meetings closing on the 19th The first and
only Christian Sunday school in the county was organized
Sept. 14, 1874, with four scholars, by Mrs. P. A.
Halleck, at her residence in Sutton. At the expiration of
nine mouths the school numbered thirty-five, when the
place of meeting was changed to the court house, and
continued at that place until the county commissioners
closed the court house to all church organizations.
County Agricultural Society was organized May 18, 1872,
at the court house in Sutton. A fair was held here each
year until 1881, when it was removed to Clay Centre, the
county seat; it is now in a flourishing condition, has
fifty acres of land and a good Floral Hall and other
suitable buildings for holding fairs valued at $8,000,
all under control of a well managed stock company.
1871, in the forenoon, the southeast quarter of School
Creek precinct was organized into school district number
one and A. A. Corey, A. K. Marsh and B. S. Fitzgerald
were elected to serve as moderator, director, and
district number two, in which is the town of Sutton, was
organized in the afternoon of Dec. 14, 1871, only a few
hours behind district number one. Officers elected were
Charles Moon, moderator, Thurlow Weed, treasurer, and
Wils Cunning, director.
first two years following the date of the first district
organization, there had been sixty-two districts
organized, in most of which there had been substantial
frame houses built; at the date of the first school
report, April, 1874, there were 996 scholars in the
county between five and twenty-one years of age--the
school age in this state.
earliest teachers in this county were W. L. Weed,
district number two; Thomas M. Gregory, district number
five, and Laura M. Bancroft, district number six; Mr.
Gregory taught the first school, commencing about the
first of December, 1871, before the district was
In 1876 the
total amount expended for school purposes during the past
three years was $68,324.
school property at present time, $96,743.
wages paid male teachers in 1874 was, per month, 32.
teachers average 22.
number of pupils in the county 1,570.
value of all school property, $6,664.32. Total number of
children of school age 5,419. Number of schoolhouses, 78.
Number of teachers: Males, 63; Females, 103; total, 166.
Average wages paid per month teachers: Males, $45.03;
Females, $34.30. Population of Clay county, 15,000.
THE GREAT SNOW
night, April 13, 1873, there commenced a storm that will
be long remembered by the early settlers of Clay county.
It had been raining through the day and just before dark
the wind veered from southwest to northwest--the rain
increasing. Long before light Monday morning the rain
changed to sleet, and at daybreak, the morning still
dark, the air was filled with what seemed like solid
snow, so wet was it and carried so swiftly by the gale
that it was almost impossible to move against it; it
would wet a person through like rain in a few moments.
All day Monday and Monday night, Tuesday and Tuesday
night it snowed and blowed, increasing all the time until
Wednesday morning. Many banks of snow were as high as the
houses and many of the draws, creeks and rivers were
level full of snow. Driven before the gale almost the
entire live stock of the county perished in snow. In
School Creek precinct Mrs. Kaley and child were trying to
go a few rods to a neighbor's, got lost, chilled and
froze to death in the wet snow. Before starting out she
remarked that she would die with her child if she could
not get through with it alive. They were both found dead,
after the storm.
1874, swarms of grasshoppers came from the northeast in
such countless numbers as to make the sunlight dim. So
swiftly did they destroy the crops, that a forty or an
eighty acre corn field would not last them more than two
hours. The rank growing corn would literally bend over to
ground by the weight of grasshoppers. Potatoes, garden
vegetables and crops of all kinds, excepting wheat and
barley already harvested, sugar cane and broom corn, were
swept out of existence in every part of the country in
the short space of two days. Not a bushel of corn was
raised in the county. The year before settlers burned
corn, it being only fifteen cents a bushel. The
grasshopper year it was shipped from Iowa and brought a
dollar a bushel. The people had nothing but wheat and
barley to eat and feed their stock. When winter set in
many of the settlers had no money, no fuel and scarcely
anything to eat. Want and starvation were upon them,
when, by the timely aid of the eastern states, the
settlers were rescued from actual death by starvation. In
the fall of 1874 a committee to procure and distribute
aid was formed at Sutton, consisting of C. M. Turner,
chairman and distributing agent, with F. W. Hohmann, B.
G. Merrill, Geo. Stewart and J. Steinmetz.
went to Omaha at his own expense and secured from the
State Aid Society the power to constitute Sutton an aid
supply depot. Parts of Fillmore, York and Hamilton
counties were included in this aid district. There were
distributed from Sutton depot four carloads of coal, four
carloads of miscellaneous supplies, including flour,
meal, bacon, dried apples, etc. Lieut. Brown, of the
Fourth U. S. Inft. from the Post of Omaha, assisted by
Mr. Turner, distributed large lots of army clothing to
the most needy.
committee to procure and distribute aid was formed at
Harvard before that at Sutton. Harvard was a distributing
point for Edgar, also for Hamilton county and distributed
large quantities of supplies.
society was formed at Edgar which drew its supplies from
Harvard, W. A. Gunn, President, and M. J. Hull,
Vice-President, and did the principal part of the work.
There were distributed about three cars of coal, one
carload miscellaneous supplies besides one-half carload
U. S. army clothing.
Harvard Champion was the first paper published in
that town and in the county, and was started in the
summer of 1872 and continued weekly for about a year,
when the proprietor, Julius Eaton, suspended its
publication and moved the press away. It was a seven
Sutton Times, weekly, was established and issued
its first number on Friday, June 20, 1873. It was at that
time a five column quarto with "patent inside." It had
nine columns of advertising and eleven columns of local
reading matter. In the first issue was an article on the
early settlement of Sutton; there were represented in its
advertising matter twenty-three different branches of
business and professions. It is Republican in polities;
edited and published at commencement by Wellman &
Brakeman, and successively by Wellman & White,
Wellman Brothers, and by Frank E. Wellman.
County Herald was started and issued its first number
Saturday June 21, 1873, edited and published by J. M.
Sechler, and Wm. J. Cowan. Its last issue was published
in the fall of 1873, when it failed. It was a seven
column folio, "patent inside," with a liberal amount of
advertising; independent in politics.
Harvard Advocate was established by W. A. Connell
in the spring of 1874 as a seven column folio, "patent
inside;" it was printed all at home.
County Globe, semi-weekly, was established and issued
its first number July 14, 1875, F. M. Comstock editor, J.
S. LeHew, business manager. It was a four column folio
all printed at home; independent in politics. October 1,
1875, it was purchased by E. H. White, who has edited and
published it since weekly; Republican in politics;
October 29, 1875, it was enlarged to a six column folio.
Sutton Register was established Feb. 20, 1880, by
I. D. Evans, and in two years had a circulation of 600.
Republican in politics. It is alive to all matters of
local interest. It has for three years past been ably
conducted by his estimable and talented wife and is a
strong advocate of temperance and woman suffrage.
Sutton Democrat, the only Democratic paper in Clay
county, was established February 1, 1884. It is the only
government organ in the county and is devoted strictly to
the interests of President Cleveland's adminstration
(sic), with which it is fully in accord, and is edited by
Steinmetz and Brainerd.
Harvard Journal was established March 18, 1879,
and has continued under its present management until the
present time and is consequently entitled to claim to be
the oldest paper in the county. It is a live, wide-awake
paper and heartily devoted to the best interests of
Harvard and Clay county. Independent in politics. G. W.
Limbocker, editor and proprietor.
Harvard Courier was established Jan. 1, 1885,
Republican in politics, it is a well edited paper and
shows evidence of material prosperity. Editors and
proprietors, Southworth & Colvin.
Fairfield News, an eight column quarto, was
established June 7, 1877, and was edited by Dr. J. H.
Case and O. G. Maury, afterwards it was successfully
edited and owned by Maury and Hon. J. W. Small. It is now
edited by I. E. Berry and is a well managed and
Fairfield Herald was established in December,
1881, as a six column and since enlarged to a seven
column folio. Independent Republican in politics,
receiving a wide and liberal support. J. L. Olivar,
Post.--The Post was established March 5, 1885.
Politically moderately Republican, it is young as yet,
but is rapidly gaining strength and favor and has reached
a circulation of nearly 600. It aims to be a first-class
family paper, at once refining and elevating. J. E.
Times was established as the Edgar Review in
May, 1878. It is ably edited now by Lyon and Good;
Republican in politics and devoted to the interests of
Edgar and the citizens generally in the southern portion
of the county.
Centre Sun was established August 22, 1884. W. L.
Palmer, publisher, editor and proprietor; Republican in
politics. Established to fill a long felt want of a
newspaper at the county seat; devoted to the interests of
the proprietor. his family, Clay county and the state of
As is common
in the establishment of new counties much difficulty and
controversy has attended the locating of the county seat
of this county. With the first organization of the
county, this was the bone of contention between competing
sections. At that time the contest lay between Harvard
and Sutton. The voting strength at that time was shown by
the result of the count, which stood as follows: total
votes cast, 89, of which Sutton received 56; Harvard, 33.
The first election for the removal of the county seat
took place August 4, 1875.
voted for were Sutton, Harvard, Fairfield and the center
of the county. The next election took place September 20,
1875, when, according to the law, the center of the
county, having received the lowest vote, was left out,
and the points voted for were Sutton, Harvard and
Fairfield. Another election was necessary to decide the
matter between Sutton and Harvard, which took place
November 7, 1876, and stood as follows: Sutton, 606;
Harvard, 802, neither place receiving three-fifths of all
the votes cast. No removal was effected. Meantime the law
had been so amended that the place receiving the highest
number of votes cast should be, on a final vote between
the two places, the county seat.
election was under this amended statute and took place
January 9, 1879, the competing points being Sutton,
Harvard and Clay Centre without result. On the next
election, February 20, 1879, Sutton voluntarily left
herself out and voted for Clay Centre, which had been
laid out as a town under that name.
canvassing board made returns that Clay Centre was the
county seat, throwing out the vote of Harvard on the
alleged ground of fraud and other legal informalities.
After the county seat had been declared at Clay Centre a
party of men with teams and wagons proceeded to Sutton on
a Sunday night, seized the county records, treasurer's
safe, etc., loaded them into wagons and took them to Clay
Centre. Great rejoicing was indulged in over the result
by those friendly to the change, while those who voted
for Harvard characterized the transaction as illegal and
one of wholesale theft. Among the county officers all
removed but Judge E. P. Burnett of the county court, who
utterly refused, but was impeached on that account, and
W. S. Prickett appointed in his place.
1879, a grand barbecue and celebration was held at Clay
Centre in honor of the re-location, whereat appropriate
speeches were made, bands played and songs were sung. The
jubilee, however, was ill-timed, as was subsequently
determined. The supreme court ordered a new canvass of
the votes, counting in Harvard, and that Sutton was still
the county seat and designated November 7, 1879, for
another county seat election, ordering the county
property back to Sutton. The election accordingly took
place with the following result: Clay Centre, 1,967;
Harvard, 1,867, giving a majority of 100 for the present
county seat. Although the vote was frightfully and
unaccountably large still it has ever been considered
these campaigns much spirited work was done in the way of
making speeches in the different school-houses throughout
the county. Circulars, sometimes grotesquely illustrated
with homespun wood cuts and other funny illustrations,
were scattered broadcast, and in both prose and poetry
prominent citizens of Harvard and Sutton were
last election the question was forever put at rest and,
with it, all animosity has been buried and when referred
to provokes only merriment and good feeling among the
heroes of that series of memorable county seat
French, born at Painesville, Lake county, Ohio, looked
over and located his homestead upon the N. 1/2 of the N.
W. 1/4 of Section 2, Town 7, Range 5, upon which is the
original town of Sutton, on the 14th day of March, 1870.
June 5, of the same year, he moved upon it and made
permanent settlement, camping near the north section
line, on the creek, for a few weeks, when he built his
house partly on the banks of School creek; he was the
first white settler in the town and precinct. The house,
in 1876, was still standing on the margin of the grove
and was logged up, on the inside, covered with bark and
dirt, having the ground for a floor, and is in much the
same condition as when built though long since abandoned.
On one side of the dug-out was a blind chamber, under
ground, this was connected with the outer world by a
subterranean passage some rods in length and reaching
down to the creek bank below. Here Mr. French gathered
and hid his treasures--a flock of motherless
children--when attacked by Indians.
May 4, 1871,
H. W. Gray, his son John M., son-in-law G. W. Bemis, with
W. Cunning and wife, came into the town, all settling on
land immediately adjoining town. Mrs. Cunning was the
first married white woman that settled near town.
Brown, a native of Illinois, settled April 10, 1871,--
the first lawyer in the county. His first case and the
first law-suit in the county, was before John H. Maltby,
probate judge, November 2, 1871. The case was about a
well; James S. Schermerhorn, plaintiff, vs. David P.
Jayne, defendant. Mr. Brown was attorney for the
plaintiff, and won the suit, receiving as a fee $10. He
is a Notary Public, and was a delegate to the National
Republican convention at Cincinnati, Ohio, June 14,
Gray, a native of Pennsylvania, settled May 4, 1871, and
commenced practicing law November 2, 1871, having been
consulted in the Schermerhorn vs. Jayne case. His next
case was before A. K. Marsh, justice of the peace, where
he appeared for the defendant in the case of Ellison vs.
Hull and won the suit.
early settlers in Sutton precinct are Russel and John
Merrill, and their families, who settled on Section 20.
Russel built his house in the summer of 1871, a frame
house ceiled, which was a great luxury in those times.
John built in the fall. Most of the houses were made of
sods with roof covered with sods and ground floors. The
settlers often used boxes and nail kegs for chairs, and
board, home made tables were common articles of
Martin V. B.
Clark, M. B., M. P., a native of Cuyahoga county, Ohio;
graduated from the College of Pharmacy of Baldwin
University, Ohio, February 28, 1807, and in Medicine at
the Cleveland Medical College, Ohio, February 4, 1869;
was professor of pharmacy four years in the former
college and a member of the convention to revise the
United States pharmacopoeia of 1870; commenced the
practice of medicine at this place November 1, 1871 - the
first physician in the county.
FOURTH OF JULY CELEBRATIONS
1865, part of the Second and Sixth Michigan cavalry
camped between Spring and Pawnee ranches, in this county,
on their return from Salt Lake. Our townsman, F. M.
Davis, county treasurer, was in the Second cavalry and
took part in the celebration. They had speeches, etc., by
"the boys," and two gallons of whisky with which to
"cheer up, comrades, and be gay."
celebration in the county since its organization was at
Sutton, July 4, 1872. H. W. Gray, president of the day;