PIONEER TRIBULATIONS AND COMPENSATIONS
By Mrs. Dora Logan Campbell
Pioneer hardships, bravery and other traits make the settling of the West the most thrilling story ever told, but none are quite so fascinating and thrilling to me as those of my parents, Mr. and Mrs. H. N. Logan, pioneers of York county.
Father, a young soldier, was born in Whiteside county, Ill. He was mustered out of Co. B, 34th Reg. Ill. Vol. Inft. in 1865 and returned to his home in Prophetown, Ill. In 1871, he, with his brother, George Logan, and Uncle Dator Fenton, all soldiers, the latter's wife and children, consisting of Frank, Hattie, Fred, and Lizzie, answered the call of the West when the government gratefully offered every Union soldier a quarter section of land in the unsettled middle-west, and joined the covered wagon trail headed for the great plains of Nebraska in search of homes. After a long and tedious journey they reached the land of their dreams. They took homesteads in York county, Father's was in Stewart township, the southwest quarter of section 24. His brother, George Logan, and Uncle Dator Fenton took adjoining homesteads. Henry Lanphere [Lamphere], a neighbor in Whiteside county, Ill., came with his family the following year and homesteaded in Stewart township on section 14. The settlers always located as near the creek as possible on account of water. Those on section 34 were in Skull Hollow, whose name originated from the many skulls found of buffalo that once roamed the country in great herds.
Settlers in this community were scarce and remote. The eye could sweep the entire horizon with scarcely an obstruction except a few trees that grew around Lincoln creek. It was a great expanse of prairie. Sometimes great herds of Texas long horned cattle were driven across. The first year father raised some garden vegetables and planted about eight acres of sod corn, but the winter set in early and the deer ate every ear of his crop. In 1872 he raised a good crop of wheat, corn and oats. One of the great dangers to the early settlers was from prairie fires, as they had swept over the great expanse of wild grass and taken everything in their path. To protect their property a fire guard was made by breaking a strip of sod around the farm from four to eight rods wide.
Mother, the youngest daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Samuel R. Runyan, had left her home in Armstrong county, Penn., with her parents and the rest of the family of seven children and came to Iowa, a short time before joining the prairie schooners headed for Nebraska in 1870. They settled in the northeast part of York county in section 24 Waco township. Their trip was long and tiresome as they drove their milk cows which had to be staked out at night in order to get feed. Their milk helped provide food for the family. Dugouts served as homes for these settlers and shelter for the stock during the first years and later sod houses were erected to make them more comfortable. Mr. Fenton built the first two-story sod house in the country. Progress was slow in the first years, breaking the sod but they were eager to raise enough corn and wheat for feed. The winters were long and severe with many bad storms and blizzards, but the great blizzard that occured on Easter Sunday, April 13, 1873, will live in the memory of the children of these pioneers for ages.
The spring was rather early, small grain was up and most of the farmers had their early sowing done. The day was warm., About the middle of the afternoon rain began falling which by night had turned into sleet then snow. The wind changed from the southwest to the northwest and by night had turned into a raging blizzard, which lasted three days and nights without a moment's letup. Many settlers perished [parished] over the state, and the loss of stock was also great. In some instances the soddies were shared with the stock and chickens which proved to be a blessing, as the cow and chickens helped the food supply.
Henry Schwarting, a settler in Waco township, who was on his way to his neighbor, Wh. Zweig's, lost his way and wandered around for sometime. He was about to give up when he saw a little light ahead and crawled to it. There he found the Zweig home and shelter until the storm was over. Mrs. Schwarting was at home alone during the storm and was very thankful when she learned that he was safe.
Perhaps the settlers were lucky that they lived in sod houses or dugouts as they were not so apt to be blown away but some were completely covered with snow. Many exciting tales are told of experiences digging out after the storm was over. Water was obtained by melting snow. Much anxiety was felt over the scarcity of fuel, which consisted of buffalo chips, cornstalks and twisted hay. Wooden beds or other furniture was cut up to keep fires going until the storm abated. Many remained in bed to keep warm when the fuel was low. During the storm a baby daughter was born to Mr. and Mrs. John Evans. Lucky for all concerned Mrs. Lucy Inbody was a guest in their home and was capable of caring for mother and baby.
Another dreadful blizzard came several years later on January 12, 1888. This day was similar to the Easter Sunday on which occured the blizzard of '73. People were out without extra wraps, stock was in the fields and many children were in school. About the middle of the afternoon the wind turned suddenly to the north, blowing furiously the snow that was beginning to fall, first in large flakes, then in a fine snow. There seemed to be no limit to the fury of the wind nor the increasing density of the driven snow, which lasted for several days. This storm is known as the school children's storm as many children perished. Many heroic stories are told of teachers who struggled to save her children in the storm. Loss of life was heavy and much of the stock perished.
On April 29, 1874, the marriage of Herman N. Logan and Annie M. Runyan, was solemnized at the Evans home three miles east of what is now Waco. Squire John Evans officiated. The wedding trip was made in a lumber wagon with a high powered team of mules hitched to it.
On July 20, 1874, they were visited by a terrible calamity that of grasshoppers. The story as told seems almost incredible, but is related by pioneers now living. It happened on a hot Sunday afternoon when an obscure cloud appeared in the sky, which at times almost hid the sun. The settlers were very much alarmed, and were wondering what was coming when the cloud grew closer and suddenly the air was filled with grasshoppers, millions of them. The vibration of their wings made a roaring sound like an approaching storm, followed by a hush as they dropped to the earth and began their devastating work. Everything that was green was soon devoured. Some grain that was in the shock was partly saved. Trees and handles were bored into. Many grasshoppers were piled up and burned, while others left such a large quantity of eggs in the ground as to cause much worry over the future. The next spring started in quite favorable. Everything was growing fine, when the grasshoppers began to hatch in great numbers. Many contrivances were made in an effort to destroy them but the cold, rainy weather sent by Providence did more to banish them than any device of man. These grasshoppers are said to be the Rocky Mountain type, with slender bodies, light gray wings and an enormous appetite. Grasshoppers of a different type than these came several times in following years but did little damage.
The next year or two Elder Evans built a large frame house on his homestead two miles north of what is now Waco. This was the only large frame house in the country. He was a Christian minister and held many religious services in this home. In later years he moved to Waco and organized the Christian church in his home and afterwards helped erect the Christian church.
Following years brought droughts, hard-times, chinch bugs, panics, hailstorms, prairie fires, floods and failures in every line of business. Prices were low. Those who had products to sell were compelled to sell at these prices, corn 8c per bushel, butter 8c per lb., eggs 9c per doz., potatoes 10c per bushel; hogs 2c per lb., etc. These prices did not compensate them for their labor.
While breaking the prairie land Mr. Logan engaged in teaching school during the winter months in what is now called Palo district No. 35. He was a member of the school board at that time and held that position for over forty years. Other members of the board were Elwood Doan, F. H. Fenton and later Noah Hand and John Lindquest. In later years Mr. Logan served as county assessor and walked as he did this work. He also served as county supervisor for a number of terms. In 1882 he was a candidate for county treasurer on the republican ticket, and when he refused to join with the populists, he was defeated by his opponent, J. W. Bennett.
Prior to mother's marriage she taught school in her home district which is now called Westfield district No. 5. I think she was about the first teacher in the district as I have in my possession her teacher's certificate issued by H. H. Tate, county superintendent of York county on September 4, 1873.
They took up their home in the little soddy previously built on the homestead. During this time wells were dug and additional buildings for man and beast were erected mostly of sod. At the same time more land was broken and more sod corn planted. This corn was about the only thing they could depend on for a living through the winter. Little wheat was sown, just enough for one harvester, for many miles around and that was kept busy going night and day. Two men were required to ride on the machine and bind the grain as it was cut.
Threshing was always a problem as threshing machines were also very scarce. They were run by horse-power and required several days to complete the job. In speaking of threshing machines reminds me of the tragedy that occured October 17, 1887, when Charles M. Rogers, who owned one of the first steam threshing rigs in the country, was threshing for Robert Brown. The engine boiler exploded, killing Mr. Rogers and his engineer, Tom Crane. Several other men [man], who had been pitching bundles, were laying on the stack waiting for the machine to start, had a narrow escape when pieces of iron were hurled over them. This was the first accident of the kind to occur in the county.
The early days of pioneer life was full of hard work, with trials and disappointments. Mother took her bundle of soiled clothes to the pond a quarter of a mile away and washed them while she herded hogs on the prairie close by. They were not molested a great deal by the Indians, only a few who came begging, but the fear which was always in their minds, added much to their loneliness and discomfort. They had to learn to be brave and courageous. One afternoon mother was alone with her sick baby who went into convulsions. She was so alarmed and not knowing what to do. She ran out of doors screaming and was more terrified on seeing a big Indian running towards her. He neither molested her nor paid any heed to her cries for help. In time experience taught her that was one of a pioneer mother's problems.
Pioneer life was full of tribulations and discouragements. When everything seemed to indicate better times something would happen to blight the settlers' hopes. But these calamities extended their bonds of brotherly love and sympathy. A neighbor's misfortunes and pleasures were shared alike. A new settler was given a hearty welcome and was assisted to get settled. Long trips were made for social amusements consisting of debates, spelling-bees, singing school, dances, etc., but they were always enjoyed.
For six years the soddy provided a home for Mr. and Mrs. Logan. Sometimes the umbrella was raised during a rainstorm to keep the bedding dry. In 1880 Mr. Logan's father, J. S. Logan, came from Illinois for a visit and he, being a carpenter, built a story and half frame house which still stands on the homestead. The father died while here on that visit. Lumber was hauled from Nebraska City or Lincoln as those two cities and Columbus were the nearest markets. At times the latter city could not be reached on account of river conditions. Many exciting tales are told of things that took place while fording the Platte river which contains quicksand. It was a long, tiresome trip to either of these towns for supplies. An early settler, Louis Hansen, had a store near Westfield where necessary articles could be purchased. In 1872 a post office was established at Palo, one northeast called Orton and one in the Parker home. The latter was near where Thayer now stands. Ben Willis was the mail carrier and carried mail from Lincoln to Kearney, serving many other such offices enroute. The Palo office was in the Brown home, later in the Herman Smith and A. H. Rogers homes. Mr. Smith moved to Waco and built a home which is now used as the Methodist parsonage. Mr. Smith was a brother-in-law of Ben Willis.
The early settler lost on time in getting together for divine worship and guidance. Church services were held in their crude homes. The first M. E. society was organized in Stewart township in the summer of 1870 by Rev. Mr. Comstock. In the spring of 1871 the United Brethren church was organized by Rev B. M. Allen. A. H. Rogers donated land on section 24 and a sod church was erected and services held there until a frame structure was erected in 1874. Among those who helped build the church were Rogers, Fenton, Logan, Lanyon, Doan, Inbody, Preuitt, Trollope, Elliott, Allison, Willis, Hyatt, Lucas, McCullough, Stewart, Smith and Lanphere. As a greater part of the settlers were [wree] United Brethren [Brethern] the church was to be used half time by them and the other half time by other denominations. The builders worked hard to have the church finished for the second annual U. B. conference which was held in what was then called Palo in August, 1874. The first annual conference of that society was held in Pleasant Hill in Saline county, Oct. 30, 1873. Bishop Glossbremier presided at the Palo conference. This was the second U. B. church built in the state and is the oldest now standing in the state. The 60th annual conference in Seward, September, 1933, was brought to a close by a pilgrimage to Palo where short services were conducted by District Superintendent [Superintndent] A. P. Vannice of York. Dr. S. S. Haugh of Dayton, Ohio, gave a short talk. Henry Valentine of Gresham, who attended the first conference, was present and spoke a few words. The first U. B. church was built in Plattsmouth in 1871.
In 1873 a cemetery was laid out near the Palo church where the remains of Mary Rogers, mother of A. H. and C. M. Rogers and wife, Dator Fenton and wife and father, Stanley Fenton, several members of the Brown family, J. S. Logan, George Logan and wife, Billy McCullough, and many other loved ones of these pioneers repose. This little church, a symbol in those days of the settlers' trust in God, and their faith in their country, is held most dear to the hearts of children of these pioneers who lovingly take care of it and want to preserve it for ages. Since the last conference Rev. Mr. Vannice has secured the right for the United Brethren conference to have full control of this church property and they will endeavor to protect this homely shrine held dear to the hearts of these pioneers.
The railroad coming through this part of the country put a new aspect into the life of the settlers as a nearer market would be established. Wm. Preuitt, a pioneer farmer, now living north of town, helped build the railroad from Seward to York. Wm. Keeley also worked on the railroad. A short time after the railroad came through in April, 1877, a village plat was laid out. Miss Sarah E. Chapin, a niece of Dr. Converse, president of the railroad company, who was a pioneer, offered to donate a part of her land for the town, if she be permitted to give it a name. Her offer was accepted and she named the town Waco, in honor of Waco, Texas, her former home and the place where she graduated. The township was later named Waco. J. W. Strickler, who homesteaded here in 1875, put up a temporary building near the railroad track and sold tickets, ran a store, and provided hotel accommodations.
The advent of the railroad was occasion for an enthusiastic celebration. The train was a combination work-train and caboose, with a four wheel engine, with smoke stack the bulging type we sometimes see pictured in history books. Uncle Joe Strickler, as he was known, later erected a two story frame building, one half was used for his home and the other half for a general store. He was a fine merchant and earnest Christian. The influence of his life has been felt through-out the community for years.
Lewis Inbody, who came here in 1870, and operated a blacksmith shop before the village was laid out, was the first to do business in the new town. Thomas C. Tagg was the first stock and grain buyer and later ran a general store which he operated for a number of years. Competition was much alive in those days, as buyers would go into the country and meet the farmers who were on the way to market and bid on their products. The grain was scooped from the wagons into the cars ready to be shipped. I am reminded here of a story concerning two local boys and will tell it to show that boys, in those days, were like boys of today who long for adventure and explorations. Charles McCloud, a young lad in his teens, in company with a chum, decided they would like to see the world and crawled into a car of wheat headed for an eastern market, unnoticed by anyone. When a few miles out, the dust began to roll and filled their eyes and they could hardly breathe. When they reached Seward, their first stop, they were glad to crawl out and hit the trail for home, as they thought they had seen enough of the world in that fashion.
J. Meehan had a hotel and livery barn. Mr. Beardsley, O. P. Lowry and B. Welch were depot agents, and a new depot had been erected before J. E. Miller took charge in 1889. He was agent at Tamora before coming to Waco, and received a gold medal for 45 years' service before yielding to his successor, William Flickinger, a grand-son of H. C. Burtch, a pioneer, and as a boy, Mr. Miller started in the business as a mail messenger and helper in the depot. Paul Fox, a civil war veteran who is now living with his daughter at Sioux City, Ia, came in 1882, conducting the Metropolitan hotel for years. A post office was established and Emerson Austin was the first postmaster. Others who held that office were John Evans, Wm. Bradley, Peter Doyle, H. C. Burtch and Frank Cox, who turned it over to E. J. Kaltenborn, the present postmaster, who has had charge for over twenty-three years.
John Stephens had a hardware store with barber shop in the same store. Rantz Swartz was the barber. A. H. Rogers put in a hardware store later with C. W. Tinker as harness maker and his first work was to make a pair of tugs for Mr. Stephens' harness. Mr. Tinker later bought the store which he operated until his death in 1924. His son and wife have added a line of groceries and are carrying on the business. His wife, Mrs. Emma Tinker, is a skilled pioneer lady and has made many enviable pieces of work. Although nearing the 80th birth anniversary she delights in painting and has made a number of beautiful pictures. Others in business in Waco at various times during the early days were Latman, Couch, Sayre, Hansen, Martin, Kendig, Adams, Dewey, Witters, C. Hohnbaum, King and McCloud.
Robert Beckord came to Waco in 1882 and worked for Fritz Beckord, who owned the lumber yard at that time, and later sold to S. K. Martin. Mr. Beckord purchased the elevator from T. C. Tagg which he ran a few years before he bought the drug store which he owns and operates at the present time. Early physicians were Drs. Wells, Anderson, Downing, VanGorden and Gairdner.
A school house, which for reasons unknown to the writer is not on record, was the first school house in this community and stood near where the Frank Lemon filling station now stands on land owned by Emerson Austin. Mr. Farmer, Harve Melton, and Jennie Coleman were the first teachers. Mr. Farmer was a soldier and owned the land now occupied by Albert Stuhr. This school soon out-grew the little school house and school was held in the M. P. church, which stood where the water tower stands at the present. Land was purchased from John Wolfe and wife for $100.00 and a two story frame building erected. This frame structure was replaced by the new modern brick school house in 1917. Several newspapers have for a time recorded the happenings of the people of Waco. Among the first was the Star-Leader and later the Waconian.
Our first church was the Methodist Protestant and Rev. C. E. Finney was the first preacher, who traveled on horseback, accompanied by his wife and had a number of places on his circuit. Mr. Inbody furnished him horses. The Methodist Episcopal church was built in 1882.
Among other pioneers who helped promote the agricultural interests and bore an important part in development and prosperity of the community were W. Keely, Henry Deitsch, Thomas Clark, Johnsons. J. T. Lyle, Thos. Oram, H. Rogers, W. Volzke, C. B. Wilson, Cap't. Wilson, A. Everts, W. Trollope, W. Schultz, E. Lancaster, Bennetts, Wellman, Steffen and Henry Stuhr, who with his wife, imigrated to this country in 1873 and walked from Lincoln and carried their trunk. Even this did not discourage them. They, like the rest, had come West in search of a home and were willing to endure the many privations and hardships which befell the early settler, of which the present generation has no conception. With such brave men and courageous women, who pioneered Nebraska, especially York county, the garden spot of the state, she could not be other than the great state she is I will say with the Poet Gable:
Our own Nebraska. Thou'rt indeed a richly favored state,
Where climate, water, soil combined to make thee truly great.
Thy varied riches might be told in many a massive tome,
I'm proud of thee, and prouder still to call Nebraska home.
I am especially indebted to my mother, Mrs. Lucy Inbody, Wm. Preuitt, Ed. Stephens, Mrs. Emma Tinker and the Fentons for facts and dates used in this story written at Waco in June, 1937.