NEGenWeb Project
Resource Center, On-Line Library




   In October, 1883, Mr. Wilson was united in marriage with Miss Ella B. Brown, at Axtell, Kansas. She is a daughter of Nathan L. and Johanna (Brown), who reside at Kimball, Nebraska. Mr. and Mrs. Wilson have had four children: Harry, who is with the Great Western Sugar Company, at Sterling, Colorado; Roger, who has returned from France; Frank, who is at home; and Robert, who died in February, 1918.
   Mr. Wilson is prominent as a Mason, Knight of Pythias and Odd Fellow, has been through all local offices and helped to organize two lodges of Odd Fellows, Mrs. Wilson belongs to the Eastern Star, Degree of Honor, and the Rebekahs. In November, 1918, Mr. Wilson was elected county clerk and is one of the county's efficient and popular officials.

    CURTIS O. LYDA. -- To establish one's self firmly in professional practice in a strange community is no easy task, and a young lawyer sometimes meets with many difficulties, especially when the field he has chosen already has many older and well known practitioners. Fortunately, however, the thoroughly trained collegian of modern schooling has courage as well as education and is apt to enter the race with confidence that is subsequently justified, for court records show that cases are not always won by experience, the vigor and enthusiasm of youth when combined with legal ability often carrying everything before it. Attention may thus be directed to one of the youngest members of the bar at Gering, Curtis O. Lyda, who has but recently doffed khaki for civilian costume, in 1918 having put aside his professional prospects to enter military service at the call of his country.
    Curtis O. Lyda was born at Atlanta, Macon county, Missouri, January 17, 1891. He is the only son of Thomas B. and Sarah (Williams) Lyda. His father was born in Virginia in 1846 and died in Missouri in 1911, and his mother, born in 1863, died in 1891. They were married in Missouri, having made the journey from Virginia by water. The father of Mr. Lyda followed farming all his life. He was thrice married.
    After a thorough course in the public schools Curtis Owen Lyda entered the Normal school at Spearfish, South Dakota, from which he was graduated in 1912, when he entered the University of Nebraska, securing his A.B. degree in 1915, and was graduated from the law department in 1917. He opened an office for the practice of law at Gering in September, 1917, and had made satisfactory progress when a crisis arose in public affairs and loyal young men all over the country hastened to put aside all personal ambitions in order to enter military training. Mr. Lyda entered service in July, 1918, and was located at Camp Dodge but was unassigned and was honorably discharged in the following December. He has resumed practice at Gering and was appointed city attorney in 1919. He has made many professional and personal friends in this pleasant city.
    In August, 1917, Mr. Lyda was united in marriage to Miss Iva lrene Eastman, who was born in Iowa. Her father, John Eastman, who now resides in South Dakota, is a veteran of the Civil War, having served throughout its length in a New York regiment. On several occasions he was wounded. Mr. and Mrs. Lyda are affiliated members of the Methodist Episcopal Church at Gering, and they also take part in the quiet social life of the city, Mrs. Lyda being also greatly interested in Red Cross and other benevolent activities. Mr. Lyda is a Democrat in politics. He continues to be interested in his fraternity of his law school days, the Phi Alpha Delta.

    LARS OLSON. -- Seemingly thirty-four years is but a short period in which to climb from the old-time wage of fifty cents for a day's labor, to the ownership of thousands of acres of well stocked land, and the presidency of one of the important financial institutions of a sovereign state of the Union. In Lars Olson, who is president of the Banner county Bank at Harrisburg, Nebraska, and whose interests cover many additional enterprises, is found one who has achieved such results and has done so with such honorable methods that he finds himself universally trusted and esteemed by his fellow citizens.
    Lars Olson was born in Denmark, March 14, 1857, a son of Ole Hansen and Anna (Larsen) Olson. They were natives of Denmark who came to the United States in 1880, joining their son who had settled three years previously in Cloud county, Kansas. The mother died in Cloud county and in 1898, the father came to Banner county, Nebraska, homesteaded, and lived on his land until the time of his death, which occurred January 10, 1904, before he had succeeded in proving up on his farm. He had been a farmer all his life. Of his twelve children all died in Denmark except the two survivors, Lars and Hans, who live in Kansas.
    After attending the common schools, Lars Olson worked as a farmer in Denmark until the spring of 1877, when he came to the United States, in this move showing courage and enter-



prise for whatever may be the hoped reward, it is not easy for a youth of twenty years to break home ties and seek fortune alone in an alien land. He located in Cloud county, Kansas, and lived there for eight years, mainly engaged in farm work. He then came to Banner county and on October 10, 1885, homesteaded an section four, where he now lives. He worked hard in order to get a start, during that time spending six months in Wyoming, and through his industry and frugality made rapid headway. Mr. Olson now owns seven thousand acres of fine land. He breeds White Face cattle, is a large raiser of both cattle horses and mules, making a specialty of Shire horses. His finely improved land has been developed from virgin prairie and Mr. Olson devoted close attention to his farm for many years. When he came here first the Bay State Cattle Company had over ninety thousand head ranging from Pumpkin creek to Kimball, as this section at that time was a great cow country.
   On April 2, 1877, in Denmark, Mr. Olson was united in marriage with Miss Marie Hansen, who was born in Denmark and her parents, Christian and Marian Hansen, always lived there. Mr. and Mrs. Olson have six children: Christen, who married Netta Decker; Oloff, who remains with his father; Arthur, who married Myrtle Bixby; Albert, who married Doris Spize; Annie, who is the wife of Emil Johnson; and Sadie, who is the wife of John Nelson, all of whom live in Banner county except the youngest daughter, who resides at Omaha.
   For a number of years Mr. Olson has been identified with banking interests in Banner county and since 1910, has been president of the Banner County Bank at Harrisburg, which undoubtedly has prospered through his careful, conservative policies. He is a stockholder in the American State Bank at Kimball. For three years he served on the board of county commissioners and at present is president of the board of regents of the county high school. Mr. Olson is also chairman of the Farmers Union.

    MILTON E. SHAFTO, county judge of Banner county, Nebraska, a high office that he has filled continuously with the exception of one term, for twelve years, is an honor to the bench and well deserves the high esteem in which he is held by his fellow citizens. Judge Shafto came into the Wild Horseshoe valley in the summer of 1886, and few of the old pioneers he found there are yet living. He was born in Clinton county, Iowa, December 23, 1859, the son of Thomas and Anna B. (Forman) Shafto, both of whom were born in Monmouth county, New Jersey, the mother in December, 1822. The father died in 1904 but the venerable mother survives and is tenderly cared for by Judge Shafto and his family. Of her two children he alone remains. She may be the most aged lady in Banner county and still takes an active interest in home affairs and in the Congregational church, to which she has belonged since girlhood. Judge Shafto's parents came to Banner county in 1892, and the father secured a homestead on section three and proved up. In New Jersey he was a contractor and builder. While never active in the political field, he was a staunch Republican.
   Milton E. Shafto attended the public schools and also a private school in Iowa. He started to provide for his future by learning the jeweler's trade and worked through a short apprenticeship but never engaged in the business. In June, 1886, he came to what is now Banner county and pre-empted land and later homesteaded on section three, township nineteen, range fifty-five, and was living on his ranch at the time Harrisburg was established as the county seat and soon became interested in politics and public affairs and has been more or less identified with county development ever since. In 1896, he was elected county clerk and served continuously until 1900, and in 1907, was elected to the county bench. Judge Shafto in this position and in others of publicity and responsibility, has proved worthy of the confidence reposed in him. He has been prominent in the journalistic field, from 1908 to 1917, being editor, proprietor and publisher of the Banner County News. In addition to performing his judicial duties, Judge Shafto includes abstracting.
   On April 16, 1896, Judge Shafto was united in marriage with Miss Nellie Dillon, at Cozad, Dawson county, Nebraska. Mrs. Shafto is a daughter of former well known residents of Dawson county, George D. and Lucy Dillon. Judge and Mrs. Shafto have two sons: Clarence and Paul, both of whom reside at home. Mrs. Shafto is a member of the Methodist Episcopal church. For over thirty years the judge has been on the school board and is regent of the county high school. During the World War he was on the county war board and served as county food administrator from the time of appointment until September, 1918, when the pressure of other work made his



resignation necessary. He has likewise been interested and useful in the progressive movements that have been of substantial advantage to Banner county.

    ALFRED G. DOWNER, who for thirty years was one of Banner county's well known and highly esteemed residents, was a native of Illinois, horn at Aurora, November 13, 1840, and died on his homestead near Harrisburg, Nebraska, August 5, 1919, aged seventy-eight years. He was a worthy man in every relation of life and his death removed from Banner county not only a pioneer, but one whose efforts had always been given to advancing the best interests of the county, and whose quiet influence lent itself to the maintenance of law and order. The honorable record of such a life is a precious legacy to his descendants.
   Alfred Galen Downer was reared on the old Downer homestead in Kane county, Illinois, and his schooling was obtained in the same county, where a brother, Abel Downer, yet lives: He entered into business as a meat dealer, in the city of Aurora, and continued there until 1899. In that year he came with his family to Nebraska and bought at first a relinquishment claim, to which, as years passed, he added until at the time of death, he owned more than two thousand acres. For his first quarter section of land, which had twenty-five acres broken and buildings standing, he paid three hundred dollars, another section without improvements, he secured for a hundred and fifty dollars, and for the remaining section and a half, without improvements, he paid fifteen hundred dollars. He was careful about his investments as he was in relation to all his undertakings. About 1890, he embarked in a general mercantile business at Harrisburg, but continued the operation of his farm adjacent to the city. For several years he was alone and then admitted J. M. Wilson as a partner, and the firm of Downer & Wilson continued in the business field until 1907, when Mr. Downer sold his interest to Mr. Wilson and retired, during the rest of his life looking after his ranch. He was a Republican in politics but never sought public office, serving, however, for several terms when elected, as a justice of the peace.
   On, July 11, 1881, in Illinois, Mr. Downer married Welthy Walker, who died June 29, 1918. Five children survive them, as follows: Mamie, who is the wife of John A. Brewer of Chicago, Illinois; Weltha L., who lives at home; Stella, who is the wife of J. N. Wyatt, has one child, Helen Marie, and they live at Elkhorn, Nebraska; Herbert A., who is a resident of East Harrisburg, married Mary Schaffer and they have three children; Marguerite E., Marine L., and Allerton G.; and Winfred, who lives on the Downer homestead, married Florence Wynne, and they have two children, Robert W. and Helen Eldora.
   A man of generous instincts and kind and helpful to all who appealed to his sympathy, Mr. Downer left many to mourn his loss, but perhaps none will miss him more than his beloved grandchildren to whom he was particularly devoted. He rejoiced to have his family gather round him in the old homestead and he was ever contented when he believed them happy. For many years he had been a supporter of the Methodist Episcopal church at Harrisburg, and there his funeral was held, Rev. C. K. Shackleford of Minatare conducting the services, and he was laid to rest by the side of his wife, in the beautiful cemetery at Harrisburg, to which many of his pioneer neighbors and friends had preceded him.

   ELMER S. ZORN. -- Perhaps Banner county has few better known citizens than Elmer Scott Zorn, a leading business man of Harrisburg, for he has been identified with the development of this section almost continuously since he came here thirty-two years ago. Mr. Zorn was born in Logan county, Ohio, January 14, 1868, the son of Joseph and Amy J. (Richards) Zorn, the former was born in Virginia, March 29, 1827, and the latter July 10, 1829. It was in the spring of 1870, that they left Ohio, in a prairie schooner, on the long overland journey to Nebraska. Fortunately they carried with them enough necessities to last them for five months, for it took them that length of time to cover the distance. They traveled overland where the roads were mere wagon tracks at times and where unbridged rivers could only be crossed by ferry, but finally reached Fremont safely and the father invested in land in Dodge county. He operated his farm and raised some stock but as soon as he considered Elmer old and capable enough, turned the farm industries over to the latter and went into the business of selling fruit trees for the Stephens Nursery Company of North Bend, Nebraska, in which he continued for five years. He decided then to make another change, moving to Kimball on April 11, 1887, but lived there only until May 3, following, coming then to land in Banner county which he



had pre-empted on sections 34-17-58. It was an unkind welcome that the elements gave the Zorn family, for one of the justly celebrated Nebraska blizzards set in that very day. Before they could reach their claim the storm compelled them to seek shelter, and for three days of its continuance, four horses besides the family of twelve persons, existed in a little shack eight by ten feet in dimensions. When the Zorns finally reached their claim they found no improvements had been made and they had to live temporarily in a tent. Money was scarce and conditions were very hard. Elmer S. Zorn remembers how he supplied the larder with meat during the first two years by hunting antelope. The family lived on the place until 1900, but the father never proved up, and in that year moved to Harrisburg where he bought a livery barn, which he conducted until 1912, when illness fell upon him and he disposed of it to Martindale and Lewis, and his death followed in May, 1913. He had been active to some extent in Republican politics and had served at times in local offices. The mother of Mr. Zorn survived until October, 1914. They had five children and besides Elmer Scott, the following survive: John, who lives at North Bend, Nebraska; William H., who is a resident of Harrisburg; and Belle, who is the wife of Henry Thomas, of Bushnell, Nebraska. The oldest child, Zora, now deceased, was the wife of H. L. Braucht. The parents were members of the Methodist Episcopal church.
   In boyhood Elmer S. Zorn attended school at Fremont and gave his father assistance as far as he was able. He accompanied his parents to Banner county and well remembers some of the discouraging conditions that faced settlers at that time. The lack of water for stock and even home use was at times so acute that the men of the family were forced to secure it even when they had to travel a distance of fourteen miles as was the case with the Zorns. On one such trip, when within three miles of home, with their brimming barrels, Mr. Zorn and his father were over taken by such a downfall of rain combined with hail, that the wagon sunk so deep in the loosened ground that the horses could not move it, but, as Mr. Zorn philosophically remarks, there was no necessity to haul water any farther.
   In 1890, Mr. Zorn went to work in Cheyenne, Wyoming, for Governor Warren and remained there for two years and then came back to Banner county where he has resided ever since. For two years he conducted a retail furniture store and was also in the undertaking business and subsequently for several years was county coroner. He then embarked in a general mercantile business at Harrisburg, which he conducted until January 1, 1917, when he went into the garage business, and since then has enlarged his business, at the present time operating a grocery and a very popular feature in this connection is a first class lunch counter. In these enterprises he has the hearty and competent assistance of his son and daughter.
   On October 19, 1901, Mr. Zorn was united in marriage with Miss Ella Wynn, a daughter of John and Winnifred (Marn) Wynn, natives of Ireland, who were early settlers in Banner county, west of Harrisburg. In 1917, they removed from their homestead to Pine Bluffs. Mr. and Mrs. Zorn have two children: Raymond and Georgia. In 1901, Mr. Zorn served as deputy county clerk, and in many ways, officially and otherwise, has become known to the people of Banner county, by whom he is universally esteemed.

   HARVEY L. WYATT, who is a progressive farmer and ranchman of Banner county, has lived here ever since he was five years old and resides on the place he filed on as a homestead when he started out for himself. He is a member of one of the substantial families of the county. He was born in Wayne county, Iowa, January 5, 1884, the son of William and Susan (Duncan) Wyatt, the latter of whom was born in Iowa and resides at Harrisburg, Nebraska. The father of Mr. Wyatt died in 1896. Of their eight children, Harvey L. was the fifth in order of birth, the others being as follows: John, who lives at Elkhorn, Nebraska; Clyde, who lives in the eastern part of Banner county; Essie, who is the wife of Charles Dick, living in the state of Washington; Edna, who is the wife of Harvey Harmon, living at Portland, Oregon; Calvin, who lives in Banner county; Jessie who is the wife of Pearl Cross of Harrisburg; and Alice, who is the wife of Owen Brodhead, living near Harrisburg. Prior to coming to Banner county in 1889, Mr. Wyatt's father was a farmer in Iowa. After reaching here he pre-empted and secured a tree claim and lived on that land until 1904, then sold and bought six hundred and forty acres of and one mile northeast of Harrisburg and also leased a school section. He continued in the cattle and stock business until the close of his life. The Wyatts reached

Prior page
General index
Next page

   © 1999, 2000, 2001 for NEGenWeb Project by Pam Rietsch, Ted & Carole Miller