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 Cradle Days In York County
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By Oden S. Gilmore

My father, Sebastian Gilmore, more familiarly known as "Boss" Gilmore, was born near Farmington post office, Fayette county, Pennsylvania, March 2, 1847. He was the son of Elias and Hulda Rush Gilmore. In 1859 the family moved to Livingston county, Ill. They traveled by water practically all the way taking a steamboat [steamoat] on the Monongahela river to Pittsburg, where they boarded an Ohio river steamboat to Cairo, Ill., and up the Mississippi to the mouth of the Illinois river and from there to LaSalle, Ill., which is as far as they could go on the Illinois river. Here they lived for seven years.

In 1865, Elias Gilmore with his oldest son, Jacob R. Gilmore, who had returned from the army, and William Taylor, another soldier, with a team and wagon came to Nebraska, arriving in York county about Christmas, 1865. They selected their homesteads. Elias Gilmore took the west half of the northwest quarter of section 7, West Blue township, and eighty acres adjoining in section 12, McFadden township. Jacob R. Gilmore took the northeast quarter of section 7, and William Taylor the northwest quarter of section 8, West Blue township. They proceeded to Nebraska City, where on January 1, 1866, they entered their homestead claims. From Nebraska City, Elias returned to Illinois, the other men returning to their homesteads. Later Boss Gilmore acquired the Elias Gilmore homestead. The K. of P. summer camp is located on it.

In April, Jacob R. Gilmore's wife and little daughter, Ella, arrived from Illinois. On June 3, 1866, another daughter, Lillie, was born, the first white child born in York county. †

In the fall of 1866, Elias Gilmore and his family consisting of Lydia, Boss, Mary, Bina, John, Arminda, and Walter, came by covered wagon arriving in York county about November 1, 1866. At this time Boss Gilmore was nineteen years of age and was not able to take a homestead until 1868, when he became of age. He homesteaded the south half of the southwest quarter of section 6, West Blue township, being then able to get only eighty acres. He has made some additions to the original tract, paying $5.00 an acre for some, $15.00 for another tract, $25.00 for another and $125.00 for another. This gives you some idea of the gradual increase in values. He still lives on his original homestead. Though 90 years of age he takes a keen interest in the farm operations and in public affairs.

In the fall of 1869, father built a log house on his homestead. The shingles were brought from Nebraska City, and the house is said to have been the first shingled house in York county. The early ranch houses at Smith's ranch southeast of York and Porcupine ranch, one mile east of Hamilton county line on the Old Freight Road, were covered with slabs and dirt. This log house was somewhat unique in construction. It was about nine or ten feet up to the eaves, but the logs were wide enough so that it only took about eight of them to build it. They were hewed flat on each side and were about seven inches thick. The house was quite commodious, having an upstairs. Later a lean-to kitchen was built on the north end out of lumber sawed on the premises by Jacob Pflug and his brother, who operated a steam saw mill, just across the road from the house and who lived in the house prior to father's marriage in 1872. This saw mill was brought over from Seward in 1870 or 1871, father assisting in transporting it. It was located on the northwest corner of section 7, West Blue township, and without doubt was the first industrial establishment in the county.

Elias Gilmore lived in a dug-out down near the river until the spring of 1869, when the large frame house, still standing, was built. It was constructed largely of native lumber made from logs hauled to a saw mill at Milford. The door and window frames were made of pine lumber brought from Nebraska City; as also were the shingles. This was the first frame house built in York county. It is still occupied and is in a fairly good state of preservation. The floor joists were hewn logs about a foot square and are as solid as when put in 68 years ago.

About six years ago the writer was helping to level off the ground for a cattle shed, near the above described house, and came upon a peculiar red clay deposit. I mentioned the peculiar formation to father and he said it was "where we burned our lime." He then proceeded to tell me the circumstances. He and his father brought limestone dug out of the bottom of the Blue river near West Mills, which was northwest of Dorchester, and hauled it back and burned the lime with which the house was plastered. And father also used some of it to plaster up the chinks between the logs in the log house on his homestead. Much of it was supplied to neighbors, who built chimneys on their houses, most of which were sod, so that many of the houses in the vicinity were plastered with lime "burned" or manufactured in York county.

Another early "industry" created by necessity was making charcoal, principally for the early blacksmiths and wagon makers, who had no other fuel to use in their forges. This was done by cutting timber and putting the logs in pits or ricks and covering them with earth and allowing them to burn slowly. In 1889 or 1890 Jerry Martin, a brother of Mrs. Hattie Conway, cut considerable timber and burned several pits or ricks of charcoal on Grandfather Gilmore's land. I recall he had several wagon loads of charcoal.

Another early industry was carpet weaving. Someone in the neighborhood had a loom and did most of the weaving at their home, but sometimes it was taken to the homes of others and carpet woven for them. The children of the Sunday school used to meet one afternoon a week at the Christian church and sew carpet rags. Although most of us were hardly old enough to go to school both boys and girls learned to sew the ends of the strips of rags together and wind them into big balls. I still have a vivid recollection of large green, red, or variegated colored balls or carpet rags. It was a real sewing society with the redeeming feature of gossip left out as under the watchful eye of our teacher, Mrs. Randall, my maternal grandmother, we kept quite busy.

In 1867, Jacob R. Gilmore bought a few groceries and hardware supplies and started a store in his log house on his homestead. This was no doubt the first store in York county. A year or two later Nels Creech, who married Bina Gilmore, and W. H. Armstrong, who homesteaded south of the Blue, bought an acre of ground from Boss Gilmore and built the Blue Valley store, which was operated until a few years ago. They sold out to Alfred Corey, who married Mary Gilmore. Nels Creech then started a store at Red Lion which he operated for a few years and sold to R. F. Lord, father of Telfer Lord. Later the store was abandoned and the building became the Dunkard church, quite a colony of that organization having located around the Red Lion mill.

The first marriage in the county was that of Lydia Gilmore and Nimrod J. Dixon, which occurred [occured] in 1867. They had to go to Seward to procure their license, York county being unorganized. They settled on a homestead just in the edge of Fillmore county, south of Lushton. Their son, Arthur, was the first white child born in Fillmore county. Mrs. Dixon, 93 years of age, is still living and makes her home in Fairmont.

Indians came through nearly every fall and camped from a few days to a few weeks. Their coming always created some excitement, partly because it was something different and partly due to the strange appearance of themselves and their equipment, but perhaps mostly to feeling of fear their coming aroused, especially among the children. In the earlier years they carried their luggage on poles strapped to the sides of the ponies, with ends dragging on the ground. By the late eighties they had acquired some nondescript wagons. They lived in cone shaped wigwams. It was an event to visit an Indian camp and peek into their tents if one could muster up the courage. Mother has often told me of a big Indian walking into the large room of the log house and removing his shirt, which had become wet from trapping, and sitting by the fire until it became dry. Mother remained in the kitchen until he left. I was lying in the home made cradle also near the fire [fre]. Inasmuch as I was only a few months old my memory of it is rather vague, but the story was told so many times I can visualize it quite vividly. We lived in the log house until I was seven years old.

What was probably the first musical organization in the county was in the Blue Valley neighborhood. It was a martial band consisting of a bass drum played by Jacob or Walter Gilmore and a large army style snare drum, played by John Gilmore, and two fifes, one played by Boss Gilmore and the other by William Taylor. This band was much in demand at celebrations and picnics. One appearance of the band I recall was leading a large delegation from southeast York county to the McKeighan rally in York during the campaign of 1890. I was then twelve years of age and rode in the wagon with the band and it was my duty or privilege to hold erect a large American flag.

The McKeighan rally was an historical event in York county. As we approached the road now known as the Meridian highway we met large delegations from other counties, including Clay county. It was one of the largest crowds ever assembled in York, and on subsequent occasions I have often heard the remark, "nearly as large a crowd as the McKeighan rally." The parade, made up mostly of lumber wagons, was a colorful one with large banners and flags tacked along the sides or carried aloft. And there were many appropriate floats. The writer remembers one of a large hay rack remodeled to resemble a boat and an effigy of Harlan, the Republican candidate, a York man, standing erect in it with a large placard along the side "N. V. Harlan floating down Salt Creek."

Mr. Harlan was a man of excellent attainments and of fine personality and looked the part. If he had been elected the old Second district, which comprised practically all of the South Platte country west of Lancaster county, would have been well represented in Congress, but in the wave of populism that swept Nebraska in the early nineties, he, like nearly all republicans, was defeated. McKeighan, who lived in a sod house on a farm near Red Cloud, was elected by a large majority. He carried York county, but by only three votes. The story was current after the election that when McKeighan received the returns from York county, he turned to his friends and said, "Boys, I'm elected."

Among others elected that year were W. J. Bryan from the First district, which contained both Douglas and Lancaster and other counties in the southeast corner; and Omer M. Kem in the Third district, which comprised nearly all of northern Nebraska. It was an exciting campaign as was also the one in 1892, when in a three cornered race for Governor, Boyd of Omaha, a democrat, was elected by stuffing the ballot boxes in Omaha. This was comparatively easy before the adoption of the present Australian ballot, a reform put into effect by the populist legislature. Another important feature that Nebraska adopted during populist days was the free school text book law, Nebraska being perhaps the first one to adopt it. When visiting in Ohio in 1913, many of her citizens were puffed up over Ohio's progressiveness because the legislature had just passed such a law to go into effect the next year.

The legislature met with the state militia stationed through and around the capitol to preserve order. Governor Thayer refused to surrender the office on the ground that Boyd born in England was not an American citizen. It took a decision of the supreme court to settle that, but Boyd was later inaugurated.

Among many colorful campaign songs I recall one with a refrain containing the words, "O'Bryan, O'Keighan, O'Kem." Whether this was used in derision by the republicans or as a catchy phrase by the populists and democrats I do not recall.

York, Nebraska.

Oden Gilmore advised the York County Historical Society, years after this article was written, that he had met a woman who had been born in York County several months prior to Lillie's birth.

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