful purpose, demonstrating, as Secretary R. W. Furnas used to say of exhibits at a state fair or exposition, "possibilities in agriculture." Of H. D. Watson's activities at Watson Ranch, one remains to bless his memory and for long years to come will stand as a living monument to his foresight and wisdom: along the right of way of the Union Pacific Railway running through Watson Ranch, and along the public highway leading to the city he planted trees and cared for them, and a century hence these trees which Mr. Watson planted and cared for will still add to the beauty of the landscape, and give pleasure to those who travel the great Overland Trail across the continent.
In recognition of Mr. Watson's worth and worthiness, the Commercial Club of Kearney adopted a set of resolutions asking that the seedling mile on the Lincoln Highway be named the H. D. Watson Boulevard. The city council acted on the request on November 16, 1915, and passed a city ordinance whereby the west part of Twenty-fourth Street was named "The H. D. Watson Boulevard," as a token in appreciation of the public services of Mr. Watson. Mr. Watson has planted or caused to be planted ten miles of trees in and adjacent to the city of Kearney, nine miles of which are still (1915) living. The H. D. Watson Boulevard is that part of Twenty-fourth Street lying west of the Kearney Canal tail-race and extending to the southeast corner of the State Industrial School grounds.
CITIZENS GAIN DISTINCTION
Of citizens of Kearney who have gained recognition as state officials the following named are recalled: Joseph Scott, commissioner of public lands and buildings; E. C. Calkins, Supreme Court Commissioner and regent of the university; W. D. Oldham, deputy attorney general and Supreme Court Commissioner; Norris Brown, deputy attorney general, attorney general, United States senator; L. B. Fifield and John T. Mallalieu, regents of the university; R. R. Greer, president of the State Board of Agriculture; Francis G. Hamer, justice of the Supreme Court; John T. Shahan, deputy state auditor; A. O. Thomas, state superintendent; C. H. Gregg, N. P. McDonald and Dan Morris, members of the board of education, state normal schools; J. N. Dryden, trustee of Nebraska Wesleyan University and president of Nebraska State Bar Association, 1916.
The churches of the city, its schools, public and sectarian, its lodges, social, fraternal, beneficial, are treated elsewhere somewhat in detail.
The activities of the city are best represented by its commercial club, composed of the business men of the city. The commercial club of the city, organized at an early date, has been a strong and directing force in the upbuilding of the city's business interests. At this date and for some years previous the club has maintained a salaried secretary with rooms in the city hall.
Located at Kearney are three state institutions: The State Industrial School for Boys, established in 1881; the State Normal School, established in 1905; the State Tuberculosis Hospital, established in 1911.
HISTORY OF BUFFALO COUNTY
The City of Kearney, for its municipal government, is divided into four wards, electing two councilmen from each ward, these with the mayor constitute the city council.
The officers of the city in 1915 were: Mayor, C. W. Kibler; city clerk, T. N. Hartzell; city treasurer, H. A. Webbert; police judge, John Wilson; city attorney, Warren Pratt; chief of police, T. A. Pickrell; night police, ---- [sic]; merchants' police, V. V. Smith; chief of fire department, H. H. Porter; assistant chief, Elmer Rhoades; street commissioner and building inspector, E. H. Morey; water commissioner and sewer inspector, J. A. Cleary; janitor city hall, driver auto fire truck, D. H. Sitorius; sexton of cemetery, Hampton S. Bell; city teamster, T. J. Waller; city engineer, E. H. Morey; city librarian, Mrs. Pauline Frank; city physician, Dr. L. M. Stearns; president of council, J. D. Loewenstein.
Councilmen-S. E. Hawley, J. C. Mercer, First Ward; J. D. Loewenstein, R. M. Barney, Second Ward; T. H. Bolte, A. J. Mercer, Third Ward; F. M. Arbuckle, E. A. Miller, Fourth Ward.
FOUNDING THE CITY OF KEARNEY
The conditions which led to the founding of the City of Kearney were unusual; the methods employed are a matter of history.
Both the Union Pacific and Burlington and Missouri River railways were land grant roads, the charter of the latter, from the general government, required that it make junction with the Union Pacific at a point east of the one hundredth meridian.
LOCATING THE JUNCTION POINT
April 11, 1871, D. N. Smith, agent for the town-site department of the Burlington Railway, in company with Moses Syndenham and Rev. Ashbury Collins visited Buffalo County and located the junction point of the two roads. The records disclose that on May 3, 1871, D. N. Smith purchased of the Union Pacific Railway Company, all of section one (1) and part of eleven (11), township 8, range 16 in Buffalo County--in all 993.10 acres for the sum of $2,979.30, an average price of $3 per acre. On April 21, 1871, friendly parties filed pre-emption claims on the north one-half of section two (2) town 8, range 16 and at the earliest possible date pre-emption proof was made on these claims and on November 21, 1871, D. N. Smith purchased these two claims, 300 acres in all, for the sum of $500 each. In February, 1872, another quarter section of Section No. 2 was purchased by Mr. Smith, agent for the South Platte Land Company. Thus it will be seen that nearly a year before the Burlington and Missouri River Railroad made junction with the Union Pacific, the South Platte Land Company, by its agent D. N. Smith, had secured in a body, covering the junction point, 1,473. 10 acres of land at a total expense of approximately $4,4i9.00.
SCHOOL SECTION NUMBER 36
It was doubtless the intention of the South Platte Land Company to secure possession of school section No. 36, adjoining, on the north, the town-site, the
HISTORY OF BUFFALO COUNTY
minimum price for such lands being $7 per acre, some $4,480 for the section. At that date school lands were in charge of the county board, and the county commissioners of Buffalo County would not permit the sale. C. Putnam was employed to survey this section into lots and acreage property. In June, 1873, the county board appointed F. S. Trew, D. Allen Crowell and J. Marsh Grant to appraise the value of these lots; the appraised value as reported was $49,108.00.
At a later date--1874--these lots were sold at public auction by the treasurer of Buffalo County, the state realizing, from this sale, approximately $67,000 for the lots in school section No. 36.
SURVEYING THE TOWN-SITE OF KEARNEY
During the summer of 1871 Anselmo B. Smith surveyed, into city lots, the original town-site of Kearney Junction and the original plat was filed for record in the county clerk's office October 27, 1871.
This survey and plat comprised all of section one (1) as aforesaid.
COMPLETION OF THE BURLINGTON
The Burlington was completed and made junction with the Union Pacific at Kearney, September 1, 1872. The Burlington built a union station at the junction point but the Union Pacific refused to stop its trains at the union station and continued to make its stop at the Junction House station on section No. 2, about 1 mile to the west; the Union Pacific demanded an interest in the town-site, and on September 14, 1872, title to one-half of the lots in the original town-site of Kearney Junction was conveyed to John Duff, trustee for the Union Pacific Railway Company, the consideration being $1,075.18.
A DREAM OF THE FUTURE
Let us consider briefly the period between the completion of the B. & M. Railway to Kearney, September 1, 1872, and the incorporation of the Town of Kearney Junction, November 30, 1872, three months of time.
The spirit of the West, the accomplishment of results regardless of obstacles, legal and otherwise; regardless of customs or well established precedents of older communities was forcibly illustrated in the founding of the Town of Kearney Junction and more especially in the incorporation thereof. Their optimism, like the prairies about them seemed without limit, their faith in the ultimate success of their plans unbounded. In old and well established communities it is customary for a stranger or new comer into such a community, if he does not bring with his credentials or letters of introduction, to at least seek introduction and to generally take an interest and an active part in public affairs. Not so the early settler in Buffalo County, those who helped found the City of Kearney Junction; they "arrived," possibly in a prairie schooner, possibly on the evening train of the Union Pacific or the B. & M. and the next morning we find them full-fledged citizens, coat off, sleeves rolled up, not only taking part in public affairs but taking a leading part, originating new plans, directing what shall be done.
HISTORY OF BUFFALO COUNTY
These pioneers confidently believed that at the junction point of these two great railway systems there would grow and develop one of the largest cities on the plains west of the Missouri River and firm in such faith and belief those on the ground floor planned the foundations accordingly.
Their "Dream of the Future" was rosy with promise,
The prospect alluring--To doubt was a crime;
Though we question their judgment and smile at their boasting,
We all must admit that their faith was sublime.
POPULATION AT DATE OF INCORPORATION
It would be a quite natural conclusion that at the date of incorporating the Town of Kearney Junction there was a town, or a village at least, of considerable size, many houses and a few hundreds of population necessitating incorporation in order that its affairs might be properly regulated and controlled, but this appears not to have been the case; there seems to be the best of evidence to warrant the statement that at the date, November 30, 1872, when was incorporated the Town of Kearney Junction, the population of the incorporated area was not to exceed one hundred souls. During this period Jasper L. Walker and Paul Moore, living in the eastern portion of the county, while en route for a buffalo hunt south of the Platte River, visited the junction and Mr. Walker states that he took pains to count the buildings erected or nearing completion and that the number was fourteen (14); these buildings were all located on either the Perkins and Harford addition on section 35 or on school section No. 36. He recalls that workmen were engaged in excavating and laying the foundation for the Burlington round house.
In Vol. 1, Number 1, of the Kearney Junction Times (L. B. Cunningham, editor), under date of October 12, 1872, in an editorial describing conditions , mention is made as follows: "Kearney Junction has two hotels (Harrold House, S. & J. Murphy, Depot House, E. E. Clark); one dry goods store (J. S. Chandler); one meat market; one painters shop; one blacksmith shop (John Mahon); four lumber yards (one More and Sutherland); one furniture store (N, H. Hemiup & Allison); one tin and hardware store; about twenty dwelling houses. Personal mention is made of Frank Perkins, - Hartford, --- King, Capt. I. B. Wambaugh, -- Porter, Rev. Wm. Morse, J. M. Grant, Mr. (H. M.) Elliott, who had residences on Greeley Avenue; Col. W. W. Patterson was agent for railroad city lots; the death of Miss Sarah Richardson; Hamer and Conner attorneys at law; H. H. Achey, carpenter and builder; J. B. Randall, plasterer; Nightengale and Keens (F. G.), druggists; also that Kearney has three preachers, Rev. Wm. Morse, Rev. Asbury Collins, Rev. Nahum Gould; four doctors (Dr. E.S. Perkins)."
LIST OF TAXPAYERS
The only unit of assessment for taxation purposes to which reference can be made at that date is school district No. 7, which was organized March 8, 1872. This school district had an area of more than one hundred and twenty square
HISTORY OF BUFFALO COUNTY
miles and embraced within its limits all of area incorporated in the Town of Kearney Junction. The tax list of the county for the year 1872 discloses that in school district No. 7, there were in that year nineteen (19) persons against whom personal taxes were levied; it also appears that of the nineteen named, seven did not pay the tax levied, also against seven only a poll tax was levied.
The names of these persons against which said personal tax was levied were: John Bugler, Asbury Collins, M. M. Collins, Fred and E. Cuddebeck, F. N. Dart, Edward Delhanty, George Enderly, Jacob Enderly, M. F. Fagly, Wilson Hewett, E. T. Jay, John Mahon, W. F. Marsh, Joseph McClure, W. W. Patterson, James A. Smith, F. R. Wood, T. J. Walker. The original town-site of Kearney Junction, platted and recorded in 1871, was, in the year 1872, valued for assessment purposes at $4,375, or at the rate of about $7 per acre.
The enumeration of school children, taken in April, 1873, gave a total of 467 for the county, making the population of the county at that date approximately one thousand six hundred and fifteen; this enumeration of school children in district No. 7 (as above) disclosed forty-five children of school age, making the total population in the district approximately one hundred and fifty-five; this population for school district No. 7 in which was embraced the incorporated Town of Kearney Junction.
Of the nineteen taxpayers herein named, the records disclose that twelve of the number had, at that date, filed upon homestead or pre-emption claims: J. A. Smith, W. F. Marsh, Asbury Collins, Fred Cuddebeck, J. Cuddebeck, F. N. Dart, E. T. Jay and W. W. Patterson, within the limits of what is now (1915) Riverdale Township, and that George Enderly, Jacob Enderly, John Mahon and Jacob McClure had filed on like Government claims in what is now Center Township.
LEGAL REQUIREMENTS TO INCORPORATE A TOWN OR VILLAGE
At the date in mind (November 30, 1872), the statutes of Nebraska required in order to incorporate a town or village, "That whenever a majority of the inhabitants of any town or village within this state shall present a petition to the board of county commissioners of the county in which said town or village is situated, setting forth the metes and bounds of their town or village, and the commons belonging thereto, and praying that they be incorporated, * * * and the county commissioners shall be satisfied that a majority of the taxable male inhabitants of such town or village have signed such petition, and that the prayer of the same is reasonable, the board of county commissioners may declare such town or village incorporated * * *."
While the legal requirements to incorporate a town or village were not difficult to comply with it will be well for students of history to question whether "The prayer of the petitioners was reasonable." '
INCORPORATION OF THE TOWN OF KEARNEY JUNCTION
At a meeting of the board of county commissioners, November 30, 1872, W. F. McClure, Patrick Walsh and Dan A. Crowell, commissioners, the records
HISTORY OF BUFFALO COUNTY
disclose that: "A petition was presented by citizens of Kearney Junction praying to be incorporated into a town to be known as 'Town of Kearney Junction,' to include the following described lands, viz: sections 1, 2, 3, 10, 11 and 12, town No. 8, range No. 16; sections 24, 25, 26, 27, 34; 35 and 36, town No. 9 range No. 16; and sections 6 and 7, town No. 8, range No. 16; sections 30, 31, town No. 9, range No. 15, and also the territory extending southward from the mainland in front of said sections 10, 11 and 12, town No. 8, range No. 16, and section No. 7, town No. 8, range No. 15, and of the same width to the channel of the Platte River, was received and on motion agreed to, and the appointing of the following trustees ratified: John Mahon, D. B. Marsh, L. R. More, E. B. Carter and J. S. Chandler." The records do not give the names of the petitioners neither does a prolonged search disclose that such a petition is on file in the office of the county clerk. The records do not disclose the number of petitioners, whether the petitioners were a majority of the inhabitants or whether a majority of the taxable inhabitants had signed the petition. Thus on November 30, 1872, not to exceed, one hundred inhabitants (men, women, and children), a majority of the men not legal voters, less than a score of the men listed as taxable even to the extent of a poll tax, incorporated an area of more than eighteen sections of land and named it Town of Kearney Junction.
In the light of today (1915), in the effort to comprehend and make plain the sublime faith, the magnificent dream of the future, which inspired, a mere handful of pioneers to incorporate, on the treeless and wind-swept prairies of Nebraska, where yet blanket Indians, carrying bows and arrows, hunted the wild game, a town having an area exceeding eighteen sections of land, whereon were living, of white people, less than one hundred souls, let us consider and compare conditions, requirements as to population and incorporated area in the cities of Lincoln and Omaha in the census year 1910:
Year Population Incorporated Area Lincoln .................. 1910 43,973 4,799-5 acres Omaha .................. 1910 124,096 15,680 acres Town of Kearney Junction. 1872 100 11,900 acres
PERSONNEL OF THE TRUSTEES
In the absence of official record or published accounts giving the names of individuals who were chiefly instrumental in the incorporation of the Town of Kearney Junction, it seems fair to presume that the men named as its first trustees were among the prime movers, the leading spirits in the matter. This being assumed, as a matter of history, it seems pertinent to inquire, what manner of men were these whose visions of growth and development are marvelous to contemplate? Who among them might be termed leading spirits, enthusing and directing all with whom they came in contact?
HISTORY OF BUFFALO COUNTY
E. B. CARTER
The chairman of the board of trustees, E.B. Carter, engaged in the jewelry business, but after a few years moved to Omaha. He was a man pleasing in address and manner, prominent in Masonic circles, popular in the community, but lacking in originality of thought and force of character necessary in leaving a lasting impress even in the early history and establishment of a community.
J. S. CHANDLER
J. S. Chandler erected a frame store building, engaged in the mercantile business for a brief period of time, disposing of his interests to R. R. Greer in 1873.
D. B. MARSH
D. B. Marsh was a carpenter by trade and took a Government claim in Center township (town 9, range 15) in the year 1872. He served for a short time as deputy sheriff of the county in the year 1876.
John Mahon enjoys the distinction--in this connection--of being the only member of the board of trustees, who, when appointed, was on the list of taxpayers in the county; in fact, of all persons of which mention is made in the official records of the Town of Kearney Junction during the incorporation period and until March 3, 1873, John Mahon is the only one whose name appears as a taxpayer in the county. Mr. Mahon was of Irish descnt [sic], born in Delaware County, N. Y., in 1824. In 1846 he enlisted, at Brooklyn, N. Y., in the navy and served on board the Trenton in the Mexican war. In the year 1848 he went, by water, to California, where he engaged in mining and other enterprises. In his published biography it is stated: "He came to Buffalo County in October, 1871, and was the first settler on the site where now stands the magnificent City of Kearney. He built the first house and helped to lay out the townsite. He had charge of the real estate belonging to the Union Pacific and B. & M. companies for about two years." Later he moved to Custer County and engaged in stock raising for about ten years and in 1889 was living on a farm near Armada, in Buffalo County.
L. R. MORE
It is believed that L. R. More was the leading spirit in the incorporation of the Town of Kearney Junction as well as a directing force for more than a score of years in its early history. L. R. More, of Scotch descent, was born in Delaware County, N. Y., in 1839. In a published biography of Mr. More it states that he was a cousin of Jay Gould, the railroad king. That he came to Buffalo County in 1871, having accumulated the sum of $25,000. That he estabished the first lumber yard, built the first brick building, the upper story being the only opera house in town; he also established the first bank, in 1872,
HISTORY OF BUFFALO COUNTY
known as More's Bank; he owned the first hotel, Grand Central, and was partner of John D. Seaman, the first wheat buyer in Kearney; that in 1873 he was appointed captain of the Kearney Guards by Governor Furnas and under his leadership the cowboy's "reign of terror" came to an end, they losing two of their number in a running fight. That in 1884 he sold what was known as More's Bank and the brick store adjacent for $22,000, taking $16,000 in stock in the Kearney National Bank and becoming its first president.
When Kearney had a beginning, Mr. More was thirty-three years of age; he had already been engaged in business and accumulated $25,000 as before noted. His subsequent career demonstrated that in business matters he was far-seeing and while always conservative was not adverse to making a venture when there was a reasonable prospect of success. There seems no question that on arrival Mr. More at once determined to make here his future home and to engage in business; a hasty and somewhat superficial search of the deed record of the county seems to disclose that the first deed of record for a lot in the Town of Kearney Junction was to Rev. Wm. Morse, lot 16, block 57), Perkins and Harford Addition, date September 20, 1872, consideration, $200. October 1, 1872, to L. R. More, lots 11 and 12, block 29, Perkins and Harford Addition, consideration, $200.
The first lots of record, sold in the original townsite, bear date May 15, 1873, to L. R. More, lots 535, 536, 467, 468; consideration, $950.
The proceedings of the town trustees, January 20, 1873, disclose that on motion of Mr. More the ordinances were so amended as to permit Mr. More's business partner to be appointed town treasurer and an additional office created, town collector (to which office Attorney F. G. Hamer was appointed); at a later date the business partner of Mr. More served as deputy county treasurer. From an early date the L. R. More Bank had for many years--at first a monopoly--and at all times a large per cent of deposits both county and city and Mr. More exerted much influence in the politics of both the city and county. As illustrating some of the methods by which county business was conducted at that dale and of Mr. More's influence in county affairs, it can be stated: First in explaination that to furnish material for numerous bridges needed and demanded bv early settlers was one of the most perplexing problems which confronted the county commissioners and very many requests for material for bridges, even where the parties offered to build the bridge without expense to the county for labor, were refused for lack of means to pay for material. Instances are recalled where failing to secure lumber for a bridge from the county commissioners, parties of some prominence and influence in their locality went direct to Mr. More with the result that the lumber firm of More & Sunderland furnished the material for the bridge, Mr. More remarking, "We'll take our chances in getting pay from the county."
In the long drawn out and expensive fight in the courts, over the awarding of the contract to build a bridge across the Platte, south of Kearney, the real "bone of contention" was whether the lumber firm of More & Sunderland should furnish the lumber for the structure.
Of the immediate period of which this article treats, Mr. More was the wealthiest man in the county and as he had the ready money to put into his
HISTORY OF BUFFALO COUNTY
ventures, he directed and controlled them and many others as well; he was aggressive but not popular and while he aspired to official positions such as state treasurer, lieutenant governor, and state senator, he failed in securing a nomination in the case of the first two named and was defeated for the office of state senator by Gen. A. H. Connor, yet he was quite successful in securing the election of local candidates whom he favored.
F. G.HAMER--A. H. CONNOR
An active force in the founding of the Town of Kearney Junction and the City of Kearney was Attorney F. G. Hamer. The first store building erected in the town was that of F. N. Dart, on the Perkins and Harford Addition. (This building was moved to Central Avenue, on the East Side and of late years has been used by A. H. Boltin in his fruit business.)
In Mr. Dart's store Attorney Hamer had his office, the furniture a table, a nail keg with an undressed sheepskin for a chair.
In these days of beginning, Attorney Hamer was regularly employed by L. R. More to look after the legal features of his business and of much of public business as well. In the fall of 1872 Mr. Hamer was the preferred candidate in the Kearney faction for the Legislature but was defeated for the nomination by D. P. Ashburn. Mr. Ashburn was the nominee of the republican party and W. F. Cody (Buffalo Bill) of the democratic, Mr. Ashburn being elected. At this period, an effort was made to divide Buffalo County by creating a new county out of portions of Buffalo and Dawson counties, the real object being to retain the county seat at Gibbon. The Kearney Junction people bitterly opposed such a division and Mr. Hamer spent much time during the legislative session of 1872-3 in securing the defeat of this measure. While Mr. Hamer took an active part in the founding of the city and in its development, his greated efforts have been along legal lines in which he has won both a name and fame. His partner for long years, Gen. A. H. Connor, also took an active part in these early struggles to found a city. General Connor was a man of striking personality, charming in manner and address, yet while the law firm of Hamer & Connor had a state wide reputation, General Connor seemingly trusted more to the inspiration of the moment, to his strength as an advocate, his skill as an orator, rather than as a student of law and familiar with all the details of the case at bar.
MEETINGS OF THE TOWN TRUSTEES
The incorporation of the Town of Kearney Junction completed, the trustees proceeded to the business of providing ordinances for the government of its official affairs. At the first meeting, January 16, 1873, E. B. Carter was chosen chairman and Sylvester S. St. John clerk.
On January i8th at a meeting, propositions for a place of meeting for the trustees was submitted by L. B. Cunningham, (L. B.) Fifield and L. R. More, proposition of L. R. More being accepted. On January 20th, a committee appointed to submit nominations for town officers, submitted a report as follows:
HISTORY OF BUFFALO COUNTY
Town treasurer and collector, H. V. Hoagland, David Anderson, Walter Colby, and W. C. Sunderland; for marshal, George E. Evans, A. I. Aitken, J. H. Mitchell, and David Anderson; for assessor, J. W. Leland. The officers appointed were: Assessor, J. W. Leland; collector, David Anderson; treasurer, W. C. Sunderland; marshal, George E. Evans; town attorney, A. H. Connor.
On January 28th, before Simon Murphy, notary public, the town officers took the oath of office. At the February 3d meeting it appears the marshal had resigned and the following named persons received votes for the office: John Bradley, W. P. P. St. Clair, J. H. Mitchell, and on third ballot, Samuel Wenzell was chosen marshal. At this meeting town ordinances were adopted in which the license fee for the sale of liquors was fixed at $50, and the bond of saloon keepers at from $1,000 to $5,000; also the license for billiard table and hall alleys $3 per month. The board of county commissioners had fixed the license fee for the sale of liquors at $300, and on January 18, 1873, had granted W. H. H. Fogg a license to sell liquors at Kearney Junction and it appears that Fogg had paid the fee of $300. While the fee for license to sell liquors had been fixed by the trustees at $50, it appears from the record of the proceedings of the board that saloons were openly in operation, the proprietors refusing take out license and that more difficulty was experienced by the trustees in their efforts to control the liquor business than with any other or all other branches of business in the town.
PROVIDE FOR PAVEMENTS
Among the ordinances adopted at this February 3d meeting of the trustees was one relative to the construction of pavements in the town. Doubtless had anyone suggested that it was hardly necessary to pass such an ordinance at that date, he would have been termed a knocker, and had he further ventured to prophesy that forty years would come and go ere any pavement was laid in street in the city (which was the case) he certainly would have been stigmatized as an "undesirable citizen."
PROCEEDINGS OF THE BOARD OF TRUSTEES
At the February 7, 1873, meeting, Samuel Wenzell having resigned as marshal, John Bradley was appointed, and T. J. Murphy engineer. On February 10th, the Central Nebraska Press (Webster and R. H. Eaton, editors), was made the official organ for the publication of town ordinances. Felt and Coffman made application for liquor license; their bond was fixed at $1,000, and license granted February 17th. This, appears to have been the first liquor license granted by the town trustees. This saloon appears to have been located on Nebraska Avenue, Perkins and Harford Addition. At this meeting the first dray license was issued to John Dermody. On March 3d, the office of marshall being vacant and on petition of numerous citizens, William Thomas was appointed. Among the ordinances adopted was one imposing a yearly tax of $1 on each dog owned or harbored by a resident of the town; licenses to keep a dog were issued to Jas. A. Smith, F. N. Dart, A. H. Connor, Nathan Campbell,
HISTORY OF BUFFALO COUNTY
Charles Wakefield, H. M. Elliott, C. T. Weldin, A. H. Barlow, T. Billesbach, C. Fifield, L. R. More, W. S. Holt, Max Boetscher and F. G. Hamer.
FIRST TOWN ELECTION
On May 5, 1873, was held the first election of the Town of Kearney Junction, at which the trustees chosen were: E. B. Carter, L. R. More, J. N. Keller, H. H. Achey and James O'Kane. Mr. Keller was station agent for the Union Pacific, Mr. Achey a contractor and builder and Mr. O'Kane a grocery and restaurant keeper south of the railroad. Mr. O'Kane was very popular with farmers and for some years enjoyed a large patronage until failing health necessitated his giving up the business.
At the May 19th meeting of the trustees, I. D. Bishop was appointed marshal, J. C. McAdams clerk, W. C. Sunderland treasurer, P. W. Wilson assessor, F. G. Hamer collector and A. H. Connor town attorney.
THE TOWN PRINTING
At the June 3d meeting, Mendel, Clapp and Cunningham submitted bids to do the town printing in the Kearney Junction Times at 25 cents per hundred words; Webster Eaton submitted a like bid of 9 cents in the Central Nebraska Weekly Press and 18 cents in the daily Press; the bid of Mr. Eaton was accepted in both the weekly and daily.
On June 23d dray licenses were issued to Charles Christensen, John Dermody, John T. Wright and J. S. Harrington. Liquor licenses to James Kelly, Stimpson and Decker, H. H. Achey and A. J. Spaulding. Mention is made of the Grand Central Hotel.
A KNIGHTS OF PYTHIAS ORGANIZATION
On June 22d, arrangements were made with the Knights of Pythias to use their hall as a place of meeting for the town trustees. August i2th Thomas S. Nightengale was appointed town clerk; on October 12, 1873, an opinion was asked of Judge N. H. Hemiup as to best method to pursue to organize a city. November 3d, Wm. R. Firlong appointed town engineer and D. B. Clark, assessor; Attorney Sam L. Savidge employed to look over the town ordinances with a view to corrections and revision. Samuel Wenzell took oath of office as marshall; the chairman reported small success in obtaining the names of responsible parties who would become security for the cost of a fire engine if purchased by the town.
TAKING A CENSUS OF THE TOWN
The statutes of the state provided, "Section 1. All cities and towns of the state of Nebraska, containing more than five hundred and less than fifteen thousand inhabitants, shall be cities of the second class."