1905 Plat Book of Cass County, Nebraska;
Cass County Reminiscences
EARLY DAYS IN NEBRASKA
BY F.M. YOUNG, JR.
March 4, 1855, William Young and family crossed the Missouri
river in a flat boat, landing at Kenosha, Nebraska. The town at
that time contained one log building used as a store, occupied
by a man named White; besides this there was a small shanty
made of rough boards and occupied by George Winters and family,
who kindly gave us shelter for the night. Although somewhat
crowded, we were comfortable.
March 5 the settlers near here who were our neighbors in
Iowa came to help us move to our claim about six miles
northwest of Kenosha, where my father had located in November,
1854. Those settlers who came to help us move lived from two to
three miles northwest of Kenosha; they were Rev. Abraham Towner
and three sons, Harvey McGowan, William and Peter Ashley. When
the wagons were loaded we took our way across the prairie.
Myself, then a lad of fourteen years, and Peter Ashley and Mr.
Towner's boys of my age drove the cattle and sheep. We passed
but one house on our way, a hewed log house south of Rock Creek
occupied by William Davis and family. As we came in sight of
the house, the family all came out, waving their hats and
handkerchiefs and hallooed "hurrah for Nebraska." About two
p.m. we arrived at our future home. Having no house built we
unloaded in the woods and stretched a tent and cooked and ate
dinner, after which our friends, with hearty handshakes and
many good wishes for our welfare and prosperity, departed for
their homes. From that time on the longest period my father was
away from that place at one time until he died, April 25, 1899,
was fourteen days. Part of his original claim at that time is
my home now, June, 1904. As soon as possible we went to cutting
logs and soon had enough cut to build a small house, but did
not get it ready to move into until about April first. During
the time we were living in the tent we had a snowfall of six
inches, which soon went away. There were three families living
within three-quarters of a mile of us in houses built of round
logs with split chunks driven in the cracks and then daubed
with mud to keep the cold out. They were John Clemmons, Abel
Crabtree and Joseph Tousignont. Two miles to the south were two
more families, and at the mouth of Rock Creek lived Benedict
Spiers and son Gus and son-in-law , William Frans. Just north
of them lived three families of Murrays. As spring came on the
work of making a new farm began. My father made that year what
is called a sod and ditch fence around fifty-six acres and got
all the prairie inside broke out and raised a fair crop of sod
corn. Some time in April of that year about 500 Indians, I
think they were Otoes, camped on the creek half a mile south of
us, but as they were friendly no one was harmed. The only
Indian scare we ever had was one Sunday when their dog killed a
hog for Mr. Clemmons. He shot the dog, and it came near getting
him into trouble with them.
(F.M. Young, Jr., cont.)
About the middle of March occurred the first wedding in the
neighborhood and said to be the first in the county. The
contracting parties were Vincent Faught and Christina Clemmons.
When they took their seats Levi Churchill and Rebecca Clemmons
rose and told the preacher to marry them, which he did. The
ceremony was performed by Rev. Abraham Towner of the Methodist
(F.M. Young, Jr., cont.)
Two days after this wedding, John Clemmons, Sr., who lived
with his son John, died. Thus the first wedding and the first
death in the neighborhood occurred at the same house within two
As spring opened other families came and settled, among them
the widow Young, a mile and a quarter away; Lewis Young, two
and a half miles; John Carroll, three miles, W.R. Ellington,
three and a half miles. As the summer of 1855 passed away,
every few days a new settler would locate within a few miles of
us. Considerable prairie was broken that year and nearly all
raised corn enough to winter their stock.
In January and February, 1856, my father cut logs for a
double log house, and in March hewed them. In April the
neighbors were invited and the building erected in one day.
This was the first hewed log house in the neighborhood. Owing
to the busy season, however, it was not completed until fall.
We then hauled stone and built a double fireplace and moved
into the house November 30, 1856.
The next day, December 1, it began to snow and continued
snowing and blowing for three days. This has proved to be the
greatest snow storm in the history of Nebraska up to the
present date. It was nothing unusual to see a drift twenty feet
deep in the hollows, where it blew off the higher ground. On
this a crust was formed and teams could travel on top of the
snow the country over.
During the summer of 1856 considerable trouble was caused by
some lawless men coming in and jumping claims held by the
settlers. This caused the organization of a "Claim Club" to
settle disputes and protect the actual settler. One Lewis
Johnson and his two sons and a few of his kind that were a
terror to the neighborhood in March, 1857, with old man Kelly
and his son Tom, were arrested by the committee and for some
cause were held as prisoners.At night they were escorted over
the river, and were never seen again. It has been a mystery to
the majority of the people ever since as to what became of
them, but it was generally supposed they were heavily weighted
and put in the river. After that times were quiet in regard to
claim jumping. In the summer of 1857 Miss Mary Stocking taught
a subscription school in one room of my father's house.
In 1856 the government survey of this county was made; then
came the entry of the land. Money was scarce and a great many
were obliged to borrow money to make the entry. Interest became
very high, some paying 40 and some as high as 60 per cent
interest. The result was that a great many were never able to
pay out on their land, and it went into the hands of the money
Some time before this the town site of Plattsmouth had been
laid out and the county seat located there, it being quite a
trading point. Also the town of Rock Bluffs, three miles and a
half southeast of us, was quite a lively town.
FIRST COUNTY FAIR
(F.M. Young, Jr., cont.)
In the fall of 1857 the first county fair was held at Rock
Bluffs, and the people of those days thought it a grand
In the summer of 1858 William Young and Sam Buster bought
the first reaper that was in the neighborhood, a stiff bar hand
rake McCormick. We could cut about twelve acres per day, and I
did the most of the raking off. Then the old cradle was laid
away and people came for miles around to see it work.
In 1860 there was quite an emigration to the gold fields of
Colorado, also a great deal of freight hauled there on wagons,
and we all know what happened in 1861.
Thus I have given, to the best of my memory, the most
important events from 1855 to 1861.
EARLY TROUBLES WITH THE PAWNEES IN CASS
BY HENRY C. M'MAKEN, PLATTSMOUTH, NEBR.
Early one morning about the middle of April, 1859, John
Hess, now of Wabash, Cass County, came to our claim house,
hammered on the door and said: "Yump right avay quick! Dem d--n
Pawnees stole mine mooles!"
By the time the sun was up, it found a party consisting of
John Hess, Henry Cook, Theobald Vallery, John Drauth and myself
in the saddle, with our blankets and arms, and on the trail. We
struck the track quite plain near Squire Thompson's place on
Cedar Creek (now the Captain Hoover farm). When we struck
Pawnee Creek it was running bank full of ice and water. We went
nearly to the head, and then struck for Salt Creek ford,
arriving about 4 o'clock p.m., and finding the few settlers
flocked in their[sic] expecting an attack from the Pawnees. We
stopped at Old Wiggins' house, on the east side of the creek,
just where Dennis Dean now lives. He was very much excited, as
the Indians had killed one of his oxen (he had only two); but
what he worried about most was that they had stolen the only ax
he had, and another could not be got nearer than Plattsmouth,
which meant a trip of two or three days, and he had nothing to
cut wood with in the meantime.
While we were there a laughable incident occurred. Henry
Cook and I rode down to the ford to water our horses, and right
at the edge of the creek stood a squaw loaded down with plunder
which she had taken from some house below. She had the complete
end of a cottage bedstead strappped onto her and fastened
around her waist with thongs of buffalo hide. The upper part of
this bedstead-end slanted back from her body, being secured by
a band which went around her forehead; and in the space between
her body and the boards she had a lot of clothes, a feather
bedtick, about two bushels of corn and sundry other articles.
She had taken off one moccasion, and while she was stooping
over in the act of taking off the gear from her other foot and
leg, I rode down on my horse right close to her and before she
knew I was there I took my hunting knife and slashed the
thongs, letting the whole load drop. She gave one scream and
plunged right into the creek, with the bedstead still hanging
to her, and by the time she got to the west bank the water was
up to her nose. She caught on some willows, finally dropped her
trail, and started for the west on a run.
We got our supper, consisting of one small piece of bacon,
plenty of cornbread made with salt and water only, and parched
corn coffee. We had had nothing from the time we ate our
breakfast until this meal. Well it beat no meal at all. The
next morning our breakfast was the same excepting that we had
no bacon. We put out a guard; two of our men, Vallery and
Krauth, taking this duty. The next morning they were missing -
no sign of them. We felt concerned about them and thought the
Pawnees had got away with them; but later in the day William
Hill came in and reported that they had skedaddled for home,
where we found them a week later. We asked them what made them
leave, and Krauth said, "You tink we vanted to been scalped by
dem d--n Pawnees? No, sir!"
We stayed all this day at the ford waiting for
re-enforcements, and thinking we would have a little fun with
the Pawnees, and when night came part of us moved up to Samuel
Stambough's bridge over the Wahoo creek, northwest of Ashland.
We took some of the planks from the bridge and put out a guard.
The rest of us got into a haystack for shelter, as it was quite
cold. Everything was quiet until just as it began to get light
in the norming. Then we heard our guard make a challenge, and
we jumped out and ran to the bridge, about fifty yards away,
where we found that our guard, William D. Hill and John Aughe,
had a buck Indian corralled on the fridge. He had stolen a pony
belonging to one of the settlers (Totten), and had a sack and a
blanket filled with corn. Hill and Aughe were armed with
shotguns. We held the pony, but thought it best to let the
Indian go, as he was only a boy about eighteen or twenty years
old. We escorted him over the bridge, pionted to the west and
yelled, "Puck-a-chee T-wis-cat!" ("Go! Go quick!") He ran like
a deer. The boys shot over him to frighten him, and when he
looked back and saw the guns thrown down on him, he began
jumping, zig-zag, running faster than two deers. The last we
saw of him he was still going. We never saw anything more of
him afterwards, but it is probable that he has run himself down
That Winter and spring most of the Pawnees were camped on
the banks and islands of the Platte River. An incident leading
to the troubles with the Indians was this: Two men had been
left in charge of some shanties located on the east bank of
Salt Creek, a short distance below where the B.&M. railroad
depot now stands. There was a sawmill there and they moved it
over into Iowa. These men that were left in charge ran off with
twenty head of ponies and mules belonging to the Pawnees, about
ten days before, and two Indians, who followed the trail, were
supposed to have been killed, as they were never seen again.
When the Pawnees robbed the houses, they took everything they
could carry and destroyed the rest. In ripping a feather bed
open, they found two fresh Indian scalps, which set them wild.
This occurred the first day we got to Salt Creek ford. We sent
a courier for the old interpreter, Allis, who came up the
second day and went to the Pawnee camp alone. He would not let
any of us go, for fear we would make trouble.
We stayed there for several days, but fortunately got into
no difficulty. We did not get our mules. At present I remember
William D. Hill, Charles S. Wortman of South Bend, John, James
and Jacob Aughe, Lee Warbritton, John Curtis and Nelson Sheffer
of Ashland, and our Plattsmouth boys, who took part in this
affair, which for a few days looked as though we might have
lots of trouble, though it came out all right.
EARLY HISTORY OF THE CITY OF PLATTSMOUTH
(H.C. M'MAKEN, cont.)
First settler was Samuel Martin, 1853. He was the original
owner and located the town of Plattsmouth. Built the first
house, a two-story log, on the grounds now used as the B.&M.
park on the corner of Main and First streets. It was used as a
trading post with the Indians. The noted Indian trader, Peter
A. Sarpy, , was interested in this post. Samuel Martin died in
1854. Wheatley Mickelwait, Jacob Vallery and James O'Neal
succeeded Martin as owners of the townsite; they platted and
laid out and named the town. It was incorporated March 15,
1855, as a city, and in the fall of 1856 elected the first
mayor, Wheatley Mickelwait; first treasurer, John D. Simpson;
first clerk, William E. Donelan, first city council, William D.
Slaughter, Enos Williams and Jacob Vallery. The first doctor
was Edward Donelan. The first white child born was Fred
Mickelwait, son of Wheatley Mickelwait and wife.
(H.C. M'MAKEN, cont.)
First mill built was a large overshot wheel run by water and
located on a small spring branch, south of the city, and now
known as the Everett Branch. It was built by Conrad Heisel for
James Cardwell in the spring of 1856. This mill had one pair of
small stones or burrs and ground corn only. We would shell a
sack of corn and pack it to the mill and wait for it to be
ground. It took about two hours to grind two bushels, if they
had plenty of water. This mill consisted of four posts set in
the ground and some cotten-wood boards for a roof and open
sides. While this was the first mill built it did not grind any
corn till late that fall.
The first grist and sawmill was built by Conrad Heisel and
Henry Boeck for George Griffith; in August, 1856. This mill had
two runs of small burrs and ground wheat and corn. It was sold
the same fall to Louden Mullen. This mill was located on the
lots now owned by Fred Kroehler on the corner of Tenth (10th)
street and Washington avenue. It was purchased by Conrad Heisel
and John Krauth in the summer of 1857 and moved to its present
location on the corner of Eleventh and Elm streets and has been
rebuilt and improved and is now one of the best mills in Cass
county - 1904.
The first brick residence was built by Alfred L. Sprague in
1857 and 1858, now owned by Henry Herold. The Herold brothers,
William, August and Herman, built quite a number of houses in
1857 and 1858. Built the first brick store (two stories) on the
lots just south of the B.&M. freight depot, and run a general
store; later built a two-story brick store where the B.& M.
passenger depot now stands.
First brickyard was run by William and John Reed and
Christian Mockenhoupt, Sr., on the lots now occupied by McMaken
& Son's ice housed, Oak, between Eighth and Ninth streets.
(H.C. M'MAKEN, cont.)
The first school was taught by Miss Ward in the winter of
1856 and 1857 on "Gospel Hill" in the Court House on Marble
Street, between Tenth and Eleventh streets, and about the same
time Miss Mary Stocking opened a school in a log house just
west of Maiden Lane where Oak street now is. These schools were
small, with only six or seven scholars each. Some of the
scholars were Thomas Wiles, Mrs. William Herold, John and
Albert O'Neil. We might say the first regular school was taught
by Mrs. J.P. Gorrelle, beginning in June 1857, in a small frame
house, 12 by 24, owned by Joseph Harper, located on east side
of Sixth street, between Main and Pearl streets. In the winter
of 1857 (and summer and winter of 1858) Mr. and Mrs. J.P.
Gorelle taught school in a frame house just west of the
Methodist parsonage, between Seventh and Eighth streets. Called
to mind as attendants of this school are Delia and James
Mitchell, Elizabeth Pailing, William and Elizabeth Wells,
Arthur Carmichael, Allie Parmele, Donelan, Wesley and Amelia
Barr, Amelia Sage Duke and Charles K. and Henry C.
The first blacksmiths, in 1857, were Frederick Stull and
William Gullion, on the lots south of the Masonic Home, corner
of Elm and Fourteenth streets.
The first wagon-maker was Harry Howland, in 1857, on corner
of Sixth and Vine streets.
In 1856 George W. Fairfield, first surveyor and civil
engineer, bought the claim of John A. Simpson, adjoining the
city of Plattsmouth, on the west side; pre-empted the same in
1857; it was platted later in what is called Duke's addition to
The first large farm was broken by Joseph Harper in 1857
-200 acres- beginning on east line of the county poor farm
running east, taking in what is now the cemeteries and the
James Patterson 40-acre tract.
First Presbyterian Church, regular preacher, Daniel L.
Hughes, 1857. There had been one or two missionaries that had
preached here before this; one, Elder Gibbs and Abraham Towner,
a Methodist exhorter. The first regular Methodist preacher was
Rev. Hiram Burch, who organized the first church in 1857 with
about a dozen members.
The first Catholic church was organized in 1858 by Rt. Rev.
Emanuel Hatig, who held services at private houses.
The first district court was held in the summer of 1856 in a
small cottonwood frame building erected by James O'Neal on
Gospel Hill, on Marble street, between Eleventh and Twelfth
streets. First judge was Edward Harding. First sheriff was
William Ellington. Lawyers, Joseph H. Brown, Turner M.
Marquette, Daniel H. Wheeler, Alfred H. Townsend and Samuel H.
The grand jury held their deliberations under a big oak tree
near the "Court House." Of this session of court there is no
record as far as I know. Capt. Isaac Wiles and Luke Wiles were
on this jury.