NEGenWeb Project
Nance County

 

until after the organization of the Territory of Nebraska. Under a treaty dated September 4, 1857, during the administration of President Buchanan, these Indians sold more of their lands and were given the tract comprising the present territory of Nance county, with the exception of a few sections since annexed on the west. Fear of the Sioux discouraged the Pawnees from taking immediate possession of their newly-acquired reservation, and they continued to make their headquarters near Fremont, taking their usual buffalo hunt upon the plains during the summer, and exercising due diligence, continually, to keep out of the clutches of their ferocious enemy, the Sioux. Nevertheless, with all their caution, a band of mounted warriors would occasionally swoop down upon them from some unexpected quarter, and before they had time to recover from their surprise, run off a dozen or more ponies, and very likely send a message of cold lead to the heart of some luckless Pawnee.

     On May 11th, 1857, four months previous to the grant of the reservation to the Pawnees, a plucky band of Mormons, consisting of one hundred and ten families, led by that hardy pioneer, H. J. Hudson (who, by the way, is the present postmaster of Columbus, and a man who has attained considerable eminence in the state), squatted upon a tract of land comprising a large part of the present town site of Genoa, near the junction of the Beaver and Loup rivers. These people were from England, Scotland and Wales. On coming to America, they first settled near St. Louis, but found it unpleasant on account of their peculiar religious belief, which their neighbors vehemently objected to. The colony was composed for the most part of unmarried men. They were not of the Brigham Young faith, but adhered to the religious tenets expounded by the Rev. Joseph Smith et al, who are not supposed to have been of so intensely enthusiastic polygamic proclivities. They were anxious to obtain homes in a locality where they would be free from the trials of religious persecution, hence came westward, clear beyond the utmost bounds of civilization, and settled in one of the most fertile and promising valleys in the state. The hardships endured by this little band were of the most aggravating kind. Scant clothing, short rations and "worlds of work" was the general condition and order of things. Few teams were possessed by the settlers and these were kept busy breaking prairie, while men and women worked together to construct rude habitations of sod and logs. Lumber was but little used, as it cost $120 per thousand, and hard cash was a very scarce commodity in camp. The company next concluded to erect a sod fence around their humble possessions, and a wall five miles in length and six feet high was duly constructed by dint of a great deal of very hard labor. The crumbling ruins of this fence are yet plainly visible southwest of the village of Genoa, and is a monument to the industry of this band of hardy pioneers. After breaking all the sod in this enclosure, the settlers decided to enlarge their agricultural enterprise, and finding a location that suited them, near the mouth of the Cedar, broke about three hundred acres. Some of the "dead-furrows" of this breaking are still to be seen about one and one- half miles northeast of Fullerton. The winter of '57-58 was very severe, and the settlers suffered many privations. Having raised no crops of any consequence, the "staff of life" was an infinitesimal quantity. Wheat flour was a positive luxury and corn meal was manufactured almost exclusively by the coffee mill process. In the spring of '58 a saw and flouring mill was erected, and crops of all kinds were planted on the well-rotted sod of the previous year's breaking. But their cake was soon turned to dough, as will be noted in the coming chapter.

     In the summer of 1859 the Pawnees, unable to gather sufficient sustenance by legitimate methods, concluded to plunder the Elkhorn valley. In the latter part of June of that year, about 3,000 Pawnees started up the Elkhorn valley ostensibly on their

 

Photograph

METHODIST CHURCH

way north for a hunt, but the sequel will show that their main object was to forage for food in forbidden pastures. They appeared to be in a half-starved condition and consequently in a situation to commit any act of thievery or violence that might promise temporary relief. They first made their appearance in the vicinity of West Point on, the 29th of June. There they killed a heifer belonging to a Mr. Clemens, and having depopulated numerous hen-roosts and hog-stys on the way, the citizens banded together and gave chase. At about sundown on the 29th, the company of volunteers from Fontanelle, at that time a small town in the western part of Washington county, arrived at West Point, but were too weak in numbers to make a fight. On July first a messenger reached Omaha from Fontanelle, reporting that settlements along the Elkhorn had been broken up by the Pawnees, who were driving off stock, burning fences and houses, and even threatening the lives of the citizens. A citizens' committee appealed to Governor Black for aid, but the Governor being absent, Secretary J. Sterling Morton was called upon to act in his stead. In response Morton issued a call upon Col. Chas. May, commandant at Ft. Kearney, for troops to repel the incursions of the savages, the strength of whom was reported to be 700 or 800 warriors. Meantime Maj. Gen. John M. Thayer, at the solicitation of many of the inhabitants of Omaha, with earnest appeals from Fontanelle and other points on the Elkhorn, set out for the scene of the trouble at the head of the light artillery company of Omaha, commanded by Capt. James H. Ford. On the evening of July 5th, Gov. Black, with a portion of company K, U. S. dragoons, arrived at Omaha. A dispatch was received that day from Gen. Thayer, stating that the reports first received were fully verified, and expressed the belief that no peace could be effected without first instituting the most rigorous measures, and that he was ready to open hostilities upon receipt of orders.

     The work of depredation was continued by the Indians, and dispatches were sent by Gen. Thayer, showing a deporable condition of affairs in the vicinity of Fontanelle, and urging stringent measures. The postoffices in the territory named had been destroyed and other government property burned.

     On the morning of July 8th, Gov. Black's forces joined those under Gen. Thayer, south of the Elkhorn, near Fremont. Our fellow-townsman, Jas. G. Cayton, was among the volunteers in the cavalry company. Ex-Senator A. S. Paddock was on the staff of Gen. Thayer. J. Rickley and J. P. Becker were at the head of volunteer companies from Columbus. About 200 men, mostly mounted, constituted the entire command of proposed Indian slayers. The Omaha Light Artillery wielded one cannon, a six-pounder. The campaign was a brief but effective one. After a demonstration or two, the Indians, then on their way to the summer hunting grounds, were overcome and surrendered on terms efficient for the protection of the settlers, and at the same time just to the Indians.

     In his report, Gen. Thayer stated that "the troops came upon the Indians and the Indians surrendered. The line was formed, the cannon, planted and the chiefs of all the different bands came forward, throwing down their arms and raising white flags. The interpreter was directed to communicate with them, and they asked to have a council. They acknowledged that their young men had committed these depredations, offered to give them up, and did surrender six of them. Two of them were shot while trying to escape next day." Eight of the marauding Indians were killed by the settlers, but no whites suffered death in the historic so-called "Pawnee War."

     We are able to supply a missing link in the history of the Pawnees, which is very important in connection with the early history of a section destined to become the garden spot of Nebraska -- Nance county.

     After the treaty with the government in 1832, by which right of way to emigrants was granted on the south side of the Platte, a portion of each of the four bands of Pawnees crossed to the north side of that river in the summer of 1839. Two of the bands made their village at the mouth of the Cedar (called by the Indians Willow Water), while the other two settled near the banks

(Continued)

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© 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001 by Ted & Carole Miller