Saunders County NEGenWeb Project
Past and Present of Saunders County Nebraska, 1915




   In the extreme southwestern portion of Saunders County is located the Town of Valparaiso.

   The first settlers in Oak Creek Precinct were Andrew Johnson, known as Uncle Andy, and his son, R. K. Johnson. They located upon section 22, town 13, range 5, on October 5, 1865, just west of the present Town of Valparaiso. In February, 1866, Henry Bates settled upon the same section and when spring opened Henry Throop located upon section 34. George Newman also settled upon sections 26 and 35, during the summer, but afterwards went to Newman Precinct. James Bates and William Bates arrived in 1868; the former took up land upon section 26 and the latter on section 20. James Craig was another early settler, coming in 1867.

   R. K. Johnson was the original proprietor of one-half of the town site, and constructed the first frame house and store, the latter a small structure 10 by 16 feet, in 1870. He hauled his stock of goods and supplies from Lincoln by ox-team. His business began to increase in the new settlement and shortly he erected another store building, 18 by 30 feet, which lie occupied until 1877, when the third store was built, at the same time as the completion of the railroad.

   The Applegarth brothers opened the second store in the village in 1877.

   Valparaiso was incorporated as a town in July, 1880, and the county commissioners appointed the following trustees: J. C. Stevens, Gustavus States, J. P. Gibbons, C. J. McFarland, John Hunter. A. M. White was appointed town clerk; Elijah Beach, treasurer: and the board elected J. M. Gibbons as president.



   At the time Andrew "Uncle Andy" Johnson first took up land in this vicinity there were only four improvements between this site and Lincoln; and the only inhabitant between here "and sundown" was James Brown. In the spring of 1866 Johnson moved his family here and found that the settlers' huts had taken the place of the Indian tents. James Craig had homesteaded the land on which the town was located afterwards. The family of Bates, with their numerous relatives and friends, had also appeared in the community. Ivers Jensen was living on very frugal fare here. Johnson hauled the sawed lumber for his house from Rock Bluff and Nebraska City, while his boys raised corn in the weed patches, with no other tool than the hoe. The following winter they lived upon the corn thus cultivated, which grain was ground in the hand mills, with an occasional grist of wheat flour for Sundays and for strangers who happened to travel by. They possessed an old-fashioned coffee-mill and in this they and the neighbors ground "Injun meal." R. K. Johnson wrote that "the Indian then lit his camp-fire and sang his songs on the very site where the schoolhouse now stands. It was a kind of alcove, surrounded on three sides by timber, a pleasant retreat both in winter and summer."

   Valparaiso was laid out upon Government land, but by whom and when is not known. Lots were sold in the eastern markets and it is marked on Colton's maps of 1863 as the capital of Calhoun (Saunders) County.

   In the spring of 1871 Mr. J. K. Van Demark came here and taught the first public school within a radius of twenty miles. As late as his coming there was no postoffice nearer than Lincoln and he claimed that Andrew Johnson was the first to establish an office in Valparaiso. Van Demark traveled to Lincoln for his mail. He soon began the practice of law and for many years was the only lawyer in that part of the county. He came from Indiana and was a surveyor. He surveyed and plotted the original Town of Wahoo. In 1886 he was elected to the Legislature. He was a man of more than ordinary ability.


   There are two banks in the City of Valparaiso, both of which are leaders in the financial field of Saunders County. The Val-

Wagon bridge, Valparaiso
Wagon bridge, Valparaiso

Main Street, West, Valparaiso
Main Street, West, Valparaiso


paraiso State Bank had its start in 1906, as a private bank, operated by H. Bleakley. Two years later, in 1908, the private bank became a state bank. The first officers of the institution at this time were: A. C. Abbott, president; H. Bleakley, vice president; W. C. Elmelund, cashier. In 1912 W. C. Elmelund bought the Abbott interests in the bank. In 1915 the officers of the state bank are: E. P. Elmelund, president; W. C. Elmelund, cashier; S. H. Fritzinger, vice president. The first capital stock of the institution was $10,000, which has been increased year after year until now there is a capital of $20,000. There is the sum of $3,500 in surplus and undivided profits, and the average deposits amount to about $140,000.

   The Oak Creek Valley Bank was incorporated February 1, 1899. However, the bank was started as a private bank as early as 1884; Bleakley at one time owned the institution. The following men bought of Bleakley: Jules Petermichel, F. J. Kirchman, J. J. Johnson, W. C. Kirchman and August Widman. F. J. Kirchman is the president of the Oak Creek Valley Bank at this time, J. J. Johnson is the vice president, Jules Petermichel is the cashier, M, J. Petermichel and J. B. Tomes are assistant cashiers. The first capital stock was $10,000, which has been raised to $20,000 now; there is $7,500 surplus; and the deposits average $170,000.


   The Valparaiso Visitor was established in 1887 by S. M. Weed as the Valparaiso Avalanche. Twelve years later the publication was sold to R. A. Lynn, who operated the paper for two years and then in turn sold to R. D. Waterman. The latter also ran the plant for a couple of years. The paper was then purchased by James A. Yowell, who has conducted it for the past six years. The paper is in a more flourishing condition now than ever before, due principally to the efficient management of Editor Yowell. The columns of the weekly issue are filled with late and interesting news and in all is a popular sheet. Mr. Yowell also publishes the Mead Advocate at this office. The circulation of the Visitor is about eight hundred and sixty and that of the Advocate about five hundred. The plant is practically a new one.



   From a struggling little village, with a few rough board stores lining the road, Valparaiso has grown to be a thriving town, with modern buildings and handsome residences, prosperous churches, and competent banks. The presence of the railroad, the town being a junction point, has contributed materially to the development of the community. Valparaiso has the best railroad connection of any town in the county, not excepting Wahoo or Ashland. A municipal waterworks was established eight years ago, which plant has been a striking success for the town. The electric light plant, a corporation, was organized in 1911 by C. N. Wood. There were thirty consumers at the start and now seventy-five. Other municipal improvements are contemplated which will give to the town in the next decade the same rate of growth true of the decade just past. The Valparaiso Telephone Company was organized in 1904 by A. C. Abbott. This plant has had a very successful growth.


   Sherman Post No. 64, Grand Army of the Republic, at Valparaiso, was mustered in June 24, 1881, with the following charter members: I. C. Stevens, William C. Kelley, W. S. Raphael, J. C. Worley, W. T. March, C. B. Hedding, D. Critchfield, S. M. Weed, J. Parraso, A. Crouck, W. Kinney, George Worley, J. L. Cheever, D. Shoonmaker, W. F. Firey, E. Cunningham, D. C. Rider, John Ort, J. Greever, E. F. Cheever, F. M. Cheever, L. Brewster, J. L. Magee, B. Bovers, J. D. Essex, William Bays, W. J. Stewart, D. F. Riley, S. Decker, N. D. Tharp.

   Henry Bates came to Nebraska in the fall of 1865 and stopped at Nebraska City until the spring of 1866 and then took up his claim in section 22, Oak Creek Precinct. He was born in Clarke County, Ind., on March 20, 1833.

   Elijah Beach, who opened the first drug store in the town, came to town in 1878, having come to Nebraska in the fall of 1870 and residing in Butler County, where he homesteaded. He was a native of Kankakee County, Ill., having been born there November 29, 1851.

Catholic Church, Valparaiso
Catholic Church, Valparaiso

A Residence Street in Valparaiso
A Residence Street in Valparaiso


   William Bays came to Nebraska in the fall of '67 and located in Lancaster County. He moved to Valparaiso in February of 1880 and engaged in the business of stock buyer. He was from Indiana.

   Daniel M. Deane built and operated a mill in the spring of 1878, having previously been in the same business at Seward and Raymond, this state. He was a native of Massachusetts.

   Joshua P. Gibbons, who started the second store at Valparaiso, was a native of Ireland, came to the United States in 1871; to Kennard, Washington County, Neb., in the fall of 1874; and to Valparaiso at the time of the railroad building, in 1877.

   Marsilliat B. Giffin, an Ohioan, came to Nebraska in the autumn of 1867 and located in Newman Precinct, taking up a homestead. He was one of the first settlers in this vicinity. In October, 1881, he came to Oak Creek Precinct.

   Iver Jensen came to Nebraska in 1866 and took up a claim in Oak Creek Precinct and settled upon it the following spring. Jensen was born in Denmark on February 12, 1843, came to America in 1864 and immediately enlisted in the war in the Thirteenth New York Cavalry; he was wounded in the Maryland campaign.

   Rodney K. Johnson came to Nebraska in September, 1865, and took up a homestead where the present Town of Valparaiso stands. In the spring of 1866 he started farming and in the fall of 1869 opened a general merchandise store which, as mentioned before, was the first in the new village. Mr. Johnson served in the Civil war as a member of Company E, Fifth Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry, was mustered out as second lieutenant, having participated in about thirty engagements with the enemy. He was born in Maine on December 13, 1842, and was married October 23, 1870, to Elvira L. Carter of Illinois.

   Andrew Johnson was born in Maine on November 9, 1816. He came to Nebraska in October, 1865, and located and took up a homestead the same year on section 22, Oak Creek Precinct, which land joined the present Town of Valparaiso. He was appointed postmaster in 1871, being the first in that capacity.

   Charles J. McFarland came to Nebraska in 1871 and in 1877 to Valparaiso, where he started the first hotel. He was a native of Ohio and was a veteran of the Rebellion.


   Henry E. Throop, born in New York State in 1830, came to Nebraska in 1866 and was one of the first settlers in the vicinity of Valparaiso.

   Charles C. White came to Nebraska in 1864 and located in Lancaster County and was once county treasurer there. He came to Valparaiso in 1878 and erected a flouring mill. He served in the Ninth Illinois Volunteer Cavalry during the Civil war, and was a prisoner at Libby Prison and Belle Isle. He represented Saunders County in the State Senate in 1880-81. He was born in Lucas County, Ohio, February 24, 1843.

   George Worley came to Nebraska in 1867 and located on section 26, Oak Creek Precinct, 1 1/2 miles south of Valparaiso, where he farmed for ten years and then moved into town. He was born in Harrison County, Ky., February 4, 1818, and served in the war with the Thirty-fifth Illinois Volunteer Infantry.

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