Keystone Memories: Keystone History
Keith County, NEGenWeb
Barbed Wire

A very special Thank You to Mrs. Lorna Wendt, who's hard work, dedication, and generosity made this transcription possible.



[Written and Compiled by Mrs. Lorna Wendt, Keystone Nebraska]
[Transcription by Susan Anderson]



[Permission to reprint granted to Susan Anderson, NeGenWeb Project-Keith County, and USGenWeb Project by Mrs. Lorna Wendt. The material contained herein may not be reprinted elsewhere without the express written consent of the author, except in the case of personal use only, in which this statement must appear on all pages.]



[Transcriptionist's Note: In retyping these pages, I have made every effort to duplicate the original publication. This includes spelling, punctuation and capitalization. However, I have added the page numbers in the appropriate places. You will note that some pages seem to be more lengthy than others. This is because in the original booklet, there are photos inserted throughout the following pages. Unfortunately, these photos are unavailable at this time.]


Acknowledgments

I was born near the North Platte river and have lived most of my life in this vicinity. I have always been interested in our heritage, especially of this area, and started writing down the things I have been told or read, mostly for my own pleasure. Many people have asked for copies so this publication is the answer.

I would like to offer acknowledgment for the information gleaned from the following :

The Keith County News of Febr., 1935; 50th Anniversary Edition.

The Nebraska Cattleman Magazine.

The relatives and friend of people mentioned in this history.

Gene Feltz for his patience in answering my many questions.

Georgia Brogan for many of the pictures and her grandmother's journal.

Mrs. Lorna Wendt 1975


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Around the year 1882 the section of the North Platte River, north of Ogallala and in Keith County, was a long and wide valley divided by the life-giving river; treacherous in places with quicksand, ankle deep in places with water and deep enough to swim a horse in others. The south hills were patched with cedar trees and on the north side were the ever-changing rolling sand hills criss-crossed with little valleys running in all directions and "belly deep" with grass. This was ideal cow country.

In the summer there were often sizzling hot winds that scorched everything in their pathway; swarms of greenhead flies, deerflies, mosquitos and buffalo gnats; prairie dog towns, filled with rattlesnakes and owls living together in amnity; and the ever dreaded calamity of a prairie fires that swept the country for hundreds of miles, with nothing to stop them, started probably by Indians, white hunters or mother nature's own lightning storms.

The winters were very cold, and furious blizzards came often, with the mercury down to 25 and 30 degrees below. The snow blowing in drifts as high as the sod houses of the settlers. These were some of the objectionable worries the pioneers had to meet, and he met them with grit and courage, but he was favored with many good things too/ Even though the days might be hot, usually the nights were cool and gave a heavenly respite from the cares of the day, allowing a good well-earned night's rest. Even the cold winter days were interspersed with beautiful sunny days that at least seemed warmer and sparked a hope of spring to come. It was said if you didn't like Nebraska weather just wait awhile, it would change.

Along most of the streams grew a profusion of wild fruit, plums, grapes, choke-cherries, currants, and sand cherries which were soon found and appreciated. The whole country was also a hunter's paradise with no hunting restrictions. Deer, antelope, a few elk, prairie chickens, curlew, plover and quail. The musical sandhill cranes, the quacking of every variety of wild duck and the honk of the wild geese meant a variety of meat for many a homesteader, and often was the only meat.

Some of the land was government land and some had been homesteaded. The "Homestead Act" had been passed in 1862 and by January 1, 1863, the first filing had started in eastern Nebraska. This Act permitted an American citizen, twenty-one years of age to claim 160 acres of public land which he had to improve and live on for five years after which he was given the title to the land.

Two large cattle companies, The Ogallala Land and Cattle Co., and the John Bratt Co., had quite a domain of government land under fence as the settlers came in and "took up" homesteads or tree claims, some friction developed but none became too serious. The Ranchers believed the soil was right side up as God had intended it to be but the settlers were just as determined to turn it with a plow and raise crops and gardens.

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A "Timber Claim" Act had been passed in 1873 and was similar to the Homestead Act but under the terms of this act one could get 160 acres of land by planting 10 acres of trees and caring for them for 8 years. Many who took timber claims planted barrels of seed and brought in thousands of trees to plant but this was not too successful due to the soil and drought except along some of the streams and maybe around some of the settlers "soddies" where the wife, wishing for a little shade from the sun and something to break the bleakness of the prairie, watered them faithfully with the wash water or carried water from the stock tank. The sturdy old cottonwood trees were the most successfully grown and were the most helpful to the pioneers. They were used for fuel in times of dire need. Their dead branches making a quick hot fire to finish off the baking of a pan of biscuits, or heating the room quickly on a cold winter morning. They were used for a rail in the fence to keep the ranchers cow from the settlers garden; for a club to chase a cantankerous milk cow, or a switch to warm junior's britches for neglecting his chore, or just for the cool shade and protection as the breeze gently rustled the leaves on a hot summer day. They were a hardy tree and a majestic tree. Long after the homesteader had proved up and sold out, selling to the rancher, these sentinels of the prairie still mark the spot of the early homes. Lucien Waugh and Edward Richards were two families who had "Timber Claims" as well as many more.

Most of the early homes were made of native sod, only two frame buildings were in the valley at this time. These sod homes were cool in summer, their thick walls holding out against the blistering heat of the sun, and in winter acting as insulation against the blast of winter winds, and above all they were cheap to build and the material was handy. A few of the "better" soddies were plastered inside and out, however most were just left as they were with maybe sheets hung along the inner walls or faced with newspapers. Sod houses had one drawback. As the sod would settle and draw away from the door and window frames, it made a haven for mice which in turn attracted rattlesnakes hunting the mice. The snakes were also attracted to the cool protection from the hot sun and many a housewife kept a hoe handy for the purpose of killing snakes. I am not

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sure if the expression came from this but an ambitious housewife was often referred to as "going after her work like she was killing snakes."

The Ogallala Land and Cattle Co. had a substantial ranch house (frame) on the north bank of the North Platte river near where the present town of Keystone is now situated. James Ware was the manager; "Dick" Bean, foreman; and other cowboys such as Harry Haythorn, J.J. McCarthy; and a little later Mr. Reed and the Andy Bennet family just to mention few.

It was about this time that William A. Paxton acquired holding in and around then vicinity.

A few of the settlers that had arrived in the Valley by the late 1800's were W.P. Holloway, John Kelly, W.A. Wilkinson, Lucien Waugh, B.G. Mathews, mostly from Missouri; other families were Ada Miller, Harvey Knight, Cornelius Fenwick and J.J. McCarthy's. Many young bachelors destined to become ranchers and family men were working for the established places. The Winterer brothers; the Sillasen brothers; Jim Ballinger; Hank Chestnut, the Mannons, John Irwin; F.Q. Feltz had a homestead on the south side of the river, though most of the valley was on the north side; the Brogan Brothers and many more.

These men were hardy, thrifty, honest, peaceable and determined to make homes and to succeed in their undertakings. The weakling either did not attempt to settle or if he did he soon sold out and returned to where he came from or moved on.

Those early pioneers had no locks on their doors and their word was taken with more assurance than bonds are taken today. Strangers as well as friends were taken in and given food and shelter. Much business was done without banking facilities, contracts and business transactions were made verbally without witnesses and were invariably carried out.

Many of these families were Germans, Swedes and Danes, who were good thrifty farmers and cattlemen. There were a few Irish and a small percentage and Native Americans. Some of these rugged pioneers families

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are still with us. Later there were a few Texans who settled having come up the Trails with cattle drives and appreciating the grassy hills and pastures decided to stay and take up homesteads for themselves.

As new families moved into the valley many a bachelor cowboy would ride miles out of is way, cross many clear flowing creeks, or pass bubbling springs only to show up at the new-comers door for a "drink of water." If a glimpse of a pretty new daughter was possible (and that was usually the object of the ride) then he was well rewarded and the news spread as fast as the prairie fires.

And so the valley began to be settled.

One favor the cattlemen did the settler unintentionally; the sandhills were covered with cowchips that furnished people with fuel. They were generally too poor to buy coal or too far from the market, and so they gathered "chips" to burn. This was often a job for children or the younger ones. A gentle old team of horses was hitched to a wagon and driven by the youngest so the older children could be free to carry sacks or pails which were filled and then emptied into the wagon. This was a dirty tiresome job as well as dangerous because of the rattlesnakes, but a stack of chips as big as the house was needed to last through the winter. It was said it kept three people busy to keep the fires going, one to collect chips, one to feed the fire, and one to carry out the ashes, but they did make a hot fire for heating the house and no doubt heated the oven of the old black range to bake many a dried apple pie or a pan of sourdough bread, and they did have their place in the development of the country.

When the Union Pacific Railroad went through Ogallala in the mid 1880's they cut many ties from the large cedar trees on the south hills of the valley, and years later, because of the shortage and cost of fuel, homesteaders from as far away as Perkins county came with teams and wagons to clear even the stumps left behind by the railroad, to use for fuel.

The rainfall in ‘87 and ‘88 was light and only a partial crop was harvested; ‘89 and ‘90 were a little better but the price of farm produce was down to very little. Nearly all the settlers had wild hay on their claims. This was hauled across the river in winter on the ice, thence to

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Ogallala and shipped to Denver; frequently it did not bring the price of the freight. It was during this time that W.P. Stansbery, who with his family of seven girls and two boys, living farther west on Lonergan Creek, contracted with Mr. W.A. Paxton to put the hay in the valley. The hay crew was made up of seven mowers, led by the oldest daughter, Letha; four rakers, led by Edith and Elsie; 2 hay sweeps, one of which was daughter Edna; and three men that stacked the hay. Hay was put up from the north of the town of Paxton, west to near the present town of Oshkosh, Nebr. Mrs. Stansbery cooked for the crew in a tent that was placed by a stream where water would be available and where such things as butter and milk could be kept cool by placing in the water. Stansbery contracted with Mr. Paxton for 10 years.

The settlers were coming in rapidly and development had to follow. A school was organized and a sod schoolhouse was built 1 ˝ miles north of the Ogallala Land and Cattle Co. Ranch on the Cornelius Fenwick place. Miss Anna Reed was the first teacher. Later, about 1891, a school district No. 12 was outlined and a frame building erected, this was burned down. Some say a boy, large for his age and slow at learning, on being teased by the brighter youngsters, came back and set the school afire. This was never proven, however.

Whitetail precinct was established and when Grover Cleveland ran for President in the fall of 1884, Mr. McCarthy carried the ballot box from Whitetail Precinct to Ogallala, enduring many hardships. At that time there was only one bridge across the North Platte River from North Platte to the Wyoming border, the tall bridge at Camp Clark, so Mr. McCarthy was obliged to swim the river through snow, slush and ice.

A Sunday School was organized in the sod school in 1888, and later a Dr. Ryan organized what he called the Evangelican Union Church.

Mrs. Mary A. {Cornelius} Fenwick was the first postmaster, appointed in April 1891 and had the post office in a sod house at their ranch northeast of the present town (which didn't exist as yet). Mr Cornelius Fenwick was the mail carrier between the post office and Ogallala.

After the prairie fire that burned the headquarters of Ogallala Land and Cattle Company, they moved their operations to a neighbor's temporarily. Because of the encroachment of the homesteaders on the free grazing land which the company had used for so long they began to slowly move their herds to Wyoming where free land was still available. The land they owned was sold to Ware-Costin Cattle Co., part of which was later deeded to Mr. William Paxton and then to the town of Keystone.

The North Platte River, though a blessing because of its abundance of water, wild game, and fruit also proved to be a problem at times. Mail and supplies for the ranches had to be brought from Ogallala or Paxton. When the river was low it could be forded with due respect for the quicksand but when it was running high or was frozen, a bridge eight to ten miles west could be used. This required a day and night extra to freight supplies.

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Mr. Fenwick, who carried the mail would ford the river. Because of the close relationship between the Fenwick and Forest Mannon families, Mr. Mannon would go to the river with him to see him safely across and would meet him on his return in case of needed assistance.

More families at this later date were the Leonards, Mark and James; Forest Mannon, Ed Mathews, George McGinley, Sr; and of course, many more. Some had homesteaded, others had bought homestead relinquishments and some had worked for the big ranches until they could get a start on a place of their own, marry the local school "marm" or settler's daughter and become a solid citizen in their own right.

And now it was time for a town.

We have heard of golf as cow-pasture pool; well Keystone started as a cow-pasture town or nearly so.

In April, 1887, the United States Government deeded Section 5, Township 14, Range 37 to the Union Pacific Railroad.

November, 1891, this section was deeded by the railroad to the Ogallala Land and Cattle Co., except for a right-of-way for a train.

November, 1899, Ogallala Land and Cattle Co. deeded to Ware Costin Co.

October, 1905, Ware-Costin Cattle Co. deeded to William Paxton, Sr. (Mr. Ware was the brother-in-law of Mr. Paxton).

November 1905, Mr. Paxton deeded the section to the Public.

July 14, 1906, the town was platted by Payne Investment Co.

July 20, 1906, lots were auctioned for the development of the town of Keystone.

A barbeque was held and a platform dance that Saturday night, marked the founding of Keystone, a town that grew on land that was once the pasture of one ranch and named for the brand of the Paxton ranch. Mr. Paxton had come to Keith County around 1870 to ‘75 and had established quite a large holding of land and cattle.

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Cornelius Fenwick, having bought one of the first lots sold in Keystone, put up the first frame building in 1906, a fine frame house, and moved his family and the post office to town. This was on the main street of Keystone, and they lived in the house and had the post office in the front part. Mr. And Mrs. Fenwick continued in this way for the next three years before turning the job over to their son, Charles.

1906 was a year of much progress in the valley.

A bridge was built across the North Platte river in 1906, which was a blessing to the young and struggling town. Now the river was no longer a barrier between Ogallala and Keystone. No longer did the settlers have to take a dubious chance on fording the river or getting caught mid-stream in quicksand when it was a good time to pray, especially if

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the family was in the buggy with you. No longer did the freight wagons have to cross the treacherous water with heavy loads endangering supplies, teams, and the freighter himself. No longer did the herds of cattle have to ford going to market although at times it was easier to cross than to get a herd of "spooky" cattle onto the bridge.

The first bridge was nearly a mile long and a yard wide or so if you happened to be riding or just driving skittish horses. There were two "turn outs" which were just wider places in the bridge to allow you to meet and pass someone from the opposite direction, and later woe to the teamster if the "someone" happened to be driving one of the first "gas buggies."

At a later date, when the south end of the bridge was in danger of washing out when the river was on a rampage and had washed a deep hole around that end, a Mr. Ed Coates was hauling rock to fill in where it had washed. He was driving a team of mules hitched to a wagon and was backing up to unload. The weight of the rock was a little more than the mules could hold going down the slant and they were pulled back into the river where they were drowned. Mr. Coates had leaped to safety but it was some time later before they found the team where it had been washed down the stream.

Mr. Coates was quite a horseman and raised several head on his place north of Keystone. He even tried his hand at raising a few race horses for a short time.

The bridge was not only a convenience for business purposes but made social activities easier. There were many dances, school programs, church affairs and other entertainments to attend alter.

All was not "sweetness and light" during this time by far as the nearest town Ogallala, being the end of the Texas cattle trail was a wide open town–with the natural accompaniment of saloons and bawdy houses.

These attracted many of the cowboys on a Saturday night and sometimes even a family man was found to be coming home as the sun

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rose on a Sunday morning.

There was also the usual amount of scandal and disasters and death was not new to the community.

Dick Bean and Billy Costin were two that met untimely deaths in the prime of their lives.

Dick Bean, foreman of the Ogallala Land and Cattle Co., was well thought of, a respectful and respected man who was engaged to Miss Emily Richards, daughter of Mr. And Mrs. Edward Richards who had taken a Timber Claim further west and on the south side of the river. Dick had gone to Ogallala with a team and a wagon for a load of lumber to build a house for his future bride. Coming home down a steep hill the lumber shifted, the team ran away and Dick was killed. Jack Holcum found him and the evidence was quite clear what had happened. Dick's brother came from Texas to claim the body and take it back to Texas but Mr. Paxton and Mr. Bostler convinced him that Dick should be buried in the country he loved and had decided to make his home and so it was agreed. Paxton and Bostler bought the stone for the grave in the Ogallala cemetery. After the funeral, his favorite saddle horse and cowboy hat were presented to Miss Richards.

Billy Costin was "cut from a different kind of cloth," a tall, dark and handsome fellow, that frequented the saloons, was considered quite a ladies man, not above casting an eye at a married lady, and was the cause of one or more broken homes. In one of these incidents when the offended husband was asked why he didn't shoot him, the answer was "Don't think I haven't considered it."

One morning, in the wee small hours after a night of revelry, he was returning home on horseback accompanied by Mr. Coates. They parted at a pasture gate but Billy never made it back to the ranch. He was later found shot to death, a victim it was believed (but not proven) of some jealous husband.

1906 saw a branch line of the Union Pacific Railroad built up in the valley. This line was a spur line from the main branch at O'Fallins, east of Hershey, Nebr., to the Wyoming boundary.

The Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad also wanted a line up the valley and started building a grade, in fact there were places where the grades were nearly side by side. This competition continued until just short of Keystone, where the C.B.&Q. Gave up and stopped.

The Union Pacific hired settlers or homesteaders to build the grade for this line. This was welcome work as money was a scare commodity to some and was the needed means of improving their places.

The U.P. work train was stopped on a siding at Keystone during the building of this portion of the road. During this time the Feltzs milked cows and would strain the milk into five gallon cans, take it to Keystone and sell it to the workers for five cents a quart. The "Chicks, Mexicans

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and Blacks"[this is not intended to be offensive to any racial group, this is the wording used as copied from an old journal used in the compilation of the booklet--S.A.] would come out of the cars with pails, pitchers and kettles, anything they could find, to buy the fresh milk, often drinking one quart immediately, then buying a refill. This was a very lucrative business for the Feltzs.

The railroad was a great help to the community as it afforded a means of shipping cattle and livestock to market and brining in needed supplies which had previously been hauled by freight wagons that had to ford the river. The bridge and the railroad both were a blessing in this way.

The first passenger train came up the line in May of 1907 and went as far as Lewellen, which was the end of the line at this time. One of the passengers on this eventful day was Miss Anna Knight, daughter of Harve Knight. A year later she was married to Mr. Will Fenwick, a son of Cornelius Fenwick, in the Little Church. This was another first as it was the first wedding performed there after the dedication of the Church. She incidentally was one of the passengers on this same train when it made the last "Passenger" run on May 3, 1971.

As it was mentioned earlier in this article, the frame school house (that replaced the sod house on the Fenwick ranch) burned down and so another had to be built. This time it was built in Keystone, in the north east part of town. Although it was not a very large building as school go today, it did offer to the children of the community, not only the usual eight grades nut in addition the first two grades of high school. As the population grew even this was doomed to be replaced by an even larger school in later years, but for the time it afforded a place for an education and as a center for other social and entertaining affairs.

Mr. Bill Paxton, Jr. had taken over the management of his father's ranch in 1905 and his wife, Mrs. Georgia Paxton, formed a group of little

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girls into a club called the "King's Daughters." This group was the instigators of the idea to have a church, the result was the raising of the money and building the unique Little Church of combined Catholic and Protestant religions in the same building, which was dedicated in August of 1908. Mr. Paxton ordered a car of lumber to be shipped from Omaha and from this was built the Little Church and the Library. The community had raised a little over $700.00 for the Church and the Paxtons gave the remainder, the total cost being $1200.00. The Church was presented to the community debt-free.

An idea for a church in Keystone was conceived by eleven teen-age girls led by Mrs. Bill Paxton, Jr., who had organized them into a club similar to our present 4-H clubs. Through their diligent efforts they raised over three hundred dollars by having bake sales, bazaars and oyster suppers. Friends realizing the earnestness of these little girls in their desire for a church, contributed and the sum grew to seven hundred and fourteen dollars. Mr. And Mrs. Paxton generously gave the remainder. The chapel cost twelve hundred dollars complete and was given to the community debt free.

The Church is approximately eighteen by forty feet and will seat about seventy-five people. At the north end is the Catholic altar and at the south end is the Protestant altar. The back of the pews are hinged in such a way as to fold from back to front, reversing the seating to accommodate members of the faith using it at any one time.

Special dispensation from Pope Leo XIII to have dual faiths in the same building was given to the American Cardinal and was in turn delivered by Bishop Scannell and Father Woulf of Omaha, Nebr. To the church on September 15, 1908. This unique chapel was dedicated on August 16, 1908, by Rev. Dean George Beecher of Omaha, Nebr.

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The first wedding was for Miss Anna Knight and Mr. William Fenwick on August 26, 1908, ten days after the dedication services.

The last Presbyterian services were held on December 12, 1926 by Rev. J.A. Campbell when the new Presbyterian Church was built.

The last Catholic Mass was held in the "Little Church" by Father McMahan on October 13, 1929.

The last regular services were by the Lutherans and were ended in June, 1949. Rev. Boehnke conducted the service.

There were short term services and revival meetings held for sometime after.

The Bible on the Protestant altar was given by Mrs. Short of Cleveland, Ohio and was used at the dedication service.

The organ was a gift of Mr. And Mrs. Luther Korentze of Omaha and is still in playing condition.

The church was lighted by kerosene lamps at first, later gasoline lamps were used, but the church was never wired for electricity.

B.G. Mathews had come to Keith County in 1887 and served two terms as county judge. He resigned and in 1907 moved to Keystone and built

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the first business house in Keystone, and moved a stock of goods to the new Village. Mrs. Mathews, a pioneer teacher by profession, devoted her time to the community affairs and later was an early member of the Keystone Women's Club and Library Association.

Lauris Sillasen bought the Mathews store a year later and handled a general line fo goods, his advertisement being that he had "good things to eat and wear." The Sillasen store also handled hardware, feed and coal and built up an excellent trade because of his hair treatment and honest dealings.

The Welpton Lumber Co. of Ogallala, aware of the growth of a new town, erected a building and handled hardware, lumber, coal and supplies. Tom Dutch, a son-in-law of Mr. Welpton, was the manager of the Keystone Yard. At this time space was partitioned off in the corner of the lumberyard office for the first banking facilities. This served the community for two or three years.

R.H. Barber was the organizer of the bank and along with Mr. Welpton was the main stockholder. This was in 1908. When Mr. Barber first came to Keystone, he and Mr. Coyner slept under a new stock tank the first night, outside the lumber yard. There was no doubt sleeping quarters somewhere in town but non as handy–or as cheap.

A delegation of twelve men came from Omaha in 1908, their aim was to form a German Lutheran Colony in the Valley around Keystone.

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A system of irrigation ditches was mapped out utilizing the many creeks and ponds. People were urged to plant crops and for a time sugar beets, artichokes and corn were grown very successfully but the Colony never really was a successful venture. Some of the workers brought in at this time to farm under contract remained to work for the ranchers or to try a place of their own. One such family was that of Henry Gies who came to Keystone in 1910, under contract to work with the beets.

1909, a new bank was chartered, R.H. Barber, President; J.W. Welpton, H.E. Worrel as the directors. A new brick building was erected across the street west of the Welpton Lumber Yard, about 1911, that not only filled the needs of the immediate community but had depositors from surrounding counties. Not counting the bankers themselves, Mr. Knute Nielson was the first depositor.

A depot was built by the railroad in 1909, just south of the bank. W.P. Wiggs was the first depot agent followed by Frank Baer and in 1913 Joe Wilson.

Mr. And Mrs. Scully had homesteaded north of Alkali, (later the name was changed to Paxton) on Clear Creek, where shortly after Mr. Scully became ill and in 1898 passed away. Mrs. Scully's future couldn't have looked too bright, as she was 30 years old at the time with four children, the oldest twelve and the youngest three. Never-the-less, she carried on undaunted. She had done all their sewing, being an accomplished seamstress, so tried sewing for the neighbors, and in the summertime she worked for Wm. Coker for $3.00 a week to help support her family. The hardships were many.

A devastating prairie fire in [1903] which burned, along with hundreds of acres of prairie, 47 head of horses for J.J. McCarthy and the Ogallala Land and Cattle Co. ranch house, had also burned the home of the Scullys. Mr. W.A. Paxton, hearing of her hardships, asked Mrs. Scully to come to Keystone and cook for his men. After much thought she decided to make this move. That was in May of 1903. A young cowboy, C.R. Fenwick, who worked for Mr. Paxton, went for them with a four horse team (however they were mules) and wagon which was loaded with the family and household goods. Two of the children drove their 13 head of cattle, all that remained of their possessions.

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While cooking for the Paxton ranch, her daughter Katherine Ann, fell in love with C.R. Fenwick, the man that had helped them move from their homestead. They were married in April 1908 in Ogallala, and Mrs. Scully held a wedding dance for them at the ranch. People came from miles around, by horseback, buggy or wagon and danced til morning. Entertainment in the Valley during these years was a treat and any opportunity to "kick up their heels" was not to be missed.

Mrs. Scully cooked for the Paxton ranch until 1910 when she moved to Keystone having built the Scully Hotel, a large two story frame building.

In 1914 more rooms and a Dance Hall were added to the Hotel. From then on there was a "hot time in the ole town," well behaved but fun. Charlie Richards was often the "caller" for square dances held here.

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Often in the winter time he and his wife would skate on the frozen river from their home on the south side and several miles west, to Keystone where they would dance til the wee hours of the morning then skate home. Mrs. Scully always reserved a room on dance nigh6t where the mothers could deposit their babies or small children while they enjoyed themselves in the Hall.

These first settlers were a social and happy lot. In spite of hardships and the scarcity of organized entertainment, they met often in social gatherings and games. Clubs were formed for young and old alike, and a Library was started. The first Library consisting of a few donated books kept in a cupboard donated for the purpose and placed in the Cornelius Fenwick home. Later, in 1908, a new Library building was erected in Keystone, more books were donated or purchase, until nearly twelve hundred books graced the shelves. There were many well educated and well read settlers in the Valley, several holding county offices and a few senators and judges. Many lively discussions and debates on other than earthly topics of the day were carried when more than two people met.

As the community grew larger a school was needed and in 1917 a two-story building was built and offered all four grades of high school. The first graduate of Keystone High School was James Bannon who finished the course in 1923 but was not awarded his diploma until graduating exercises were held in 1925 for Stanley Wujek and Marguerit Jeppesen. The last graduating class was in 1945 with four pupils, Miss June Blomenkamp, Gerald Fenwick, Delbert Finley and Charles Bannon. The high school building was sold and torn down around 1951 and a new brick grade school building of three rooms was put up at the same location.

Thus the Village grew. The population was 175. There had been a steady increase and as time went on there were stockyards, and elevator, livery barns, fine lumber store yards, hardware stores, three general stores, a library, church, hotel, substantial bank, creamery and later garages.

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The Keystone Arthur Telephone Co. was originally organized by a group of Keystone citizens realizing the need for better communication in the area. They sold shares in the company, each member had to buy their own phone and they had to furnish the labor to build the lines, install the switchboard and the telephones. This was in 1918. A Mr. Hill was hired as maintenance man and manager.

The community grew, families moved in and other left, children grew up and started families of their own but the population remained basically the same. For a short time the town of Keystone even boasted of their street lights but the cost was eventually too much for so small a town.

1923, The Sinclair oil Co. ran a pipeline from Wyoming through Keystone and they built a pumping station a few miles to the east. They also erected six houses for the families of the station personnel. When operations were later suspended, Mr. Robert A. Goodall of Ogallala purchased five of the houses and moved them to a location east of the Junior High school on 6th street. These houses were all built alike. The sixth house was bought by Mabel Mannon and moved to Keystone, later it was sold to Ben Mathews and moved to the old Mathews place.

A Mr. Knox was the station manager for the Sinclair operation.

In 1948 and ‘49 the Station was reopened by the Stanoline Co. New houses were built, all alike, and new families moved in. Mr. Purdue was the Station superintendent. This company discontinued and again the houses were sold and again many of them were moved to Ogallala. This was about 1955.

The Keystone Diversion Dam was put across the river in 1935. This was the first dam in Keith County. This dam diverted the water through canals to Paxton, it then went through a flume under the South Platte river and on through canals to the Sutherland Reservoir, on again finally ending at North Platte where it is used to generate electric power. It is also used for irrigation. This dam is 4 miles west of Keystone.

Work on Kingsley Dam began around 1935 and when completed in 1941 was the second largest hydraulic dam in the world. It is situated five miles up the River from keystone, across the North Platte River and now the river that ran so free and unspoiled has not only been bridged but is harnessed by dams to produce power for electricity. This Dam necessitated the moving of the railroad from Keystone to the foot of the sandhills to the north. The moving of the railroad caused many of the business places to leave and so the valley goes back to being cattle country again. The lush hay meadows, the grazing in the hills are still the same and the many ranches are as friendly as ever.

There are still Mathews, Knights, McGinleys, Blomenkamps and many more descendants of the original settlers in the valley.

All that remains of the town are a store, post office, library, two

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churches, the school, the bank, a few friendly residents and a world of happy memories and good feelings.

Acknowledgments to B.G. Mathews and Mrs. J.J. McCarthy for information taken from articles written by them for the Keith County News and to Mr. Eugene Felts for his information and patience in answering my many questions.

Mrs. Lorna Wendt 1974






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