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Merrick County
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The Nonpareil - August 4, 1898


History of Merrick County

• From "the beginning" until the year 1895.



MERRICK COUNTY.--1880-1895

(Concluded from last week)

   The great blizzard of 1888, which swept so devastatingly over all the western country, did not spare Merrick County. The Courier of January 19th, 1888, thus reports the storm which, it says, "will be historical:"

   Last Thursday afternoon, while inhabitants of this part of the country were congratulating themselves on the enjoyment of such mild weather in mid-winter, suddenly, without a moment's warning, a blast of wind from the north, accompanied by a shower of snow, swept across the earth like an avenging fury. The view of objects more than a few yards distant was obliterated in an instant, and the thermometer commenced falling with astonishing rapidity. Windows rattled, buildings shook, and the snow commenced piling itself in drifts across the thoroughfares. Those who were away from home contemplated the situation uneasily, and parents thought with great anxiety of their children at school. The blizzard raged on into the night with unceasing force, but Friday morning the wind had moderated and the air was clear. The thermometer continued falling, however, until Sunday, when it astonished the individual who walked out into the quiet atmosphere about daylight to look at it, by registering, according to various reports, all the way from 35 to 40 degrees below zero. This record, we believe, beats any that is reported by the "oldest inhabitant."
   So far as we have been able to learn, the blizzard numbers no victims in Merrick County, although some harrowing experiences are reported. Mr. J. R. Miller and wife, of Mead Precinct, started home Thursday evening and lost their way. Their team, after floundering around awhile, stumbled into Prairie Creek, and Mr. and Mrs. Miller got wet. In this cheerless condition they found their way to a deserted house, sheltered their horses there as well as they could, and spent the night inside. Necessarily they suffered considerably, and Mr. Miller had hard work to keep his wife from succumbing to the intense cold, but they managed to endure their surroundings and get home the next day. We understand, however, that Mrs. Miller's condition is somewhat serious. A gentleman in the employ of Mr. L. C. Hart was loading a wagon with hay from a stack when the storm struck him. After several vain endeavors to get his team to face it, he sheltered them on the lee side of the stack, burrowed into it himself, and, hauling in after him a couple of dogs he had with him, spent the night very comfortably. Mr. Bice, who is teaching school north of Chapman, spent the night in the building with his pupils. As they had plenty of fuel they suffered only a little inconvenience. We learn that other teachers and scholars in the county went through the same experience. Many parents in town went to the school-house after their children and brought them home.

   In the year following the blizzard, considerable interest was aroused in the county by the announcement that medicinal springs had been discovered on the farm of Mr. P. C. Moore, about a mile and a half east of Central City. Visions of a profitable summer resort, and a consequent increase in the population and reputation of the locality, appeared to the citizens of the county. But either the discovery was exaggerated or else the importance of the project minimized by subsequent event, for no serious attempt was afterwards made to develop this "natural resource."
   Only once has a large portion of the county been more or less seriously deluged by floods. In June, 1891, the first flood came. Said the Courier of June 24th: "The northern part of town [Central City] this morning reminds one of 'A Street Scene in Venice,' while a broad river has cut the southern part in two. An unusually heavy rain last night on top of an already saturated ground and swollen streams, has sufficed to beat the flood record in this part of the country. Locust street is navigable from the M. E. Tabernacle to the Phelps House. Nearly all sidewalks across sloughs have been washed out, and the 'draws' in this locality have been converted into lakes. The B. & M. and U. P. tracks east of town have both been washed out and trains have been delayed at this point." The remainder Of the county did not escape, for wherever there was a low place there was a lake, and rivers rushing through every little 'draw.'
   The opposite of the flood came in 1893, when for the first time the "drouth" made a general failure of crops throughout the county. This was the third and greatest foe of the agricultural region. Grasshoppers and hail had always been more or less local, but drouth was general. During the years 1893, 4, and 5, the people of the county came to know the full meaning of drouth, for failure of crops was almost universal, only those in the lowlands reaping anything from their sowing. We shall not go into further detail upon the subject of the years of drouth. Those who went through them know the hard grind of increasing discouragement which they brought with them, and their history is but an undesirable tale of hardship. At times it seemed as if some permanent good might come of these years of worry, for an irrigation ditch, running east and west through the county, was discussed, and some steps taken toward the carrying out of the plan. But it was never realized, and the lesson of the drouth was in that much lost.
   Thus is practically ended the history of Merrick County up to the year 1895. In our next and last chapter we shall give the history of the "college movement" which at one time promised so much for the county. This might have been included in the present chapter, but seems important enough to be entitled to an entire chapter, which shall take up in more or less detail its inception, organization and duration.


© 2000, 2001 by Ted & Carole Miller