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Compendium of History Reminiscence & Biography of Western Nebraska

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tempting to make the other lay down, all having what he considered "a sure winner," After all available cash had been bet, check books were produced and used, and still no one would give up. At this time a man rushed into the room and told our hero that his meat market was on fire and burning up. He was considerably disturbed, but remained in the game. A second time some one came in and excitedly told him of the fire, but instead of hastening to the scene of the conflagration he coolly remarked that it was "the first time he had ever held four aces, and he was going to see them through if the whole town burned up." This was taken as bluff by his companions, and the betting still continued, when, not wishing to bankrupt the others, he called and threw down his hand, which indeed held four aces. He leisurely filled his pockets with bills, checks and loose money and rushed out to look at the fire, which he found had been entirely extinguished without any great loss.



   A foremost place among the farming community of Cherry county, Nebraska, is occupied by the gentleman herein mentioned, who is a successful and progressive agriculturist and ranchman of township 25, range 32. He is the possessor of a good ranch, which he has acquired by hard and faithful labor, taking up land here in the early days as a homestead and transforming it from a wild prairie tract to a fertile garden, enjoying a rich measure of prosperity as a reward for his honest labors and good management.

    Hugh B. Boyer was born in Mercer county, West Virginia, in 1871. His father, Dennis Boyer, was a farmer for many years in that state, and he married Sarah E. Fielder. After our subject's birth the family only remained in West Virginia for about a year, then emigrated to Tennessee, traveling to their new home by team in an emigrant wagon, settled on a farm in Sevier county, remained there for six years, then moved to Texas, locating in Anderson county, arriving there in the spring of 1878. There they started a farm, and our subject's boyhood days were spent in that locality, the family spending in all twenty-two years in Texas. Hugh lived at home until he was twenty, then took a farm for himself and farmed there for ten years. He was married in 1891, and came with his family to Nebraska in 1900, taking a homestead in section 25, township 25, range 32. He at once erected sod buildings in which they lived comfortably for a number of years, but he has lately put up a good frame house, barns and other buildings and added many improvements to his ranch. His ranch consists of eight hundred acres, all of which is fenced and has a fine supply of water pumped by windmills. He is extensively engaged in the stock raising business, dealing principally in cattle, which he sends to the markets. He also operates a fine large dairy, and from this industry derives a snug income. Mr. Boyer farms about one hundred acres, on which he raises splendid crops of small grains.

    Mr. Boyer was married while living in Texas to Sarah Huntsman, daughter of Charles Huntsman, a farmer of that state, and she was born and reared in Houston county. The family had lived for many years in Texas, her grandfather, Joseph Huntsman, having been born and reared there; also her great-grandfather, William Hallmark, was a pioneer of that country.

    Mr. and Mrs. Boyer are the parents of three children, namely: Haskle, Lessie and Gussie, The family occupy a comfortable home, and are well liked by all who know them.



   Major A. M. Dill, retired, first came to North Platte, Nebraska, in 1877, being connected with the Union Pacific Railway, and was employed by them continuously up to 1902, when at the age of seventy-nine years he left their service. He began working for the New York & Erie Railway when only twelve miles of that road was completed, in 1839, running to Piermont, Rockland county, on the Hudson, His first engine, run in 1842, was a single pair of drivers and a crank, built one the outside like a steamboat. There were five of these at that time, and were named Ramape, Eliza, Lord Piermont, Orange and Rockland. These were afterward altered and made with two drivers and enlarged cylinders with crude hand tools. In 1850 he left this road and took charge of the blacksmith shop at Elmira, New York, under W. E. Rutter, and during the following year he built a shop of his own to make cars for the Buffalo & New York Railroad. These burned down, and he then moved to Canandaigua, remaining there up to 1856, when he came west, locating in Wisconsin, at Racine. Two years later he went to Springfield, Illinois, in the service of the Wabash road.

    At this time our subject was well acquainted with Abraham Lincoln, and on the night he was nominated for President, while waiting for the news, he remarked to those about him that "if it was not dark we would have a baseball game." All adjourned to the Journal office and watched for the returns. Lincoln was one of the people, always speaking in the most kindly terms to all whom he met, and everyone at Springfield felt as sad when he left them for Washington as he did himself.

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   Major Dill is a native of Orange county, village of Florida, New York. In 1857 he was married to Miss Julia A. Hoover. Their children were as follows: Charles A., engineer on the Union Pacific Railway; W. E. Dill, who was an engineer on the Union Pacific, and died in 1901, aged thirty-five years; and two daughters, Mrs. W. L. Park, wife of the general superintendent of the Union Pacific Railway, formerly assistant division superintendent at North Platte, and Mrs. Perry Sitton, of North Platte, whose husband is manager of the Union Pacific Hotel at that city.

    Nearly all of Mr. Dill's life has been spent on the railroad. He came to North Platte in 1877 and there was foreman of the Union Pacific Railroad blacksmith shop for fourteen years. He is now eighty-five years of age, and a man of active mind, intelligent, and of fine appearance. Major Dill was pensioned by the Union Pacific Railroad Company in 1903.



   Robert Gunderson is favorably known as one of the successful young ranchers of Kimball county. He was born in Potter, Cheyenne county, Nebraska, Sept. 15, 1876, and is one of the oldest native born Cheyenne county boys. His father, Adam Gunderson, was one of the pioneers having settled in the county in the early years, about 1871.

   Robert Gunderson was married April 6, 1904, to Miss Lizzie Asche, who was a native of Colfax county, Nebraska. Her parents are still living at a ripe old age after thirty years residence in that state. They are now living in Banner county, and are old settlers there. Mr. and Mrs. Gunderson have been blessed with two children: Florence Marie, and Zelma Annie.

    Mr. Gunderson's father was a section foreman at Potter, Nebraska, where our subject was raised, he being used to plenty of farm work. There he also gained considerable experience at the raising of sheep and other stock. In 1900 our subject started out for himself, and took a homestead on section 4, township 15, range 53, where he has established himself as one of the successful public spirited citizens of the community. He now owns three hundred and eighty acres, with eighty acres under cultivation. He is energetic and progressive, and is not satisfied unless he is pushing his farming operations to the utmost. In addition to his own land he leases nearly one thousand acres and runs about a hundred head of stock.

   Mr. Gunderson is a staunch Republican in politics, and is always able and willing to stand by his convictions. He has held the office of county commissioner of Kimball county, Nebraska, from 1905 to 1907, his election being a decisive victory. He is at present moderator of School District No. 1, and takes great interest in all matters of an educational nature.



   Among the men who helped in the development and success of the western part of Nebraska the gentleman above named occupied a prominent place. He had built up a pleasant home in Rock county, where he was universally, respected and esteemed by his fellowmen

   Mr. Bruce was born on his father's farm in Livingston county, Illinois, June 15, 1862. He was a son of James Bruce, a native of Scotland, as was also the mother, Katherine P. Bruce, both coming to America when quite young. In a family of nine children our subject was the second member, and was raised in his native county, until he reached the age of twenty-one years, following farm work as his occupation. In 1883 he came west settling in Sheridan county on a homestead located fourteen and a half miles south of Hay Springs. The nearest railroad point was Valentine, about a hundred miles distant and all supplies had to be hauled from that town. He immediately built a dugout in which he made his home for two years, then erected a sod house in which he lived seven years. During these days he spent his time freighting between White River and Valentine, and at one time, for fourteen months he never slept in a house, camping out through all kinds of rough weather. When he began he had only a team and wagon, meeting first with many discouragements and hardships, but he was possessed of a strong will and sturdy determination; never giving up, he did whatever seemed to be best at all times, and gradually worked into the stock business combined with mixed farming. At one time he had a wheat field of five hundred acres, from which, however, he

Compendium of History Reminiscence & Biography of Western Nebraska

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reaped no harvest, the entire field being parched by the severe drought of that season. When the dry years come (sic) on he lost several other crops, and had them twice destroyed by hail. After these years had passed and condition become (sic) more favorable he got a new start and gained back much of his losses, and when he left Sheridan county, in 1900, he had accumulated quite a comfortable property, owning 209 head of cattle and fifty head of horses. From there he moved into Cherry county in the year 1898, remaining there for the winter, and in the spring came to Bassett, where he engaged in horse shipping, supplying the market in as distant points as New Jersey, Michigan, Indiana, Missouri and Arkansas. He was most successful at this line of work, and handled hundreds of fine animals, finding a ready sale at profitable prices. He was engaged in threshing for a time and in years gone by trailed horses into Canada and Manitoba, shipping cattle from those countries back to Nebraska, where they were disposed of to advantage.

   Mr. Bruce was married in Nashville, Washington county, Illinois, May 17, 1887, to Miss Lou Hahler, a native of Illinois, born in Saint Clair county, of French and German parentage. Children were born to Mr. and Mrs. Bruce, and are named as follows: Ollie I., Katie C., James W., (deceased); Nettie L., Wilmar W., Florence M., Marguerite G., (deceased); an infant that died unnamed, Margarett L. and Juanita C. The family is well known and highly esteemed all over the locality in which they reside.

    Mr. Bruce died in April, 1908, regretted by a host of friends. He was a Republican in politics and a member of the Odd Fellows and Modern Woodmen



   In compiling a list of the prominent pioneers of Sioux county, Nebraska, who have aided materially in making that region a thriving agricultural district, a foremost place must be accorded the gentleman whose name heads this personal history. For the past several years Mr. Pontius has been closely identified with the development of Bowen precinct, and his labors to this end are well known to all who reside in that community. He now occupies a pleasant home in the village of Harrison where he enjoys the contentment which comes from the knowledge of duties well and faithfully done.

   Mr. Pontius was born in Chillicothe, Ohio, December 18, 1848, of good old American stock. His father, Samuel G. Pontius, was a farmer, descendant of French ancestors, and he married Lea Reiman, of German blood.

    Our subject grew up on the home farm, where he did plenty of hard farm work during his early boyhood, receiving a common school education, and lived with his parents until he reached the age of twenty-one years. He then learned the trade of telegraph operator, and was employed by the Western Union Telegraph Company at Milwaukee, Wisconsin, for three years. After that time he started railroading, traveling in the northern part of Ohio doing station work, and after several years, drifted around in different parts of the country following his profession, so that he was able to see a great deal of the different states. Mr. Pontius came to Nebraska in 1892, landing here on June 23d, of that year, coming from St. Paul, Minnesota, where he had worked for some time. He located in Harrison where he held the position of station agent up to the fall of 1903. He homesteaded a tract of land in section 3, township 31, range 56, Bowen precinct, and proved up on his claim, still owning this property.

   In 1873, Mr. Pontius was married to Elizabeth Bloom, daughter of J. M. Bloom, of Shelby, Ohio, a leading undertaker and cabinet-maker of that place. Her mother was Susan Snyder, a native of Pennsylvania. Mr. and Mrs. Pontius have a family of four children, namely: Wanda, wife of W. H. Davis; William, Myrtle and Jennie, who are also married and live in Harrison, Nebraska, except William, who is a resident of Orin Junction, Wyoming. The family is highly esteemed by all who know them, and are popular members of society in Harrison.

   In casting about for the name of a representative old settler of Nebraska, we give the reader that of William M. Alden, who was among the first to locate in Hamilton county, arriving there in 1879. That section was then barren prairie, and he went to work to help build up the country, spending his entire career in Nebraska, and watched the growth of civilization from its earliest start, assisting in no small measure in the work of its upbuilding. He now, resides in Hyannis, where he settled in 1888, and carries on a general merchandise store, establishing this business when the state was in its first stages of development, and has remained to become one of the leading citizens and successful merchants of Grant county.

   Mr. Alden was born in Union, McHenry county, Illinois, in 1860. His father was a

Compendium of History Reminiscence & Biography of Western Nebraska

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well known merchant of that place, and when our subject was a small boy the family moved to Iowa, where he grew up. At the age of nineteen he came to Nebraska and made settlement at Aurora, and for nine years made that town his home, working as a clerk in a store owned by his father.

    Mr. Alden located in Hyannis in 1888, and opened the first store in the town, starting in the spring of that year. His first building was a lean-to, built against a house, and was twelve by twenty-two feet in size. His business expanded rapidly and he was obliged to enlarge his store space and put in a larger stock of goods, and eventually put up a commodious building, now occupying a floor space of twenty-two by eighty. He carries a splendid line of goods and enjoys an extensive trade through the surrounding ranching community. Besides this business he runs a branch store at Whitman, established in 1893, and does a good business at that point. Our subject owns a good ranch situated seven miles from Hyannis to the north, and devotes this place to stock raising.

   Mr. Alden was married in 1881, at Aurora, Nebraska, to Nina M. Chapin, and to them have been born, Blanche, and Eva, who was the first child born of white parents in Hyannis, and first saw the light of day December 3, 1888.

   Mr. Alden has the distinction of having been instrumental with S. S. Sears, in incorporating the town of Hyannis, in which movement they encountered considerable opposition. When he first struck this locality nearly all of the white settlers made a living by hunting wild game and picking up buffalo bones, as every man who came here was, almost without exception, entirely without funds and unable to produce enough money to open a farm until they had worked and saved the price to file on the land.

    Mr. Alden has always been prominent in public affairs, is an active Republican, and served as deputy county clerk during the early history of the county. He has helped establish the schools in his locality and has been a member of the school board, also of the town council for many years.



   Harmon P. McKnight, a prominent physician of Long Pine, Nebraska, is a gentleman of strong mind, and a capable, skilled and conscientious practitioner, and deservedly enjoys the esteem and confidence of his patrons and associates.

   Dr. McKnight was born in St. Lawrence county, New York, April 25, 1857. His father and mother, William and Martha (Packard) McKnight, were both of American blood and he was the fifth member in their family of nine children. He was raised in his native state, until the age of eighteen years, when in December, 1876, he enlisted in St. Louis in Company F, Eighth Cavalry and was sent to western Texas where he served five years, the two final years in hospital department, from which he was discharged in March, 1881. This gave him a liking for the medical profession, so proceeding to St. Louis he attended a course of lectures, after which he took up the practice of medicine in Shelby county, Iowa, where he remained one summer, followed by a course in Omaha Medical College. He then opened an office at Long Pine on August 20, 1883, and at once began the practice of medicine, being the first physician in this and the adjoining three counties. He built up an enormous practice, and was widely known as a man of superior mind and great strength of character, everywhere winning the confidence and esteem of all with whom he came in contact. After locating in this vicinity Dr. McKnight had intended to get his degree as soon as possible but his practice increased to such an extent that he was unable to abandon it until 1889 when he took a final course in the College of Physicians and Surgeons, graduating and receiving his diploma in 1890.

   In 1891, Dr. McKnight established a drug store in Long Pine, in which he carries a complete line of drugs, toilet articles and sundries, doing an extensive business. He is also engaged in ranching, having taken up a homestead in 1883 and proved up on it. This ranch contains one thousand four hundred acres on Pine Creek and is devoted to grain and hog raising, which pursuit he finds very profitable, personally superintending this work. In 1907, he purchased a finely improved farm of three hundred and twenty acres in section 22 and 27, township 30, range 20, Rock county, which is devoted to agriculture; it is almost completely encircled by a grove of fifteen years standing, has a fine orchard, a good dwelling, large barns and other buildings. We present a fine view of the premises on another page of this volume.

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    On March 12, 1884, Dr. McKnight married a very estimable lady in the person of Miss Mattie C. Anderson, daughter of John Anderson, an old settler and prominent farmer of western Nebraska. He was an early settler in Missouri, but was forced to leave that state during the war because of his strong northern sympathies. Dr. and Mrs. McKnight have a daughter, Lena, born in Long Pine. She is now the wife of Dr. J. W. McLeran, a rising

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