NEGenweb Project
Merrick County
On Line Resources

The Nonpareil - May 12, 1898


History of Merrick County

• From "the beginning" until the year 1895.




LetterN the Merrick County News of August 8th, 1872, appeared the following item, concerning a project whose real scope was apprehended not even by the few who first brought it to the attention of the public:

   Dr. Converse, superintendent of the Midland Pacific R. R., has given assurance that he will soon survey a route from Lincoln to Lone Tree with a view of determining the praticability of our county as a railroad point. That a road will be built west from Lincoln there is no doubt. just where it will be located depends entirely upon the feasibility of the route and the willingness of the people to aid.
   No one conversant with the lay of the country between Lincoln and Lone Tree, and still westward, has any doubt as to the advantages over other sections, and in order to secure a southern connection, we believe our people stand ready to do the fair thing by any corporation that will guarantee the sure and speedy building of a railroad through Merrick County. We trust the people of our county will weigh well the benefits to be derived from a southern connection by way of Lincoln, and when called upon for aid, subscribe to the utmost of their ability. Other localities, are figuring upon the chances of securing the proposed road, and if we win the day we must be up and doing.

   The article just quoted is the first record we can find of the introduction into Merrick County life of the long-drawn-out and bitterly contested "Midland Pacific" struggle. Some of the more aggressive citizens of the county believed that a competing railroad was needed, affirming that the monopoly held by the Union Pacific was enriching that road at the expense of the people. These found in the proposition of Dr. Converse, who was the superintendent of the company which was constructing the "Midland Pacific," an apparent opportunity to secure the competitive railroad they were seeking.

   This proposition was received and discussed by the county board of Merrick County, and resulted in the following "election proclamation," which appeared in the Lone Tree Sentinel during the month of August, 1873:

   At a session of the Board of County Commissioners of Merrick County, in the state of Nebraska, held at Lone Tree, upon the 25th day of July, 1873, it was by said board resolved that the following proposition be, and hereby is, submitted to the electors of Merrick County, towit:

   Shall the County Commissioners of Merrick County aforesaid, for the purpose of aiding in the construction, extension and completion of the Midland Pacific Railway from the city of Lincoln, in the county of Lancaster in said state, to the town of Lone Tree in Merrick County, issue the bonds of said county in the sum of one hundred and twenty-five thousands dollars ($125,000) payable to the Midland Pacific Railway Co., or bearer, to be dated the first day of January, A. D. 1875, and payable in twenty years from the date thereof, with interest thereon at the the rate of ten per cent per annum, from and after the date thereof .... Said bonds for $125,000 to be delivered .... to said Midland Pacific Railroad Company, or order, when the said railway shall have been completed from Lincoln aforesaid to Lone Tree aforesaid, and shall have regular trains running thereon for business, provided, said railway shall have been completed and have through trains running regularly thereon from Lincoln aforesaid to Lone Tree aforesaid, on or before the first day of January, 1875, and provided also, that the depot of said Railway shall be located within one-fourth mile of the court house of said county, and, provided, further, that said Railroad Co. shall cross Prairie-Island with their road, and shall plank their bridge at least 18 feet in width from the north bank of said Prairie Island to the north bank of Platte River for a wagon bridge, and shall open the same free for a public highway for ten years from January 1st, 1875. . . . . . The form in which the questions in said proposition shall be taken shall be by ballot . . . . . The question of the adoption of said proposition shall be submitted to the electors of Merrick County at a special election to be held on the 30th DAY OF AUGUST, 1873. . . . .

ED PARKER, Co. Clerk.

   We have gone somewhat into the details of the proclamation in order that it may be definitely understood for what the people were voting. For their issue of $125,000 bonds they were to secure a railroad connection with Lincoln, the road to cross Prairie Island and be so planked as to serve as a wagon bridge from Prairie Island to the Merrick County bank of the Platte.
   This proposition was accepted by the voters of the county at the election of August 30th, 1873, and the people were beginning to congratulate themselves on the prospect of a rate competition, when news was received that the Union Pacific had secured a temporary injunction against the bonds and was seeking to make it permanent. The grounds on which their plea for an injunction was made were stated follows in the opinion handed down by Judge Dillon:1

   First, That no copy of the question submitted to the voters of the county was posted up at the place of voting during the day of election in Lone Tree Precinct, the town of Lone Tree being the county seat, and that precinct giving in favor of the proposition a larger vote than the majority for the proposition throughout the county, thus controlling the result.

   Second, That the proposition or question involved three distinct subjects to be passed upon, and consequently the submission was illegal. First--the construction of the railroad to Lone Tree; Second--the establishment of its depot on a particular place; Third--the construction of a wagon bridge over the Platte river.

   This plea for an injunction, made in the United States Circuit Court and before Judge Dillon, resulted in a refusal of the injunction, the judge replying to the two objections thus:

   First. The proofs quite satisfactorily show that the law was complied with this respect. It is conceded that a copy of the question was posted on the front door of the court house (in one of the rooms of which the election was held), and was the usual place for posting official and legal notices; and the evidence also tends very strongly to show that another notice was posted on the door of the very room (the sheriff's office in the court house) in which the election was held.

   Second. There were not three distinct propositions submitted, or the distinct projects sought to be aided. On the contrary only one proposition was submitted, viz.: To vote aid to the extent of $125,000 to the Midland Pacific Railroad Company; but this aid was to be upon condition that the depot of said company should be located within one-fourth mile of the court house; and upon the further condition that the company would so construct its bridge over Platte River that it might be used as a wagon bridge.

1Our copy of this opinion is taken from the Lone Tree Courier of July 16, 1874.

   But the rejoicing of the bond advocates over this decision was cut short by the announcement that the Union Pacific would carry the case to the supreme court. The Union Pacific soon abandoned this idea however, and left the Midland Pacific at liberty to build its line and receive Merrick County's aid. In the State journal shortly afterward appeared the statement that "Dr. Converse now declares his intention of extending his road west to Lone Tree, Merrick County, immediately." There now seemed to be no reason why, by 1875, Lone Tree should not have its second railroad.
   But whatever might have been the result in an ordinary year and under ordinary circumstances, the delay caused by the injunction suit and the blighted crop prospects of the famous "grasshopper year" of 1874 prevented any attempt on the part of the Midland Pacific to avail itself of the favorable decision of the county, and the victory of the bonds in 1873 left Merrick County nothing ahead but the bitterness which the contest had aroused.

   The second and more exciting bond campaign came in 1875, and will be considered in a later chapter.

Section break



LetterERRICK County's first newspaper appeared at Lone Tree on the 21st day of March, 1872, and was called "The Merrick County News" It was edited by Henry Kelsey, now the editor of the Renville Times, of Olivia, Minn. The paper was what is technically known as a six-column folio with "patent", outside. Mr. Kelsey was a comparative stranger to Lone Tree life, and the first issue of his paper was devoted almost exclusively to advertisements and locals referring thereto. Yet much that is now of interest appeared in the new paper, and we shall devote the larger portion of this chapter to an inventory of its contents, believing that therein we shall enable our readers to find much unwritten history, and a clearer impression of what Lone Tree in 1872 consisted.

   In this first Merrick County paper appear the following advertisements:

   John Foulks, boot and shoe maker,
    Nelson Barnes, contractor and builder,
    W. A. Porter & Son, wagon-makers,
    Jesse Turner, attorney-at-law,
    X. L. Wright, "Headquarters Saloon,"
    H. N. Bryant, "Bryant's Hotel,"
    Sparks & Ewing, attorneys-at-law,
    Wm. McEndree, general merchandise,
    J. B. Adams, land agent,
    Baker & Root, druggists,
    Moore & May, farm implements,
    H. W. Persons, general merchandise,
    Traver & May, lumber yard,
    I. H. Berryman & Bro., general merchandise.

   The county directory for 1872, as contained in the News, was as follows:

   Commissioners--Wm. McAllister, Jason Parker, Jesse Turner,
    Probate judge--John L. Martin,
    Clerk--Ed Parker; deputy--J. C. Percival,
    Treasurer-James Vieregg,
    Sheriff--L. B. Willoughby; deputy--N. R. Persinger,
    Superintendent Public Instruction--Chas. E. Mead,
    Coroner-Dr. J. J. Fisher,
    Surveyor--H. N. Bryant; deputy--N. R. Persinger,
    Justices of the Peace--
       Silver Creek Precinct--L. K. Hills, Richard Jarman,
       Clarksville Precinct--C. B. Hartwell, John McLean,
       Lone Tree Precinct--L. L. Doolittle, Richard Eatough,
       Chapman Precinct--John L. Martin, Hans Klingenberg.

   The list of jurors drawn for the March term of court reveals a good many names familiar to the old settlers, and more or less well-known to the present generation. The list was as follows:


L. Haywood

J. C. Lemasters

Atwood Pales

Niels Hansen

James Weed

Frederick Laub

Horace Allen

Edwin Irwin

Hans Klingenberg

Wallace McGavern

Orrin T. How

Erasamus Nielson

George A. Clark

F. George

John Persinger

Noah Heater


Henry Daniels

Cyrus Lee

C. N. Carrier

T. M. Quick

George Schorup

Ed C. Shaw

W. Noble

G. C. Hulce

Delos Hutchins

Lewis Zellars

Daniel Snow

E. Hards

Thos. Matthews

Zachery Fales

Samuel Beaven

T. F. Parker

Elijah McKendry

Earl Edwards

Francis Coyle

T. J. Benthinger

Joseph Learn

Henry C. Wells

Hamlet Poster

D. L. Greiner

   Among the few local items we find the following:

   Some fifty families have arrived during the week and occupied their homesteads.

   The Rev. J. Gunderman preaches alternate Sundays at his residence.

   W. A. Comstock has shipped several carloads of grain westward during the week, and with good results.

   Market quotations for 1872 are of sufficient interest to justify quoting, and are headed


per sack,


$4.00 to $5.00,


 "  bushel,


75c to $1.10,


 "   "


21C to 27c,


 "  pound,


20c to 22c,


per bushel,


   The subscription price of this first paper was $2 per year, and its advertising rates $100 per column per year, and as much for the same space for six months as is now asked for one year. Of course the smallness of the field and the scant patronage necessitated these comparatively high prices, but, aside from "legal" patronage, there was little more profit in the newspaper business of those days than in the present.
   We turn from the perusal of this pioneer paper with a clearer knowledge of the days in which our fathers lived and of the people who composed the early population of our county.

(Chapter XIV concluded next week)


© 2000, 2001 by Ted & Carole Miller