NEGenweb Project
Merrick County
On Line Resources

The Nonpareil - May 5, 1898


History of Merrick County

• From "the beginning" until the year 1895.




LetterS stated in Chapter I, the building erected by the stage company in 1858 was the first, so far as known, which was raised on the soil of the present Merrick County. It was the beginning of "Lone Tree Station," which, in the early days of western immigration, was a familiar name all the way from Maine to California. Up to 1869, however, Lone Tree Station was not the "official" town of the early settlers. As before noted, the first postoffice was at Shoemaker's Point, near Chapman. In the fall of 1864 this was abandoned for another which had been established in the spring of the same year at Brewer's Ranch, with J. G. Brewer as postmaster. Mr. Brewer's brother, Wells, in the letter to the Courier spoken of in Chapter II, says of the mail service of that day:

   Previous to that time, a daily mail route had been established from Omaha to FL Kearney. The contract was let to the Western Stage Company. It was conditioned therein that the mail should be carried by a daily line of four-horse coaches. But in those halycon days for contractors, these specified requirements were answered by carrying the mails every alternate day on a one-horse buckboard. Time was then divided into "stage days" and "buckboard days," a distinction with a difference, not a distinction without one, as was the case then in the matter of "week days" and "Sundays."

   In the following year, 1865, Silver Glen postoffice, located two miles below the present station of Silver Creek, was established. But the advent of the railroad in the following year, and the subsequent establishment of postoffices at the various stations along the line, caused the abandonment of all the stage route offices in 1869. At this time


Taken from a car on the west side of town, looking southeast.


the Brewer's Ranch Post Office was moved to Lone Tree Station, which was situated on the present site of Central City, and merged with its post office, with Ed Parker as the new postmaster. This event marked the official recognition and real beginning of "Lone Tree Station." At the time the railroad was built, Lone Tree consisted "of little more than a turn table and a building where the railroad hands could obtain a supply of liquor."
   The first building in the new town of "Lone Tree," aside from the little "depot" and section house which were put up when the railroad came through (1866), was erected by J. H. Berryman in the fall of 1868. It stood where the residence of B. E. Berryman now stands, and now constitutes a part of the same. As first built, it consisted of a frame upright which was used as a store. In the following year the residence portion, which is the rear part as shown in the picture, was finished and occupied by Mr. Berryman.
   In this combined store and residence was held the first session of district court, in charge of Judge Crounse. When the Court was ready to proceed it was found that the little frontier settlement was short one man of the number necessary for a jury. A deputy was appointed to scour the country, and executed his "summons" upon one of the railroad employees, Constantine by name. The man refused to serve, however, when brought before the court, declaring that he 'knew nothing about the case.' The judge stated that that was the best reason in the world why he should serve. But the intended juror remained obstinate, and was finally sent to "jail" by the judge. The only jail available was a box-car on the side track, and into this the man was put, and the car-door facing, toward the court-room was shut and securely fastened. The prisoner soon discovered, however, that the opposite door was not secured, and a few minutes later was seen by the judge and his mirth-stricken court running for dear life over the bleak prairie to the northwest. The court finally secured another man and proceeded with its business, but few of its members have forgotten the fleet-footed juror who 'knew nothing about the case and wouldn't serve.'
   In Mr. Berryman's frontier store was also held the first revival service known to Central City life, but we reserve a narration of its experiences for a later chapter.
   At about the same time that Mr. Berryan's store was built, there came into existence the remainder of the town whkh is visible in our picture of "Lone Tree in 1868." 'The buildings, in order of their appearance from right to left, are (1) store and residence of J. H. Berryman; (2) building of Frank Lisk, used as a saloon; (3) land office of Ed Parker; (4) John Foulk's little shoe shop.
   The next business house was erected by Traver & May, and still stands in the same spot on which it was at first erected. Since that time, however, the buildings on the south side have given way to the brick block, and the little store over which the "Big Teapot" stood for so many years is almost hidden from sight by its more pretentious successor.
   We shall not attempt to follow the individual items of growth which brought Lone Tree from a country trading point to a one-time close rivalry with Grand Island for population and the establishment of factories and other industries. It will content us to give a few more items of interest concerning the establishment and early life, of "Lone Tree," and leave the gradual growth of the town to be supplied by the reader's imagination.
    The town of Lone Tree was originally intended by the Union Pacific to be situated on railroad land, west of where the depot now stands. By some mistake of the party who staked out the location of the depot, however, that building was situated on the extreme eastern


This picture contains, on the right, the residence and store of E. Hards, In the center
the store of N. W. Persons, and on the left, Sullivan's store. The picture was
taken in the 70's, and shows the buildings when they were
located about where the Persons store now is.

edge of the railroad's section, and the town, growing up around it, covered more of the neighboring section than it did of that belonging to the railroad. The loss this mistake caused the railroad, by depriving them of the monopoly of town lot selling, is easily seen.
   The welfare of early Lone Tree was largely dependent upon the industry which supplied the railroad with cord-wood for the use of its engines. Messrs. Brewer were engaged in this business, and the larger part of the settlers hereabouts were in their employ. A large supply of wood had been cut, drawn to town, and stacked up along the railroad, when in 1869 word was received that the railroad had substituted the newly-found coal of the western states for wood, and that its wood contracts would not be completed. At the time of this announcement there were one or two thousand dollars due the Merrick County contractors, and they were in turn owing nearly all the settlers various amounts for work under their contract. For almost two years no money was obtainable from the railroad, and commercial activity was almost entirely suspended in Lone Tree. Mr. Berryman closed his store and went out to work in the field for his daily bread.
   But in the early part of the second year the contractors discovered that by commencing an action against the railroad they were liable to


Taken in 1870 or 71, when the hotel (now the Central City House) faced to the north. Just
south of the hotel is the Bryant livery barn, and on the extreme right of picture
may be seen the new store building of the Berryman brothers.

get the money due them. Acting upon this Wells Brewer went to Omaha, and returned not long afterwards with the amount due him.
   This was distributed among the bankrupt citizens of the county, and the frontier trade resumed its normal proportions.
   Lone Tree's pioneer merchants made their most profitable transactions with the Indians. The Indians knew nothing of money but that it was to be spent. The sooner he could spend it the happier he was especially if a goodly share of it had gone for "fire water." He would come into the store, look over the stock, and buy whatever caught his eye, until his money was gone, when he would depart satisfied. When in need of anything after his money had been spent he would bring a buffalo hide to town and sell it to the merchants for goods to the amount of $2. The merchant would then ship the hides to Omaha and get $10 apiece for them. Such was the life of a merchant in those old days of Lone Tree.
   But the little town continued to grow. In the years following the completion of the Union Pacific there was a constantly-increasing stream of immigration, and much of it was satisfied with Merrick County soil. Hundreds of letters came, to the postmaster inquiring as to the prospects and advantages of Lone Tree, and by 1875, when, the town outgrew its former name, and changed to "Central City," there was a population of between 1000 and 1200 where once a group of 100 persons had considered themselves quite a "village."


© 2000, 2001 by Ted & Carole Miller