1872 ~ 1913 in Furnas County:
A Personal Account
Franklin Pierce Brouhard
Contributed by his g-g-niece, Kathy Burden Shaffer
To begin my story, we started from Iowa, June 14, 1872, father, mother [James and Melissa Brouhard] six children, my brother and wife [Harvey and Eliza Brouhard], two teams, one saddle horse [?] and little colt, and fourteen head of cattle. I came horseback and drove the cattle. We went to Des Moines, and from there to Nebraska City, crossing the Missouri River there. I had never seen a ferry boat and it was quite a sight. From there we went to Beatrice and from there to Sandy Creek, where Alexandria now is, camping there for three weeks. While we were there, father and brother went west to look for and to hunt buffalo. They were gone three weeks and when they came back they said they had found the Garden of Eden. While they were gone about 800 Indians camped 80 rods from our camp, and you bet we were pretty scared. They stayed two days and the squaws would come over to our camp to trade calico and ribbon for meat, lard and tobacco. Mother had plenty of butter and she offered a squaw some, but the squaw put her finger in and tasted it and shaking her head said, "No good." I think those were the same Indians Mr. Whitney spoke about, the Otoes.
Here we lived in the first dugout we had ever been in, it being an old one, and mother was pretty much disappointed. Talk about snakes, it seemed to be full. They were sticking their heads out all over the house. Mother said when they came back and told what a nice place they had found, she was better satisfied and when she saw the Sappa Valley, she was willing to try it awhile. Mother was afraid to sleep in the dugout, so we cooked and ate in the house and mother and the smaller children slept in the wagon. I slept under it. One night a big storm came up and we moved our beds in the dug out, but we did not sleep much, as there seemed to be something crawling and biting us. We did not know what it was, but we found out later. The children squalled and mother and my brother's wife - I won't tell what they did, but there was a jubilee about all night.
The folks finally got back and we pulled across the Republican River to Superior. From there we went up the river to Melrose where we forded the river and went up the Sappa to the forks where Mr. James lived. There we crossed the Beaver Creek and came up the divide about twelve miles, then we pulled on down the Sappa.
I am a little ahead of my story. When we got to Guide Rock, father traded his team of horses for two yoke of oxen, so you see we did not travel very fast, but we got as far as the Sappa about the 24th or 25th of August, 1872. We camped on the Northwest quarter of Section 18, township 1, range 22, two days and then we moved west on the Northwest quarter of section 13, township 1, range 23, where we stayed two days, and then pulled for Lowell, where the United States land office was located at that time. [The old town Melrose no longer exists, it was located very near the forks of the Beaver and Sappa Creeks near the present town of Orleans.]
We started one morning and got about eight miles down the divide when we saw a buffalo. Father got his rifle, but found he did not have his cartridge belt. He had hung it on a tree at the place where we camped and forgotten it. He sent me back after it, but I did not find it. About half a mile from the wagons, I saw eight Indians coming up out of the draw, and you bet I began to apply the whip. I thought I could outrun them, but when I got a little ways eight more headed me off. I did not know what to do, but they just asked me if I had seen any buffalo. I told them I saw some going south, so they went after them. I felt relieved. There must have been more than a hundred before I got to the wagons. We were visited every day by them, and they gave us all the buffalo meat we wanted. They were always begging tobacco and cornmeal.
When we got to Franklin we had to haul water, as there was only one place to get any for 45 or 50 miles. The first day about three o'clock an Indian and his papoose, about 15 years old, rode up to the wagon and wanted some water to drink. Father gave him a quart and he wanted some for the papoose. He drank a quart and then wanted some more. Father told him he had some little children and he thought he did not have any more to spare, but the Indiana said, "One mile heap water," and he gave father two hind quarters of buffalo meat. Father then gave him some more water and we drove on. We drove until almost sundown before we found water, and it was thick with mud, for a big herd of buffalo had just been there and tramped it all up, but we camped there and used the water even if it was pretty thick.
The next morning we hooked up and went for Lowell. It rained all forenoon, but we never stopped, as the men wanted to get their papers on their land. We got there about 3 o'clock and left about 4 o'clock, driving about a mile where we camped. Indians were all around us and were there before sun-up the next morning. We left there about one o'clock the next morning and headed for the Blue River. It rained for three days, but we kept going until we got down the river where there was plenty of wood. We took the cattle and dragged a big pile of logs up and dried our bedding and clothing. The next day we started down the river on some state land; made us a dugout, and went into winter quarters. Father and my brother went to work there. Work was scarce, but they worked for what they could get. Sometimes it was 75 cents and sometimes more, and take anything in pay that we could eat or feed the stock. Father got some steel traps and began trapping. There were beaver, mink, and otter, so we got through the winter pretty well, until the big snowstorms that started Easter Sunday. I think it was the 18th day of April, 1873. Hundreds of cattle perished. We lost four head, and father said that we were lucky, for some lost all they had. We did not see ours for about three days after the storm, when father and I went out with the oxen and pulled the dead cattle out of the drifts and skinned them for the hides and sold them. We got from 50 to 75 cents for them. Now they would be worth $6.00 to $8.00 apiece.
We loaded our goods about the first of May and started for the Sappa Valley. It was a long and tedious trip, as the road was bad. We struck the Republican River at Superior, then up the river. Father had one yoke of my brother's cattle, as they were rather wild, and he let brother take a yoke of his, they were gentle. They were Texans and as quick as horses. We came along pretty well until we got west of Red Cloud. We camped on a little creek called Farmer's Creek. When we camped that night I could step across it, but the next morning it was a half mile wide. A big thunderstorm came up and at about 3 o'clock in the morning the water commenced running into the bed under the wagon where father and mother were sleeping. They got up and the bed began to float. He called to the rest and I jumped out and started for my saddle. It was gone, so I ran out where my horse was lariated, or started to, and got into water up to my waist. I called to her and she came as near to me as she could, and I went a step farther and I could reach her halter. I untied her and climbed on her back and she took me to dry land. Father and brother were getting the oxen and taking the wagons about 80 rods away, where we stayed until daylight. Then a woman came down to camp and told mother to bring the children up to the house and dry their clothes. I went with the rest. They had a big fireplace, and you bet I enjoyed it. Nearly everything we had was washed away, even the cooking utensils. I found my saddle over a mile from where we camped, and a big pile of drift. Some of the things were never found. By the time we could get out of there, there were about 20 to 25 teams there to cross. They were afraid to put their horses in the creek, so father hauled the wagons over with the cattle. He had one ox he could ride, and would ride him and drive the others. We finally got out of there and went on. We came to a little creek east of Republican City. At this place the Texas cattle were afraid of the dirt bridge and turned so short they broke the tongue rod. Father sent me up to the town to get it mended. I told the blacksmith we would pay him the next morning as we came along. He did not like to let me have it at first, but said, "Be sure and stop, and pay for it." The next morning father stopped and paid for it, and had just 10 cents left.
We came on up to Melrose and if I remember rightly, it was west or northwest of Orleans. There we forded the river and went across the creek and started up the divide, where we had better road. There had been quite a change here since we were there in August the year before. When we reached the claims we found the company organized a post office near us called Richmond. Henry Brown kept it. There seemed to be lots of people here and the country did not look so wild. We landed on our homestead the 25th or 26th of May, 1873. The first thing [we needed] was meat, so father started the next morning out on the South divide. He soon came back and said he had killed a buffalo. We hooked up the cattle and went after it. He had caught a calf and cutting some hide off the cow had tied it. When we got close to it, it went kicking around and got its feet loose and away it went, so we did not have a buffalo calf after all, but we got our meat and went home. We had plenty of meat, and also some of the neighbors. We also had plenty of lariats, so we cut the buffalo hide into what we called rope. They were better than rope and lasted longer than any rope you could buy for the grass did not cut them out. We used the hide for various things, rugs and chair bottoms, and I have made shoes out of them. My brother was out hunting and he wore his shoes all out, so he skinned the hocks of a buffalo and put them on green. He did not pay much attention to them and they dried to his feet, so he did not take them off at night. The next day he began to feel something crawling on his foot and he began looking, and come to find out the flies had blown his feet. Then he was barefooted again. its is no joke. You ask Harve Brouhard, he was there. We had plenty of buffalo meat for two years, then they were more scarce as the hide hunters killed so many. I have seen hundreds of dead buffalo in one day, which had been killed just for the hides. Lots of them had not taken a bit of meat and sometimes had cut enough for one mess. I believe I have seen more than 10,000 buffalo in one day. We saw them from one divide to another the first year we were there by the hundreds. Talk about rattlesnakes; I have seen plenty and killed thirty or forty in one day, and they aren't gone yet. I killed two last summer.
Well, the next day after we got the meat, we began to fix a place to stay. We went to work and finished the dugout and moved in. We did not have any doors or windows, but we lived in the house, as we called it, until fall, or until I went away in July. I did not get back until December. The folks had a door, but we never got any windows for about a year and a half. We did not raise much that year, as we got there too late to put in anything but a sod crop and some late garden.
I remember the first celebration in Beaver City on the 4th of July, 1873. I went on horseback. We had a splendid dinner and everybody seemed to have a good time. That was my first acquaintance with Nat Ayers. He came around looking after the boys and marched us up for dinner. My folks weren't there and nearly everyone was a stranger to me, and of course I was somewhat bashful. I always knew Mr. Ayers after that. T. M. Williams and some of the others did the speaking. They had quite a lot of sport and had a bowery dance. I could play the violin and there were others that could play. That was the first time I met June Denham and John McKee. I had met Charlie Kinsman before and they were all that I knew, until that beautiful day, the 4th of July.
I went east and earned enough so we got through the winter all right and had plenty of sport chasing jack rabbits and going to parties. I played for a good many dances. We had to dance on the dirt floor, and they seemed to enjoy it as well as though they had a good smooth floor. Everyone had a good time in those days.
W. T. McGuire spoke about that man shooting himself, a Mr. Jones. I was well acquainted with him and we missed him greatly at the parties. We used to always have something going on all the time, camp meeting in the groves in the summer and meetings in the little sod school houses in the winter, and it did not cost anything. We had good preaching and good times in general. Some of the writers spoke of the value of a homestead in the early days. I knew a man to trade his homestead and improvements, a small crop and his wagon for the other fellow's wagon as he got would be worth from $25 to $30 today . I own the land at present and it would be worth from $40 to $50 per acre. I bought it for $220 and homesteaded it. The first man traded it in 1876 and bought it in 1877.
In the spring of 1874 we began our work as usual and put out all the land we had broke, and as before it was dry, but not as bad as we had in the years before, but it was mostly blamed to the hoppers, but the drought killed the corn before the hoppers alighted. We did not raise much that year. Some people sold out for what they could get and went back to their wife's folks and some just went and left without selling out, and others came in and took their places. That was the way the tide went. The man that traded wagons and gave his claim to boot, stayed for three or four years in the East and then came to Nebraska on foot and homesteaded south of Beaver City. Henry Dierker owns his claim at present. His name was Kendall and most of the settlers will remember him.
Mr. Whitney spoke about drawing aid. I remember about that, but of that aid that was sent here some got plenty and some did not get very much. The people were just like they are now. When the officer was in Beaver City, everybody went over and he would take their names and ask them how many potatoes they wanted to plant. Some would say half-an-acre and some would want three or four acres, and one or two wanted five acres, so they did not get any. They had some clothing and we got some. I got an overcoat, which was the best aid we ever got. The next spring there was some seed grain sent in and some got plenty and some got very little. That was the spring of 1875. We had the best crop we have ever raised and the country began to go ahead and we thought we were strictly in the push. The divides began to settle up and everything was lively all that winter.
We started in the spring of 1876 with a good heart, and everything that we planted came up fine and grew fine. We got our wheat cut and began cutting the barley. Before we were done cutting, the grasshoppers began to light and soon they chewed up the corn and everything that looked green, even the timber. They stripped the ash and began eating the elm and boxelder. A storm came up and it began to thunder and lightening and we had a big rain and hail, the creek raised 22 feet in less than one hour. The hoppers were mostly in the timber and it washed them down. In some places in the drifts, they were 3 or 4 feet deep, but they had eaten everything before the storm came. We had stacked our crop of grain on the bottom and the water was all around it and about four or five feet up on the stacks, so we lost most of our crop. We tore down the stacks and dried them out, but the grain was spoiled for anything but hog feed. Those were the last hoppers we ever had, only the few we have had lately.
Mr. Whitney spoke about Brigham Young responding when we asked for aid. I don't remember anything about that. I don't think there was anything came in our neighborhood from the West. We had several aid meetings and we did not get aid from the East. My brother went over to Plum Creek [now Lexington] and hauled a load over. It was in the spring and cold and snow was on the ground. There were several teams, mostly oxen. Some of the men did not have any socks, but they went and were glad to think they were getting something for their families.
About the 1st of September I went to work for Mr. Lashley and worked for him about four months. I kept the family in provision, so we got through the winter all right. Of course we did not have any knickknacks, and not many fine clothes, but we stayed and were healthy and happy. Sometimes people would have the blues but not in the spring. Generally about the middle of June to the 1st of July we nearly always had some hot winds. At this time there were always people who wanted to sell out. Nearly always they would say, "I want to stay, but my wife won't stay." Usually they would stay away one year and maybe two, but generally came back worse off than when they went.
Talk about hard times. I knew young men who had only one shirt, and I was one of them. In the summer of 1876 I used to take my shirt off and wear some old dress waist while mother washed my shirt, and sometimes she would wash it three times a week, owing to the number of parties. Sometimes we would have many parties in one week. All the same we would enjoy ourselves.
We started out in the spring of 1877 with new courage and had a pretty fair crop. Plenty of most everything. In July I bought my claim and in the fall I took me a companion. Then I started working for myself and wife. In the spring we put out a big crop and raised plenty of everything. Land began to advance. Everything in the shape of a piece of land was getting to be worth a good price, and nobody wanted to sell. In 1879 we did not have quite so good a crop, but we got a good price. Wheat went up to $1.00 per bushel, so it was not very bad. People stayed that winter and went to work in the spring with a good heart, and put in big crops, and did not raise very much of everything, and the tide began to roll east and west, mostly east to wife's folks. In June 1879 I hired out to my uncle [Joseph Brouhard] at 50 cents per day. That did not look very big. I worked 53 days and then hooked up my team and drove east and stayed all winter. In the spring of 1881 I came home and brought provisions to last me until harvest. We raised a pretty good crop that year. Then the country began to boom again. We never had any failures until 1890, when the Sappa went dry for the first time. We had been here for over seventeen years. Well, I think Nebraska is the finest country to live in on the globe. Of course I have spent most of my time here, never living any place else since I was fifteen years old, so of course, I would naturally think this is the only place.
Some writers spoke of the game that was here in the early days. I remember the last wild turkeys. Someone started the flock down the creek about ten miles and I and a German named Judge Altman, killed the last one. They were the last ones I ever heard of here on this creek. I think this was the fall of 1874.
In speaking of aid, father did draw some meat. I think that was in the spring of 1874. Our neighbor, Mr. Mallory, or as they used to call him, Dr. Mallory, lived one-half mile west of my father's. He went up there and got his aid. Each one drew according to his family. He drew among other things, two shoulders of pork. They weighed about four pounds each, and that was not much for so large a family. So father would tie one up to the ridge log, and we would begin at the oldest, get up on a stool and swallow the shoulder and jump off the stool and so on down to the smallest. That would make the meat last until the next aid came.
One of the writers spoke about the wood rats. His story sounds all right, as I have known those rats to carry off case knives, spoons, tin cups, shoes and all such things. They never carried off my trousers or suspenders, but they sure were pests. I have killed buffalo, antelope and wild turkey, and seen as many as 100 in a day. I remember the first wheat, we bound it by hand, and cleaned off a place of the ground, and I rode the horses, that is, I rode one horse and led two others and tramped it out and cleaned it in the wind. Father and Mr. Kendall went to Grand Island to get it ground. They were gone four or five days. The wheat we raised made our bread and we thought it was pretty good. It was not long after that until we had mills near us. I used to freight from Lowell [Located south of Platte River just south of the town of Gibbon] and Kearney. It would take five or six and sometimes seven days. The wheat we would get 756 per hundred. That was in goods. We would haul from 16 to 25 hundred. Some would haul 40 or more with yoke of cattle.
I believe I have written enough of this, so will draw to a close, for fear it will be monotonous. I want to say this for Furnas County. I will stand up for Nebraska. I have lived here 41 years and I never saw one year just like this. Everything, last spring, indicated a big crop of corn, but it doesn't look it now. The Sappa is almost dry at this writing, the 30th day of July 1913. It looks as though feed would be pretty scarce, but I still think there will be a good fall pasture. It has got to rain pretty soon.
Will close, with best wishes to everybody. FRANK P. BROUHARD