A little later in the season C. J. Gay, Geo. S. McChesney, Lawrence Rodd and Will Compton reinforced the Timber Creek settlement, and about the same time Wm. Decker and A. J. Kinney settled on the homestead strip lying between the Reserve and Howard county. Billy Jacobs made the first landing at the head of Cottonwood creek sometime in July. A. L. Bixby and wife reached the paternal ranch July 5th.
At this time the Cedar valley was clothed in its most gorgeous array, and, viewed from the bluffs on the west, was strikingly picturesque and beautiful. Communion with Nature could be enjoyed in its fullness. It was no uncommon thing, then, to see deer or antelope grazing quietly in the gulches, or at the Cedar, in some secluded nook, "taking a drink." There was but one feature of this pioneer life to which distance lent unspeakable enchantment. In the summer the sod houses became the rendezvous of innumerable armies of fleas. The dear creatures would decamp during the day and loll around in the sun, or play "I spy" behind the hay stacks. But at night they would be on the war path, Sunday and all, and it took a person possessed of a very thick skin and a clear conscience to become so oblivious of their surroundings as to indulge in any protracted periods of undisturbed repose.
On the 15th of July -- the opening of the land sale -- the settlers of the Reserve were on hand at Central City to secure possession of the lands upon which they had squatted. They were to be sold at auction, one-third down, the balance in two equal annual installments, interest at six per cent. It was rumored that a syndicate of eastern land speculators would be on hand to bid against the settlers, and a good deal of uneasiness was felt by those who had ventured to make improvements, but the scare proved to be without much foundation. But few speculators were on hand, and Jim North of Columbus, who has always been a solid friend of the horny-handed laboring man, informed them that, by the eternal, the settlers should have their lands at the appraised value, which they did. The Willard brothers, D. A. and George, purchased the town site of Genoa and all the government buildings, except the "big brick," for $3,500. Randall Fuller bought seven quarters, including the original town site of Fullerton. Other settlers secured from one to two quarters, with the exception of a very few who decided to wait awhile. Frank Hodges bought a half-section below the mouth of Timber creek that constitutes at present but half of his magnificent farm. The sale lasted four days, and comparatively but a small amount of land was disposed of.
In the latter part of July, from excessive rains in the northern part of the state, the Cedar river became a seething flood, and for a week it was impossible to cross with a team. O. E. Stearns operated a small ferry boat for passengers at the old ford northeast of town, but horses had to swim. A short time after the flood subsided malarial fever appeared in several families living near the river. Alfred Bixby was stricken down with congestive chills, and died on the 21st of August, aged 68 years. It was the first death of a white person on the Reserve. The funeral services were held on the 23d, Rev. J. N. Dressler of Merrick county officiating, and the body of a just man consigned to its last repose.
Shortly after the land sale, Luther Hull, John Simons and sons, George W. Davis and others, made settlement on Timber creek, and Wylke Durkee secured a quartersection in the Beaver valley and took immediate possession. During this year the first white child was born on the Reserve, to Mr. and Mrs. J. W. Williamson. Rev. C. Starbuck, a Congregational divine, dispensed Gospel truth to the few settlers in and about Genoa.
In September, Orrin Skinner broke sod near the Loupe Ferry, on the south side. He weathered the rude buffeting of pioneer life for a year, and finally pulled up stakes and skipped.
A large number of land-lookers visited the reservation during the fall, but as there was no land agency and no one but the settlers to show lands, a good many went away without making purchases, thinking they could come back and do about as well when the country was a little older.
In October, 1878, H. F. Judson of Waukesha, Wisconsin, and H. B. Clark of Inverness, Ohio, came across from Silver Creek one night and struck camp at Randall Fuller's ranch, then occupied by Elmer Crow, In a most thoroughly exhausted and footsore condition, and to cap the climax of their misery, on retiring the fleas opened hostilities, and during the long hours of that eventful night made their lives positively burdensome. In the morning they began searching for land, and Mr. Judson soon selected the valuable half-section on which he now lives. Mr. Clark chose one of the quarters now owned by the Hinshilwood brothers. Both men were delighted with the appearance of the country, insomuch that they even felt kindly toward the fleas.
During the fall C. D. Rakestraw, an educated gentleman "from away back," conceived the idea of utilizing the vacant government brick building at Genoa by opening the Central Normal School of Nebraska. By judicious advertising (which is always the keystone to success) he secured over seventy pupils, and doubtless the school would have been running today had the principal proved himself as good a man as he was great (in his own estimation). The school survived but a year.
Late in the fall of '78 prairie fires did considerable damage on the Reserve. George McChesney lost his entire crop of hay twice in succession, but instead of repining, kept right at work cutting frostkilled grass; and what the hay lacked in quality, he made up in quantity, so that his stock lived through the winter very comfortably (?) and the lack of flesh on their backs cheated many a crow out of a square meal when spring time came.
A brother of O. E. Stearns had located at the mouth of Plum creek, just in season to secure hay for wintering 100 head of cattle, when a heavy fire swept down from the northwest and burned every stack on the premises. Scully also lost heavily, and the same fire, continuing in an easterly direction, destroyed thousands of dollars' worth of property, and burned two persons to death, a mother and child, in the Shell Creek Valley.
Martin McCrellis and family went back to Minnesota that fall, and passed the winter at Mountain Lake.
In the winter Cedar River postoffice was established, with O. E. Stearns as postmaster. Uncle Sam refused, however, to furnish a mail carrier, though he did allow the use of an old sack. Every mortal on the Reserve who had arrived at the years of discretion, and who could possibly be mustered into the service, was sworn in as mail carrier, but for a small consideration Johnny Johnson was prevailed upon to perform the heft of the service.
As the time approached for the convening of Nebraska's learned law-makers at Lincoln, the question of what disposition would be made of the Reserve became an all-absorbing one. Some thought it would be sliced up like a piece of cake and apportioned to the several adjoining counties. Merrick county wanted all south of the Loupe. Boone county would like the balance, but Loran Clark did not favor the annexation of any new territory on the south, as it would endanger the stability of Albion as the county seat, in which event
W. S. P. EYLER, Proprietor
© 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001 by Ted & Carole Miller