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York County, Nebraska York Homepage

History of the State of Nebraska
Chicago: The Western Historical Company
A. T. Andreas, Proprietor

Page 1488

very abusive, and finally declared his intention to shoot Mr. Smith.

With this purpose in view, he went to the stage, secured his revolvers, returned to the ranch and drew a bead on Mr. Smith, just as he was about to enter the ranch.

Mr. Smith shot first, the ball entering the forehead, and producing instant death.

This was the first death occurring in the county, and although assuming the form of a tragedy, Mr. Smith was justified in the course he pursued.

The first permanent settlement of the county was made by John Anderson and his son William Anderson, upon the West Blue River, in the month of February, 1865. They took up the first homestead claims in York County on Section 2, Township 9, Range 1, and are honored as the pioneer settlers of the county.

The early settlers without exception took up sites for their future homes in the timber groves that bordered the principal streams. The wild natural scenery of their charming valleys attracted and irresistibly drew them to their shady nooks and the prime necessities of pioneer life, wood and water were in abundance.

The first settlements were made in the valley of the West Blue, in the territory now embraced by West Blue Precinct. The early pioneers in this portion of the county are: Nerva Fouse, Elias Gilmore, George Stubblefield, Henry Chatterton, William J. Taylor and David Buzzard. In the northwest part, J. W. Kingston and Philando [Philander] Church settled upon the Blue River in 1870, and in the north and northeast, upon Lincoln Creek, David Doan, James H. Stewart, Newton Hyett, and John A. Mercer made settlement in 1868, and C. C. Smith and a Mr. Coon, in 1867.

In the more central part along the valley of Beaver Creek the pioneers are John Kora, Julius Frost, Henry Nichols, William Sweet and Christian Bristol, the date of their settlement being 1870.

A little further west on the creek David Baker settled in 1869, and the following year Thomas Bassett and Marion Shackleford.

In the south and west parts, Fernando McFadden made settlement in 1866 on the West Blue, and Levi Woodruff (now deceased) in 1868, and also the Hendersons at an early period.

In 1870, during the month of April, the organization of the county took place. The United States census, which was made during this year, disclosed a total population of 640 [604], one half of which had made settlement in the spring and summer.

There was but one frame house in the entire county, the residence of Uncle Elias Gilmore, situated on the West Blue, and but one schoolhouse, a sod structure, also located upon this stream.

One post-office comprised the entire mail facilities, which was located upon the West Blue on the road between Fairmount [Fairmont, Fillmore County] and York, at the residence of Fernando McFadden, established in the month of July, 1867. Mr. McFadden has the honor of being the first Postmaster appointed in York County, and his euphonious name was also given to the post-office. At this office they were supposed to have a weekly mail, but high water, a sick horse, or some other incident often delayed it, and not infrequently two weeks passed without any mail coming into York County.

Large numbers of buffalo invaded the county in August, 1868, which was the last appearance of these animals in any considerable numbers. Their advent was a godsend to the almost destitute pioneers, who found themselves in a position to lay in a winter's supply of meat, and it is needless to add they were not backward in taking advantage of their good fortune. During this year (1868) the Pawnees, Otoes, Omahas and Poncas were united in a war against their common enemy, the powerful Sioux, and invaded York County on the war-path. The line of battle was on the south side of the West Blue, about eight miles south of the city of York. No white settlers were molested, but the Indians skirmished here and there over the southern part of the county, according to their usual mode of warfare.

Twelve years ago there were but two or three houses between the residence of J. W. Kingston and the city of York, and the settlements were scattered and many miles apart. Yet, those were grand old days, and the first settlers are unanimous in pronouncing them as such. They were obliged to make long journeys for their social amusements, but always enjoyed them. A trip of twenty-five miles for the purpose of visiting a neighbor was no uncommon occurrence, and you may rest assured, those visits were always pleasant and agreeable. All were united in one common bond of friendship and hearty good will toward each other. A new settler was hailed with delight, and the neighbors (all were neighbors) would go fifteen or twenty miles to assist him in erecting his sod house, and giving him an honest welcome. The stranger became one of them and without the least formality. Such hearty good will is contagious, and no sooner did the new settler see it manifested then he took the disease, and was as jolly, free and friendly as the rest. Long trips across the country were not unfrequent, and little dreaded.

The nearest mill was located at Millford [Milford], Seward County, a distance of thirty-five miles from York, and with their little grists, they made the journey in three days and often in two. The bulk of the trading was done at Lincoln, except lumber, which was purchased at Plattsmouth or Nebraska City, on the Missouri River. The many trials and hardships of pioneer life, interspersed with the numerous pleasures incident to it, form a volume that can never be fully written.


Prior to the year 1870 York County was attached to Seward County for judicial and revenue purposes. On the 18th day of March, 1870, His Excellency David Butler, Governor of the State of Nebraska, issued a proclamation in response to a petition from the citizens of York County, authorizing a permanent organization of the county.

In accordance with this proclamation, on the 26th of April, 1870, the people of York County met at the polling places of the three precincts, and exercised their franchise, at which election eighty-six votes were cast throughout the entire county. Of this number fifty-one were polled in Precinct No. 1, at the house of Uncle Elias Gilmore, Section 17; in Precinct No. 2, at the old pre-emption house of A. M. Ghost, situated at York, on Section 18; in Precinct No. 3, at the residence of J. M. Parker.

A full compliment of county officers were duly elected and the choice of the people resulted as follows: Edward Bates, Clerk; Julius Frost, Treasurer; George Flock, Sheriff; D. F. Moore [D. T. Moore], Probate Judge, W. H. Armstrong, Superintendent of Public Instruction; Frank Manning, Surveyor; Dr. S. V. Moore, David Buzzard, Capt L. F. Wyman, Commissioners.

All of the above officers qualified and entered upon the immediate discharge of their duties.

At this election the county seat was located at York, in consideration of about 200 lots given to the county by the Town Plat Company.

The first session of the newly elected Board of County Commissioners was held June 4, 1870, in the old pre-emption house before mentioned, which was situated near the present site of the Central Hotel stables, just south of the public square. At this session the County Clerk was instructed to purchase, upon the credit of the county, all necessary books and stationery for keeping the county records, which was the first official proceeding of the board.

Messrs. David Buzzard, John D. Reed, Julius Frost and County Clerk, Edward Bates, were appointed a committee to investigate and settle the individual accounts of the county with Seward County, and John D. Reed was also appointed Attorney for York County.

The county was divided into three Commissioners' Districts comprising the following territory: District No. 1, Town 9, Ranges 1, 2, 3, and 4, west. District No. 2, Town 10, Ranges 1, 2, 3, and 4, west. District No 3, Town 11 and 12, Ranges 1, 2, 3, and 4, west.

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