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A narrative of the past, with special emphasis upon the pioneer period of the county history, its social, commercial, educational, religious, and civic development from the early days to the present time.

W. L. Gaston and A. R. Humphrey

Lincoln, Nebraska
Western Publishing and Engraving Company

PHOTOS are from personal collection of Judy Morrison.
They do NOT appear in the book.

Pages 837, 1045 & 1164 *


     MRS SUSIE HELMUTH, who came to Custer county, Nebraska, with her parents thirty-three years ago, has lived here ever since and is well known and highly esteemed. She was born September 28, 1877, in Jo Daviess county, Illinois, and is a daughter of Ernest and Johanna (Kape) Schneider, both of whom were born in Germany. The father of Mrs. Helmuth came to the United States in 1861 and located in Jo Daviess county, where he worked on a farm until 1864, when he enlisted on October 12 that year, for service in the Civil War. He became a member of Company K, Thirty-second Illinois Infantry, and he took part in many skirmishes and marches, as well as one important engagement, the battle of Kingston, North Carolina, in March, 1865. He was mustered out of the service at Leavenworth Kansas, September 16, 1865. Mr. Schneider then returned to Jo Daviess county and bought a farm, and in 1866 he married Miss Johanna Kape They had the following children: Ernst, Lillie Barbara, George, John, Lawrence, Maggie and Susie (twins), Anna and Louise.

     In 1885 Ernest Schneider came with his family to Custer county, Nebraska, and located on Redfern Table, eight miles west of the present town of Oconto. The daughter Susie continued to reside at the parental home until the time of her marriage to William Helmuth which took place September 11, 1899. Mr. Helmuth was born in Germany, November 24, 1853. His first marriage took place there and when his first wife died she left six children. He came to the United States and reared the children in Nebraska, where all are now married and have children of their own. They are as follows: Anna is the wife of William C. Pierce, and they have four children; Barbara is the wife of Troy Brown, and they have one child; Tena the wife of T. Owen, and they have eight children; Elizabeth is the wife of Clarence Preston, and they have five children; Lena is the wife of Albert Aldridge and they have six children; and William J. married Isabel McGuigan their children being two sons.

     At the time of his second marriage, Mr. Helmuth was living on his claim situated about four miles southwest of Oconto and there Mr. and Mrs. Helmuth went to housekeeping. They continued to live there about four years, when he sold his claim and bought a fine farm of 160 acres on Redfern Table, about eight miles west of Oconto. Here a beautiful country residence was build, and comfort, content and happiness prevailed until Mr. Helmuth health failed. About six years ago he was stricken with paralysis and, although he has the kind and loving care of a devoted wife and their two daughters, the affliction is grievous for a man once so active and vigorous. The two living children of Mr. And Mrs. Helmuth are Fay J. and Dorothy L., both of whom are completing their educational course in the Oconto high school. Although Mr. Helmuth has been entirely helpless since he was stricken, on August 23, 1912, his farm industries are all continued very successfully, as Mrs. Helmuth has proved resourceful and exceedingly competent. She oversees the work and is assisted by her brother, Ernst Schneider, who resides here and has been a farmer for many years.


ROBERT N. KEYES. - Over in the vicinity of Sargent lives Robert N. Keyes whose life story is here epitomized. Robert was born in Wisconsin, the norther state that puts iron and vigor into the blood of its native born sons and daughters. The date of this event was March 8, 1875. His father was Benjamin Keyes and his mother Lida T. (Tascot) Keyes.

     The father was a native of Wisconsin and the mother was born in the Empire state. Mr. Keyes senior, followed farming in Wisconsin until 1883, when he came with his family to Custer county and located a homestead in section 7, township 20, range 18, where he lived until the spring of 1891, when he moved to Broken Bow, where he died the next year. The family retained their home in the county seat until 1894. During their stay in Broken Bow, after the death of the father, two sisters of Mr. Keyes died the same year, after which the family returned to the farm. Notwithstanding it was the dry year of 94, they went to work and have made that place their home ever since. The only child in the family of the senior Keyes now living is the subject of this sketch. The family were members of the Baptist church. Mr. Keyes during his life time voted the Republican ticket.

     Robert N. received his education in the district schools and by actual experience and hard knocks learned the science of farming and the care of stock. It was in early youth that he laid the foundations of present day success by the formation of good and industrious habits.

     He was married June 2, 1904, to Maude Willhort (of?) Round Valley. She is a daughter of Emanuel and Louisa (Paxton) Willhort . The Willhort family were old settlers and well respected in their community. Before her marriage Mrs. Keyes was a teacher and taught one term in the vicinity of her present home.

     As a result of this union seven children were born, six of whom are still living, making some sign and cheer for the home. They are Pearl, Ralph, Alfred, Alloma, Mabel, and Robert.

     The Keyes farm is the home of Durham cattle of fine and selected grades. Other stock, as hogs and cattle, complete the complement and sustain the high grade. The farm consists of three hundred and twenty acres, about equally divided between pasture and cultivated lands. This proportion makes it a splendid stock farm and a very profitable one as well.

     The neighbors speak highly of the Keyes family and rate them as helpful members of the community. Mr. Keyes is independent in politics and pays attention to the qualities of the candidate rather than the party to which he belongs.



GEORGE MARY - One of the foremost citizens of Custer county is George Mary, who is vice president of the Oconto State Bank and proprietor of a hardware and implement business at this place, and who has been identified with Nebraska development for more than thirty years. He was reared at Cleveland, Ohio, and he remained with his parents until he was twenty-one years of age, in the meanwhile attending school and learning the wheel-wright trade.

     In 1877 Mr. Mary came as far west as Wichita, Kansas, where he operated a meat market for three years. then sought a business opportunity at Carroll, Iowa, where he worked eprated for a time as a carpenter and also was a clerk in a hardware store. In 1884, he came to Custer county, Nebraska, where for two years he conducted a meat market at Lexington. In the summer of 1886, after obtaining the contract to furnish meat to Kilpatrick Brothers & Collins, contractors on the Burlington Railroad, he moved to Broken Bow, and subsequently he followed the railroad into the heart of the sand-hill country. When ready to become a permanent settler, Mr. Mary took a homestead which included a part of the town of Mullins, which later became the county seat of the then unorganized county of Hooker. There he became a citizen of public prominence and influence, and he served as the first county clerk of Hooker county. In 1892, he came to Oconto and established his general hardware and agricultural-implement business. He accepted the office of vice-president of the Oconto State Bank, and additionally finds part of his time occupied in superintending his ranch property, comprising 1,300 acres. Mr. Mary has one son, George J., who was for four years cashier of the Oconto State Band, and who, in connection with our nation participation in the world war, entered the national army, as a member of Battery C, three hundred and thirty-ninth field artillery, which as first stationed at Camp Dodge, Iowa.

     Mr. Mary, like many another successful business man, sometimes refers to boyhood days, when the acquisition of even a meager amount of capital was a matter of considerable effort, for he grew up during Civil-war days and money for any purpose was not plentiful. Therefore when, by running errands, he had accumulated the sum of sixty-five cents, he felt reasonably rich, and being then, as now, patriotic, he determined to hide his wealth until the Fourth of July, when all of it could be expended for fire-crackers. that time little coin was in circulation, small amounts being paid in shinplaster war-time paper money, and such currency constituted Mr. Mary bank roll that he carefully hid for safekeeping, in a convenient pigeon coop. There are many tragedies in life and perhaps one of these may have been the finding of a mouse nest in the pigeon coop, on the Fourth of July, instead of the little paper-money roll so confidently hidden.



     JOHN HELMUTH, who is one of Custer county most respected citizens, is also one of its real pioneers and has the distinction of being the first man to locate on Redfern Table thirty-four years ago. He has witnessed wonderful changes during that long period and has seen men and whole families come and go, but never, even in the days of greatest hardship, has he entertained the idea of parting with his land and home. More than that, he has given encouragement to others and they, relying upon his practical judgment and good sense, have likewise weathered the storm and are safely in harbor. He has been active in promoting local enterprises that he deemed of general benefit to farmers and stockmen, and has always been foremost in maintaining schools and churches.

     John Helmuth was born November 2, 1857 in Oberlauerengen Bavaria, Germany. His parents, John and Mary N. (Benkert) Helmuth were born in Germany, and they had four children: William E., John, Christ, and Caroline Mary, the last named being the wife of George Mary, and having one son. By a second marriage, the mother had one son, August Wirsching The father of Mr. Helmuth was a farmer and belonged to the Lutheran Church.

     In February, 1870, John Helmuth the immediate subject of this sketch, came to the United States and located first in Jo Daviess county, Illinois, where he worked for five years on the farm of General John A. Logan, who was one of that states distinguished military men and statementesmen. Although he did well in Illinois, Mr. Helmuth wanted land and a home of his own, and that brought him to Custer county, Nebraska, in February 1884, when he located on the southeast quarter of section 12, township 13, range 23, where he still lives. It was lonely at first, but Ernest Schneider came soon afterward, and before spring had passed Christ Helmuth, James Whitehead, John Muller, Chris and Henry Muller, Harvey Stockham, Otto Jester, William Greenfield, and Charles and Fre Drum had settled in the neighborhood. These settlers all suffered from lack of wells, and for five years they had to haul their water a considerable distance. Mr. Helmuth always a leader in enterprise, was the first one to put down a well on the Table, finding water at a depth of 456 feet. This was in 1889, and since then he had put down three other wells. Almost every settler of the present day has a fine flowing well, and the lack of sufficient water is practically no more a matter for consideration. The early settlers made little pretension, all living at first in dugouts or sod houses. While these primitive domiciles were usually of rather small dimensions, they had the advantage of being warm in winter and cool in summer.

PictureSpacer     Mr. Helmuth was married on June 8, 1884, at what is now the flourishing town of Lexington, Nebraska, to Miss Lillie Schneider who was born in Jo Daviess county, Illinois, a daughter of Ernst and Johanna (Kaeb) Schneider, natives of Germany. The following named children were born to Mr. and Mrs. Helmuth: William C., who lives at home, is farming with his father on shares; Bertha D. is widow of John McNulty who died September 28, 1918, he having been a farmer near Oconto and being survived by two daughters; Charles C. is at home and is helping his father operate the 800 acre farm, with 400 acres under cultivation, in corn and small grain; John G., who was in the training camp at Camp Dix New Jersey, but since September 1st France, is in the United States service as a member of the Three Hundred and Thirty-fifth Field Artillery, Eighty-seventh Division, and he arrived with his command in France in the early part of September, 1918; and Emma C. and Lillie remain at the parental home.

    Mr. Helmuth is a Democrat in politics. He has always taken much interest in the public schools and for many years has been a member of the school board of his district, which was organized in Grant township in 1885. He belongs to the Oconto camp of the Modern Woodmen of America, and Mrs. Helmuth is a member of the Royal Neighbors. They are members of the Lutheran church. As a loyal and patriotic citizen of the United States, Mr. Helmuth has served as a committeeman in Grant township for the Council of Defense.

This material provided by <> who is researching the following surnames: SCHNEIDER--HELMUTH--MCGUIGAN--ARMOUR--BADGLEY--KLEIN--MARY (Jul 2004 - email change)

*As often happens with scanning, sending, translating/converting, etc. - the formatting and some text was lost when sent as email enclosure. In particular, punctuation was missed; and small words were skipped. Judy supplied paper copies to correct the electronic files she had supplied earlier. Thank you, Judy!

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