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Merrick County
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The Nonpareil - April 7, 1898


History of Merrick County

• From "the beginning" until the year 1895.




(Concluded from last week)

CHARLEY HARTLEY (The boy spoken of already in this history as wanting to hurt an Indian).--Enlisted in the summer of 1862 in the 22nd Iowa Infantry and took his place as corporal on the color guard. Any one reading the history of the charge at Vicksburg on May 22nd, 1863, can form some idea of what he was doing at that time, as that regiment crossed the works and was driven out three times, the color company losing sixteen men out of thirty-two, all killed or wounded, and the color guard bringing the flag out safely. Afterwards the same boy from Merrick county put on a shoulder strap with two bars on it, and skipped all the grades of promotion from corporal to captain in his company. This must have atoned somewhat for his not being allowed to hurt a poor Indian. Speaking about "grit," he was not much lacking in the moral kind--A singular sample of a strict temperance boy on the plains. When his commission arrived the colonel got it and called up all the line and staff officers to his tent and sent the orderly for Hartley. He reported at the tent and found all sitting around the table discussing a full basket of champagne. "Now, Captain Hartley,"said the colonel, handing him a paper, "here is your commission, and according to general usage it will be necessary for you to 'wet it'." Charley took the paper, and looking the colonel squarely in the eye replied, "Colonel, if for me to hold this commission it is necessary that I drink whiskey and make a hog of myself, then you can keep the paper--I don't want it," and left the tent. But he led his company to the end of the war; so I think he must have been close by his colors at all times.

   HENRY C. MARTIN.--First enlisted with 3rd Colorado Infantry on the 22nd of May, 1861, but failing to obtain enough men this was consolidated with the 1st Colorado Cavalry. Was then detailed under Gen. Auger as assistant provost marshal. Served in all a little over three years and four months. Through a mistake of the enlisting officer his name was entered as Wm. C. Martin, and to this name is credited his entire military record.

   BENJAMIN HURLEY.--First enlisted in 1st Nebraska; after serving full time there, enlisted in Black Horse Battalion.

   We consider that Merrick County was as loyal to her country as any county in the United States, sending seven volunteers out of twelve residents subject to military duty. Their terms of enlistment aggregate twenty-five years' service. iI is true no one of them ever laid down his life for his country; no one of them wears an empty sleeve or a patent leg; such honor was not theirs to achieve. But if our Uncle Sam could have been consulted about the matter in the latter part of the year 1863, I think he would have said that there was more good, genuine cash value in seven case-hardened, acclimated and well disciplined old vets than there could be in the same number of dead heroes.




LetterOSSIBLY in the foregoing chapters we have touched too lightly upon the trials to which the pioneers of our county were subject. It is, therefore, the purpose of this chapter to relate some of the experiences of those early days in the words of one who shared in them and realized what they meant The story of the abuse and indignities heaped upon the pioneers by the red man, who sought by that means to prevent the encroachment of the white man upon his old-time hunting grounds, is told, by Mrs. J. G. Brewer, being a continuation of her account as found in Chapter II, and is as follows:

   About a month after the last mentioned escapade of Hartley, there were about 1300 Indians passed oar house in one day. They were Sioux, Arapahoes and Cheyennes. It took them six hours to get out of sight. They did not molest any of the ranches going down, but returning they committed about every depredation possible. They were incensed against the white settlers because, as they reasoned, the whites had helped the Pawnees give them a splendid threshing. The government had given the Pawnees a small cannon, and the Sioux and their friends very naturally concluded that this meant the white man was in sympathy with the Pawnees. The nearest assault on this occasion: was that on Mr. Hudson, about two miles below the stage station. They killed his turkeys, chickens and pigs, and surrounded the little house. Mr. and Mrs. Hudson were an aged couple who had lost all they had in the east, and being too proud to depend upon the charity of relatives and friends, had come west and were happy even if they were poor. They had been afraid of the small parties of Pawnees that had often stopped to beg, but had become somewhat used to them. But this tremendous outpour of Indiana was too much for them.
   The Indians then came to the stage house, where there were only two men; who were of course helpless in the presence of so many of the enemy. They filled the house so full that they frightened Mrs. Cummings greatly. Then they took down the garments from the wall (that was a fashionable wardrobe in Nebraska in those days), appropriating everything they wished. One of the most horrible looking Arapahoes donned little Jenny Cumming's hat. Then they went to the barn and contented themselves with cutting the straps from stage coaches and harness. They next visited Mr. Hill's, but as there was a large encampment of Pilgrims near they did not do much damage, except the shooting of a few chickens.
   Then came our turn. We were gone from home, leaving Hartley1 there. The first ones who came up turned onto the Island. Hartley, not seeing or knowing of the main body, took his gun and pursued the Island party (recognizing them as Sioux), for the purpose of killing at least one of them. He would never explain the cause of his long absence, or tell whether he killed any Indians or not while there.
   The large party was at our place in ten minutes. Finding no resistance, they destroyed everything we had except the stove. The furniture to the stove was all gone, one window broken, dining table in a dozen pieces, and chickens all killed, with the exception of all old black hen. She came in from the prairie with fifteen chickens and as she was the mother of thirty-five we concluded she must have had a fight. The canary bird, hanging down from the highest peak of the roof, was undisturbed. Just imagine our coming home! Nothing to cook, nothing to eat, no place to sleep! We slept on the ground that night. Mr. Brewer had his over-

1Chapter 11, pp. 16-17.

coat, I had my shawl, and Hartley slept in a hay stack. We were too worn out not to accept of some rest, although it was pervaded with fitful dreams with the scalping knife as a subject. We had only gotten into condition to rest by reasoning that there was no danger that night, when a loud rap upon the door brought us to our feet. I said "It is the Indians." My husband said, "You foolish girl, don't you know that is a white man's knock? We'll open the door and see what he wants." He did not wait, but came in without being bid. He said he was tired out from being pursued by two horsemen and had been accused of stealing a horse, and could not take another step even if they take him. We related the day's adventure and told him there was no bed. He made no reply but lay down under a broken bedstead There was no more sleep for us, for that man snored in such a manner as to sound like the roaring of a cyclone. He did not awaken until daylight; then such hurrying to get away--"Great heavens! I shall be caught! What's my bill?" "Nothing," we told him. He threw down four dollars. "Don't tell I staid here." He lost three more as he crawled out from under the broken bedstead. His pursuers arrived about noon, but not a word did they get from us.
   Well I told Mr. Brewer if he wanted to spend his days in such an ungodly place as this he might, but I should journey afoot and alone if necessary, to the home of my youth. I made him promise to give me the seven dollars. By that time we were getting really hungry. As Mr. Hill knew how we were situated, and lived only half a mile away, we concluded to walk to the stage station--Mr. Cummings, a most estimable man, kept the station--but Mr. Hill called us in and bade us eat, drink and be merry, "for tomorrow you will die"--be scalped, he meant. After partaking of a hearty dinner we went to work in earnest. The neighbors loaned us some goods for a time, and I went to baking bread for the traveling and footsore Pilgrims. Mrs. Hill come to visit me. She said "Don't feel so bad, we maybe served the same way." I told her I would like to have her, stay to tea if it were possible. What was my chagrin when she said she would. I found an old dry goods box, and set the table on that. The meal consisted of bread and a prairie chicken I had trapped in a "figure four" (I often found a chicken in my trap). We had knots of wood for chairs, and one knife and fork. We quarreled over who would have them. Mrs. Hill declared the chicken just splendid--no epicure could deny that. There was more actual merriment in that meal, according to the number, than at the grandest table in the world. But where is the compensation for such a loss? We had worked so hard to get our belongings together. Even the wedding garments my father gave me were utilized by the savages. How grand a squaw must have appeared in a rose-colored silk dress.
   Mr. Hartley had left us shortly after the time. When he chased the Indians on to the Island, he felt very badly for he realized that he was principally to blame for the loss of our goods; but he was poor and could make no amends. The last we ever heard of him he was a captain in the army. He was a faithful and brave young man.
   Some six months or so later there was another scare, which made it seem at the time as if there were no more safety. Mr. Wood, who lived about eighty miles above us, had brought his wife as far as the station to send her east. He was compelled to go to Denver, leaving two men with her for protection, but he had been on the road but a day when he met a large party of Sioux. Becoming alarmed for the safety of his wife, he turned back and was nearly home when a small regiment of regulars overtook him. He told them to stop at his place to see what was going on. The Indians were there and had Mrs. Wood lashed to a pony about to leave. She was frightened almost beyond recovery, but the Colonel and his men came upon them so suddenly that they were taken by surprise and took her from the pony on the double quick, and then were off as fast as possible, the regiment after them. Their fresh horses were too fleet for the cavalry, which was going east to the last call and was tired out. The cavalry then went on to the front, joining Brigadier General Mitchell's other regiment. Gen. Mitchell and staff were at one place. He was a splendid specimen of a soldier and very brave. He simply ordered bread and milk, asking for nothing more than the common soldier. The regulars as a general thing were cowards and did not try to subdue the red men; at all events they conducted themselves far worse after their absence.
   Many women left when the government protectors were gone. Mrs. Wood's adventure frightened a great many. They had only gotten a few miles below us when a party of Indians crossed the river at Warm Slough, coming directly to Mr. Morley's house. Mrs. Morley was milking the cow. They came up to her, pulled the rings from her ears through the flesh, killed the cow, chickens and pigs, and broke their furniture to pieces, throwing away things they could not carry into the slough. The Indians told them they would kill them if they did not leave immediately. They permitted them to yoke a pair of cattle and take a few bedclothes and garments with them. Thus the poor aged couple left in the middle of the night, Mrs Morley suffering beyond description from fear and her bleeding ears. This, together with Mrs. Wood's adventure, caused a general stampede of nearly all the women of the vicinity. It was supposed at that time that Mr. and Mrs. Morley were killed and secreted, as they were absent and blood was seen in every direction, Mr. Morley came back in a short time and related the experience of that horrible night to those who were left in the neighborhood. He said he knew there were white desperadoes with the Indians, as he had seen one when they were crossing the river to the south side. Some of the women went away on the stage coach, but we were too poor to enjoy that luxury. Mr. Parker had taken his wife to Iowa previous to this, as she was too delicate to undergo the constant tumult--Indians, horse thieves, soldiers, white people stealing and marauding in general. Mr. Parker had a beautiful span of bays taken from his stable, and then he concluded to take the remainder of his live stock to a place of safety. The stock consisted of another span of horses nearly worn out, four cows and four nice fat hogs. I went as far as Council Bluffs with him. His youngest son, Frank, remained on the ranch, as his fattier intended to return as soon as was prudent.

   Next week Mrs. Brewer's letter will be concluded and a brief account given of the "Indian Scare of '64" as it appeared to the people of Merrick County.


© 2000, 2001 by Ted & Carole Miller