History of Buffalo County
and Its People
by Samuel Clay Bassett
COWBOY TROUBLES IN BUFFALO COUNTY -- GREAT HERDS OF TEXAN CATTLE -- ATTORNEY F. G. HAMER OFFERS TO WHIP THE WHOLE CROWD -- THE KEARNEY GUARDS -- THE KILLING OF MILTON COLLINS -- CAPTURE OF JORDON P. SMITH -- THE PRELIMINARY TRIAL -- FIRST TRIAL OF JORDON P. SMITH -- APPLICATION FOR CHANGE OF VENUE -- EDITORIAL FROM KEARNEY JUNCTION TIMES -- OFFICERS OF THE COURT -- LIST OF JURORS -- VERDICT OF THE JURY-SENTENCE OF THE COURT -- SECOND TRIAL OF SMITH -- SUMMARY OF TESTIMONY-ACCOUNT OF THE TRIAL BY JUDGE E. F. GRAY -- EXPENSE TO THE COUNTY OF THE TRIAL -- EDITOR M'NEW OF THE SHELTON CLIPPER, WRITES OF COWBOY TROUBLES AT KEARNEY -- MURDER OF AN UNARMED BOY BY THE CITY MARSHAL OF KEARNEY -- MARSHAL "SCARED TO DEATH -- CITIZENS OF KEARNEY UPHOLD THE MARSHAL.
(Note--While newspapers were published in the county since 1872, there are no files of such papers available of an earlier date than the year 1880. In preparing this historical sketch no copies of newspapers were available except one copy of the Kearney Junction Times of December 14, 1875, and a copy of the Lowell Register of May 16, 1876. The writer is greatly indebted to E. Bowker, clerk of the District Court, for the original court records in the case; to Judge Joel Hull of Kearney County, for copies of the records of the case in the Kearney County District Court; to Judge E. F. Gray of Fremont, who defended Jordon P. Smith; to Judge F. G. Hamer; and to Hon. I. D. Evans.)
COWBOY TROUBLES IN BUFFALO COUNTY
The cowboy troubles in Buffalo County date from about the year 1873. Kearney Junction had at that date a population of about two hundred and fifty, and as regards saloons and gambling and questionable resorts, which were in large measure responsible for the cowboy troubles, the town at that period and for years later was a quite "wide open" frontier town.
In the early '70s great herds of half-wild Texan cattle were driven from the great plains of Texas, leaving that state in a weak and half famished condition about April 1st and, moving slowly and allowed to graze, arrived in Nebraska about June 1st in a strong and thriving condition, and being held and grazed on the nutritious grasses of Nebraska were by September ready for market. A herd (so called) numbered about twenty-five hundred head and the writer well recalls a visit in 1871 to three great herds of these cattle--7,000 head in all--being held and grazed on Elm Island, a part of the Fort Kearney Military Reservation.
In the Buffalo County Beacon of July 13, 1872, appears the following: "A
HISTORY OF BUFFALO COUNTY
herd of 4,000 Texan cattle in charge of T. J. Wheat has arrived from Texas and are being held on Elm Island. These cattle are enroute to Fort Randall, there to be issued as a meat ration to the Indians. Buffalo are plenty on the south side of the Platte and the herders amused themselves with catching and branding some buffalo calves."
These herds were in charge of cowboys, many of whom were Texans and Mexicans. While in charge of a herd the cowboys were kept under reasonably good discipline, but when the herd had been disposed of and the herders paid off, they quite often repaired to the nearest frontier town where liquor was sold and engaged in a wild debauch--drinking, gambling and rioting. These cowboys were expert marksmen and horsemen, and nothing more delighted them than to ride into a saloon, demand the drinks at the point of a revolver and then go forth to "shoot up the town," as it was termed. This consisted of a wild ride through the streets, whooping, cursing and shooting in all directions. Kearney Junction was, in those days, a rendezvous for cowboys returning to Texas and who terrorized the inhabitants by their lawlessness. The most serious disturbances occurred in the fall of the year, and culminated in September, 1875, in the shooting of Milton M. Collins by Jordon P. Smith, foreman of a cowboy outfit, encamped on the outskirts of the city.
At times, during these troubles, citizens of the town armed themselves and patrolled the streets and also the trails leading into the town and horsemen coming towards the town were halted and questioned.
When the cowboys got on a rampage and riding up and down the streets fired off their revolvers in order to terrorize the inhabitants, some of the citizens would arm themselves and hiding behind cover return the fire, but so far as recalled no serious injury was done by either party.
In those early days F. G. Hamer was a struggling young attorney, located at Kearney Junction, and had already acquired something of a reputation as a scrapper. It is related that one day when quite a lot of cowboys were in town drinking and likely to make trouble, Attorney Hamer strolled over to some hitching racks where the cowboys had congregated and offered to fight the whole crowd, one at a time, "catch-as-catch-can," with the understanding that if he was found to be the best man they should leave town and make no trouble. The cowboys did not take up with the offer--that was not their way of fighting.
Realizing that some organized effort was necessary in order to protect the lives and property of the citizens, E. C. Calkins secured permission to organize a company of state militia known as Kearney Guards.
THE KEARNEY GUARDS
The Kearney Guards, Company B, State Militia, .was organized November 5, 1875; E. C. Calkins, captain; ---, first lieutenant; George S. Duncan, second lieutenant; number of men, 40; number of arms, 58; rounds of ammunition, 1,000. In a report to the adjutant-general under date of December 26, 1877, by Captain Calkins, is disclosed the following: First lieutenant, R. A. Julian; second lieutenant, James Jenkins; number or [sic] privates, 40; number of arms, breech-
HISTORY OF BUFFALO COUNTY
loading Springfield rifles 53, smooth bore muskets 20, carbines 9, 1,000 rounds of ammunition received, 315 expended, 685 on hand.
Both Captain Calkins and Lieutenant Jenkins are known to have been soldiers of the Civil war and doubtless many of the privates had seen like service, as a very considerable per cent of the early settlers of both the county and state had seen service in the Civil war and were then in the prime of life, their average ages being about thirty years. Captain Calkins was a good disciplinarian and the Kearney Guards were recognized as an efficient and well disciplined company.
Mr. Calkins, a native of New York, was a soldier of the Civil war and came to Buffalo County in 1873. He served as state senator, six years as regent of the State University and as a Supreme Court commissioner. His death occurred in 1912.
Notwithstanding a quite lengthy search among the records of the adjutant-general's bffice, in which the writer was kindly assisted by Adjutant-General Phelps, the above is all that can be learned as to the history of this company of state militia. To the writer it seems strange that such records (reports) should be missing and equally strange that no effort has been made to write a history, as it were, of Nebraska's territorial and state militia.
In a published biographical sketch of the life of L. R. More appears the following account of the organization of the Kearney Guards: "In 1873 Mr. More was appointed captain of the Kearney Guards by Governor Furnas. Under his leadership the cowboys' 'reign of terror' came to an end, they losing two of their number in a running battle." In search of the records in the adjutant-general's office the writer of this account of cowboy troubles could find no account or mention of L. R. More as captain of the Kearney Guards. So far as the official records seem to disclose the "guards" were organized in 1875, with E. C. Calkins as captain.
THE KILLING OF COLLINS
The cowboy troubles at Kearney Junction reached a culmination the 17th of September, 1875, when Jordon P. Smith, foreman of a cowboy outfit, shot and killed Milton. M. Collins, son of Judge and Mrs. Asbury Collins, who were among the earliest settlers of Buffalo County.
Jordon P. Smith had delivered a large herd of Texas cattle to the Indians in Southern Dakota and was returning to Texas with his men and ponies, and had halted at Kearney Junction for a carousal. His camp was on the Platte bottom near the bridge, and his ponies had strayed into a field of sod corn belonging to Collins. Smith had learned of the ponies being in the corn and that Collins wanted damages and had threatened that he would have his ponies or have blood. On the way to camp Smith met Collins riding towards town and they returned together. Collins was unarmed and when he attempted to dismount on reaching home, Smith shot him and killed him; Collins' wife standing in the door and witnessing the deed. After shooting Collins, Smith and his outfit crossed the Platte on the bridge south of town and were seen by M. D. Marsh of Gibbon, who was helping to move a stock of goods belonging to Hiram Hull from Lowell to Kearney Junction. It appears that Smith and one of his companions, Bert Brown, went
HISTORY OF BUFFALO COUNTY
up the Platte River and attempted to hide on an island in the Platte in Dawson County.
On the evening of September 18th the following telegram was received from Sheriff James of Dawson County:"Plum Creek, Nebraska, September 18, 1875. "Sheriff Anderson: Come up on train. Got one man and two horses; other man not yet; I have island all surrounded; men all tired out; send men and fresh horses from there. Answer soon. ("Signed) JAMES, Sheriff."
When this telegram was received, Sheriff Anderson, with a large posse of citizens of Kearney Junction, was in the Republican Valley hunting for Smith, and Col. John H. Roe selected eighteen men, among them S. W. Powers, J. P. Johnson, A. B. Richardson, Geo. H. Bickwell and E. J. Newland, who left for Plum Creek on the 9.15 train that evening and arrangements were made to send the horses on a freight train leaving at 10.40. At 10.30 a telegram came saying Smith had been arrested.
On Sunday morning, September 19th, Colonel Roe and S. W. Powers went to Plum Creek, returning in the evening with Smith, who was kept that night in Roe Brothers' real estate office and a hearing had on September 20th before County Judge D. Westervelt, Smith being bound over to the District Court and sent to Fremont, Dodge County, for safe keeping.
THE FIRST TRIAL OF JORDAN P. SMITH
Buffalo County at the date of this trial was in the Third Judicial District, consisting of the counties of Washington, Dodge, Platte, Cuming, Burt, Dakota, Dixon, Cedar, L'Eau-Aui-Court, Kearney, Lincoln, Hall, Buffalo, and the territory lying west of the same and north of the Platte River. Of this judicial district Samuel Maxwell was judge and M. B. Hoxie district attorney. The regular terms of District Court in and for Buffalo County were fixed by law on the first Monday in March and the second Monday in September. No term of court was held in September in Buffalo County, the term being adjourned to the second Monday in December. The Board of County Commissioners of Buffalo County requested Judge Maxwell to hold a special term of court in Buffalo County, but no such special term was held, and the court convened December 13th. The first day of this term the grand jury found a bill of indictment for murder in the first degree against Jordon P. Smith, Frederick Copeland and Bernadino Roach.
This grand jury was composed of the following, the court appointing F. S. Trew foreman: Daniel Stonebarger, I. B. Wambaugh, J. E. Kelsey, Jasper Fish, Nathan Campbell, S. F. Henninger, William Nutter, F. F. Blanchard, L. D. Grant, James Westervelt, H. E. Swan, J. S. Murphy, George H. Smith, J. J. Whittier.
It appears that the order of the court was for the sheriff to summon ninety-six men from residents of the county outside a limit of ten miles outside of Kearney Junction; this jury panel as talesmen from which to select a jury. The order to summon these talesmen was quashed but it appears that the sheriff immediately summoned the same men from those present.
HISTORY OF BUFFALO COUNTY
APPLICATION FOR CHANGE OF VENUE
In the affidavits filed by Smith's attorneys for a change of venue the writer of this historical sketch ventures to quote in order to properly demonstrate the state of public opinion both in regard to the Smith case and to the cowboys as well. In an affidavit Sheriff James, of Dawson County, states in substance that on the night of the 18th of September, 1875, about 10.30 o'clock, a party of citizens from Buffalo County came to Plum Creek, the deputy sheriff of said county was with them. The party were armed with guns and revolvers and during the night the party came to the jail where Sheriff James was guarding Smith, and the deputy sheriff of Buffalo County (D. B. Marsh) said, "The --- ought to be taken to Kearney and hung," also that threats were made to take them out of the jail and hang them to telegraph poles. The following (exhibit "A") is an editorial appearing in the December 14th (the trial of Smith then taking place) issue of the Daily (Kearney Junction) Times, L. B. Cunningham, editor:
"Our people are greatly concerned about what will be done with the herders, especially the cold-blooded murderer Smith. Where there is any doubt existing in the minds of any, whether a supposed criminal is the right one or not, and where the people may be unduly prejudiced against a prisoner, it may be well to have a change of venue. But in a case where there is a cold-blooded murder committed without provocation, and the murderer is known, positively, by everyone, then such a one should be tried right where the crime was committed; if it were upon the very self same spot, it would be better, and if found guilty, then let him hang. Let one wretched life compensate, so far as it can, for the other that is lost to us. Talk of prejudice, indeed. How can a mind be prejudiced where there is no shadow of a doubt? Here there is no doubt. Milton M. Collins was murdered, 'shot like a dog,' and for nothing, by this selfsame Smith. Whom is there that doubts? Wherein is the foundation for such doubts? The idea is a ridiculous one. A half simpleton would laugh at such folly. The juries have all been selected according to law. No objection can be founded on that ground. This individual committed a murder in our midst. Our people want no change of venue, they want no delay, no extra cost of thousands of dollars, probably, on account of change of venue and delay. We hope the authorities will see this matter in this light. Our people are as ready to give justice as any people. Let him, the particular one, have a fair trial right here, but let no injustice be done by the intrigue of shrewd attorneys. The people want no more cost and trouble than is positively necessary; they have already endured enough by these murderers."
Also it is the opinion of the writer of this sketch that the cowboy troubles at Kearney Junction, including the killing of Collins by Smith, were the direct outgrowth of the open saloon and the almost unrestricted sale of intoxicating liquors. In support of this opinion it can be said that Gibbon was the county seat of Buffalo County before the removal to Kearney Junction, and was a good trading point before there was a Kearney Junction and during the cowboy troubles
HISTORY OF BUFFALO COUNTY
herein related. That during these years--the early '70s--many herds of Texas cattle in charge of Texan and Mexican cowboys were held in the vicinity, and the herders did all their trading at Gibbon; also after delivering their cattle they often returned to Gibbon to buy supplies for the return journey. Gibbon had no open saloons and so far as can be recalled there was no trouble as between the cowboys and the citizens of Gibbon and the surrounding country.
OFFICERS OF THE COURT
The officers of the court at this trial were Samuel Maxwell, judge; M. B. Hoxie, district attorney. The attorneys for the defense were E. F. Gray of Fremont, and Warrington and Hewitt of Plum Creek. Hamer and Connor were attorneys for Copeland and Roach.
David Anderson, sheriff; Joseph Scott, county clerk and clerk of the District Court; F. G. Keens, deputy clerk. In the list of jurymen herewith given, following each name is the number of miles he resided from Kearney Junction, none residing nearer than ten miles: C. S. Bailey, 24; G. W. McKee, 14; E. W. Fawcett, 14; T. J. Shuffleberger, 18; Walter Shreve, 18; Louis Kocher, 16; William Pettitt, 10; Charles E. Butler, 12; Edmund Miller, 23; J. D. Drury, 14; Robert Hick, 15; Emory D. Hubbard, 15. By ballot C. S. Bailey was chosen foreman of the jury.
December 17th (three months from the date when the murder was committed) the jury returned the following verdict:
State of Nebraska vs. Jordon P. Smith Indictment for Murder. "We, the jury empaneled, charged and sworn to well and truly try and true determination make in the above entitled cause, do find the defendant, Jordon P. Smith, guilty of murder in the first degree. "(Signed) C. S. BAILEY, Foreman."
December 18th Judge Maxwell pronounced sentence as follows:
"And now and on this same day came the said parties into court the said State of Nebraska being represented by the district attorney and the said defendant being before the court in person and attended by his said counsel and thereupon came the district attorney and moved that the said defendant be brought to the bar of the court in person and attended by his counsel and having been asked by the court what further he hath to say why the judgment of the court should not be pronounced against him, answereth naught. It is therefore considered and adjudged by the court and the sentence of the court is, that you, Jordon P. Smith, be conveyed hence and confined in the jail of Buffalo County until Friday, the 7th day of April, 1876, and that on the 7th day of April, 1876, between the hours of 10 o'clock A. M. and 4 o'clock P. M., of said day, you be hanged by the neck until you are dead. "(Signed) SAMUEL MAXWELL, Judge."
December 20th Sheriff Anderson delivered Jordon P. Smith to Samuel McClay, sheriff of Lancaster County, for safe keeping in the jail of Lancaster County.
HISTORY OF BUFFALO COUNTY
The evidence in this case, as recalled by jurors, seems to disclose that Milton M. Collins, a farmer living south of Kearney Junction, in Buffalo County, in the morning of the 17th day of September, found a bunch of cow ponies in his cornfield and drove them into his corral. During the forenoon Jordon P. Smith, accompanied by some of his herders, came to Collins' place and claimed the ponies. Collins demanded $50 as damages, refusing to deliver the ponies until the damages were paid. They had a wordy quarrel, Smith claiming the damages did not amount to $50, and refusing to pay that much. Smith finally proposed to arbitrate the matter, he to choose one arbitrator, Collins to name one, and the two so named to choose the third, Smith agreeing to pay the award of the arbitrators. This proposition Collins would not accept and Smith and his party rode to the city and during the day visited the saloons, drinking and talking about the ponies, and on one occasion Smith remarked that he was going back "and have the ponies or have blood." In the afternoon Collins mounted his pony and rode towards the city, and meeting Smith and his party turned and rode back with them and the wordy argument in regard to the amount of damages was renewed. Smith was armed with a loaded revolver, while Collins was unarmed. The corral was back of the Collins house and as they rode by the house Collins stopped and Smith ordered him not to dismount. Collins dismounted from his pony and Smith shot him twice through the body, the wife of Collins standing in the doorway when her husband was shot. Collins staggered towards the house falling on the outside cellar. Smith claimed that he feared if Collins dismounted he would go to the house and get a gun and shoot him.
Milton M. Collins was aged twenty-four years at the date of his death. His widow died in June, 1876.
Writing in reference to this trial Judge F. G. Hamer says: "Hamer and Connor defended Copeland and Roach, who were tried in Buffalo County and acquitted. Copeland was a young printer from San Antonio, Tex.; he had never been a cowboy and came along with the herd for the pleasure of the trip. Roach was a full blooded Indian. There was very little testimony against them. About the most that could be said was that they were in the party with Smith when the shooting was done." These two men had no means; Copeland gave Judge Hamer a valuable saddle in payment for services. Jordon P. Smith's people were well-to-do and paid liberally for his defense.
SECOND TRIAL OF JORDON P. SMITH
On the 21st of March, 1876, the Supreme Court set aside the judgment resulting from the first trial and granted a new trial. On petition a change of venue was granted removing the cause to Kearney County and the trial was held at Lowell, the county seat, beginning on May 16, 1876.
The writer is indebted to Hon. I. D. Evans for a copy of the Lowell Register, dated May 19, 1876, giving an account of the second trial of Jordon P. Smith, Mr. Evans being at that date editor of the Register.
The following is the Register's account of the trial:
"Judge G. W. Post of the Fourth Judicial District, whose home is at York, presided under an arrangement made by Judge W. Gaslin, District Attorney
HISTORY OF BUFFALO COUNTY
Dillworth was assisted in the prosecution of the case by Attorneys McNamar of Plum Creek, Hamer & Connor and Swizer of Kearney. Judge Gray of Fremont, and Warrington & Hewett of Plum Creek, were counsel for the defense. John T. Bell, of Omaha, the official reporter.
"The following named constituted the jury, it taking a day to impanel the same: A. R. Harland, Nathan Salsbury, Hiram Nelson, Wm. Harland, Jas. H. Wilson, Daniel Bonge, Daniel Roberts, Charles Alexander, T. A. Cooper, Frank Barnhardt, John Shaffer and Wm. C. Johnson. John Heatherington was sheriff.
"Mr. Calhoun testified that Smith came to the store where he was working on the 17th of September, 1875, that in a conversation with Copeland, who was also there, in relation to the ponies, Smith said he would shoot Collins and wear his revolver out over his head unless he gave up the ponies. Afterwards Smith, Copeland and others went to Kelly's saloon to get something to drink. From there they went to Alice McDonald's 'cottage.' Here the matter was again discussed. Alice McDonald swore that during the conversation Smith offered to bet $30 with one of his companions that he would kill some man before he left town. That he would have the ponies or he would have blood. Leaving the 'cottage' Smith and his friends went south in the direction of Collins' house where the ponies were corralled. On the way they met Milton Collins riding toward town on horseback. Smith asked him where he was going. Collins replied that he was going to see about the damage done by the ponies. Smith after asking as to the amount of the damages offered to leave it to arbitration, when Collins remarked that they had other ways of settling such matters in this country (this was proven by the defense).
"At this Smith drew his revolver, pointed it at Collins' head and kept it in that position while they rode about half a mile to the latter's house, telling him he would shoot him if he said anything. Collins was in his shirt sleeves and unarmed. When they reached Mr. Collins' premises and he was in the act of dismounting, Smith with his pistol still pointing at him, told him to remain on the horse and let the ponies go or he would kill him. Just as Collins reached the ground Smith shot with unerring aim. Collins staggered toward the house and by the time he reached the door Smith had fired four additional shots at him. The other herders who had stationed themselves in a semi-circle around the deceased during the shooting, then liberated the ponies and started for camp, while Smith with a volunteer force of his men constituted themselves a rear guard to protect themselves from any demonstrations which might be made by the citizens. The verdict was murder in the second degree, the sentence thirty years in the penitentiary. The trial began Tuesday and was completed Friday."
At the same term of court John Williams was to be tried for the murder of the Vroomans. The two prisoners, Smith and Williams, were kept in the court room, on the second floor of the courthouse. Tuesday, about 9 o'clock at night, a mob estimated from fifty to one hundred and fifty in number assembled with the avowed object of hanging Williams. Judge Post, Sheriff Heatherington and all the attorneys in attendance at court repaired to the courthouse but it was not
HISTORY OF BUFFALO COUNTY
until about 1 o'clock in the morning that the mob was induced to disband and go home. The Register states that Judge Post stook [sic] Joel Hull, who it seems was credited with being the leader of the mob, in charge and kept him until after the crowd had dispersed. There has been a story current that an attempt, was made by a mob from Kearney to take and hang Smith, and also that the Kearney Guards, a militia company under command of Capt. E. C. Calkins and Lieuts. Ren Julian and James Jenkins, were on guard during this trial, but as the Register makes no mention of the matter it doubtless is mere hearsay.
ACCOUNT BY JUDGE E. F. GRAY
Writing in regard to this trial under date November 2, 1912, Judge Gray says, "That sentence (the one imposed at the trial held in Lowell) was revoked in the fall of 1876; then a change of venue to Adams County and trial had at Juniatta before Judge Wm. Gaslin. The verdict was manslaughter with a recommendation to mercy. But Judge Gaslin sentenced Smith to ten years of solitary confinement. The warden did not obey the solitary part of the sentence. Smith got the good time and actually came out in about seven years.
"I defended Smith in the first two trials and in the third had the assistance of 'Jim' Laird. One evening after supper, during the trial at Lowell, while Smith and another murderer that 'Jim' Laird defended and was waiting to try, were both left in the court room chained to the bar railings, and only one man on guard. Laird learned that an organized mob of some hundreds of men had come in from Kearney Junction to hang his client and mine, and thereupon Laird and I got out our little pocket pistols and started for the courthouse. We managed to get the password and get through the line of sentinels, and up into the court room; we got a prop for the lone guard to put against the door and then we got down in the narrow stairway and as the mob came in and up to the foot of the stairs we cocked our shooting irons and the mob skeedaddled. Judge Post and District Attorney Dillworth collected a posse to guard the prisoners and then the mob dispersed."
The population of Buffalo County at this date (1875) was approximately twenty-eight hundred and of Kearney Junction approximately seven hundred. Nearly 20 per cent of the voters of the county were summoned as grand jurymen or as talesmen from which to select the petit jury and of all of the talesmen thus summoned none lived within ten miles of Kearney Junction.
It is a conservative estimate to make that 80 per cent of the voters of the county were in attendance at the trial of Smith and it is also true that in no criminal event in the history of the county did so large a percent of the people come in touch, in contact, as it were, as in the trial of Jordon P. Smith for the murder of Milton M. Collins.
The expense of this trial to Buffalo County was $5,555.35. The first trial in the county being $3,886.65, the second trial in Kearney County $603, the third trial in Adams County $975.70.
In the year 1881 H. C. McNew, editor of The Shelton Clipper, writing of cowboy troubles at Kearney, says: "During the early days of Kearney that town had a good deal of trouble with herders who infested this section of Nebraska at that time.
HISTORY OF BUFFALO COUNTY
"It was at that place where Peeler received wounds that made him a cripple for life, and he is now living in Western Texas. He was a crack shot, using either hand with deadly effect, but he got hit twice with needle gun bullets during a midnight call of vigilantes. This knocked all the 'sand' out of him and settled him for life. 'Texas Spence' received deadly wounds during an afternoon's shooting match on the streets of Kearney between citizens and herders. He lived a few days and crossed to--no one knows. This about broke up the trouble and the town settled down to quietude and has ever since retained that state. Bill Bland was the leader of the herders in all this trouble. He was a bad man and met a violent death last summer at Fort Griffin, N. M., being shot down by a company of soldiers sent out into that country to kill off such characters. Robert Stimson, then city marshal, shot a 'tenderfoot' herder named Smith (Brown) whom he was attempting to take up the street."
THE MURDER OF BROWN BY CITY MARSHAL STIMSON
It was a beautiful day in the month of June that the writer and his brother visited the City of Kearney in order to purchase some harvesting machinery. As we drove into the city about 11 o'clock in the forenoon, we saw, south of the track, a young man riding at a rapid gait and making a great deal of unnecessary noise.
We put up our team at "Jimmie" O'Kane's and had started to visit A. L. Webb's implement store on the north side, when, as we were crossing the railroad, our attention was called to the cowboy, whom City Marshal Stimson had arrested near the courthouse, and was, it was stated, taking him to the mayor's office in the north part of the city. The cowboy, unarmed except a quirt hanging at his wrist, was riding his pony and the marshal's revolver glistened in the sunlight as he walked beside the boy on his pony.
The report had quickly spread that the marshal had arrested a cowboy and scores of men had congregated in the vicinity of the railroad crossing awaiting the coming of the marshal and his prisoner.
The first building north of the crossing and on the west side of the street was a law office, a one-story building, with a sleeping room above. In front of this building the cowboy reined in his pony, facing the building, and seemingly addressing a person in the room above the law office, said, "Don't you see this d--d pony don't want to go any farther?" The boy did not attempt to escape. He did not attempt to strike the marshal or his pony. He was dressed in shirt and trousers, unarmed except for a quirt hanging at his wrist. There were scores of men within easy reach to assist the marshal had he called for help. The marshal stood so close to the boy that he had to step backward in order to straighten his arm, which he did, and shot the boy through the body. As the boy lurched in the saddle from the effect of the shot, he exclaimed, "For God's sake, don't shoot me." The marshal shot him a second time as the boy was falling from the horse. With the quirt still hanging to his wrist the wounded boy was carried into the office and laid on a lounge. As recalled, no attempt was made to dress his wounds or relieve his suffering.
When the writer returned from his noon-day lunch the boy was dead.
HISTORY OF BUFFALO COUNTY
Immediately after the shooting the writer called on a banker with whom he was well acquainted, Frank S. Trew, stated what he had just witnessed and insisted it was a case of deliberate murder, that the killing was uncalled for, not justified. The banker replied, in substance, "The people of Kearney will stand back of their officers in all matters of this kind."
A grand jury refused to indict the marshal and he was not tried for the killing of the boy. It developed that the boy had come from Pennsylvania the fall before, had helped care for some cattle being wintered west of Kearney and when spring came had worked as "tender" for a mason in plastering a house. Having earned some money he had ridden his pony to the city, doubtless taken a few drinks of beer, imagined he was a truly enough "cowboy," and thus met his death. While he was killed by the city marshal, he was buried at the expense of the county.
It is not believed by the writer that Marshal Stimson should be greatly blamed in the matter. The people of Kearney had been terrorized by cowboys made reckless and dangerous by intoxicating liquors purchased at open saloon in the city. The marshal himself, it is believed, was, as the saying is, "scared to death," imagining he was dealing with a dangerous cowboy. It is recalled and also related that for years Mr. Stimson "toted" a shotgun, day and night, wherever he went.
RESOURCES OF BUFFALO COUNTY -- FERTILITY OF SOIL -- GROWING OF FRUITS -- CROP PRODUCTION -- IMPORTANCE OF ALFALFA-VALUE OF PROPERTY BY DECADES -- TAXES PAID BY DECADES -- TOTAL TAXES PAID TO DATE -- NUMBER OF FARMS -- VALUE OF CROPS -- VALUE OF LIVE STOCK -- POPULATION OF COUNTY BY DECADES.
(Note--The following article on the "Resources of Buffalo County was published in a "Booster" edition of The Ravenna News in the year 1913.)
OUR BUFFALO COUNTY HOME
The sun is shining bright in our Buffalo County home.
'Tis summer and the roses are in bloom;
The days are bright and joyous and happiness abounds.
There is naught to cause a feeling here of gloom.
The robin and the mourning dove, the blue jay and the thrush,
Are flitting and a singing in the trees.
There's a rustle, and a murmur like a song comes from the leaves,
Gently stirring in a soft, caressing breeze.
The fields of wheat are waving and like billows gently roll;
The rows of corn they show a lighter green;
The purpling alfalfa will soon be in the stack--
Can there elsewhere be a more delightful scene?
Soon the trees within the orchard will be bending with their load,
The cherries are already growing red;
There is happiness and comfort in the shade beneath the trees,
With their branches gently moving overhead.
Oh the sun is shining bright in our Buffalo County home,
The days are full of comfort and delight;
No strife disturbs the day-dreams, so restful to the mind,
Nor the sweet and peaceful slumbers of the night. S. C. B.
Echo Farm, June, 1913
Buffalo County contains 985 square miles, and while there were many squatters on land within its borders at the date of this first election, January 20, 1870,
HISTORY OF BUFFALO COUNTY
only three claims (homesteads or pre-emption) had been filed upon in the general land office. These claims were the Boyd Ranch in Gibbon Township, pre-empted in 1867 by Joseph Boyd, two homestead claims in what is now Shelton Township, one by Andrew Buest, the other by O. E. Thompson. Between the date of January 20, 1870, and January 1, 1880, a period of ten years, 1,265 homesteads and pre-emption claims located in Buffalo County were filed upon in the general land office.
In discussing agricultural resources of Buffalo County we can, therefore, begin with a fixed date, January 20, 1870, when the county was settled, its agricultural resources unknown and, of course, undeveloped.
The soil of the county is largely a sandy loam of great depth and exceedingly fertile. There are thousands of acres in the county which have been continuously cropped for forty years, the crop yield at the present time equaling that of earlier date. Where proper crop rotations are observed, the fertility of soil seems well nigh inexhaustible.
Next to fertility of the soil the most important agricultural resource is an abundance of wholesome water for domestic purposes. In this respect Buffalo County is supremely blest. In addition to the Platte, the Loup, the Beaver and Wood rivers there is beneath the surface at varying depths, according to surface elevation, a continuous and unfailing supply of water, having an average temperature of 52ø. The waters of this underflowing river are easily and cheaply brought to the surface to be made use of for domestic purposes and to some extent irrigation purposes.
In 1870 Buffalo County was a treeless plain, the only timber being narrow belts along running streams. Today groves of timber are seen in great abundance and in every direction. In the forty-two years trees have been planted which have grown to such size and maturity that they have been sawed into lumber suitable for building and other commercial purposes.
While not advising that the growing of commercial orchards would prove profitable, yet it is easily possible to raise all the fruits needed for home consumption. In its virgin state in the county there were numerous orchards of plums, large in size and delicious to the taste; white grapes abounded, and at any early date one writer in describing Wood River said, "Wood River is a vast serpentine vineyard, literarlly [sic] festooned with wild grapes."
Apples, cherries, plums, peaches and small fruits, such as gooseberries, raspberries, etc., thrive and yield good returns. There are in the county orchards of apple trees planted in the early '70s in which the trees are still healthy, vigorous and bearing fruit annually, some of these trees yielding thirty bushels of matured fruit in a season. The varieties which seem to have best stood the test for all these years and are still bearing annually are the Ben Davis, Whitney, Wealthy, Winesap, Duchess, Red June, Early Harvest, Jonathan and Siberian crab. There need be no lack of abundant fruit for all family purposes on any Buffalo County farm if the owner will plant suitable varieties and properly care for them.
In the matter of crop production, such as corn, wheat, oats, barley, rye and vegetables, it can be said that for forty years the farms of Buffalo County have been producing these in great abundance. Totaling these crops into millions of
HISTORY OF BUFFALO COUNTY
bushels gives no adequate idea of their value and importance, but when we take into consideration that Buffalo County has at the present time a population of 21,907 people, that vast improvements have been made, that great wealth has been accumulated, public buildings been erected, rivers and streams bridged, thousands of happy homes established, that the people are prosperous, happy and contented, and that real poverty is practically unknown in our midst, and when we consider that all of these things are dependent on the one question, profitable crop production, it is self-evident that our agricultural resources in this respect are great and can be depended upon in years to come.
In a natural way, ours is a grass country, that is, natural grasses cover our bluffs and valleys and the tame grasses and clovers are easily cultivated and prove profitable.
Since first settlement, the greatest discovery in the development of our agricultural resources is that of the alfalfa plant and its adaptability to our soil and climatic conditions. Buffalo County is in the very heart of that portion of our state and nation in which the alfalfa plant seems best to thrive. There are in our county fields of alfalfa which for more than twelve years have produced annually three, and sometimes more, cuttings a year. This without re-seeding, cultivating or fertilization of the soil. It would seem that there is almost no limit to time in which profitable crops of alfalfa can continuously be produced from our soil. When our people come to realize the importance of the value of this crop and its cultivation becomes more general it will add an annual income of millions of dollars to our agricultural resources.
It seems to the writer that the increase in population in the county and the growth and development of its agricultural resources can most correctly and forcibly be expressed by comparisons based on valuations of property in the county for assessment purposes and comparisons showing amount paid for public purposes. It is generally conceded that the real value of our property is at least seven times that value taken for purposes of taxation. On this basis let us illustrate the increase in wealth in the county by decades. The following table shows the value of all real and personal property in Buffalo County by decades since 1870:
Year. Value of Real and Personal Property. 1870............................ $ 5,522,916 1880.............................. 8,522,521 1890............................. 25,687,403 1900............................. 19,333,233 1910..............................50,695,799 1912............................. 52,951,385
The following table shows the amounts of state, county, township, village and school taxes paid in Buffalo County on certain specified years since organization of county:
Year. Total Tax. 1870 ................................$ 7,868 1880 ................................ 52,650
HISTORY OF BUFFALO COUNTY
Year. Total Tax. 1890 ............................... 243,381 1900 ............................... 176,680 1910 ............................... 330,133 1912................................ 369,403
The total state, county, township, village and school district taxes paid in Buffalo County since its organization in 1870, including the year 1912, amounts to $7,747,803.
Buffalo County has 604,800 acres. Two thousand four hundred and forty-six farms and the value of all crops produced in 1909 (U. S. census) amounted to $3,725,724. The value of all livestock in 1909 (U. S. census) amounted to $4,305,243.
The population by decades in Buffalo County is as follows:
Year. Inhabitants. 1870 .....................................193 1880 .................................. 7,531 1890 ................................. 22,161 1900 ................................. 20,254 1910 ................................. 21,907