J. O. Shannon, 1869 1871. C. A. Speice, 1871 1877.County Commissioners in their order, Wm. Davis, G. W. Stevens, M. Weaver, J. Russel, J. Kelly, C. A. Speice, E. W. Toncray, F. G. Becher, Wm. Davis, S. C. Smith, Wm. Davis, G. W. Galley, J. W. Early, G. C. Barnum, A. Turner, M. Maher, J. Hammond, A. Rose, R. H. Henry.
Representatives in their order--H. W. DePuy, J. Reck, C. H. Whaley, J. Rickly, J. P. Becker, G. C. Barnum, E. W. Arnold, J. E. Kelly, I. N. Taylor, C. A. Speice, H. J. Hudson, A. J. Arnold, F. Folda.
State Senators--Isaac Albertson, O. T. B. Williams, L. Gerrard, O. A. Abbott, G. C. Barton.
Before passing to another general subject, as we are receding from the earliest days, I will give a page of
First settlers in Platte county--Isaac Albertson and E. W. Toncray; first house built--Old Company house on Brewery Block 178; first store kept--Becher's, in the cabin still standing opposite Kummer's residence, unless Kummer's little chebang on the river bank could be called a store; first postmaster, John Rickly--so on after Becher for seven years; first mail came July 4th, 1857, during a celebration--Hewitt, orator--had a military parade and a turkey stuffed with dried applies--consequence a bursted turkey. On that day passed through Warren's Exploring Expedition to the unknown West. First boy brought into the county, Jacob Ernst, Jr.; first girl brought into the county, Rosa Rickly; first boy born in the county, Lewis Erb, on Shell Creek; first girl born in the county, Mary Wolfel, Columbus; first wedding, John Will and Marie Rickert; that is, this was the first infantry wed-
cavalry wedding, J. E. North and Nellie Arnold, married on horseback in the streets of
Columbus; first blacksmith, Jacob Ernst; first house builders, Wolfel and Becker; first
carpenter of all trades, M. Weaver; first shoemaker, Louis Phillippe; first landlord and lady,
Frank Becher and his sisters; first doctor, C. B. Stillman; first lawyers, L. Gerrard and A. B.
Pattison; first school teacher, G. W. Stevens; first Catholic Priest, Rev. Father Fourmont; first
Protestant minister in charge, Rev. R. Gaylord; first death and burial, J. M. Becker; first herd
law ever passed for any part of Nebraska drawn by L. Gerrard, of the 3d House, and passed
for only Platte and Monroe counties; first batch of criminals, J. Rickly, M. Weaver, Pat
Gleason, R. Corson, J. L. Martin, F. G. Becher, H. J. Hudson, Isaac Albertson, V. Kummer,
H. M. Kemp, C. A. Speice. For they were Grand Jurors of the first Court, May 8, 1860, and
they indicted each other for various crimes, chiefly for selling whisky.
This will include all the agricultural, pastoral and commercial interests of the
county, and such public works as have a bearing chiefly on these.
to supply the moving public Columbus had a good meat market. Very little attention was given to wheat
until in 1868 Francis Hoffman built the steam mill, the emptied shell of which is now the big
elevator. To show how little wheat was raised in 1869-70, Becker's mill, which went into
operation at that time, was able to grind all that was grown for say 15 miles on all sides.
From that time to the present the grain crops have largely increased, so that the export of grain
this year will be half a million.|
From 1860 to 1876, the taxable acreage of the county has grown from only 6,255 to 186,180 acres, and the live stock from only 833 head to 11,206.
Before the year 1866 there were almost no exports, far less than the imports certainly, for up to that date nearly all our flour was imported. The freight office shows an export of only 38,000 pounds in October, 1866. Even in the corresponding month of 1868 there were but 82,400 pounds, nearly all flour and potatoes. But in October, 1875, the railroad took away over five millions of pounds of grain, and of all exports 6,365,000 pounds. And it is fairly estimated that there will be in the ratio of 200 pounds in 1876 to one pound in 1866.
Again, it is estimated that in no year previous to 1866 did the actual business done by all the merchants, mechanics and manufacturers amount to more than $20,000, while it is ascertained that in 1875 the aggregate of such business was $1,095,000.
I have this day received from Mr. Meagher, the Depot Agent of the U. P., the following statement for June, 1876:
Passenger business - - - - - $ 1,157 95 Freight received, - - - - - - 8,897 57 Express, - - - - - - - - - - - 482 30 __________ $10,537 82
Exports in pounds, - - - - 3,436,102 Imports " " - - - - 1,710,218 _________ Excess of exports, - - - 1,725,884This includes 150 cars of grain--54,000 bushels.
Exports besides grain, 136,102 pounds, and it is known that June is one of the lightest business months of the year.
Of these we can make no boast. In 1857 the mammoth mill of Rickly & Co.,
was erected and for some time was emphatically the institution of the county. It
was a saw mill, corn grist mill, lath and shingle mill and propelled by steam.
besides the fine water powers of Shell and Looking Glass creeks, the immense hydraulic force of the Loup yet waits
and tempts whatever ingenious and enterprising capitalists will enrich themselves and the
country by the manufacture of flour, cloth, oil and starch.
Under the head of physical development, properly come such public
improvements as directly affect the growth of business. For the value and the desirability of
all the real estate depend largely on the extent of population and trade in the commercial town
or towns of any country. With a wise reference to this the county has cordially united with the
town in the preparation of the high ways and all the streams of the county including the Loup
and Platte rivers have been bridged. The county has about 6,000 feet of substantial bridges
and these have made Columbus the chief commercial centre of all Central Nebraska. This has
given to the farmers the advantages of advanced prices for produce and reduced prices for
goods, by stimulating emulation as well as securing variety and extent of commerce, and so
the whole county is reaping the profits while it enjoys the honor of this large and liberal
Under this head manifestly come all the means and appliances of mental, social
and moral culture.
works meet for repentance.|
Stevens was a teacher and the Ricklys, Weavers, Wolfels and Ernsts were the pupils. From out the town there were also some active learners, among them the Barnums from over the river and the Hayses "from the creek over." It is well remembered that George was an enthusiast though not a fanatic, on school matters, in those days, and it is well known that he still holds his own in that regard, unchangeably the same when he lived on parched corn and walked three miles to school, then, and when he eats straw-berries and cream and rides in a buggy now. It is a proper tribute to record in this connection, that to the zeal and the gifts of G. W. Stevens in the early day, we are chiefly indebted for preparing the way and laying the foundation of our present high school property of which we are all proud.
From the public records I take barely enough to show, in a general way, the progress of the common schools of our county.
In 1861, school youth 154; school fund $157.34; in 1862 school youth 159; school fund $374.23; in 1863, school youth 169; school fund $459.47; in 1864, school youth 167; school fund 385.36; in 1865, school youth 198; school fund $821.80; in 1866, school youth 207; school fund $731.37; in 1867, school youth 267; school fund $1,433.21.
Here the railroad day begins, and the figures go up quite regularly and by large additions, until we have in nine years this result: in 1876, school youth 1,677; school fund $18,742.52. And we now have the proud record of 48 organized school districts, 32 good school houses, which, with their sites and furniture, are valued at about $27,000. And we have 50 teachers, whose aggregate salaries for a year is over $7,000.
Of the Sunday Schools of the county
we have the following account:
The first school of which we have any record is that organized in Columbus in the spring of 1865, with I. N. Taylor as Superintendent; G. W. Stevens Secretary and Librarian; and H. J. Hudson, C. A. Speice, M. Weaver and Johannah Bauer, Directors.
Like the day school it was conducted in the new Town Hall, since bought by the church of L. D. Saints, and moved to its present site. Many came to this school from the surrounding country. With great liberality the people contributed as much as $80 to purchase a library. The school became too large for the room, and this fact was at the bottom of the building of the Congregational church, at a time when there was neither protestant preacher nor church organization in the county.
As the progress of the Sunday School cause in the county is of comparatively recent date, I give only the following synopsis of its present condition:
The churches of the county in the order of their organization and in their leading facts are as follows:
1. The Catholic Church of Columbus, St. John's--organized in 1860; church property $4,000; has a moderate and partly finished building and a parsonage, and a membership of 125 families, with Father Ryan, Pastor.
2. The Congregational, organized September, 1866, the society for the management of business having been organized September 2, 1865. The original members were six in number. The present membership is 20. The church owns its property--a plain structure, 24x36 feet, and is now supplied by Rev. Thomas Bayne.
The average attendance of their Sunday School is 63; the number of their teachers 9, and the value of the library $100; church property worth $1,000.
3. The Protestant Episcopal Church or-
ganized October 19, 1868; original membership, 7; present membership, 21; church property $2,000; average attendance of
Sunday school, 40; number of teachers, 7; value of library, $125.|
4. The Methodist Episcopal Church, first Class formed in 1867; original membership, 6; present membership in the county, 60; average attendance of Sunday Schools, 100; value of church property, $500; Pastor, Rev. B. S. Taylor.
5. The Presbyterian Church, organized Jan. 30, 1870; original members 5; present members, 21; church property--a lot worth $400; average attendance of Sunday School, 25; number of teachers, 5; Pastor, Rev. J. A. Hood.
6. Shell Creek Catholic Church, established in 1872, has 150 families and a church property worth $1,200.
7. Congregational Church of Monroe, organized in 1868, with 9 members; Pastor, Rev. C. C. Starbuck.
8. German Reformed Church, Columbus, organized Dec. 25, 1875, with 22 members; present membership 45; value of church property $3,000; Pastor, Rev. A. Schneck.
9. Shell Creek Lutheran Church, organized September, 1873, with 50 families; present number 60 families; Pastor, Rev. E. A. Freese.
10. Stearns' Prairie Catholic Church, organized 1875; has 25 families; church property $1,000.
11. Church of Latter Day Saints, organized July 30, 1865, with nine members; present number 57; church property $600; H. J. Hudson first and only pastor.
12. Tracy Valley Presbyterian Church, organized in 1875, with 8 members; Sunday School attendance 30; value of church property $900; Pastor, Rev. J. M. Wilson.
1. Free Masons--Lebanon Lodge No.
58; charter June 20, 1875, with 20 members; present members 44.
2. The Eastern Star or Degree of Adoption Right; chartered January 15, 1872, with 18 members; present members 35.
3. Odd Fellows - Wildey Lodge No. 44; chartered May 5, 1874, with 10 members; present members 64.
4. Daughters of Rebecca--Columbia Degree No. 11; chartered Feb. 18, 1876, with 11 members; present members 25.
5. Sons of Temperance; chartered Feb. 22, 1873, with 15 members; present members 58.
6. Knights of Pythias; started in August, 1875, with 11 members; present members 15.
7. Good Templars, Lodge 176; chartered June 16, 1876.
All these orders meet regularly and are said to be in a prosperous condition.
To this general subject pertain also the Press and Post-office, for they are instruments are as well as criteria of the intelligence and enterprise of a people.
The first paper published in the county was the Columbus Golden Age, by C. C. Strawn, editor and proprietor, commencing June 21, 1866, and ending with its 12th number. It died, not so much of starvation as of mortgage. Next came the Platte Valley Journal, by O. T. B. Williams. It was maintained one year, and was followed by the Columbus Journal, by M. K. Turner & Co., whose first number bears date May 11, 1870.
In the month of February, 1874, dawned on our field under the proprietary and editorial management of W. N. Hensley, the Columbus Era.
In May, 1875, the Columbus Republican sailed out on the sea of News, under the captaincy of Frank P. Burgess.
The Journal and Republican are in politics Republican; the Era Democratic. The combined circulation of
these three live papers is given us at about 2,000, and the aggregate value of their advertising and job work at about
I have no P.O. statistics except some from the Columbus office.
In 1869-70.--Daily papers 20. Weekly papers, 100. Letters mailed, daily average 125. Income of office per year, $250. Stamps used per quarter 3000.
In 1876.--Daily papers 90, Weekly papers 800. Letters mailed daily, average 1250. Income of office per year $1200.
From August 2d 1870 to July 3d 1876 there have been issued of money orders 7971. Stamps used per quarter 15,000, stamped envelops several thousand and postal cards 3 to 6 thousand.
There is another department of our history which I will dignify with the title of
military. For we have had our little "wars and rumors of wars."
behavior, to return to their home below Fremont. This "Pawnee war" occurred in July 1857.
A number of little parleys occurred during the next few years after the tribe occupied their new quarters on the Loup. Such was that, for illustration, when Quinn, six miles below Columbus shot an Indian dead whom he caught the third time after warning him, in the act of stealing grain. The Reds rushed down from Genoa in large numbers, armed to the death, and demanded the slayer. But Columbus and the big road rushed down too, armed in like manner and refused to deliver Quinn. The matter was finally adjusted by the sacrifice to Pawnee justice of a pony and six sacks of flour.
A similar affair occurred at Barnum's. Not Barnum himself but some one in his employ was the slayer. When the avengers came, Barnum was not immediately at hand, and the terrified family and neighbors, present only in small numbers, were about delivering over not the slayer but a whole cart load of flour and other goods, when suddenly Barnum appeared on the scene and with thunderbolts of rage from his lips and a club in his hands drove the Reds from his premises.
By degrees the Pawnees came to realize the situation, and as early as 1862 one brave white woman could drive a dozen Pawnee men from her presence with only a whip.
But in 1864 a new foe threatened us from the unknown abodes of the Sioux in the North and West. A story of terrors properly goes before my account but must be omitted. The horrors of the West and South--some of them as near to us as Kearney and the Blue--had for weeks filled our valley with painful apprehensions. But not until the "Looking Glass meadow massacre" had we realized the possibilities of our
situation. Then pillage, wounds and death opened our eyes. Pat Murrey had a hay-making camp on the Looking Glass near
Genoa. Mrs. Murrey accompanied her husband and they tented on the meadow. One evening
when Pat was absent at his farm, at the sunset hour, there rode down from the hills a squad of
25 Sioux into the camp. They entered peaceably and asked for food and Mrs. Murrey supplied
them. This done, they began to untie the teams from their fastenings. The men resisting, in a
moment, in the twinkling of an eye, their deadly weapons were in play. An old man was
instantly brained and scalped. Adam Smith, Murrey's brother-in-law, fell pierced with eight
arrows; others in like manner yielded to the fatal poisoned arrows. Mrs. Murrey with hay
fork in hand defending the property received the barbed arrows but not in any vital organ.
Only one escaped--a boy who hid underneath a pile of hay. The report of the distress being
heard at a distant farm, parties came in the darkness and carried away the dead and dying.
Mrs. Murrey had crawled away a distance into the tall damp grass and spent the lonely night in
agony of pain and horror. She yet lives and is here to-day, but she will never fully recover
from the shock of that hour or the poison of those arrows.|
As to the Reds they got away with $2500 worth of valuable property, and though pursued next day by the military then stationed at Genoa, they were never overtaken.
The alarm which this tragedy created had partially abated when Frank Becher took from the wire one day a message from Gen. Mitchell at Cottonwood in the West, ordering troops to Colum-
bus to protect the country against an invading band of Yanktons.
About the same time, a stranger passing through informed us that he had discovered a band of
forty Sioux concealed in a thicket between the rivers opposite town. This caused a general
The whole Valley from Kearney to Omaha was world with alarm. Nearly the whole population left their homes with their live stock and more valuable effects: many between Kearney and Columbus left for the season and halted at Elkhorn City. At Grand Island, Columbus and Elkhorn, the people made a stand and built stockades--J. L. Martin, now of Merrick county, very characteristically of Pap Martin, but very unmilitarily, named these stockades. Grand Island was Ft. Sauer Kraut, Columbus was Ft. Sock-it-to-'em, and Elkhorn was Ft. Skedaddle. We have to submit to the unchangeable names of history: But Columbus can stand it if the others can.
For two weeks, most of Platte county--people and beasts--were within the stockade. And may Heaven hide such sight from our eyes and such experience from our lives, forever thereafter.
A Home Guard was organized, with J. S. Taylor Captain, E. W. Arnold 1st Lieutenant, J. A. Baker 2nd Lieutenant, and J. B. Beebe Orderly Sargeant. A guard stood watch during the nights and patrols swept the prairie during the days.
But no Indians came. Perhaps our movements saved us, for Indians, more than civilized warriors know at a distance, the situation of the enemy. And this was the last "Indian scare" we have had.
I close this sketch with a few words in behalf of Platte county as an inviting
field for immigration and investment. Like the most of Eastern Nebraska, the whole county,
without exceptions, combines in an eminent degree all the qualities of a good agricultural and
pastoral country. In its natural state it was one vast plat of nutricious grass--pasture and
meadow. At this date about half its square miles are occupied by actual settlers, there being
from one to eight families on a square mile. A large portion belongs to different railroad
companies and non-resident speculators, and is held for sale at prices from $3.00 to $8.00 per
acre. A small quantity yet belongs to Uncle Sam and is subject to settlement under the
as flour, starch, cloth, oil, sorghum, ropes, &c., and there begins now to
be a loud call to the ingenious and enterprising farmers and manufacturing classes of the over-crowded East to locate, invest and set up machinery in this land of natural beauty, health and
Columbus is a town of far more promise than a casual observer would suppose. It has the natural position and surrounding to remain always the chief town of Central Nebraska. With Columbus it is not so much a question of what? as of when?
It is never safe to rely supinely on the indications of natural facts, but it is always safe to follow them up actively. Neither the brains nor the money that will venture active investment in Columbus and Platte county, at the present stage of their history, will be taking any serious risks. For every prophecy of nature is to the end that Columbus will, in due time, be a conspicuous centre of highways and certain manufactures, and hence of extensive internal commerce, and hence again of commanding influence, educational, political and moral.
There is no special reason for haste, but the time is near for some experienced and plucky party--individual, or company--with $100,000 in hand, to solve the problem of utilizing the immense hydraulic power of the Loup, and for some other party, with ample means, to locate here an educational institution of high order. And it is the nick of time for a thousand farmers to drive in upon our rich pastures their flocks of sheep and herds of cattle.
On page 9, 13th line from bottom, instead of Isaac Albertson read -- A. B. Pattison.
On page 10, 6th line from top, after Bellevue, read -- and B. P. Rankin, of Omaha.
On page 11, in the list of State Senators, it might have been stated that V. Kummer had the Certificate of election, but his seat was contested and given to O. T. B. Williams.
© August 1998 Sherri Brakenhoff