BY MARTIN V. CLARK, M. B., M. D.,
LECTURER ON NATURAL SCIENCE, YORK COLLEGE, NEBRASKA. LATE
PROFESSOR OF PHARMACY AND TOXICOLOGY, BALDWIN UNIVERSITY,
OHIO, ETC., ETC., OF SUTTON, NEBRASKA.
is bounded on the north by Hamilton county, east by
Fillmore county, south by Nuckolls county, and west by
Adams county. Its political divisions consist of
sixteen precincts, each six miles square, arranged in the
form of a square, and are named respectively as follows,
commencing at the northeast corner of the county and
counting westward: School Creek, Lincoln, Howard,
Leicester, Inland, Lynn, Lewis, Sutton, Sheridan,
Marshall, Lone Tree, Glenville, Spring Ranch, Fairfield,
Edgar and Logan precincts.
is watered on the north by water courses emptying into
the West Blue; by School creek and the Sandy, flowing
respectively easterly and southeasterly, affording
drainage for the central portions of the county; the
southern portion is drained by the Little Blue and Pawnee
creek. The waters of the Blues are abundantly stocked
with the following, among the varieties of native fish,
affording excellent sport to the Knights of the
Line: Suckers ( Catastomus ); dace (
Tenciscus abronascus ); bullheads; cat (
Rioneloiders nebulocus ), and bass ( Centrarcus
bluffs bordering the bottom land of these several water
courses the face of the county is level. A person
traversing the county from north to south would meet a
succession of bottom lands (flood plains) bordering the
streams; then bluffs rising on the borders of the bottom
lands; then second bottoms or terraces part way up the
bluffs marking a higher river level in earlier times;
and, lastly, the phenomenal divide between the
tops of the bluffs that fringe the present valleys.
measurements, approximately, of a section from north to
south of the county would show, taking the present gravel
and sand water beds of the flowing streams for a datum
line and reading upward, a height as follows:
lands, twenty to thirty feet. Terraces, fifty to seventy
feet. Divides or table lands being the full height of the
bluffs, eighty to one hundred and twenty feet.
supply occupies a nearly level bed of gravel, sand and
quicksand from three to ten feet in thickness, with a
slight southeasterly dip toward the course of the
Mississippi Valley, allowing a perceptible movement of
water in that direction.
bed or "sheet water" extends equally in every direction
over the county on a line even with the water beds of the
Blues, and other constantly flowing streams, thus
affording an unfailing supply of nearly soft filtered
exception to this is the limited area of cretaceous
deposit in Sheridan precinct, and in the southern
portions of the county where the sheet water is
formation occurred earlier in the order of geological
time, and where present supplants the gravel water line
of stations on the B. & M. R. R. Elevations above the
sea as determined by barometrical observations: Sutton,
1,641 ft.; Harvard, 1,764 ft.; Inland, 1,820 ft.
of Clay county does not date far back into the past. Only
a few years have elapsed since it was a part of the
public domain, and was in our youthful days represented
on the maps with innumerable colorless dots, suggesting
the idea of sandy plains, and bearing the name of part of
"The Great American Desert."
wolf and antelope were, within a few years, plentiful,
and were monarchs of the solitude which was but
occasionally broken by roving bands of Indians.
prairies, as late as 1870-71, were strewn with skeletons
of and the horns of antelope, deer, elk and buffalo.
of 1871 witnessed the last majestic procession of the
wild buffalo in Clay county.
strayed over from the Republican river into Spring Ranch,
on Liberty creek, south of the Little Blue--the last of
their race in this part of the state.
white man that trod this part of the state was the
expedition of John C. Fremont, in 1840,
and stage route was established in 1840, leading from
Atchison, Kansas, to the Pacific Coast byway of Fort
Kearney, and passed through this county. It was on this
route, and more as a station than as a permanent
settlement, that the first permanent settlement was
institution deserves especial mention as a matter of
historical interest, it having accomplished so much in
reclaiming the desert and in teaching the red men of the
plains the power of the dominant white race.
measurably annihilated by the quick transit of mails,
afterwards supplanted by railroad and telegraph of which
it was the legitimate forerunner.
of it was to afford a speedy mode of transmitting mails
and dispatches between St. Joseph, Mo., and San
frequently carried from Atchison to Sacramento, Cal., a
distance of 2,500 miles, in eight days, and on one
occasion dispatches were sent from St. Joseph, Mo., to
Denver, Col., a distance of 625 miles, in fifty-nine
hours, the last ten miles being made in thirty-one
employed were ponies and riders, the animals being kept
on a full run between stations, which were twenty-five
miles apart; and, upon one messenger reaching a station,
whatever the time of day or night, or the state of the
weather, another, ready mounted and waiting, took the
little mail sack and, plying whip and spurs to his steed,
dashed off wildly into the solitude for the next post.
The fact that the hostile Indian, often in ambush and
ever ready to scalp the riders of the Pony Express,
accounts partly for the precipitous haste displayed by
the postmen on the lonesome trails between stations.
Hon. J. B.
Weston, formerly state auditor, was the first settler in
Clay county and Spring Ranch. He came in some time in
1857 and built a log house at Pawnee ranch on Section 10,
Town 5, Range 8. He was succeeded by Fred and George
Roper, who held it until 1864, when they were driven off
by the Indians. Two of George Roper's daughters were
captured by the Indians and held as captives until 1872
or '73. One Mr. Metcalf, brother-in-law of Jas. Bainter,
was the first to settle and build at Spring Ranch. He was
succeeded in the spring of 1862 by James Bainter, who
afterwards became the first permanent settler in the
county. He took the first homestead in the county in
1864, on section 8, town 5, range 8, and run (sic) the
ranch on the Overland Stage Route, until June of that
year. Mr. Bainter had a store and about $5,000 worth of
goods, besides live stock, produce, etc.
Indian first brought him the news that the Sioux were
coming and had attacked the other ranch above. He sent
his family to Pawnee ranch, about a mile east, then kept
by the Ropers, and, mounting a fast horse, rode up the
river to meet them. He found them about nine miles up the
river; after shooting at them at long range, he turned
and ran his horse back, loosed his stock and went to
Pawnee ranch. He soon saw the smoke of his store, house
and stable and other improvements; shortly afterward
Pawnee ranch was attacked by from 150 to 200 Sioux. There
were with him in the ranch (a sod building with palisades
around it) three other men, besides several women and
children. They fought for three days, keeping the Indians
at bay, and were materially assisted by Mrs. Bainter and
the other women, who showed great bravery in assisting to
watch the enemy and in loading guns for the men as fast
as they were discharged. At last Mr. Bainter succeeded in
killing the Sioux chief, when they withdrew from that
immediate vicinity. A large number of Pawnee Indians came
up soon after, who were friendly, especially toward
Bainter, and with their assistance the Sioux were driven
off for that time.
soon after attacked all the ranches along the Little
Blue, and Bainter and all the settlers were driven off; a
large number of settlers, and nearly all of the stage
drivers, were killed. Also one wagon train of nearly
sixty persons were slaughtered.
From 1862 to
1869 there were no settlements along the Little Blue
above Meridian, in Jefferson county, and no whites except
a few adventurous hunters at Liberty Farm.
fell speechless--dead with heart disease on the morning
of March 7, 1885, in the yard in front of the old home at
Spring Ranch. She had been a consistent member of the
Methodish (sic) church for thirty-one years, having
joined in Adams county, Ind. Her maiden name was
Elizabeth Shults. She accompanied Mr. Bainter on the
march while he was in the army, and on many buffalo
hunts; and stood by his side, and assisted in the defense
of their fireside against the hostile savages. Brave
hearted woman! May posterity ever keep her name in memory
as the heroine of Spring Ranch, and strew her lowly mound
on each Memorial Day with sweetest flowers.
is traversed on every section line by wagon roads and has
two railroads extending entirely across it.
Burlington & Missouri River railroad, in Nebraska,
runs across its northern portion, nearly east and west,
between towns 7 and 8.
Joseph & Grand Island railroad runs across its
southern portion, entering the southeast corner and
running westerly, bearing considerably north.
The B. &
M. R. R., in Nebraska, was built into the county in the
spring of 1871 and completed in the following year. The
St. Joe & Denver road was built through the county in
the spring of 1872.
stations on the B. & M. are Sutton, Saronville,
Harvard and Inland. On the St. Joe & G. I. are
Glenville, Fairfield and Edgar.
& Colorado R. R. Co. extends across the southern
portion of the county, running in a southwesterly
direction, adding two new stations; one named Ong, after
Nathan Ong, is located east of Edgar, in Logan precinct.
The road crosses the St. Joe and Grand Island at Edgar.
The other station is on the Blue at the mouth of Liberty
creek, named Dewees, after J. W. Dewees, owner of the
town site and an attorney of the B. & M. R. R.
Joseph & Grand Island R. R. Co. shipped out of Clay
county, during the year 1885, stock and agricultural
productions to the value of $645,215. This company has in
the county 22 610 miles main track and 6,838 feet of
The B. &
M. R. R., in Nebraska, shipped out of Clay county, during
the year 1885, in live stock and agricultural
productions, $710,464.35. This company have in the county
24 92-100 miles of main track and 3 21-100
miles of side track.
portion of the first settlers were U. S. soldiers during
the war for the Union, and took a quarter section of land
under the homestead act.
CHURCHES IN THE
last of June, 1871. William Whitten, a theological
student from Toulon, Ill., preached at the house of P.
Fitzgerald, in the northeast part of the county and
organized a class. The Harvard class was organized in
May, 1872; that at Glenville, May, 1872. In April, 1873,
Rev. E. J Willis was sent by the conference to the
Harvard circuit--which comprised all of Clay county;
first quarterly conference of this church was held at
Harvard June 21, 1873. Soon after this conference the
southern portion of the county was organized into the
Little Sandy circuit, Rev. Penny supply. There are now
fourteen appointments in the county with a membership of
more than four hundred. The Sutton class was organized by
Rev. A. J. Swarts in the autumn of 1874.
services of this church were held in the grove at Sutton
in July, 1871, by Rev. Jones.
1872, Rev. O. W. Merrill, then superintendent of Home
Missions for Nebraska, with eight members. The first
regular continuous services were conducted by Rev. P. B.
Perry, now president of Doane College, Crete, Neb. The
Sutton Congregational society built the first church
building in the county; the society numbers over 150 in
the county. A union Sunday school was organized June 25,
1872,--the first in the county; T. Weed, supt.
mass was celebrated by Father Kelley at Clay Center in a
tent June 15, 1871, with eight members, most of whom were
railroad men, building the road bed of the B. & M.
Meetings were held south of Sutton at the house of M.
McVey in Sheridan precinct.
church of Harvard was organized on the 25th day of July,
1872, at the residence of Charles H. Warren, town 7,
range 7, on section 30 by Rev. J. N. Webb, home
missionary from American Baptist Home Mission Society. At
that time ten joined the church Since that time there has
been sixteen additions by letter, and six dismissed by
letter to join other churches, and two dropped. The first
regular preaching was by Rev. I. P. Newell, January 26,
1873, in the Masonic Hall in Harvard. Rev. Newell held
regular services at about the same time at the house of
Harry Hull, near Sutton, where there was a church
organization of ten members. Services discontinued at the
latter place in that year, and were afterward held for a
time in the court house, at Sutton. He preached most of
the time to the Harvard society until Feb. 2, 1876, when
regular services were discontinued.
sermon at Sutton was preached Dec. 30, 1875, by Elder J.
M. Yearnshaw, of Lincoln, three members being in
attendance. The first sermon at Marshall was on the 3d
day of January, 1876. Meetings continued until the 11th.
Jan. 9th a Sunday school and church was organized, the
result of Elder Yearnshaw's labors. The first sermon
preached at Fairfield was by Elder Newcome, Feb. 13,
1876. Members present were only three. April 8, 1876, a
series of meetings were commenced by Elder B. C. Barrow,
state Evangelist of Nebraska. A church of twenty-six
members was organized at Sutton on the 16th, the