PICNICS AND MARTIAL BANDS
By Geo. C. Lanphere
On the 22nd day of April, 1872, H. C. Lanphere and Dater Fenton with their families started from Spring Hill, Ill., with two prairie schooners laden with household goods, their six horses and twelve cattle, on the long trek to a new home in Nebraska. Everything went fine until arriving at the ferry across the Mississippi river at Rock Island, Ill., when it took the strength of all hands to keep the horses and wagons on the ferry. Mother getting out of the wagon and taking the horses by the bit, remarked that she thought she could do more and be safer in that way than by holding the lines from the wagon. After getting safely across the river they continued westward, making twelve to twenty miles a day. After passing Des Moines, Ia., they encountered rainy weather and the red clay hills of western Iowa, becoming muddy and sticky, slowed them down to four or five miles a day.
Arriving at the Missouri river at Plattsmouth, they encountered about the same difficulties experienced at Rock Island. After that they continued going west, passing through Lincoln in the late afternoon and arriving at a camp on the east bank of Salt Creek after dark. In the morning mother climbed out and standing on the wagon-tongue said to Dad, "Henry, if Nebraska is like this, I'm ready to start back home." Mr. Fenton told her she had not seen the best of Nebraska yet and urged them to go on. They decided here to rest the horses and cattle a day. Mr. Fenton, Dad and Richard Hibbard, a former acquaintance and future neighbor, went into Lincoln, then a town of about 4,000 inhabitants where Dad filed on his homestead, on Mr. Hibbard's recommendation.
The next day they again faced west and arrived about 5:00 p. m., May 26, 1872, on the southwest quarter of section fourteen, township twelve, range 1, west, the site of their future home. There followed a very busy summer – setting out trees and plants brought from home, breaking the prairie sod for corn, hauling wheat for Jim Stewart, a neighbor, to Lincoln, the nearest market, at $7 a load, a three days' trip, besides collecting feed for winter, breaking sod for a neighbor and between times building a sod house, barn and chicken house and getting a well put down, thus starting on the long uphill road to prosperity.
The writer, George C. Lanphere, arrived the next spring, April 18, 1873, just three days after the historical Easter storm of April 13, 14, and 15, without the aid of doctor, nurse, or midwife; the snow being too deep to get to even the nearest neighbor. His life journey began in the little soddy.
In memory I live over again one incident that happened when I was about ten years of age. It was a Sunday school picnic. The Eureka Sunday school with Levi B. Fuller, superintendent; Blue Ridge Sunday school, whose superintendent was Noah Clem, and Palo Sunday school, with Frank H. Fenton superintendent, decided to have a union picnic. The committee on arrangements decided first they must have a martial band, second, each school must have a banner bearing its name, third, each family should bring a well-filled basket of dinner, and, fourth, the schools should furnish all the lemonade that could be used. The time, the second Sunday following the meeting and the place, Uncle George Fuller's grove. Dad was appointed to arrange for the band, so on the Saturday afternoon preceding the eventful day, he and the writer went to Waco and brought the other members of the band out; Mr. John Dewey a fifer and Walter Delzell, to play the bass drum. Father being the snare drum player. After leaving Waco, a mile or so, father said, "George, you wrap the lines around your hands and brace your feet against the dash-board and drive. I want to drive this team tomorrow and I want them band-broke, going home." Well, on arriving home the way my back and arms ached I couldn't tell whether I or the team was best band-broke.
The next day, arriving at Eureka school house, the assembling place, we formed in procession, band leading, proceeded one mile west; were joined by Blue Ridge school, then two miles south where Palo school fell in line, then one half mile east with band playing, flag and banners flying we arrived at the grove where a platform had been built and seats arranged for the crowd. The superintendents with the Rev. I. M. Kingsolver, assembled on the platform, opening the service with prayer by the minister; songs by the assemblage, Frank Fenton organist; then a fine sermon, with benediction, and after that dinner with all the lemonade we kids could hold – a treat well worth waiting for, in that day.
After dinner the older people spent their time visiting. The younger group played games and finally a foot-race was staged by Henry Clay Riley, of Spring Hill, Ill., visiting here and "Doc" Meeker, a resident of the community. Time had arrived to leave for home, everyone tired but feeling they had spent a very worth while day, long to be remembered. Just one incident in the building of a new country.
These people with other like characters, through grasshopper plagues, blizzards, drought, hail and panics, always interspersed with prosperity and good times, have made York county a garden spot in one of the best states of the greatest nation on earth.