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Merrick County
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The Nonpareil - April 14, 1898


History of Merrick County

• From "the beginning" until the year 1895.





(Concluded from last week)

   We were absent three months, and returning we hardly arrived at Warm Slough before the hogs began to show signs of weariness. As it was very warm drove them into the slough. "We will eat a lunch," he said, "I think we can drive the pigs all right." I prepared the lunch and then his son went to get the hogs, but shouted back that one was dead and the other three would not budge an inch. Accordingly the others had to be loaded into the covered wagon. We were ten days on the road and I thought the smell of those hogs would kill me. The boy walked most of the time. Uncle Jason would get in and ride a few minutes at a time, and so their perfume did not reach his nostrils. The fourth day I told them I could not stand it to be wedged in among the creatures any longer. "Oh," he said, "You make too much fuss. I don't smell anything to speak of." I told him to get into the wagon where I was obliged to sit and remain one hour. He took the lines and I walked. He was in there but three quarters of an hour before he jumped out and said, "Good Heavens, Mrs. Brewer, I don't see how you stood it." When it was time to stop at night the pigs were unloaded, the pen cleaned, and everything aired. It took five days more to perform the journey, but I walked the most of the way. We arrived at the Bluffs the eleventh day, completely worn out. He would not let me stop on the road as I was tempted to do. He said, "I told Mr. Brewer I would take care of you and I have haven't I now?" I told him, "Certainly you have, so far as food and perfumery are concerned." Then with a hearty peal of laughter he said, "I would rather be scalped than to take that journey again. If ever I get back I'll never stir an inch for them--don't you say so?"
   When an Indian scare was announced, as there often was, Uncle Jason would generally say "I don't believe it! That come from 'blabbers'." I regret to say such was the case in many instances, the purpose being, to get the settlers to leave their places that they might occupy the same without expense. At one time a stage driver came down the road shouting that there were one thousand hostiles not far away. It frightened a number beside myself but it was a false alarm. I lost a churning of cream by it. There was certainly enough reality to make the blood of the timid run cold.
   One day news came that a couple of men had been killed up the river a little ways.1 One of them had been our hired man a short time before. Mr. Brewer went out with a body of men to search for the bodies of the murdered men and I was left alone. That was to me the most melancholy day ever spent. The stillness of death pervaded the atmosphere. Not a person near--nothing but a very intelligent Newfoundland dog I had in the house. I was lying, on the coach when suddenly he gave a sharp, quick growl. I sprung to my feet to see two windows darkened with the worst looking Indians I ever saw. Carley (the dog) came to me and I whispered, "Take them, Curley!" Quick as lightning he was through a pane of glass after them. His movements were so rapid and earnest-snapping, biting their ankles, growling like a tiger--that he soon had them running on the double quick. When he came back he was bleeding, but I could not decide whether it was from the broken glass or arrows from the Indians, or both. He came and licked my hands, lying down immediately from exhaustion. He was far ahead of some of the men, for while they were studying what was best to do the dog would have it done. I knew him to bleed one Indian a quart, which cost me three loaves of bread, a large piece of beef, about a pound of coffee, and the saying of my prayers. After staunching the blood the victim made me get on my knees, he pointing heavenward with the most hideous gestures. I imitated him as well as I could for awhile, but concluding I had done penance enough I refused the rest of the performance. He said he would kill my dog if I refused to imitate him. As I was alone I had been afraid, but this made me mad, and I said, "Curley, bite him!" Again he flew. I had to follow to get the dog away. At another time Mr. Brewer, being absent, left a very good hearted gentleman to protect me. It was nearly morning and I was sleeping behind some heavy curtains, when I heard the voice of the man saying, "Arise, Mrs. Brewer, the house is surrounded by Indians. Goodbye, you have been good to me." By the time I was ready to go out to see what was going on the windows were black with the red men. They shook my hand until it was lame, laughing and pointing toward the river, where the white man was running with the fleetness of a deer. At another time this great protection of mine mistook a large number of soldiers for Indians. He ran to the house with the hurried exclamation, "My God, the red men are upon us now in earnest." I ran out and climbed on top of the house for a better view. Then I said, "Those are the troops, I believe--volunteers." "Volunteers? Not much; you can't fool me. I can't do you any good; try and take care of yourself." and he ran for the bottom. I said, "If you don't come back and stay with me, if it is Indians I will send them to kill you. No danger of their hurting you; you look too much like a monkey. We shall both be safe; they will be wondering what kind of an animal you are. If you will come back I will put you in a cage or make a jumping jack of you. Don't you see plainly they are soldiers?" And so they were.

1The account of this is taken up in detail in a later chapter. under the heading "Merrick County's Early Criminals."



   As the reader has already concluded from the foregoing narrative, early comers to Merrick County found the noble red man yet unsubdued, and frequently inclined to go on the war path. From Mr. Brewer we gain the following description of the conditions which pre-prevailed (sic)just prior to the great "Indian scare of '64,"

   Rumors of a threatened Indian war began to be more frequent than ever as the summer of 1864 drew near to its close, The occasion of these rumors was not that any overt act of hostility had been committed, but that the conduct of several tribes was, in a general way, suspicious. The great increase of overland travel, caused by the discovery of gold at Pike's Peak, had always been a source of great dissatisfaction to the Indian tribes of the plains. The erection of a telegraph line, and the establishment of a line of stages to Denver and the pony express to San Francisco they had looked upon with a jealous eye from the very first. And now, as it became known to them. that the construction of a railroad across their hunting grounds was in contemplation, they were fully aroused and resolved to rid their country of white men.

   This spirit of dissatisfaction among the Indians was observed with various degrees of fear by the pioneers. But before long attacks on immigrant trains and on traders from Ft Kearney left no doubt as to the hostile intentions of the red men. The realization of this caused a veritable panic, and, in the case of Merrick County, an almost total depopulation. Old settlers inform us that during the continuance of this stampede a steady stream of eastward moving settlers flowed by every day, visible as far as the eye could reach both up and down the river. Pigs and chickens and many implements were left to their fate--which was to be taken up again by the settlers as they returned from their eastward flight. The winter of 1864 found hardly a soul in the county aside from Messrs. Brewer and Eugene Hilton. One of the most interesting episodes of this great scare was the flight of the county clerk, W. H. Mitchell, who thought his life worth more than his office, and took his departure for the east, never returning to fill his unexpired term, to do which Wells Brewer was subsequently chosen.
   But Fort Kearney marked about the eastern limit of the Indian depredations, and these gradually becoming less, the majority of the fugitives gradually returned and resumed their interrupted labor upon their new homes.
   The terror of the Indian scare was undoubtedly augmented by the fact that the majority of the masculine population of Nebraska was at the time in the east and south, fighting for the preservation of the union and the freedom of the slave. In fact, it was openly charged at the time that agents of the south were inciting the Indians to their depredations, in the hope that the members of the army from the west would be drawn from the field of battle and sent to the defense of their homes. But whatever the cause of the uprising, it was at the time a most threatening factor in the life of our early settlers, and bade fair for a time to postpone for years the development of our county. Happily, however, the danger was short, and the work of settlement and civilization soon resumed.

   Before passing to another subject we have thought it best to introduce at this point a letter written to the Omaha Bee in the early part of the present year by Wm. McEndree, regarding an historic medal which came into his possession while a resident of this place. The date of the events mentioned therein is later than that of our next chapter, but it seems appropriate here as a pleasant contrast to the scenes of savagery which are recorded against the red man of 1864. The letter reads as follows:

   I frequently have inquiries if I still have in my possession the famous Jackson Indian medal shown at the expositions of our country in the last fifteen years. The only way I have of answering these inquiries and keeping it fresh in the memory of interested ones is to reply through the Bee. Yes, this valuable relic is still in my possession. I have just had it returned from Tiffany Brothers, New York. It was sent there as an attraction for a window show for three months. The medal was first brought into public notice at Chicago in 1874, at the exposition held at that time, at Philadelphia in 1875, at New Orleans Cotton exposition in 1885, and at Denver Mineral exposition in 1883. Many of your readers maybe interested to know a part of the history of this medal and how it came into my possession. The winter Of 1871-72 was very severe, depriving the Indians of the opportunity to hunt. In February, 1872, the chief, Young Spanna Horse, came to me, while a resident of Lone Tree, Nebr., and deposited the medal with me as security for supplies for his family, promising to redeem it as soon as the weather would permit the Indians to hunt. By his negligence I was permitted to hold this medal one year before he made an effort to redeem his pledge. I showed him a disposition to buy the medal and by a few coaxing presents, he gave me full possession of it on condition that I should keep it and that he might see it whenever he called for that purpose. This was complied with so long as he lived.
   The history of the medal was written by Sergeant Cody of old Fort Kearney. It contains all that could be ascertained by white men, and it read thus: "In the early '20's of this century there roamed over the plains of what now is known as Nebraska and the western hills of Iowa a tribe of Indians known as the Pawnees. Among their chiefs was one named Spanna Horse, a noted and famous warrior, and during the first administration of Andrew Jackson as president of the United States there was a peace council held at or near where the city of Council Bluffs, Iowa, is now situated, and from such councils it has taken its name. This medal was presented to this chief on one of these occasions in 1829. Shortly after this date Spanna Horse became a scout and guide for our government and acted in this capacity up to his death, which occurred at Elm Creek, Nebr., in 1862. Young Spanna Horse falling heir to his tribal effects, among them this medal, handed it down to the present owner." Sergeant Cody tells us that Chief Spanna Horse was always friendly to the whites, and in one instance of his recollection he reduced a chief named Ter-ri-me-coux for killing a white man in disobedience to the treaty. He often enlisted his warriors in the United States service to aid in keeping the Sioux Indians in subjection. This great chief carried the token of love and respect about his neck strung on a thong made from the sinews of a deer until the 14th day of August, 1862, being then 33 years of age, at which time he was killed in battle with the Sioux. There are still a few of the old settlers of Nebraska who remember this chief and have seen the medal an his neck, and no doubt would recognize it at this date. In the fall of 1874 the Pawnee Indians, having ceded their lands or reservation, now known as Nance County, Nebraska, to the governmeat, were removed to lands allotted them. in Indian Territory. On the march down overland Young Spanna Horse died, and on his deathbed requested a white man's burial, a thing very rare among the Indians at that date. The greatest value attached to the medal is that it is the only one in existence of that date from President Jackson's administration to any Indians on our frontier. Its preservation and its age makes it still more valuable.



© 2000, 2001 by Ted & Carole Miller