GRASSHOPPERS, FROGS AND CYCLONE
By Ira R. Simmons
I think I was something of a pioneer in York County. Nathaniel Simmons was my father. Fred Schneringer and myself came to York in September, 1874, after the big grasshopper clean-out and bought a section of railroad land six miles west of York. Then the following April we came out prepared to break prairie. Fred Schneringer brought mules and father and I brought three yoke of oxen.
A bachelor lived across the road south of our land and he took us in and we made arrangements to live with him. His name was Peter Dunlap. He had no well, so we carried the water from a hole in a draw about a quarter of a mile away from the house. We lived with the bachelor for about two weeks.
Father bought a quarter section of land about five miles west of where we had been staying. This had seventy acres of broken land, a sod house and stable. It also had a well and a lot of trees growing. This he bought for five hundred dollars. At that time there was little deeded land. We moved, sowed wheat and planted some corn. The wheat made a light crop after being sowed so late but the corn made a fair crop. We then went back to breaking prairie and all went well until about the tenth of June then the grasshoppers came on their way north and the wind changed so that they settled and stayed until the wind was in their favor again. While they were there, not a team could be found in the fields. The men were all gathered to talk the situation over but the hoppers did no harm and, with a favorable wind, moved on.
The roof on our house was dirt and the walls were black soil. Mother brought a lot of newspapers and with some pegs she made, she fastened the papers to the wall. But when the heavy summer rains began to fall the dirty water leaked through on the earth floor and the frogs came into the house. One Sunday morning mother asked me to get up and kill the frogs as they kept jumping against the paper and making enough noise so she could not sleep. I got up and killed fifteen frogs, then we had it quiet. We managed to live in that house for a year. Then father built a good frame house. I think there were only two frame houses between York and the west county line at that time. Mr. Bissel had one two miles west of York and the other was a small frame school house near Bradshaw's location.
At that time the mail was carried from Seward to Grand Island and there was a post office about a mile west of where Bradshaw now stands. The building was a sod house and was named Plainfield. I was informed that the postmaster received about twelve dollars per annum.
Schneringer batched in a sod house across the road from his land. In the summer he felt the need of a new shirt and ready made clothing was not so easy to find so he concluded he would make himself a shirt. He bought the material. Then he found himself without shears so he cut it out with a butcher knife. When he assembled the parts it was all right with the exception of one half of one sleeve which was lacking. He then cut a piece of the tail off. The goods was striped, one-half of the sleeve had the stripes running up and down while the other half had the stripes running across.
Later on when York county changed from precinct to township organization Schneringer was elected township supervisor and he named our township Lockridge after our township in Iowa, where we used to live.
There used to be grist mills along the Blue river. One, twelve miles south of the present location of Bradshaw, was owned and operated by Mr. Seeley and did a big business. I have seen from ten to fifteen rigs waiting for their grist. It is an open question whether or not the closing of those mills and the shipping in of flour from the big mills was a benefit to the community.
I think it was in the fall of 1877 the hoppers settled down on us again. They injured the corn and deposited their eggs there. In the spring as they started to hatch out by the millions. Men began to question what to do with them. Then the county offered so much per bushel for them and I think they fixed some machines like headers with something for the hoppers to fall into, but these did not amount to much. We received some cold rain in April that destroyed the grasshoppers and saved the crops for that year. A few years later we received a hail storm that did not leave us a dollar's worth of any kind of grain, flax, or hay.
During the fall of 1889 I purchased a property in the west part of Bradshaw and moved there from the farm. In June of the following year occurred the cyclone in Bradshaw which wrought such destruction. All three churches, the school house, and many other buildings were torn to pieces and many persons injured. We carried three or four into my house on doors from other buildings. One minister who followed us said they would be dead before morning. A child in another part of town was killed but that was the only fatality. On the following Sunday a special train load of people came out from Omaha to see the wreckage. All that wished to come could not get on the train so they made two trips.
I farmed forty years in Nebraska and under normal conditions I think Nebraska is the banner state for farming. I did well by staying with it through thick and thin.