After repeated invitations from my old boyhood companion, Dr. Bancroft, to visit him in his new home in western Nebraska, I left Philadelphia and arrived in Omaha the early part of April, 1878. Omaha at that time did not impress me very favorably. After buying my ticket to Plum Creek (in those days you could only buy a ticket to Omaha) the next thing in order was to get in line and have my trunk checked, and witness baggage "smashers" demolish a few trunks, then coolly offer to rope them at twenty-five cents each. Our train left at 11 a. in. and arrived in Plum Creek at 11 p. in., good time for those days. The train left with all seats occupied and some passengers standing. Everybody was eager to see the great prairie country. We expected to see Indians and buffalo, but only a few jack rabbits appeared, which created quite a laugh, as it was the first time any of us had ever seen one ran. After we had traveled about twenty miles, "U. P. Sam," as he called himself, came into our car and treated us to a song of his own composition. In his song he related all the wonders of the great Union Pacific railroad and the country between Omaha and Ogden. I saw him two years later in Dawson county, playing the violin at a country dance, and singing songs about different persons at the gathering. All you had to do was to give him a few points as to a man's disposition and habits with a few dimes and he would have the whole company laughing.

     We stopped at Grand Island for supper, and in due time arrived in Plum Creek. Dr. Bancroft was waiting for me and after being introduced to many of his western friends, we retired for the night. Next morning feeling the necessity of visiting a barber shop, I asked the doctor if there was a barber shop in town. Judging from the accommodations at the hotel I had my doubts. "We have a good barber in town," he replied, "but I will go with you." On arriving at the corner of what is now Main and Depot streets we entered a building which I




discovered to be a saloon. I protested, but before I had had time to say much, the doctor asked the barkeeper where Ed. (the barber) was. "Why, he has gone south of the river to plaster a house," was the reply. Then I thought "what kind of a country have I come to, barber and plasterer the same person." Then my mind wandered back to the far East where I saw a comfortable bath room, and I thought "What can the doctor see in this country to deny himself all the comforts of home?" Before I had time to recover from my reveries, I was surrounded by cowboys who insisted that I drink with them. I protested and if it had not been for Dr. Bancroft I suppose they would have made me dance to the music of their six shooters or drink, but as I was a friend of "Little Doc" (as they called him) that was sufficient and the tenderfoot was allowed to leave. Then and only then I saw in the northwest corner of the room the barber's chair.

     I accompanied Dr. Bancroft on many drives over the country going as far north as the Loup and Dismal rivers. We went several times south to Arapahoe; in fact it was but a short time before I was acquainted with most all the settlers in Dawson and adjacent counties. The population at that time was hardly 2,000 in Dawson county. In a very short time I began to feel more at home. The hospitality of the people was something I had never dreamed of; the climate and good fresh air so invigorating that I soon adjusted myself to surrounding conditions, and before I had been here a month I decided to cast my lot with the rest of the new settlers and became one of them.

     While I have had many ups and downs I cannot say that I regret having done so. When I look back and think of the many friends I made in the early days and how we stood hand in hand in our adversities as well as in our good fortunes, I cannot help feeling that we are more than friends and belong to one big family.



     I came from Canada to Leavenworth, Kansas. Mr. Freeman was a freighter to Pike's Peak, but was not always successful. He spent $4,000 on one train and came back with only a team of oxen and a team of ponies. The next spring, 1862, I bought a stage-coach and using the pony team, I took my three children, the youngest only two months old, and drove all the way to Nebraska. My husband was there and had started a little store just across from the pony express station on Plum creek. He bought buffalo hides of the Indians and shipped them east. The buffalo were in easy reach and we had fresh meat every day. We had a big sign with the word "Bakery" on it. I baked a hundred pounds of flour every day. I would make yeast bread over night and bake it in the forenoon, and make salt-rising in the morning and bake it in the afternoon. We got St. Louis flour that the freighters brought from Denver when they came back. I sold my bread for fifty cents a loaf and made as much as thirty dollars a day. I made cheese, too. We had seventy-five head of cows and milked twenty-five. We would take a young calf and let it fill its stomach with its mother's milk, then kill it. Then we took the stomach and washed and wiped it and hung it up on a nail to dry. When it was perfectly dry we would put it away carefully in a cloth and used it for rennet to make the cheese. I would put in a little piece of it in new milk and it would form a solid curd. My husband made me a press and a mold. I got twenty-five cents a pound for my cheese, and sold lots of it. I got up fine meals and charged two dollars a meal. The people were glad to pay it. There was plenty of firewood. The trees drifted down the river and we piled the wood up on the islands, but after the settlers came they would steal it. There was no need of anybody going hungry those days, for anyone could kill a buffalo. One day a herd of thirty came within ten feet of our door, and our cows went away with



them. The children and I walked three miles before we came up to the cows and could get them back home. We were near the river and it was not far down to water. We dug holes in the ground and sunk five salt barrels. The water came up in these and we always had plenty of water. Sometimes we dipped the barrels dry, but they would be full the next morning. There wasn't a pump in the country for years.

     The people who kept the Pony Express station were named Humphries. These stations were about fifty miles apart. There would be lots of people at the station every night, for after the Indians became troublesome, the people went in trains of about a hundred wagons. There were many six oxen teams. The Indians never troubled anybody until the whites killed so many buffalo and wasted so much. There were carcasses all over the prairies. The Indians used every part, and they knew this great slaughter of the buffalo meant starvation for them, so they went on the warpath in self-defense. They would skulk on the river bank where the trail came close, and would rush up and attack the travelers. The soldiers were sent out as escorts and their families often went with them. One night at Plum Creek Pony Express station twin babies were born to the lieutenant and wife. I went over in the morning to see if I could help them, but they were all cared for by the lieutenant. He had washed the babies and had the tent in order. I do not remember his name now. We often saw tiny babies with their mothers lying in the wagons that came by. They would be wrapped up, and looked very comfortable. Water was so scarce that they had to pay for enough to wash the babies.

     Brigham Young made trip after trip with foreign people of all kinds but blacks. Most of these could not speak English, and I don't think Brigham bought any water for them, as they were filthy dirty. Brigham was a great big fat man, and he kept himself pretty neat. He made just about one trip a year.

     One company of these immigrants was walking through, and the train was a couple of miles long. They went south of the river on the Oregon trail. There was no other road then.

     On August 8, 1864, the Sioux people killed eleven men at 11:00 o'clock in the morning, on Elm creek. I was afraid to stay on our ranch, so I took the children and started to Fort Kearny. On the way we came to the place of the massacre.



The dead men were lying side by side in a long trench, their faces, were covered with blood and their boots were on. Three women were taken prisoners. I heard that there were two children in the party, and that they were thrown in the grass, but I looked all around for them and didn't find any signs of them. Friends of these people wrote to Mr. E. M. F. Leflang, to know if he could locate them. The Indians never troubled us except to take one team during this war, but I was always afraid when I saw the soldiers coming. They would come in the store and help themselves to tobacco, cookies, or anything. Then the teamsters would swing their long black-snake whips and bring them down across my chicken's heads, then pick them up and carry them to camp. I think the officers were the most to blame, for they sold the soldiers' rations, and the men were hungry.

     When the Union Pacific railroad was first built we lived on our homestead north of the river and the town was started on our land. We had the contract to supply the wood for the engines. They didn't use any other fuel then. We hired men to cut the wood on Wood river where Eddyville and Sumner are now, I boarded the men in our new big house across from the depot in old Plum Creek. The store was below and there was an outside stairway for the men to go up. That summer Mr. Freeman was in Washington, Philadelphia, and New York talking up this country. Mr. Freeman was the first county clerk and his office was upstairs over the store. We rented some of the rooms to newcomers. We did a big business until the railroad moved the town to their section, a mile west. Mr. Freeman kept on trapping, and finally was drowned near Deadwood, South Dakota. I stayed by Dawson county and raised my family and they all are settled near me and have good homes.



     Mr. and Mrs. Thomas J. Hewitt, in June, 1873, journeyed from Forreston, Illinois, to Plum Creek, Nebraska. Their object was to take advantage of the offer the government was making to civil war soldiers, whereby each soldier could obtain one hundred and sixty acres of land. They stopped at Grand Island and Kearney, but at neither place could they find two adjoining quarter sections, not yet filed on. They wanted two, for my grandfather, Rockwood, who lived with us was also a soldier. At Plum Creek, now Lexington, they were able to obtain what they wanted but it was six miles northwest of the station.

     Plum Creek at that early date consisted of the depot. The town was a mile east and when my parents arrived at Plum Creek, they were obliged to walk back to the town, in order to find lodging for the night. Rooms seem to have been scarce, for they had to share theirs with another man and his wife. They found a place to eat in the restaurant owned by Mr. and Mrs. E. D. Johnson.

     In August of the same year, they made a second trip to Nebraska, this time with wagon and carriage, bringing with others a carpenter who built their house upon the dividing line of the two homesteads. This house had the distinction of being the first two-story house in the neighborhood. All the others were one-story, because the settlers feared the high winds that occasionally swept over the prairies. For a few months it was the farthest away from town.

     In the three months between the two trips the town had moved to the depot, and had grown from nothing to a village of sixty houses and stores. The Johnsons had brought their restaurant and placed it upon the site where a little later they built a hotel called the Johnson house. Mr. T. Martin had built the first hotel which he named the Alhambra. I have a very faint recollection of being in this hotel when the third trip brought the




household goods and the family to the new home. It was in December when this last journey was taken, and great was the astonishment of the older members of the family to see the ground covered with a foot of snow. They had been told that there was practically no winter in Nebraska, and they had believed the statement. They found that the thermometer could drop almost out of sight with the cold, and yet the greater part of many winters was very pleasant.

     My father opened a law office in the town and T. L. Warrington, who taught the first school in the village, read law with him, and kept the office open when the farm required attention. The fields were small at first and did not require so very much time.

     The first exciting event was a prairie fire. A neighbor's family was spending the day at our farm and some other friends also came to call. The day was warm, no wind was stirring until about 4 o'clock, when it suddenly and with much force blew from the north and brought the fire, which had been smoldering for some days in the bluffs to the north of the farm, down into the valley with the speed of a racing automobile. We children were very much frightened, and grandmother who was sick with a headache, was so startled she forgot her pain - did not have any in fact. Mother and Mrs. Fagot, the neighbor's wife, were outside loosening the tumble weeds and sending them along with the wind before the fire could catch them. In that way they saved the house from catching fire. My father, who had seen the fire come over the hills, as he was driving from town, had unhitched the horses and riding one of them as fast as possible, reached home in time to watch the hay stacks. Three times they caught fire and each time he beat it out with a wet gunny sack. I think this happened in March, 1874.

     That same year about harvest time the country was visited by grasshoppers. They did considerable damage by nipping off the oat heads before the farmers could finish the reaping. My aunt who was visiting us suggested that the whole family walk through the potato field and send the hoppers into the grass beyond. It was a happy thought, for the insects ate grass that night and the next day a favorable wind sent them all away.

     The worst grasshopper visitation we had was in July, 1876. One Sunday morning father and mother and I went to town to



church. The small grain had been harvested and the corn all along the way was a most beautiful, dark green. When we were about a mile from town a slight shade seemed to come over the sun; when we looked up for the cause, we saw millions of grasshoppers slowly dropping to the ground. They came down in such numbers that they clung two or three deep to every green thing. The people knew that nothing in the way of corn or gardens could escape such devastating hordes and they were very much discouraged. To add to their troubles, the Presbyterian minister that morning announced his intention to resign. He, no doubt, thought he was justified.

     I was pretty small at that time and did not understand what it all meant, but I do know that as we drove home that afternoon, the cornfields looked as they would in December after the cattle had fed on them not a green shred left. The asparagus stems, too, were equally bare. The onions were eaten down to the very roots. Of the whole garden, there was, in fact, nothing left but a double petunia, which grandmother had put a tub over. So ravenous were the pests that they even ate the cotton mosquito netting that covered the windows.

     In a day or two when nothing remained to eat, the grasshoppers spread their wings and whirred away. Then grandfather said, "We will plant some beans and turnips, there is plenty of time for them to mature before frost." Accordingly, he put in the seeds and a timely rain wet them so that in a very few days they had sprouted and were well up, when on Monday morning, just two weeks and one day from the time of the first visitation, a second lot dropped down and breakfasted off grandfather's beans. It was too late in the season then to plant more.

     My mother had quite a flock of turkeys and a number of chickens. They were almost dazed at the sight of so many perfectly good insects. They tried to eat them all but had to give up the task. They ate enough, however, to make themselves sick.

     This time I believe the grasshoppers stayed several days. They seemed to be hunting some good hard ground in which to lay their eggs. The following spring the warm days brought out millions of little ones, which a prairie fire later destroyed.

     The corn crop having been eaten green and the wheat acreage being rather small, left many people with nothing to live on



during the winter. Many moved away and many of those who could not get away had to be helped. It was then that Dawson county people learned that they had good friends in the neighboring states for they sent carloads of food and clothing to their less fortunate neighbors.

     A good many homesteaders were well-educated, refined people from Pennsylvania, New York, and elsewhere. They were a very congenial company and often had social times together. They were for the most part young people, some with families of young children, others just married, and some unmarried. I remember hearing my mother tell of a wedding that she and father attended. The ceremony was performed at a private house and then the whole company adjourned to a large hall where everybody who wanted to, danced and the rest watched until the supper was served by Mr. and Mrs. Johnson in their new hotel. The bride on this occasion was Miss Addie Bradley and the groom was W. H. Lingle, at one time county superintendent of public instruction.

     For some time after the starting of the town of Plum Creek there was no church edifice but there was a good sized schoolhouse, and here each Sunday morning the people for miles around gathered. One Sunday the Methodist preacher talked to all the people and the next week the Presbyterian minister preached to the same congregation, until the courthouse was built, and then the Presbyterians used the courtroom. I have heard the members say that they received more real good from those union services than they ever did when each denomination had a church of its own. The Episcopalians in the community were the most enterprising for they built the first church, a little brick building that seated one hundred people. It was very plainly furnished, but it cost fifteen hundred dollars, due to the fact that the brick was brought from Kearney and freight rates were high. It stood on the site of the present modern building and was built in 1874. My grandfather, an ardent Churchman, often read the service when there was no rector in town.

     Speaking of the courthouse reminds me that it was not always put to the best use. I cannot remember when the following incident occurred, but I do remember hearing it talked of. A man who lived on the south side of the Platte river was accused of poisoning some flour that belonged to another man. He was



ordered arrested and two or three men, among them Charles Mayes, the deputy sheriff, were sent after him. He resisted arrest and using his gun, killed Mayes. He was finally taken and brought to town and put into the county jail in the basement of the courthouse. Mayes had been a very popular man and the feeling was very high against his slayer, so high, indeed, that some time between night and morning the man was taken from the jail, and the next morning his lifeless body was found hanging at the back door of the courthouse.

     One of the pleasures of the pioneer is hunting. In the early days there was plenty of game in Dawson county, buffalo, elk, deer, antelope, jack rabbits, and several game birds, such as plover, prairie hen, ducks, geese, and cranes. By the time we arrived, however, the buffalo had been driven so far away that they were seldom seen. There was plenty of buffalo meat in the market, however, for hunters followed them and shot them, mostly for their hides. The meat was very good, always tender and of fine flavor. My father rushed into the house one day and called for his revolver. A herd of buffalo was racing across the fields towards the bluffs on the north. Father and some of the men with him, thought possibly they might get near enough to shoot one. But although he rode as fast as his pony could carry him, he could not get close enough and the herd, once it reached the hills was safe. The poor beasts had been chased for miles and were weary, but they did not give up. The cows huddled the calves together and pushed them along and the bulls led the way. Father learned afterward that his pony had been trained by the Indians to hunt; and if he had given him the rein and allowed him to go at it in his own way, he would have gone so close that father could have shot one. But he did not know this until the buffalo were far away.



     In the early history of Lexington, Nebraska, as in all western states, there was no crime committed more reprehensible than that of stealing a horse. One might kill a man and it would be overlooked or excused, but the offense of stealing a horse was a crime that nothing could atone for but the "wiping out" of the thief. And generally when the horse thief was caught the nearest tree or the upraised end of a wagon tongue was immediately brought into use as a gallows upon which the criminal was duly hanged without the formalities of courts or juries. It was amply sufficient to know that the accused had stolen a horse, and it mattered but little to whom the horse belonged or whether the owner was present to take a hand in the execution. The culprit was dealt with in such manner that he never stole another animal.

     This sentiment prevailed among the first settlers of Dawson county, as was shown in 1871, shortly after the organization of the county. Among the officials of the county at that time was a justice of the peace, a sturdy, honest man, who had been a resident of the county several years before it was organized. One day in 1871 a half-breed Sioux came riding from the east into Plum Creek (as Lexington was then called). The Indian stopped in the town and secured a meal for himself and feed for his horse.

     While he was eating, two Pawnee warriors arrived at the station on a freight train, from the east. They at once hunted up the sheriff, a broad-shouldered Irishman named John Kehoe, and made complaint that the half-breed Sioux had stolen a horse from one of them and had the animal in his possession. Complaint was formally made and a warrant issued for the halfbreed's arrest upon the charge of horse-stealing, the warrant being issued by the aforesaid justice of the peace.

     The Sioux was at once taken in custody by the sheriff and brought before the justice. One of the Pawnees swore the horse the half-breed rode when he entered the town was his property,




and the other Pawnee upon oath declared he knew it was. The prisoner denied the statement made by the Pawnees and vehemently declared the animal was his property; that he came by it honestly, and that the Pawnee had no title whatever in the horse.

     There was no jury to hear and judge the evidence, and the justice was compelled to decide the case. He had had some experience with redskins, and entertained but small regard for any of them, but as the preponderance of the evidence was against the Sioux, he decided the latter was guilty, and after a short study of the matter sentenced the culprit to be hanged.

     There were no lawyers in Plum Creek at that time, a condition that has not existed since, and each side did its own talking. The Sioux at once filed a vigorous complaint against the sentence, but was ordered by the court to keep still.

     Realizing he had no chance, he became silent, but some of the citizens who were present and listening to the trial, interposed objections to the strenuous sentence, and informed the court that "as we are now organized into a county and have to go by law, you can't sentence a man to hang fer stealin' a hoss."

     This staggered the justice somewhat and he again took the matter under advisement, and shortly after made the following change in the sentence, addressing the prisoner as follows " -, Dem laws don't let you get hanged, vich iss not right. You iss one teef; dat iss a sure ting, and I shust gif you fifteen minutes to git out of dis state of Newbrasky."

     The Pawnee secured possession of the horse, but whether it belonged to them or not is questionable, and hit the eastern trail for the "Pawnee house," while the Sioux warrior hastily got himself together and made a swift hike toward the setting sun and safety.



     The late John H. MacColl came to Dawson county in 1869 to benefit his health, but shortly after reaching here he had an attack of mountain fever, that left his lower limbs paralyzed. The nearest medical aid he could get was from the army surgean (sic) at Fort McPherson, forty miles to the west. He made a number of trips to attend Mr. MacColl, and finally told him that he would never be any better. An old Indian medicine man happened along about that time and he went to see Mr. MacColl. By curious signs, gesticulations, and grunts, he made Mr. MacColl understand that he could cure him and that he would be back the next day at the rising of the sun. True to his word, he came, bringing with him an interpreter who explained to Mr. MacColl that the medicine man could cure him if he would submit to his treatment. Mr. MacColl was desperate and willing to do almost anything, so he agreed. The patient was stripped and laid flat on a plank. The medicine man then took a sawedged knife and made no less than a hundred tiny gashes all over his patient's body. This done he produced a queer herb, and began chewing it. Then he spit it in his hand, as needed, and rubbed it into each tiny wound. That was all, and in three days, Mr. MacColl could stand alone, and in a week he could walk.

     This incident was told to me in 1910 by the sister, Laura MacColl.




     I left southwest Missouri late in October, 1872, accompanied by my sister, and journeyed by team via Topeka, Kansas, to Nebraska. We spent our first night in Nebraska at Fairbury, November 8, 1872. Trains on the St. Joe and Grand Island railroad had just reached that point.

     After visiting a few days with the Carney families near Fairmont we took the train for Plum Creek (now Lexington) and reached Kearney at 10 o'clock P. M. All rooms being occupied we sat in the office of the hotel till morning. None of the Union Pacific trains stopped at that place except to take mail. At 10 o'clock that night we got a train to Plum Creek, which place we reached at 12 o'clock. There being no hotel we stayed in the depot until morning, when we found our brother living on a homestead.

     During our stay I filed on land six miles northeast of Plum Creek. The next April I brought my family by wagon over the same route and reached Dawson county a month after the noted Easter storm of 1873. At that time we saw hundreds of hides of Texas cattle, that had perished in the storm, hanging on fences surrounding the stockyards at Elm Creek.

     We remained on our homestead until August, 1876, at which time we came to Fillmore county and bought the southwest quarter of section eleven in Madison township, which place we how own.




     Charles J. Erickson left Sweden in 1864 and for two-years lived in New York, Indiana, and Illinois. In 1866 he moved to Fort McPherson, Nebraska. He worked around the Fort until 1871 when he took a homestead nine miles east. The next year, he sent to Sweden for his family. They arrived at McPherson station - now Maxwell - on September 1, 1872. Mr. Erickson died in April, 1877. The family resided on the old homestead until 1910, when they moved to Gothenburg, Nebraska. The sons, Frank and John Erickson, who still reside in Nebraska, unite in the following statement:

     "Coming to this part of the state at so early a date we have been eye witnesses to the development and transformation of the country from a bleak, wild prairie covered with blue stem grasses, upon which fed thousands of buffalo, deer, antelope, and elk. The Indians still controlled the country and caused us to have many sleepless nights.

     "In those early days we always took our guns with us when we went away from home, or into the field to work. Several times we were forced to seek shelter in the Fort, or in some home, saving our scalps from the Indians by the fleetness of our ponies. But how changed now.

     "One of our early recollections is the blackened posts and poles along the old Oregon trail. As we gazed down the trail these looked like sentinels guarding the way, but we soon learned they were the poles of the first telegraph line built across Nebraska. It extended from Nebraska City to Fort Laramie, Wyoming. When the Union Pacific railroad was built through here - on the north side of the river - in 1866, the telegraph line followed and the old line on the south side of the Platte was abandoned. The old poles were of red cedar taken from the cañons and were all burned black by the prairie fires. They soon disappeared, being used by the Indians and the emigrants for firewood. The old trail and telegraph line crossed our farm




and only a few years ago we dug out of the ground one of the stubs of a cedar telegraph pole about two feet in diameter and six feet long, and there are still more of these old stubs in our fields.

     "In the early seventies the most prominent ranches in this section were Upper 96 and Lower 96. These ranches had first been the relay stations of the old Wells Fargo Express Company. At each of these may he seen well preserved cedar log buildings still in use built by this company when they first established their express business across the plains in the middle of the last century. On the advent of the Union Pacific, the Wells Fargo Express Company abandoned these stations and they became the property of the 96 Ranch. Although they have passed through the hands of several different owners they have always retained their names of Upper 96 ranch and Lower 96 ranch.

     "The cañons leading into the hills from the south side of the river are named from the early ranches along the valley near the mouths of the cañons; Conroy from Conroy's ranch, Jeffrie from Jeffrie's ranch, Gilman from Gilman's ranch, and Hiles from Hiles' ranch. An exception to the above is the Dan Smith cañon which is named after Dan Smith in memory of the tragedy with which his name is connected. Dan Smith and wife were working at the Lower 96 ranch in 1871. Mrs. Smith wished to attend a ball to be given by the officers at Fort McPherson and wanted her husband to go with her, but he being of a jealous disposition refused to go. She mounted her horse and started to go alone when he called to her to come back and take his gun to protect herself from the Indians. She turned around and started back toward him. He drew his gun and fired, killing her instantly. She was buried at the Lower 96 ranch and until a few years ago her grave was kept green. After shooting his wife, Dan Smith mounted her horse and rode away into the hills to the south. The soldiers at the Fort twenty-five miles away were notified and the next day they came to hunt for the murderer. They surrounded him in a cañon in the hills and there shot him to death leaving his body a prey for buzzards and wolves. The cañon to this day is called Dan Smith cañon and through it is the main road leading from Gothenburg to Farnam, Nebraska."

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