ECHOES OF THE PAST

 

AND

 

ALONG

 

PIONEER TRAILS

 

IN

 

PIERCE COUNTY

 

NEBRASKA

 

 

 

 

Fourth Edition

 

Esther Kolterman Hansen

 

1976

 

UNION COLLEGE PRESS

 

Lincoln, Nebraska


 

 

 

 

 

 

Dedicated to my six charming granddaughters

 

Karen, Jean and Kathryn Christensen

 

and

 

Janet, Patricia and Nancy Hansen

 

1967
Echoes of the Past

 

On looking back to the good old days is like an old newspaญper, when it was new, snow-white and fresh with the smell of printer's ink on it, folks looked it over and then waited for the next day's paper.  When it gets old and yellowed with age, they like to look it over and over and over.  It's that way with memories.  The days which once were taken for granted have now become treasured pages in a memory scrapbook, also yellowed with age.

In the early days of the Republic most Americans, like their fathers before them, were farmers.  Those men in homespun were rustics.  Our first president was a farmer, and there scarcely has been a member of our first Congress who had not turned a furrow, pitched a load of hay, or beaten a floor of wheat, oats or rye with a flail.  That was the way nations were built.

Daniel Webster, a magnificent husbandman said, "When tillage begins, other arts follow.  The farmers are the founders of civilization."  Less than four per cent of our population today (1967) feed themselves and the rest of our population.  To say nothing of the enormous exports of farm produce to feed starving peoples in other parts of the world.

"Down on the farm" is an American expression as firmly rooted as any we have.  It refers to the place where most of our fore-bears, if not we ourselves were born.  Because this is so, the phrase carries with it an image of times past.  These stories are not of the modern farm or farmer, but rather the farm and farmer of yesterday, before machines and science transformed agriculture into factories in the field.

Being myself born and reared on a homestead on the plains of Nebraska it brings back happy memories of my childhood, the beautiful pictures of sunrise and sunset; golden autumns; snows that create a picture no artist can paint; rains to cool the earth; puddles that bare feet loved; the song of birds; ducks and geese in flight; howl of the coyotes; the skating on the river in winter; boating in summer; views that are bedded in one's memory and pass in review like a television scene today.

The pioneer's triumph over all the adversities of nature in the form of rain, drouth, grasshoppers, hail, blizzards, wild anญimals, tornadoes, sickness, tribulations—deserves remembering.  All honor to those who sacrificed so much to turn the virgin soil, to open up a new country, they wrote their memory forever across a mighty continent.—E.H.K.

 

 

1


My Nebraska

 

The United States is vast and varied in scenic wonders, so rich in history, adventure and romance. North or south, east or west, each has contributed its share of history, beauty, prosperity and failures, and as the panorama unfolds before us, something new and interesting intrigues us year after year.

Nebraska, comprising as it does an area 14,259 square miles larger than all of New England, our state is justly entitled to the important position it holds among the sister states of the republic. Twice the size of Ohio, it is larger by many thousands of square miles than England and Wales combined. Nebraska, in area, is an empire. The position occupied by Nebraska is quite near the cenญter of the United States. Its area is 76,895 square miles or 49,212,000 acres.

Nebraska was originally a part of the Louisiana Purchase and was for a long time part of the Northwest Territory. The overland emigration to California in 1849 brought about a general settleญment to this region. A Territory was organized in 1854. . . . Part of this territory included Nebraska, part of Colorado, Montana, Wyoming and the Dakotas.

In 1867 the Union Pacific railroad was completed across Neญbraska, the Territory was admitted to the Union as a State and the capital was removed from Omaha to Lincoln. Nebraska has many small lakes (3,350) and the greatest river mileage of any state in the Union (10,000). The Missouri river is the only navigable river touching Nebraska.

The first steamer on the Missouri river was built at Pittsburg, Pa. by the United States government in 1818 and named the Western Engineer. She left her moorings at Pittsburg May 3, 1819, having on board an exploring expedition sent out by the governญment to explore the Missouri river and the country west of the Rockies.

This is America's last frontier, where the history of the winญning of the West was etched in the face of this big land by the moccasins of Indians and fur hunters, by the wheels of covered wagons and the hoofs of oxen and horses, ridden by unknown numbers of cowboys, adventurers, miners, soldiers. Your recordญed history of today is the platform from which our tomorrows are launched.

The founders of Nebraska came to these plains seeking new homes. They were a rugged, hard working, thrifty and couragญeous people. They were willing to make sacrifices to hand down to their children America's heritage of freedom and opportunity.

 

 

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Brave women, pioneer homemakers, wives and daughters, dared the perils of a lonely wilderness with their menfolk for the home they wanted and security for the future. There is no word in our language that means quite so much to so many people as the one syllable "Home."

It is the basis of our whole social structure, and planning a home today is as great an adventure as it was in that day when that sea of white capped covered wagons surged across our prairies. Native sod has been turned, and the hardships of frontier days are gone, but the struggle for security still goes on.  When the pioneers risked their all to open up a new country they wrote their memory forever across a mighty continent.

 

 

 

Indians, the First Americans

 

The Indians were living in America thousands of years before the coming of Columbus.  Although uncivilized and barbaric they were able to contribute elements of culture which have formed a part in the development of American life.  Unknown to England and Europe he lived in his world until discovered by Columbus and his followers.

It was by Columbus that the natives were called Indians; the great mariner thinking he had reached India, and little dreaming he had found a new people and a new continent.  By 1492 the Indians had so multiplied that, according to one estimation, about a half million lived within the bounds of the present United States.

The Indians were divided into unnumbered tribes and clans. The various tribes were practically sufficient unto themselves, each administering its own government, providing its own food and shelter, possessing its own ceremonies and religious beliefs, speaking its own language, and consequently developing its own life, customs and cultures; yet all the Indians had many characteristics in common.

All the Indians were superstitious, believing that animals as well as nature influenced their lives and like all primitive races they accompanied their activities of food gathering, war and worship with extravagant ceremonies. The Indians lived in groups or villages rather than in isolated families.

  All had their chiefs, who obtained their positions by bravery, rather than by heredity.  There were no written laws, no written histories, no books.  Although the tribes used a sign or picture writing to convey messages, the laws, beliefs and old tales passed from one generation to another by the spoken word.  In general the Indian men did the hunting, fishing and fighting; the women

 

 

3


not only cooked the food and made the clothing, but they usually tilled the fields, made the houses and the household utensils.

 

          In physical appearance the members resembled each other; they had straight black hair, reddish brown skin, dark eyes, high cheek bones, thick lips and broad faces. Men never shaved their faces.  Although some groups were more savage than others, in the main they were all very hospitable, generous, devoted, yet envious, cruel and treacherous, almost beyond belief.

Whole Indian tribes were thought to owe their origin to animals, and consequently, they adopted the name of their Creator.  For instance, the Iroquois had tribes named Beaver, Wolf, Turtle, Hawk, Deer, etc.  The Plains tribes usually lived in wigwams or teepees. It consisted of long, slim poles placed to form a cone with their tops coming together; sometimes the poles were covered with bark or mats, but more often with the skins of wild animals.

No Indian house had floors, save the bare earth, neither had they chimneys nor windows.  The Indian had no tables, chairs, nor stoves. Their only furnishings were beds, which were seats of matting covered with bearskin. These seats extended round the walls of the house or teepee and were about two feet from the ground.  In winter even these were not used; the entire household slept on the floor about the fire.

The household utensils, pots, buckets and bowls were all made by hand, of stone, clay, bark, or skins, whatever materials were available.  For fishing or hunting or planting the Indians used implements of wood, skin or stone.

When the early homesteaders came to Pierce County they feared the Indians because so many stories had been told to them of how savage they were, out to kill every white person.  In 1869 when the Kolterman family arrived the Indians soon came to visit them, but were treated kindly and they in turn treated the newcomers likewise.

The Ponca Tribe inhabited Pierce County and northern Nebraska and were a very friendly tribe.  They had their camp across the river, a short distance from where the Kolterman log cabin was built.  Here they held their pow wows and ceremonials, frequently visited the log cabin neighbors but never came to the door but looked in the windows and were always begging.

At one time young Ferdinand poisoned wolves; he threw them in a hollow about a half mile from the cabin. The Indians came, having discovered he had killed wolves, and they wanted them.  Young Ferd explained to them they were poisoned and not to eat them, but they didn't care; they got them nevertheless

 

 

4


and had a great feast. They were great on ceremony on the least provocation, and apparently they knew how to prepare them, poisoned or not, as none suffered any ill effects.

While camping near the Kolterman Homestead an Indian woman died.  They usually were buried in a sitting position, putting beside them food, clothing, spears, bows and arrows and other implements they used in life, that they might be content as they journeyed to the Happy Hunting Grounds.  Great feasts and dances that lasted for days were held for the dead.  In the case mentioned they carried on for a month until they all were nearly exhausted.

When the government moved the Poncas to Oklahoma in the 1870's they bade farewell to the Kolterman family.  They wept bitterly and my father often told of their regret in seeing them leave.  He said the weeping of an Indian was the saddest thing he had ever seen.  Many of them died the first year in Oklahoma, so the rest were sent back to Nebraska by the government.  They came to see the Kolterman family and were so happy to see them and to get back home.

The raising of maize, as the Indians called corn, represents one of the important contributions of the Indians to our life today.  Corn, first grown by the Indians and unknown to England until after America was discovered, has become one of the most important of the world's foods.

          To the Indian planters we also owe the pumpkin, squash and potato.  Likewise the Indian was the first to grow tobacco; from him the rest of the world learned to smoke. The making of maple sugars is another Indian accomplishment; practically every essential detail of the process now in use was developed by the Indian before 1492.

In the summer of 1870 the Ponca Indians staged a big buffalo hunt in Madison county along the Elkhorn river, near where the town of Battle Creek is now located.  They came from the northern part of Nebraska, Pierce, Knox and Cedar counties, near the Missouri river.  They brought women and children, the squaws carrying their papooses on their backs in a sling contraption they made.

Indian ponies were loaded with poles and skins and they set up a teepee camp.  It covered a huge stretch of ground; it was impossible to estimate the number.  Men, women, children, dogs and ponies were in endless confusion.  The teepees were covered with canvas, while many had animal skins.

The Indian women wore clothing of a coarse trade cloth, while the braves wore nothing but breech clouts and moccasins.

 

 

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They stayed for a number of days then moved on. According to history it was the last big buffalo hunt that took place in Nebraska.

 

 

Pioneer Homes

The log cabin and sod houses were the typical American frontier dwellings and many dotted the countryside wherever settlers had taken root.  It is not surprising that many of our most famous men were born in these crude dwellings.  Public attention later became focused on these simple and crude shelters; they became part of the American tradition and heritage.

The covered wagon, too, held an honored place in fact and fiction.  Settlers were not ashamed of their log-cabin homestead home.  In fact, they pointed to it with pride. These early pioneers were not seeking adventure, but homes they could call their very own.

They faced hardships of all sorts: drouth, blizzard, grasshoppers, and ever in constant fear of Indians.  Many settlers dealt diplomatically with Indians.  They never let them know they feared them, were stern in their dealings with them, but always kind.  The Poncas were especially friendly, and never caused trouble among the settlers.

The covered wagon and log cabin became famous by vote-conscious politicians who focused public attention on these simple shelters and conveyances.  Even today politicians love to boast, “I was born on a farm" to get a seal of approval from the common people whom God must have loved or he would not have made so many of us that way.

The log cabin became a symbol of democracy, suggesting the man born in one was automatically strong and honest.  Daniel Webster, who was born in a log cabin, called it "the home and hearth of all the toil, sacrifice, courage and domestic virtue that has been wrought with the fabric of this great land."

Men like Lincoln, William H. Harrison, Buchanan, Andrew Jackson and James A. Garfield, who became presidents of this great country, were all born in a log cabin. Though the log cabin has all but disappeared from the national scene and wield little political influence, its value to the nation has increased through the years.  For in it Americans all symbolized the very idea and ideal of democracy, the belief that any man may rise by his native abilities to the highest positions in the land.

 

 

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The Railroads

The year 1962 marks the Centennial of the first of the Pacific Railroad Acts, signed by President Abraham Lincoln on July 1, 1862, creating and authorizing construction of the Union Pacific railroad. Nebraska was a wilderness, a vast hunting ground for Indian Tribes.

The Homestead Act was a great incentive for people to come west, to take a homestead, to get a home of their own.  Transportation was by horse, ox team, wagon or stage coach.  So with the development and expansion of its railroads the nation began to grow.  The "Driving of the Golden Spike" on May 10, 1869, at Promontory, Utah. joined the rails of the Union Pacific and completed construction of the first railroad uniting the east with the west.

It helped open the settlement of the vast undeveloped region between the Missouri River valley and the Pacific coast. Lack of railroad facilities had deterred immigration to counties in northern Nebraska which included Pierce County.  The settlers who had come, came by ox team and covered wagon.  The first to come to Madison County was in 1866 and to Pierce county in 1869.

A railroad was first built to Norfolk, then on October 20, 1879 an agreement was entered into between the Fremont, Elkhorn and Missouri Valley railroad and the Western Construction company of Missouri Valley, Iowa, to build a line of railroad from near Norfolk to Niobrara which was about sixty-five miles.

In 1903 this railroad was sold to the Chicago, Northwestern railroad which line has been extended to Winner, South Dakota and is still in use (1967), although passenger service has been suspended.  The line from Norfolk through Plainview was completed in 1880, to Creighton in 1881.

What an exciting day in our life, the time we were getting ready to take a great big thirty-mile train ride, with a shoe box full of lunch.  How thrilling it was to hear the whistle in the distance; every one in the depot was picking up their valises, and some lunch boxes, to get out on the depot platform.

The "Old Iron Horse" always seemed to know just when to stop. The depot agent would go out to hand orders to the engineer as the train pulled in, then pull up his four-wheeled express cart to get the mail pouches and express out of the baggage car where the mail clerk was ready to help.  The mail clerk rode in this car to sort mail between towns.

The conductor and brakeman got off first after the train stopped, then helped the passengers off.  Then the conductor

 

 

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would yell, "All aboard" which meant for passengers to get on the train.  Women and children were helped up the steps by the brakeman or conductor, their luggage placed on the train.  Passengers would find their seats, red plush affairs, room for two, could be adjusted so one could rest, while others watched the scenery from the car window.

Trunks or large pieces of luggage were checked by the depot agent and were placed in the baggage car.  Small items were placed on a rack near the ceiling at each seat. The train bell would start ringing, a few loud whistles, a few puffs from the engine and we were on our way.

The conductor would collect tickets from passengers who just boarded the train and stick the stub in a small recepticle near the window at each seat.  The southbound train upon nearing Norfolk, the brakeman would go through all the coaches and call out—"Change cars for Wayne, Wakefield, Emerson and Sioux City."

All passengers with that destination would leave the train at the Norfolk up town depot, known as the Creighton depot and wait for their train to come.  Sometimes several hours of waiting were required in the depot waiting room.  A pot-bellied stove was in most depots to keep the passengers warm if it was the cold time of the year. Folks sat around on the hard wooden benches with initials and other strange designs carved upon arm rests by weary passengers, anything, to kill time.  Some slept, some visited, or read.  Often trains were late several hours.  The depot agent would announce this so some walked up town to shop or eat.

Then when a train came in, the depot agent would call out what train was coming for certain towns.  Everybody would scramble to get out on the platform and be nearest the train to get on because in the early days of trains they were so crowded, often passengers had to stand in the aisles.  As a final call the conductor would step into the depot and yell "Last call, all aboard." Soon the bell on the engine would ring, the whistle would blow and we were on our way.

In larger towns a hack would meet every incoming train to take passengers to hotels or wherever they wanted to go.  Charges were from twenty-five cents to seventy-five cents, depending on the distance.  Traveling men made up a large part of the passengers, in fact, trains had smoking cars occupied only by men as women did not smoke then.

The town drayman also met the various trains to get mail bags, freight or express for the various merchants, also the trunks

 

 

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of the traveling men in which they carried samples of their wares, were taken to the hotel or stores where merchants could select the merchandise they wanted.

How kids watched the trains go by, go to the depot to see the brakeman and conductor in their "snazzie" blue suits, the engineer and fireman sticking their heads out of the cab window, the fireman ringing the bell.  The brakeman's call, "All aboard," and then he would grab the rail on the last coast to get on the slowly moving train and "Old Smoky" was gone.  Many a boy dreamed of the day he could be a trainman and see the world.

Kids watched "Old Ghost Train" with red velvet seats, silk curtains and polished spittoons whiz by as they stood along tracks in town or country, telling each other, "when I get big and rich I'm gonna ride on her 'oncet' a week, sit and eat at tables by the windows.  Those dining cars sure are great."

No matter how hot or cold or bleak it was something to see and watch the train vanish in the distant haze of twilight, until the last trace of smoke faded away.  Sunday was very quiet and peaceful in small towns and villages.  The young folk would wander down to the depot to watch the trains come in and see who got off or on.  The oldtime depot was the point of many small town activities; it was the medium through which the townsfolk kept in touch with the world outside their own small community.

It was the shipping and receiving point for many items essential to their every day living.  Through it they had access to the only practical method of long range travel.  To it came their daily papers and over its wires came the first news of importance, events by telegraph.  Men gathered outside its doors on the evening of an election day in order to hear returns from over the state and nation.

Young men and boys congregated there during World Series to hear inning by inning scores.  The station also witnessed the arrival and departure of a great many so-called "drummers." forerunner of the modem traveling salesman.  Those early salesmen were, great talkers.  Many of them were regular callers in the town and in addition to the local merchants, were well acquainted with the hotel staff, the station agent, the postmaster, and the owner of the livery stable.  From the latter, they often rented a "rig" complete with driver to carry them to outlying country stores.

It never ceased to thrill people, young and old, though the nostalgic days are gone, the memories linger on.  The sound of a

 

 

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car or an airplane is more common today, but the sight and sound of

a train still casts a longing and thrill of bygone days.

 

 

Story of a Texas Long Horn Bull

 

     In the 1880's Texas cattle were shipped to Pierce County; some were fattened for market, while others were sent to the Santa Indian Reservation in Knox County by the government to supply food for the Indians.  Harry F. Church, a native of Rhode Island, who came west to seek his fortune was one of the most prominent cattle buyers in these parts.  He bought Texas cattle, shipped them to Pierce, then drove them to the Dave Moore ranch about five miles northwest of Pierce.  He had herdsmen.  Among them were Robert Lucas, Bert Daughney, and Ed Moore, son of Dave.

As these cattle were extremely dangerous, only those on horseback could be near them; they charged at anyone near.  A herdsman would go on ahead when they were driven to a ranch. On one of the drives to the Moore ranch they had to pass the old Kolterman homestead.  Grandpa was near the road.  Lawrence, the grandson, was helping dig potatoes near the road; his father, Ferdinand, had a team of horses hitched to a wagon to haul the potatoes.  A hired man was also helping.

When the herdsman came across the old brush bridge near the Kolterman place and up the steep river bank he saw Grandpa sauntering along.  He warned him to get in a building.  Grandpa hesitated and remarked that no one was going to order him around on his own place.  The herdsman told Ferdinand, who was on the wagon, to persuade his father to get into a building as the bulls would soon cross the river.

About that time, one bull came over the bank, saw grandpa, went for him, knocked him down, then ran toward the team hitched to the wagon, ran his long horn through the neck of the horse, Old Fanny, then went for the hired man who ran around the ice house with the bull after him.  After several rounds of that the bull ran for the plum thicket east of the house, and just stood there.

All the tactics cowboys used could not budge the bull. He would charge anyone who came near. The rest of the herd was driven to the Moore ranch, leaving the bull in the thicket for the night.  The next morning Moore got Bob Lucas, a master in the trade of cattle handling, to assist the other cowboys to get this obstinate bull.  It was finally decided to shoot the bull's eyes out, to end the battle.

 

 

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Lucas, off his horse to shoot, the bull suddenly went for him, rammed his horns at him.  All that saved him was a tree nearby whose branches seemed to have grown just for this emergency. He grabbed them to pull himself up.  The bull's horn still struck him but glanced off when it hit the leather billfold he had in his pocket, which saved his life. After they finally blinded the bull, the cowboys got him to the Moore ranch to fatten up for market.

When the bull was ready for market, the cowboys went to the meadow to get him. They found the bull hanging in the crotch of a tree where he had been rubbing himself. Being blind, he got his head in the crotch.  Thus ended the story of a Texas Long Horned Bull, who could not be tamed.—Told to me by my brothers, Lawrence and Lon, September, 1964.

 

 

Christmas on the Old Homestead

As the idea of a Christmas tree originated in Germany it is only natural the German emigrants brought their old world ideas with them.  When the pioneers came to the Nebraska plains and took a homestead, loneliness overwhelmed them.  There were few trees on the plains, but as Christmas drew near they went to a creek and cut a small plum tree and wrapped the branches with white tissue paper.  They baked animal cookies; some of these were hung on the tree for decoration, also a few apples and stick candy.  Popcorn was strung and hung as garlands on the tree.

The gifts were always useful articles, a cap, woolen socks, mittens, or something they needed and would get anyway, but always more of a thrill at Christmas time.  No fancy boxes, wrappings or ribbons were used.  In sacks or ordinary wrapping paper, with name written on the package, they were placed under the tree.  In later years a pine tree was purchased at a store, candles in holders were placed on the tree and were lighted on Christmas eve when all gathered around the tree after the church services.  The fragrance of the pine and melting tallow candles can never be forgotten.

As no home had storm windows they were always covered with frost; pictures only the Great Master of all could create, all of which added to the Christmas spirit.  Everyone attended the childrens' programs on Christmas eve.  They came on foot, horseback, horse and buggy, cutter and bobsled, and sleigh bells could be heard over the countryside in the cold, chill air, their chimes reverberating over hill and valley.  Christmas, too, was a reunion of families.  Grandpa made a doll cradle for Mary, a work bench

 

 

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for Willie.  Mother made a new dress for dolly with the pretty bisque head; it looked brand new.

The time between Christmas and New Years meant a lot of company and visiting. A second Christmas day was observed the day following Christmas; church services were also held.  The old parlor heater used a lot of wood that week and the parlor door was open nearly all the time.  When New Year's eve finally came, we could scarcely get ourselves settled down to a regular routine.  The parlor door was closed again. Mama and Papa had had enough to last them for some time.

 

 

Cutting Wood for Fuel

 

A must every winter and a hard job, too, was cutting wood for the three stoves.  Grandma lived in three rooms of the family home. She had a cook stove, then there was a large cast iron range in the large family kitchen and a heater in the sitting room.  In those early days Grandma and Grandpa lived in a part of the family home.  They usually lived out their lives there.  There were no rest homes; it was just taken for granted they would live there and no one thought anything about it.  The youngest son or daughter, whoever was the last to marry, would continue to live there and look after their parents.

It was brother Lou's job to cut wood with a bucksaw and ax.  The two older brothers, Lawrence and Emil, hauled hay and did the chores, but it was also part of their job to cut down trees and haul them home to the woodlot.  Lou took over from there. There is something about a well-filled woodshed that means peace of mind.  It requires plenty of fuel to keep fires going in stoves to cook and keep warm.

Sociologists looking for the reasons behind some of today’s emotional ailments might consider the fact that men no longer cut, saw, split and stack wood for winter.  Gas, electricity and oil are wonders of the age; but man is meant to work for his comfort in cold weather.  It is good to see stacked tiers of cottonwood, ash, box elder and elm or pine.

It is heartening to see a pile of knotty chunks for the parlor stove and fireplace-chunks that will burn slowly during a zero night and leave a bed of glowing coals to start the morning fire quickly.  There is a satisfying fragrance in an earth-floored woodญshed, a blended aroma of sawdust, bark, earth and different woods.  Each kind of wood has a distinctive fragrance, but in an old woodshed the aromas blend into a nostril-tickling smell.

 

 

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Henry Ford once said, “He who cuts his own wood, warms himself twice."  Modern fuel is easily obtained but it doesn't have the meaning of a woodshed that is filled with the fuel a man has harvested from his woodlot or along creeks and streams which otherwise would be wasted.  And what a wonderful feeling of security one gets from a well-filled woodshed.

 

 

Prairie Fires

 

Originally all of the great plains of the middle west were one large field of waving grass, taller than a man and called prairie grass.  Few trees could be found and then only along creeks or rivers or in rain-washed ravines.  After the killing frosts of autumn and before the fall rains or early snows, this dry grass was a constant source of danger to the occasional homesteader and the small towns or settlements.

Carelessness on the part of the Indian hunters, sparks from a train or sometimes the homesteaders themselves, would often start a prairie fire.  Once started, it burned until rain fell or until a river or fireguard halted its progress.  Fireguards were made by plowing up two parallel strips of sod with a space of from fifty to two hundred feet between where the grass was burned off. This bare place would stop most fires, unless there was a very strong wind.  Head fires were often started by burning large areas ahead of the fire, and would often stop a prairie fire.

Great excitement always prevailed when clouds of smoke on the horizon gave the warning, and men, women and children would rush to fight the fire, armed with wet gunny sacks, old brooms, shovels, pitchforks, or anything available.  Prairie fires could be seen for miles across the level fields, and were a grand and fearsome sight at night.  Wild animals were helpless victims, and prairie chickens, rabbits and ground squirrels would run ahead until exhausted and were caught by the flames.

Due to an exceptionally rank growth of grass and weeds the prairie fires in 1878 were the most destructive in the history of the middle west.  Settlers homes and towns were saved only by the quick work of the “broom brigade" as prairie fire fighters were called, battled valiantly to subdue the flames.  Every homesteader plowed a fire guard around his place, and also fireguards were around towns, which saved many from destruction.  The fires burned all the trees along the rivers and creeks, leaving only charred stumps. Because of this the "treeless prairie" got its name.

 

 

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Little Country School

 

After homesteaders came and established their homes it soon became apparent that schools were needed to educate their children.  So meetings were held to get organized.  The first two districts in Pierce County were organized in 1871 and district 8 in 1874. The first teacher was Mrs. R. S. Lucas.  School was held in their log cabin home on their homestead.

The first teacher in district 8 was Miss Phinney Heckendorf, daughter of the Lutheran minister who had come to Madison county with the homesteaders who came in 1866.  She first taught in the Carl Griebenow log cabin home.  Their daughter was the first pupil.  Later the little school was built a short distance west of the main road leading into Pierce.  Other settlers came; the school soon had fifteen to twenty pupils.

All schools were patterned much alike, so the description will fit in all schools, giving you an idea of a real country school.  The double seats were lined on either side of the building; two blackboards at the front end of the room.  Teacher's desk was also at the front so she could see all the pupils.  A big pot-bellied stove stood near the center of the room.  Cobs and wood were brought by the patrons of the district; in later years coal was supplied.

A large map was hung on the wall in a box affair, with a lid that dropped down when in use.  The maps were on rollers.  There were maps of the entire world.  Each map rolled up like a window shade and was pulled down for a lesson of a certain part of the world.  The lid was closed when not in use.  To the front and on one side of the room was the recitation seat.  As each class was to recite, the teacher would announce the subject then say, "Turn, rise, pass"—which meant go to the recitation seat.

They were required to answer the teachers questions, if arithmetic, go to the blackboard and work the problem, if grammar, go to the blackboard to diagram the sentence.  Explanations were in order for whatever subject it might be.  When finished, teacher would announce, "Rise, go to your seats quietly."  Then the next class would be called with the same procedure.  In the morning when it was 9:00 o'clock the teacher would ring a small bell. Few schools had a large bell at that time.  She would give it a few loud rings; all would go to their respective seats.  The first order of business for the day was to sing a "Good Morning Song."

Then the teacher would read a chapter from the Bible, then say the Lord's Prayer in unison. A few more songs, selected by the

 

 

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pupils which included "Old Black Joe,” “Down on the Swanee River," etc.  Then books were taken out of their desks for study.  There was arithmetic, grammar, history, reading, penmanship, spelling.  No wonder there were so many good penmen.  Looking at old records, writing was beautiful enough to photograph.  Drawing was an art only few excelled in—but all could draw, even to physiology, drew pictures of the body, heart, muscles, etc. very legible.

Recess was called at 10:30, the same method.  "Turn. rise and pass," to go outdoors for romping and playing for fifteen minutes.  Noon, first eat lunch brought from home, usually carried in a tin one-gallon syrup pail, then hurry out to play games:  "Run, sheep run,” "Pump, pump pull away," "Hide and Seek," and baseball.  Girls were as good as boys at that All American game.  At 1:00 o’clock teacher came to the door with her bell and you could hear some grumbling,  "Gee whiz, we just got started to play."  Time went entirely too fast.  At 2:30 there was a fifteen minute recess—then 4:00 o'clock school was dismissed.  Two monitors were selected by the teacher to serve one week.  It was quite an honor to be chosen.

At closing time the teacher would announce, "Put your books in your desk neatly."  "Monitors get the wraps."  Everyone put on their coats, caps, overshoes, etc., then sang "Now the Day Is Over."  "Turn, rise, pass," then all left the room orderly.

Outdoors the "Last Tag" game was played.  As children went in different directions they would tag each other and yell “last tag" then run as fast as they could.  The fastest runner was usually the winner.  The children would scurry home over hill and dale, take short cuts through fields, as some lived three and four miles from school.  There were no conveyances to get or take them.

The teacher, who lived in town, drove a horse hitched to a small one-seated buggy. The horse's name was Corbette, a frisky little mare.  The teacher would pick up small children who lived along the road she traveled.  One time Corbette was frightened by a covey of quail that flew up along the road and Corbette took off, went through the cornfield bordering the road, the buggy bobbing up and down over the corn rows, teacher trying to stop the horse, sawing the bit in her mouth, also trying to hang onto the little passengers she had.  They ended in a fence corner at the opposite end of the field.  No one was hurt, but such excitement.

The terms of school were at first seven months, then nine months.  The first teachers received $18.00 per month, then raised

 

 

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 to $30.00 and today in 1967 the teacher is paid $410.00 per month, $3690 per year.

There were all ages of children. Some of the older boys could only attend after corn picking.  In the spring they had to help get the crops planted, but regardless of age, they came to school when they could.  No "hooky" playing in those days.  Each had his share of work to do after school and Saturdays.  Their chores were milking, feeding cattle and hogs, and chopping wood to fill the woodshed.  None seemed unhappy—they enjoyed what they had as "everybody was in the same boat."

Though the books of that day may seem outmoded they were full of knowledge.  For instance, in McGuffey's reader are these preliminary remarks: "The great object to be accomplished in reading as a rhetorical exercise is to convey to the hearer, fully and clearly the ideas and feelings of the writer."  Those who have not experienced attending a little country school, have missed one of life's greatest Joys.

 

Washdays 1800's

 

The first requisite in washing was soap.  This started with butchering a hog or beef. What could that have to do with washing?  When lard was rendered and meat put away in stone jars there were cracklings, waste pieces of lard, etc., that was made into soap.  Each household had a large black iron kettle hung on a pole, tripod at each end, and soap was cooked.  It was white and a very good soap, much like a bar of soap today. The fire under the kettle was started as often as necessary.

Then on washday, the large copper boiler was put on the kitchen range, filled with water.  The washtub bench was brought into the kitchen in the winter; in summer washing was done outdoors or on the back porch.  One tub with a washboard and wringer was the first wash, clothes got a good rubbing to get the worst dirt out, then put in the boiler on the stove to boil, so they really would get white, using a wooden wash stick to swish them around.

Then they were transferred with the washstick into a tub of clear water to rinse. The water for all this was usually carried in the night before, especially in winter because if the pump froze up and had to be primed it was time consuming and washings must be done before time to get dinner.  Five o'clock was the time to get up on washday; that was a must.

          After this early washing method in the late 1800's a washing

 

 

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machine was invented, called "The Western." It had a large wooden paddle inside, with a machine on top and pushing the handle back and forth would make the wooden paddles pound the clothes clean.  My, how easy that was compared to washing on a board.

Later a water-powered machine came into being; if you had water pressure it worked, but when you got through washing you looked like you had swum the English channel.  The gasoline motors became popular on a washer, then along came electricity, which was the best to be had, but only town folks could use it as rural residents had no electricity until rural electrification came along, a great boon to country people.

Next came the automatic washers and dryers.  No more hanging clothes to blow in the wind and switch to pieces and fade in the sun.  Maybe not—but what smells better than clothes hung out in good old fresh air.  To be sure your home will not sound like a factory with clothes on the assembly line every day, so the "good old days" were not so bad after all—it was "one day a week," instead six or seven.

 

 

Harvest Time

 

Spring work started as soon as the snow was gone. The first order of work was to clean out the cattle and hog yards and the barns.  Manure hauling started when the frost let loose and took until June 10 when the fields all had to be ready and plowed for corn had to be planted by that time.  When manure hauling was done it meant a "big job" done as a manure spreader was unheard of.  It had to be forked on the wagon and off the same way, spread all over the fields using that old "Centennial Wagon" that brought the family to Nebraska.  Commercial fertilizers were unheard of or even dreamed of.

Soon it was time to cultivate; the toughest job of all.  Brother Lou had a walking cultivator.  That's all they had in those days.  Lou had weak and double ankles and could not stand walking.  A new invention produced a riding cultivator which was soon purchased and was a great relief.  People who saw anyone riding a cultivator and make the team pull him around was called "lazy" in those days.

When the corn was laid by it was time for harvesting the grain with the old binders and to shock it, which was a big job.  Next came the big job of stacking the grain. Some people stacked the grain in the middle of the field, while others stacked it in

 

 

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the barnyard so all the straw would be in the cattle and hog yards when they threshed.  Cattle could get to it in the winter to eat, also for shelter.

The Kolterman family usually had six to eight settings, and about five or six loads of bundles in each stack.  Stacking grain was quite an art, not only for appearances, but to make sure rain and snow would not destroy the grain.  To stack grain, bundles were placed in a ring, about fifty-two bundles for the circle, then laid with grain end to the inside. After a base was made the stack was built to taper off to a peak. Sticks of willow were cut with a pointed end and stuck into the top of the stack so the bundles would not blow off in the wind.

Threshing from shocks was done in about August when grain was real dry, but threshing the grain that was stacked was seldom done before late September or early October.  That gave the grain plenty of time to sweat out in the stack. It would really be golden grain then, much better than the way it is done today (1967).

Taken as a whole, the farmer is a contented soul.  He is up before dawn starting his day's work, chores, then field work, but at day's end he can retire and fall into a restful sleep, the reward of his labors is a bounteous crop, if nature doesn't play some tricks on him.

 

 

Threshing Time

 

Of all the work called upon to do during the year on a farm, the biggest event was threshing.  Those early machines were big, pulled with a steam engine.  Machines didn't have a blower to discharge the straw, just a straight stacker, a lot like the elevators of today, but were three to four feet wide.  It took three good men in the stack to do a good job and make a good stack.

Those old machines had no self feeders, they had what was called band tables, about four feet square, one on each side of the cylinders of the machine where the men on the grain stacks would pitch the bundles.  There was a platform across about three feet below just back of the band tables where the feeder, as he was called, would stand.  And one band cutter was on each side of him. The band cutter would cut the bands on the bundles and the feeder would reach to one side, then the other and feed the open bundles into the machine.

If not threshing from stacks men would haul the bundles in from the fields where the grain was shocked and drive up to the

 

 

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threshing machine and pitch the bundles into the feeder.  It was a dirty job.  All of the dust and chaff, sometimes rust on the grain would strike you in the face.  If a man stood there and cut bands all day, his eyes would be so full of dust he couldn't see.  What really was bad was when they had to thresh against the wind.

 

The threshing machines crew consisted of three men.  The engineer, usually the owner of the machine, a separator man and a water man.  Seldom was anyone hired to help with threshing.  Neighbors helped each other until everyone's grain was in the bin.  It was all hard work but they were good old days.  All the push buttons were OK but if you really want peace, joy and happines, you have to push that "belly button," that's got to come from inside of you, that is part of the soul of man.  Unless you have taken an active part in the drama of the threshing season, have been one of the characters in this biggest play of the rural year, then you have missed one of life's richest episodes.

I owe this story to brother Lou, who was one of the characters.  E.K.H.

 

"Mama, The Threshers Are Coming"

 

What a commotion it causes in the household from the youngest to the oldest.  How thrilled children were to see that "big iron horse" coming down the road, just to ride a little ways on the engine with the engineer, a fulfilled dream of many a child.

For mother it meant cook, bake, clean, put all the leaves in the kitchen table and large amounts of food on it.  The old saying "It's like cooking for threshers," was fact not fiction.  The dining room table is never long enough, threshing crew was usually twelve to eighteen men, and a hungry bunch they were.  Every' dish in the cupboard was put to use, and even then sometimes not enough.

Women tried to outdo each other, and believe me, the talent of each woman's cooking was spread far and wide, and not by newspapers, either.  The story goes that thresher crews arranged their dates to be at certain farms for more meals than others.  They soon learned from past years where the best cooks were.  Men are good schemers when it comes to food.

Chicken was a popular dish but by the time the last jobs were to be done they got tired of chicken.  Everything that was raised on the farm was on the menu.  Potatoes, beets, peas, carrots, beans, onions, cabbage, apple and plum butter, several kinds of pickles and relishes, dozens of pies and cake and good old home

 

 

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made bread, everything you ever heard of.  Some farmers butchered a beef and a hog especially for threshing time, those were favorite dishes, beef was soon used up.

Most places served a lunch in midafternoon, consisting of sandwiches, doughnuts, cookies and coffee, as they would thresh as long as they could see so it was a long time until supper.  The machines would -stop, horses get a rest, too, and men sit on the ground in a circle, reach into the big dishpans for their lunch, and devour many tin cups of coffee.  And of all the jokes and gossip they could get in during that brief "coffee break," now a very modern custom of which the threshing crews were probably the originators.

If you have not seen a threshing crew washing up for dinner, you have missed something.  The wash bowl was set outside on the wash bench, under a tree with two or three pails of water and a dipper, several bars of soap and huge roller towels were hung on tree branches or the old picket fence.  The men cupped their hands to get water to their faces and rubbed them as though they wanted to rub the skin off.  If it was near the end of the week, the beards were quite long.  They shaved only on Sunday when getting ready for church.

Sleeves were rolled up to their elbows while they washed their arms.  Some left their sleeves rolled up until after they ate in order not to get the red tablecloth soiled while eating.  Others would fold the tablecloth up under their plate, as though it made a difference which side of the cloth got soiled.  A comb was usually placed on the bench too.  Some would get all combed up and looked pretty respectable.

If at all possible the table was enlarged by setting two tables together so the men could eat at the same time, they seemed to enjoy that most.  Every dish, including pies, cake or dessert was placed on the table before the men sat down.  All the waiting on table required was to replenish a dish or coffee cups.

One surprising thing was that after the meal most of the men would sit around on the grass in the shade, while some of the young blades (sports) would play ball or horseshoe, and there usually were a few wrestlers who would put on quite an exhibition, with rooters on both sides.  The pep stored up in some youths seemed to generate more energy than all that hard work could use up.

The engineer would slip away and pull the whistle on his steam engine.  This meant "all aboard."  Everyone responded to

 

 

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his call.  The twentieth century modern machinery has put an end to all this, the once biggest event in rural life.  Those of you who have not had a part in this great drama have missed one of life's richest experiences and a most rewarding one.  In memory the charm will ever remain.

 

Butchering Time

 

The first of the year was butchering time.  The best steer and two or three hogs were butchered.  One neighbor had learned the butcher trade so he was always called upon to do the killing.  The day set for butchering meant getting out wash boiler, kettles, reservoirs, all were filled with water to be heated on the kitchen range.  The whole family helped carry in pails full of water from the pump which was a short distance from the house.  The big old cast iron stove was fired up till it was red hot. It took a lot of boiling water to scald the hogs.

Some farmers had a big iron kettle that held thirty gallons. They hung it over a stout pole held up by a couple of large blocks of wood. After the kettle was filled with water a fire was built under it.  But we had only large barrels.  After the water was hot it was poured into the barrel.  A pulley was fastened over a big limb of a tree nearby so they could lift the hog into the barrel of hot water until it was ready to be scraped and dressed.

They seemed to know just when it was scalded enough.  The thirty-gallon iron kettle, for those who could afford one, would make it much easier.  They would heave the hog into the hot water as soon as he quit kicking after being stabbed, then jounced up and down head first, then reversed and pop the tail end in.

When the hair was real loose they would haul the hog out on a table made of saw horses and boards and scrape and pull hair to get it all off before the hide cooled. Everything had to be cleaned perfectly from feet to snout.

Then a gambrel stick was fastened under the whit leather of the hind legs and the hog swung over the tree limb from a rope. The tree limb seemed to have grown there just for that purpose.

Out came the insides into a tub.  This was left to cool off while papa and mama stripped the gut-fat, sorted out the livers and heart, getting it ready to grind for sausage.  The beef was skinned and hung up, dressed and all were left to cool until the next day. It was necessary to do this task during cold weather to thoroughly chill the meat. The first taste of the new meat was liver. Mama would fry it, with onions, as only she knew how.

 

 

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The next day the meat was cut up.  The meat was all divided; there was blood sausage, smoked sausage, liverwurst, ox-tail soup, stuffed heart, steaks, roasts, and some to go into sausages.  The hogs were cut, first the big head, spare ribs, hams, shoulders, sides, all were trimmed completely.  The fat was cut off, thrown into a tub to be rendered later. When the cutting up was done, the different parts were salted down and put away in barrels and stone jars.  Mama used to fry down the roasts, ribs, side meat, put it in stone jars and cover with lard.  It was like fresh meat until all was used. With no refrigeration it was the only way to keep meat until the next butchering time.

The meat scraps of beef and hogs were ground to make into sausage. Some were fried down, while some were put in casings.  Papa fastened the sausage grinder on a board. It was placed on two chairs. He sat on one end to turn the grinder; mama sat on the other end to keep it well anchored, to feed the meat into the grinder.  Sausages were stuffed, then hung in the smoke house to be smoked.  Hams also were smoked, dried beef also a part of food to enjoy later.  After the meat was taken care of the rendering of lard was done. One stove just wasn't big enough.

Then mincemeat to prepare, put in jars ready for pies. Some of the fresh pork, hams, bacon and shoulders were put in brine in the cellar until spring, then hung in the smoke house to drip for a week before it was smoked. A sawdust fire was built, using some chips from the woodlot. A full week was used up in just butchering, cutting meat, grinding sausage, rendering lard, making brine, but really three weeks of one's life was consumed.

The week before just thinking about it, making preparations getting all the paraphenalia ready, knives sharpened, hunt up the hog scraper, where did we put it last year?  Butchering is done and the house is a perfect mess.  Kitchen reeks with lard and frying odors.  Pots and pans, buckets, roasters, kettles and pails were all over the place, everything needed a good scrubbing, everyone had almost lost their appetites.

But soon all would be back to normal and the meat seemed better than ever.  The smoked meat was always better than anything else, and unless you have experienced this in your life there is no way of making anyone understand who never tasted it.  We always had enough to give to the preacher, roasts, lard, sausage, and everyone else did the same. It helped a great deal in the underpaid household.

 

 

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Coffee Grinder—An Alarm Clock

 

Coffee beans were bought. Arbuckles was the favorite and the best known.  The container had a picture of a fat man, Fatty Arbuckle.  Beans were placed in the top of the grinder, then the grinder was placed between your knees to turn the handle, then remove the ground coffee from a little drawer in the bottom of the grinder.  Today these grinders are much sought after as museum pieces.

The first thing in the morning mother would start the fire in the big, black Majestic range in one corner of the kitchen, put on the teakettle of water, then the grinder would start; the alarm clock for everyone, it meant "get up."  The coffee aroma was all over the house and the fragrance of those days still lingers on.  The old granite coffee pot was pushed back on the stove, a little more water added, coffee was on tap until the next meal.

All the children came running down stairs and the fight was on.  The heater in the sittin' room was the most wanted spot.  Willie yelled at Mary who wanted him to get out of there so she could dress.  Kids were modest in those days.  Willie would yell "I was here first" - "Who do you think you are?"  Papa, too, stood near in his long nightshirt. George yelled "I'm glad I don't have to look atcha."  Papa getting impatient said "Stop that nonsense and get dressed, we won't look atcha."  Dressing by the wood heater or baseburner was a problem, but the noisy squabbles are now memories that make us chuckle.

How we remember Grandma's feather beds.  The huge mountain of feathers that made you feel as if you were on a sea of marshmallows or under it.  What fun it was to jump into the center of the feather bed and feel as if you are landing on a cloud. The fun of sinking deep within the featherbed until you were almost out of sight and any way you rolled, feather hands caressed you.

Battle of the Bangboards

 

Life in the country is never dull. Each season brings new problems as well as joys.  Cornhusking in the fall meant getting up early.  Papa and mama got up first.  Papa would go to the barn to feed the horses with kerosene lantern in his hand, while mama would prepare breakfast, and what a meal!  Buckwheat pancakes, bacon, eggs, dark syrup, coffee cake and coffee, which was always fresh ground.

The children and hired men were called for breakfast, neigh-

 

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bors vied with each other who could be in the field first.  The rumble of the wagons over the frozen ground could be heard a great distance and soon the ears hitting the bangboards would bang away faster than you could count.  There were some pretty fast corn huskers.  Some could husk a hundred bushels a day; some even exceeded that, though the average was nearer seventy bushels.  Prices for husking ranged from two to three cents a bushel.  The corn was unloaded with scoop shovels into the corn crib.

These were the times to make good money, because a hired man's wages ran around $30.00 a month.  He also got his room, board and laundry.  The men husked with a husking peg or hook.  Some liked one kind while some preferred the other.  The cotton flannel mittens and gloves wore out quickly and every evening after supper mama would sit and mend mittens beside a kerosene lamp.  The goal the men set was to have all the corn in the cribs by Thanksgiving, and one neighbor would help out another if he finished first.

Papa usually had from 150 to 200 head of steers in the feed-lot and 100 or more hogs.  A lot of corn, grain and hay was used up before shipping the cattle and hogs to market.  Before Thanksgiving and Christmas, turkey, geese and ducks were sold and enough dressed for home use, as a lot of company would come during the holiday season.  The fowl was put out in the summer kitchen to freeze; the coldest storage place we had, so the kitchen was useful in winter as well as in the summer.

 

The Great Blizzards

 

The best known blizzard to ever strike the midwest was on January 12, 1888. It was called the school childrens’ blizzard because it started shortly after 1:00 o'clock in the afternoon and became more intense between three and four o'clock, just as the children were starting from their schools for home.

The day was so mild men went about in their shirt sleeves.  The air was soft and hazy like Indian summer.  Suddenly the wind changed to the north, carrying snowflakes which fast increased to a blinding snow.  Intense cold and darkness added to the discomfort.  Many stories of heroism are recorded on the part of the school teachers, trapped with their pupils, without food and fuel, miles from their homes.

One of these was Miss Louise Royce, a school teacher near Plainview.  Together with her pupils she started for her boarding place, near the school.  They became lost, three of her pupils died,

 

 

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she was badly frozen, her legs and feet were amputated.  A Mr. Kieckhaefer and his son were frozen to death.  They had gone to get their cattle home from the pasture.  The cold following the blizzard was intense.  Livestock was found frozen in a standing position on the prairie, looking like statues on the plains.  Great mountains of snow covered sheds, livestock and human beings.

Another memorable blizzard was on Easter, April 13, 1873, which lasted three days, not very cold, but hundreds of cattle died, smothered in the heavy snow.  On February 7, 1936 a severe blizzard struck Nebraska, accompanied by a heavy snow, strong wind and sub-zero temperature.

Highways were drifted shut, autoists were stranded, farms and towns were snowbound, trains could not move.  Business was paralyzed.  Before the area recovered from the storm, a second descended with additional snow.  From January 15 to February 21 there was an average temperature of 8 below zero, accompanied by forty inches of snow.

 

Packing Ice

 

There always was a lot of work around the farm, even in the wintertime. Packing ice was always a hard job for several days.  Papa always tried to put up ice when it was about twelve inches thick. Sometimes, depending on the winter, it didn't get that thick, but sometimes it was fifteen inches thick.

Papa and his three sons, Lawrence, Emil and Lou would saw the first day, cut the ice into cakes three feet long and eightญeen inches wide.  The second day they had a crew of five or six-men, usually neighbor boys, to haul it to the ice house and pack it, using large iron ice tongs to handle the heavy blocks of ice.

It took about fifteen wagon loads to fill the ice house.  They would leave about two foot space between the ice and the wall which was packed full of hay to insulate it.  Sometimes at the end of the summer there still were some blocks of ice left.

Papa built a cabinet into the ice house from a lean-to shed.  The cabinet was made of heavy tin and about four feet square.  It had ice packed on top and beneath and on three sides. It kept cream and butter cold. If we wanted ice cream we would get a piece of ice and make it.  We always had plenty of milk, cream and eggs.

Having no ice cream freezer we used a gallon syrup pail, set it in a milk pail, packed ice and salt around it and with the gallon pail handle moved it back and forth.  After the ice cream started

 

 

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to freeze we would remove the lid, with a knife scrape the ice cream from the sides and beat it some, put the lid back on, and proceed as before. It was all hard work but it was worth it.  You never tasted better ice cream.

 

Ice Wagon a-Comin!

In towns ice was packed every winter in large ice houses near a creek or river, when ice was of proper thickness a large crew of men were hired for the ice harvest.  Come summer ice was taken from the icehouses and delivered around town and to merchants.

The ice wagon was a box shaped affair with a top to keep the blazing sun from melting the ice too fast, horsedrawn with a step at the back, and a scale hanging on the back of the wagon to weigh each piece delivered to the housewife or stores.  The iceman's attire was something children looked upon with a wondrous eye.

With a slicker-like black or brown cape on his back, a pair of heavy gloves to protect his hands from the load, the iceman would lift the large wet block of ice with a pair of iron tongs, place it on his back over his shoulder, and carry it into the homes and stores.  Then drop the block weighing anywhere from twenty to fifty pounds into the icebox.

The icebox looked something like a cupboard, two doors, on one side were shelves to place foods, on the other side to put the ice.  A pan was set under the icebox to catch the water as the ice melted.  A delightful memory connected with the ice wagon was the "Ice Today" sign in the front window facing the street.  Of course the iceman would only stop where the sign was displayed.

To fathers and grandfathers a whole world of delightful nostalgia immediately fills the mind, of snitching ice, running away from the burly iceman, of picking up handfuls of ice chips.  Of all the memories attached to ice wagons, perhaps the most vivid is that of chasing the horsedrawn, box shaped affair and hoping that you could reach that little step on the back, climb up and pick up whatever chips of ice the probing fingers could find-then get off fast.

The entire process of what might be called the "art of cooling off” had to be done quickly and quietly, to avoid having the driver stop his horse, get off his wagon, and come' round to catch the apprentice thief at his almost daily chore.

 

 

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Winter Fun

 

When kitchens were big—and so very old fashioned, but were so nice on cold days when the thermometer on the back porch shows 10 below, u-nm-n, the food cooking on the old range sure smelled good.

The teakettle sang away, the smell of coal oil lamps, grandpa and grandma read the newspaper, the wood box was filled for the night, mama did this and that, usually mending something or tearing rags for the rag carpet she hoped to get done for Easter.  Between rest periods we kids were eating jelly bread.  We did our homework.  Fresh coffee was always brewing on the back of the stove.  There were no radios or TV to watch, but we managed to survive.

As Christmas drew near, folks were busy getting ready for the holidays, and oh! how they used to prepare for those joyful events.  Little Mary would ask "The workshop in the cellar is locked and grandpa's down there, what's he making and where's papa?"  Mama said "Papa's out in the woods chopping down a Christmas tree, go to Mary, watch Willie shell nuts while I bake animal cookies for the Christmas tree, and you will have to pop corn to string for the tree."

There was the pump to thaw out every morning, wood to fetch for the kitchen stove and the heater in the sittin' room. Later a new stove came into being, called a base burner. Hard coal was used in it that cost $6.00 to $7.00 a ton. It had isinglass on front and sides and oh, how cheerful it looked and felt even better, burned all night through and we huddled around it. The kids popped corn in the wire mesh popper on the kitchen range; then sat on the floor near the base burner, listening to the wind howling and moaning, teakettle singing, shutters rattling, snow three feet deep, when this world was a little younger and so were we.

Oh! what fun it was to ride in a one-horse open sleigh.  The old bobsled with a wagon box on it, bottom filled with straw.  We put on the heaviest coats we had, caps, mufflers, fascinators, wool underwear, wool socks, raccoon fur coat for the driver, hand knit mittens, overshoes, and away we'd go over ice and snow.  Sleigh bells ringing, no wonder songs were composed of "winter wonderland."

Sleigh rides really were fun in those good old days, no cars or snow plows to spoil the roads all winter long.  Horses feet were shod so snow or ice didn't bother them.  They too were lively and

 

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seemed to enjoy the fun.  We would take the old bobsled to get a Christmas tree.  How those lighted tallow candles gleamed on Christmas eve.

The snow was soft and sparkling, sleigh bells jingling, neighbors were so closely knitted together, spent evenings together, playing parlor organs and singing.  On Christmas eve the bells would chime in church steeples, heralding "Silent Night, Holy Night," the world was so peaceful and people were happy.

 

Days of Joy

 

For those who are approaching the winter of life, there's always one quick delightful way to become "young" again, a swift journey into yesteryear.  There were the skating parties down by the old mill stream, or on a river or pond, when the moon hung high and hearts were young.  Those moonlight nights to hear the crunching of the snow with each step, sleigh bells ringing, voices singing.

The game of "shinny" on ice.  A boy would not only make his shinny club which consisted of a curved stick, but also provided one for his best girl. The group would choose sides, then each team would try to get the disk to opposite goals.  It usually consisted of a four or five-inch square cube of wood. Today the more sophisticated name is "hockey."  At times the game became pretty rough.  It took a good skater to retrieve the disk and bloody noses were not unusual, but they always went back for more.

Those sleighing parties, what a day to remember. Everyone was cozy and warm in that old bob sled, half full of clean straw, horse blankets, if a dark night a lantern was hung at the side.  Singing and loving his best girl, then to the big farm kitchen, warm as toast; coffee brewing on the big iron range, coffee cakes and pies.  Then to top it off, popping corn on the stove and a taffy pull.  That lovely land of long ago.  No matter how much people run down the old-time winters, we still insist that there was one good thing about them—bob sleds and sleighs.

When farmers came to town in wagons or sleighs, kids would hitch their sleds behind them and ride to the edge of town, then hitch onto another, as long as one was around to hitch to.  Hay-ride parties were a lot of fun and very popular.  Hay or straw would be piled in a hay rack, everybody would pile in and have a picnic or wiener roast somewhere by a stream or in the woods, depending on the weather or time of year—but it was real fun for those young in heart.

 

 

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Feather Stripping Party

 

Feather stripping parties in the "gay nineties" were a lot of fun. That was before farm folks hooked up with the Jones's.  Everybody just lived as they were.  Had no rugs on the floor, no over-stuffed furniture, no drapes at the windows to worry about.  Most farmers raised ducks and geese, not only for the delicious roasts but for the feathers as well.  All these feathers had to be stripped and that’s where the young folks took over.

Feather bee parties, sometimes two and three a week with young folks from five to ten miles around getting together for the fun.  Tables all over the house, sometimes built to fit the room with a few nail kegs and planks on top for seats.  Everybody crowded around like they do at bingo stands now, but they had more fun.  The feathers were spread along the middle of the table and everyone got busy stripping off the down and quills going on the floor.

Somebody sure would have to sneeze now and then.  This work spiced with a lot of fun usually lasted about two hours with down enough for a couple of pillows.  From then on it was play.  The tables were moved out and the seats put against the wall.  The feathers were swept up a bit.  Usually the hostess had baked a few cakes or doughnuts and these we're passed around, also coffee.

Then it was time for play, sometimes dancing, sometimes just play games.  Everyone was asked "pleased or displeased" and if displeased he would suggest something else and that was it.  Somebody was sure to suggest postoffice and that was a lot of fun, stamps were so cheap in those days.

Yes, those were the gay nineties when folks worked together and played together.  We didn't have all the push button appliances but we had the softest pillows and featherbeds.  What could be nicer on a stormy winter night than to dive into one of those feather beds and pull another over you to hibernate until morning.

You would wake up feeling like a new-born babe, get up and into your woolens, put on your felt boots, start the kitchen fire.  While the water in the teakettle was getting hot to thaw out the pump you would go out and shovel a path to the outhouse — nothing more refreshing than that — peps you up for all day.

Yes, those were the good old feather-stripping nineties, all will agree, we had fun!—as told by brother Lou.—E.K.H.

 

 

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Barber Shops

Back in the good old days a barber shop wasn't just a place to get a fifteen cent haircut and a ten cent shave, it was the place to hear what was going on in the community and the world.  Many a yarn was spun, and jokes were told in the barber shop.  The old red and white pole or a wooden Indian were symbols in front of every barber shop.

A long shelf was on the wall on which were shaving mugs.  Each customer had his own with his name on it; some more ornate with their name in gold engraved on it.  In the early 1900's few families had bath facilities in their homes.  Men could take a bath at the barber shop for twenty-five cents.  Saturday night was a busy time for that weekly bath. Women and children still resorted to the wash tub in the kitchen.

 

The Town Sprinkler

The town sprinkler in the summer helped settle the dust on Main street as well as much traveled side streets.  It consisted of a wagon with a wooden tank, about like the oil tank cars in 1967.  It had a sprinkler at the back.  The driver could turn it on and off at will.

He always had barefoot boys chasing the sprinkler. The driver had his fun with them, turning it on them and how they would scream, really what they wanted him to do on a hot day.  It was filled at the town water supply tank that also supplied water for a bucket brigade in case of fire.

Livery Barns

Livery barns, one of the chief enterprises of a town in the early days has ceased to exist due to modern transportation.  Livery barns were usually the largest buildings in the town, with high front on which in bold letters was painted "Livery Barn."  They had horse stalls and huge hay lofts, a large alley through the middle of the barn, a lean-to on either side of the large barn in which wagons could be driven in, buggies, sleighs and cutters were stored.

There was a wide center entrance with wide rolling doors in which a team and wagon could be driven to be unhitched, especially useful in cold and rainy weather.  On one side were grain bins and on the other side the office with a pot-bellied stove,

 

 

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benches, chairs, racks on which fur robes and dusters were hung.  A box of sawdust was under the heating stove which was used as a cuspidor; "spittoon" as it was called by the men.

          Several kerosene lanterns hung there.  Many "yarns" were told in these places where farmers stopped to have their horses fed and rested while they attended to their business and made purchases of groceries, had flour ground at the mill, etc., as many came great distances over muddy or frozen or snow-covered roads or trails.

Trips to town were few and far between so they usually spent a full day in town.  Some children who lived near town rode horseback or drove a buggy or two-wheeled cart to attend school.  To keep a horse in the livery barn all day cost fifteen cents if you furnished your own feed, otherwise it was twenty-five cents.

Hiring a rig to drive in the country was $1.50 without a driver, $2.00 with a driver.  A town character called "Whiskey Ben" worked in one of these livery barns in Pierce.  He slept in the hay loft or office and earned the title to his name by imbibing too much John Barleycorn.

One day a young boy came to the bam to leave his horse.  It was a terribly cold day, he was almost frozen.  "Whiskey Ben" asked him, "Can I unhitch your horse?"  The boy replied, "I sure would appreciate it, if you will," Whiskey Ben hesitated then replied, "If I had known you would say that, I would not have offered to do it"—but he did it nevertheless.

Land agents and land seekers came in on almost every train.  They hired livery rigs to drive around the country to either buy or sell land.  Towns people hired livery rigs to go buggy riding or visit friends in the country or neighboring towns.  The various buggies were phaetons, surreys, some with fringe on top, top buggies or spring buggies. Most livery barns also had a cutter, complete with sleigh bells, and also bobsleds.

Some of the best known livery barns in Pierce were "Cates Livery," "McCrady's" and "Halls."  It was not unusual in the wintertime to see flat irons on the stove which farmers used as foot warmers on the return trip home or the old iron teakettle filled with boiling water on the stove to fill the jug which also served as a foot warmer in frigid weather.

Back of the barn was the feed lot with a stack of hay surrounded with a feed manger where horses that were not in use were fed.  Many a joke was pulled in the livery barn days. One that caused not a small amount of fun was at Hall’s Livery barn.

 

 

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George Goff, the town marshal, was the official spieler and it went something like this:  "We have on exhibition in this stable an unusual curiosity.  It's a sight to behold people. You'll never forget seeing this remarkable animal.  It's a horse with its head where its tail should be, its tail where its head should be."

The crowd of fifty or more were asked to go in and see the curiosity.  Admission was free.  Much to the chagrin of the crowd, they found a big bay mare munching hay as it stood in reverse in the stall, with its tail draped over the manger and its head at the rear of the stall.  Many jokes were originated in these popular places in that early day.  They created their own amusements and had fun.

Young people in town hired a livery rig, bobsled and driver to take them to the country.  Maybe to a literary society meeting in a rural school, maybe to a barn dance where an accordion player or fiddler made the rafters ring.  They sang songs going and coming; their hearts were young and gay.  Life was slow moving; and easy-going in these early years.

The old-fashioned home town was so dull and sometimes boring a person couldn't get a nervous breakdown or a heart attack.  There was a time when some of us longed for a more exciting future and now we sometimes get a longing for a less exciting future just a little bit like the good old days when we were discontented with them, when we wanted to grow up and get out of the ole' one-horse town and go where something does happen.

Signs like these were tacked on the walls in Livery barns, "In God we trust, all others cash."  "Since man to man is so unjust we do not know whom we may trust," "We've trusted many to our sorrow.  Pay us today, we'll trust you tomorrow.”

The early 1900's started to put livery barns out of business.  Automobiles were coming on the scene and horses were becoming more rare year by year.  Now today (1967) horses are popular again.  Riding clubs are formed everywhere.  Trail rides, horse shows, racing, etc.  History does repeat itself.

 

Games and Amusements

 

Adults as well as children created their own amusements.  In summer it was playing ball, rolling a hoop, stilts, boating, fishing, races and games like pump, pump pull away, run-sheep-run, hide and seek. postoffice, drop the handkerchief, London Bridge, ring around the rosie and grandpa's story telling.

 

 

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          Grandpa, according to his story, became a legendary figure in his old neighborhood when he was a boy on stilts.  Everytime he told the tale to the kids and described himself, it was "this is nothin', I'm goin' to build me higher ones."  He even told of the special train with the president of the United States looking at him on his high stilts.  He was a real "wonder boy."

Kids would hang around the blacksmith shop wanting a hoop off old wheels, so they could hoop roll with a stick that had a piece of lathe nailed crosswise at the end. Hoop rolling sure was fun, and the races kids had with them.  The "squeeze" box player (accordion) was popular at parties and dances.  Square dances were very popular, often held in barns, haylofts mostly, in the country.  Lanterns hung all over the place for light.  Beer kegs with planks laid on them were placed along the wall for seats.

When a circus came to town there was great rejoicing among the kids.  They hung around the circus grounds to get a job to carry water to thin the paste for bill boards or water for the elephants.  Paid with two passes to see the circus, it usually took fourteen buckets of water at ten buckets for a ticket but the circus man would say, "Well, I'll give you two passes so you can take your girl."  Through the years circuses continue to thrill young and old.  Ringling Brothers, Barnum and Bailey, and Buffalo Bill are nostalgic memories we never can forget.

 

 

Fourth of July Celebrations

Those yesteryear Fourth of July celebrations started before dawn when a blacksmith in town had an old cannon, a real relic, which he would discharge at 5 o'clock the morning of the Fourth, woke up the town and people living miles around.  He did this as long as he lived.

Kids were sure to get up early that morning when every other morning they couldn't wake up.  Firecrackers began to explode.  Usually one town in the county would celebrate.  A special train would take people from each town to the celebrating town, leaving at 8:00 o'clock in the morning in time for the big parade.  After which the merry makers had a real field.  The train would return at midnight.

People did a lot of clowning in those days.  Some men dressed in tuxedo and high silk hat, while some dressed as cowboys, tramps, prospectors, etc., while women wore wrappers, sunbonnets, others in fancy hoop skirts and bustle gowns.  The parade

 

 

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was the special attraction with people everywhere, on roof tops and trees, not to miss a thing.

Then firecrackers, pop guns, water guns, tug-of-war, races, medicine men, side shows, a big bowery dance.  Fireworks in the evening that lit up the sky and town.  Since amusements were few and far between, everyone made the most of them when they did happen and all had a good time.

 

Summer Kitchens

 

What are summer kitchens?  In the early days houses were small, usually consisted of one large room, which served as a kitchen, dining and living room all in one, besides a couple small bedrooms.  If families were large the bedrooms were full of beds and no other furniture.  When summer's heat came the old kitchen cast iron range, fired with cobs and wood made it so hot one could not endure it in the house.

So a small building, perhaps only six by eight feet was built and placed near the kitchen door where mother did all the cooking and canning in this summer kitchen.  Of course the kitchen range which was moved into this summer kitchen in the spring was moved back into the house in the fall when cool weather set in.

It was anything but convenient because the food was carried from the pantry to the summer kitchen, cooked, and then carried to the table at mealtime, then hot water from the reservoir into the pantry to wash dishes on the little kitchen table. Many steps were made by mothers of that day.  Today one wonders how they were able to survive it all.

The wonderful baked bread, coffee cakes, pies and cookies brought good health and joy to every member of the family.  Just the aroma of freshly baked bread made a person drool.  The thing that carried mothers through all the hard work and inconveniences was their attitude.  They loved their family, their work, and had little to detract them.  The world was moving at a slow pace, not thinking that their way of life would go out-of-date, but were always looking beyond the sunset and were grateful for what they had, remembering the time when they had far less.

 

Peddlers

 

In the early days of the twentieth century the "Department Store" came right to the door of homes throughout the country.  A peddler, who usually drove one horse hitched to a small spring

 

 

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buggy with a top and side curtains, came frequently to call on people in the country.  He carried a complete line of dress materials, cut in lengths for one garment, needles, thread, buttons, rick-rack braid, laces, hooks and eyes, stays and collars.  Also shoelaces, beaded articles, umbrellas, handkerchiefs, trinkets of all kinds, pots and pans, dishes, stockings, underwear, in fact, all manner of things carried in a general store.

They were carried in "telescopes," grips of all kinds, from which he would take his wares out, to display on the kitchen table of his customer.  He had an iron weight with a chain he would place in front of the horse and snap the chain to the bridle, thus the horse was tied while he displayed his wares.  He usually managed to be near a desirable farm home at night even though a town was near.

He would barter some of his wares for his supper and breakfast and a night's lodging, also feed for his horse.  He could not barter his wares at a livery barn or a hotel or merchant, so he had very little expense for board and room.

Another type of peddler were those who enlarge photographs.  Grandma's and Grandpa's had to be enlarged with a great wide frame, and often papa's and mama's were also enlarged.  These were hung on the parlor walls.  Some were put on easels in a corner.  These peddlers would get a small photograph, then when enlarged bring them back.  He always had a good price on them, so it was quite a profitable business to be in and every family would have some of this done.  It was definitely honoring the memory of a loved one, especially so of a deceased member.  The .salesmen were fast talkers, and very convincing.

Another regular peddler was the medicine man.  He would stop in town, climb on a box or barrel on Main street and he was a real "spieler."  He had everything to heal all ills.  Some had a horse and buggy and drove through the country to sell their "cures."  One instrument was called "Lebens Vecker" in German, translated in English meant "Life Awakener."  It was a machine similar to a vibrator, had prickly needles, was placed on affected part of the body, then pushed back and forth and soon the patient was well.  This truly was "mind over body" cure.

At the turn of the century Pierce had a Jeweler, Anton Cross by name, who also sold sewing machines, repaired watches and clocks and eye glasses.  He began to test eyes and claimed most ailments people had were the result of poor eyes.  He was so con vincing and his reputation so great that every train coming into

 

 

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town brought "patients."  He cured stomach troubles, neuralgia, Just name it.

His success was so great he decided to go to a larger town, so moved to Fremont, but from reports his patients became less and less, so he left there, but what happened to him after that is unknown.  As doctors were few and far between many home remedies were used, some with success, some not.  A diphtheria epidemic broke out, so many died, especially children.

Finally someone heard of painting the throat with turpentine.  It helped.  Those who used it lived, but some developed kidney trouble and died.  Camellia tea, asafetida and "snaps" with sugar and hot water were cures for colds.

 

Prairie Dogs

Prairie dogs were common in the early days. They were about the size of a large tom cat with a short tail.  They always lived in colonies, called "Dogtown."  Sometimes hundreds lived in one town.  After the settlers came the prairie dogs moved on as they lived only on the prairies.

The last ones in Pierce County were south and southwest of Pierce as that was still all prairie.  They moved on west as much was still prairie.  Many of the western counties in Nebraska had prairie towns until recent years as the sod was unbroken there.

The story was that prairie dogs, rattlesnakes and fleas lived together.  According to a pioneer bumble bees could also be included.  These were the worst things about the "Good Old Days."

 

Town Herd

In the early days in every town there was a "town herd” which consisted of milk cows owned by the residents of the town.  Nearly every piece of town property included a barn to shelter a cow and a horse and buggy.  The barn had a hayloft to store hay, and a windmill was next to the barn.  Every town had a herdsman for the summer who gathered all the cows together and drove them to a pasture at the edge of town every morning and brought them back at night.  Fee for pasturing the cows was usually $1.00 per head per month.

Usually two boys with ponies were hired to get the cows to and fro.  If the pasture was not fenced they would have to herd them, so the boys could fish if near a stream, catch frogs or explore around.  At noon they raced home for their midday meal.  Cows usually took their siesta shortly after dinner.

 

 

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The average town herd was around twenty-five to thirty cows.  They soon learned the simple routines, such as stopping at their own gate when coming home and falling in line when the herd came by in the morning.  They were gentle and easy to handle.  Some of the young herders grew to have an affection for the gentle creatures.

Their owners too had a great affection for their cows, who would come when their name was called.  Some names were "Rosie." "Hampshire." "Dolly," "Nellie," "Suzy," etc.

The make-up of most of the town herds was composed of good dairy stock and in the closing years of the operation some communities had regular tuberculous tests for their herds.

Some residents owned several cows and sold and delivered milk to those who had no cows.  Usually one of the children delivered the milk in a half or gallon syrup pail to their customers.  Progress soon caught up and milk distribution gradually grew into the great industry it is today.

 

Homestead Cellars

On the old homestead the cellar was a very important part of the house: the first super-market.  It would not rate very high by today's (1967) standards but it was a wonderful place, not what it was but what was in it.  Cellars were more like a cave, walls and floor were dirt, some who could find small stones, called nigger heads, stacked them to make a wall, then put lime and clay between the rocks.

If the cellar wasn't too damp they lasted for a long time.  The floor was dirt.  These cellars were cold, fruits and vegetables kept well until spring.  At one end was a large bin that held fifty bushels of potatoes.  Another bin divided in sections each had a different kind of apple, as the orchard was a good producer.  There were Jonathans, Delicious, Wealthies, Dutchess and Snow apples.

Then there were carrots, cabbage, onions, beets, turnips, pumpkins and squash, large crocks of sauerkraut, pickles and plums.  Mama cooked plums put them into a one, two, three or four-gallon stone jars. While hot covered them with thick cotton batting, newspapers over that, then tied a string around the crock to keep out air, laid a board on each crock so nothing would break the batting and paper. These would keep indefinitely. She prepared them into preserves, jelly or jams as needed.

On shelves were rows of Mason jars filled with pickles, fruit, apple butter, piccalilli, mangoes, tomatoes, about everything

 

 

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you can think of.  The children could go into the cellar anytime; no lights down there, but could find the apple they wanted to munch on after school or before going to bed.  The cellar was a treasure-trove.

When spring rains came and ice and snow melted the cellar became quite damp.  Boards were laid on the floor to walk on, and if water did come in we used rubber boots to get what was wanted.  Bins and shelves were built high enough no water would bother it.

The memory of all the good things in that old cellar, all raised on the old homestead, far out-weigh all the inconveniences it caused and few if any basements today can boast of such a heritage.  It all was hard work but very rewarding.

 

Grocery and Department Stores

 

In the latter part of the nineteenth century and early 1900's buying was pretty much of a gamble.  Not only a limited choice to a few brands, but quality was just as dependable as the stage-coach schedule.  Sanitary and freshness measures were practically unheard of.  Meats were hung in the open; fresh produce was almost wilted due to slow transportation and poor storage; very little refrigeration, if any at all.

Milk was dipped from large cans into each customers container brought from home, and butter was cut by the piece from large wooden tubs.  It had been brought to town by farm women, some was put in stone crocks, while some had wooden butter molds, which brought a penny a pound more, while some was dumped in the big tub.

Butter brought from ten to fifteen cents a pound to the farmer, then sold for three or four cents more in the store.  Pioneers have also told of getting only five cents a pound for butter.  Some farm women had their regular customers in town to deliver their butter, receiving fifteen to eighteen cents a pound.

The merchant cut the butter by the piece, with a paddle from the wooden tub, weighed it on a piece of wrapping paper, wrapped it up for customer to take home.  Eggs brought five to ten cents a dozen.  Once you handed your grocery list to the clerk the selection of your family's food was pretty much in his hands.

Your request for fast service fell on deaf ears, for just one clerk served everybody.  Farm women much preferred to sell to regular customers around town because they were paid in cash while if they took their produce to the store they had to take

 

 

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their pay in trade for merchandise.  If their produce amounted to more than their bill they were given "due bills" to trade out some other time.  Cash was never given them.

Coffee was sold as coffee beans. A large coffee grinder was on a counter in the back of the store and you could have it ground there or grind it yourself in the little hand coffee grinder you placed between your knees to turn and grind it.  Most every home had these small grinders.  Most women preferred to grind their own each meal as they used it, then they would not lose any coffee flavor or strength.  Arbuckles coffee was the favorite.  If ground at the store it was placed in the paper bag.

Whole bunches of bananas were hung toward the back of the store, and picked from the bunch as people bought them.  On one rod were hams, sausages and bacon.  Cheese was in one large round piece and cut off in pie shaped pieces when sold.  Apples, potatoes and cranberries were in wooden barrels setting on the floor in front of the counter.

Kerosene barrel was in the back room, sort of a wareroom, because it was a must for lamps, as they were used in every home.

Peanuts and stick candy were part of the Saturday grocery list.  Spices were all in open bins, plug tobacco on the shelf and cut off as the customer wanted it.  The general store had such a wilderness of things.  Crocks, jugs. lamps, lamp chimneys, wicks, lanterns, horse collars and pads, sheepskin boots, few patterns of calico sold for six to ten cents a yard, fly netting and "tanglefoot," a fly catcher every home must have.

The philosophers settin' around the big pot bellied stove, winter or summer, some settin' on the counters with their feet dangling, a spittoon near the stove, regardless of where the "philosophers" sat, there never was a miss.  What a "super market" of memories.

How things have changed. Today you swish off in a car or airplane to modern supermarkets, stroll through aisle after aisle, gay, exciting color lined with literally hundreds of quality controlled foods to choose from, garden fresh.

Perishables are rushed fresh daily from producers, direct to spic and span refrigerated display cases, already cut and ready for buying.  Modern flash freezing processes make it possible for you to serve out-of-season foods the year around.  Frozen foods is the one "freeze" the farmers like, as well as people in all walks of life.

To the farmer it meant a new industry and it changed the kit-

 

 

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chen habits of American homemakers.  The formation of this new enterprise began at a time when the country's leading industrialists were nursing their wounds suffered during the drastic crash of 1929.  As the frozen food industry grew, a demand for more vegetables and fruits also increased.  The economy of the whole country was changed with the advent of the frozen food industry.

 

Nebraska's Biggest Man

Fred Boche, who was born in Wisconsin in 1857 came to Nebraska with his parents in 1866 and is probably the largest man ever to live in the state.  He was also known as "Nebraska's Giant."  He was nigh seven feet from toe to top; his hands were as large as a fielder's mitt; wore a seven and three fourths hat and a number fourteen shoe that was extra wide.

He was a woodsman, thresher, hunter and trapper.  He ran a lumber mill, cutting lumber out of Nebraska's trees, ash, cotton-wood and maple.  He could toss a log weighing a hundred pounds to one side, or pick the remains of a forest primeval from the ground and send it hurtling through the air.

Fred lived in one of Nebraska's garden spots, known as ' Boche's Grove" south of Norfolk, Nebraska, a preemption claim settled by his father, Fred Boche in 1866, who came overland in a covered, oxdrawn wagon.  As he was nine years old when he came he told many stories of interest that happened.  This claim is now Tahazooka Park in Norfolk.

He told of coming through Omaha, no bridge across old Missouri, so were ferried across, also told of a terrible May blizzard.  Because of his immense size he shunned the public, being propositioned many times to join a show or circus but he never was interested.  Big as he was it was hard to keep out of the public eye.  His clothing was twice the size of an ordinary man.  His bed was built with an extension and special braces.

Ordinarily farm implements looked like toys in his hands.  He had to stoop to enter any ordinary door, his head and shoulders towered above a lot of first floor windows.  In spite of his bigness, he was not clumsy.  Quick as a trigger, he was a much faster runner than an average man, had extra-ordinary eyesight was an outstanding fisherman and trapper.  In summer he went with a threshing crew, threshing grain for some of the children of north Nebraska pioneers.

Come fall he went to Pierce where he had a favorite camping place on the old Kolterman Homestead a couple miles north

 

 

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of Pierce, on the Northfork River. Here he pitched his tent in a bend of the river.  He had a small tin cook stove, a cot, a couple wooden boxes for chairs, a box for food, also used as a table.

He had a heavy carpet of straw on the dirt floor, also straw banked on the outside of his tent, as winters were very rugged, and lots of snow.  Considerable timber was around the river, giving him protection from the cold wintry winds and snow, and also supplied him with fuel for his stove.  He walked many miles up and down the Northfork and Dry Creek rivers setting traps and each day made the round to gather his "crop."

A few miles west of his camp was a big swamp dotted with lagoons, no channel to drain it, ran almost to Foster from which Foster got the nickname "Frogtown."  It was a paradise for musk-rats and mink.  There were hundreds of muskrat houses, some four or five feet high. They had plenty of building material, cattails and rushes everywhere.  It was also a happy hunting ground for hunters and trappers.

After gathering his "crop" of furs, he skinned them, stretching them on a shingle slab with one rounded end, skin side out. Then hung the furried slab to dry on a heavy wire stretched from tree to tree.

Boche weighed better than 275 pounds and if ever there was a man as "strong as a horse" he was it.  He could carry a pack on his back loaded down with traps and game a common man could not lift.  In the fall when the river was open his daily catch was from twenty-five to thirty muskrats, two or three minks, skunks, also coons.

One winter he set out one hundred traps, said he broke his all-time record.  He caught five hundred muskrats in one week. The trees around his camp were hanging full of pelts. The odor was not too pleasant.  Furs were cheap in those days, muskrats from five cents to ten cents each and mink from fifty cents to a dollar and a half.

The beautiful furs of mink, muskrat, coons, etc., tanned and made up in collarettes, capes, muffs and coats would make any female drool.  By today's standards their value would run into thousands of dollars.  He spent all the months with "R" at this retreat then returned to his cabin near Norfolk.

Other incidents of Boche's life have been told.  A horse became mired in a ditch, he lifted it out, also carried a crippled heifer to a barn some distance away.  An automobile once fell through a bridge near Stanton, Boche lifted it out.

 

 

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          Two huge barrels of molasses rolled from a farmer's wagon.  Along came Fred, he lifted them back onto the wagon.  "Thanks friend, that's a big help to me" said the farmer.  "I like to lift molasses," said Mr. Boche, "especially when I have cakes for breakfast.

 

Mr. Boche was seldom angry, but if he ever was, it was time to run.  He could play a concertina and sing as well.  When at his winter camp he often spent evenings with neighbors who lived near, visiting and entertaining children with stories.  They could not keep their eyes off him due to his immense size.  He usually was given homemade bread, coffee cakes and cookies.  He never was on a diet.  He died in the 1920's.

Kolterman's dog, Rover, a Saint Bernard, wandered around the creeks and woods and unfortunately stepped on one of Boche's traps and was caught.  Fred released him, petted him, but ever after that if Fred was anywhere near, Rover would bark constantly until Fred left.  With all the affection Fred showed to Rover, he never could forget being trapped.  His bark may have been in gratitude.

 

Richest Man in the World

In 1919 Gene Huse of the Norfolk Daily wrote an editorial which asked:  "What is your idea of a rich man?"

E. J. Meyers, a blacksmith in Pierce, wrote an answer to that editorial.  He was not courting fame or glory in the literary world but when his article appeared it attracted the attention of all classes of readers and was published far and wide as a sentiment that is worthy of every American citizen.

It was written during the troublous times of social unrest and strikes when labor was arrayed against capital.  It brings home a great lesson to all classes of citizens be they rich or poor, and now in 1967 it bears repeating.  Have times changed?

This was his letter to the Norfolk Daily News:

 

Dear Sir: I wonder if you knew that one of the richest men in the world lived fourteen miles north of Norfolk, right here in Pierce, Nebraska.  That man is the writer.  I'm just a common "plug blacksmith" but Oh! how rich.  I go to my labors each morning, work until noon, go to dinner, return at 1:00 p.m. and work until 8:00 o'clock.  I enjoy the greatest of all blessings.  Rockefeller would give me all he possesses in money, or holdings, for "my stomach," but he can't have it.  Each day sees something accomplished, and

 

 

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every job of work I turn out I feel that I have done my customer a service "worthy of hire."

          I have a wonderful little wife.  She has stuck by me twenty-two years now, so I know she must be a dandy to accomplish that.  I have a little home, a beautiful little daughter, a son grown to maturity and now in life's game himself.  Rich? Why, man alive, who can possibly be richer?

Then to add to all the riches, I take my old shotgun in season and ramble through fields, woods and tangle in search of the elusive cottontail, teal and mallard, with my faithful pointer at "heel," and he is as happy as I when we are on a hunt.  Then when night has spread its mantle over this good old universe, I settle down in a good old easy chair, enjoy a smoke and then roll into bed, to be embraced by the arms of Morpheus and never hear a sound until the beautiful break of another day.

Rich?  Did you say?  Well, I guess.  Dollars?  No, not many.  You inquired about riches, not material wealth.  The height of my ambition is to live so long that I have no regrets for having lived.  When the time comes for me to shuffle off this mortal coil I hope by that time to have accumulated just enough dollars that myself and mine may not be objects of charity.  This, then, is my idea of a rich man.  If anyone enjoys life more than I do, he is to be envied for his riches.

With kindest regards, E. J. Meyers.

 

 

Problems of the First Cars

 

When they first began to make cars it was a good sign of progress, but when winter came, progress began to bring out the "bad in us."  It sure made a guy sore.  He was always able to thaw out the pump, but when the autos got all frozen up, after standing out in the cold weather, they're worse than a mule.

Alcohol was mostly used for "warming up purposes" in saloons and "anti-freeze" was unheard of.  Mama would stand at the door and holler.  "You don't have to use such bad language in front of the boys.  You never did that when we had the horse.  Besides that auto should not be taken out of the barn until the winter's over."

          The starter was of the coffee grinder type.  “Why don't you take the tires off and put her on blocks in the barn, that's where it belongs in the winter," yelled mama.  "The Kissel car and Tin Lizzie were not made for ice and cold.  Besides with those rough roads you know John's false teeth just up and jumped out and

 

 

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flew on the road the last time you drove to town," continued mama, "You had to stop and rest awhile, we were all nearly shook to pieces.  Anyway it beats that old high wheel bike we used to have and the lumber wagon with a board for a seat."

Then there was the small two-seater electric car.  Only a banker's wife could afford one—and only one street in town was paved.  She was the envy of all the females as she chugged along about ten miles an hour.  She was all dressed up in a fancy silk dress, brush braid around the bottom of the long full skirt, feather boa around her neck, a big merry widow hat with big ostrich plumes in the breeze and those snazzy cuffed leather gloves, guiding the "stick" which was all the steering wheel was at that time.

These fashionable ladies shopped in the morning because it would have been a confession that they had no social life if they shopped in the afternoon.  Do you remember when the side curtained touring cars were becoming old fashioned?  That's when women were going in for bobbed haircuts, the early 1920’s, and folks were pumping player pianos.  A few were beginning to own radio sets with ear phones and grandpa said,  'Teenagers were goin’ to the dogs."

Old "blue nose" was around yet, so were speakeasies, homebrew and punk hooch. The boot legger was in his heyday and boys were leaving daily for army camps and overseas to fight the "war to end all wars, "(World War I).  During horse and buggy days there were races between the "young bloods," on horseback or spring buggies, or buckboards.  The tandem bikes, then came horsepower, those gasoline monsters.

Mama riding with papa yelled so he could hear over the noise of the motor and rough roads, "What do you care if that fellow beats you, or gets the jump on you, do you hear?  Why you're going almost twenty-five miles an hour."  Some of the old timers would run to the road seeing them go by and say "They ought to throw everyone of those foolhardy whipper snappers into the cooler."

Another would yell "Great Scott, look at 'em go.”  Todav in the 1950 and 60's we call them "drag races."  What's one hundred miles per hour?  Those old time cars were wonderful.  The roads were full too, not full of wonder, just mud.

 

The Buggy That Ended All Buggies

The buggy that ended all buggies was in about 1895, when Frank Duryea established the gasoline age in America by win-

 

 

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ning the first road race for horseless carriages in Chicago.  About four years later a fussy little Locomobile started chugging along, dooming the leisurely era of the horse.  Later came the Reo, Oldsmobile, Thomas Flyer and Pierce Arrow.  Though doomed, the horse apparently didn't know it and Dobbin continued to supply most of the transportation horsepower for sometime.

In 1903 the White Steamer came into the picture. A trip of sixty miles took nine hours.  Quite a talked about record.  Nothing much happened till the year 1905 when things really started popping, actually that year might well be termed the start of the mechanized age.  Legislatures were beginning to adopt a law to regulate automobiles on the country roads.  A fee of about $3.00 to register each auto was decreed, no plates were issued, just a numbered certificate and the automobilist was permitted to display the number in his own fashion.

Soon automobile cross-country races took place.  In 1905 a 1903 Oldsmobile was driven from New York to Portland, Oregon, taking forty-four days after leaving New York to win the first continental race for automobiles.  A Richard Braiser car really had speed, could do fifty-five miles per hour.  Each year added to power, speed and design.  Now "Old Car Clubs" are formed all over the country and some of these cars bring the price of new cars today (1967) some even more, for they are rare.  Buffalo Bill drove the first automobile into Yellowstone Park in 1911 or 1912.  It was a White Steamer. Emil Hansen drove the second car into the park in 1912. It was a Violet M. Franklin air cooled car owned by Woods Cones, a Pierce banker, for whom Emil was chauffeur.

Roads were only trails then, used by stagecoaches, cowboys or prospectors. There was only a wooden board nailed on a post at the park entrance on which was painted with black paint, "Yellowstone Park."  No one was around as the Cones car was driven in. Soon a ranger appeared, stopped the car and in no uncertain terms wanted to know what they wanted.  They replied. "Pick-wild strawberries."  Then the ranger said, "Drive in aways. but if you meet a stagecoach get off the road and help lead the horses past the car as they are afraid of them.”  Then added, "The only person who has ever driven a car in this park was Buffalo Bill and here you come along and only the second car ever driven in here."

First National Automobile show was held in Madison Square Garden in New York in 1900.

 

 

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The Automobile Age

 

Going was tough on the open roads during the "Good Old Days."  Open cars, no windshields, some cars had curtains, some had curtains with isinglass windows to see through.  If caught in a rain or snowstorm the chill wind slashed the flapping side curtains, rain or snow or dust would creep through.  Wheels sank to the axle in mud or snow or during dry weather there were deep ruts and chuck holes.

If you happened to meet a team of horses you would have to get off the road and help lead them past the car as horses were afraid of cars.  They would leap in the air and run for miles while drivers sawed on the bits and cussed automobile and driver.  Owning a car was as simple as owning a horse and buggy.  No license or number was required.

Come winter the car wheels were jacked up, blocks were put under the axles, air was let out of the tires and the car was left in the shed until all danger of frost was past.  When driving up a hill one always wondered whether he could make it.  Women would yell from the back seat.  “The next hill we come to, I'm goin' to get out and walk up the hill.  My land, it ain't safe in this thing, goin’ up hill."

The old model T could plow through mud.  It was a real car.  The cars were built in halves. A roof was put on that could be lifted off.  Old Grandpa said.  "Maybe you can drive all winter with that new-fangled contraption on, but if you ask me, a car won't last a lifetime that way."  When cars first began to come out, it was a good sign of progress, but when winter came progress began to bring out all the "bad in us, too," when cars were all frozen up after standing out in the cold weather they're worse than an old mule.  That was back in the days when alcohol was used for warming up purposes in saloon and "anti-freeze" was unheard of.

Just like Indians who gave early settlers a bad time, the old bumpy roads also managed for a while to keep the early motorists from disturbing the peaceful countryside.  To make things worse, some farmers put cinders in the deep ruts, then you surely have a flat tire.

During the horse and buggy days there were races between some of the young bloods, but then when horsepower increased tandem bicycles, and then races with those gasoline monsters.

Then when auto races were run through towns and over miles of country dirt roads. Oh, what a thrill to see a Vanderbilt

 

 

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cup race, there was Ralph DePalma, Rickenbacker, Barney Oldfield, those fellows were hitting over seventy miles per hour.  Then they started building a big race track at Indianapolis, Indiana, that was really something, and they did it.

          The "old hunk o’ junk Mercer Raceabout" was outmoded, gotten rid of and believe it or not, today a "Mercer Raceabout" is the most sought after, most prized, hardest-to-get car in America.  Mere money can't buy one, luck may find one.  Some of us remember the ancient motoring days of horseless carriages around 1902, but quite a few of us remember days of gas buggies, those middle ages of 1917, when our boys were "Over There" and wrote home— “Take good care of my Tin Lizzie."

About 1917 the "Stutz Bearcat" was for a privileged few, right-hand drive and a two seater.  The car had a top speed of fifty-two miles per hour—that is after it got going, and then only on a brick pavement, if you could find one.  This wonderful car with its bucket seats, great wire wheels and fold back top, which buckled with leather straps to the headlights, did not provide the ultimate in passenger comforts by today's standards.  There were no doors, no windshield, though a windshield could be purchased extra, self-starters were unheard of; you used a crank.

Fashionable motoring attire was dictated as much by necessity as anything.  "Dusters" of natural colored linen was used by both men and women, as well as goggles.  Women wore a satin head gear, something like a man's cap, only pleated or shirred onto a band. Women all had long hair and the cap had a veil overall, run through slits in the cap band, then tied to keep from blowing away.

Leather gloves with huge cuffs were also worn to keep the wind from blowing up their sleeves.  Uncomfortable, as we might call these cars today, they were fun and less dangerous.  Anyone who was lucky enough to own one really felt they were "Just It."

 

Bicycles and Motor Cycles

 

In the gay nineties bicycles were very popular.  There was a "high wheeler," then the tandem, when a feller took his best girl out for a ride.  The old wooden sidewalks were plenty rough but the roads were either muddy or dusty, with plenty deep ruts.  Progress in any form is always a target for criticism.

Glory be—Here is a bicycle with an engine on it.  What's this world coming to, anyway?  First our peace is disturbed by horseless carriages and now this noisy thing. Scares all the horses on

 

 

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the road.  Old dirt roads became paved highways.  We began to hear the call of the open road.  From covered wagon to airplanes, less than two centuries of progress.

 

Gypsies

 

They came from Egypt, and were called Gypsies.  They are a wandering nation whose physical characteristics, language and customs differ much from those of European nations.  Gypsies are remarkable for the yellow brown, or rather olive color of their skin; the jet-black hair and eyes; the extreme whiteness of their teeth; and for the symmetry of their limbs, which distinguishes even the men, whose general appearance, however, is repulsive and shy.

The Gypsies have much elasticity and quickness; they are seldom of a tall or powerful frame; their physiognomy denotes carelessness and levity.  They rarely settle permanently anywhere.  Wherever the climate is mild enough they are found living in forests and waste places in companies.  Their common shelter is a tent.  Gypsies first appeared in Europe and were at first well received but later shunned.  Considerable numbers have made their way to the United States.

In the early part of the twentieth century they invaded the middlewest, came in covered wagons, always in groups and had a lot of horses and would trade and sell them.  When they descended on a town the women would jump from the wagons and enter the stores and would steal anything they could get their hands on.  They wore very full long skirts, perhaps a lot of pockets in them.  If merchants saw them first they would lock their doors.

They were fortune tellers too, and insisted on telling your fortune, for twenty-five cents or anything they could get.  The men were accused of being pickpockets, so everyone shunned them.  They usually would pitch their camp along a river and graze their horses along roadsides.  They would go to the farmers, beg food, milk, eggs, clothing, etc., and something was always missing after they left.

In later years they came driving automobiles.  The horse trading days were over.  They never worked that anyone knew of, never asked for a job.  Where they got their money was a mystery.  In recent years none have been around; what happened to them is now a mystery.

 

 

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Chautauqua

What is a Chautauqua?  Chautauqua is a beautiful lake in New York.  On its banks is the village of Chautauqua, the center of a religious and educational movement of large and growing interest.  This originated in 1874 when the village was selected as a summer place of meeting for all interested in Sunday-school missions.

Since then the Chautauqua Literary and Scientific Circle has taken origin.  From this beginning developed a form of entertainment that became a summer theater for many small towns in America, a word that meant dignity and charm, giving rural and small town people an opportunity to see and hear the best that culture and refinement could give.  They called it Chautauqua.

At the beginning of this century it was a traveling group who entertained a week at each town and the best talent in music, speaking, singing and plays were given.

They had a huge tent, somewhat like a circus tent.  Several towns nearby had their stand and as each program was given, that group went on to the next place, and so on.  There was a supervisor whose job it was to gather the kids of the town, direct them in various ways, then stage a parade at the end of the week, which of course always brought their families to the Chautauqua.

The Chautauqua was the finest event of the summer.  Season tickets were sold at $2.00 for adults, $1.00 for children, for which you could see seven afternoon programs and seven night programs.  Local citizens were organized into a committee by an advance man to arrange the spot for the tent and sell tickets.  They also gave out buttons for folks to wear, similar to buttons candidates give out when solicitating for votes.  Dates were on the buttons, time and town, for instance Plainview August 11-18, 1911 and Neligh August 5 to 13,1911.

In Pierce the tent was just north of the Courthouse, across the tracks where the tennis court is now.  At that time trees surrounded this spot, so the heat of the summer was no problem as much shade was there.

One program in particular, was Thurlow Lieurance, who wrote Indian songs.  He wrote "By the Waters of Minnetonka," and Indian love song.  The singer was Miss Bonnie Brooks.  The program was very well received.  At the end of the program they announced they had been married that day in Pierce.  The town

 

 

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folks gave them quite a party, feted and feasted them.  I was not in on that part but heard a great deal about it at that time.

When the Chautauqua was in Pierce they wanted a supervisor for the children.  They hired Miss Marjorie Parminter, now Mrs. E. L. McCue of Norfolk.  She traveled with them several summers after that.  Chautauquas always drew good crowds.  The best numbers were usually on the first days, while the last days were less popular numbers.  Edgar Bergen and Charley McCarthy were on the last day, which turned out to be the most enduring, still popular. (1967)

Among other prominent people on their programs were William Jennings Bryan, called the boy orator of the Platte; Senator Warren Harding, Bess G. Morrison and others prominent in theater, politics, etc.  When the automobile became popular, movies were started, plays were held in theaters.  One of the first movies held in Norfolk was "Tip-toe Through the Tulips."  Oscar Hammerstein played in Norfolk and others who became famous in the movie industry.  The trend of the times ended those much enjoyed Chautauquas.

 

Suckstorf’ s Park

 

Perhaps one of the first, if not the first, public recreation park in Nebraska was in the early 1890's when August Suckstorf, a rancher, cattle feeder, horsetrader and showman, all wrapped up in one package started a park on the Northfork River about two miles north on the main road out of Pierce and to all points beyond.

The Northfork River would go on a rampage at least once a year, zigzag back and forth without any consideration for man or beast or who owned land or water.  During one of these rampages it cut through land of the neighbor south of Mr. Suckstorfs ranch putting about seven or eight acres of his land on the opposite side of the river.

Not being able to get to his land the neighbor sold this parcel of land to Mr. Suckstorf, leaving the deed to the land as it read—line was the center of the river.  Ere long, old man river struck again, channel cut another hunk of land and formed an island. This gave Mr. Suckstorf an idea to have a park.  An acre and a half of ground of Island, lovely trees and shrubs, nice grass and just across the river from his ranch house.

Mr. Suckstorf was a tall man, stoop shouldered, had a full beard, liked his "barleycorn," was a promoter, good manager, to-

 

 

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day he would be called a task master.  He was up early, saw to it that all the men were on the job.  He usually had three or four hired men and cowboys, as he fed a lot of cattle and horses on his ranch.

He never did any work himself.  Every morning he would go to town, had a buggy and a fine driving team, go home for dinner, then back to town to trade horses.  He made his horse trading pay, he always drawed boot.  With an island, a natural setting for a park he conceived the idea for a public amusement place.  The island having the lovely shade trees, shrubbery, grass, scenic, fishing and boating facilities, a perfect setup for a park which was non-existent in those days.

He built a bowery dance floor, bowling alley, shooting gallery, a lot of benches and tables.  Every Sunday there were picnics in the park.  Tickets were one dollar.  You could play games, dance all afternoon and night to the music of fiddlers, concertinas, accordions and mouth harps, and all the free beer you could drink.  Popular dances then were square dances, waltzes, polkas, quadrille; no better dancers could be found anywhere.

Ladies full, long skirts, several petticoats ruffled with lace and embroidery, basque waists, were very beautiful.  August had a large ice house which was packed with ice every winter from the Northfork River nearby.  When he opened his park in the summer he would go to town on Saturday and get a wagon load of beer and put it on ice in his ice house.

One time he even had a Wild West show for a two-day stand, Saturday and Sunday.  It was set up in the open space between the house and the park. The Wild West shows in those days were a lot like our Rodeos today, but they had some side-shows, animal and girlie shows, too.  You bet there was a lot of "Hoopy" then.  A special train was run from Norfolk to Pierce for this show.  Livery rigs met the train and carryalls to transport the people to and from the park.

Mr. Suckstorf had a cattle barn two hundred feet by forty feet.  As cattle were in pastures in the summer the barn was used for his park customers to put their horses in, even furnished hay for the horses. Many people drove great distances to have fun at this park.  Neighbors for miles around could hear the "Hoopy" which was something new to the wide open spaces of the prairie.

The old ranch was quite a place, even had a steam boat line from Pierce to the park.  A dam was built in Pierce in 1878, so the river was ten to twelve feet deep in most places.  There was a man, Elmer Sargent by name, a carpenter by trade that built the boat

 

 

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It was six feet wide in the middle and about twenty feet long. It had a canopy top with fringe.  It would seat twelve to fifteen passengers and was powered with an upright steam engine. It was a beautiful scow and it was christened Trilby."

          Woods Cones, Pierce banker, was part owner of the boat, also of the ranch.  The sad part of it all was that the old steam engine did not have enough power; it was rated at three and a half horse, and that wasn't enough for Trilby."  It had a good whistle but that's about all you could say about it.  It could not make much more than a mile an hour.

On its maiden voyage it ran out of coal about one and a half miles from the park, so they tied her to a tree near the river bank, covered her up, went the rest of the way to the park in a wagon, provided by a settler near the river.

By water, it was about five miles to the park from Pierce.  Old Trilby did not make many trips.  They gave it up, dismantled her, she rested at the park for sometime until a flood came along and brought her down to the Kolterman Homestead where she was hung up in a bunch of willows northwest of the yard, filled up with mud and trash and she is still there in a muddy grave.

Later the old steam engine in Bert Miller's laundry was used to heat the water and run the washing machines and wringers and toot the whistle to let the people know it was washday.

Mr. Suckstorfs philosophy was much different than some of his old homestead neighbors, however, they always were the best of friends.  He would skin people in a horse trade anytime, but never his neighbors and friends.  His word was as good as his bond dealing with them.  He once sold a span of mules to a neighbor for $300.00 but he would not accept a cent for two or three weeks until his neighbor tried them out and was sure satisfied.

Their names were "Tom" and "Jerry," a wonderful team, though they did not live up to their names, as neither had any kick in them.  They were used for cow ponies when getting the cows from the pasture, riding them was just like sitting in a rocking chair.

The Suckstorfs were a childless couple but took quite a liking to a little neighbor girl.  He would stop on his way home from town at noon and take her home to eat dinner with them, bring her back in the afternoon on his way back to town.  To show their affection for the little girl he bought her a peacock, the only peacock ever seen in this part of Nebraska or perhaps in Nebraska at that time, the "Gay Nineties."

 

 

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The peacock was a proud old fellow, strutted his stuff in the front yard of their home.  It was next to the main traveled road to town.  People would stop their teams to admire him.  Sometimes the old bird got pouty, would not spread his beautiful tail, which was like a huge fan for his audience, so a mirror was placed in front of him.  He leaned against a tree so he could see himself.  No beauty queen felt more proud than he did and he needed no beauty parlor to fix him up.

Though Mr. Suckstorf had the appearance of a tough type in speech or manners, he was very kind and generous and had many friends.  If we really want to go back to the good old days we would have to go back to the times when the Indians owned the country.  No debts, no taxes, the women did all the work, all the men had to do was hunt and fish.  The white man came along and thinks he can improve on that—on what?  It's a great world.

 

Bells to Remember

 

Of all appliances with which civilization has furnished us, none is so interwoven with our joys and sorrows as is the bell.  From the tinkling plaything that delights our infancy, to the mournful clang that announces our decease, the story of our life is tolled upon the bells.

Even the simple rustic hears with softened feelings the merry chimes which excited his childish wonder, as he played among the churchyard daisies that spangle the turf beneath which he must one day lie; and the careless schoolboy stops to listen to the distant peal, and wonders at the melancholy that steals upon him, he knows not why.

The hand-forged bell was hung around the neck of the old ox on the trek to the plains of the West.  Its crude tones echoed across the wide expanse of space, but it was necessary to hear that sound by the homesteader.  From the tingle he knew the ox had not wandered too far away, as often they could not be seen in the tall prairie grasses.  Years passed with only the old bell to break the silence on these vast prairies.

Finally a little rural church was established and on Sunday mornings and holidays the peal of the church bells were a welcome sound, music to the ears, a call for reverence and prayer.  Time passed and another bell.  This time it was the dinner bell which called men from the fields, their dinner call.  Now the bell has an honored place for children to ring for amusement, or used to call grandchildren home when they scamper off to the woods

 

 

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and distant hideouts or the bell may hold an honored place near the front door or driveway of a modern home.

In early 1900's turkey raising became popular.  As the elusive turkey could hide successfully from sight along fence rows and grassy plots; another bell came into being, a turkey bell which was placed around the mother turkey's neck, a sweet tingle, pleasant to hear.

When wintry winds and snows closed roads, the old bobsled or a cutter were the only conveyance to get about, then sleigh bells were placed around the horses' body and the sweet tones, intermingled with the squeaking and crunching of snow was like a call to "romance."

The next bell that was a necessity was on the neck of patient cattle in peaceful pastures.  If one was lucky enough to own a Swiss cowbell it reminded many old-timers of their native land.  The school bell in the little district school called children for miles around.  They crossed fields and meadows, prairie and turf as the crow flies, ever going in the direction of the bell.

To the man of culture and refined thought, the bell is an epitome of history, an embodiment of ideas wide as the poles are asunder.  To him their melody brings thoughts that drifting far down the stream of time awaken as they pass, the echoes of a dim antiquity.  Perhaps the best known and most loved bell of all is "Liberty Bell" honored by all Americans.

 

Yellowstone Park 1912

by Josephine Hough Bettinger

          The summer of 1912 brought sizzling heat into the little foothill town of Bridger, Mont.  Early June was hot and dry.  The delight of my life was to lie under the old Carolina poplar in the front yard and watch the drifting clouds.  On each cloud I took an imaginary trip to faraway lands of which I had read.  Remember I was a reader of the Nemo funny strip and Carpenter's Geographic Readers.

          Imagine my delight when Papa came home one noon to announce that his friends, Mr. and Mrs. Woods Cones, their daughter, Lorinda, and his brother, Baxter, from Pierce, Nebr., were coming by car to Montana.  In that day and age this was an unheard of feat.  They were to drive by day and camp at night. Because of Mr. Cones' health he was bringing a driver, Emil Hansen.  Mr. Cones was a Pierce banker and also owned the bank in Bridger.

 

 

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After what seemed ages to me they finally arrived with an orchid colored, air-cooled Franklin car, the Violet M-show car in the Omaha Auto show, with the driver dressed in khaki uniform and leather puttees.  The car and he were the admiration and envy of the entire town.  How well I remember a small boy of my acquaintance surreptitiously touching the back of Emil's puttees and a young, eligible girl making innumerable trips by our house to see, an up-to-now, almost forgotten aunt.

The Cones' had left Pierce about the Fourth of July, had stopped in Lavina, Mont., and now were in Bridger during our hottest, driest month.  After a few days sojourn it was decided to form a party to drive to Pahaska Teepee, Buffalo Bill's Hunting Lodge, a resort near the eastern entrance to Yellowstone Park.

The party consisted of the Farrells of Joliet and the Hollands of Belfry in their high wheeled International car driven by Mrs. Holland fashionably attired in duster, cap, veil and gauntlet gloves; the Baldwins of Bridger accompanied by a young salesman and his girl friend, a local teacher, in a Velie 30 and my father, step-mother and me.  We made no attempt to stay together but were to meet at Pahaska.

The day we were to leave dawned bright and clear.  I was delighted for I was to see country I had heard discussed and extolled.  We drove through the sage country, past Warren to Frannie, Wyoming.  These were the days before oil so both towns were merely wide spots in the road.  At Frannie we turned west over the Frannie hills.  Going west from there down in the valley we saw a depot, elevator and railroad track.  Mr. Cones took out his watch, ll:30-we will get there just in time for dinner.

We got down in the valley, the town was gone.  It was a mirage, the first any of us had ever seen.  We passed a sign which said "Cody."  A bum road went south of there, a good road west.  By this time the sun was high in the sky, the air hot and dry; surely not the sort of air conducive to cooling an air-cooled car.  Slowly we made our way up the sand-filled ruts which ran over the hill.  The engine chugged and we backed down to try again.  After several attempts Emil turned the car around and backed it up the hill.  We were now on what was known then as the "Cody Flats."

Evidently we zigged when we should have zagged for soon we realized we were lost.  We drove around and around and finally sighted a house in the distance, but before we reached it we met a sheepherder.  As we approached he raised his gun to his shoulder.  My father exclaimed, "Hold on there, we are lost."  Slowly he lowered his gun, gave us some directions and warned us

 

 

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us of a rather steep hill which we might "hang up on," informing us the sheriff was hung on the hill the other day.  Naturally he was speaking of cars but our folks were convinced he was a criminal of sorts seeking anonymity in herding sheep.  All he knew Cody was beyond the hills.  He rode a horse into Cody.

We saw some white buildings in the distance and headed for them.  Girls were dressed in white dresses.  It was twenty-five miles back to where the sign said "Cody." They gave us directions to Cody and we readied there about 3:00 o'clock where we had a belated dinner at the Buffalo Bill hotel.

The trip up the canyon was a delight.  The air was cool and the scenery breath-taking.  To modem tourists I'm sure the highway would be equally so.  It was narrow and winding.  In order to pass on-coming vehicles, the vehicle nearest the canyon wall pulled into a niche dug into the wall for this purpose. The car's motor was turned off. What a thrill it was to watch the Wylie Stages with their four horses prance past our car.

We reached Pahaska about dinner time and met the rest of our party.  They were stopping a few miles down the road at Holm Lodge.  I can still remember how shocked my father was to find the young teacher in a hammock under the pines with her legs gracefully exposed while the young salesman carefully rubbed them with oil of lavender to discourage "those pesky mosquitoes.”  Now I wonder with skirts as long as they were then how those mosquitoes ever found a young girl's legs.

The next morning Mr. Cones and papa rigged their fishing rods and the families went fishing.  I was surprised to catch a trout on the first cast.  Good manners demanded, according to papa, that I was to give the trout to the Inn's cook to prepare for Mr. Cones since we were their guests.  While at the time I did not demure, I always felt it should have been stuffed and mounted, particularly so, after no one else caught a fish and the employees at Pahaska said it was the first one caught in many weeks.

While we were fishing Emil took the car into Yellowstone Park.  In those days no cars were allowed in the Park as the supervision of same was delegated to the United States Army.  As one approached the entrance a piece of board with "Yellowstone Park" painted on it was nailed on a tree.  Soldiers stopped him, told him their regulations, to seal any firearms which he might have in his possession.  Emil said, "I'll have to have space to turn around."  When he did so the soldier or ranger said to him, "This is the second car that has ever been in this park.  The first one was Buffalo Bill who drove his White Steamer in.”

 

 

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When Emil returned to Pahaska he related his experience to Mr. Cones.  Immediately Mr. Cones exclaimed, "No car of mine is going into the park without me.  We are going back, Emil".  At that we all climbed into the car and proceeded to the entrance.  Again they were stopped, but again allowed to enter the park to turn around.  I presume we drove about a mile inside the park where Emil parked the car and we picked wild strawberries.

From Pahaska we drove to Cody and from Cody across a miserable desert-like area to Basin, Wyoming.  This trip was made on July 27th with the temperature at least a hundred.  On this hot, dreary trip no animals, no water was seen, only dry salt sage and an occasional anthill.  The town of Basin on the Big Horn River was a welcome sight.  The trip down the river valley was pleasant and the ranches a welcome change to the arid lands we had just left.  We spent the night in Worland and in the morning drove to Thermopolis, the site of the hot springs so valued by Chief Qashakie.  We registered at Wood's Sanatorium.

Just as we sat down to our noon meal Mr. Cones received word of the serious illness of his mother in Council Bluffs.  Papa helped them make arrangements to return east.  Emil took the car over Bird's Eye Pass to Shoshone, eventually to Denver, on to Pierce.  We returned to Bridger oblivious of the history we had just made.

 

A Stockman's Parable

by Louis Kolterman

 

When Christ dwelt on earth He spoke in parables so the people could better understand what He meant.  I sometimes wonder how He might have used my business as an example so I  might better understand Him.

This is how I would like to compare the feeding business with my church and religion.  Well in the first place we go and build yards and barns and see to it that we have an ample supply of good feed.  Then we go out and look for feeders, sometimes they are home grown, sometimes we find them at nearby neighbors, sometimes we find them on the open ranges and bring them into the fold.  Then we start feeding them as best we know how with the best feed we can get and try to develop them into prime beef.

Well how about our church, don't we do it about the same way?  We build a church on a lot then we go out and try to get our neighbors into the fold.  Yes we go out on the open ranges too

 

 

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through our mission work at home and in foreign lands.  We select ministers to feed the flock with the gospel and heavenly manna to make us grow in faith and good works.

In our feed lots we sometimes build special pens or sheds where we feed the young special feed of milk that is easily digested and give them special care.  Don't we do about the same in our church?  We have parochial and Sunday schools where the children under the guidance of good shepherds receive special guidance and nurture with the bread of life so they will grow strong in faith and stature.  But there is more feeding cattle, and there is more for the church.  There is much work to be done in the feed lot; there are always fences to be fixed where the cattle stick their necks through and often get out and roam in the open.  How about you and me?  Do we always stay in the church circles?  I don't know about you, but I am ashamed of my record.  We too often fall for the temptations of this sinful world with all its lust and leave the folds of the church.

Yes there is much fencing to be done around the church with prayer and love and kindness to keep the flock together.  But there is more in the feed lot, and there is more in the church.  There is the job of sanitation to keep the yards and barns clean and bedded with clean straw so the stock can get the proper feed and rest.  This job isn't easy with the most modem equipment.  Well how about our churches?  We have cleaning to do there too.  Yes we have a custodian and Ladies Aids that keep the church clean and tidy, but there is much more to real religion.  How about our heart?  Do we clean that out too?  I am afraid we too often forget about that.  We put on our so-called glad rags, shine our shoes and see to it that we look spick and span, but we forget to clean out that old heart of ours that is full of worldly lusts that lead us astray before the day is over, greed that often takes advantage of our neighbors, jealousy and slander that leaves a blot in our heart and causes a wound in our neighbors' heart.  You might fall down in the feed lot when it is the dirtiest but a little soap and water will take that off.  Not so with that blot in your heart, and no doctor or medicine can cure that wound in your neighbor's heart.

How right St. James was when he said, "The tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity, so is the tongue among our members that it defileth the whole body and setteth on fire the course of nature and it is set on fire of hell."  What a wonderful world this would be if we would hold our tongue and clean out that old heart and remove that beam out of our own eye before we criticize someone

 

 

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else, but that isn't easy.  Soap and water won't do it.  You have to get down on your knees, and the sweat has to come from your eyes, and you have to pray, "Create in me Lord a clean heart."  That is the only way it can be done.  If only we would ask Him for help more often.  Sometimes when our barns are real dirty we don’t take time to clean them out, we Just put some clean straw on top of it, but it doesn't stay clean very long.  The next morning you wouldn't know it had been bedded.  I am afraid we do that too often when we go to church, we don't clean out that old heart of ours, we just put a clean sermon on top of all our sins and by the next morning or sooner no one would know we had ever been to church.

I am afraid we are too often still-born Christians instead of born Christians.  You can't fatten cattle if you just feed them once a week, and you can't be a good Christian if you only take time to pray once a week.

But there is more to feeding and there is more to real religion.  If we really want to make market toppers or blue ribbon winners out of our cattle we feed them supplement feeds rich in proteins and fats.  Well if we really want to grow in Spirit and Faith there are some supplements we must use too, namely Love and Charity, a little pat on the back, a handshake with a smile and a prayer that comes from the heart will give a lift to any weary soul, and if we use these supplements freely I am sure we will not only win blue ribbons but a crown of gold.  Let us love and give and pray that we may reach that goal.

This I believe, but how many times I have failed to live up to it only God knows.  I must say with St. Paul, “the good that I would, I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do."  May God have mercy on me a sinner and create in me a clean heart.

If I have offended any one forgive me, and may God forgive those that have offended me, that there may be peace.  This is my prayer.

 

Devil's Nest Secrets

 

Since the building of Gavins Point dam creating Lewis and Clark Lake in northeast Nebraska the publicity for plans for the development as a recreation area have been grandiose, to promote tourism such as the midwest has never experienced.

Newspaper headlines announce plans for a resort on Lewis and Clark Lake to be known as "Devil's Nest."

 

 

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The "Devil's Nest," what does it mean? Two words. Are they to be feared or revered.  How does it appeal to a stranger, does it arouse his curiosity?  Who named it and why?

Legend credits a young government surveyor who stood in awe on a plateau high above the area of a hilly, rugged terrain on the Nebraska side of the Missouri river in northern Knox County.

It was about the year 1848 before Knox County was organized and was still a part of Nebraska Territory.  The area was covered with tall grasses, ravines and gullies, and as the surveyor looked across the jungle he remarked, "If we have to go in that, it looks as if its going to be the 'nest of a devil.’"

Through the years in northern Knox County it became known as "Devil's Nest."

Previous to 1853 the Niobrara country, between Aoway Creek and the Niobrara River and extending indefinitely westward was claimed by the Omaha Indians.  During that year a treaty was concluded between them and the United States by the terms of which they appear to have reserved this county as their future home; either from fear of the Poncas, or through influence of interested parties or from some other cause, they exchanged the "Niobrara Country" for the "Blackbird" and moved into the latter a year or two thereafter.

This threw the "Niobrara Country" open to pre-emption and settlement like other public lands.

About one third of the land outside the reservation was subject to homestead or pre-emption.

The reservation occupied by the Santee Sioux Indians was in the northern part of Knox County, coming to the reservation in 1866.  The Santees, when brought to this reservation, were uncivilized.

The Indians were the only inhabitants in what is now the "Devil's Nest."  Its hills and canyons were covered with lush grass, shrubs of all kind, scrub oak.  It was truly a "Happy Hunting Ground" for the Indians.  Wild game found refuge in this unexplored "Jungle."

With the settling of a country also came con men, thieves, gamblers, so settlers had a new fear to overcome.  Outlaws that were feared were Doc Middleton, Kid Wade, Wild Bill Hickok and the James Brothers.

Much has been said and written about the James Brothers, Frank and Jesse.  They were later famed in song and story, be-

 

 

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cause, evil as they were, they were best in their trade.  No doubt much of it was fact, but fiction colored it and make good reading and interesting conversation.

       Fear of the Indians had been paramount until the James Brothers became notorious.  The James Brothers had robbed a bank at Gallatine, Missouri on December 7, 1869.

       After this robbery they disappeared and were said to be rusticating in Kentucky, Indians Territory and other places.

On the morning of July 10, 1873 four men met on a business street of a small town in Jackson County, Missouri.

The men were Jesse James, his brother Frank, Cole Younger and his brother Jim.

The evening of the tenth was dark and cloudy.  The Youngers and three others with them rode over to see the Jesse James place where Frank and Jesse waited for them.

The James brothers told them a week from that night the Rock Island passenger train, east bound, would carry $75,000 in gold in the express car.

He explained that by pulling the spikes from one rail and tying rope around the end rail it could be pulled out of line and the engine would be derailed.

The planned place would be three and one-half miles west of Adair, Iowa.

This was the first time in the history of the west a passenger train had been deliberately derailed for the purpose of robbing a train.

All the passengers were robbed but the robbers were disappointed when the safe in the express car contained only $2,000.  A plaque was erected at Adair, Iowa as the "Site of the first train robbery in the west" by Frank and Jesse James and his gang of outlaws, July 21, 1873.

According to the people living in the Devils Nest country the James Brothers were hibernating in this place, a typical hiding place with canyons, hills, creeks, trees, grasses, as it was unknown except to the Indians and a few white people.  Its trails seemed to lead to nowhere; each appeared to vanish like a rainbow over the canyons and hills.

It was a perfect hunting ground for the Sioux and Santees who lived there, a place white man had never trod.

In 1938 a Joe Jesse Chase, a half breed Sioux Indian who lived near Niobrara claimed he was the son of Jesse James.

The Indians of Niobrara country had long said that Chase

 

 

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was Jesse James’ son but Joe would never talk, claimed he was afraid to.

In 1938 Chase stopped at a store of a Niobrara druggist and told him he had a story to tell, which he then told.  Though Chase did not have the coppery skin of an Indian and spoke little English, he told his story with his daughter-in-law as interpreter.  He claimed the story was told to him by his mother and other Indians.

In 1869, Chase said, Jesse and Frank robbed a bank in South Dakota and were pressed by the law.  Fleeing they reached the Devil's Nest on the Nebraska side of the river.

Chase said the James’ money belts were full of gold.  They came driving a herd of cattle and told the Indians their name was Chase.  Said they liked this part of the country and thought they would settle down there.

A Frenchman named Anthony Jaeneque, who did blacksmithing work for the Indians, suddenly had enough money to set up a trading post in the Devil's Nest.

The Indians surmised the Chases had furnished the post.  Chase's practiced "horse and pistol" work, jumping their horses over logs and firing revolvers in midair.  Once one of the Chases' made a snowball, threw it into midair, and shot it with his revolver. He told the spectators "That's the way Jesse James would do it" and chuckled Joe Chase, looking off in the blue haze of Indian summer on the hills, "He was Jesse James.”

United States marshals came to the Devil's Nest looking for the James' but never found them.  You could never find anything in the Devil's Nest unless you knew your way around, and who did?

The James's mother, Mrs. Zerelda Samuels, came to Obert, Nebraska, a small village about twenty miles from the Devil's Nest.  Her sons used to ride there frequently to see her.

The James brothers decided to log cedar trees to make some "honest money."  They hired Indians, cut the logs, floated them down to Yankton, South Dakota.  The logs technically belonged to the government, but nobody paid much attention to that.

The brothers met two beautiful Indian sisters, the daughters of Thomas Wabusha. Jesse took a wife, Maggie Wabusha, Frank took the other sister.

Joe Jesse "Chase" James was born to Jesse "Chase" James and Maggie Wabusha in 1870. Several months later the other Wabusha sister gave birth to a girl, who was named Emma.

 

 

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On July 4, 1870, about four months after Joe was born the James brothers peaceful life ended.

On this Fourth of July almost everybody from the Devil's Nest country had gone to Niobrara, then a wild open town, to celebrate.

At the trading post something happened between the "Chases" and Jaeneque.  No one will ever know the truth.

The Chases gave their Indian wives a lot of money and told them they were going away for a long time.

Several hours later Jaeneque's family came home.  The door was locked and to gain entrance they were compelled to knock down the door.

On a bed lay Jaeneque's body, a bullet hole through his head. A gun lay on the bed beside him.  But the Indians refused to accept the supposition of suicide.  Jaeneque, they said, had held out more than his share of the gang's money.  He met the fate of those who crossed the bandit brothers.

Joe Chase said the James boys wrote to their Indian wives a number of times, but the sisters' mother, Mrs. Thomas Wabusha, would not allow her daughters to reply.  She did not want them to have any more to do with the gun-totting James’.

She also feared the Government would take away their children because they were children of white men and kept them in hiding when a white man came near.

Maggie Wabusha later married William Good Teacher.  The other sister went to Minnesota, leaving daughter Emma behind, and Maggie and her husband raised her.

The older Indians in the Devils Nest verified Joe Chase's story and also Paul James (no relative of the James brothers) who spent three years at Haskell Institute at Lawrence, Kansas, said he once met Frank James in Kansas City, where Frank asked him what sort of Indian he was.  When he replied a Santee Sioux then Frank told him about his and his brother's stay in the Devil's Nest.  He also asked about the boy and girl of the Wabusha sisters, not admitting they belonged to him and his brother.

Frank James also stated that Jaeneque had been shot by a member of the gang because he had stolen their money.

Jesse James lived in St. Joseph, Missouri under the name of Thomas Howard, and as far as anyone knew was a respectable and more than ordinary pious business man.

          Two brothers, Robert and Charles Ford, learned his identity,

 

 

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and anxious to collect the $10,000 dead or alive reward attached themselves to him.  They waited for months to kill him.

The chance came when Jesse laid aside his gun to get onto a chair to dust a picture.  Both brothers drew their guns, but Robert Ford's bullet killed James.  This was in 1882.

In October of the same year Frank surrendered his gun to the governor of Missouri.  He was tried three times in three different states.  Though he and his brother were never known to have hesitated to kill anyone who stood in their way, Frank was acquitted.

Frank went with wild west shows for a time, then settled down and died with his boots on in 1915 on his Missouri Farm.

Thus ended the story of the most famous bandits the United States has ever known.

They were gilded in song and story.  While the Devil's Nest is much as it has always been, hidden among the hills of northern Knox County, Nebraska, bounded by the mighty Missouri, the treasure trove of many secrets, hidden stills and booze runners found refuge among its hills, valleys and ravines during prohibition years, it still represents to the Indians a "Happy Hunting” ground.

Now white man is invading its rugged beauty, as has been said—“Pretty enough for an Angels Tread."

Each hill and canyon full of history, a creation no man could create, only develop beyond the fondest dream of anyone, to one of the greatest adventures of all history.

 

Pierce Carnegie Library

 

On February 10, 1907 the Pierce Christian Temperance Union established a reading room in an upstairs room in a building on Main street.

The first books and magazines were all gifts to the new enterprise.  Later they moved to a small building on the corner of Main and Highway 13; later still to a store on Main street.

Building operations for a new library began in 1911 after negotiations with Carnegie officials in an effort to secure a library for Pierce.

Andrew Carnegie, the great philanthropist, was building libraries across America.  He built some 2,811 libraries.

In 1911 the women applied for a Carnegie library.  One of the stipulations was that the city must own a suitable building site. It was then that James H. Brown, pioneer resident and build-

 

 

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er of Pierce came to the rescue and gave the choice quarter block of land where the building now stands.

On March 28,1912 they moved into the new library, now one of the most used places in Pierce.

Many things were needed for the new building.  The WCTU band was still active.  They set to work to earn funds, each to donate a chair for the library.

Others became active and interested.  They gave Kaffee Klatch' teas and dinners in their homes, etc., to raise funds.  On opening day in March 1912 they sponsored a big community dinner to which nearly everyone contributed and bought their dinner.

Women bought lumber and tables and shelves.  These were made by a local man.  Oil paintings, chairs, books and magazines were donated.  By 1935 there were more than 5,500 volumes on the shelves.

Mrs. J. A. Andrews served as the first librarian from 1907 and served twenty-three years.

On April 22, 1962 a golden anniversary observance was held at the library, sponsored by the Pierce Womans’ club at an open house, with refreshments served by club members.

The Womans’ club took up where former WCTU members left off when they disbanded.

The Womans' club has planted trees and shrubs, built magazine and book shelves, tables in the basement, and annually gives a book to the library.

 

Osmond Library

 

The Osmond library was founded by the Osmond Woman's club in 1937.  In 1939 Dr. C. E. Rodgcrs gave a frame building on Main street to house their library.

In 1960 Dr. Rodgers built a fine brick building for the city for a library in memory of his wife.

They now have 3,105 books in the library.

 

 

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Plainview Library

 

The first library in Plainview was started in 1908.  The Plainview High School gave them 112 volumes.  Donations of books and magazines were made by local people.

In 1916 they received $6,000 from the Carnegie Foundation for the building of a new library.  Additional funds were raised by the town.  In 1917 the library was built.

It now (1967) has between 7,000 and 8,000 volumes, besides current volumes and music on loan.

 

Celebrations Held in Pierce County

 

The Diamond Jubilee of Pierce county was held in 1934 when the Pierce County Historical Society was organized.  A block of native granite was erected and dedicated by the Pierce County Historical Society on the south lawn of the court house June 11, 1936, held in connection with the Old Settlers picnic.

In 1939, the 80th anniversary of Pierce County was celebrated.  These stories are told in the first part of this book.

The Pierce County Historical Society records show that the next celebration was held Sunday and Monday June 23-24 of 1946.  It was called the Pierce County Pioneer Festival.  A parade and a display of pioneer relics were enjoyed by large crowds.

The next celebration was held June 14, 1954, called Pioneer Days.  Parade and display of pioneer relics were the attractions with Governor Crosby the speaker.

The next celebration was held June 14-15, 1959 with parades, relic's and Congressman Larry Brock the speaker.

Now in 1967 plans are under way to observe the Nebraska Centennial by having a celebration June 17-18, 1967.  There is an active Whisker club.  Films of former celebrations are being shown.  There will be Pioneer headquarters, display of relics, dress-up days for men and women; also various forms of entertainment.

 

 

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Hoffman farm southeast of Pierce 1900

 

First steam threshing machine 1889

 

Threshing crew near Foster 1889

 


Dist. 8 school about 1876

 

Old Time Windmill

 

Hatch Homestead

 


Budd Hall’s Livery Stable

 

West Main Street

Panarama View of Pierce


 

Pierce Hotel – Business and Social Center  Early Schoolhouse inPierce

 

Mohrman Store—1899—Pierce



Plainview Main Street looking north

 

Early Plainview Hotel

 

Locust Street looking west


 

Early Osmond

 

 

 


 

No Snow Removal

Osmond Depot

 

 

Main Street in Osmond


 

 

Synovec Blacksmith Shop in Foster


 

Immanuel Lutheran Church in Hadar

 

Farmer’s Grain & Livestock Co.

Celebration Day 1895 in Hadar


 

Street Scene in McLean, 1907

 

Bird'seye View of McLean. 1910

 

McLean Homes In 1907


 

 

 

 

Along Pioneer Trails

in

Pierce County

Nebraska

 

FOURTH EDITION

 

 

 

 

Esther Kolterman Hansen

1976


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This book is affectionately dedicated to all pioneers, especially to my grandparents, Mr. and Mrs. Frederick Kolterman, and to my parents, J. Ferdinand and Anna Smith-Kolterman.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ii

 

 

Preface

This volume makes no claim to completeness, and the author would ask the reader not to be unreasonably critical.

All historical works are subject to all the inaccuracies coming from imperfect remembrance.  Incidents and stories have been taken from what few records that were kept and are given as they were told by pioneers themselves.  It must be remembered people frequently see matters and things from different standpoints, while the real meaning remains the same.  After years of patient searching, this is the result.

By the kindness of memory we live not once but scores of times.  Except for it, each day would be one day dead.  Many pioneers recall the past with the greatest of pleasure and refer to it as the "Good Old Days."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

iii

Acknowledgment

 

Grateful acknowledgment is due to the many friends who have aided in securing these stories.  Indebtedness is due to the editors of the Pierce county newspapers, the Soil Survey of Pierce County, the county officials for their many courtesies, C. & N.W. and Burlington railroads, to Dr. A. E. Sheldon, Secretary of the Nebraska State Historical Society for his words of encouragement.  Indebtedness is also due to Mrs. George Kirk, Mr. and Mrs. W. W. Riley, Mr. and Mrs. Herman Magdanz, Mr. and Mrs. Herman Rohde, Herman Braasch, R. G. Rohrke, Mr. and Mrs. Richard Breyer, Mrs. William Korth, Lewis and Carrie Hall, Jennie Starr, Mrs. Mary Starr-Frost, H. J. and William Manske, Mrs. W. A. Saeger, Mrs. William Luebke, Mr. and Mrs. Woods Cones, Douglas Cones, J. B. McDonald, Mrs. Henry Just, Mrs. Mary Otto, Mr. and Mrs. Harry Grunwald, Mrs. Christina Grunwald, Frank Pilger, Mrs. Margaret Plymesser, Mrs. Ernest Voecks, Frank Birch, H. S. Reppert, Henry Hatch, Isaac Francis, Mrs. Lillian Coltman, Mrs. K. G. Hitchcock. William Sporleder, Mrs. Henry Buckendahl, Laurenz Kolterman, Mr. and Mrs. Albert Otto, Mr. and Mrs. Henry Fisher, Mr. and Mrs. Ernest Fisher, Mr. and Mrs. Hason Turner, F. J. Synovec, Martha Steinkraus, Gus Lierman, Frank Schulz, R. S. Lucas, F. Schmitz, Bert Beals, Pete Petersen, Mark Felber, Mr. and Mrs. W. C. Ulrich, W. I. Beatty, A. L. Brande, Carl Hoffman, Mrs. L. M. Mohrman, Lynn Montross, Mr. and Mrs. Sam Cate, Mr. and Mrs. George Story, Mrs. Lydia Husted, Jake Straub, Mr. and Mrs. M. R. Dutcher, Charles Lederer, Ferdinand Scheer, James Anญdrew, Mr. and Mrs. Frank Kratochvil, Josephine Tomek, Claus Kloppenberg, C. E. Manzer, Mrs. Wilson Hall, M. Inhelder, August Braasch, August Schwichtenberg, Mr. and Mrs. Richard Brodhagen, Henry Miller, W. E. Casteel, John Havel, James Bushfield, John W. Ollrey, Mrs. Anna Hartman, Lettie Scott,

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

IV


 

 

Arthur E. Goshorn, Mrs. John McMahon, Dan and Harvey Hatch, John Raasch, Homer Birch, Mrs. Elmer Jewell, Mrs. Amy Kile, Mrs. F. H. Nye, Mrs. H. F. Magdanz, Mrs. Henry Krueger, Sr., Mrs. Mina Rohrke, Mr. and Mrs. Henry Huwaldt, Mr. and Mrs. Frank Voecks, Mrs. Emil Voecks, Mrs. M. F. Scheips, J. B. McDonald, Mrs. William Bechter, Mr. and Mrs. Charles Chilvers, Francis Chilvers, Schuyler Durfee, Dell Beals, Ernest Ulrich, W. I. Beatty, Mr. and Mrs. William Holmes, Frank Koehler, Mrs. Mary Koehler, Mrs. Roy Synovec, Ben F. Schmitz, Mr. and Mrs. John Havel, Mrs. George Scheer, Albert Pentico, Mrs. Rena Graves, Mrs. Edith Thomas, Mrs. Robert Luebke, Mrs. Edgar Cox, Mrs. E. D. Beech, August Koerting, Fred Gloe, Albert F. Magdanz, Mrs. Clark Story, Mrs. Claus Rohn, Anna Dowling, Walter Lederer, George Reimers, Clara Parks, James Duff, Mrs. Mae Read.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Table of Contents

The Founding of Pierce County…………………………………..           8

Government Field Notes…………………………………………..          9

Topography and Geology…………………………………………        14

The Rivers and Creeks…………………………………………….        15

The First Homestead………………………………………………        16

The Last Homestead Filed On…………………………………….         17

Early Homesteaders………………………………………………          17

Homes of Pioneers…………………………………………..........        28

Indians Friendly to Settlers………………………………………. 20

An Indian Scare……………………………………………..........         21

First Election in Pierce County……………………………………         25

The First Court House…………………………………………….        26

Plotting the First Town, Pierce……………………………………         30

Election Proclamation……………………………………………. 29

First Business Places in Pierce……………………………………         30

First Criminal Case………………………………………………..         31

The First Mortgage…………………………………………..........        31

First Taxes………………………………………………………...        32

First Warranty Deed………………………………………………         33

The First Church…………………………………………………..        33

First Wedding in Pierce County……………………………..........         34

Wedding Invitations with Ribbons…………………………..........         35

The First Missionary………………………………………………        36

The First Organ in the County…………………………………….         36

Early Birth Dates…………………………………………………. 37

First Schools Organized…………………………………………...        37

First Teachers’ Institute…………………………………………...        39

Organization of Schools……………………………………..........        41

Pioneer Cemeteries………………………………………………..         44

Restoration of Pioneer Cemeteries…………………………..........         47

The First Hearse……………………………………………..........        47

Hadar……………………………………………………………...        47

Star Mail Routes…………………………………………………..         48

Plainview………………………………………………………….         50

Foster……………………………………………………………...        52

Osmond……………………………………………………………       53

McLean……………………………………………………………        55

Breslau…………………………………………………………….        56

A Willow Witch Locates Water………………………………….. 56

 

 

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Shelter, Fuel and Food First Problems……………………………         58

Fuel Problems of Settlers………………………………………….        59

Wild Game and Hunting…………………………………………..         60

Warmth Essential in Clothing…………………………………….. 63

Traveling Peddlers Eagerly Awaited……………………………... 64

Prairie Fires Threatened Homesteaders…………………………...         65

Storms, Snow, Wind and Hail…………………………………….         66

Easter Blizzard…………………………………………………….         68

Tornado……………………………………………………………       69

Grasshoppers Deadly Menace…………………………………….         70

Rattlesnakes Hide in Grain……………………………………….. 70

Farm Machinery…………………………………………………..         71

Sickness and Death………………………………………………..        73

Blacksmith is First Dentist……………………………………….. 73

Early Settlers Plant Trees……………………………………….... 75

The Livery Barns………………………………………………….         76

The Ice Harvest……………………………………………………        77

Sidewalks Set on “Horses”………………………………………..        77

County Newspapers……………………………………………….        79

The First Railroads………………………………………………..         81

Homes in the 1880’s………………………………………………         83

Pierce Milling Company…………………………………………..         86

Gilman Park……………………………………………………….         86

The First County Fair……………………………………………..         87

The First Creamery………………………………………………..        88

Ziesche Cigar Factory……………………………………………..        88

Brick Yard Established……………………………………………         89

Christmas Observances……………………………………………        89

Games and Fun……………………………………………………        90

Suckstorf Park……………………………………………………..       91

Earliest Ranches…………………………………………………..         92

Early Women’s Organizations…………………………………….         94

Monuments………………………………………………………..        95

Magnetic Compass Testing Stations………………………………        97

Free Mail Service for Pierce………………………………………         99

Diamond Jubilee of Pierce County………………………………100

Gesundheit Band…………………………………………………101

It Really Happened.…...……...………………………………….103

 

 

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The Founding of Pierce County

The official government headquarters in Nebraska were originally at Bellevue until the assembling of the first territorial legislature in January, 1855, when Omaha became the seat of government.

          The machinery of the territorial government was set in motion in 1854.  The territory was divided into eight counties: Burt, Washington, Dodge, Douglas, Cass, Pierce, Forney and Richardson.  The name of this first Pierce County was changed to Otoe in 1855.

In 1859 the present Pierce county was created by Territorial Legislation.  The county and Pierce City, the county seat, were named after Franklin Pierce, who was inaugurated in 1853, the fourteenth president of the United States.

Pierce County is in northeastern Nebraska.  It is bounded on the north by Knox and Cedar counties, on the east by Cedar and Wayne, on the south by Madison and on the west by Antelope.

Originally Pierce County contained fifteen townships, there being a jog in the northeast corner, but on February 5, 1875, Pierce County pulled a trick on Cedar County.  It happened so very long ago very few, if any, old timers remember it.

In those far-off days Cedar County's southern boundary was a straight line, while Pierce County's northern boundary line dipped six miles south and then six miles east on the eastern side.  One bright morning, Cedar County awoke to discover that the legislature had amputated the southeast township and transplanted it on Pierce County.  Cedar County's representative in the legislature had never heard a word about it until the job was done.

          In this way Pierce County straightened her northern boundary and Cedar County acquired a jog in her southern boundary.  The part of the town of Randolph in Cedar county that extends

 

 

8


over the line in Pierce County was nicknamed "Dog Town" and still bears that name. In addition to acquiring a whole township without cost, Pierce County acquired several miles of railroad for taxation purposes.

Two years later the Pierce County representative, together with representatives from other counties, fixed it so no county could acquire any portion of another county without the consent of both counties, so Cedar County was stopped from getting that township back.

Since acquiring the extra township, Pierce County is square, containing sixteen townships, comprising an area of 570 square miles or 368,640 acres of land.

Its geographical center is about seventy miles southwest of Sioux City, Iowa, and forty-five miles south of Yankton, South Dakota.

 

 

Government Field Notes

Pierce County was surveyed by Charles Turner, deputy surveyor.  The work of surveying was completed on November 16, 1858, and in 1859 Pierce County was created by the Territorial Legislature.

The copy of this survey may be found in the government field notes in the office of the county clerk.  This hand-written copy of certified field notes, showing the government surveys of Pierce County, was made from the original field notes in Washington, D.C.  The copy cost the county $800.  The original was dated October 14, 1858.

Township No. 25, North of Range No. 1 West of 6th P.M.

 SOUTH BRANCH PRECINCT (HADAR)

General Description

The land on the east of the river is mostly level prairie, gently sloping down to the river bank.  The bottom on the west

 

 

9
side of the north branch is dry and well adapted to cultivation.  The uplands are sandy, with second rate soil.

The north branch of the Elkhorn flowing through the western part of the township has a few scattering cottonwood and willow trees along its banks.  There is no stone.

 

Township No. 26, North of Range No. 1, West of 6th P.M.

 SLOUGH PRECINCT

 General Description

The land in the eastern portion of this township is high and rolling with a poor sandy soil.  The western portion is level with generally a second rate sandy soil.  The eastern portion is well watered with small streams of clear water, which, after flowing westward a short distance sink into the land, leaving no further trace of them in the western sections.  There is no timber nor stone in the Township, except a few scattering elms in Section 36 along a creek.

Township No. 27, North of Range No. 1, West of 6th P.M.

ALLEN PRECINCT

General Description

The land in this township is high and rolling. The soil is mostly second rate.  The township is well watered by streams in the northeastern and southeastern parts.  There is no timber, no stone except a few boulders. The township is not susceptible of settlement.

 

Township No. 28, North of Range No. 1, West of 6th P.M.

 EASTERN PRECINCT (McLEAN)

General Description

The land in this Township is mostly high rolling sandy prairie embracing the head waters of Logan Creek.  The soil is generally second rate. The eastern portion is well watered.  There is no timber, no stone except a few scattering boulders of small size.

 

 

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Township No. 25, North Range No. 2, West of 6th P. M.

CLEVELAND PRECINCT

 General Description

 

    The land in this township is mostly rolling prairie, with second and third rate soil.  The supply of water is very insufficient.  No stone.  Much sand.

 

Township No. 26, North Range No. 2, West of the 6th P.M.

PIERCE PRECINCT (PIERCE CITY)

General Description

 

The eastern half of this township is level prairie, with a loose, sandy soil.  The southwestern portion is broken, with poor sandy soil.  The northwestern part is generally level and the creek bottom is marshy.  The township is well watered by the North fork of the Elkhorn and branches flowing into it.  There is but little timber, consisting of a few scattering cotton-wood, elm, and box elder trees along the North fork of Elk-horn.  There is no stone in the township.

Township No. 27, North Range No. 2, West of 6th P.M.

LOGAN PRECINCT

General Description

 

          The land in the township is mostly high, rolling prairie.  The soil is mostly poor and sandy.  The township is nearly destitute of water, being a portion of the divide between the headquarters of the Humbug, or the North branch of the Elkhorn River, and Logan Creek.  The former runs through a portion of the southwest corner of this township.  There is no timber or stone.

 

Township No. 28, North Range No. 2, West of 6th P.M.

PLUM GROVE PRECINCT (OSMOND)

General Description

 

          The land in this township is mostly high, rolling prairie, it being a portion of the divide between the head waters of the

 

 

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Elkhorn and Logan.  It contains no timber or stone, and but little water.  The soil is mostly second rate.

 

Township No. 25, North of Range No. 3, West of the 6th P.M.

BLAINE PRECINCT

General Description

 

          The land in this township lies very high, is mostly level or gently rolling prairie, with a poor drifting sandy soil, rendering it unfit for cultivation.  No timber or stone.  Very little water.

 

Township No. 26, North of Range No. 3, West of 6th P.M.

CLOVER VALLEY PRECINCT

General Description

 

          The land in this township is mostly level and gently rolling prairie with second and third rate soil.  The township is but poorly supplied with water.  There is no timber or stone.  It is very sandy and therefore unfit for cultivation.

 

Township No. 27, North of Range No. 3, West of the 6th P.M.

FOSTER PRECINCT (FOSTER)

General Description

 

          The general character of the land in this township is rolling prairie with a sandy second rate soil.  The creek running through the southwestern portion has along it a margin of bottom land which is subject to overflow and inundation, with second rate soil.  There is no timber or stone in the township.  It is well supplied with good water in the northeastern and southwestern portions, but nearly destitute elsewhere.

 

Township No. 28, North of Range No. 3, West of 6th P.M.

THOMPSON PRECINCT

General Description

 

          This township is mostly high, rolling prairie with second rate soil.  There is but little water and a total destitution of

 

 

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timber.  With the exception of a few scattered boulders of small dimensions, there is no stone.

 

Township No. 25, North of Range No. 4, West of the 6th P.M.

MILLS PRECINCT

General Description

 

          The quality of the land in this township is very poor, principally broken, sandy hills, entirely destitute of water and timber.  The vegetation is mostly bunch grass and wild sage.  It is unfit for the habitation of man or beast.

 

Township No. 26, North of Range No. 4, West of the 6th P.M.

          WILLOW CREEK PRECINCT

General Description

 

          The quality of the land in this township is very poor, consisting largely of sand ridges.  There is no timber and but very little water in the township.  It is unfit for cultivation or settlement.

 

Township No. 27, North of Range No. 4, West of the 6th P.M.

SOUTH DRY CREEK PRECINCT

General Description

 

          The land in this township is of a very poor quality, it being mostly sand ridges.  There is no timber and but very little water in the township.  What little water there is, is in small pools between the sand ridges.  The township is unfit for settlement.

 

Township No. 28, North of Range No. 4, West of the 6th P.M.

NORTH DRY CREEK PRECINCT (PLAINVIEW)

General Description

 

          The quality of the land in this township is generally of very poor sand ridges and totally destitute of water and timber, and is unfit for habitation or settlement.

 

 

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Topography and Geology

Pierce County is part of a broad plain sloping slightly toward the southwest and is composed of valley and upland in about equal proportions.  The most pronounced slope is along the valleys of the North Fork Elkhorn River and some of its tributaries.

The North Fork Valley averages from two to four miles in width and extends from the northern to the southern boundary of the county.

Quite a number of other valleys of greater or less extent connect with it from either side.  The uplands separated by these valleys, are of easy ascent, and seldom, if ever, over fifty feet above the contiguous valley.

The highest elevation is in the northern part of the county and the lowest in the southern portion.  According to the records of the United States Geological Survey, the elevations along Dry Creek and North Fork Elkhorn River valleys are as follows:  Plainview, 1,683 feet above sea level; Foster, 1,642 feet; Pierce, 1,583—the marking, a piece of metal about the size of a quarter, may be seen in the rock foundation about seven feet south of the east entrance to the court-house; and Hadar, 1,557 feet.

In 1930, of the total area of the county, 92.8 per cent was in farms, the largest of which are in the southern and western parts of the county.  Most of the farms are well equipped with buildings, modern implements, and livestock.  About 45 per cent of the farms are operated by owners and the rest mainly by tenants.

The most extensively developed agricultural lands of the county are in the two major soil-belts that cross it from northwest to southeast.

One belt covers the northeastern one-third of the county and includes fine-textured soils, commonly known as "yellow clay." The other belt extends across the central part of the county and is composed of sandy soils.  The same crops predominate both soil belts.  Corn is the crop most extensively grown, and oats ranks second in acreage.

 

 

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The yields of these crops in the northern belt are normally from 10 to 15 bushels more to the acre than in the central belt. The largest acreages of alfalfa and sweet clover are in the northwestern soil belt, and of rye and potatoes in the central soil belt.  Alfalfa and sweet clover make the best yields on the soils in the northeastern belt, which are heavy in texture and contain plenty of lime.

The greater part of the uncultivated land of the county occurs in a belt of rolling light-colored sandy soils that cover the southwestern part of the county, much of which is used for pasture.

 

The Rivers and Creeks

 

The Northfork River is the largest branch of the Elkhorn River and gets its name because it is the north fork.

Other creeks are Willow, which was so named because willow brush grew along its banks.  Willow Creek is said by old settlers to rise and fall regularly every day, being two or three inches higher in the daytime than at night.

Dry Creek was so named because it was so often dry before the dam was built except during rainy seasons.  Two miles from its mouth it did not seem to have any banks but wandered all over the bottom lands; Short Creek, a small stream running in a northwest direction from the Pierce dam; Pleasant Valley is a creek near Hadar, commonly called Hadar creek.

West Branch, Middle Branch and East Branch are tributaries of the Northfork in northern Pierce County.  Yankton slough runs northeast of Pierce with many small streams running into it, and is probably the most treacherous of all.  It has a steady current ten or twelve miles up the creek even in the very driest weather.  Ten miles from Pierce it sinks into the sand and does not reappear until its mouth.  Yankton slough was named after the proposed Yankton railroad and because its branches run from Yankton way. During rains or snow-melting its high banks are soon filled with water due to the slope from its source in the hills.

 

 

15
The First Homestead

According to the records in the Department of the Interior at Washington. D. C., the fact has been disclosed that the first homestead in Pierce County was taken November 1, 1867, by August Ninow, whose name is now spelled Nenow.  The filing was made at the Dakota City land office and was the three hundred-seventeenth homestead to be filed upon in the United States.  This homestead is located just south of the town of Hadar on Highway 81.

The following is the title description as revealed on this earliest of Pierce County homestead entries: SE 1-4 NE 1-4, NE 1-4 SE 1-4. Section 32, and the SW 1-4 NW 1-4, NW 1-4 SW 1-4, Section 33, T 25 N, R 1 W, 6th P.M.  It contains 160 acres.  The final certificate (No. 1494 of the Norfolk series) was dated October 29, 1874. The patent was issued to Mr. Nenow January 20, 1875.

August Nenow, who took this homestead, belonged to the colony of German settlers who came from Ixonia, Wisconsin, in the summer of 1866 and settled where the city of Norfolk is now located.  Following their arrival here they began the erection of places of shelter for their families and then looked over the country to decide which spot they would file on for their homesteads.

Many things had to be considered then that are not to be thought of now: "water, timber, fuel, pasture, and even sheltered spots for "dug-out" or soddy.  In some instances the construction was of logs.

Indeed, so many things merited consideration that often the most important item to be weighed today, the quality of the soil, received the least consideration.  Strange as it may seem to us of this generation, many of the first homestead entries were filed on poor land.  Especially does this appear novel when they had "all outdoors" to choose from.

 

 

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The Last Homestead Filed On

According to the records in the United States Department of Interior the last entry in Pierce County was made by John W. Allison on January 26, 1906.  He entered the SE 1-4 Sec. 30, T. 26 N., R. 4 W., 6th P. M., Nebraska, under homestead entry: O'Neill 02142, on which patent issued November 5, 1912.

Early Homesteaders

Records are vague as to the settlers between the year of 1867 and 1869 but among them were some of the pioneers who came with the group that settled in Madison county in 1866 but took homesteads in Pierce county.  Among that group were the families of Ferdinand Conrad, Herman Rohde, August Huebner, Christian Huebner.

In the spring of 1869 a colony of Germans came from Wisconsin.  Some located in the vicinity of Hadar while others located near Pierce.  Among those locating near Hadar were the families of Lichtenberg, Braasch, Wichman, Rohrke, Lierman, Raasch. Eppler and others.  Locating near Pierce were the families of John Manske, Theodore Raubach. Nick Wecker, Frederick Kolterman, Carl Griebenow and others.  In 1870 came the families of Albert Magdanz, Albert Breyer, Bernard Riley, William Buckendahl, August Kolterman, William Schellen, Carl Korth, R. S. Lucas, James H. Brown, Wilson Hall and others.

In 1871 settlers located at Plainview. Among them were the families of John Starr, Bailey Schoonover, Jarvis Dean, Fred Dedlow, Henry Blank, Albert and Charles Rose. Thomas Hawkins, George Burnham, Henry Holly, Silas Hutchins. John Seebring, William Alexander, William Chilvers and others.

 

 

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Homes Of Pioneers

In the building of early homes or places of shelter—dug-outs, sod houses, or log cabins—construction was practically the same. Sizes were 11 by 15 or 16 by 24 feet—often no chimney, but just a stove pipe in the roof.

Sod houses were not uncommon.  The first step in their construction was to turn over the sod, cutting it into two or two-and-a-half-foot lengths.  Then it was laid up into walls, very much as the mason lays brick, breaking joints and making a solid wall. Such walls were warm in winter and cool in summer and of surprising durability due to the thick grass roots which had grown unmolested for countless years without being cut by the plow-shares of the pioneer.  The ground was the floor; pioneer mothers swept them daily with a broom made of willows.

Sod houses were plastered with alkali mud and whitewashed.  The J. C. Starr family near Plainview had one of these homes, and Mrs. Mary Starr-Frost related how her mother tacked old sheets to the rafters up over the beds.  The rafters were poles from the woods.  These were covered with strips of bark, smooth side down, cut from the larger trees. Hay was next placed on top of the bark, then sod laid like shingles.  The Starr home was the first one finished in the Plainview settlement.

The doors to these pioneer homes were fastened with a wooden latch to which was tied a leather string passing through a tiny hole outside.  To lock the door they drew in the string.  The latch-string, however, was always out to welcome neighbors, or any weary traveler passing by.

The log cabin built by Frederick Kolterman on his homestead north of Pierce was of hewn logs hauled from Bazille Mills on the Niobrara River.  It was 13 by 16 feet. Other log cabins were built of willow and boxelder poles.  The roofs were covered with slough grasses. They plastered clay between the logs and each year it was necessary to make repairs.

 

 

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Logs were hewed and hauled from the Niobrara River, a three-days trip by ox-team.  The cracks were chinked with hay and mud or clay and roofs were thatched with prairie grasses.

Some had dugouts, dug back into a hill while the open side hung shut with buffalo, deer or elk hides or with boards or timbers.  The dugout of John Cortini, an eccentric bachelor near Osmond, had a pile of hay in one corner and in the other he had a hole in the ground where he did his cooking.

During the winter the houses and dugouts often were entirely covered by snow drifts, smoke issuing from the surface being the only sign of life below.

The log cabin on the Albert Magdanz homestead was 11 by 15 feet, made of hewn logs which they hauled from Bazille Mills.  They were cut so the corners were dovetailed together.  Two slabs were leaned against a wall on which the chimney was built of clay.  Prairie hay was twisted and stuck between the cracks, and clay, moistened with water, was plastered over the hay and cracks and then whitewashed inside and out.  The roofs were made of poles placed together, thatched with prairie grass.  For this, prairie grass was tied in bunches and laid on the rafters, boarded at the side, so they would not slide off. These roofs were very heavy.

 

FURNISHINGS OF PIONEER HOMES

Furnishings in the early homes consisted of a table, a four-hole cast-iron stove and beds.  The furniture was all homemade.  The beds were sometimes made of four poles, with poles across the foot and head ends and sides.  Holes were made in them and a rope was strung through the hole lengthwise and crosswise of the bed and on this they had a bed tick filled with prairie grass at first.  When wheat and rye was raised, they used straw and when they had corn they used corn husks.  Their coverings were either feather ticks, or quilts, or buffalo robes, or pelts of other animals.

Some had a shelf on which the kerosene lamp was placed, while many used tallow candles for lighting.  Benches were

 

 

19


made from a slab with four holes in which pieces of wood were put in for feet, these slabs were of various sizes, often wide at one end, pointed at the other. Often, a spinning wheel was part of the furnishings.

 

Indians Friendly to Settlers

The Ponca Indians inhabited Pierce County at various seasons when the white settlers came.  Most of the time, however, they lived near the Niobrara River but came to Pierce County to hunt and fish, camping on the banks of the Northfork River.  They came with their Indian ponies, single file, poles and skins tied to the side of their ponies, and they erected their tepees wherever they decided to camp.

The Poncas were a very friendly tribe, and even though the settlers lived in fear of Indians, they never were harmed.  They were great beggars but never threw away food that was given to them as the Sioux were known to do.

On one of their treks to Pierce County they ran across seven dead wolves in a hollow north of Pierce, thrown there by a settler who had poisoned them. They came to his home asking for the carcasses.  Not speaking each others language it was with great difficulty he finally made them understand the wolves had been poisoned.  They still insisted on having them though they were rancid.  It was prepared for a feast, one of the biggest they ever had and none suffered ill effects.  They knew the secret of preparation.

INDIANS MOVED TO OKLAHOMA

In the year 1876 the government ordered the Ponca Indians to the Indian Territory, now Oklahoma.  They resented going as they did not like the country, but were compelled to go.  Pierce County settlers have told of their tearful departure, how they came to bid them farewell, heartbroken.  The white settlers also regretted to see them leave as they were very

 

 

20


friendly.  The Indians' new home in Oklahoma was an unbroken prairie and the water was very bad.  Their cattle and many of their horses died.  From lack of the sustenance of life to which they were accustomed, many of the Indians died.

Part of the tribe finally ran away and started back to Nebraska and reached the reservation of the Omahas, who took them in.  The white men fought for their cause in the courts and they were returned to the Niobrara River, their old home given back to them.

Coming through Pierce County on their return they called on the white settlers, showing deep affection for them, they were so very happy.  The white settlers were also pleased to have them return.  They always lived in peace with the Indians and were never harmed.

 

An Indian Scare

In the days of homesteading in Nebraska, these western plains were inhabited by different tribes of Indians.  Of these, the Poncas were friendly to the whites; the Sioux, on the contrary, were belligerent, not only to settlers, but to other Indian tribes as well.

The life of the frontiersman, who ventured into these parts at that time. was one of constant peril and alarm.  Even to those who felt themselves protected by having neighbors within a few miles, sight was never lost of the caution required by their exposed position.

There was no established law in Pierce County in 1869, everything you did was done at your own risk.  Here on the banks of the Northfork River, a tributary of the Elkhorn, settled a group of Germans from Wisconsin, with their wives and children.  They staked out their homesteads, built sod huts or log cabins, and called it "Home".

For some time the settlers lived in uneventful comfort, experiencing no hostile visits from the Indians. Some of their

 

 

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neighbors in Madison County, having had more experience of frontier life because of settling several years earlier, were more awake to the cunning and unexpected nature of the savages.  They warned, more than once, their Pierce County neighbors by false alarms.  Weird stories of scalpings were told, till finally the settlers began to believe the stories of danger were exaggerated and gradually sank into an easy-going sense of security.

One day in the autumn of 1870, each settler was busy harvesting his crop, meager though it was, and getting timber for fuel from Bazille Mills and the Niobrara River, as there was no timber around except a few scrub willows.  This trip usually took the menfolk from home for three days, as oxen and wagon were the only means of travel.  Wives were in constant fear that the Indians might come, although some men were always left in the settlement, but perhaps several miles distant.  The children, not knowing the meaning of fear, would play among the prairie grasses, with the songs of birds a joy to their happy hearts, as they built their play houses on a hillside.

The sun had slipped beneath the western horizon, the air was snappy, and occasionally a pack of wolves could be heard yelping in the distance, which always created a weird atmosphere, even to the bravest.

The moon was slowly but surely peeping over the eastern hills, and the mantle of night had gently folded itself around the little group of settlers, numbering less than a dozen families.

"Listen!" said Mrs. Manske, "I hear someone screaming."  The whole family, including Herman, William, Augusta, Mathilda, Wilhelmina, Tina, Frederick and Mary, peered in the direction of the sound.  Again they heard a voice? A man's voice ? Was it a redskin ? Did he say he was nearly dead ?

As Mrs. Manske was widowed the year before and no man was on the place, they were terrified.  Hastily they retreated to the log cabin, and without a moment's hesitation, Herman was ordered to get the horse, ride to the homes of the other settlers, the Magdanz's, Koehler's, Griebenow's and Kolterman's, tell them "The Indians are coming and they had heard William Schellin screaming and say he was almost dead."

 

 

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Herman disappeared in the semidarkness, as the full autumn moon added hope to his young heart.  Hurriedly he delivered his message to each place and more hurriedly each picked up what few belongings and valuables they could, some warm clothing, blankets and some food, and ran as fast as they could to Yankton slough, whose banks were deep and lined with scrubby willow, plum thickets and tall grasses where they could hide with more security than on the open prairies.

The night wore on, no sounds except the howl of coyotes, and the rustle of grass as rabbits bounded far and near.  Morning began to break and the menfolk peaked over the banks, expecting to see a band of Indians and their homes burning embers.

Finally the bravest began to put aside their fears—"We must learn to have greater courage!"

It was true they had more than once before been frightened with false alarms, but this time they felt so sure of what they had heard—"I am almost dead"—courage had all gone out of them.

The serenity of the settlement seemed so different now from what it had been a few hours before. The golden peace had fled and lurid loneliness brooded about, the shadows had grown fantastic.  It seemed they were so far, so very far from shelter and protection.

"Hark." whispered Mrs. Griebenow, hugging her baby Amanda closer to her, "There's a rustling among the bushes".  Just at that moment came the cry "Bob-White"—an antelope bounded over the bank.

The settlers were gazing intently toward the Carl Korth and William Schellin homesteads where they had heard someone scream "I am nearly dead"—and the Korths and Schellins were the only settlers old Yankton slough was not protecting.

After holding several consultations it was decided the older men of the group should go to the Schellin and Korth homes.  Now that the worst had come to pass, their spirits rose undaunted to meet what may.  There was no more timidity about them.  They loaded their muskets and headed toward the Korth

 

 

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and Schellin homes not having the slightest idea what was about to happen to them, but the over-colored pictures drawn for them by their neighbors, made them expect the worst.

Through the rustling aisles of the tall prairie grasses they marched, Indian style.  Nearing the Korth home they relaxed their taut nerves and became more hopeful.

Suddenly, the leader of the little band spied Mr. Korth calmly walking near the cabin, whistling a gay tune, which they concluded was proof their fears were imaginary.

"Where are the Indians," they called. "And how are the Schellins?"

"I do not know." he shouted in response, “—Why, what has happened?"

He added with a look of surprise, "What have the Indians done ?"

They related to him how they heard Schellin's voice the night before, screaming "Ick bin bie nau dot" (I am nearly dead)—and how the news was quickly sent to the rest of the settlers and how they had spent the night in the plum thickets along the hanks of Yankton slough.

Accordingly Mr. Korth related the incident of the night before.  He had been to Wisner, their nearest town, to get provisions for himself and the Schellin family.  As night was approaching Mr. Schellin heard the rumbling of the wagon on the rough ground in the distance, so went down the lane toward the wagon trail to meet Mr. Korth.  As he came nearer, Mr. Schellin, anxious for his provisions—especially for his tobacco he had been out of for some time, called out in a jest: "Hest mein pream? Ick bin bie nau dot!" (Have you my tobacco? I am nearly dead?)

The last sentence was all the Manskes had heard, and "I am nearly dead" was echoed clearly and surely to them and they thought it must be the Indians, it could be no one else.

Hastily the men returned to their families to spread the good news, and resolved not to be frightened out of their wits with the ridiculous stories they had heard, but they must learn to have greater courage.

 

 

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First Election in Pierce County

The first election was held on July 26, 1870. J. H. Brown was authorized to call this special election which resulted as follows: clerk, J. H. Brown; treasurer, H. R. Mewis; sheriff, August Brisso; superintendent, A. J. Babcock; surveyor, A. D. Huebner; assessor, Carl Griebenow; commissioners, R. S. Lucas, August Nenow and T. C. Verges.

The first election was held in a sod and slab house on the S1/2 of NE and N1/2 SE1/4, Section 27, Township 26 North, Range 2 West.  The land was first owned by George Weare of Sioux City, who sold it to Jas. H. Brown who in turn sold it to R. S. Lucas.

As nearly as can be learned, seventeen votes were cast at this first election.  It is said Mrs. R. S. Lucas cooked dinner and served all voters.  Ducks were so numerous in those days that Robert Lucas, Jr., then a young lad, brought down between fifteen and twenty at one shot, on the pond near the Lucas home.

Many interesting stories are told of the schemes that were tried to swing the early elections.  One concerns an early election at Plainview. At that time there were no ballot boxes and the ballots were kept in a pail.  A farmer took the pail home and according to his story his cow ate up the ballots.  At any rate, all proof of the vote was lost and the losers had no comeback.

Another story is told of a time when the vote stood a tie.  The hour had come for the closing of the polls, and the announcer went out to call the polls closed.  Far down the road he saw a man coming on horseback.  He stopped in the middle of his call and waited until the man arrived. After he voted, the closing call was finished.  In that instance the voter who was late decided the election.

When William B. Chilvers came here in 1871 to file on a homestead near Plainview, he thought the county should have a ballot box.  Mr. Chilvers, being a carpenter by trade, accord-

 

 

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ingly constructed a box of one-inch black walnut wood, 12 inches long, eight inches wide and six inches deep.  A slot two inches long and one-fourth inch wide received the ballots.  This box was expertly made with mitered corners and brass lock.  After the county outgrew this receptacle, Mr. Chilvers found it many years later in some rubbish at the courthouse.  It is now in the possession of his descendants.

Many elections have come and gone since the days of the first election with seventeen votes and this polished walnut ballot box to the present day, when twenty steel boxes are used.

Since that first election, several different offices have been added.  It will be noted there was no call for elections of a county judge, clerk of the district court and county attorney.

The early elections provided no officials for road work in the county.

The oldest record found in the office of county judge named A. J. Babcock as county judge in 1873.

The office of county surveyor was a very important one when the county was first being settled.  There was much work to be done in that line.  Roads were to be laid out and homesteaders needed the assistance of a surveyor in filing their claims.

Many a serious argument arose over the location of the corners of land bought, or taken for homesteads.  It is said that many a stake, locating a settler's right to land, was removed in two days.  In those days it was a serious thing to tamper with government stakes.

R. S. Lucas was elected as the first man to represent Pierce County in the state legislature.  That election took place in 1874. C. H. Frady was the second to serve in that capacity, being elected in 1876.

 

The First Court House

 

At the first election held in the county on July 26, 1870, the county seat was located where the town of Pierce now stands.  The town was then laid out and the inhabitants of Pierce County immediately set about building a court house.

 

 

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First Courthouse, built in 1871

On March 31, 1871, the question of issuing bonds in the sum of $15,000.00 to aid in building a court house was carried by a vote of twenty-four, in a total vote of forty-six.

The bonds were never issued, as the county was able to pay for the court house out of the taxes collected.

When the court house was to be built, there were two factions who differed on the location.  The first location was on the block south of the place where the present court house stands.  The materials were moved back and forth three times before it was finally built on the present location.

The first court house was built in 1871 at a cost of $4,000.00.

In 1908 electric lights replaced kerosene lamps in the court house.  Bert Craven who had the first electric light plant in Pierce did the wiring for five dollars a day and he had a carpenter to tear up floors where necessary.

The heating plant was installed in 1908 at a cost of $1800.00. Toilets and water were installed in 1910.

The first courthouse built in Pierce County was moved across the street to its present location in 1890, to make way for the brick building which replaced it.

 

 

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Present Courthouse, built in 1890

  Since that time the building has been occupied as a hotel, a dwelling house and for many years as a creamery.

 

Plotting The First Town, Pierce

 

As Wisner was the nearest shopping center the need of a town soon became apparent.  J. H. Brown and R. S. Lucas, two able and public spirited citizens started a settlement on Willow Creek in 1871, where the present town of Pierce is now located.

Early history is vague on the first officers of Pierce County.  The following record is copied from the original and tells the laying out of the city in blocks;

"On the fourth day of May, A. D. 1871, the original plot of Pierce city was fifty-six blocks and before the Justice of the Peace within and for said county personally came James H. Brown and Robert S. Lucas, owners of the land designated as the town of Pierce and the town of Pierce was laid out in blocks and lots."

 

 

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          The record was filed May 4, 1871, at 5 o’clock P.M.

                                               J. H. Brown, register.

 Witnesses: George D. Hetzel and Charles W. Frady

                   Thomas W. Ward, surveyor.

Pierce city was incorporated on May 24, 1883.  It was named after Pierce County, being the first town in the county.

 

Election Proclamation

 

                        state OF nebraska

                                 Executive  department

 

Whereas:

A large number of the citizens of the unorganized County of Pierce, have united in a petition asking that an election be called for the purpose of choosing county officers, preliminary to the organization of Said County.

Therefore:

I, David Butler, Governor of the State of Nebraska by virtue of the authority in me vested, do hereby order, that an election be held at the dwelling house of John Verges in said County, from nine o'clock A. M. to six o'clock P. M. on Tuesday the twenty-sixth day of July A. D. 1870 for the purpose of choosing three County Commissioners, one County Clerk, one County Treasurer, one Sheriff, one Probate Judge, one County Surveyor, one County Superintendent of Schools, one Coroner, Three Judges of Elections, and two Clerks of Elections, and

I hereby designate and appoint, J. H. Brown, August J. Huebner and Carl Griebenow Judges, and R. S. Lucas and T. C. Verges as Clerks, to conduct said Election, in accordance with the "Act for the organization of Counties" approved June twenty-fourth 1867, and the election Laws of this State.

In Testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused to be affixed the Great Seal of the State of Nebraska done at Lincoln this twentieth day of June in the year of Our Lord, one Thousand Eight Hundred and Seventy of the Inde-

 

 

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pendence of the United States the ninety-fourth and of this State the Fourth.

 

                                                            David Butler

                                         By the Governor

                                                            Thomas P. Kennow

                                                                     Secretary of State.

 

First Business Places In Pierce

 

The second lot sale was to George D. Hetzel, May 4, 1871, who erected a dwelling used for a hotel.  It was located where the Home Filling Station now stands, a block south of the library, on Main Street. It has been moved to a location in the west part of town and is now used for a dwelling.

The postoffice was established in 1870 and A. J. Babcock was appointed first postmaster.  He had a cigar box with a few pennies and stamps in it.  He would meet the mail man who brought up the mail from Norfolk on horseback.  Mr. Babcock carried the cigar box postoffice around with him.  The patrons did not go after their mail, the postmaster taking it to them.  At times the entire mail consisted of only one letter in three weeks time.  Later as the town grew a mail route was established with Mr. Hardy the first mail carrier, Wilson Hall later taking his place.

The first lawyer in Pierce was James H. Brown, a native of New Orleans, Louisiana.  He also conducted a land office.  Dr. J. P. Buckner, a native of Indiana, was the first physician and surgeon, coming in 1881.

H. R. Mewis, a native of Prussia, conducted the first general merchandise store which he opened in 1873.  It was the pioneer store of the county.  G. W. Pugh, a native of Kentucky, was the first lumber dealer, opening his business in 1882.  E. P. Weatherby, a native of Ohio, had the first drug store in 1881.  He was also an attorney and followed his profession in connection with the store.

T. R. Beck had the first bank.

 

 

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First Criminal Case

 

In County Court:

Before James H. Brown, county judge. The State of Nebraska          )

                        Plaintiff )

No. 4 against                        )

Fritz Bouckey,                       )

                             Defendant )

December 19th, 1876 Complaint in writing upon oath and signed by T. C. Verges filed with me charging that Fritz Bouckey on or about the eleventh day of December, 1876, and up to the nineteenth day of December, 1876, did unlawfully catch game fish in a pond or lake with the use of a Seine, Dip net, Set Net or basket, said pond or lake not having at all seasons of the year a natural inlet and outlet from and into some river, creek or other stream of water.

December 19th, 1876. This day came the said Fritz Bouckey in Custody of T. C. Verges, Sheriff who made return of the warrant December 19.

Received within Warrant and have the body of the within named Fritz Bouckey. T. C. Verges, Sheriff.

On Hearing the testimony, I dismissed this complaint and discharged the Defendant:  In my opinion the complaint was without probable cause.  It is therefore considered by me that the said T. C. Verges Complainant pay the costs herein taxed at $6.15 and Judgement is hereby rendered against him.

Satisfied January 4th, 1877         Jas. H. Brown, County Judge

Received my fees                        T. C. Verges, Sheriff

County Court Docket—Page 14

The First Mortgage

The first mortgage was issued on April 28, 1871, Mr. Eaton

 

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for the consideration of $1000.00 mortgaged the described real estate to N. J. Eaton. The East half of section number, thirty-three, Township 27, Range 3, west, containing 320 acres where the town of Foster now is located.

The mortgage was filed for record the 8th day of May, 1871, at 10:00 o'clock A.M.

                             J. H. Brown, Register.

Book 1 of Mortgages Page one.

 

First Taxes

A book, containing what is apparently the first tax list of Pierce County is in the office of the county treasurer and bears the date of 1870.

The first treasurer according to this book was J. H. Brown. Auditors were the county commissioners; R. S. Lucas, August Nenow and T. C. Verges.

The grand total of all real estate and personal property tax was $1,286.89 and the assessed valuation of Pierce County which included all deeded and owned land was $38,317.00 in 1870.

The road tax on each 160 acre place was $4.00.

Mrs. Wilhelmina Manske, whose husband died in 1870, the year after they came to Pierce County, was the wealthiest resident of the county.  Her assessed valuation was $779.00 and her taxes were $19.67.

Ludwig Mewis had an assessed valuation of $30.00, the least in the county, and his taxes were $2.72.  Albert Magdanz, Sr., had an assessed valuation of $39.00 and paid $3.94 taxes.

The poll tax was $2.00 for every man and $1.00 tax for everyone who owned a dog.

The taxes as audited in 1884 were:

Taxes collected ..................................................................$1217.77

Delinquents ........................................................................     55.98

Errors ..................................................................................     17.25

Under balance ....................................................................        7.85

 

 

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First Warranty Deed

Anceline Lunger of Scott County, Iowa, in consideration of $500.00 paid by James Thompson of Scott County, Iowa, conveyed the following real estate to-wit.  The South West 1/4 of section 22 and the North West 1/4 of Section 27 in Township 26 north of Range 2 West of 6th P. M. the 320 Acres of land.

The deed was signed the 26th day of August A. D. 1870. Filed for record the 4th day of October A. D. 1870.

J. H. Brown, recorder—Pierce County, Nebraska

Book 1 of Deeds Page 1.

The First Church

Saint Johns Lutheran church, two and a half miles east of Pierce holds the distinction of being the first established church congregation in Pierce County.  A colony of German settlers had come to that vicinity in 1869.  Most of them were from Wisconsin, a few directly from Germany and a scattering from points south.  Ox-team was the prevailing mode of travel, while a few had horses.

As far as memory recalls the following families were members of the group who gathered for the first church service ever held in the county.  Christof Marks, Michael Manske, Christof Krueger, William Otto, John Manske, Carl Klug, William Streich, Fred Koehler, Carl Korth, William Schellin, Henry Buckendahl Sr., Henry Warnecke, Henry Holz and William Ahlman.

The early history of St. Johns church is closely interwoven with St. Johns church at Norfolk.  In 1870 a number of Lutherans around Norfolk and Pierce asked the late Rev. A. W. Freeze of Cuming County to serve them.  In July, 1871, Rev. J. C. Rupprecht came to Norfolk as the first resident pastor. 

 

 

33


In those days it was a long journey to and from Norfolk and with the aid and advice of Rev. Rupprecht, the Pierce Lutherans withdrew from the Norfolk church and on October 23, 1871 organized St. Johns near Pierce.

 

In the early days the Norfolk pastor continued to come to the Pierce colony. The first service was held in the sod home of William Otto.

Following the organization of St. Johns church, Rev. Rupprecht of Norfolk served until July 26, 1874.  The meetings were held in the school house of district number three.  At that time Rev. S. Estel became the first resident pastor, his territory covering all of Pierce County.  Rev. Estel remained here until 1882.  During that time a parsonage had been built on the present church property. Rev. H. Bremer was the next pastor serving until 1894.

In 1884 the first church, twenty-six by forty-six, was dedicated.  Rev. Louis Bendin and Rev. A. Hofius also served as pastors and in 1912 Rev. Hilpert was called from Wisner and is still serving in 1940.  The present church was built in 1913.

From the very first a parochial school was held in connection with the church.

 

First Wedding in Pierce County

The reverse side of a sheet of foolscap paper, on which a history lesson had been written, was used for the first marriage license issued in Pierce County.  Ferdinand Koehler and Miss Mina Manske were the contracting parties. The date was November 8, 1871.

 

The license was written out in full detail by hand and in addition to the usual questions and answers there was a penalty of $500 if the return was not made by the party who officiated, within three months.  It was signed by R. S. Lucas, county judge

 

 

 

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        In the return, which was added below the license in a beautiful German style script hand writing by the Rev. F. C. Rupprecht, Evangelical Lutheran pastor, it was stated that the ceremony was performed November 10, 1871, at the residence of William Otto, who, with Charles Frederick Wichman of Madison County, acted as witnesses.

Mr. Koehler was twenty-one years old and his wife eighteen years of age.

This first license, yellowed with age, was found after a long search among unused records and files, stored in one of the vaults at the Pierce court house.

Mr. and Mrs. Koehler began housekeeping northeast of Pierce on what is known as the Koehler homestead, on a part of which is located the Koehler cemetery, the first in Pierce County. Ferdinand Koehler came with a brother to this country from Germany, and a few years later the mother came.  The father died in Germany.  Mrs. Koehler was the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. John Manske, who homesteaded in Pierce County in 1869, the father dying in the covered wagon before their log cabin home was completed.

This oldest record of a marriage license in Pierce County is an interesting document.  Evidently there were no blanks of any kind in those days for officials to use.  Judge Lucas had written all the required information on the other side of a sheet of paper on which a history lesson had been prepared.

At the time this wedding was solemnized, church was held at the William Otto home, which probably accounts for the reason the ceremony took place there.

 

Wedding Invitations with Ribbons

Pioneer customs, when wedding invitations were to be issued, decreed a young man of the community to ride horseback— ribbons attached to the back of his collar with long streamers, ribbons on the bridle of the horse—and herald the approach of

 

 

35
the wedding.
  When he issued the invitations the recipients would give him a tip.

Laurenz Kolterman was the messenger for the Griebenow-Saeger wedding in 1895 and received enough money in tips to buy himself a new pair of skates.

Invitations, addressed, were placed in a box for the messenger and the ribbons supplied for himself and horse.

___________

 

The buggy occupied by the bride and groom to and from the wedding ceremony was highly decorated with colored ribbons and streamers, and the horses also were decorated, bridles especially were colorful.

The First Missionary

          Chaplain Charles H. Frady, of the Union army, came to Pierce County about 1871.  He served as county surveyor while serving as county superintendent.  Both offices paid a salary only while actually engaged in duties connected with them.

          Chaplain Frady was a missionary operating as a Sunday school organizer from Blair, Nebraska, to Billings, Montana.  He held many successful meetings in Pierce County.  One was held annually in the Larson grove south of Plainview.

          Mr. Frady was the second representative to the state legislature, elected in 1876, R. S. Lucas was the first elected in 1874.

 

 

The First Organ in the County

Musical instruments in the early days were a rarity, but early records of the Stark Valley Methodist church showed that a family by the name of Kisor, who lived on a farm in Stark Valley owned the first organ in the county.

blocks and lots.”

36
          Mr. and Mrs. James Discus who lived on a farm nearby, offered the use of their home for a Sunday school, so the Kisor organ was loaded on a farm wagon and carted to the neighbors for services.

In 1884 S. J. Plymesser came, bringing another organ, which was used in an open air service held a little later on another farm nearby.

 

 

Early Birth Dates

As birth records were not kept in early days it is rather difficult to give an accurate account of the first births in the county, so it has been necessary to rely on birthdays of the children of the earliest pioneers.

Birthdays of the first children are Mrs. Anna Marie Wecker-Zuercher of Osmond, born November 23, 1869, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Nick Wecker who came to Pierce County in 1869.

Mrs. Bernadine Conrad-Rohde, wife of Herman Rohde, was born July 4, 1870, the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Ferdinand Conrad of Hadar. She weighed only one and a half pounds at birth.

Mrs. Amanda Griebenow-Saeger, wife of W. A. Saeger, was born on October 6, 1870, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Carl Griebenow.

 

 

First Schools Organized

From the early records in the office of the county superintendent it was found that school districts numbers one and two were organized on the same day, February 20, 1871.

District number one is located in the southeast corner of the county, about two miles east of Hadar, and included all the present southern tier of precincts:  South Branch, Cleveland, Blaine and Mills.

 

 

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       A. J. Huebner was the first director of district number one.  District number two in the Pierce district included the entire remaining part of the county, precincts Pierce, Slough, Clover Valley, Willow Creek, Logan, Foster, South Dry, Eastern, Plum Grove, Thompson and North Dry.

          R. S. Lucas was the first director of district number two;  Carl Griebenow, moderator; and Bernard Riley, treasurer.

FORERUNNER FIRST HIGH SCHOOL

The forerunner of the present Pierce high school, the first in the county, originated in the R. S. Lucas home just south of town, with Mrs. Lucas as the teacher.

The first building was erected in almost the same location as the modern brick structure.  It was built in 1871 and had one room, of the same style as many of the older rural schools of today.  The village grew and more room was needed.  Another one-room building, facing the west, was built on the same block, and was used to house the lower grades. Soon it was necessary to use a building up town for the intermediate department.

In 1886 the eight-room brick structure, which was torn down to make room for the present high school, was built.  When the school had progressed far enough to have the tenth grade, the first graduation was held in 1892.

On April 3, 1871, district number three was organized, including approximately what is now the eastern precincts, except South Branch. Albert Breyer was the first director and one of the early teachers.

          The following year, 1872, district number one was divided and district number four was organized March 29, 1872.  When district number one was divided and number four organized the east part of the district retained number one and the west part number four, while in reality district number one was organized where number four is now located. To some of the pioneers this proved very disappointing, because the people actually living where district number four is now located really

 

 

 

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organized the first school.  The organization of all these early schools took place in the home of a pioneer settler, designated by the county superintendent, who was compensated at the rate of $5.00 per day for the time he actually spent in organization, attending conventions, visiting schools, making reports, etc.

 

FIRST COUNTY SUPERINTENDENT

 

A. J. Babcock was the first county superintendent, Adda Lucas was the second and C. H. Frady the third.

Mr. Frady was the first to leave a report of his salary, which shows he spent eight days at $5.00 per day, total salary for the year ending October 1, 1873, being $40.00.

Mrs. Adda Lucas left a record of the first report sent to the state superintendent, dated October 1, 1872. It showed there were four districts in the county, 109 children of school age and fifteen children attending. There was one male teacher who taught three months and one female teacher who taught six months. The highest wages paid to the man was $20.00 per month and $35.00 to the lady.

The first schools in the county were held in some home, usually that of the teacher. Mrs. Lucas was the first teacher in the Pierce district. She taught in her own home which was a sod house on the Lucas homestead just south of Pierce.

 

First Teachers' Institute

The first teachers' institute held in the county began May 20, 1874, and lasted three days. C. H. Frady was superintendญent. Eight teachers attended, namely, A. J. Babcock, Adda Lucas, H. H. York, B. L. Rhoda, C. Shanghncey, Maggie Alexญander, M. E. Frady and J. S. Starr.

The instructors were Mrs. Lucas, M. E. Frady and A. J. Babcock. All the common branches were taught and three sessions were held each day. The institute was well attended by citizens as well as teachers.

 

 

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Pierce County Teachers Institute, 1892

 

40

Some of these early reports and records were very incomญplete.  In 1876 the total salary of the superintendent amounted to $67.50.  At that time there were five male and six female teachers in the county, seven frame and one sod school building.  $50.00 was the highest paid and $25.00 the lowest.  The average term was three and seven-tenths months.

Seven years went by before the second institute was held in the county in 1881 at Plainview.  The school house was about two miles from the town and there was no building available for the holding of the institute except the new depot which had just been completed.  The record shows a vote of thanks to the railroad officials for the use of the depot.  It also includes some problems that were up for discussion.  Tardiness seemed to be the one giving the greatest cause for concern and one teacher boldly suggested that a written excuse showing cause, be required of all tardy pupils.  The secretary reported no action was taken, probably because some of the teachers thought they could not demand from their pupils what they themselves did not observe.

Many curious and interesting facts are revealed in the early records which would give the modern teacher and pupil a new realization of the marvelous advantages of school life today, in contrast to that of the latter part of the nineteenth century.

Incorporated in one report was a recommendation that the county institute be held in the light of the moon as it would greatly increase attendance.  This was not because our educators were romantically inclined but because the journey to their homes over rough country roads was apt to be rather hazardous at the close of the evening session.

 

Organization of Schools

The following records of the organization of each school in Pierce County was obtained from the county superintendent's office. The district number is followed by the date organized,

 

 

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the first director, date of first census and number enrolled in the order given:

 

SCHOOLS OF PIERCE COUNTY

Dist. No.Organized             First Director                         First Census              No

 1.      Febr. 14, 1871          Ferdinand Conrad                April, 1872                 46

 2.      Febr. 14, 1871          R. S. Lucas                            April, 1872                 23

 3.      April 1, 1871              Albert Breyer                         April, 1872                 40

 4.      March 29, 1872         B. S. Schoonover                  April, 1873                 9

 5.      Febr. 1, 1873             Dan Dowling                          April, 1873(?)            5

 6.      Febr. 1, 1873             C. H. Frady                            April, 1873                 18

 7.      March 15, 1873         P. Shaughnnessy                  April, 1873                 13

 8.      Febr. 14, 1874          J. Wright                                 April, 1874(?)            5

 9.      Febr. 27, 1875          S. W. Kincaid                        April, 1875                 8

10.     March 20, 1876         T. C. Verges                          April, 1876                 8

11.     Jan. 5, 1880               B. Roberts                              April, 1879                 17

12.     Jan. 5, 1880               Wm. Alexander                      April, 1879                 23

13.     Aug. 31, 1881            B. H. Mills                               June, 1882                 19

14.     Febr. 23, 1880          David Kuther                          June, 1880                 9

15.     Febr. 3, 1881             August Huebner                    June, 1881                 26

16.     March 10, 1881         J. L. Stevens                          June, 1881                 15

17.     March 16, 1881         George Holmes                     June, 1880                 20

18.     Dec. 24, 1881           M. Miller                                  June, 1882                 7

19.     Dec. 31, 1881           W. E. Bishop                         June, 1882                 8

20.     Dec. 31, 1881           Fred Magdanz                       June,1882                  15

21.     Oct. 25, 1883 Peter Nissen                          June, 1884                 27

22.     March 1, 1884           R. A. Tawney             June, 1884                 18

23.     Febr. 29, 1884          J. A. Decus                            June, 1884                 26

24.     April 3, 1884              H. W. Brooks                         June, 1884                 36

25.     Oct. 25, 1884 D. C. Lingenfelter                  Dec., 1884                 15

26.     Dec. 19, 1884           M. T. Hatch                             Dec., 1884                 15

27.     Dec. 20, 1884           W. T. Martin                           Dec., 1884                 15

28.     Dec. 16, 1885           C. E. Manzer 

29.     Dec. 8, 1885              W. P. Sander

30.     Febr. 10, 1886          George Foster

 

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31.     Febr. 15, 1886          J. P. Scott

32.     April 13, 1886            P. Hansen

33.     Febr. 18, 1887          Chas. Lederer

34.     Febr. 15, 1887          H. Penwell

35.     March 4, 1887           Theo. C. Verges

36.     March 22, 1887         George Davenport

37.     Sept. 2, 1887             W. H. McGrew

38.     Oct. 1887                   A. L. Docken

39.     Febr. 28, 1888          Ferdinand Scheer

40.     March 30, 1888         S. Brower

41.     April 6, 1888              A. Erlander (McLean country school)

42.     Febr. 18, 1889          D. G. Rockwell (Osmond city)

43.     Febr. 25, 1889          Joseph Rhodes (McLean city)

44.     March 4, 1889           Ebe Paulsen

45.     March 7, 1890           L. J. Clements

46.     March 17, 1890         Herman Magdanz

47.     Nov. 22, 1890            C. Skelton

48.     Febr. 1, 1891             L. B. Hoffman             Feb. 1, 1891              29

49.     March 18, 1891         Claus Petersen                     Feb. 1891                  13

50.     March 27, 1891         F. Lambert                             July, 1891                   9

51.     March 28, 1891         Owen Jones                           July, 1891                   29

52.     March 28, 1891         R. M. Boggs                           July, 1891                   28

53.     Oct. 3, 1891               Chas. Worker                        Dec., 1891                 8

54.     Nov. 5, 1891              Henry Neiman                        Dec., 1891                 7

55.     Febr. 13, 1892          Senior Bower                        June, 1892                 14

56.     Febr. 25, 1892          C. Jacob Kollmar                  June, 1892                 20

57.     April 6, 1892              C. A. Kissinger                      June, 1892                 5

58.     April 6, 1892              Chas. L. Howell

                                              F. Clausen

59.     Febr. 6, 1893             W. T. Ramsey                        Feb., 1893                 11

60.     Jan. 25, 1893            Philip Fursz                            Feb., 1893                 15

61.     Febr. 27, 1893          J. W. Sloan                            Feb., 1893                 7

62.     Oct. 2, 1893               A. L. Docken                          June 27, 1894           29

63.     March 30, 1895         Eggert Klindt                          June 27, 1896           21

64.     Oct. 21, 1895 August Koerting                    July, 1896                   21

65.     Jan. 30, 1897            Martin H. Christensen           July, 1898                   17

66.     April 1, 1899              R. Lucas                                 June 9, 1900              13

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67.     March 22, 1902         T. E. Spencer

68.     April 3, 1905              P. Christensen

69.     Oct. 19, 1905 G. B. McCrady

70.     Nov. 2, 1905              H. O. Parks

71.     March 30, 1906         Jas. Askey

72.     April 9, 1908              H. Meinert

73.     Jan. 15, 1909            A. Wyatt                      July 9, 1909               6

74.     March 17, 1909         A. E. Bendon             July 9, 1909               26

75.     Oct. 4, 1910               Louis Hoffart              June 26, 1911           24

76.     Oct. 18, 1910 J. W. Skiff                   June 23, 1911           23

77.     Nov. 3, 1910              Joseph Scharfen       June 24, 1911           19

78.     Dec. 1, 1910              Asmus Hollander       June 15, 1911           22

79.     Dec. 21, 1910           Frank Pochop            June 15, 1911           33

80.     March 14, 1917         Michael Widhelm      June 8, 1917              33

 

Pioneer Cemeteries

HADAR LUTHERAN CEMETERY

          From the records in the office of the county clerk we find that a plot of two acres located about a mile and one half northeast of Hadar was sold to Emmanuel Evangelical church organization by Gottfried Koehl for $10.00.  The deed was filed on February 1, 1879, making it the first cemetery in the county.

          Pioneer residents of Hadar have said that one of the first burials in this cemetery was Edward Eppler who drowned in the river near the school house in the early eighties.  No burials have been made in this cemetery for many years.

KOEHLER CEMETERY

          The Koehler cemetery, located northeast of Pierce, is the last resting place of many early pioneers.  The deed for this cemetery, which was recorded as the Marien cemetery, was filed May 26, 1880.  Ten Dollars was the consideration named.  This is the first public cemetery in the county.  The site is on a knoll,

 

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beautifully located.  It is a part of the Ferdinand Koehler homestead.  The first burial was George Koehler, a son, who died January 1, 1880, of diphtheria.  Ten days later another child, Louisa, died of the same malady.

There are more than sixty graves in this cemetery, many of them unmarked.  Many of the burials were in charge of Rev. M. Inhelder, who was a minister in the Evangelical church.  Even today an old prairie trail can still be plainly seen on the hill, along the south side of this early rendezvous of the dead.

In 1940 a bronze plaque on a native boulder was erected, commemorating this early resting place.

LAMBRECHT CEMETERY

An interesting old secretary's journal which contains the by-laws and minutes of all the meetings of the Pleasant View cemetery association in Willow Creek precinct, from the time of its organization April 21, 1883 until the present day, reveals many interesting side lights on the establishment of that early cemetery.

Although Pleasant View is the original name of this cemetery located fourteen miles west of Pierce, it is frequently referred to as the Tawney cemetery.  This is due to the fact that church services were held across the road in the Tawney school, located on a corner of the Tawney ranch.

In May, 1939, the name was officially changed to Lambrecht cemetery by officers and members of the association who felt that this recognition was due the Lambrecht family.

The organization meeting was held at the August Lambrecht homestead, one acre in the northwest corner of his farm being exchanged for a lot in the newly formed association.  The lots were eighteen feet square and until May 15, 1883, could be purchased for $1.50 each.

Three trustees were chosen to serve: Joseph Forsythe, was selected as the first chairman; Rufus Tawney, secretary, and Herman Steinkraus as a third member.  On March 8, 1884, at the annual meeting, August Lambrecht was named the first treasurer.

 

 

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In 1940 a bronze plaque on a native boulder was erected, commemorating this pioneer cemetery.

 

DEDLOW CEMETERY

 

During the late 1870's scattered pioneers of the Lutheran faith located south of Plainview were greatly concerned about the matter that if one of their number died they were lacking a burial ground.

One of those most interested was Herman Rehfield, Sr.  Before the matter was settled—still in the prime of life—he died in November, 1881.  The others then had to decide on a place for a burial ground and Fritz Dedlow, Sr. granted them permission to use a plot in his timber claim which is located four miles east and one and one-fourth miles south of Plainview.

Later in January, 1883, William Bucholz was buried there and in June of the same year, Mrs. Christine Drake.  It was on October 7, 1889, that the plot of ground was formally declared a cemetery, when Fritz Dedlow, Sr., for the consideration of $1.00 gave a quit claim deed to the Evangelical Zion Lutheran church located nearby.  The church was later moved to Plainview. There are between seventy-five and a hundred graves in this cemetery.

 

WALKER CEMETERY

 

The Walker cemetery, five miles south and one and three-quarter miles west of Plainview, is the only family burial plot in Pierce County. The cemetery was laid out by Stinson Walker in 1901 on the timber claim taken by him in 1881.  Some member of the family has lived there ever since.

Mr. and Mrs. Walker and three sons, George, John and William are buried there.

 

 

 

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Restoration of Pioneer Cemeteries

Through the efforts of the Pierce County Historical Society pioneer cemeteries have been restored with the help of the FERA labor and cooperation of county commissioners.

Each year fitting memorial services are held on the Sunday preceding Memorial Day.

 

The First Hearse

The first hearse in the county was a homemade affair which H. S. Reppert, the first undertaker in the county, who came to Pierce in 1890, helped build.  It was painted black and was an oblong box affair with six large black ornaments, called plumes, on top and drawn by a team of black horses.

The newspaper account of the new hearse ran something like this, "Our enterprising undertaker Reppert has brought a fine hearse to town so we can be taken to our last resting place in style."

Up to this time a wagon or spring buggy had served as a hearse. The hearse was drawn by a fine black team of horses purchased from Dr. J. M. Alden, a pioneer doctor.

Hadar

In about the year 1869 a caravan of fifty-two wagons of Germans left Wisconsin to take homesteads in Nebraska.  They brought supplies with them.  When they reached the place where Hadar now stands, some wished to locate there while others wanted to turn back and locate in Madison County. Others wanted to go on farther.

An argument ensued and became quite heated.  Rev. Heckendorf, who had been called as a minister for this colony, tried

 

 

47
to settle the dispute.
 He finally got a pole, dug a hole and placed the pole in it.  With axle grease from the wagons he wrote on the pole in large letters "H-A-D-E-R", which translated in English means fight or quarrel.  The "E" was later changed to "A", because another town in the United States had that name.  This pole stood east of the present railroad tracks and north of the present depot, almost in the Main street of the town, and was there for many years.

The argument was finally settled and each located where he wished.  Some returned to Madison County, others stayed around Hadar and some went further north.

Another story of the naming of Hadar was that two neighbors living on opposite sides of Hadar creek were always quarreling, so August Raasch called it "Hader vasser," which means "hate water" and so finally it was decided to name the town Hadar.

The original Pierce County cartoon by Mike Parks, illustrates the argument which determined the name for Hadar.  This cartoon, now framed, is the property of Pierce County, and hangs in the office of the county superintendent.

Though it was not incorporated as a town until January 25. 1916, nevertheless Hadar was in existence before any other town in the county. With its one hundred fourteen inhabitants it is a thrifty little town in the Elkhorn valley and has good soil and fine water.

 

Star Mail Routes

One of the pioneer star mail routes was the one between Norfork and Niobrara with Christian Lerum of Plainview, the postman.  He received $440 a year, making the round trip once a week.

Dell Beal of Foster carried mail between Covington (now South Sioux City) to Niobrara.

The first star mail route was from Pierce to Colbergen (it

 

 

48
was then called Willowdale).  Warwick Guy was the first mail carrier, in 1880.  In 1885 a postoffice was established at the Birch home west of Pierce, Frank Birch being the first postmaster.  It was known as the Birch-Colbergen star route.

The Willowdale office was discontinued at that time. Charles Ulrich, Sr., secured the contract from the government in 1885 to carry the mail from Pierce to Birch and Colbergen for $1.10 a day.  It was carried by his son, William Ulrich, on Tuesday and Saturday of each week by horse and buggy or buckboard, and when roads were bad on horseback.

In the spring of 1877 Wilson Hall carried mail between Pierce and Norfolk. He had two teams and a spring wagon, as he carried express and also passengers.

By 1877 Norfolk had two railroads.  The second year was so nourishing that Mr. Hall had his spring wagon converted into a bus or "carry-all" as it was called then, with seats on the sides and a top.  In the wintertime runners took the place of wheels to travel the snow and ice. He made two trips a day, arriving in Pierce at noon with his cargo and after changing teams returned to Norfolk to meet the afternoon trains.  He continued in this business until the railroad was extended to Pierce in 1880.

COLBERGEN

The post office of Colbergen was started on level prairie in Willow Creek precinct in the southwest part of the county, twelve miles west of Pierce.

The first settlement here was made by S. W. Kincaid in 1872.  About the same time Frederic Rautenberg, Frederic Kuhl and Jacob Hepfinger moved into this part of the country.

The post office was established in 1880 with William Klitzke as first postmaster.  Later the post office of Colbergen was abandoned.

WARREN

          In Mills precinct was a post office for a time called Warren. 

 

 

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There was also a Warren school and church.  Many of its patrons came there from the town of Burnett, later called Tilden.  The Warren post office was abandoned many years ago.

 

Plainview

Plainview was the second town in the county to record a plat.  It was dated October 27, 1880 and showed that the original town contained six blocks.  It was six years later, on April 5, 1886, that articles of incorporation were filed.

The post office was established in April 1, 1872, and was called Roseville, in honor of Charles Rose, who was appointed the first postmaster, but settlers in that little community felt that it gave too much prominence to the Rose brothers, and not any recognition to others.

Two different versions of how Plainview finally came to be named are told.  The postman, Christen Lerum, who carried the mail between Norfolk to Niobrara happened to stop overnight when the Roseville village board was in session.  The old discussion was in progress and Lerum, who had recently lived at Plainview, Minnesota, suggested, "Why don't you call it Plainview, and be done with it?"  The board was so tired of the endless controversy that the name was unanimously adopted.

Another version of the naming as told by Miss Anna Dowling, daughter of Thomas Buckley, an early settler, was that a group of early settlers composed of William Alexander, George Burnham, James Gould, William Chilvers and Richard Dowling went with an ox team to Verdigre creek, near Royal, for a load of oak wood to burn.  On the return trip they became lost as there were no roads, while discussing which would be the best way to turn, one of the group said,  "Why, there's the town in plain view!”—and so called the town "Plainview".

The first settler at Plainview was William B. Chilvers. He was a native of England and took a preemption claim on June 1, 1871, and in 1874 took up a homestead near Plainview.

 

 

50
      
He put up a frame house in April, 1872, which was the first of its kind in this part of the state.  The first sales of groceries in the town of Plainview were made from the Chilvers sitting room where the C. W. Smith home now stands (1940).  This continued to be the town grocery center until 1879 when M. R. Mewis built the first store.

Plainview is located on the original farms of Burnham, Chilvers, Gould, Holley and Box.

About the 10th of June, 1871, other settlers came, among them, Fred Dedlow and three sons, Henry Blank, John C. Starr, Albert and Charles Rose, Bailey Schoonover, Jarvis Dean and Thomas Hawkins.  In the spring of 1872 came James Gould, Daniel Dowling and George Burnham.  Later in the fall they were followed by Henry Holley, Silas Hutchins, John Sebring and William Alexander.

The first house built was a sod house in the fall of 1871 by Starr, Rose, Schoonover and Dean, the settlers living mean while in wagons and tents.

The first school organized near Plainview was District four organized in 1872.  It was built of sod.  Peter Van Fleet was the first teacher.  The present fine school in Plainview city had its beginning as a small rural school, about two miles northwest of its present location.  In 1873, William Alexander built the city school, after the first building had been moved to town.  In 1885 bonds totaling $3,250.00 were voted for a new school house.

Margaret Alexander, daughter of the builder, was the first teacher.  Miss Jennie Starr was the second teacher after Miss Alexander's marriage to Chris Lerum on November 5, 1874.

In 1890 the official census taken in Plainview gave the population as 375.

The first preaching services were held in the little sod schoolhouse on the Al. Rose farm about one mile south and one mile east of Plainview, known as District four.  Rev. Van Fleet, Methodist minister, was the preacher.  He was also the first school teacher in this part of the county.

 

 

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The first church built in Plainview was the Baptist church built in 1883. Rev. 0. S. Hulbert, the mainspring in the movement, mortgaged his farm for $500.00 to help build the church.  (He later lost the farm.) Rev. Hulbert was one of the carpenters, William B. Chilvers donated the ground.  Later the church was sold to satisfy a debt and part of the building is in the Stark Valley Methodist Church.  The bell, of a very mellow tone, hangs in the belfry of the present Methodist Church in Plainview.

In 1937 the oldest tree in the community of Plainview was on the corner of the Heman Taylor farm. It was planted by Thomas Hawkins and John Starr and brought from Green Island, near Hartington, Nebraska.

One of the first freighters was Isaac Peed who traveled from Bazille Mills to the Black Hills, 1879 to 1884.

The first hotel was built in 1880 by John Loutzenheiser and was called the Plainview House.

In 1884 the first bank was organized.  It was called the Bank of Plainview.  Other first events in Plainview which are of interest include the first class to graduate from the high school in 1893, numbering three.  Mrs. Ellen Lerum-Nye, Ella Peed-Jones and Jessie Holley as its members.

The first telephone was installed by John Eng in 1900; the first Normal school was built in Plainview in 1894, later abandoned.  The city water works were built in 1904 and a fire department organized; electric lights were installed in 1912;  Carnegie Library was built in 1916 and the Community band was organized in 1922.

On October 23, 1920, the sons and daughters of the late Mr. and Mrs. William B. Chilvers donated one block of ground, part of the original Chilvers homestead, to the city of Plainview for a park and which is known as "Chilvers Park.'

Foster

          Many of the present generation do not know that the

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present little town of Foster located northwest of Pierce was originally called Morehouse.

One of the first settlers there was a railroad man, who filed on a timber claim.  His name was Morehouse and so the little settlement, which consisted of a section house, water tank and railroad platform bore his name.

A neighboring claim was filed on by George Foster and Caroline Foster, his wife, who also came to make this settlement their home.

Records in the courthouse contain a deed dated December 30, 1885, whereby George and Caroline Foster convey all right and title to the land in the town of Foster.

George Foster established the first feed store, D. G. Ritzer, a grocery store; a Mr. Terry, a drug store; and Mr. Trulove, a blacksmith shop.

On February 10, 1886, the first school known as District 30, was organized and George Foster was the first director.  The first teacher was Mrs. John Beatty.  There were twenty-two pupils enrolled, and Mrs. Beatty took her baby, Josie, to school and with one foot rocked the cradle while she taught her classes.

Among the names of families prominent at that time were those of Staley, Rocks, Henry and Welcome Davidson, Heath, L. P. Cox, Bruce, Holmes, Taylors, Ristow, Doyles, Ropers, Scotts, Herman Kieckhafer, Beals, George Eichberger, S. J. Plymesser and Story.

Bert Staley owned the first car in Foster, a White Steamer.  He had to generate it to start it.  It proved quite a sensation.  Mr. Staley was a storekeeper in 1906.

 

Osmond

Osmond, in the northern part of Pierce County, was the fourth village in the county to be organized.  The articles of incorporation were dated December 19, 1890.

          In 1890 a party of three civil engineers, one of whom was

 

 

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James Busfield, representing the Pacific Shortline Townsite Company of Sioux City, with Frank Dorsey, as manager, laid out the new town.

          Osmond was named by Mr. Donald McLean, president of the Pacific Short Line, after some good friends he had in the east. He liked the looks of the country and as there was no town in the United States by that name.  Mr. James Busfield, still living at Edmonds, Washington, was sent to Osmond to open the first telegraph office.  For an office he leaned a box car grain door against the new depot that was about half done. He slept in a car of depot lumber.

Before the town was laid out, quite a settlement had grown up in that vicinity.  Abe Kissinger settled there in 1886, and operated the first dray line, hauling sand and cement for many of the early buildings.  After the town was organized he was the first marshal.  John W. Ollrey built the first building known as the Osmond Hotel, in 1889, hauling his own lumber and materials from Randolph, and cutting the cornstalks down in order to lay the foundation.

The depot and section house were built in 1890 with John Wilson as the first section foreman and Frank Rezignau, the first agent.

Hans Petersen sold the eighty acres where he lived to the company who also bought from C. A. Reimers of Pierce, the one-half section north of the Petersen place, where the town of Osmond now stands.

The country was an open rolling prairie with only a few houses in sight. Among those recalled by early settlers was the George McCrady home and the Henry Sattler house on the Sattler Horse Ranch which was later acquired by William Butterfield of Norfolk, and known as the "Butterfield Ranch."

Ren and Warren Matteson, brothers, were early builders in Osmond and were also the first bankers.

The first postmaster was Billy Littell.  Early business men were Mr. Glasson, first general store; J. H. Stewart, land office; Henry Herbis, saloon; L. S. Tripp of Pierce, blacksmith shop; H. J. Billerbeck, hardware store; Dr. R. J. Chrys-

 

 

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tal, drug store; E. B. Rodgers, druggist; John Ballentine, lumber dealer; H. C. Sattler, grain dealer; Bob Nance, hotel man; Art Brown, first and only negro, was the barber.

  The first school was built in 1889 and stood near the bridge in the southwest part of town with D. J. Rockwell as the first director.

       The first church was Methodist.

 

McLean

Delving into the early day history of Pierce County brings to light the difficulties which were encountered when it came to naming the new towns.  McLean was no exception to the rule.  In fact, it was known by three names in less than a year's time.

The town was platted in 1898, and was first called Marrowville, but another group wasn't satisfied with that name, so it was changed to Shannon, and that didn't meet with the approval of the first faction.

Finally a compromise was made and the name McLean was chosen.  The section foreman who built the railroad siding was named McLean.

The first school of District 43 was located at South West corner of South East of Section 17, but in early 1900 it was moved to present location of school in McLean.  The first building was a frame building, which was sold and moved to the John Horn farm, two miles south of McLean, and is part of dwelling house in use.

District 43 was organized February 25, 1889, with Josephine Rhodes as the first director.

Church services were in the schoolhouse until 1912.  When Rev. Wingett was pastor, the present Methodist church was built.

The first store was a grocery and dry goods store, operated later by a man named Moats.  A short time later it was bought

 

 

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by Tomlinson and then another grocery store started and operated for years by Frank Whitney.

 

The first hardware and implement store was owned by McConnell and Sweet and Mr. McConnell operated a small banking business as a side line.  Henry Maas operated the first saloon.  Emil Boehler was manager of Edward Bradford Lumber Co., who put in the first stock of lumber.

C. O. Shannon built the first grain elevator and Schuyler Fox built the hotel at McLean.

Breslau

The little town of Breslau lying on Highway twenty between Plainview and Osmond was organized in 1908, and the first building was put up by Frank Hansen.  He was later appointed the first postmaster on May 4, 1911.

The town was named by the railroad company, who handled the grain shipped from the elevator built by Blunkison Brothers in 1906 and 1907.

The Breslau State Bank was organized in 1912.

Breslau school, District 77, was organized November 3, 1910, with Joseph Scharfen as first director, with Miss Jennie Starr of Plainview as the teacher.  Henry Huwaldt was a member of the first school board.

 

 

A Willow Witch Locates Water

 

The early homesteaders tried as much as possible to have either a river, creek, lake or a marsh on their homesteads so that they would be sure of a supply of water for their families and livestock.  As soon as possible a well was dug, about three feet square.  A square, wooden curbing was made out of two-inch boards with a two by four on the corners. As the well was

 

 

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dug the curbing was pushed down to prevent a cave-in, and dug as deep as possible to increase the supply of water.  Dirt was pulled up with pails. Wells were from sixteen to eighteen feet deep.

A two-by-four was fastened on either side of the curbing with a wheel and rope and a couple of wooden buckets. When one bucket was pulled up with water it let the other bucket down for more water. At one time a chain pump was also in use.  Water in Pierce County was very good.

Sometimes it was difficult to locate a water vein.  A pioneer method of locating these was with a "willow witch".  Not everyone could get a "willow witch" to respond.  The only requirement was a willow cut with a fork on one end and with this rod held between the thumbs the well seeker walked around until the willow turned in his hands and pointed downward.

Frank Robinson, according to Dan M. Hatch, put down the first well in Pierce County on the Hatch farm in Blaine precinct.  Another early well was on the homestead of Bernard Riley, southeast of Pierce, and sixty-two years later was still in use.

          In places water was found at a few feet but north of town a well was driven three hundred fifteen feet before water was struck and it rose to two hundred feet in the well.

Chief Standing Bear of the Ponca tribe often visited with the settlers and was a kind man.  He told some of the early settlers, one of whom was William Lierman who lived southeast of Pierce, that he saw the time when all the creeks and rivers were dry, including the Northfork and Elkhorn, and all the grass dried up.  He said the only place they could get water for themselves and their ponies when they traveled through Pierce County was a spring of the farm of August Schwichtenberg which is still there. (1940)

He also remembered seeing the whole bottom full of water, the grass lush and green.  Drouths are not uncommon in this part of the state.

 

 

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Shelter, Fuel and Food First Problems

Shelter and fuel and food were the first problems to be solved by the early settler, and before any crops could be planted the prairie sod had to be broken up.  Long roots which had lain for years formed a hard mat.

The first corn planted was put in little holes chopped out by hand with a hoe.  It was a hard process but large fields were planted in this manner. Plows drawn by oxen were used to break the sod.

Spring wheat, called Blue stem, grew very well in this soil, and would harvest thirty to thirty-five bushels per acre.  Oats and rye were also planted, and as more ground was broken, cane, which furnished sorghum, was raised.

While the food of the early pioneer was coarse, it was healthful. Potatoes, beans, beets, cabbage and other vegetables were grown, successfully.  Corn was dried for winter use, sauerkraut was made, pickles were salted down in barrels.  Every family had chickens or a cow or two, so the table was supplied with eggs and milk.  Often the thrifty housewife would sell the cream and butter while the family used homemade lard as a spread.

Coffee was expensive so wheat, rye or barley was roasted in the oven and coffee essence, chicory or coffee extract added to give it a darker color.

WILD FRUIT, AN EARLY DAY LUXURY

Sand cherries, wild strawberries and wild plums provided an abundance of fruit which was put up for winter use using sorghum made from the cane, in place of sugar cane, in place of sugar which was hard to obtain.  Homemade presses were used to extract the syrup from the cane stalks and neighbors would gather to cook huge kettles over an open fire and incidentally enjoy the social visit.

Wild game was plentiful and the streams were stocked with fish, so an abundance of meat was always available.  An item

 

 

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in a newspaper account in 1885 tells of the large pickerel taken from the Northfork.  Some weighed from nine to twelve pounds and after being drawn they were placed in salt brine and smoked with head, scales and fins left on them.

Venison and rabbits were also often served on the settler's table.  Deer was plentiful for many years.

The thrifty, hard-working settler had indeed found a land of plenty.

BOHEMIANS RAISE POPPY SEED

 

A rather unusual crop raised in later years on a small scale, mostly by the Bohemian families, is that of poppy seed, delicacy used by them in rolls, pies, etc.  Some of the seed is sold, but most of it is raised for home use or sent to relatives who live in climates not suited for its production.  The fields of poppies when in full bloom are a beautiful sight and as much as a bushel of this tiny seed is harvested by one family.

CLOSEST MARKET AT WISNER

 

The closest market for the early settler was Wisner, a forty-five mile journey accomplished in three days time. Farm products could be exchanged there for the necessities of life. A load of wheat, deducting the expenses of the trip, would net the owner but a few dollars. Flour at times cost as high as $8.00 for a fifty-pound sack.

 

Fuel Problems of Settlers

Nothing is more terrible during the settlement of a new country than severe winters.  Land speculators would carry back reports to eastern states of the fertile land and mild winters in Nebraska.  The unwary settler would come all unprepared for the bitter cold and many died from exposure.

During the winter of 1875 there were thirty-seven severe

 

 

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storms, some lasting three and four days.  After winter once set in there was no way of getting a supply of wood, and to conserve fuel early settlers often spent the greater part of the day in bed to keep warm.

Very little timber was to be found in Pierce County and the late summer and early fall would find the men in the family starting out for Bazille Mills, the Niobrara river and sometimes to the Missouri river with ox-team and wagon to gather the winter's fuel.  The trip required three days, one day on the road, a day to cut and load the trees, and another day for the journey home.

Children in the family were sent out to bring in cow and buffalo chips from the prairie and to stack them near the house. Twisted hay and prairie grass was another fuel supply which all the family would help in gathering.

As the prairie grasses were taller than an average person, and very tough, it was no easy task to cut it. While still green it was twisted in log-shaped chunks and piled up in much the same way as we see wood stacked today.  Cut and roughened hands from the sharp grass was the price paid for the laying in of this fuel supply.

 

Wild Game and Hunting

Up to 1895 there were practically no game laws.  Though game and fish furnished food for the pioneers, much game was shot for the sport of it.

Thousands of birds were left on the prairie after being killed.  The prairie chicken was a doomed bird as soon as the white man entered the country.  The buffalo, elk, deer, antelope, wild turkey and panther went first.  As soon as the plow began to turn the sod the prairie chicken commenced to decrease.  The prairie chicken was a prairie grass bird and lived only on the prairie, never in the woods.  Pierce County was undoubtedly the best chicken country in the nation from 1870 to 1890.

 

 

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Prairie chickens were so plentiful and so savage in the early days that on August 1, 1890 the Pierce County Leader warned the townspeople not to venture out of town without a dog and a shot gun, and a boy to manage the team in case of a sudden attack by these blood-thirsty fowls.

Deer were often in herds of twenty-five or more.  One pioneer tells of meeting a herd and to escape a large buck he climbed a tree.

HUNTERS LOAD OWN SHELLS

Some of the guns were ten-bore with hammers, an ounce and a quarter of shot with nearly four drams of powder were used and the hunter loaded the shells himself.

The type of guns used most by pioneers were what they called a muzzle-loader.  The gun powder was put into the muzzle of the gun, then a wad of paper was placed on top of it and with a rod was pushed in tightly. A cap, which they purchased in boxes of one hundred each for ten cents was placed on the hammer of the gun. When they shot it would ignite the powder and cause the explosion.

It has often been questioned how it was possible for pioneers to shoot fourteen, sixteen or even twenty ducks with one shot.  In the first place ducks, geese and other game were very plentiful.  In the spring often the whole valley would be flooded; ducks and geese, perhaps millions, could be seen everywhere.  This type of gun spread the shot more than the modern type, so when a hunter fired into a flock of birds he killed as high

as twenty with one shot.

On Easter Sunday, April 13, 1873, a severe snow storm hit Pierce County, and soon after the weather became so very mild that the snow melted rapidly and the whole bottom near Pierce, Foster and Hadar was under water.  Ducks and geese covered the water; pioneers said, they were probably millions.

Along the banks of the Northfork river mink and muskrat were plentiful.  Herman Magdanz caught two wild cats and J. F. Kolterman caught a lynx.  Though these animals were not numerous they were very treacherous.

 

 

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DEER SUPPLIES FAMILIES' MEAT

 

It was not unusual to see herds of deer, antelope and elk during the winter of 1880 and 1881.  Herman Magdanz and J. F. Kolterman, young sons of pioneer homesteaders a couple miles north of Pierce spied two deer.  They had no guns but their hunting dogs were with them.  As the snow was three or four feet deep on the level and as there was a crust on top, it held them up.  They got their dogs to take after the deer and when they began charging the deer broke through the snow and after a long fight the dogs killed both deer, which furnished the meat supply for the Magdanz and Kolterman families that winter.

FISH WERE PLENTIFUL

 

Fish were very plentiful in the Northfork river and other creeks.  Pickerel and suckers were so numerous that if persons were wading through the creek they had to be careful lest they would step on them.  In size pickerel were from three to five feet long and suckers about two feet or shorter.

Pioneers did not fish with a hook and line, for in those days fishing was not thought of as a sport but as a matter of sustenance.  They made nets and in a couple hours would have enough fish to fill a wagon box.

Mrs. Alvina Luebke told of her father, August Kolterman, catching a pickerel in 1880 that was so large after it was cleaned and cut in pieces it filled a twenty gallon cider barrel.

In summer the surplus fish were kept in a fish box or a large water tank and used as needed. The fish box was homemade, about the size of a row boat, with a hinged lid and drilled with holes on all sides so the water and food could flow through to feed the fish.  It floated in the water and was anchored by a log chain fastened to a piling on the bank of the river. In winter fish were caught by dropping the net through a hole in the ice about fourteen feet long and eighteen inches wide.

 

 

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DISPOSAL OF FURS AND HIDES

 

Often the pelts of wild animals were thrown away or nailed up in their cabins to keep out the cold during the winter, then discarded in the spring.  Sometimes they were sold.  Muskrat kittens brought three cents, old ones, five cents; and Swift Fox, about the size of a jack rabbit sold for twenty-five cents.  Mink also sold for twenty-five cents.  Buyers traveled about the country and bought them.  Frederick Steinkraus was a fur buyer.

A few pioneers tanned hides and made foot sacks, with wool on the inside. They were worn when they made long drives in the winter.

Herman Magdanz caught a lynx cat which he sold for fifty cents to Byron Woolverton, an early day real estate dealer who had it mounted and placed it on his office desk.

 

Warmth Essential in Clothing

 

Women wore their hair long, braided and twisted into a knot at the back of their head or on top.  Those who wanted curls used either a curling iron that was heated by putting it in the lamp chimney of a kerosene lamp or using paper to wad it up at night.  The only hair cutting done in that early day was bangs, which reached almost to the eye brows, these were either left straight or curled; balance of the hair was twisted or braided back or on top of the head.  For dress-up, a little satin bow was pinned in the hair.  For a time it was fashionable to wear hats in the hair, making the heads almost the proportion of a bushel basket.  The hat sat on top of the head with great feather plumage or birds or flowers, and was securely fastened to the hair with hat pins, and often women wore heavy veils.

During the cold weather women wore hoods and fascinators. These were crocheted or knitted out of wool yarns.  Fascinators were of various sizes, some oblong, others were round, with vari-colored borders.

 

 

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Dresses were made with basque waists, with stays that made them fit snug and smooth, great full skirts, lined, bottom bound with a brush braid to prevent them from wearing out from touching the floor.  Some wore bustles, some had trains with crinoline around the bottom and some wore hoop skirts.  Several petticoats with endless ruffles were worn, besides long underwear, wool or cotton hose.

Coats had leg-o-mutton sleeves, various lengths, and shoes were high top, button or lace, with pointed toes.  Babies wore long dresses that almost touched the floor when a mother held them and petticoats of equal length, all edged with lace and embroidery.

Women wore night socks, night jackets and a night cap when retiring.

Men wore boots, Scotch caps, plug hats and the like.  Boys wore knee pants, and the more stylish ones wore colored vests.  In the winter men wore felt boots with overshoes.

Men wore full beards which made them look old enough to retire at forty, and the oldest brother, to be very dapper, wore a pointed mustache.

Flax was grown and wool from sheep was carded and spun and on hand looms was woven into cloth.  The yarn was dyed to desired shades, and mittens, sox and stockings were made by the father and mother.  Many men were then as adept in knitting and weaving cloth as the women.

 

Traveling Peddlers Eagerly Awaited

In pioneer days peddlers would travel through the country, some with horse and buggy, while others would walk with valises or packs on their backs and sell dry goods, trinkets and other articles.  These articles were purchased by the settlers, as distances to towns were great.

Many pioneer mothers sewed garments from these materials for her family.  To make a pair of pants for a man or boy

 

 

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they were required to lay down on the floor and the material was cut out around them.

In the year 1887 John Just, a veteran tailor of Norfolk came to Pierce County with his sewing machine and went to the homes of settlers where he made suits for the whole family and relatives from materials purchased from these traveling peddlers.

Later he opened up a tailor shop in Pierce where he remained until 1896.

 

Prairie Fires Threatened Homesteaders

Originally all of Pierce County was one large field of waving grass, taller than a man, and called prairie grass.  Few trees could be found and then only along creeks or rivers or in rain-washed ravines.  After the killing frosts of autumn and before the fall rains or early snows, this dry grass was a constant source of danger to the occasional homesteader and the small towns or settlements.

Carelessness on the part of the Indian hunters, sparks from a train, or sometimes the homesteaders themselves, would often start a prairie fire.  Once started, it burned until rain fell or until a river or fire guard halted its progress.

Fireguards were made by plowing up two parallel strips of sod with a space of from fifty to two hundred feet, between which the grass was then burned off. This bare place would stop most fires, unless there was a very strong wind.

Head fires were often started by burning large areas ahead of the fire, and would often stop a prairie fire.  Great excitement always prevailed when clouds of smoke on the horizon gave the warning, and men, women and children would rush to fight the fire armed with wet gunny sacks, old brooms, shovels, pitch forks, or anything available.

Prairie fires could be seen for miles across the level fields, and were a grand and fearsome sight at night.  Wild animals

 

 

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were helpless victims and prairie chickens, rabbits and ground squirrels would run ahead until exhausted and were caught by the flames.

Due to an exceptionally rank growth of grass and weeds the prairie fires in 1878 were the most destructive in the history of the county, and newspaper comments at that time stated: "Prairie fires around us are getting altogether too numerous for peace of mind."  Pierce at that time was saved by the quick work of the "broom brigade" who, the account stated, battled valiantly to subdue the flames.

The following year, 1879, a prairie fire destroyed everything on the James Gould homestead near Plainview, except the house which was saved.

 

Storms, Snow, Wind and Hail

January 12, 1888, is the date of the great blizzard which has gone down in history as the "School Children's Storm."  Over the greater part of Nebraska it started after one o'clock and became more intense by four o'clock when the children were starting home from school.

The day was so mild that men went about in their shirt sleeves.  The air was soft and hazy like Indian summer.  Suddenly the wind changed to the north, carrying snowflakes which fast increased to a thick blinding snow.  Intense cold and darkness added to the discomfort.

Many stories of heroism are recorded on the part of the school teachers, trapped with their pupils, without food and fuel, miles from their homes.

One of these was Miss Louise Royce, a school teacher in District thirty-two, near Plainview.  Six of her nine pupils went home for dinner at noon and when the storm came up did not return.  As the fuel supply was low Miss Royce thought it best to take the children to her boarding place, the Peter Hansen home, two hundred yards north of the school.

 

 

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TEACHER AND PUPILS GET LOST

 

They became lost and rather than wander aimlessly in the bitter cold they laid down huddled close together to keep warm.  During the night the two little boys, Peter Poggensee and Otto Rosburg died, while little Hattie Rosburg died as the day dawned.  With the morning Miss Royce crawled to the nearest house, a quarter of a mile away.  Her legs and feet were so frozen that they were amputated.

Other pupils who spent the night in a school house were Isaac Francis and Harvey Hatch.  A. 0. Schramm was a pupil in the Birch school where Mrs. George Hammond was the teacher.  He recalls that Adolph Synovec, one of the larger boys carried in fifteen buckets of coal before a Mr. Tupper got to the schoolhouse and took them all to the Frank Birch homestead.

FATHER AND SON FREEZE TO DEATH

 

The blizzard brought tragedy to the little home of Henry Kieckhaefer, located twelve miles northwest of Pierce, who had come to Pierce County from Germany in 1881.  At the first warning of the storm the older Kieckhaefer and fourteen year old Robert started out to get the cattle home.  An older son, Herman, who had gone in a different direction made his way with difficulty to the little home, where, with his mother and one sister, they anxiously waited for the return of the father and Robert.  When the storm had abated it was Herman's sad duty to be the first to touch their lifeless forms frozen stark and stiff on the open prairie.  They were found about two miles from their home three days later by a neighbor, William Holmes.

          The cold following the blizzard was intense.  Livestock were found frozen in a standing position on the prairie.  Great mountains of snow covered sheds, livestock and human beings.

 

 

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HAIL STONES OF IMMENSE SIZE

 

On September 21, 1892, occurred one of the worst hail storms ever recorded in this county.  The county fair was in progress and many going to and from the grounds sought refuge in the Alden grove north of the fair grounds, but even the heavy branches could not protect their buggy tops which were riddled.  Horses became unmanageable and were unhitched and allowed to find their way home.  Roofs on all buildings were damaged.

About four o'clock that memorable day black clouds began to gather and in a short time the heavens opened and poured down a volley of huge hail stones, some weighing as much as nine ounces.  One stone which was measured two hours after it fell was thirteen and a half inches around and many were of a flat shape such as would be made by two saucers placed together.  The hail storm lasted about a half hour after which the sun came out bright and warm.

On Friday evening, February 7, 1936, a severe blizzard struck Pierce County, accompanied by a strong wind and subzero temperatures.  The heavy snow which fell caused highways to be drifted shut.  Autoists were rescued from their cars which were left in the drifts, farms and towns were snowbound and trains could not move.  Business was paralyzed.

Before the territory could recover another storm descended on Thursday evening, February 13.

The blizzard climaxed a period of thirty-eight days from January fifteen to February twenty-one, with an average temperature of eight below zero, accompanied by forty inches of snow.  A low temperature of thirty below zero was recorded.

This blizzard did not cause the loss of life as in earlier storms.  Credit was given for the part the radio played in broadcasting warning of the storm.

 

Easter Blizzard

The Easter blizzard which occurred on April 13, 1873, lasted three days.  It was not cold, barely freezing, but several

 

 

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hundred cattle died, smothered in the heavy snow.  The thaw was so rapid that the bottom lands were flooded and millions of ducks and geese on their way north stopped at the sight of so much water and stayed over night.

 

Tornado

One of the worst storms recorded in Pierce County history was the tornado which entered the north part of the county between Wausa and McLean, on Friday, June 18, 1937.

About five-thirty o’clock in the afternoon the sky darkened and a large funnel-shaped cloud struck on the Martin Bloomquist farm and traveled southeast.  A strip about five miles long and half a mile wide was laid bare with modern farm homes wrecked and trees and crops uprooted. The Elmer Peterson, William Rohlf, Ernest Strathman, William Munson, Fred Kraemer and the Bloomquist farm were hardest hit.

A beautiful ash grove on the William Rohlf farm planted in 1890 by William B. Chilvers was ruined beyond recognition in a few short minutes.

It was a miracle that no lives were lost but many narrow escapes recorded.  Livestock on the farms did not fare so well.  Horses, cattle, pigs and chickens were to be seen after the storm lying dead or injured.  Heavy farm machinery was twisted and broken into a mass of wreckage and entangled in tree stumps that had once been beautiful groves.  A heavy rain followed the storm.  Many other farms in this area suffered smaller losses than the six mentioned.

Damage was estimated at $150,000.00.  The Red Cross was early on the scene and spent $1,600.00 in helping reestablish the farm families.  The CCC camp at Hartington sent over one hundred fifty youths to aid in cleaning up the litter from the fields and yards.

 

 

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Grasshoppers Deadly Menace

Grasshoppers were one of the worst enemies the homesteaders had.  During dry years they were much worse.  They assembled in large flocks and flew through the air.  At times there were so many they obstructed the sun from view.  They would light on a certain field and strip the corn and grain entirely, leaving only the bare stalk.  They made a peculiar noise with their wings as they flew, sounding something like an approaching storm.

During the years of 1874, 1875, and 1876 the grasshoppers were very bad and again in 1879.  It was said these grasshoppers were natives of the Rocky Mountain plains.  They were from three to five inches in length and as thick as a man's thumb.

Lewis Hall said the worst blizzard he ever saw was in the early 80's, a blizzard of grasshoppers that literally laid the fields of grain and growing corn bare.  Like a blizzard they came by the millions, darkening the sky in a moment and swooped down on the grain fields, which were ready to harvest.  They did not eat the wheat, but ate off the grain stalks, so that the grain fell on the ground and was lost.  After finishing their work of destruction they took flight again in the air and disappeared.  That fall and winter many families lived on rye bread.

Futile efforts were made to save some of the crop from the grasshoppers by laying cloth and throwing sticks and hay over them.  The corn was eaten down to the ground, and small trees were bent over by the weight of the pests when they would alight.

Rattlesnakes Hide In Grain

In early days pioneers had to be mindful of snakes, especially rattlesnakes.  One pioneer, Mrs. William Luebke, tells

 

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of her parents, Mr.and Mrs. August Kolterman, harvesting in 1875.  After cutting the grain with the mower the loose grain was tied in bundles with a few strands of the grain.  This had to be done early in the morning while the dew was on the grain or at night so the strands would be pliable and not crack or split when tied.  Using a hand made, red, cedar-wood rake her father would turn the grain over before tying to make sure no snakes were beneath.

At one place the grain was higher and as he turned it there lay a rattlesnake coiled.  It was almost the size of a wash tub and its head as large as a young calf.  He hurriedly ran home for a pitch fork while his wife stayed at a safe distance to watch it.  When the snake sensed it was going to be disturbed it raised its head into the air, mouth wide open, rattlers buzzing.

Her father made a mud ball out of the damp soil and threw it into its gaping jaws which caused it to lower its head when he stabbed it with the pitch fork.

Settlers having cellars had to use precaution as rattlesnakes would crawl under their houses and into their cellars. Garter and bull snakes were also very numerous, though not dangerous.  After prairie fires and in the spring snakes were very numerous.

 

Farm Machinery

The first piece of machinery that was essential on the prairies was the breaking plow. It was a cumbersome affair and was drawn by oxen.  It laid the sod back in very even rows, however probably more due to the compactness of the sod entertwined by roots grown unmolested for centuries, the sod often stayed in one piece for almost forty rods. It was very heavy to pull and took two oxen.

Usually the pioneer homesteaders broke about ten or fifteen acres. No other machinery was needed except the plow because seeding and planting and hoeing was all done by hand as well as the harvesting.  Grains were cut with a cradle, which

 

 

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was rather like a present day scythe.  The pioneers were masters in the use of a cradle, and laid the swathes as even as modern machinery, and flopping the grain to one side making it easy to tie.

When a plow lay needed sharpening, the pioneer fastened rope around the lay, placed it on a stick over his shoulder and started to walk to the nearest blacksmith at Wisner, Columbus, and later, Norfolk.

 

REAPERS WERE INVENTED

Later reapers were invented, similar in appearance to present day mowers though more cumbersome.  They would cut the grain, and with a foot lever the driver would drop it when he thought it was enough for a bundle.  A hospel pushed the grain off and then it was tied by hand, using some of the straw to tie the bundles as binder twine had not come into being.  Those tying the grain had to have it done before the reaper came around with the next swath.

The next implement for harvesting grain was a binder.  It had a platform on which two men stood who tied the grain as it was cut.  This was not very successful however as they could not keep up with the cutting.  Another binder was made which tied the grain with wire, but this was not satisfactory as it was difficult to thresh grain with the wire wrapping.

The first reapers were like a grass mower, and sticks behind the sickle bar, dropped ever so often, but grain all had to be bound before the reaper came around the field.  They were called "droppers."  Two horses could pull them easily.  Then the reaper had a rake with a chain which threw the grain back, though it did not tie it but was out of the way of the next swath.

One of the heaviest yields of small grain was had in 1895.  Wheat went from thirty to thirty-five bushels per acre, oats seventy-five bushels.  Rye grew taller than a man and the corn crop was large but due to early frost did not mature as it should have.  Wheat was hauled to Wisner and the farmers received

 

 

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twenty-five cents per bushel and twenty cents for corn. In some years corn was as low as six and eight cents per bushel.

To harvest the corn crops, no wagons were used at picking time, but the pickers would throw the corn on piles perhaps about fifteen or twenty feet apart and after the corn was all picked they went through the field with wagons and picked up the corn. No silk or husk was allowed to remain on the ear.

Sickness and Death

Although doctors were few and far between in the early period, sickness was not lessened nor were children prevented from being born.

Many pioneers were the victims of terrible diseases such as consumption, diphtheria, small pox, scarlet fever, croup, whooping cough, etc.

Home remedies were used, such as goose grease, skunk oil, asafetida, sulphur and molasses, sassafras tea, camella tea and for diptheria the throat was swabbed with turpentine.

Many of the pioneer mothers acted as nurse and doctor during illness and were present at the birth of children.

If the remedies failed and death claimed the victim it was the custom that the nurse and neighbors took charge of the body and often the coffin was quickly made.  The remains were placed on a spring buggy or wagon and pall bearers were bundled together in the bottom of some cold wagon box, the bottom being covered with hay or straw, the mourners were covered likewise and the procession proceeded on a journey of many miles, a journey that might take hours.

 

 

Blacksmith Is First Dentist

 

It isn't everyone that has had the painful pleasure of having their teeth extracted by a blacksmith, but it seems as if there

 

 

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was a time and place for every kind of profession some fifty years ago.

       The late William Luebke was a blacksmith in Pierce in 1888 and later was also the town's dentist.  The tools which he used for this profession were brought over from the old country, Germany, in 1888.  Mr. Luebke made the instruments after he decided to come to the United States and patterned them after those used by his "Boss" who extracted teeth in Germany.

Early dental tools used by William Luebke, blacksmith, in 1888

 

Whenever a patient came to town complaining about a toothache, Mr. Luebke would have them sit down anywhere, many a time they sat on an old woodpile behind the shop, and one, two, three, the tooth would be out.  He never used medicine, but in later years he would place a needle in some unknown antiseptic, and run the needles around the tooth, touching the gum.  Mr. Luebke was assisted by his wife—she would place the palms of her hands on the patient's ears so that the pain would not be so great.  Mr. and Mrs. Luebke were the parents of twelve children and they all had teeth extracted by their father.

Charles Poellot, now local blacksmith, apprenticed with Mr. Luebke and he recalls distinctly how Mr. Luebke would

 

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pull the teeth.  He says that Dr. Luebke would make no charge for his services unless however someone would absolutely urge him to make a price, and then it would be fifty cents.

 

Early Settlers Plant Trees

Much of the timber in Pierce County grew from saplings gathered along the Missouri or Niobrara river.  Although trees grew very rapidly, the devastating prairie fires which each autumn swept the prairies ruined the trees.  It was only after the settlers came, plowed fire guards and otherwise protected them that they became numerous.

Wild plums grew in abundance along the creeks and ravines and furnished the early settlers with their only fruit.

In about 1880 many settlers took tree claims, the stipulation was they must plant ten acres of trees on every homestead and soon groves sprang up all over the county.

In pioneer days many tree claims dotted the country side.  In May 1878 Fred Dedlow said that he expected to see 250,000 trees planted in the Plainview vicinity alone.  No doubt more than that number was reached as William B. Chilvers planted 25,000 trees on his place in Plainview and a Mr. Millet set out 63,000 trees, also near Plainview.  In April 1, 1878, Carl Griebenow set out an orchard of cherry and apple trees on his farm north of Pierce.  Jake Kollmar living in Blaine precinct planted 40,000 trees on two tree claims.

Today, sons of these early settlers are vitally interested in the government reforestation program.  In 1938 and 1939 farmers cooperated with the prairie states forestry service in planting 170 1/2 miles of shelterbelt, this in addition to the many seedlings bought at a penny each from the state agricultural division.

 

 

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The Livery Barns

 

Livery barns, one of the chief business enterprises of a town in the early days, has ceased to exist due to modern transportation.

Livery barns were usually the largest buildings in the town with high fronts on which in bold letters was painted "Livery Barns".  They had horse-stalls and huge hay lofts, a large alley way and a lean-to in which wagons could be driven in and buggies stored.

There was a wide center entrance, with wide rolling doors in which a team and wagon could be driven to be unhitched.  On one side were the grain bins and on the other the office with a stove, benches, racks on which fur robes were hung and a box of sawdust under the heating stove which was used as a cuspidor.  Several kerosene lanterns hung here. Many “yarns” were told in these places where farmers stopped to have their horses fed and rested while they attended to their business and made purchases of groceries, had flour ground, etc., as many came great distances over muddy, frozen or snow covered roads or trails.

Land agents or land-seekers who came in on almost every train hired livery rigs to drive around the country to either sell or buy land. Townspeople hired livery rigs to go buggy riding or visit friends in the country or neighboring towns.  The various buggies were phaeton, surreys, top buggies, and open buggies.

 

FLAT IRONS USED FOR FOOT WARMERS

It was not unusual to see flat irons on the stove which farmers used as foot warmers on the return trip home, or the old iron teakettle filled with boiling water on the stove to fill the jug which also served as a foot warmer in frigid weather.

Back of the barn was the feed lot with a hay stack surrounded with a feed manger where horses that were not in use were fed.

 

 

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Many a joke was pulled in the "Livery Barn" days.  One that caused not a small amount of fun was at Hall's Livery stable.  George Goff was the official spieler and it went something like this: “We have on exhibition in this stable an unusual curiosity.  It's a sight to behold, people, a sight to behold.  You'll never forget seeing this remarkable animal.  It's a horse —a real American horse—with its head where its tail should be, its tail where its head should be."  The crowd of fifty or more were asked to go in and see the curiosity.  Admission was free.  Much to the chagrin of the crowd, they found a big bay mare munching hay as it stood in reverse in the stall, with its tail draped over the manger and its head at the rear of the stall.  Many jokes were originated in these popular places in that early day.  They created their own amusements and had fun.

The cost of hiring a rig to drive into the country was $1.50 without the driver and $2.00 with the driver.  To keep a horse in the barn during the day was fifteen cents if one furnished his own feed, otherwise it was twenty-five cents per horse.

The Ice Harvest

Large buildings were built near the river, north of the mill dam in Pierce where ice was harvested every winter for summer use.  Ice would be cut on the mill pond, and when about twenty-four inches thick would be cut in squares and then packed in sawdust.

In the summer the ice wagon would deliver ice to merchants and to private homes.  It was quite an industry and due to the water facilities at Pierce, many carloads of ice were shipped to other towns.

 

Sidewalks Set On "Horses"

Main street and residences in the early days had few side-

 

 

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walks.  Many resident owners had just two or three common boards in front of their residences.  These were six to eight inches in width, and were held together with boards two by four inches in width.

         Homes were scattered over the town and vacant lots had no walks. This was the case even on main street.

 

Main Street in Pierce about 1899

 

There was no attempt made in those days to perfect a common level in sidewalks, so some were high and some low according to the height of the store building in front of which they were laid to serve the public.  On main street there were many vacant lots where there were no sidewalks, and it was a case of "stepping up and stepping down" as you went from one store to another which were scattered along the main street.  As there were no street lights of any kind in those days, to avoid the "step-offs" particularly at night, wayfarers, homeward bound avoided the pitfalls along the way by taking the middle of the road.

On main street sidewalks were set up on "wooden horses" from eighteen inches to two feet high in front of the business places so that a farmer could back up his wagon and have barrels of salt, nails, barbed wire or a pony keg of beer rolled into the back of his wagon with little effort.  Under the side-

 

 

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walk was plenty of room for cats and dogs and even urchins of the village to congregate and carry on.

Next to the sidewalk were hitching posts with iron rings on the post making it convenient for farmers to hitch their teams at a convenient place.

When various members of the family came to town together, sometimes one would be ready to return home sooner than the rest, and go home with a "chance" and sometimes the family team was left tied to a post with the family all at home.

 

 

County Newspapers

PIERCE COUNTY CALL

 

The first edition was printed October 8, 1877. A large Gordon job press and a couple of stands with cases of news and job type had been brought down from Niobrara by Ed A. Fry with lumber wagon and team.  The first issue was a folio, four columns, twelve by fifteen inches in size, most of the space being taken up by the delinquent tax list.  Charles A. Apfel was county treasurer.  After two years it was enlarged to a five column quarto.  Jacob B. Sharot was the first local editor under Mr. Fry's ownership.  In 1884 Arthur E. Goshorn of Winter-set, Iowa, established "The Times," later consolidating with "The Call".  In 1888 Mr. Goshorn sold the plant to Dan L. Upton.  In 1891 A. L. Brande of Tipton, Iowa, purchased and took charge of the paper.

From the nine-point face type, man-power machinery and setting type by hand, the paper is now operated with modern machinery, all run by electricity.  C. B. Brande is the present owner, with A. L. Brande still connected with the newspaper.  It is republican in politics.

It is worthy of note that in the Pierce County Diamond Jubilee held at Pierce, June 9-10, 1934, The Pierce County Call displayed on its float one of the old type cases and proof roller press brought from Niobrara by Ed Fry the first of October,

 

 

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1877.
 The Call is the first newspaper to be established in Pierce County and one of the oldest in continuous service in northeast Nebraska.

 

PIERCE COUNTY LEADER

The first edition of the Pierce County Leader was printed July 12, 1889, with Douglas Hewitt, editor and owner.  It was democratic in politics and dedicated to the upbuilding and welfare of Pierce, according to the opening editorial, which closed with a "Hearty Good Morning".

Other editors of The Leader were W. E. Powers, A. H. Backus, Edward J. Dunn, and the present owners, Edgar Cox and son, William Cox.

PLAINVIEW NEWSPAPERS

The first newspaper was the Plainview Gazette and was founded in 1884.  "The Advance," later to become the "Plainview News." was founded in 1892.  Ira Hamilton issued the first edition of both these papers.

The Plainview Independent, with Mr. Kirk, proprietor, succeeded the Plainview Herald on August 15, 1890.  The Herald and Gazette were both published in 1889.

J. F. Gunthorpe of Denver is the present owner of the Plainview News, with Theodore Buerkle as managing editor.

OSMOND REPUBLICAN

Osmond's first newspaper was the Osmond Herald and its first issue came off the press September 6, 1890.  It was republican in politics and F. A. Klunder was the owner.  In May, 1891, Klunder sold out to E. A. Eastman.

The name was later changed to Osmond Republican and later editors and owners were Boyd S. Leedom, Elmer Record, 0. B. Miller, Carl Will and M. T. Liewer. Eugene M. Liewer, son of M. T. Liewer is in charge of the paper in 1940.

 

 

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The First Railroads

Lack of railroad facilities had deterred immigration to Pierce County.

On October 20, 1879 an agreement was entered into between the Fremont, Elkhorn & Missouri Valley Railroad and the Western Railway Construction Company of Missouri Valley, Iowa, to build a line of railroad from near Norfolk to Niobrara which was about sixty-five miles.

The line from Norfolk through Plainview, 31.76 miles, was completed in 1880.  From Plainview to Creighton, 10.3 miles, was completed in 1881.

Up to July 1, 1884 the above portion of line was operated under lease by the Sioux City & Pacifiic Railroad.  It was acquired through purchase by the Chicago and North Western Railway, February 28, 1903.

The first section house was built at Pierce in 1880 and Ole Ebberson was the first section foreman starting work in January, 1881.

Information concerning the four stations located in Pierce County is shown below under each town.

 

HADAR

Was platted by the Pioneer Townsite Company in 1883.  It was originally established as a non-agency station in 1880.  The first agent, Mr. R. J. McNary, was appointed August 1, 1895.

The name is a corruption of the German word "hader" which means misunderstanding or wordy argument and was given the town after settlement of a dispute between two early settlers.  The name was intended to keep the memory of this dispute constantly in mind.

 

PIERCE

The depot was built and station opened in 1880.  The first agent, Mr. K. Tripple, was appointed October 12, 1880.  After

 

 

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fourteen days service, he was transferred to open a new station at Plainview and Mr. Luther Lewis appointed agent at Pierce on October 26, 1880.

 

FOSTER

 

Called "Morehouse" until some time in 1886.  Originally established as a non-agency station in 1880.  The first agent, Mr. Miles W. Lichty, was appointed December 1, 1897.

A permanent freight and passenger station was built at this location in March, 1899.

The name was given for Mr. George Foster, long a station agent on the railroad, who was the owner of land comprising part of the station grounds.

PLAINVIEW

 

The depot was built and station opened in 1880.  The first agent Mr. K. Tripple was appointed October 26, 1880.

In 1913 the depot was extended from 64 feet to 90 feet in length and brick veneer added to the building.

The village was laid out in 1880 by the Pioneer Townsite Company and the name was given because of the natural visibility of the town site from the surrounding territory.

SIOUX CITY TO O'NEILL

 

The line from Sioux City to O'Neill was put in operation in 1890 with stations at McLean, Osmond, Breslau and Plainview.  The Great Northern took over this line on November 7, 1903, and the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad Company purchased it from the Great Northern, November 1, 1907.

The first depot and section house at Osmond were built in 1890. John Wilson was the first section foreman and Frank Rezignau was the first agent. The first section Foreman at Plainview was a Mr. Stoddard.

 

 

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THE PROPOSED YANKTON RAILROAD

A railroad between Norfolk and Yankton, South Dakota was promoted by a J. M. T. Pearce of Yankton.  On April 19, 1892, bonds carried in the election by a vote of one hundred sixty-eight to twenty.

A party of six surveyors from Yankton established headquarters in Pierce, working out of here south on the old Yankton and Norfolk railroad project.  During the month they completed the survey within a few miles of Norfolk.  The line of survey ran through the east part of town, thence north toward Yankton. The grade was completed from Yankton to a half mile north of Pierce.  Bridges and culverts were built along the grade from Osmond to Pierce.  The grade is still plainly visible in 1940.

Suddenly things "blew-up" and Pearce, the promoter slipped to South America to evade the law.  It was said he was using English capital, and absconded with a million dollars.

 

Homes In The 1880's

Most of the early homes in Pierce County were of logs, as there was some timber along the creeks and rivers.  Some drove to the Niobrara or Missouri river to get logs and stones which were placed under the building for foundation.  A few sod houses and dugouts were in the county.  The floors were usually of dirt.  Some had attics and the means of getting up there was through a hole in the ceiling.

Furnishings were very meager.  The wooden chest in which their belongings were brought was usually used as a table and wooden boxes were used for chairs.  Beds were homemade affairs with wooden slats or rope strung criss-cross and mattresses consisted of ticks with hay, straw or cornhusks in them.  The trundle bed was stored during the day beneath the other bed and was used by the children at night.

 

 

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          Stoves were of various kinds, the old wood burner, and the cast iron stoves in which twisted hay, or cow chips were burned. Some even burned corn when the price was so low it was cheaper than wood or coal.

After the log cabin days, frame houses were built, usually L-shaped affairs. Furnishings became more elaborate.  In the parlor, the floor was covered with a carpet made of rags which mother had spent months in sewing.  There were various other articles: the what-not in the corner, sea shells, peacock feathers, and the old chintz-covered couch with the fringed shawl folded neatly on one end in which all the children had been wrapped.  There were rocking chairs with tidies across the back and the square center table with its red covering held the parlor lamp if no hanging lamp graced the ceiling.  Church papers, Bible, seed catalogue, autograph album, a hymnal, and at the base of the table was the album on an easel with all the family photos.  Those who could afford it had a parlor organ with its walnut case with fancy carvings and a mirror over the music rack, the mottoes “God Bless Our Home,” "Love One Another," the 23rd psalm, and the Lord's Prayer which hung over the doors must not be forgotten.  The wall paper with its large designs had an eighteen inch border. The enlargements of prominent members of the family had tidies tied in the middle with satin bows of ribbon, which were draped across one corner of the picture.  Lace curtains on wooden poles, with applique of large flower designs on them, hung to the floor.

Bed room suites consisted of high beds of walnut or cherry wood with fancy carvings of fruit at head and foot end; dresser with marble top; drawer on either side of the top; mirror with carving at the top and knobs of black ivory.  The commode had a linen splasher embroidered in turkey red, cotton floss with grass and flower designs and the words "Splash, Splash."

The pillow shams were embroidered to match and usually contained the words "Good night" and "Good morning" or on one sham "I slept and dreamed that life was beauty" and on the other "I woke and found that life was duty."  Some shams were of lace with designs of presidents or peacocks and other

 

 

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ornaments.on the bed consisted of a feather tick which made the bed so high it looked as though one should have a step ladder to get into bed.  The spread was a homespun brought from the old home back east or a pieced quilt.

A picket fence usually surrounded the pioneer home.  From its gate toward the door the pathway was paved with a few pieces of wiggly boards.  Beside the pathway were four o'clocks, hollyhocks, phlox, nasturtiums and asters or petunias.  Back of the house was the garden with its beds of radishes, lettuce, sweet corn, beans, peas, tomatoes and melon patch.  Hoes and rakes hung on the garden fence, and not a weed was to be seen.  A grind stone was near the gate, and in an exposed place was the smoke house with its fragrance, and the big iron soap kettle on a tripod.

The mother in her sun bonnet and wrapper might be seen drying corn on some flat roof or table in the back yard.

A sack of curd hanging on the house corner—making Dutch cheese. The old dash churn was there and the butter which mother made into prints—the surplus sold to special customers.  Milk was put in crocks and placed on the pantry shelf or cellar floor.

On the back porch was the tin wash pan, the boot jack, and in the kitchen the big pail of water with its "lonesome" dipper.  The humming, steaming, iron teakettle was on the stove, and the six or eight pound flat irons, were heated on the wood stove to do the ironing.  They also served as foot-warmers in the winter, and were placed at the feet of the children who slept in the attic with its low frost-covered ceiling.  On this they often scratched their names or initials.

A cellar or a hole was dug under the house in which vegetables and potatoes were stored.  A heavy coat of straw was placed over them to keep them from freezing in the winter. Usually a trap door in the kitchen was the only entrance to the cellar.

 

 

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Pierce Milling Company

The first mill in Pierce County was built in 1880 by S. F. Gilman of Davenport, Iowa, who owned land here.  A dam was built in 1878 which furnished water power.  It was known as the Pierce Milling Company and made Golden Crescent flour which was shipped all over the United States.  This mill was destroyed by fire on November 7, 1908 and rebuilt in 1913.  After that it was electrically driven by the company's power plant which also served electricity to the city.  Water power from the Northfork river and a 100 horsepower DeLa Vergne engine were the two forces relied upon to furnish power night and day.  In 1924 the dam went out during a flood and was not rebuilt until 1935.

 

Gilman Park

The land where Gilman Park is located was first taken as a homestead by Sam Aughey who received a patent for it in 1871.  Aughey deeded it to James Scott who in turn deeded it to James Vickers.  James H. Brown purchased it from Vickers, who took a mortgage as part payment.  Brown then sold a half interest to R. S. Lucas.

In 1881 it was sold at sheriff's sale to S. F. Gilman and James H. Brown.  In 1883 it was deeded to Pierce Milling Company.  That organization held title until the city of Pierce acquired it in 1935 from James W. Bollinger, acting for the estate of S. F. Gilman.

In 1924 during a flood the dam at the old mill site gave way.  Ten years later in 1934, Pierce business men started a move to rebuild the dam for recreation purposes.  Aid from the federal government was enlisted to secure funds as this was in line with the government soil erosion and conservation program.  Plans were approved, the government supplying the labor, and material to be used was paid for by popular contribution.

 

 

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          In October, 1934, work started and continued during the winter months.  Water-soaked timbers which had been underground for forty years were found to be in excellent condition.  Lumber salvaged from the old mill was used to build boat houses, tables and docks along the edges of the lake formed by the new dam.  In March, 1935, the first load of fish was planted in the waters, and on July 28, 1935, formal dedication of the dam and the surrounding park was held.  In memory of the Gilman family, who built the first mill, the park was dedicated as Gilman Park.

Boats of all descriptions, good fishing, a shelterhouse, play grounds, camp stoves and picnic tables all contribute to making this a popular place, not only for Pierce county residents, but for parties from far distant points.

 

The First County Fair

On August 25, 1884, articles of incorporation for the Pierce County Agricultural Association were filed.  On that date a meeting for organization was held in the office of James H. Brown and Henry Upton was chosen president; A. L. Bently, vice-president; D. W. Bryan, secretary; and Woods Cones, treasurer.  The first board of directors included F. A. Huston, C. Reimers, W. H. McDonald, George W. Box, James H. Brown, G. H. Grunwald and H. S. Beck.

The original capital stock was $2500, providing indebtedness should never exceed twenty-five percent of paid up stock.  A deed was filed August 30, 1884, showing the association had purchased forty acres of land from Ada W. Seeley for $500.

This land lay just north of the present lane into Prospect View cemetery and here in the fall of 1884 the first fair was held.  The records of the early fair books have been lost and the exact dates are not known.  For fifteen years the county fair was held there.  In 1899, when W. E. Bishop was president of the association, the grounds were sold to George Story

 

 

 

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for $1210.  The race track on this fair ground is still visible from an airplane.

Several years followed without a fair and then a tract of land just south of the W. W. Riley home was leased from him for a fair ground.  The fair was held there until 1917 when the association purchased the ground just north of Pierce from Louie W. Schultz on May 1, 1917, for $2400.  Two years later a small tract was bought from William Prahl and in 1926 another piece was purchased from A. F. Magdanz and suitable buildings erected.

 

The First Creamery

The first creamery in Pierce County was built in 1885 by P. C. Storey. Three creamery routes were established by him to gather the cream from the farmers.  One route took in the farms up Willow Creek, to Clover Valley; one down the west side of the Northfork river and up on the east side to Breyer's Slough and the other route went up Yankton Slough and territory north of town.

The creamery churned its first batch of butter June 15, 1885, the first creamery butter ever made in Pierce County.

Ziesche Cigar Factory

E. M. Ziesche of Hooper, Nebraska, located in Pierce on August 3, 1894 and started a cigar factory in the Petersen building on west Main Street.

Mark Felber, an employee on the Pierce County Leader, had the honor of naming the cigar manufactured in this establishment and very appropriately suggested the name of "Pierce County Leader", which was immediately accepted.  "Made only for persons of good taste", was the slogan used on the attractive cigar box label—"The best five-cent cigar on the market."

 

 

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Brick Yard Established

A brick yard was the ambitious venture of a group of Pierce business men when Mohr, Upton and Mallory leased the northeast corner of the old fairgrounds north of Willow Creek in April, 1900.  Mr. Mallory was in charge of running the plant which was a going enterprise for a number of years.  Later, it was converted into a cement block plant.  Many sidewalks and a house in the east and one in the west part of town were built of blocks made in the Pierce factory.

 

Christmas Observances

Christmas observances in pioneer homes were one of joy for the whole family, even though money was scarce, but they made the day joyous with whatever they had.

A plum tree was brought from the river bank and decorations were all hand-made, even to the candles.  Some who had a little money to spend wrapped the entire tree with various colors of tissue paper, some even fraying the edges.  Instead of placing the homemade candles on the tree, they were stood upright in saucers and placed around the tree.  Other decorations were animal cookies, sheep, cows, cats, dogs and soldiers, all cut out with a pocket knife, the father helping mother with this task. As cake was an unknown delicacy they had kaffee kuchen (coffee cake) and feffernusse (Peppernuts).

The children often slept in the attic of their home, and the means of getting there was by placing a chair on the table and crawling through a hole in the ceiling.  After they had retired on Christmas Eve the parents placed the presents on the tree.  They usually consisted of a pair of stockings the father and mother had knit, often with their initials, or a handkerchief, or suspenders, necktie or boots for the boys.  The very smallest children sometimes received a doll.  The doll heads were bought

 

 

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and the bodies and clothes were made by the mother.  They sometimes made rag dolls.  Other decorations on the tree were a few apples and candy or pop corn balls.

Among the German pioneers it was customary for the father to lead in prayer after the children arose and in singing a Christmas song.  The presents were then given.  Due to the sudden changes of weather and the great distances to church many pioneers held church services in their homes for their families or near neighbors who might come.

New Englanders who came west held only religious meetings.  It was not customary to have gifts.  The German people, most of them from Wisconsin, had the tradition of trees and gifts brought by their forefathers from the Old World.  Pioneer children were never disappointed in what they received, because in the first place they had not expected much.

 

 

Games and Fun

There were few community gatherings at home or church or schoolhouses in the early days and associations with young people were very meager.  Sunday mornings, church was held in some school house, sometimes five, ten, or more miles distant and in the afternoon Sunday school was held.  People brought their noon lunches.

Many people found their only diversion from the monotony of pioneer life at these religious meetings, while others founded literary societies, held spelling bees, community sings, feather-stripping parties and dances.  Music furnished for these dances consisted of a mouth organ, accordion and grinder organ while a few had a parlor organ.  A musician chorded or played by ear and a caller for the square dances was a necessary addition.

Parties of high class served coffee with brown sugar, but no milk or cream.  Sandwiches were of peculiar size, very thick and made of a singular mixture of bread of dark complexion

 

 

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and bacon. The menu was supplemented with dried apple pie.  There being no tables, the food was passed around.

          Amusements in the 1880's were skating parties, shinney, blind man's bluff, needle's eye, run sheep run, post office, flinch, dominoes, croquet and dancing in homes or a barn dance.  The music was furnished by an accordion player or a fiddler.

 

Suckstorf  Park

In the spring of 1895 August Suckstorf, pioneer farmer living three miles north of Pierce, conceived the idea that a pleasure resort near the county seat would be a fine thing.  Others who became interested in his scheme were Woods Cones, Wilson Hall, Dr. B. F. Gay, L. A. Pohlman, Anton Cross, E. L. Sargent and others.  The site selected for the resort was an island in the North Fork river, a part of the Frederick Kolterman homestead.  The island was cleared of underbrush, rustic bridges were built, a dance floor was installed and other amusement devices and concession stands were provided.

The resort was highly advertised through newspapers, handbills and posters for the grand opening.  No words were spared in describing the unmatched forest of virgin oaks and cotton-woods, the one and only spot in northeast Nebraska where years before the age-old portages felt the tread of moccasined feet.  Here pickerel, bass and bullheads were plentiful for those who brought their fishing tackle.

On the Sunday of the big opening, a special train brought hundreds from Norfolk.  Top buggies, phaetons, sulkies and lumber wagons came from far and near to spend the day at “Suckstorf's Park”, the first resort in Pierce County.  The day was a huge success.  The first steam launch to travel from Pierce to the park was "Trilby" in which Anton Cross was the moving spirit.  In this venture Woods Cones, Elmer Sargent, Bert Daughney, Walt McLean and Frank Morton were also interested parties.  The

 

 

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steam engine, a cumbersome affair was in the center of the boat and was about four feet high.  E. L. Sargent was the captain who never had an accident in the 980 trips.  "Everybody in town was down to see us off whenever we started out" stated the late Woods Cones, the last survivor of Trilby's promoters, in an interview shortly before his death in 1938.  "Sometimes we got there, more often we didn't.  We could not carry fuel enough to keep her going all the way so it was necessary to replenish from supplies kept along the bank.  We worked to keep her in going condition in our spare moments and never made a trip without stops for repairs."  He continued, "We had many a good time, nevertheless, in the good ship Trilby'."

The owners finally scrapped the engine after tiring of constant repairs.  For years children sat in the old boat to fish in the stream where it lies to this day (1940) on one side of the river bank near the Kolterman farm.

Suckstorf Park for years was the favorite resort for organizations.  A bowling alley, dance floor, and an ample supply of seats and tables, with fishing along its shaded banks afforded fun and rest for everybody.

A group of families from Pierce, known as the "Prune Club" used to spend their summers on this island camping, the men folks driving or going by motor boat back and forth each day to their work.

 

Earliest Ranches

 

BISHOP RANCH, FIRST IN THE COUNTY

Mr. and Mrs. W. E. Bishop, natives of Connecticut, came to Pierce County in 1879 and started a ranch of 3200 acres, eleven miles north of Pierce.  Lumber to build the ranch house was hauled from Wisner, 65 miles away, then the nearest railroad point.  There were but four neighbors between their ranch and Pierce, and the nearest neighbor north was 24 miles away. 

 

 

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The first years Mr. Bishop engaged in cattle and sheep-raising and later in horse and mule breeding.  The ranch has been sub-divided into smaller farms, with complete sets of buildings on each.  All is under cultivation.

 

COMMERCIAL CATTLE COMPANY,

KNOWN AS C C RANCH

 

The Commercial Cattle Company ranch was established about the year 1880 when a Mr. E. de LaChappelle, a wealthy glass manufacturer of Ottawa, Illinois, was the prime mover, as well as a big investor in organizing a French capitalized corporation that purchased 12,000 acres in Blaine and Mills precinct, and was intended to forward the breeding of Percheron horses on a large scale.

Large buildings were constructed on the ranch.  The company imported some beautiful horses.  Some of the land was broken up and sowed to Lucerne clover, later to be known to us as alfalfa.  It was argued that a combination of Percheron horses and alfalfa would not fail to win.

Necessarily a great deal of money was spent in the construction of a 19-room, three-story ranch mansion which was made as modern as possible.  The third story was used as a play room for the owners and their help.  Huge barns were constructed, and a water system was installed. 32 horses were kept to do the farm work.

The French investors had trusted much to LaChappelle, who had made good in other ventures, but this was a new field and one in which he could not control the selling end.  Organized as it was and running into a period of low prices, it was doomed to failure.  It was too great an investment with too heavy an overhead and an inexperienced personnel.

          Most of the help was brought over from France, unlearned in the handling of sandy soil.  Large areas were broken and planted and the fields literally blew away—great holes of shifting sands taking their places.  The lower-roofed buildings were drifted to the eaves and the great house stood bleak and

 

 

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bare on a low eminence created by the winds blowing the sand away from the base.

Very little grain was raised and not enough could be bought.  The grazing was mostly bunch grass.  Thus perished this venture.  Not entirely discouraged, however, the name was changed to "The Horse Ranch".  A huge breeding barn was erected, but this, too, was a failure after a few years.  Later this tract was divided into half and quarter section farms.

“GRASSLANDS”—LUCAS RANCH

 

Robert S. Lucas, a native of Iowa, came to Pierce County with his parents in 1870 and in the year of 1885, after spending several years on the ranges in Texas, started the Lucas ranch— called "Grasslands".  The ranch comprised 2240 acres, land ran up and down the Dry Creek bottom, the west end was a quarter mile from Foster and extended to three and a half miles northwest of Pierce.

Part of the ranch was government land, some purchased from Riley, Brown, Schwichtenberg and McWhorters.  The usual run of cattle on the ranch was 3500.  At one time there were 5400 calves shipped from Texas.  7000 tons was the most hay put up in one season.  In 1917 Mr. Lucas divided the ranch up into tracts and sold it all in a two-day sale.  It averaged $126 per acre.

Other well known ranches were the Saltier Horse ranch near Osmond later acquired by William Butterfield, and called Butterfield ranch; the Tawney ranch, 14 miles west of Pierce; and the Duff Brothers' ranches.

 

Early Women's Organizations

        The first Women's club in Pierce County was organized in Plainview on August 16, 1878.  The first officers were Mrs. R. Burnham, president; Mrs. D. Hogue, vice-president; Mrs. C. Howell, corresponding secretary; Mrs. A. W. Lucas, Mrs.

 

 

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M. Wanser, Mrs. Nathan Peterson, Miss Ada Howell and Miss Nettie Wanser, executive committee.

FIRST LADIES AID

The Ladies Aid Society of the Congregational Church of Pierce lays claim to being the first organization by this name to function in Pierce County.

The Congregational church was organized in Pierce in 1882 and shortly afterward an Aid Society was formed.  Mrs. George Chase was one of the charter members.

A few months later in November, 1882, the Methodist Church was organized.  The oldest reports state that the Aid Society was organized soon after, but date, names of charter members, and officers are not given.  Mrs. Ellen Hall was one of the first workers in this pioneer society.

 

Monuments

BLIZZARD OF 1888

In the old Plainview cemetery in the east part of town on Highway 20, is believed to be the first historical monument erected in Pierce County.  It bears the following inscription:  "Erected by Loie M. Royce in memory of her dear pupils who died during the blizzard of January 12, 1888.  They were: Otto Rosburg, nine; Hattie Rosburg, seven (children of Conrad Rosburg); and Peter Poggensee, nine, son of Hans Poggensee.

This monument was erected by Miss Louise Royce, school teacher heroine, on the Rosburg family lot.

G.A.R. MONUMENT

          The Soldiers’ monument erected in Prospect View cemetery at Pierce was dedicated on May 31, 1909, Memorial day.  The money to pay for this tribute to the veterans of the Civil War amounting to $500 was raised by popular subscription.

 

 

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The Pierce cemetery association advanced fifty dollars and ordered the monument.  The program was in charge of G.A.R. members.

 

PIONEER MONUMENT


 


 

 

A huge block of native granite, dug from the Frank Koehler farm northeast of Pierce and erected by the Pierce County Historical Society on the south court-house lawn, was dedicated on June 11, 1936.  Greatgrandchildren of the pioneers of 1869 and 1870 aided in the unveiling ceremony.  On a beautiful bronze plaque a covered wagon drawn by an ox-team stands out in relief.  Just below is the poem "Pioneer," written by Miss Elsie Hartman:


Pierce Monument erected on courthouse lawn, 1936

                   Live on! Oh, Spirit of the Pioneers,

                   Our heritage throughout the years!

                   Dauntless courage to face the trackless dawn

                   Of unknown perils, and e'er marching on

                   With Hope as outrider in shining cloak

                   And Faith serenely perched on oxen yoke,

                   Ever Onward, with eyes on western stars—

                   Your goal achieved, what matter then, the scars.

                   Live on! Oh, Spirit of the Pioneers,

                   Our heritage throughout the years!

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HOFFMAN MONUMENT

The large granite block which stands at the entrance of the farm where Casper and Johanna Hoffman homesteaded in 1871 was dedicated to their memory on Sunday afternoon, November 19, 1939.  A bronze plaque on the side which faces the highway reads:

homestead of casper and johanna hoffman

1871

Erected By charles hoffman, sr., AND FAMILY

Mr. Hoffman was the first person in Pierce County to erect a monument which honors not only his own parents but all pioneers.

 

LAMBRECHT AND KOEHLER MONUMENTS

On May 19 and May 26, 1940, native boulders with bronze plaques were dedicated at the Lambrecht and Koehler pioneer cemeteries.  Their erection was sponsored by the Pierce County Historical Society.

 

Magnetic Compass Testing Stations

 

There are two little known markers in Pierce County placed by the United States Coast and Geodetic survey for magnetic stations.  These stations are distributed throughout the United States, one or more to each county ordinarily, and form a network of points for determining the distribution of the earth's magnetism and its changes.  Most of them are of value to local surveyors as compass testing stations.  In September, 1909, the magnetic declination at this station was 10 degrees 56' East, and the description of the station is as follows:

Pierce County, Pierce:—The station near the northwest corner of the County Fair Grounds (now a pasture) about one

 

 

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mile south of the town’s center.  It is on the right-hand side of what was the fair grounds in line with the main gate and the Judges' stand (since removed).  It is 113.4 feet south of a fence on the north; 164.6 feet southeast of a large tree north of the main gate, and 172.5 feet northwest of a board fence around the race track.  The station is marked by a Bedford limestone post 6 by 6 by 30 inches set level with the ground and lettered U.S.C.& G.S. 1909.  The following true bearings were determined :  Center of base of flagstaff on steel water tower (mark)........N 5 degrees 57.8' W. Southwest corner of brick chimney on house of John Drebert............N 3 19.0 W. (It was reported in October, 1928, that a building and trees obscure the objects to which bearings were taken.)

More recent (1929) observations at a different site gave a declination of 10 degrees 34' East, this result being in accord with the known secular change of declination for the region.  The following was prepared at that time:

Pierce, Pierce County.—The station of 1909 was reoccupied, but as it is now on private property and not likely to be permanently available, a new station was established in the new fairground, about one-fourth mile north of the center of town and about one and one-fourth miles north and slightly west of the old one. It is inside the race track, near the west end.  It is about on the major axis of the track ellipse, 124 feet from the board fence inside the track on the west.  It is 125 feet northwest from the nearest electric light pole. It is about 250 feet from the northwest corner of the race-horse stable and about 600 feet from the northwest corner of the grandstand. The station is marked by a concrete post, 26 inches deep and 9 inches in diameter (9 inches square at the top) set flush with the surface, with a bronze disk in the top.  The following true bearings were determined:

Lutheran Church Spire...................................S 0 degree 06.6' W

East Gable of farmhouse..........................................N 81 11.9 W

West Gable of farmhouse...........................................N 46 42.0 E

 

 

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Base of flagpole on exhibition building in fairground-S 65 34.3 E

Tip of city water tank...................................................S 32 07.0 E

 

 

Free Mail Service for Pierce

In 1913 Congress passed a bill "For the purpose of establishing a town mail delivery service for the free delivery of mail matter in every incorporated city, town or village containing a population of not less than 1,000 inhabitants, according to the last United States census, the Postmaster General is hereby authorized and directed to conduct an experiment by establishing such service according to rules to be prescribed by the post-office department to a limited number of postoffices of second or third class."

A. L. Brande, then postmaster in Pierce, wrote Dan V. Stephens, then congressman of this district, and requested him to file application with the postoffice department that Pierce be designated for such service.

On July 15, 1913, Inspector L. A. Thompson of Omaha was sent to Pierce to investigate the application for free town delivery.  A tentative route for a carrier was laid out and on August 13, 1913, Postmaster Brande received the following telegram from Congressman Stephens at Washington, D. C.

"Postoffice department has decided to establish experimental mail delivery service at Pierce, effective September 1."  Postmaster Brande was authorized to institute experimental delivery at Pierce on September 1, 1913.

An allowance of $600 per annum was appropriated.  Harvey T. Taylor was the first appointed carrier on a salary of $50.00 per month and made deliveries twice each week day, forenoon and afternoon.

Pierce was the first village in Nebraska and in the United States to have delivery of mail installed.

 

 

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Diamond Jubilee of Pierce County

Pierce County observed the seventy-fifth anniversary of its founding on September 21 and 22, 1934, with a parade and pageantry.  Dr. Addison E. Sheldon of Lincoln, secretary of the Nebraska State Historical Society, assisted in the organization of a Pierce County Historical Society.  Officers elected were: Mrs. E. W. Hansen, Pierce, president; Mrs. F. H. Nye Plainview, vice-president; Mrs. Edith Thomas, Pierce, vice-president; Mrs. Helen Gould-Webster, Plainview, secretary; Mrs. Charles Chilvers, Pierce, treasurer.

This celebration, held in Pierce, was one of the most successful ever held in the county.  A pioneer headquarters was maintained in the old Pierce Hotel where old friends who had not seen each other since homestead days visited and reminisced.  Under the leadership of Judge Douglas Cones, many early German settlers sang in their native tongue.

The Osmond state champion band, Pierce High School and Gesundheit band, all added to the entertainment of the occasion.  Thoughts turned again to real pioneer days as events in past history were shown on parade.  A wagon belonging to Frederick Kolterman, who was one of the first group of Pierce county settlers in 1869, passed in review.  Several of the last survivors rode in it.  The sixty-niners still living were Mrs. H. F. Magdanz, Mrs. Frank Otto, Albert Otto, William Manske, H. J. Manske, Mrs. Elizabeth Ahlman and Gustav Lierman.

An old sod house, realistic with even smoke coming out of the stove pipe, was the entry of St. Johns congregation, first established church in the county.  The first school in the county, a log cabin, and Indians were represented in the parade of ninety floats.

Pierce business house windows presented attractive appearances reminiscent of pioneer days. A pioneer exhibit was held in a store building in which hundreds of exhibits were shown.  The building was crowded with visitors.

          People came from distant states to attend the two-day cele-

 

 

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bration.  It was estimated that more than ten thousand people attended.  A celebration observing the eightieth anniversary was held on June 9 and 10, 1939, which equalled the Diamond Jubilee in attendance and attraction, though minus many of the pioneers of the Diamond Jubilee.

 

Gesundheit Band

 

Due to lack of funds to hire music for the Diamond Jubilee in 1934 a dozen Pierce business men, under the leadership of Fred Gloe, president of the Pioneer Jubilee celebration, organized an old fashioned German band and called it "Gesundheit Band."  Being minus band suits they dressed in makeshift, colorful costumes of old time German bands.  They scored such a big hit that the band continued after the celebration and have become nationally known for their civic spirit and uniqueness.  They are now honorary members of the 355th Infantry, furnishing music at the conventions and celebrations all over the state and have been invited to many places in the United States.

It is their custom to serenade pioneers on their birthdays and wedding anniversaries and each year on Christmas morning they play Christmas carols to pioneers and shut-ins, using a truck to take them to various places.

They have added much joy and happiness to the people of their community, have earned a reputation to be proud of and incidentally have advertised Pierce and Pierce County far and wide.

 

 

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It Really Happened

At early elections pails of beer with dippers were set near voting places.  In modern times it is unlawful to sell liquor on election day.

* * * * *

Newspaper account of the first hearse read "Undertaker Reppert has brought a fine hearse to town so we can be taken to our last resting place in style."

* * * * *

To break oxen, one already broken was hitched to a pole with one not broken.  They were then allowed to run loose on the prairies, and when they were exhausted they were broken.

 

* * * * *

During the two-day Easter snow storm in 1873 the sheep of Carl Klug, Fred and Ferdinand Koehler and Albert Magdanz were grazing on the prairies northeast of Pierce.  After the storm, the sheep could not be found.  Finally they saw one sheep on the bank of Yankton slough all humped up, and as the slough was drifted level full, they started digging down near the lone sheep.  About six feet down they found the whole flock bunched together, nice and warm under the snow. They hopped out of the hole, one after the other and not one was lost.

* * * * *

Herman Manske, when a very young lad, was to call for mail for the "Hecht" family.  So he asked for "Pickerel"— "Pickerel" in German is "Hecht."

* * * * *

One pioneer, in relating how his friend agreed to help him in buying a team of horses, said: "Go head, Wilhelm, I look you through."

* * * * *

One pioneer told of a scare he had.  He said, "Half of my head went black."

 

 

 

 

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A yoke of oxen cost around $80.00.

        * * * *

When Indians stopped at the homes of settlers, they would look in the windows.

* * * * *

The pioneer doctors had very little business and they usually farmed and practiced medicine on the side.  Settlers had little money and they resorted to home remedies.

        * * * *

       One remedy for a rattlesnake bite was to mix vinegar with red, clay soil  and place it on the bite.

        * * * *

Instead of using soap for washing, water was put on wood ashes and this liquid was used to wash clothes.

        * * * *

Cookies were made from flour and molasses, as often pioneers had no sugar, lard or butter.

        * * * *

Pioneers were careful and never let their clocks run down because it was very difficult to get correct time.

        * * * *

   In 1888 coffee cost a dollar for eleven pounds.  Dress materials were very high and calico sold for thirty-five cents a yard.

 

* * * * *

   Eggs sold from five to ten cents a dozen and butter five or ten cents per pound in 1888.

* * * * *

Frederick Steinkraus, a pioneer hotel man of Plainview, reserved a special table for traveling men, they being his best customers, because they paid a little more than other boarders.  A large bowl of oranges centered that table.  When a man paid for his meal it was Fred's custom to ask: "Did you sit by the

 

 

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table where the oranges was?”  If the man replied "Yes" he would say: "Fifty cents."  One traveling man thinking he would have some fun with him, when asked "Did you sit by the table where the oranges was?" said: "No." Quick as a flash, Grandpa Steinkraus said, "Well you ought-a sit there, fifty cents anyway."

* * * * *

Oxen were afraid of Indians.  If within three miles of them, they would start running across the prairies.

 

* * * * *

Crossing the ferry at Council Bluffs, one wild yoke of oxen refused to go on the ferry.  Gus Lierman, a very small boy, was there to cross with his parents and finally he coaxed them on, and got them across.

 

* * * * *

If Indians saw a grindstone on the place of a pioneer, they would come to sharpen their knives.  This always frightened the homesteaders.

 

* * * * *

An Indian Princess was bitten by a rattlesnake and died, and was buried in the hills southeast of Pierce.

 

* * * * *

Pawnee Indians came through Pierce County occasionally.  They were great beggars but after going a short distance would throw their food away.  The Poncas were also beggars but ate the food given them.

 

* * * * *

During the Custer Massacre every male of all tribes was away from here.  They had gone to fight.

 

* * * * *

Land and work was donated by F. Schmitz of Osmond for the proposed Yankton railroad to Pierce.  Pearce, the promoter absconded with a million dollars and fled to South America.

 

 

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In 1882 Pete Petersen and his brothers broke prairie with oxen just west of Osmond.  While they were breaking the land some Indians came through.  The chiefs came a day or two ahead of the tribe but they refused to cross the broken sod until the tribe came.

* * * * *

John Kortena was an early cave dweller, trapper and hunter who lived in a dugout north of Osmond.  He supposedly came from Wisconsin in the early seventies.  His stove was half-covered from dirt falling down on his dugout. He lived on little or nothing.  He was an eccentric, and was known over the whole territory, as he visited all the new babies and usually managed to be at one place for dinner, and at another for supper.  He had a colt he kept in the barn for twelve years.  He carried food and water to it.  Its hoofs curved up like a ram's horn. Every chicken in his flock had a name.  Kortena walked to town and carried his vegetables.  He would not buy a buggy because he would have to pay taxes and he did not want to break his "wild" horses.  He wore a vest in which he carried a roll of money (rumored it was $1700). No one ever saw him without his vest on and he died wearing it.  He is buried in the Catholic cemetery near Osmond.

* * * * *

The Rev. D. S. Hulbert, who built the first Baptist church in Plainview, is believed to be the red-headed preacher who baptized by immersion in Mari Sandoz' book "Old Jules" (page 150).

* * * * *

Web Riley was the first white boy to live in the town of Pierce, and he lived in the building started by George Hetzel and completed by Bernard Riley. The Riley family lived there until they moved to their farm south of Pierce.

* * * * *

During the blizzard of 1888, people did not dare touch the stoves on account of the electricity.  Big sparks shot across the corners of the room from the moldings.

 

 

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          In 1878 wheat sold for thirty-five cents per bushel and flour at $2.50 per hundred pounds.  Hogs sold for $1.50 per hundred pounds.

 

* * * * *

About the year 1885, Mrs. J. F. Kolterman, then Miss Anna Smith, with her sisters, Emma, Minnie and Dora and their parents came from Carroll, Iowa, and moved about eight miles southeast of Pierce.  On their farm in Iowa was a hill called Mount Moses, named because the original owner of the farm was named Moses and was buried on the crest of the hill.  The loneliness of the prairies and homesickness overwhelmed them. As they herded cattle and played on the prairies they thought a particular hill resembled Mount Moses at their old home, so they named the hill Mount Moses, to alleviate some of their homesickness.  To this day it is known as Mount Moses. (1940)

 

* * * * *

In 1885 the village clerk, Woods Cones, had a notice in the local paper that all ball playing on Main street, Lucas and Brown Avenues is hereby declared a nuisance and persons violating the ordinance are subject to a fine of not less than $5.00 for each offense.

 

* * * * *

Minnie and Dora Smith, small daughters of Mrs. Fred Planer, when small children herded cattle on the prairies.  They discovered a wolf's den and one hurried home to get a spade while the other guarded the hole and they dug up 18 baby wolves.  Making a bag out of their gathered German calico skirts they carried them home. $18.00 bounty was received for them.

* * * * *

Yankton Slough was one of the most treacherous streams. After a heavy rain, water came down the creek in a solid wall over eight feet high, washing away farm machinery and everything in its reach.

A gambling game put on by sharks of the early days was

 

 

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called the Shell game.  A man had a three-legged stand and on it three shells into which he popped a small object like a black pea.  He had a swift and continuous patter of words and as he manipulated the pea from shell to shell, he asked the onlookers to pick the shell under which he placed the pea.  This was at first in fun and the ones testing their skill were quite successful in picking it.  At length he asked for bets on the test and placed a five dollar limit on the guess.  Seemingly very carelessly, he let the pea dribble under a certain shell as he turned to address one, who later proved a confederate.  One man eagerly bet on an apparently sure thing, but to his surprise the pea was not under that shell, but under the one next to it. The pea never was under the shell but held between the thumb and little finger.  Professionals at the game popped it under and out of the shells with marvelous celerity.  Many a person was fleeced out of his money—and the slickers folded up suddenly and left town.

 

* * * * *

In 1894 a terrible hot wind destroyed most of the crops.  The heat was so intense that corn turned brown and very little corn was raised.  About the first of August a good rain came, but crops were too far gone to be benefited.

 

* * * * *

In the years of 1890 and thereafter many of the residents of the towns erected windmills with large tanks on their lots for fire protection and to irrigate lawns and gardens.  Pierce was known as the "Town of Windmills."

* * * * *

As farms were not fenced, a furrow was plowed between the different farms to mark the line.

 

* * * * *

Towns for many years had what was called the "Town Herd." Instead of delivering milk at the door of residents each morning and night, residents owned and milked their own cow.  Usually they had only one, and one man had charge of the "Town Herd" which was rounded up every morning and

 

 

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driven to the prairies near town.  It was brought back at night and cows were driven to their owners.  The season started May first and lasted until October first.  Some towns had a pasture at the edge of town and the children's chores were to get the cows.

 

* * * * *

In 1884 hay was burned in the burners common in those days.  They also burned corn.  Corn sold for seven and eight cents per bushel, eggs for two cents a dozen and butter for two cents per pound.  Hogs sold for $2.25 per hundred weight.

 

* * * * *

In early days people were bothered with bed bugs.  Most of the lumber was shipped from northern Michigan and it was infested with bed bugs.

 

* * * * *

In 1894 the largest beet fields in the world were located in Pierce County.  Ten to twelve tons were realized from an acre and prices were from $4.50 to $5.00 per ton at the sugar beet factory near Norfolk.

 

* * * * *

Mills precinct was named after Ben Mills, a farmer living there.

 

* * * * *

During the blizzard of 1888 A. H. Lincoln lost two pigs.  Three weeks later he found them in a snow bank, still alive.

 

* * * * *

In April, 1892, Frank Littell caught a pickerel at the Pierce dam that weighed sixteen and one-fourth pounds.

 

* * * * *

On September 1, 1879, three Pierce men went out on the prairies that afternoon and brought back 76 prairie chickens.

       The grandfather of Fred and Adele Astaire, famous danc-

 

 

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ers, was in business in Plainview.  They visited their grandfather who was very proud of them and had photos of them which he gave to close friends.  His name was Austerlitz, changed to Astaire by his famous grandchildren.

* * * * *

Phil Goldstone, who became a movie producer in Hollywood, opened one of the first movie shows in Pierce in the old Opera house.

 

* * * * *

An early day storekeeper said to William Lichtenberg who came to Pierce County in 1869 and located near Hadar, "If you can carry that barrel of salt (which weighed 298 pounds), I will give it to you." Mr. Lichtenberg carried it on his back from the store to his wagon—a gift like that meant much to an early settler.  Mr. Lichtenberg was known as an unusually strong man.

 

* * * * *

The population of Pierce on April 1, 1879, was ten men and three women. The town consisted of seven buildings.

 

* * * * *

The Barnes family lived on the Willow Creek south of Plainview.  The creek was between their house yard and fields.  Sometimes the children were sent to the fields in a boat.  They took spears and speared pickerel.

 

* * * * *

Heavy rains were referred to by pioneers as “sod-soakers” or “gully-washers”

 

* * * * *

The first wedding was that of Mr. and Mrs. Ferdinand Koehler.  Yankton slough flooded from a rain and the food for the wedding was floated across it in a wagon-box.

  John Wright and J. F. Kolterman were hunting two and a

 

 

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half miles north of Pierce on the Northfork when they sighted an elk.  They sneaked into the tall grass.  Kolterman shot off one horn when the elk charged and went for Wright.  It frightened him almost to death and he didn't shoot, as he was unable to move.  He was bedfast for a long time from the shock.

 

* * * * *

Large herds of cattle were fed at the mill grounds and given to the Indians on the Santee reservation.

 

* * * * *

     Moore and Church fed large herds of Texas longhorn cattle on a ranch five miles northeast of Pierce.  These animals were very vicious and charged at any person not riding a horse.     

 

* * * * *

In the nineties, villages had their curfew bells which rang in case of fire, and at 9 o'clock each night they rang out their unwelcome and doleful message to the children, and sent them scurrying for home.

 

* * * * *

The first school house in District No. 33 was built by Charles Lederer, Sr., not a nail being used.  The sills were placed together and studding joined by mortise and tenoned with wooden pegs.

 

* * * * *

The first race track south of town is still plainly visible from the air as was disclosed by photographic pictures taken in all parts of Pierce County by government photographers in 1937.

 

* * * * *

Pioneers planted cane and made sorghum and used it in place of sugar to sweeten fruit.

* * * * *

Henry Kuhl loaned some grain to a friend but decided it was to be on a strictly business basis, so he made out a note but

 

 

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did not know who should hold the note. Finally he decided that the man who got the grain should hold the note until paid.  In those days a man's word was as good as his bond.  The disposition of this note in later years was amusing.

* * * * *

Herman Braasch held church services in his home until the small colony called Rev. Heckendorf, a Lutheran minister.  He came from Wisconsin.

 

* * * * *

Herman Braasch had a crate built which was fastened on the side of his covered wagon and which housed two pigs on his trek from Wisconsin.  The pigs grew so fast it was necessary to build a larger crate before they reached Nebraska.

 

* * * * *

Pioneer grandmothers wore more clothes in bed than our daughters do on the streets.  They wore night socks, a night cap, night coat and many other things.

 

* * * * *

The pioneer father was really the boss and the mother was second in control.  Tis said "A switch hung behind the door."

 

* * * * *

Pioneer fathers were experts when it came to sowing oats by hand.  The checkrower and marker were used in getting the corn straight and it was planted by the hand corn planter.  They used walking cultivators, walking plows and walking listers.

 

* * * * *

Cows had horns with brass tips in pioneer days.

 

* * * * *

Modern pioneer conveyance was a two-wheeled road cart, drawn by one horse.  Many a maiden was wooed and won by a beau in such a stylish rig.

 

 

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          Men used mustache cups, people ate with their knives and

drank from saucers, all of which was proper in pioneer days.

 

* * * * *

          Corn pickers used husking pegs and received two cents a bushel for picking corn.

 

* * * * *

Little German bands used to travel from town to town, playing in saloons and on the street.  A lone traveler with his hand-organ and bear or monkey often entertained the inhabitants.

 

* * * * *

          "The best girl" was often the recipient of candy hearts, chewed paraffin or rosin weed gum while the "best beau" smoked cigarettes made of corn silk wrapped in paper from a Sears, Roebuck catalogue.

 

* * * * *

In the early 1900's chautauquas were popular and were the means by which many people were given high class entertainment.

 

* * * * *

Ladies used side saddles and wore cumbersome skirts to go on their morning and evening canters.

 

* * * * *

          Bicycles had high front wheels and low rear wheels.

 

* * * * *

From Pierce County have come actors, authors, educators, lawyers, doctors, bankers, railroad men and political leaders. Among them are Lynn Montross, a noted author; Inez Miller, known on the stage as Inez Lucas, an acrobat, and Phil Goldstone, who started the first moving picture show in the old Opera house, and has become a movie producer in Hollywood.

 

* * * * *

  Literary societies and spelling bees were popular in the

 

 

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 early days and were held in the school houses which served as community centers.  People from the towns and countryside enjoyed them.

* * * * *

Speaking of the money panic of 1893, C. E. Manzer said "It did not cause much of a hardship on most of us.  We did not have any money and those who did were not allowed to spend much of it."

 

* * * * *

M. Inhelder, pioneer Pierce business man and banker, was one of the early freighters between Louisville and Denver, driving an ox-team.

 

* * * * *

The first telephone in Plainview was a homemade box affair built by N. M. Nelson. It was used between his home and hardware store.

 

* * * * *

The first automobile in Pierce was built by Anton Cross and his son, Willie, about the year 1900.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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