EARLY HISTORY OF CHERRY COUNTY, NEBRASKA
(81) In order to give the pupils of the county a general knowledge of the several communities, the writer thought best to take them on an imaginary trip, to visit all of the localities and learn the interesting things about each of them. We shall select a pleasant day in early June for the trip; then it will not be uncomfortably warm, but still warm enough to enable the boys to wear their straw hats and the girls their dainty new dresses. We shall invite Miss Zetta Tate, County Superintendent, to accompany us on this trip.
We shall gather at a point on Highway 20, where it crosses the line between Brown and Cherry Counties, which is a little more than three miles east of Wood Lake. There will be sufficient cars to enable all to ride in comfort. We shall need rain coats, and a lunch for the noon day meal.
In writing the story of Cherry County by communities, the writer will strive to give a list of the pioneer settlers, especially those who came during the eighties. When we give the name of a settler, we wish to convey that the name also includes the wife and family, in all instances where the settler was married and had a family. There will, no doubt, be many names omitted from the list, which are entitled to a place thereon. This omission is not intentional, as all of early settlers were not known to the writer, and we have been unable to secure all their names. To those who are omitted, we offer our apologies in advance. In a county as large as Cherry County, it is not possible to have a complete list, much as we should like to make it so.
When we are ready to start, we recall that Cherry County was 62 years old, on April 4, 1945. There are many people living in the county who are older than the county.
Wood Lake was so named because of a nearby lake with a fringe of cottonwood trees around it. At first it was named Cottonwood Lake. Later the word cotton was omitted and the name Wood Lake retained. The railroad was completed to Wood Lake in the spring or early summer of 1882, which makes Wood Lake the oldest town site in the county.
The story of Wood Lake during 1882 and most of 1883 is obscure as we were unable to find any one who knew its history of that time. It is safe to assume that the railroad built a section house and put up a water tank, and perhaps a (82) depot during 1882. The first store was established by Charles A. Johnson and Washington Honey, the date being unknown. Later Mr. Honey retired from the firm and Mr. Johnson carried on alone. Then Charles Bailey established a second general merchandise store and Mr. Johnson changed to hardware, lumber, and undertaking goods. The Post Office was evidently established in 1882. David Leach was the first Postmaster of whom we have any record. Their school district No. 7 was organized November 10, 1883. A one-room frame building was erected, and served the district for several years. Church services and Sunday School were held in the school house. Charles A. Johnson established the Wood Lake Bank in 1886. It had a capital of $9,000.00. Its statement of July 8, 1889 showed a loan account of $10,000 and deposits of $1,500.
Later a larger frame school house was built, which served until 1929, when the present modern building was erected. Ordinary wells were used for water until 1912 when an elevated tank and water system were installed. The village also put in a municipal light plant that year. Until that time there were no street lights in the village. Soon after the turn of the century, telephone service was established. Wood Lake was incorporated as a village Aug. 24, 1897.
The first hotel was built by J. M. Callen, date unknown. We shall let his daughter, Mrs. Belle Thorne, who became a popular teacher in the county, tell its story. "When we arrived in Wood Lake, there was no house available in which we could live. We, therefore, lived in a tent until the section foreman moved to his homestead west of town, and allowed us to move into the section house. We lived there while father built our home, which we called The Callen House. We did a thriving hotel business until we moved to our claim, north of town."
Mr. Callen was Justice of the Peace for several years and performed many marriage ceremonies.
The Catholic people built their church in 1912 and services were conducted by a pastor from Long Pine. A Union Church was also built to serve the Protestant people in 1899.
Wood Lake has a beautiful and well kept cemetery, and the people of this community give much credit for the attractive condition of their cemetery to Mrs. Minnie Parker and Lucian (Pat) Piper. Mr. and Mrs. Parker's only daughter and Mr. Piper's wife and son, Ralph were buried there. Ralph Piper was killed in action in France during the first World (83) War. The cemetery was just an ordinary sandhill area, and Mrs. Parker and Mr. Piper led a movement to landscape it. The American Legion became interested and added their support. Water was obtained from the city water system, and after much labor and expense the land was levelled and seeded to grass and a fence was built around it. The Legion erected a monument to their fallen comrade, and the Wood Lake cemetery became a place of beauty. A fund has been provided to insure perpetual care of the graves. They have an annual Cemetery Day when all persons having loved ones resting in the cemetery, and other public spirited citizens turn out and do repair and other necessary work in its upkeep. Mr. Parker has now joined his daughter and Mr. and Mrs. Piper rest beside their son who gave his life for his country, in the cemetery they did so much to beautify.
Billie Day, an energetic young settler, built a livery barn, date unknown, which was sorely needed by the settlers when making trips to town for supplies. This business was later transferred to Ely Valentine, who continued in the business for several years. His barn was popular with the settlers, many of whom would sleep in its mow and prepare their meals on the office stove, during their stay in town for materials and supplies.
Wood Lake had a most fortunate location. The steep hills of the Niobrara River were a formidable barrier to those living in that part of the county south of the river, while the valley roads leading into Wood Lake attracted trade for many miles. This trade would have gone to the towns on the railroad north of the river had there been level roads leading into them. Crossing the Niobrara with herds of cattle at shipping time was an obstacle which caused stockmen to drive their shipments to Wood Lake. All through the horse and buggy days this condition prevailed. It made Wood Lake a thriving business town. At one time it was the largest cattle shipping station on the Northwestern Railroad. Ranchmen came for many miles with their freight wagons for repairs and supplies. It was not uncommon to see several freight wagons loaded with supplies standing in front of the livery barn over night with no covering except a tarpaulin. It was the custom for ranchmen to haul their supplies for the winter during the good weather of the autumn months. This meant many trips and required much time, but when the hauling was finished, a rancher was well equipped for a long winter. Thus (84) Wood Lake became a substantial and prosperous village, until the arrival of the oiled highway and rubber tired trucks. These improvements worked to the disadvantage of the smaller towns and to the advantage of the larger cities.
EARLY SETTLERS OF THE
In 1884 a number of German families who were related to each other, located northwest of the town. They built sod houses and made their living by farming. The fertile, virgin soil and abundant rainfall of the eighties enabled them to make a living. They had little cash, but food was abundant. All kinds of vegetables grew remarkably well. J. P. Kreycik told of a potato that made a meal for five people, and Judge Oscar McDaniels told of a rutabaga that weighed 32 pounds.
These people organized School District No. 36 in 1886. In 1888 they built a frame church and parsonage, with Reverend Mr. Richards as pastor. They were of the Lutheran faith.
The names of these pioneers are: Fritz Welke, Julius Radke, Gustave Schultz, Joseph Lurz, Joseph Stoltze, Andrew Schatztauer, August Bower, John Neihart, Joseph Brouwer.
Drought came with the nineties and crops were poor. When these settlers made final proof on their claims, they secured loans or sold out and moved away. When this history is written, only Fred Welke, son of Fritz Welke, is living in the county. The land of these German settlers is now a part of the ranches owned by O'Kief Brothers, Charles C. Hanna and Archie Hanna. The church building was sold to ranchmen of the Arabia neighborhood, who used it for Sunday School and church services for several years.
The country south and west of Wood Lake is an ideal ranch country. Realizing this, the first settlers selected the best hay land for their homesteads, timber claims or preemptions. Until the coming of the Kinkaid Law in 1904, they had more or less government land around them which they used without cost, to good advantage. From this humble homestead beginning have come the modern, successful ranches as we know them today.
The following pioneers established ranches in the territory south or west of Wood Lake: David and James M. Hanna; who brought 130 head of cattle overland from Minnesota in 1883; Alfred E. Morris, whose sons J. A., J. A., and J. F., are all engaged in the business started by their father in 1884. David Hanna served as Sheriff of Cherry County in 1891 and (85) 1892. He served in the Nebraska Legislature as Representative from Cherry County during the session of 1903 and the State Senate during the session of 1907. His son Neil is carrying on. Alfred E. Morris served as County Commissioner of Cherry County and was State Representative during the session of 1913.
Willis Barnard founded the Red Deer Ranch in 1884. This ranch now belongs to the McGinley Family. Willis Barnard shipped in many long horned cattle from Texas, to be kept until mature. Chalmers A. Lovejoy, whose sons, Fred, Daniel, and John took up the business where their father left off. Menzo Shaul and sons, Ivan, George and Charles; George Shaul's sons, Alfred and Harry are now on ranches of their own. His daughters, Mrs. Boise Lord and Mrs. Kurt Wendler have substantial ranch homes in Cherry County. Charles Shaul sold his holdings and entered the service of the railroad where he remained until he reached the retirement age.
John H. Day, William Schock, Paul Kennicott, Jacob Groves, John Cronin, Oscar McDaniel, Wallace Tryon, Jesse West, John E. West, Joseph Kounovsky, Joseph Pogue, Washington Honey, William Gulick, George and Edward Lovelett, William G. Ballard, who had been a driver in the great freight caravans, hauling goods from Omaha to Denver, before the railroad was built. His sons Edward, William Frank and Charles, all engaged in ranching. W. G. and H. G. Sawyer. H. G. Sawyer's son, G. K. took over the ranch when his father and uncle passed away and continued in business until it was to the government in 1937, to become a part of the Valentine National Wildlife Refuge. Elmer Reddick, W. I. McVey, Roy Best, Albert Carl Schleuter, who came overland from Wisner, Nebraska in 1886, with two teams of horses and one yoke of oxen. He also brought ten cattle and shipped in a car of lumber, with which he built a home. He secured a homestead, preemption and timber claim, about ten miles south of Wood Lake. When Mr. Schleuter retired, his son, Otto, took over the home place and operated it until 1944. Now a grandson is carrying on. Two daughters, Mrs. John Salzman and Mrs. Everett Morris have ranch homes in the county.
Ira Steel, Albert Cozad, John Mulligan, and Charles Wilson purchased ranches in the community near the turn of the century. Their sons, Orton Steel and Leland Wilson and two of Mr. Cozad's sons, are among the young ranchmen of the county. We will now visit the Goose Creek Community.
(86) Before leaving Wood Lake, the group will be instructed that the land of Cherry County may be divided into four classes: Valley or hay land, hill land, table or farming land, valleys which are not low enough for hay land or dry valleys, and canyon land. The canyon lands are along the streams. They had splendid timber when the first settlers came. Part of this timber was made into lumber, also used for posts, poles for corrals and ridge logs for sod houses. There is yet quite a little timber on the canyon lands but not as much as when the settlers arrived.
Going southwest from Wood Lake we will pass a number of present day ranches. About 25 miles will bring us to one of the best hay valleys in the county, Goose Creek. This creek has its source in the lakes now on the Valentine National Wildlife Refuge. It flows into the Loup River. On either side of the Goose Creek Valley, the land consists of hill and dry valley land which makes splendid grazing for summer, while the valley produces the hay for winter feed.
Cherry County has had many prairie fires within its boundaries since it became a county. One of the most destructive, if not the most destructive fire in the county's history, swept down this fine valley March 3, 1943, driven by a high wind. It covered a distance of about 25 miles before running into a pasture which had been closely grazed. This enabled the forces fighting the fire to subdue the flames. From towns, ranches, and the Army Air Base at Ainsworth, came men, women and high school students in trucks and cars to join in the fight. Women drove pickups with water to aid the men in their strenuous work. A group of high school boys from Valentine won high praise by subduing flames which were just ready to break into another valley that contained much hay.
The amount of hay burned is not known but it was estimated at 5,000 tons. No homes were burned and only one barn was destroyed. All day and into the night, fighters waged an uneven battle with the flames. When the fire was finally brought under control and the weary workers turned homeward, they beheld a scene which will remain in their memories during the rest of their lives. From places of elevation they could see the 1,000 stacks of hay still burning. In the darkness they lighted up the valley for many miles. It (87) of a great city.
Joe Thomas, a settler, lost his life in a prairie fire in the valley, October 21, 1909.
In 1884 William Hotchkiss, H. C. Steadman, Sumner Everett, D. S. Lilly, Theodore Kelly and Nathan Kelley filed on claims in this fine valley. Later the following settlers filed claims:
Ezra Vandegrift, John Saltsman, J. R. Wysong, F. M. Walcott, N. R. Hartgrove, Clide Allen, W. S. Delano, George Giles, Major Morris, A. E. Reed, Lizzie E. Keller, G. W. Chappel, George, Lawrence and Richard Giles, Body Brothers (Tom and William), John B. Stoll, P. R. Giles. Mr. Giles filed on his claim Jan. 2, 1886. He had a store made of sod, and sent in a petition asking for the establishment of a Post Office, suggesting the name of "Elsmere" from the book "Robert Elsmere." This was granted and the Post Office Elsmere was established April 18, 1899, with Mrs. Carrie F. Giles as Postmistress. There were two other Post Offices established, Giles six miles southeast of Elsmere and Elizabeth, northwest of Elsmere, but these were later abandoned. Elsmere has had a daily mail for many years. Sunday School was organized in Goose Creek Community in 1886 with P. R. Giles as Superintendent. They still have Sunday School with church services on Sunday mornings.
F. M. Walcott was elected county judge in the fall of 1889 and moved to Valentine. Later he was elected county attorney. He and Mrs. Walcott made Valentine their home until they passed away. Their son, O. M. Walcott, is one of the attorneys of Valentine at this time.
The Elsmere School District No. 101 was organized in 1903. There was also a weekly newspaper in this community, the Nebraska Booster, for a number of years. This newspaper was established by Mr. Burdick who later sold it to M. Eastly and Mr. Eastly continued its publication for some time until he moved to a more populous community.
A community hall was built in 1911. This was used for Sunday School, church services, band practice, and other social functions. The school district was so large at one time that there were three school houses in the district. C. G. Fink, a later settler has the Ford Agency for that locality, and it is the oldest Ford Agency in the county.
With the coming of the Kinkaid Law in 1904, many (88) Kinkaiders settled in the Goose Creek territory. At this time most of the land filed on by them has become a part of the ranches of the valley.
Improvements in the Goose Creek community are typical of improvements of other localities of the county, and are listed below.
The first frame house was built by John Good on his homestead, one mile north of Elsmere. First hay stacker was made by L. W. Crocker and John Good. They sawed the parts by hand from bridge plank in 1891. The first hay sled was made and used by C. E. Cannon in 1918. First tractor bought and used by C. G. Fink in 1918. First automobile was owned by C. G. Fink in 1912, which was a Model T Ford. He also installed the first electric lights in his home in 1917, and used a power mower in 1924. Arnold Fink built and used the first power sweep in 1933. Ruby Baker was the first commercial trucker in the community in 1919. The first cream separator was used in 1900. First all-modern homes were built by Thomas Body and C. G. Fink in 1925. First telephone was installed by P. R. Giles and it connected his home and store. In 1903 the first community telephone system was installed and it connected Elsmere with Purdum, Brewster and the B. and M. Railroad on the south, and Enders Lake and Ainsworth on the north and extended up Goose Creek Valley for twenty miles to the northwest.
Charles Giles had the first radio installed in his home in 1919. Mr. and Mrs. Clarence Clark were the first to use bottled gas in 1929. Everett Giles installed the first milking machine used in the community in 1945.
From Elsmere we shall cross over to the Loup River and visit Cascade.
This Post Office is in Pleasant Hill Precinct, on the north bank of the Loup River. The name Cascade was selected by the Post Office Department from a list submitted by the community. It was established in 1898 at the ranch home of W. E. Cady, an early settler, and Mrs. W. E. Cady was the first Postmistress. The Post Office was moved in 1903 to the Varney Ranch, and in 1905 it was moved to its present location, the home of John F. Keller.
The Cascade Community had as early settlers: George W. Keller, his sons, Jay R., Harry, and John F., W. E. Cady, (89) P. T. Lewellen, William Harbaugh, D. F. Harbaugh, M. T. Harbaugh, A. D. Baker, M. J. Schriner, John J. Lowe, Victor Lowry, Theodore Hoefs, C. E. Cook, M. T. Lowry, E. P. Miller, and W. E. Murray.
The soil along the Loup River is suitable for farming, hence the residents have combined farming with stock raising. As in all other sections of the county, stock raising has become the principal business. The first frame house in the community was built in 1910 by G. W. Keller, and it is now the home of the Cascade Post Office.
Until 1907 the settlers fenced their meadows and let the cattle run in much the same manner as under the open range days. They would have their round-up, brand their calves, and gather the cattle which were to be shipped to market. By that time Kinkaiders had come into the community, and fences were built, each rancher using his own land.
The first hay stacker was made and used in 1900 by G. W. Keller. The first registered bull used in the community was owned by Jay R. Keller in 1903. The first hay sled of cable type used by Carl Micheel in the late twenties. The G. W. Keller family used their first coal in 1889. The first telephone service was from Brewster via Purdum to Cascade in 1906. The Bivens family had the first cream separator in the community in 1908, and Vera Lowe was the first to use bottled gas in her home in 1930.
Mrs. C. E. Varney, who was the second Postmistress of Cascade was killed in an automobile collision near Deaver, Wyoming, date unknown. She was an expert horse woman. John F. Keller told of seeing her throw a rope over the horns of a cow mired in the quicksand in the Loup River and drag her to safety.
Down the river from Cascade is the community served by Purdum. This little village is in Blaine County just over the line from Cherry County. They have a daily mail from Halsey and Ainsworth. Their School District No. 35 was organized in the eighties. It has a ten grade high school, and Congregational Church were Sunday School and church services have been held for many years.
The land of this community is suitable for mixed agriculture; farming, dairying, and ranching.
The population of this community is partly made up of (90) the sons and daughters of the pioneers who came in the eighties to find homes in Nebraska. The good years since the drouth and depression of the thirties have placed the people of this community in comfortable circumstances.
In the Purdum neighborhood lived R. R. Greenland, who with another cowboy captured the man who murdered Lieut. Samuel A. Cherry, for whom Cherry County was named. Mr. Greenland worked as a cowboy during the open range days in Cherry County. His son, A. E. Greenland and a grandson live near Purdum.
Improvements which have made life easier in the homes of the farms and ranches since the passing of pioneer conditions, are about the same as in Elsmere and Cascade.
Early Cherry County settlers of the community were:
C. W. Bivens, H. A. Engle, F. A. Gates, E. W. Andrew, H. R. Knapp, N. F. Baker, W. N. Pitt, T. C. Jackson, Louis Neubauer, Levi Cox, his son G. H. Cox, J. T. Body, S. H. Oldham, and others whose names we were unable to learn.
S. H. Oldham moved to University Place, Nebraska in 1911. In 1913 he started working in the State Penitentiary. He also served as President of the Sunday School for seventeen years.
This inland village, in Loup Precinct, situated on the north bank of the north Loup River, was established by John R. Lee and his brother, William B. Lee, in 1886. Mr. Lee named it in honor of his grandmother, Jane Brownlee. He opened the first general merchandise store in a large frame building. Soon a blacksmith shop was added. Later a livery barn, drug store, hotel, bank, and community hall were established, and during the horse and buggy days, Brownlee became a community center and drew trade for many miles. At one time there were three general merchandise stores in Brownlee. The Post Office was established soon after the first store was built, and mail was brought in from Thedford.
Their school district, No. 52, was organized in the late eighties. It is now an accredited High School for ten grades. Another school district No. 37, was organized in 1887, and Miss Mamie Lee, daughter of William B. Lee was the first teacher. The first school house in district No. 37 was made of sod and was known as Mud Institute. E. R. Vandegrift, Director; Dr. James E. Edgar, Moderator, and John Harnan, Treasurer, made up the school board of this pioneer district.
(91) Sunday School was organized in Brownlee in 1887.
The majority of the early settlers farmed to some extent. Mrs. Edward Lee said "We built a corn crib and filled it every year" and this continued during the years of normal rainfall. Farming on any large scale has now passed out of the picture and the territory has become a very successful ranch community. Many of the early settlers sold their holdings to neighboring ranchers, with the result that the ranches became larger and the population smaller. Registered sires have been used for so many years that the herds are practically of pure blood.
Early settlers of this community were: John R. Lee, his son Robert, who is a Master Farmer and has at this time, a substantial ranch northeast of Brownlee. Four of Robert Lee's sons, Marion, Everett, Forrest, and Merril are engaged in ranching also. His daughter, Ava, who is now Mrs. Ray Roseberry, and her husband, the son of Pioneer John Roseberry, are prominent ranch people of the county. Another daughter of Robert Lee, Mrs. Ed Eby, and her husband, are also engaged in ranching; thus making a family of ranch folks.
William B. Lee, whose son Edward is the owner of the ranch started by his father was one of the early settlers, as was George Higgins who founded the Box T Ranch, southwest of Brownlee, which he later sold to William Ferdon. Mr. George Higgins, and his son, are now ranching on Goose Creek.
There was also Pete Rousche, whose ranch was on the Loup River, which ranch now belongs to Senator Don Hanna.
J. M. Hanna was a cowboy from 1883 until he went into business for himself a few years later, and his ranch was fourteen miles southwest of Brownlee. Mr. J. M. Hanna's four sons, Senator Don Hanna, who also served as County Commissioner of Cherry County, and who is now serving his third term as State Senator, George, a veteran of World War I, Seth, and James, are all engaged in the ranch business in Cherry County.
R. M. Faddis founded the Cross L Ranch, now owned by William LaGrange, and located northwest of Brownlee.
Charles Faulhaber established the first registered herd of Hereford cattle in Cherry County; also built the first modern ranch home in the Brownlee Community, in 1912. He invented a machine called a bog cutter, which was successful (92) in smoothing rough places known as bogs. His sons, Roy and Carl are both Cherry County ranchmen at this time.
Frank Fuilfoil fed the first cotton seed cake to cattle on the range in Cherry County in 1909.
Adam Martin and his son, Leon; Leon is carrying on near the old home place.
In addition to the foregoing, the following were also early settlers: Mat, Mike, and James Shanley, M. H. Higgins, Thomas Higgins, E. L. Reiser, M. B. McGuire, A. H. Pound, J. H. Salzman, Leonard Hiner, J. E. Kissel, Reuben Kissel, Thomas McLean, J. H. O'Kane, James Steadman, William Steadman, W. K. Grant, H. B. Everett, W. B. Banks, John and Mary Harnan, F. W. Ganzer, C. H. Eatinger, L. S. Grant, W. P. Slayton, Gustave Wendler, J. R. Chaloud, Ira B. Spencer, Z. Ames, G. E. O'Brien, B. W. Pearson, Albert and Nellie Smith, Max Wendler, B. J. McGuire, William Ferdon, Henry Walsh, E. R. Vandegrift, Dr. James T. Edgar, Frank T. Lee, and Christian Pederson.
Henry Walsh purchased the Pete Rousche ranch, where he lived until he passed away.
George Pearson, son of B. W. Pearson is now living on the home ranch. Kurt and Arthur Wendler, sons of Max Wendler are both engaged in ranching. Christian Pederson is the only one of the pioneer settlers now living in the community.
In 1887 the community decided to celebrate the nation's birthday with a grand celebration. An impromptu band was organized from the residents of the locality, and lumber for a dancing floor was hauled from Wood Lake. They had a ball game, horse racing, dancing, and singing. Miss Mamie Lee, teacher in District No. 37, was selected to read the Declaration of Independence and the Preamble to the Constitution.
In one of the races, Miss Rose McCutcheon, wearing a new fashioned divided skirt, and her blonde curls flying in the wind, attracted much attention. The fashion of divided skirts became general and by the turn of the century, the side saddle passed out of the picture. Miss Mamie Lee mounted on her brother Frank's race mare, "Pet" and riding a side saddle also entered the race. Interest in this race was intense. Miss Lee passed under the wire first and was declared the winner. She was presented with a silver mounted riding whip. There were five hundred people in attendance at this first celebration, according to estimates made by those present.
(93) On April 7, 1891, while Mrs. Amos Everett was on her way to the home of a neighbor, she was overtaken by a prairie fire and was burned to death. She had left a small daughter at the home of a friend or the child would, no doubt, have perished with her mother.
During the flu epidemic in 1918 the Brownlee Community lost eleven of its residents from that dread disease.
Dudley McDonald, a young man working on the Gilmore McLeod ranch, while riding about three miles from any road or building, was thrown from his horse in such a manner that one of his legs was broken. It was in mid-summer and the weather was very hot. For two nights and two days he crawled toward the road. On the second day he reached a meadow where Frank Kime was putting up hay, and Mr. Kime's son, Allan, heard his cries. He was taken to a hospital and made a successful recovery.
From Brownlee we shall visit the Colored Settlement, in which 183 persons were living in November, 1913. This settlement began about ten miles up the Loup River, from Brownlee.
When the Kinkaid law went into effect, there was a section of the community northwest of Brownlee that was vacant land. In 1908 three colored families from Dawson County, Nebraska, moved into this area, and filed on Kinkaid homesteads. Soon other colored families came to make their homes in this locality. This settlement began ten miles northwest of Brownlee and extended up the North Loup River for fifteen miles. By 1912 there were more than 79 claims taken by these people.
They had their own church and cemetery. There were two school districts in which there were no white settlers.
The first settlers were W. P. Walker, C. H. Meehan, Joshua Emanuel, George and Albert Riley, George Brown, J. A. Hatter, and William Crawford. These men were pioneers of Dawson County, Nebraska, and came formerly from Canada. They came to Cherry County mostly in covered wagons.
A third school district was organized; the districts in this settlement then were No. 110, No. 113, and No. 164. Miss Goldie Walker and her sister, Fern Walker, were teachers.
In 1910 a church was organized, and Reverend Burkhart from Lincoln, Nebraska was their pastor. They named their (94) church St. James R. M. C. Church. The pastor lived in William Steadman's home until a parsonage was built. Reverend Manse, the second pastor, filed on a homestead, and the community built a parsonage on it for his home. To build the church, a bee was given and a generous response was made, which resulted in the building being completed in short time. The furniture was all home made, two stoves were donated, and the County Judge of Cherry County donated a large Bible.
Before this church was built, Sunday School and church services were held in the various homes.
W. P. Walker was Superintendent of the Sunday School and leader in the prayer meeting services. An important thing about this church was the fact that there were many denominations represented, but all joined in the services and supported the one church.
A Post Office was later established and was named for an early settler, DeWitty, who was the first Postmaster. The name of this Post Office was later changed to Andacious. Dennis Meehan was one of their school teachers and was the last Postmaster in the settlement. Many trades were represented by these settlers.
Four young men of the settlement served in World War I; they were: W. R. Hayes, Joseph Boyd, McKinley Boyd, and Glenn Hannahs. These boys saw service in England, France, and Germany, and all returned to their homes. Mr. Hayes was gassed and never fully recovered from the effects of it.
Many of these settlers were from the city and did not like country life, so when they made final proof on their claims they sold their holdings to ranchmen and returned to the city. Many of them gave up and sold out during the depression that followed the first war.
At the time this history is written, none of these settlers are living in the community. Mrs. Goldie Walker Hayes and Albert Riley are living in Cherry County. Mrs. Hayes is a teacher in the rural schools. The land in the settlement now belongs to adjoining ranchmen. There are a number of graves in the cemetery which is in Seth Hanna's pasture. School District No. 110, and the Post Office have been discontinued.
From the Colored Settlement we shall go to visit the Virginia Settlement, which is southwest of the Colored Settlement. The Virginia Settlement is farming and pasture land.
THE VIRGINIA SETTLEMENT
(95) North and west of Mullen, in Cherry County, between the Middle and North Loup Rivers, is a large section of land known as Dry Valley. Soon after the railroad was completed as far as Mullen in 1887, Hugh Boyer, his wife and nine sons came from Virginia to make their home in Nebraska. Mr. Boyer and his sons, all of whom were of age, selected homesteads in Dry Valley. Mr. Boyer was a man of sterling character and left a monument of good will and friendship when he passed away at a ripe old age. At his funeral, the pastor took for his text, "A Mighty Man has fallen." There was genuine grief at the passing of this man who meant so much to his neighbors. In 1889 Steve James, William and Buck Pearman arrived with their families. In 1897 Calvin F. Long and F. W. Pool, with their families joined the settlement. Mr. Long had served in the Confederate army with General Early, when he surprised General Sheridan's forces at Winchester, Virginia. He was a splendid citizen. The writer knew and admired him very much. Going out to plow corn one day, riding one horse and leading another, he met a tragic death, and was found by his family when he did not return at the regular time.
Mr. Pool lived in Cherry County until 1920, then moved to Mullen where he has lived since that time. He has served as County Judge of Hooker County for several years.
During the nineties, C. U. Long, Enoch Anders, J. R. Pool, Floyd Anders, Denis and H. B. Boyer, and their families arrived. In 1901 Robert Boyer, Tom and Will Car and families, R. F., Richard, and William Osborn, Joseph, Thomas, W. E. Verda, Lloyd, Con., and Carl Boyer, Rush Boone, A. B. Mastin, and Isom Cox became members of the community. These settlers were all from Virginia.
There were other settlers from various states who joined the settlement also. Elisha LeLaCheur was one of them.
The land was fertile and they made their living by farming, poultry raising and later dairying. They had a sorghum mill which did a good business making molasses. They harvested their grain with a mowing machine, there being no binders at that time in the community.
Their first school was a subscription school taught by Hugh Boyer, in a sod house in 1892 and 1893. In 1902, a school district, No. 98, was organized and a frame building was erected. The first teachers were Lydia Gorsuch, salary $20.00 (96) per month; Mollie Bush, salary $25.00 per month. In 1906 a Sunday School was organized in the school house, with J. R. Pool as Superintendent. The sessions were well attended and created much interest.
About this time, two missionaries, Reverends Stuart and ----------- Hall came into the community with a large tent and held a series of meetings. The result was the building of the Dry Valley Church, which was dedicated to the Congregational denomination. Reverend N. H. Hawkins of Seneca was pastor for a number of years. Miss Maxine McNeal, a member of this church went as a missionary to China, and was captured by the Japs, held for more than a year, then released and returned safely to her native land.
In November, 1894, a prairie fire swept the community. Elisha LeLaCheur and his brother-in-law, John Bliss, were overcome by the flames and were so badly burned that they died soon after reaching the house. A son, John LeLaCheur, was only saved by the team which became frightened by the flames and dragged him out of the line of fire. Mr. Elisha LeLaCheur's son, Frank, now owns the old homestead.
When this history is being written most of the pioneers have passed away, and a number of their sons and daughters are carrying on. Stock raising, poultry and dairying are becoming important factors in their operations. As in all other sections of the county, the trend is away from farming, and stock raising is taking its place.
Arriving in Wood Lake from the Virginia Settlement, we shall rest and have lunch before starting on the afternoon trip. We shall take Highway No. 20, which will take us in a northwestern direction. Ten miles from Wood Lake we come to Arabia. This station was named by Henry V. Ferguson, an auditor of the railroad who thought that because the soil was sandy, it resembled the Arabian Desert in Asia. However, he soon found that it was a fine grass land.
The railroad built a section house and put up a water tank and wind mill when the railroad reached the place. There was a store and Post Office for a number of years, but these have all been discontinued and removed. Their school district No. 50, was organized in 1888. Miss Emma O'Riley was the first teacher, and taught during the years 1888 and 1889. This district has pleasant memories for the writer of this history (97) as he taught the school for three years in the early nineties.
The Arabia Community covers a large territory, and is entirely a ranching section of the county. It is made up of successful, prosperous ranches. As in other sections of the county, the ranches have become larger by buying up holdings of small operators. Being on both the railroad and Highway No. 20, gives it an advantage over many sections of the county.
The railroad was built through Arabia in the summer of 1882, and the first settler arrived in that year. George Vlasnik, who homesteaded the place owned for many years by J. C. McNare, and now the home of W. G. O'Kief, southeast of Arabia, about three miles. Other early settlers were:
J. P. Kreycik, Andrew Benson, Philip Heelan, his sons, William and John, M. J. Jordan, his sons, James, John, M. P. Andrew, Frank and Daniel, Otto Micheel, A. T. White, Claude Reyman, J. T. O'Krief, C. J. Bowman, Otto Turnquist, Frank Vlasnik, Charles Yingst, J. C. McNare, Pat Brophy, W. H. Stratton, and Henry Vansteenis.
J. P. Kreycik is the only one of the original settlers now living in the community. He has a modern home in Wood Lake where he spends much of his time. Mr. Kreycik built his homestead house of logs hauled from Fairfield Creek, in 1885. Being a musician, he organized a band in Wood Lake in 1894, and another in Arabia in 1906, which bands were active for a number of years. Mr. Kreycik had five sons, all of whom are ranchmen. Charles owns a ranch near Wood Lake; James George, Joseph and John operate with their father, as a corporation. From a beginning of one homestead, the ranch has become one of the large ranches of the county. Each of the four sons has a separate unit on which he makes his home, but all connected by the co-partnership. The cattle on this ranch are Angus.
Philip Heelan's son, William, built a large ranch west and north of Arabia, and his sons and daughters are now operating the ranch since their father passed away.
M. J. Jordan's son, M. P., now has the home ranch with the home buildings near the railroad at Arabia. J. T. O'Kief's sons, W. G. and Frank, now operate the home ranch, to which they have added other land, until they have two substantial ranches with a modern home for each of them.
Otto Micheel was killed by lightning in 1916 while going to town for a load of supplies for his ranch. His ranch is now owned by Heelan Brothers.
(98) Otto Turnquist's ranch is now owned by his son, Everett, who took over when his father passed away.
W. H. Stratton came to Arabia in 1888 and opened a general merchandise store. About two years later he moved the stock of goods to Simeon, where he continued for a number of years.
Arabia has been an important hay shipping station, and hay has gone from there to supply U. S. Government forts, livestock markets and private feeders over a wide territory. The railroad maintains stock yards here to accommodate ranchmen at shipping time.
Our next stop will be at Thacher.
Leaving Arabia we shall continue our journey on Highway No. 20. Soon after leaving Arabia, we cross Fairfield Creek, which is the outlet of Swan Lake, about 5 miles southwest of where we cross it. Farther down it enters a deep canyon. This canyon furnished much needed posts, wood, logs, and poles for the early settlers. There is timber in the canyon at this time, but not as much as when the first settlers arrived. The stream provides running water in a number of pastures through which it passes, on its way to join the Niobrara.
Eight miles northwest of Arabia we come to Thacher, which is in Schlagel Precinct. This place is also on both the railroad and highway No. 20. The Thacher Community is higher land than that of Arabia, hence more suited to farming and grazing. There are no wet meadows except in the south portion of the community. A short distance southwest of Thacher, on Schlagel Creek, is one of the best farming sections in the county. Thacher was the end of the railroad from early fall of 1882 until April 1, 1883. The railroad built a section house, large depot and stock yards. A tent town sprang up within a short time, and there were eating shacks, five saloons and a store.
Many cattle from the large range ranches were shipped out during the fall of that year. Thacher was named for J. U. Thacher who was the post trader at Fort Niobrara. Supplies and mail for Fort Niobrara and the surrounding country were shipped to Thacher while it was the end of the railroad. Its school districts are No. 6, organized in 1883, and No. 42 organized in 1887, and No. 62 organized in 1888. The first school (99) house in district No. 62 was made of sod, and one others were frame. The writer was the first teacher in District No. 62. When school opened Sept. 21, 1890, there was no floor, seats or blackboard in the building. The walls were not plastered. Later factory seats, and a slate blackboard were obtained, and walls were plastered. The salary for the teacher at that time was $25.00 per month. Board cost $10.00 per month.
Early settlers of this community were: O. G. Ackley, Hall, T. J., and Henry Taylor, John Sellers, Mark Foxwell, Tim Chenoweth, Allen Williams, Edward Johnson, William Johnson, Edward, Henry and John Ormesher, Frank Higgin, C. H., M. E., and Charles Doty, John Poutan, Elijah Pitman, Otto Buchel, Charles Day, R. P. Gordon, William Clarkson, D. W. Collett, L. D. Lincoln, Jasper Mortimore.
Hall Taylor's son, John L., is now a ranch owner not far from the homestead of his parents. Edward Ormesher's sons, Henry and Edward, also are ranchmen of the community. Frank Higgin's daughter, Mrs. Charles Ogle, now owns the farm and ranch of her father. Otto Buchel's son, Oscar, now lives in Valentine, while a grandson lives on the home place, taken by his parents. R. P. Gordon's son, F. F., took up the teaching profession and became a professor, and has spent all of his life since that time in school work. He wrote the preface to this history. D. W. Collett's son, Clinton, also became a professor and spent many years in the teaching profession.
L. D. Lincoln's daughter, Mrs. Isis Harrington is a writer of note. She writes books for children, mostly of Indian Life. She taught in Indian Schools for fifteen years.
In 1920 women were given the right to vote, and the first election at which they had an opportunity to exercise their franchise was the primary election in April of that year. The first women to vote in Schlagel Precinct were Mrs. Etta Johnson, Mrs. M. E. Doty, Mrs. Charles Brinda, Mrs. Lee Potter, and Mrs. Fred Buchel. There may have been others whose names we could not obtain.
The early settlers of the Thacher Community engaged in farming. At this time, only the best land on Schlagel Creek is farmed. The remainder of the land is used for hay and grazing. The railroad has removed the section house, depot, and stock yards. What was once a frontier town, remains only in the memory of pioneers or their descendants. A short distance north of where the town of Thacher was located is a lonely grave where a cowboy, Andrew Bartlett, was laid to (100) rest. He was killed in Thacher the night after his outfit, the F. L., had loaded out a shipment of cattle, in the late fall of 1882.
From Thacher we shall drive to the top of the Niobrara River hill and stop to view the "Big Cut" which took almost a year to open, so the railroad could lay its track and build on into Valentine. The grade going south from the railroad bridge across the Niobrara was so steep that an extra engine had to be kept in Valentine during the stock shipping seasons in the fall of the year, to help pull the long stock trains up the hill to Thacher.
The railroad decided to build a new grade and a higher bridge across the river, in order to do away with this extra expense. This new grade and bridge were begun in the spring of 1909 and finished early in 1910. The bridge is 65 feet higher than the old bridge, hence one engine can now pull its train up the hill. This bridge is said to be the second highest bridge on the Northwestern Railroad.
A little farther down the hill we shall pause to view one of the finest scenes in Cherry County. Looking up the river from this point, the students will be thrilled with the scene before them.
The Bryan Bridge across the Niobrara near Valentine built in 1934 with the railroad bridge in the background built in 1910.
This scene is especially beautiful in the autumn, when the Master Painter brings out all of the colors of the fall season. After looking over the Bryan Bridge, across the Niobrara, which was named for Governor Charles W. Bryan, who was governor when it was built, we shall turn back and (101) drive up the Schlagel Creek, to visit the Simeon Community, the home of the writer.
The Schlagel Creek is a beautiful little stream. There are trout in it for some distance up stream, from its mouth. This creek was named by Robert Harvey, a U. S. Government Surveyor, who surveyed the country before the settlers came. Mr. Harvey had a friend who worked in the general land office in Washington,
Scene on the Niobrara looking upstream from near the Bryan Bridge.
who was a very fine penman, and this friend's name was Schlagel. Hence, he gave the stream its name in honor of his friend. We will recall that one of the large herds of long horned cattle from Texas was held along this creek, while waiting to be delivered to the Indians at Rosebud Agency, during the open range days.
The Schlagel is the outlet of a number of lakes, which overflow during wet seasons. They are Big Alkali, Trout, Willow, Clear, Watts, Dewey, and Hackberry. The first house we reach after leaving the farms near Thacher will be the one on the homestead taken by Archibald Thompson, one of the pioneer settlers of the Simeon Community. It is now owned by the state and was headquarters of the fish hatchery, established in 1930. In 1942, the hatching ponds were taken out by a flood and have not been rebuilt.
We are now in the Simeon Community.
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