TEKAMAH HERALD
SEPTEMBER 10, 1915

HISTORY OF THE G. A. R. IN BURT COUNTY

by J. R. Sutherland

In presenting you with the memorial list today, very forcibly reminds me of the vast change in the ranks of the Pioneers since our first meeting in this part not a dozen years ago, when an effort was made to have all of those who came here in the fifties to be seated in this band stand in fifty chairs, but there was not room for all, now there are less than a dozen in the county who came here in the fifties. I also notice, the thinning of the ranks of these gray haired veterans, who have been holding their annual reunion with us each year. When they first met with us, it required a dozen tents to accommodate the comrads who would assemble on these occasions, and they would hold a campfire in the evening, but now they can be all assembled on this platform with room to spare. It is quite noticeable and much regretted that they will only meet with us for a few more years, they have performed their labor two fold, they first assisted in preserving the union, then at the close of the war many of them came west as pioneers to this then the frontier, their army life well fitted them to care for themselves, even to culinary duties such as preparing bacon, biscuit and coffee. There was no "silk stockings" business in pioneer life, men and women met and overcame obstacles and difficulties or moved back east. In 1865 Burt county only had a few hundred inhabitants but after the honorable discharge of the soldiers, the population of this county increased rapidly and along in the seventies the soldiers population in this county was a large factor, therefore, the present generation owes much to those old veterans and comrads who have responded to the last roll call and have gone to their rewards, because they contributed much toward the present grand development of this county, Historians love to write of great achievements, heroic efforts, results accomplished, but heroism of the pioneers of Burt county we can best judge by what has been accomplished as a whole in which each one had a part. To have taken this land, a virgin soil, the home of wild men and wild animals for centuries and in a brief half century transform it into

"This is our loved state, Nebraska,
Land of the prairies wide,
Where alfalfa grows and flourishes
And corn and wheat abide.
Where the homes of happy people
Dot all the landscape o're,
And of things that make for comfort
We have abundant store."

A. T. Conkling and old soldier and a pioneer resident here since 1866, in a letter to your historian gives a brief history of the organization of the Grand Army of the Republic Posts in Burt county and the first Decoration day services held under the auspices of the G.A. R.

It contains much of interest to his comrads. The letter reads as follows.

Grand Island, Neb.,-

Dear Mr. Sutherland: -
In compliance with you request for data in regard to the organization of the Grand Army post in Burt county and the holding of the first Decoration day services under the auspices of the G. A.R., I will give you best I can, but owing to the burning of the Post hall in Tekamah, July 3rd 1904, all the old records were consumed, nothing was saved except the descriptive list and the G. A. R. Bible which were in a desk hear the west window where the fire department was playing on the flames with the hose; when the building went down the desk fell outward and was rescued from the flame. As to the first G. A. R. post organized in Burt county, Boomer Post in Tekamah, holds that distinction with 16 charter members as follows. A.T. Conkling, A. A. Thomas, Geo. P. Hall, Chas E. Barker, M. V. Austin, Daniel Fisher, T. M. Roberts, S. S. Skinner, James McDaniel, Fred L. Snyder, W. H. Eby, J. J. Davis, John Giltner, Conrad Giltner, W. J. Wilson and Ruel Dye.

The next organization was the A. L. Gates post at Lyons, March 21st 1883, with 14 charter members viz: W. H. Lyon, J. Shumway, T. E. Hall, A. H. Wolfe, F. F. Parker, John Berg, N. Barker, M. H. Wilse, R. S. Hart, O. S. Comer, L. B. Smith, Geo. Mortar, John Clements and A. L. Wolfe.

The J. B. Davis post at Craig was organized Nov. 1, 1889 with 19 charter members viz; C. J. Hale, W. A. Hancock, Hiram Coleman, W. L. Ireland, J. R. Davis, W. H. Eby, Amos Warrwick, Joe Bayer, A. Struthers, H. B. Stoner, Ira Goodsell, W. H. Orr, Alex Hayes, J. Critchfield, W. C. Stewart, Jesse Joiner and John H. Conrad.

Boomer Post had 127 names on the roll but the descriptive list which was saved from the fire contained only 94 as follows.

Austin Alexander

Franklin Force

Daniel Kohler

S. L. Roberts

H. J. Austin

Daniel Fuller

J. L. Latta

T. M. Roberts

M. V. Austin

A. H. Gates

O. B. Lewis

P. L. Rork

F. E. Babbitt

Henry H. Gates

Jacob Long

Geo. A. Ross

Chas. E. Barker

Thos. H. Gill

H. C. Lydick

L. L. Russell

John Bauffman

Conrad Giltner

Dallas Lydick

S. S. Skinner

Ben L. Bean

C. J. Hale

Elijah McClanahan

A. C. Smith

W. M. Bean

George P. Hall

Jas. McDaniel

Fred L. Snider

S. C. Brooks

Joseph Hall

Elisha McGuire

Jesse Spielman

A. Buckmaster

T. D. Hamilton

C. Magarey

James S. Stanton

Peter Cameron

G. B. Hancock

A. P. Mason

H. C. Stewart

George Chapman

Joel Hancock

John E. Mason

J. H. Stork

W. E. Chase

Chas. Haney

W. W. Miller

A. A. Thomas

W. A. Clark

Peter Hoffman

H. W. Monroe

J. M. Towne

L. L. Colby

L. Hoffman

Wm. G. Olinger

Wm. Truax

Floyd Cornell

Daniel Hogencamp

Geo. Osborne

Elijah Tuttle

A. T. Conkling

W. Hungerford

Solomon Paddock

Henry Wilbur

Ebrnezer Cornish

Chas Hurlocker

Joseph Palmanteer

J. L. Wilson

Jas. R. Davis

W. L. Ireland

Geo. Peterson

W. J. Wilson

Ruel Dye

J. P. James

Lewis P. Peterson

E. P. Worcester

Wm. H. Eby

A. P. Job

B. F. Pugh

W. M. Worley

Joseph Entrican

I. C. Jones

Henry Putman

Joshua Felter

W. A. Kiester

J. F. Richards

Daniel Fisher

Jas. King

L. M. Robbins

Many of the above have answered "taps" only a few of us remain to tell of this organization of the first G. A. R. post in Burt county, which brings to my memory so many recollections of those days that I spent in Tekamah, and with these dear old comrades in the Post and at the annual reunions that I cannot let this occasion pass without paying them a tribute of respect and love to their memories.

I was accorded the honor of being elected commander when the Post was organized. A little later we decided to hold some kind of services on Decoration Day, as there never had been any such service help in Tekamah. We had no rituals at that time, nothing to give us the usual form as held by the Grand Army of the Republic, the state organization was only formed in 1877. No member of the Post had ever attended a Decoration Day service elsewhere, so we had to arrange our own program. The speaker we wanted was Hon E. F. Gray of Fremont, but the day before, he sent us word that he could not come so we were without a speaker.

District court was in session, and many outside lawyers were in attendance among them being John M. Thurston of Omaha, I told him about our disappointment and asked him to deliver the address, he promised to fill the place if he could get excused from court and requested me to see Judge Savage, one of the best men that ever lived and an old soldier, he said that he would fix it all right, by taking a recess until 2 o'clock tomorrow Decoration Day, as it was not then a legal holiday; but all attended. The school children furnished the flowers and joined in the parade, we had the drum corps and a number of army muskets, we assembled at the court house at 9 a. m.. a big crowd, Capt. Skinner was marshal and formed the procession viz: drum corps, Boomer Post, speaker and Rev. I. C. Jones chaplain, school children, city council and citizens, then we marched to the cemetery. We decorated the soldiers graves, and fired a salute over each, there were only 3 or 4, now there are 68. We had some exercises by the school and then put Mr. Thurston on a dry-goods box for a platform. After being introduced he made a splendid speech for about an hour to a large crowd who had come from all parts of the county to attend the first service of its kind ever held in the Tekamah cemetery. It was a fine as extemporaneous speech as I have ever heard, and I think so yet. I have been to many such services since but none in my estimation could compare with that one for simplicity and success.

Since I left Tekamah, the boys have kept Boomer Post alive; it has a splendid Relief Corp, which has done much good in the way of distributing charity. When I was in northwest Nebraska during the drouth of the early nineties, they sent a box to me to distribute the needy comrades on the frontier and their families which was gladly and thankfully received by them. God bless the Womens Relief Corp and the Boomer Post is my earnest prayer.

Very truly yours,

A. T. Conkling

I will ad (sic) some data to the above to make the Post history more complete. In looking over the list of 94 as furnished by Mr. Conkling, I find only 11 residing in this vicinity, the other 15 are scattered far and near. A. T. Conkling, Grand Island, Nebr; A. A. Thomas, S. L. Roberts and George Peterson, San Diego, Calif; W. E. Chase, San Jose, Calif: Henry J. Austin, Orting, Wash; E. P. Wooster, Santa Monica, Calif; A. P. Mason, Colo Springs, W; A. Keister, Valentine, Neb; F. E. Babbitt, Florence, Neb; J. L. Wilson, Elk City, Okla, Dan Fuller at Crittenden, N.Y., Ben L. Bean, Platteville, Wis. and Chas Haney at Lincoln.

When the post was first organized they were offered free use of the masonic hall which was the second story of what was known as the Shafer store on the corner now where the Welch Bros. Garage now stand, the room was 22x80 divided into reception and anti rooms. In 1895 the Masons moved across the street, they then gave the G. A. R. their old hall free of cost which included all the chairs, carpets and stoves, which made a very comfortable home for the post until it was consumed by fire 9 one-half years later. Be it said to the credit and pluck of the old veterans, they took immediate action to provide themselves with a new home; the secured a lot raised the funds and built their cozy and commodious hall, which has been the social center and headquarters for the G. A. R. from that day to this.

Every country owes a great deal to its pioneers. The old settlers are the study men and women who located on the land when it was new and experienced all kinds of hardships and privations in building up the splendid civilization, the fruits of which we now enjoy. Most of the old settlers came from centers of civilization and culture, the were not adventurers seeking a fortune neither were they social outcasts hunting a home, neither were they fugitives fleeing to a place of refuge; but were as a class, honest, upright industrious, God fearing men and women left behind them all the advantages of a civilized community and penetrated far into the wilderness and the prairie, for the purpose of laying the foundations for a new empire-the empire of agricultural greatness and industrial wealth.

The old settlers are the pioneers of civilization. They constitute the advance guard of industrial progress. It is quite appropriate to commemorate their service to society, as it is that of the old soldier, for while the soldier risk his life to save the nation, the pioneer faced danger and hardship to preserve and extend it and make it more desirable in which to live.

Like the old soldier, the old settlers are rapidly passing away, each succeeding year their ranks grow thinner and their steps more feeble, it will only be a few more years before the old settlers reunion will be a thing of the past. There will be no old settlers or old soldiers to tell the graphic tale of pioneer days or scenes on the march or battlefield. Soon there will be no men and women left to recount the thrilling stories of hardships, privation or adventure, as it has been told from year to year at these reunions. The old settler and the old soldier will soon be gone. The are gong down the valley of old age hand in hand, but as long as we have them with us and these pleasant reunions occur, we shall not forget to honor them and when they have passed away the story of the splendid achievements will be told to the future generations.

 

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