EARLY DAYS ON LINCOLN CREEK
By Mrs. Amanda Gandy McCandless
My father, A. W. Gandy, came to York county from Iowa in September, 1871. He had served three years in the Civil war in the Third Iowa cavalry and came to Nebraska to take a homestead that Uncle Sam had promised every one of his soldiers that would accept 160 acres for a home. What a strange procession it was that came! Two covered wagons, the first one filled with household goods and feed for the stock. On one side of the wagon was a chicken coop with a dozen or more chickens. Tied behind the wagon was a cow and a yellow mare, the pet of the family. Then came the other covered wagon with the wife and four little girls, with bedding, food, and a place to sleep at night. On the back of the wagon was a box crate with two good sized pigs, and on top of the crate was a breaking plow to turn the sod to build our new home. How the young people now would laugh to see such a queer caravan on the streets. As you know we traveled very slowly with Bossie in front of us. I took turns with my mother in driving the second wagon.
Father's homestead was four miles north and a mile west of York. His brother, Lemuel Gandy, had a hardware store but there was no general store until later when F. O. Bell put in a store. The settlers came in very fast and took up land. Most all our neighbors came from Iowa, which was a guarantee of good neighbors and friends. Father built a large sod house and stable for the stock. He had to go to Seward for lumber for the floors, also windows and doors. He took two teams. He drove one and I followed with the other. The road was very poor and it took two days to make the round trip. We got on the wrong road and were really lost for a time.
Our good neighbors on the east was John Walkup and Hon. Charles Keckley. A little farther on was Cap't. J. B. Read's home. That brings to mind the first reception I ever attended for a bridal couple. The bride was Mrs. Read's sister and she was a beautiful, stately lady, the most beautifully dressed lady I had ever seen. There was a very large crowd and Cap't. and Mrs. Read were fine hostesses.
On the north was Al. Walkup and Grandpa Walkup, as everyone called him. Then a little west was John St. Clair, Tom St. Clair, Eva St. Clair and John West. All had homesteads. Then on the west, living on Lincoln creek, was Mr. Romsdal and family of five children. Mr. Eads' family, Masbarger family, and County Clerk Creegan [Crugan]. On the south, Mr. Peasley, Charley Hill, and down the creek a mile was the Carter family we loved to visit so much. Most of the families had children of school age. School was the next thing to be thought of and talked about, so they held a meeting and voted to build a school house. As the government had given every other section of , land to the railroad company to induce the building of a railroad the school house was built on a railroad quarter, a quarter of a mile west of our home. It was called the Gandy school house. The burden of building the house fell mostly on the railroad company for the people had very little property to be taxed. The school house was the community center for all public meetings. The Farmers' Grange met once a month there. We had a singing school and a literary debating society on Friday nights. On Sunday it was Sunday school and church. Our debating society was very interesting, as well as educational. There were some old school teachers in the country that really liked to show their knowledge and made it very interesting. Some of the teachers I recall were Miss Eva St. Clair, Miss Kate Keckley, Miss Minnie Codding and Dwight Briggs.
When winter came some of the neighbors thought it would be fine to go hunting for the next summer's meat. So father took his team and wagon and there were three other wagons. The fall had been so pleasant so they went west quite a distance and got all the buffalo meat they could haul. They were within thirty miles of home when an awful blizzard struck them and they could not see where to go. They stopped and put their wagons in two rows with the horses between. Father had a large greyhound with him and he made the dog lie on his feet which kept them from freezing. Every little while they would give the horses some corn to keep them from freezing. One poor man had his feet frozen so he could not wear his shoes. His toes came off and they took him to Seward to be treated. We had buffalo meat until late in the summer. It was salted down or pickled and much of it was dried, or jerked as they called it then.
There were Indians a-plenty but they were friendly, though we were just as afraid of them as if they had been savage. The first one we ever saw came to our home one cold, stormy evening and knocked. Father opened the door and two big, burly Indians stalked right in. We were eating supper. They made signs so that we knew they wanted food, so father fed them and thought they would leave, but, no, they walked over to the stove, a large cook stove, drew their blankets tightly around them and laid down behind the stove, with their heads in the corner and their feet sticking out each way, We children were so frightened we could not sleep. Father told us we had been kind to them and they would not molest us. Later on Indians were so numerous we did not fear them.
There was one wonderful sight that impressed me so very much I never can forget. It was the moving of Texas cattle to the north. They called them longhorns and they were surely rightly named. They passed our door and they were thousands of them. They walked six or seven abreast, right behind their leader – that slow tread day and night for three or four days. The Texas cowboys rode on either side with a peculiar call that none but a Texas cowboy can give. The cattle made deep paths in the soil that stayed there for years or until the plow effaced them.
Then that awful blizzard of April 12, 1873. Easter was a beautiful Sunday and we were invited to Mr. and Mrs. Romsdal's for dinner. Going home in the evening an awful black cloud was coming up and we made haste to get all the chores done before the storm struck us. We barely got them finished and inside when thunder, lightning and rain began. Some time in the night it began to snow and we did not see outside for three days. The drifts were higher than the house. Father tied the clothesline from the house to the barn to make it safe for him to look after the stock, and he was snowed in there for two days. We were truly worried all that time for fear he had frozen to death. But as soon as the storm ceased he came and shoveled a path to the door through a drift higher than the house. What a happy reunion it was! There was so much suffering during the storm. A fifteen year old son of Mr. and Mrs. J. S. Gray [Gary] lost his life and Mrs. Kailey [Riley] and her baby perished. Such misfortunes as these created a bond of sympathy and made all friends and neighbors.
Grasshoppers came in July, 1874, and took everything that was green. Not a garden or any crop that was standing but what was devoured. Father and the neighbors had cut their wheat and it was in the shock. Some saved some of the wheat but no vegetables at all. Mother's hemp clothesline was even eaten.
Everyone was glad to see new people come to the neighborhood. In February, 1874, two young men from Illinois purchased railroad land. The younger brother bought the southeast quarter where the school house was built, the older the northwest quarter of the same section. They brought their household goods, farming implements, and lumber enough for a small house besides their stock. They used the school house for a dwelling until they had their own house erected. There was no school in session at the time. They shipped their goods to Fairmont, then freighted them across. Everything that was brought had to be freighted from either Seward or Fairmont. There were many proposals for a railroad but not until 1875 was there a fair prospect. Then $94,000 in bonds were voted and the road was built to York. The first train came to York in August, 1877. It was an excursion to Lincoln and I had the pleasure of being one of the large crowd on the train. But with the railroad came that awful monster, the saloon that we all hate.
In the early fall of 1875 the government moved a tribe of Indians to their new reservation in the West. They came across our farm, over the McCandless farm, and past the school house. Miss Codding was the teacher and the children were frightened as well as the teacher. Most of them had never seen Indians before. It surely was a strange sight to see such a procession coming toward us. They had a great many ponies, all with large packs on their backs. Some of them had long poles like buggy shafts with the ends dragging on the ground. On these were rolls of tents and anything they had to carry. Most of them walked or ran scouting about in every direction, looking for anything they could steal or take without asking. They went on a mile to the creek and camped there for the night where they could get water and wood for their fires. In the evening a number of young people went to visit them in their tents. In one tent they were holding religious services. They would sing, then someone would talk, but we could not understand what they said. It seemed to be very reverent. In another tent they had a big bonfire in the center and they were sitting back in a circle. These seemed to be squaws and their little ones. We made a lot of fuss over the papooses which seemed to please their mothers very much. All at once young McCandless caught his foot under a stick that stuck out of the fire and knocked fire in every direction, but no one was hurt. They began to jabber and look cross. We felt it was time to go. They had so many dogs. They barked all the time we were in the camp and seemed to have a very strong dislike for us.
In 1876 my father built a fine frame house to take the place of the sod house. It was the first house in the neighborhood. While I am speaking of the country and its rapid growth, the county seat was making just as rapid growth in every kind of business. Hotels, stores, a bank and court house. There is still standing on the east side of the square a little building my father built sixty years ago. The last time I visited York it was occupied by a cream station.
At one time there were five of my father's brothers living in York county. All but two had homesteads. They were all very public spirited men. L. J. Gandy was county treasurer. S. E. Gandy was postmaster. J. P. Gandy was city marshal. Jesse Gandy was farmer and John Gandy a farm hand. Lucian McCandless, the younger of the McCandless brothers, became my husband. We were married in my father's home on the farm September 12, 1878. To confirm this statement you will find our wedding announcement in the old files of The Republican 58 years ago last September.