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 Cradle Days In York County
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By Mrs. Loran Jordan

In the year 1870 three young men left Fulton, Ill., in a prairie schooner and started west to seek their fortunes. After a long tedious journey they reached York county, Nebraska. It looked good to them and they settled there.

One whose name was Ben Willis settled three miles east of what was later the town of Thayer. He chose rather hilly land, thinking it afforded greater protection from the cold winds that swept through the valley of Lincoln creek from the westward. He constructed a dug-out and here he lived for several years. The country was very sparsely settled and neighbors were far away. The "coyotes howled and the buffalo roamed." I remember a buffalo robe we used and prized highly, in later years, that my father had made from a buffalo he shot, and I can still remember the unearthly youls of the coyotes that made me clling to my mother for protection.

A short time after Ben took out papers on his land he secured a job carrying the mail from Seward, on the Burlington, to Grand Island. He made this route twice a week, using a buckboard and ponies, and prided himself on getting the mail through on schedule. He drove across country without a road of any kind, guided by a lone tree here, or a sod house there, through snow and rain, no matter what kind of weather, for he was a strong and stalwart man.

In 1876 he built a frame house (the first in that section), returned to Fulton, Ill., and married Miss Elizabeth Bulkley. To this union were born two daughters, myself and my sister Jane, now Mrs. E. B. Delk of Kansas City, Mo.

A few years later father bought 160 acres across the road from our homestead. It was railroad land and Lincoln creek cut through it where wild ducks and quail abounded, and as father was a good shot we had many delicious meals of wild game. Here, too, we picked many bushels of wild plums and grapes. Today these delicacies are gone and I think the people living in that vicinity would be glad to have a few of them.

A wagon trail ran through this land and deep furrows could be seen for as many years as we lived there. As a small child I remember wagon trains, drawn by oxen, and some also drawn by horses, wending their way westward over this trail. They forded Lincoln Creek as there were no bridges. I also remember of looking across the prairie about a mile north and seeing an encampment of Indians. They remained there a day or two then followed the old trail, going westward, and did not bother us.

After father stopped carrying the mail, the neighborhood post office was lodged in our house for a few years and was known as Palo. Soon a school house was erected one and one-half miles east, and a church two miles southeast were also called Palo. Here we attended Sunday school and church services and mother taught the Bible class.

This church still stands, or did a couple of years ago when I drove to see it. It is but a shell now, but in the churchyard are buried many early settlers, among them my grandfather.

When I was quite small some people moved on the farm just north of us. Father said the man had a "shifty eye" and looked none too honest. While they were poor they seemed to be trying to get along. One late afternoon the sheriff drove a pair of high stepping ponies into our yard, and father went out to greet him and asked him what brought him out to our place. Said the sheriff, "I've come to arrest your neighbor just north of you. He has stolen a valuable horse." (Horse stealing was considered a great crime those days). Father, being a quick thinker and always wanting to help the "underdog", said, "It's getting late, you better put your team in the barn, come in and have supper with us, stay all night and in the morning you can get your man." This sounded good to the sheriff who was none too anxious to deal with a desperado at night, so he decided to stay. As the sheriff was unharnessing his team, father came into the house and sent an uncle, who was visiting us, over to the neighbor's to tell them the sheriff was coming. In the morning the sheriff got up early and went after his man, but he was gone. However he left the horse and the sheriff took it to the owner. Some years after, and when twitting him about not getting his man, father told the sheriff all about it.

When Gresham was founded on a new branch of the North Western, we moved there and father erected an elevator and engaged in the grain business for several years. He was a life-long republican, as was York county at that time. After a few years he was elected a member of the board of supervisors and made chairman of the bridge committee. This work required considerable time going over the county condemning some bridges and building new ones. Not the strong cement kind we now have but just something to get the much despised (in high places) horse and buggy across.

Later father and mother moved to Thayer county, near Hebron, where father engaged in farming, and in January, 1926, my parents celebrated their golden wedding anniversary. In 1927 father passed away, mother living a year and a half longer.

As I look back on this old homestead and my early childhood, it seems like a pleasant dream, for I remember no hardships at all. My father must have encountered many in his endeavor to wrest a living from that virgin soil. There must have been hail, wind, rain, grasshoppers, drought and snows, and sometime even too much rain, but as far as the records go, no dust storms, or worse yet, no dictator to tell him what to plant and how to do it. He often said those early days were the happiest of his life.

David City, Nebr., March 26, 1937.

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