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Drawing of Henry T. Pell

Henry Tatum Pell 1838 - 1910

Henry Tatum Pell was born February 20, 1838 in Stokes Co., North Carolina the second child and first son of Richard Pell and Martha Spratlen Pell. He came west with his family in about 1843 and spent nine years of his early boyhood in Missouri. The family is listed on the 1850 CENSUS - BUCHANAN COUNTY MISSOURI - CENTRE TOWNSHIP (roll 393 p.158).

According to a family story, Richard, Henry's father, jumped the gun a bit and entered Nebraska Territory in 1853 before it was exactly legal to do so. By 1854 when they moved to Cass County, they established a legal claim near Union, secured with a special government dispensation, which Richard Pell had received for serving in the U.S. Army as a young man. The name of Richard Pell is found on the first Nebraska Territorial Census taken in 1854. He owned his land and farmed it while also doing some supplying of the Spratlen Merchantile.

Henry grew to manhood in this new land and on August 13, 1863 married Rachel Ervin. She was born July 13, 1843, in Allen (later Auglaize) County, Ohio, the daughter of John Ervin and Ravina Robertson. The Ervin family had come to Nebraska in about 1858.Drawing of ox-drawn covered wagon

Henry Pell, Larkin G. True and Billy Wolfe of the Factoryville and Union area became partners engaged in the freighting business. They drove teams of oxen pulling wagonloads of goods from the Missouri River west to Salt Lake City and points beyond. The partners were returning one time when they sensed something was wrong. They had planned to stay the night at Plum Creek but instead camped about two miles away. That decision saved their lives as that was the night of the Plum Creek masacre.

On another of their trips, Larkin and Henry Pell narrowly escaped a war party of hostile Indians in 1866, after which Larkin (married to Henry's sister) gave up freighting. The story, as told in the family, reveals something of Henry Pell's character.

When moving goods across the great plain through indian territory, the partners had made it a habit to carry along items which would buy their freedom from the various tribes who would occassionally capture them or at least demand goods for the privilege of crossing that tribe's territory. On one occassion, however, this particular tribe was very upset at all white men and determined to kill Henry and Larkin. Perhaps some other whites had killed a young brave or stolen a young woman of the tribe. The men never found out exactly what had spurred the tribe's anger. After a few failed attempts to bargain their way out of captivity, it became clear that they were in deep trouble. Henry boldly stepped forward (according to Larkin) and offered to race the tribe's fastest brave. "If I win, you let me and my friend go. If I lose, then you kill us." He drew his index finger across his throat to make clear what he was telling them. The gathered members of the tribe laughed and nodded.

Now this tribe liked nothing better than a good competition, and they couldn't imagine any white man being able to beat one of them in a foot race, so they readily agreed. The starting line was drawn, the route agreed upon, and the runner chosen. Henry tensed listening for the chief's signal to go. It came and he took off, giving it all he had... running for his life. The brave was fast, but Henry won the day. The chief made a sign of respect for Henry and did allow him and Larkin to go free.

What the members of the tribe did not know was that Henry was a professional runner... had won many races. He used to tie weights to his legs in order to build himself up for those races. And while he freighted across the plains and mountains, he would often run just to keep in shape.

That particular tribe never bothered Henry again. He made several solitary trips after that, and he made friends everywhere.

Henry and Rachel had seven children. Meredith was born November 8, 1865 (place unknown) and died May 11, 1877 (place unknown). Martha Alice was born August 1, 1867 in Union, Cass County, NE and died December 19, 1934 Plattsmouth, NE, m. Hiram Frank Hughson March 30, 1885. John William PELL was born May 23, 1869 in Union and died at age 24 on February 26, 1893 in Union. Jesse Larkin was born December 3, 1871 in Union and died April 2, 1951, m. Mary Susan Taylor on April 10, 1895. Ravina Etta was born March 19, 1876 in Mills County, Iowa and died December 31, 1953, m. Adolphus Orison Pearsley on January 2, 1896. Lydia Isabella was born November 14, 1880 in Union and died June 17, 1963 in Nebraska City, Cass County, NE, m. Edward William Midkiff January 10, 1900. Luella May was born June 1, 1883 (place unknown) and died January 21, 1950 (place unknown), m. John Louis Niday on December 28, 1904.

Along with teamstering goods across the young country, Henry farmed in Cass County most of his life. He passed from this existence on December 30, 1910.

By Julia Pearsley Ryden
Great granddaughter to Henry
March 2, 2000

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