|Scotia and Her Builders.
Behind the scared squaw's birch canoe
The steamer smokes and raves;
And city lots are staked for sale
Above all Indian graves.
--Whittier, The Genius of the West.
WE HAVE already learned in Chapter VI. how the committee of the Seventh-Day Baptists reached the chalk hills in Greeley county, opposite Scotia, on the last day of October, 1871, and laid claim to the southern bank of the North Loup river for their constituents back in Wisconsin. But they were not the first comers in the Valley after all. For the northern bank of the stream was even then in process of settlement. In September, before autumn was fairly ushered in, the first band came. By handfuls they advanced up the north bank of the Loup through Greeley county by the old trail. The beautiful bend in the river where Scotia now lies, and immediately across from "Happy Jack's Look out," charmed them and held them fast. Here and up and down the valleys of Fish Creek and Wallace Creek they reared their homes and started life anew after their weary westward tramp.
The very first to file on a claim in all Greeley county was Alcie P. Fish of Fish Creek, whose papers were executed in October, 1871. About the same time the grand old patriarch, William Scott, settled north of Scotia. Alza M. Stewart took a claim across the line in Valley county. John G. Kellogg, the well known Greeley county bard, and Alonzo Shepard settled in the same neighborhood.
Other early comers in the North Loup valley in this vicinity were James Harlow, Daniel Benson, George Babcock, W. Whitford, G. Craig, Patrick Coyne, J. J. Bean, David Moore, Horace Moore, Geo. R. Small, Fred Housmann, Henry Grosse, Ben Mullenbeck, James L. Wallace, George Ferrell, W. Cramer,
Wm. Havens, Thos. Townley, Fred Stensby, Frank Roberts, Thos. Watson, John Vairy, the Skay and Gray families, John Dougherty, Andrew J. Gillespie, Jr., Simon Bilyeu, Jesse Bilyeu, George Hillman, Alfred Hillman, John A. Buchan, John V.
Alderman, Leslie E. Scott, Loring E. Gaffy and Elihu Fish.
Up Wallace Creek came Joe Littlefield, D. C. Johnson, Henry Calvin,
(180) Elias Walker, Albert Barker, Elias Jeffries, Tom Miller, Joe Brown, Geo. Rutherford, Geo. Stubblefield, Joseph Hamilton, Maurice Johnson and Richard Johnson. On Fish Creek settled Fred Meyers, David Locker, John Phillips, W. Hayden, B. F. Griffith and William Halpin.
Alcie Fish, First Settler in Greeley County
Of the old-timers here named only a
very few arrived in '71. The great majority did not come till the succeeding
summer and even years later. The list contains but three or four who professed allegiance to the
Seventh Day Baptist Church. The Wisconsin colony, as a whole, settled on the south
side of the river in Town 17, and more particularly in Town 18 in Valley county.
For some five or six years settlement of Greeley county was restricted to the southwestern part. The rolling uplands, and Clear Creek and Cedar River valleys were not invaded till the spring of 1877. Meanwhile this little handful took measures to organize their county and elect county officials. Application was made to Acting Governor
Wm. H. James, who issued a proclamation ordering an election to be held on the 8th day of October, 1872. The election was held at Lamartine postoffice south of Scotia, where Elihu Fish was at that time postmaster. Thirteen votes were cast and the following officers elected: Commissioners, A. P. Fish, T. C. Davis and Alonzo Shepard; Clerk, E. B. Fish; Treasurer, S. C. Scott; Sheriff, G. W. Babcock; Judge, George Hillman; Surveyor, Mansell
Davis; Superintendent, John G. Kellogg; and Coroner, C. H. Wellman.
The next question of importance to come up for settlement was the inevitable county seat location. This first contest was,
however, but a friendly rivalry. The county commissioners held a meeting at Lamartine postoffice on January 20, 1873, transacting all business incident
to the late organization of the county, and calling an election for the purpose of selecting a county seat. Said election was ordered to be held February 11, 1873. Two points were voted for, namely: The N. W.
¼ of the N. W. ¼ of Section 23, Town.17, Range 12, and the N. E. ¼ of Section 9, in the same town and range. The former location--Lamartine--won out by one vote and became the temporary county seat.
In November, 1874, another election was held. The aim apparently was to draw the county seat northward. The two points in contest this time were scarcely two miles
apart--the N. W. ¼ of the N. E. ¼ of Section 9, Town 17, Range 17 West, and the N. E.
¼ of the N. E. ¼ of Section 16 of the same town and range. The records show that in the election the former place received sixteen votes and the latter ten votes. Thus it came
(181) about that Scotia--so named from his old homeland by Sam C.
Scott--was made the county seat.
For a long time there was really no town. In the fall of 1875 a small court house was built. This humble structure was also used for school purposes. Thus we are told that Mrs. E. Craig used to hold school here in the same room where the county clerk would be busy over his records. Judge John J. Bean located at Scotia in May of 1876 and commenced the
Old Precinct Map of Greeley County, Showing Scotia and Vicinity.
construction of a hotel. The same year Sam Scott moved the postoffice to town from his farm and relinquished it to Mr. Bean, who was regularly appointed postmaster in January, 1877. In October of that year E.
O. Bartlett and A. B. Lewis, two enterprising young business men from St. Paul, Howard county, established the Greeley Tribune, which did much to advertise the county and town. The first general merchandise store was opened by W. H. West of Grand Island, under the management of Ed Wright, in
(182) March, 1878. The railways were beginning to exploit their lands in the North Platte country rather freely by this time. To further this end the
Plat of Scotia.
B. & M. in Nebraska built a small immigrant house at Scotia. This home
was in charge of the kind and public-spirited David Moore, one of the men who
never lost faith in the possibilities of the beautiful Loup.
So far the village was a straggling,
haphazard affair. But this same year, 1878, Lee L. Doane platted the site and a systematic though slow growth
commenced. In 1881 the population was yet under one hundred. The business houses were few though
these few had a good trade.
Just now too a cloud was rising on the horizon of Scotia's prosperity. Men of foresight had seen it
coming for some time. It was again the same old question of county seat location.
For some years the county had been rapidly filling up with settlers. Could
Scotia then hope indefinitely to retain the county seat? Many realized that it would only be a question of time when some more centrally located
town would rise as an aspirant for the honors. And the first mutterings of
trouble came in December, 1881, when O'Connor commenced a contest. But let us go back for a glimpse of the settlement of Greeley county at large.
The first settler near the center of the county, so far as we know, was James L. Reed, who came in 1876. The next spring an Irishman by the
name of Patrick Hynes arrived and became local agent for the Irish Catholic colonization association just then in its conception. General O'Neill seems to have been the originator of the plan which was no more nor less than to buy up vast tracts of land in Greeley and neighboring counties,
which were to be colonized with his countrymen, both from the states and from old Ireland. 25,000 acres were purchased
near the center of the county, and it was not long till some twenty Irish families were located on the land through the energetic Patrick Hynes. Other colonies sprang
up in Cedar Valley and further north as far as Erina in Garfield county. The movement was organized for more than patriotic motives. Wherever Irishmen settle in numbers they will cluster around their church and parochial schools. The present case was no exception to this rule. Men high in ecclesiastical circles were from the first interested in the scheme. This was particularly true of the Right Rev. James O'Connor, Catholic Bishop at that time of Nebraska, Wyoming and Montana.
This great churchman was born in Ireland, September 10, 1823, and came to America in 1838. He was educated at Philadelphia and at the College of Propaganda, Rome. There he was ordained March 25,1848, by the great Cardinal Franconi and soon after he returned to America, entering the
(183) diocese of Pittsburg, where he had charge of St. Michael's Theological Seminary for some years. He was also administrator of the diocese for a year. Then he was given charge of St. Charles Borromeo Seminary at Philadelphia for ten years. Later he was consecrated Bishop of Debona,
and Vicar Apostolic of Nebraska, August 26,
1876. The same year he took up his residence at Omaha, where he established Creighton
University, the Academy of the Sisters of Mercy, the Boarding Schools of the Ladies of the
Sacred Heart and a number of parochial schools. General O'Neill and John McCreary platted
a town near the heart of the Irish land grant in November, 1877, and called it O'Connor in honor
of the bishop. For some reason this site was never used and a new town of the same name
was later--August, 1880--built only three and a half miles away on a site selected by the bishop himself. The town grew rapidly. Patrick Hynes opened the first store in October, and two months later Lanagan
Brothers opened the second store. An imposing church edifice and parochial school buildings soon followed. R. H. Clayton established the
O'Connor Democrat early in 1882, and a systematic agitation for the rights of that
part of the county took its beginning.
The census of 1880 gave Greeley county a population of 1461, many of whom had to travel 25 miles or more to reach the county seat. Dissatisfaction with existing conditions grew with an increase in upper county population. Finally the county board felt constrained to call a new election.
This was held December 6, 1881, and resulted, O'Connor 196, Scotia 171, and
the county poor farm, 33. Fortunately for Scotia a
David Moore of Scotia
two-thirds majority was required for removal and the county seat
was for the time being saved.
ln 1883, the Union Pacific built its spur into town and confidence was again
restored, for was not Scotia the only
railroad town in the county? Matters now moved along at an even tenor till 1887. The town grew slowly but surely.
Then, like a thunderclap from a clear sky, came the news that the B. & M.
had commenced to build across the county, apparently through O'Connor. This was bad news indeed for Scotia.
Everyone realized what it meant. But while Scotia was sorely disappointed she could hardly have expected
anything (184) else; another town, which for the moment was jubilant in visions of coming prosperity was, however, destined to an even sadder
fate--this was O'Connor. Located in its beautiful, winding valley this town was on the logical line of the new road. The railroad authorities must also have been
of this opinion for grading camps were established near the town and work actually commenced. The inhabitants were unfortunately too confident in their
new position. They argued that the road could impossibly go elsewhere and were altogether too slow to meet the railroad's demand for right-of-way, station site and the like. The upshot of it all was that the grading camps were all abandoned and moved into the hills to the south. A committee with full power to grant every request made by the railroad was
now sent hot haste to Lincoln. But to remonstrate and beseech was now in vain. O'Connor awoke too late. The B. & M. built a new town at a few miles distance, and called it Greeley Center. This town the Burlington system, with its old-time shrewdness for organization, decided upon as the political center of the new county and straightway formulated its plans.
Scotia made one more desperate effort to hold her own. This came in the form of a gift to the county of a now court house built by
Scotia Precinct at a cost of $5,000.00. This
Four Generations of the Hillman Family
Mrs. Blueht. Mrs. Chase.
Mr. Geo. Hillman. Mrs. Hillman.
was in 1887. The very next year the bitter
struggle recommenced. The O'Connor constituency, still smarting from unhealed wounds,
joined bands with Scotia and had
the satisfaction to see Greeley's aspirations for the time defeated.
But in the fall of 1890 the end came. Greeley Center won in the election and became the
county seat. Considerable ill feeling and even personal animosity was engendered during
these years. But these differences are now happily being forgotten. Neither faction could really be blamed. It is natural., I am sorry to say, in
times like the above, for personal desires and gains to get away with one's
better heart-promptings. But, as said, Greeley county is again getting united, and the less these old rifts be stirred the
better for all concerned.
Scotia stood fade to face with hard times. She had lost her chief point of prestige. The new court house stood empty and many prominent families left for Greeley Center. Her population decreased seriously. But she had staunch hearts in her midst. These stood by the old town during the hard years and never lost courage. The court house was turned into a Normal and Business College and did well till some untoward circumstances forced it too to close down. Then came abundant crops and Scotia rallied, New and modern homes are going up throughout the town; her
(185) population is increasing again. With the remarkably fertile farm districts round about her Scotia is bound to become a wealthy residence town with time. Her future is assured and the first comers will not have come in vain.