Village Organization.

 
CHAPTER XI.

 
- - - - and over the
roofs of the village
Colums of pale blue smoke, like clouds of 
incense ascending,
Rose from a hundred hearths, the home of 
peace and contentment. 

--Longfellow's Evangeline.


     THE Seventh-Day Baptists settled the rich bottom lands of the North Loup and Mira Greek valleys, and were well content to live pastoral lives in their new Arcadian realm. This seemed in fullest harmony with their simple religious system. The village organization had therefore no part in their system, but materialized rather in spite of it, as a part of our gregarious Teutonic system. The first step in that direction came with the creation of a post office, called North Loup, with Elder Oscar Babcock as postmaster.

     Prior to this time the nearest postoffice was at Cotesfield in Howard County. The Star route was extended to Valley county in the fall of 1873, in charge of A. G. Gillespie as carrier and contractor. The latter at one time controlled the mail routes on both sides of the river between St. Paul and The Forks. His "Pony Express" and stage coach were for many years the chief means of communication between the settlements and the outer world. Thus we hear that Truman Freeland used to carry it from Cotesfield to Calamus and Willow Springs on the north side of the river, and that Mrs. S. S. Haskell at one time managed the route between Ord and The Forks (Burwell). Mr. Gillespie is still living, a hale and hearty patriarch, at his home in Scotia; he has just filled his one hundredth year, which marks him the oldest resident in the Loup country, if not indeed the oldest man in our state.

     Shortly after the postoffice was established the North Loupers decided to build a school house. These people were indeed people of education and knew how to appreciate good schools, and they proposed to make the right kind of a start. Accordingly a dugout, fourteen feet square, was constructed--a humble enough beginning, but inestimably better than nothing at all--and Miss Kate Badger, now Mrs. J. W. Holliday, was installed as teacher. This was in the summer of 1874. Here then we have the first school in Valley county. A few months later the county was districted for school purposes. All the south half was designated as District No. 1, with
(137) North Loup as the centering point: the north half became District No. 2. with its only school held for a time in the Mortensen dugout, north of Ord,

 

The beginnings of North Loup 1878, from a picture in the possession of Frank L. Green



in charge of Mrs. Emma Haskell wife of Orson S. Haskell, one of the founders of Ord. (138) At North Loup the dugout school-house was early discarded for a neat little cedar log cabin, erected on Elder Babcock's land, at the edge of the of the present townsite. In the fall of 1873, W. J. Holliday opened a general store on his homestead, not far from the postoffice and school house. Here naturally enough the center of interest came to be, and other buildings were soon springing up and making the beginnings of quite a village. Just then the grasshoppers came, and with the loss of crops everything came to a stand still., The village, though, managed somehow to survive, and was regularly surveyed and platted in 1877, in anticipation of the heavy influx of settlers which commenced the very next year. The original plat of North Loup, as may be seen from the cut herewith given, comprised six blocks only. The streets, denominated as 1st and 2d, and A, B, and C, 

 

A Plat of North Loup Showing the Original Townsite and a Number of Later Additions.

were all 80 feet wide. Lots were 4 to the half block; alleys were 25 feet wide. The miscellaneous records show that the townsite was surveyed and platted by C. H. Webster, that A. J. Davis and Eddie Babcock were chainmen, and J. A. Green, axman. The plat was subscribed and sworn to before County Commissioner Oscar Babcock, March 6, 1877, and received for record the 7th day of March, 1877.

     The year '78 marked the beginning of a steady growth in the valley, In '81 the railroad question came to the fore. The Republican Valley Road was contemplating a northward extension. North Loup township helped matters along by voting bonds to the amount of $4,000.00. The grade was at once begun, and by the spring of 1882, had been completed from St. Paul to North Loup. As soon as the railroad became an assured fact, there was a rush of settlers to the village, and soon numerous, substantial buildings,
(139) were under erection. In a year the population increased from a hundred to more than double that number. This has slowly been added to in the course of later years till now, in 1905, the village counts 510 all told. North Loup can never expect to become much of a city, but is just a thrifty little residence town, an ideal place if one wishes to retire to a moral Christian atmosphere, where churches are wide open and saloons and drinking places are kept closed.

     The history of Ord, the county seat and principal town in Valley county, really begins with the organic election in 1873, when it was made the official town of the county. But for more than two years the town was without name, nor was a single house built upon its site during that time. The county officials were satisfied to keep their books and records at their respective residences--in dugouts and in log cabins--and for all practical purposes they got along very well indeed.


     In May, 1874, the first steps were taken towards building the town. Then O. S. Haskell of Valley county, O. C. Haskell of Chicago, and A. M. Robbins of Dixon, Illinois, who had purchased the land from the Burlington and Missouri River Railroad Company, made a first plat of the proposed town. For some time it was known among the settlers as "Chin City," a name which it took from A. T. Stacy, or "Chin" Stacy, so named for a certain facial peculiarity, and who lived in the only house anywhere near the townsite, in what is now the Woodbury Addition to Ord. But this is how it took its real name: During, the summer of 1874. as we will remember, General E. O. C. Ord, who was then in command of the Department Of the Platte, came into the valley to locate Fort Hartsuff; and in honor of this old, war-scarred veteran it was decided to name the town Ord.

     In the summer of 1875 the town was carefully platted, and the first efforts were made to induce the people to build on the site. To this end the townsite company proposed to give the county every fourth block in the plat-eighteen blocks all told--on condition that the county build a court house of equal value with the eighteen blocks, on the townsite prior to July 4, 1880. The proposition was promptly accepted by the board of commissioners on behalf of the county. The townsite company now immediately executed a $2,000.00 bond for faithful performance. This instrument was approved by John Case, chairman of the board of
commissioners Nov. 16, and properly recorded Nov. 25th of the same year. The eighteen blocks were appraised at about $50.00 each, and on this basis the plans and specifications of a court house to cost between $800.00 and $900.00 were drawn up and bids asked for. The contract was let to our friend the bridge builder, John L. Means of Grand Island, November 17, 1875, consideration to be even $800.00.
 

SPECIFICATIONS OF COURT HOUSE.

Building to be 16x24 feet; 9 feet high.
Sills 6x8 inches.
studding 2x4, set 16 inches from center to center.
(141) Lower joist 2x8, set 18 inches from center to center.
Ceiling 2x4, set 16 inches from center to center.
Collar beams 1x6 on every set of rafters as shown in plates, double, 2x4.
Rafters 2x4, 24 inches from center to center.


 

Joseph A. Green on his way to North Loup from Pardee Kansas in 1872. This was the first frame house in that town. Enlarged from a small picture in possession of Mr. Green



     This unpretentious little structure was reared near the south side of the present Court House Square, which was then a treeless plat of virgin prairie. After being used for court purposes for some twelve years it was removed to give place for the present, modern building. It was carted to the east side of the square, where it may yet be seen--a forlorn bit of the, past.

     The court house was completed in February, 1876, and a couple of months later Herbert Thurston commenced the erection of the first residence on the townsite. Nothing further developed till the fall of the year; then the grand old patriarch, S. S. Haskell, set up the first hostelry, general store, and postoffice, in what in those days was considered a very pretentious frame building, situated in the east part of the present town on the road from the river bridge. This structure has been variously known as the Ord City Hotel, the Dies House, and is now in a somewhat remodeled form, the Transit House, near the north side of the square.

     No further improvement was made in the townsite till the fall of 1877, when W. H. Mitchell moved his paper, the Valley County Herald, from Calamus, and began its publication in a small log building, moved from the above-named place, which had until this time, on account of its location near Fort Hartsuff, been the principal town of the county.

     During the year 1878, there was quite a large immigration to the county, and Ord began to grow quite rapidly. In the spring, E. S. Harter moved his stock of goods over from Springdale Postoffice, and built a store twenty-two by forty feet in size, two stories high, and put in a large stock of general merchandise, hardware and drugs. Herman Westover, an attorney, moved here from Calamus and erected a dwelling. W. A. Hobson and L. E. Post each erected blacksmith shops and dwellings. W. H. Mitchell sold the Valley County Herald to J. C. Lee, then built a dwelling and began the practice of law. In September, H. W. Nelson moved his paper, the Valley County Courier from Vinton. There were now two newspapers until the Herald failed in November.

 

Sylvester S. Haskell, the Father of Ord.

 

The Old Townsite Company L to R. (top) O. S. Haskell, O. C. Haskell, W. W. Haskell, & A. M. Robbins

 

     The year was further noted for the (143) removal from Calamus to Ord of Z. K. Ferguson with a good stock of general merchandise. Early in 1879, Joe Capron purchased Henry Nelson's paper, the Courier, and established the Valley County Journal. Soon afterwards Case & Mortensen opened the first exclusive hardware store in Ord, and indeed in the county. J. A. Collins and John A Bales, established a harness shop, Copp & Westover opened a nice new law office and Henry Nelson built the first livery stable. S. L. R. Maine and H. M. Deegan moved down from Calamus and re-established

 

An Early Plat of Ord Showing the Original Townsite, and S. S. Haskell's and Finn Milford's Addition.

 

themselves at Ord. S. S. Haskell, H. A. Babcock, M. E. Getter, J. H. Collins and others added to the growing little town by erecting dwelling houses.

     When Fort Hartsuff was built it immediately became the center of interest in the county. Men with an eye to business flocked thither; and, as might have been expected, a thriving little town was soon springing up on the very edge of the fort reservation. This was Calamus. For a year or more it was the liveliest town in the county. Under the patronage of Lieutenant Thomas Capron of the fort, the townsite was platted and quite a start was made. Sixteen blocks and half blocks were laid off, pretentious streets, 100 feet wide, were planned, and every preparation was made for the expected boom. Stores of the several kinds were opened, and many residences sprang up. The town had the undivided support of the fort garrison and of many outlying settlers. But Ord was altogether too near, and (
144) then came the rumors of the fort's speedy abandonment. The bubble burst and in three years' time the town was to all practical purposes dead.

 

Townsite of Calamus.

 

     As we have seen above, what was Calamus's loss became Ord's gain. For from Calamus came newspaper men, lawyers, physicians and business men. In many instances these not alone moved their business to Ord, but the very houses thither. Thus died ambitious Calamus.

     The following record and affidavit is taken from the Valley County Miscellaneous Record, No. 1, and is reproduced, spelling and all, just as it appears there:

State of Nebr.,
Valley County

To the Co. Clerk of said County:

     The Undersigned Surveyor being employed by Lieut. Thos. Capron, to Survey Mark and Plat the Town Site of the Town of Calamus in said Valley county according to law and for that purpose he did Employ George Ferguson and C. R. Hutchins, Sworn chanemen on Such survey and did on the 16th 17th Days of
Sept proceed to Make such Survey of which the foregoing is a correct and True Plat of the same being made on the North West of the S. W. of Sec. (11) Eleven in Township (20), R. (15) W and extending South 36 ft. on the S. W. of the S. W. of said section (11) Tp 20 N. of Range (15)

     Dated and signed this Sep 24th, 1874. Levi G. Perce, Surveyor.
Affidavit (to above)

     I. G. Ferguson and C. R. Hutchins do solemly sware that we will support the constitution of the United States and the constitution of the State of Nebraska and faithfully and impartialy discharge the duties of Chainmen according to law and the best of our ability.

G. FERGUSON W. D. LONG,
CHAS. R. HUTCHINS.

Co. Clerk.

Filed Oct. 5th, 1874. 

     In those early days towns were projected rather promiscuously on the virgin prairie by ambitious organizers. Natural demand had little to do with such enterprises; the idea was to make a demand. Thus the town of Vinton came into existence. In 1876 the town was planned but very little was accomplished for a couple of years. Early in 1878, Henry W. Nelson
(145) established a newspaper there, which he called the Valley County Courier. For some months this courageous boomer did all in his power to attract settlers and investors to the new town, but so seemingly hopeless was the outlook that, despairing of success, Mr. Nelson moved with his paper to Ord. On Nov. 18, 1878, the Burlington and Missouri River Railway Company made an out-and-out donation of the townsite, but even now no marked progress was made.

     The Vinton Townsite Association was incorporated May 11, 1882, and the following well known men were elected directors: H. C. Perry, Thomas G. Bartlett and A. W. Travis. The plat on file locates the town in the S. W. of the S. W. , of  Sec. 7. in Township 18, Range 14 West. Sixteen blocks

 

Vinton Townsite.



were platted; of these, block six was designated as the "Public Square." But the town had no future; there was no demand for another town within seven miles of Ord, and Vinton too--died.

     Of the four towns here mentioned Calamus had a meteoric existence and then died-, Vinton was still-born and came to nothing; North Loup has become a prosperous and promising little city; and Ord has developed into a strong, progressive business center. It is almost pathetic now in the new Ord of 1905, with her many business houses and fine residences everywhere springing up, to read of the slow progress of those early days. Years of grasshoppers and droughts, of hailstorms and windstorms, all did their share in keeping her in the embryonic state. But when she finally burst into bloom it was done with a substantiality engendered in the years of rest. The above statement should however be qualified somewhat. The first half of the decade 1880-90 was indeed remarkable for steady growth and substantial progress. The general standstill in affairs came later as a result of poor crops and hot, blasting winds which for a time threatened ruin to all the Valley.

     The following paragraphs on "Later Improvements" and "Local Matters" in Ord of 1882 are quoted verbatim from Andreas's History of Nebraska, and should now after almost a quarter century prove interesting reading, and at the same time impress the reader with the many great changes that have come to the County Seat since that time:

     "In 1880, the little village began to make rapid progress indeed. So great was the improvement that it is impossible to mention it in detail. About thirty-five buildings were put up. Over one-half of these ware business houses. The total value of buildings erected that year is estimated at $21,226. The population had by the end of the year increased to 250.
(146)

     During the years 1881 and 1882, Ord continued to progress steadily, and its population will number about 500. All branches of business are well represented, and the trade of the town is in a prosperous condition. On November 8, 1881, bonds amounting to $5,000, were voted to the Union Pacific Railroad for the purpose of securing the early building of the railroad up the North Loup Valley.

      "In 1881, the entire town was threatened with destruction by fire. Though the village was saved, the livery stable of H. W. Nelson was burned to the ground.

     "In the spring of 1882, a fire broke out on the south side of the public square. It was caused by a defective flue. Before it could be stopped, several buildings, including the office of Judge Herman Westover, were completely destroyed.

     "Ord was incorporated as a village on June 23, 1881. The following is the first Board of Trustees appointed on the above date by the County Commissioners: H. G. Rodgers, S. S. Haskell, B. C. White, R. F. Milford and H. W. Nelson.


     "Manufactures.--The Ord Flouring and Grist Mill was commenced in the year 1880 and completed early in 1881, by R. F. Milford. It was built at a cost of $5,000, and for the quality of flour manufactured, it is second to none in the state.

     "In 1880 John Drake & Co., started a brick yard and the first year about 100,000 bricks were manufactured, since which time the yard has been kept up and a very superior quality of brick is made.

     "Banks.--The Valley County Bank was established in October, 1880, A general bank and collection business is done. The affairs of the bank are in a prosperous condition. J. D. Bacon is President, and Frederick L. Harris, Cashier.

     "The Ord City Bank was established and commenced business on March 15, 1882. A general loan and collection business is done, and the bank starts in with very favorable prospects. H. C. Metcalf is President, and George A. Percival, Cashier.


     "Hotels--Besides the restaurants and boarding houses the hotels are two in number. The Ord City House is the old hotel built by S. S. Haskell, and is now owned and operated by James Dies, who keeps a good hotel.

     "The Satterlee House, E. D. Satterlee, Proprietor, is centrally located, is well kept, and is doing a good business.

     "Churches.--The different church societies are represented by the Methodist Episcopal, Baptist, Presbyterian and Seventh-day Baptist denominations. The first two named have capacious and comfortable houses of worship, which were completed in the spring of 1882. All these societies are liberally supported by the moral and intelligent citizens of Ord.

     "Schools.--The Ord school is provided with able instructors, and is well sustained by the intelligent and education-loving citizens. One of the first things looked to in the foundation of the town was a good school, and no money or labor has been spared to make it such a one.
(147)

     Societies. --Ord Lodge, No. 90, Independent Order of Odd Fellows, has an organization of over fifty members. The society owns a hall and are in a prosperous condition. The order was organized December, 1880, with thirty-six members. W. J. Wilson was the first Noble Grand.

      "Foote Post, No. 40, Grand Army of the Republic, was organized late in the year 1880, with W. H. Williams Post Commander.

     "Pilot Lodge, No. 57, Independent Order of Good Templars, was organized at a quite early date. They have a large and working membership.

     "Newspapers.--The Valley County Journal is published here by Capron & Wolf It is a bright and well edited weekly, Republican in politics, and a five-column quarto in size. The Journal was founded in February, 1879, by J. H. Capron, who had purchased the Courier and changed the name, and published it but a few weeks until his office was burned, when the paper discontinued for a short time, until a new office could be fitted up. Since that time the Journal has continued to be published. In August, 1881, Charles E. Wolf purchased a half-interest in the paper.

     "J. H. Capron came to Nebraska in September, 1874. and located at Fort Hartsuff, where he was Quartermaster's clerk until December, 1875, when he went to Manitowoc, Wis., and took charge of a newspaper published there until February, 1878, when he again entered Government employ in Wyoming Territory until December, when he located at Ord, and soon afterward started the Journal. He was born in Beloit, Wis., September 14, 1856. He learned the printer's trade in the office of the Freeport, Ill., Journal, beginning in 1871. and remaining until going to Fort Hartsuff, Neb. He was married February 15, 1882, to Miss Mary F. Ramsey.

      "Charles C. Wolf, the junior editor of the Journal, came to Nebraska in June, 1881, and in August he purchased a half-interest in the Journal. He was born in Freeport, Ill., March 3, 1855. He learned his trade in the office of the Freeport Journal, beginning in 1872, and working there until be removed to Ord.

     "The Ord Weekly Quiz is a bright and sparkling paper, Republican in politics, and was founded on April 6, 1882, by Will Haskell, of Chicago. The paper starts out with good prospects for future success."

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