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Andreas' History of the State of Nebraska

Produced by Jeannie Josephson.

Part 2


In the year 1871, the State Legislature passed a law bounding Antelope County as follows: "Commencing at the southwest corner of Township 23 north, of Range 8 west; thence east to the southeast corner of Township 23 north, of Range 5 west; thence north to the northeast corner of Township 28 north, of Range 5 west; thence west to the northwest corner of Township 28 north, of Range 8 west; thence south to the place of beginning." These boundaries have not been changed.

At the time of the passage of the above act, Hon. Leander Gerrard was a member of the Senate. In 1870, some Indians stole some valuable stock from settlers near Columbus, Platte County. Twenty-four hours afterward, Mr. Gerrard, S. C. Smith and E. A. Gerrard were in pursuit. Their route lay through what is now Antelope County, and when near Cedar Creek some of their number became too faint from fatigue and hunger to proceed, having been without food for two days. Opportunity offering, they slew and refreshed themselves upon a fine young antelope, and, being rested, continued the pursuit of the Indians to the Niobrara River, but failed to overtake them. The circumstance of the killing of the antelope, remembered by Mr. Gerrard, led him to suggest the name "Antelope" for the county then being defined by the law above recited. Hence the name.

In accordance with an act of the Legislature, the first general election was held in June, 1871. Two hundred and two votes were polled, and the following officers elected: Commissioners, E. R. Palmer, L. A. Boyd and William Clark; Clerk, John W. Skiles; Treasurer, R. Marwood; Probate Judge, D. V. Coe; Surveyor, G. H. McGee; Sheriff, Jeptha Hopkins; County Superintendent, A. J. Leech. At the regular election in November following, all of the above officers were re-elected except two--Z. Buoy being elected Commissioner instead of E. R. Palmer, and W. W. Putney being elected Clerk instead of John W. Skiles. In 1875, R. C. Eldridge, of Neligh, was elected a member of the Constitutional Convention. Representatives in the State Legislature from Antelope County have been William B. Lambert, of Neligh, elected in 1877; F. H. Trowbridge, of Neligh, in 1879, and W. W. Putney, in 1881.


About the time the county limits were defined, and before any town had been started, I. N. Taylor, agent for the sale of all the lands of the Omaha & Northwestern Railroad Company, in the valley of Elkhorn--20,000 acres of which lay in Antelope County--was sent by them to examine their lands in Antelope, for valuation, and to report to them on the most eligible location for a county seat. His choice fell upon the present site of Oakdale, and it was subsequently approved by the great majority of the settlers in the county, in the year 1872. A small one-story frame court house was built in 1873, at a cost of $650. This was destroyed by fire on October 6, 1875, and, on account of a desire of a portion of the people to remove the county seat to Neligh, has not yet been replaced. The final location of the county seat will probably be determined by the location of the center of population and wealth. This question has all along been complicated with the difficulties between the county and the Burlington & Missouri Railroad Company, over that company's lands, located in the county, a brief history of which, as of local interest, we insert.


In 1860, the United States made land grants to the U. P. R. R. and the B. & M. R. R., giving them every odd-numbered section within twenty miles each way from the central lines of their respective roads when located. It came to pass after the lines were located that in certain places, especially at the junction of the two roads, near Old Fort Kearney, north of the B. & M. And south of the U. P., these two belts overlapped each other. It then became a question as to whose lands these sections were, lying in both belts. The Secretary of the Interior decided in favor of the U. P. R. R. Company. The B. & M. Company then claimed that the amount of land this decision deprived them of should be made good to them from lands outside their limits. This claim was acceded to, and, in 1871, these outside lands were selected and patented, lying chiefly north of the Platte, in Platte, Boone, Greeley, Howard, Sherman, Valley, Madison and Antelope Counties. After the lands were patented, but before the patents were recorded, a suit was brought, in 1873, by Judge Briggs, of Omaha, Neb., instigated by parties in Antelope County, in the United States Court, to annul the title and recover the lands, alleging that they were obtained by fraud. After considerable delay, a decision was rendered in favor of the company. The case was carried, on appeal, to the United States Supreme Court, and finally, on February 19, 1879, a decision was reached, affirming the title of the B. & M. R. R. Company to the lands. On account of this suit, the B. & M. neglected and refused to pay any taxes on these lands. They were willing to compromise by paying the taxes due for the years previous to the institution of the suit, and after the Supreme Court decision, but not for the time between these two dates. All the counties, except Antelope, compromised on this or some other basis; but Antelope County repeatedly refused to compromise. In 1879, the County Commissioners employed counsel to take charge of the case. In pursuance of their advice all these lands in Antelope were sold for the taxes for the years 1873 to 1878 inclusive, to the county under the provisions of a law passed January 30, 1867, and amended February 25, 1875.

About the same time, the company withdrew their lands from the market. Since then numerous efforts have been made by the company to compromise, but, although a majority of the people have been favorably disposed to a compromise of some kind, by which these lands would be again placed on the market and pay their portion of the taxed, yet there has always existed a party opposed to it, basing their opposition on the ground that the B. & M. Company had not yet offered to pay a sufficiently large per cent of the taxes that are still delinquent. This difficulty has retarded the settlement of the county, as most of the lands are choice, and about 60,000 acres in extent; has caused an unsettled feeling in regard to the final location of the county seat and injuriously affected the public school interests, as they are largely interested in the taxes which will ultimately be paid.

The County Commissioners, in 1881, commenced in the District Court proceedings of foreclosure of the tax certificates. These proceedings will bring the question to a settlement; the B. & M. lands will pay their proper share of the county taxes and be replaced on the market by the company. The total amount of taxed claimed as due by the county, including interest and penalties, is about $55,000. But, as a portion of this was illegally assessed, and, as another portion would doubtless be allowed the company in a court of equity, they have steadily declined to pay the full amount. In the spring of 1881, they offered $18,000, which was refused; in the spring of 1882, they offered $36,000, which was likewise declined, the attorney for the county demanding $45,000. The best information obtainable at the present writing indicates a settlement by the payment to the county of about $40,000.

This question settled, one of the chief obstacles in the way of rapid progress of the county will have been removed.


In addition to the conflict with the B. & M. Company over these lands, as above briefly outlined, may be mentioned the grasshopper visitations. In 1874, the plague was extremely devastating. Almost every green thing was eaten or destroyed, and, in some of the gulches, the grasshoppers piled upon each other to the depth of six feet, where different currents of wind had blown two clouds of them upon each other. In 1875, they were very destructive also, but not so much so as in 1874; in 1876, they came again, but in still more diminished numbers, since which time they have given the settlers no trouble whatever. Their failure to re-appear in succeeding years has been accounted for by some close observers from the fact that in 1877, the month of February was very warm, and consequently they were hatched out much earlier than usual; the weather in March was successively warm and freezing, thus many were frozen to death in infancy, and, April and May being very wet months, those that escaped the frosts of March, were drowned, and thus all the grasshoppers were, in 1877, destroyed by climatic changes before any eggs were laid.

One curious effect of the grasshopper visitation was the breaking-up of Pleasant Valley Precinct organization. The people nearly all left the precinct, and, as a consequence, the County Commissioners withdrew permission for the organization to exist.


The people of Antelope County, although suffering their full share of violent deaths, have been remarkably free from crime. There has been but one murder in the county. This occurred in the spring of 1871, in an altercation between R. A. Rollins and J. P. Fletcher. Mr. Fletcher insisted upon driving along a road, passing within a few feet of Mr. Rollins' door, which Mr. Rollins attempted forcibly to prevent. In the quarrel which ensued, Frank Cottle, an employe of Mr. Rollins, shot Fletcher, killing him instantly. Rollins was shot through the ear. Cottle was sentenced to the penitentiary for six months, but pardoned at the end of three. There was one other murder trial in the county, at Oakdale, on a change of venue from Holt County.

Besides the deaths mentioned in connection with out sketch of Clearwater, there have been two deaths by drowning--Dr. Elwood's child, in July, 1870, and William Clark, one of the first County Commissioners, May 24, 1873, in a slough between Oakdale and the Elkhorn; one, Frederick Whitwer, suicide by shooting, in the spring of 1872; in the succeeding summer, Mrs. Eldridge, by the explosion of a kerosene lamp; July 14, 1874, Mrs. Henry Rogers, either by the sun's heat or that of a prairie fire, which she was fighting, or both; a little son of Spencer Smith, who was thrown from and dragged to death by a horse, and, September 9, 1875, Hugh McCombs, killed by lightning.

In addition, a most singular case of lightning stroke occurred, April 24, 1881, inasmuch as it did not result fatally. James M. Gillespie was holding up a piece of scantling, when the electric fluid passed down it, down his left arm, left side and both legs, shattering the scantling and throwing pieces of it thirty rods and stripping every particle of clothing, including shoes and stockings, from his person. He lay insensible nearly three days and was given up as dead by his friends, but, at the end of this long period, regained consciousness, and is now, with the exception of slight paralysis of his left side, enjoying usual health.


The first Fourth of July celebration occurred in 1871, in a little elm grove about two miles from the present site of Oakdale. A few of the settlers from Madison County came up to participate. Dr. A. C. Elwood delivered the oration. A. J. Leech read the Declaration of Independence, and the Cedar Creek Choir furnished music for the occasion, Judge J. H. Snider being President of the Day. Remarks were made by Rev. Henry Griffiths, who had the day before arrived from England, having been just six weeks on the way.

There are fifty-eight school districts in Antelope County, thirty-five schoolhouses, sixty qualified teachers and about 2,000 children of school age. The value of schoolhouse sites is $800.; of schoolhouses, $7,000; of books and apparatus, $500, and of furniture, $2,000; total value of school property, $10,300.

In 1870, there were 150 voters, probably from 500 to 600 people; in 1875, the population was 1, 500; in 1880, 3,830, and, in 1881, 4,522, of whom 2,475 were males and 2,047 females. There were only two colored people in the county.

As showing the progress of the county, the following acreage of the four leading agricultural staples may be given. Of wheat, there were 3,776 acres; of corn, 7657 acres; of oats, 1,550 acres, and of barley, 572 acres.

On the tax duplicate for 1881, the following values of real and personal estate appear: Real estate, $238,722, and of personal property--horses, 2,107, valued at $55,608; cattle, 5,005, value, $48,688; mules, 177, value, $6,085; sheep, 1,139, value, $1,249; swine, 3,563, value, $3,204; vehicles, 704, value, $12,212; money in merchandising, $50,680; manufactures, $8,665; agricultural implements, $16,206; moneys and credits, $18,305; furniture, $5,304; other property, $27,086; real estate in Oakdale, $22,483; in Neligh, $36,296, making a grand total on the tax list of $550,792.

The farmers of this county have paid considerable attention to the planting of fruit and forest trees. Of fruit trees, the apple, plum and cherry are the principal species planted. All of these present a thrifty appearance, and promise large returns, where properly protected by groves of cottonwood or other trees. Peach trees have been to some slight extent experimented with, but, on account of the high altitudes and high winds, so far these experiments have been unsatisfactory. The number of fruit trees planted in Antelope County was about 15,000 up to 1882.

The principal species of forest trees planted are the cottonwood, box elder, maple and walnut. The total number of all kinds of forest trees planted, as returned by the Assessors, in 1881, was 640,000. They are planted in groves, usually in rows six feet apart each way, and cultivated with great care. Mr. A. J. Motter, living in St. Clair Valley, about six miles to the southeast of Oakdale, has a fine grove of seven acres, started in 1873, the larger cottonwood trees having now reached a height of about forty-five feet, and a diameter of over ten inches. The average height of these trees is thirty feet, and average diameter seven inches. The largest of his maple trees are twenty-five feet high, averaging fifteen feet. They were, however, frozen down to the ground in 1873, and eaten by the grasshoppers in 1874, so that the above figures do not show what would be the result of maple tree culture under favorable circumstances. Others have had, or might have had, at least, equal success.

There have been planted over 1,000 grape vines, mostly Concords, which yield prolifically, and the Wilson strawberry finds here a most congenial climate and produces a most delicious berry.


[View of Oakdale.]

This flourishing town is situated in the southeast part of the county, on the south bank of Cedar Creek, about one mile west of its confluence with the Elkhorn, at an elevation of about 1,600 feet above the level of the sea. It was named "Oakdale" from the fact of its existence of considerable quantities of oak timber, on Cedar Creek, above its location, at the time of the first visits of the early pioneers. The town site was laid out by I. N. Taylor in 1872. The first settler here was B. C. Palmer, from Illinois, who came in June of this year. About the same time came Dr. A. B. Elwood, Thomas Potts, T. P. Trask and A. M. Towsley.

In 1872, the town site, consisting of one-half section of land, was sold to individual members of the State Board of Immigration, in consideration of $3.25 per acre, and their bond in the sum of $10,000 to build and put in operation a flouring mill. This contract was substantially carried out in 1873, by the sale by them to R. G. King, of one-half the town site in consideration of $400 and his bond in the sum of $10,000. Mr. King built the mill, a frame three-and-a-half-story building, at a cost of $18,000. It at first had but two run of stone, but now has three, and until 1875 was the only flouring-mill in the county. With the building of this mill commenced the building up of Oakdale.

The first house and first store in the town were built by B. C. Palmer, in April, 1873, who had moved into the town in June, 1872. Dr. A. B. Elwood moved in about the same time, and was soon after followed by Thomas Potts, T. P. Trask and A. M. Towsley. The second store was built in July of the same year by R. G. King. The first Postmaster was R. P Elwood, in 1873, and the first school, a select one, was taught by Charles Sale, in a house built by himself for a residence. The first schoolhouse was built on an elevation in the south part of the village, in 1874. A. Coole was the first blacksmith, in 1873. The first marriage was that of John Malzacher to Miss Jennie Elwood, December 25, 1873. On March 9, 1874, occurred the double marriage of Silas Howard to Emma Bennett, and of Albert Bennett to Julia Howard. The first birth, that of William T. Frost, occurred in March, 1873; the first death, that of Clara Potts, daughter of Thomas Potts, was in February, 1873. In this year, Robert Elwood built and kept the first hotel, and Rev. Hiram Keith, Methodist minister, preached the first sermon. The Methodist church was organized in 1874; the Congregational in 1877; the Presbyterian and Episcopalian in October, 1881. There is but one church edifice in town, built in 1881, by the Methodists, and dedicated on December 18 of that year, Rev. Mr. Pardee, of Sioux City, Iowa, conducting the dedicatory services. This building is used by all the churches.

The village of Oakdale was organized January 12, 1882, by the election of a Board of Trustees, of which the members were: F. H. Green, Chairman; M. W. King, W. S. Smith, D. E. Beckwith and Robert Wilson; D. A. Holmes, Attorney; Samuel McCord, Marshal, and E. P. McCormick, Police Justice. On the same evening, the board passed four ordinances, the third being "to license and regulate the sale of intoxicating, malt, vinous, mixed or fermented liquors in Oakdale."

In this town there are now five general stores, one hardware store, one harness shop and two hotels--the Central, started in the spring of 1880, and the Commercial, started in the summer. The census of 1880 shows that the population of the town was then 532, and the children of school age numbered 175.


The initial number of this paper was published April 7, 1877, by I. N. Taylor. In the following October, one half interest was purchased by E. P. McCormick, who thus became co-editor and co-proprietor. In 1879, Mr McCormick became sole editor, and, in 1880, by purchasing Mr. Taylor's interest, sole proprietor. During the first two years of this paper's existence, it was called the Oakdale Pen and Plow.It has always been Republican in politics, and has labored zealously for the promotion of the interests of the county and of Oakdale, the county seat.


[Oakdale Seminary.]

The Board of Directors of this institution of learning organized October 13, 1881, by electing Rev. George L. Little, of Omaha, President; Rev. Harvey Wilson, Oakdale, Vice President; I. N. Taylor, Oakdale, Secretary, and S. S. King, Oakdale, Treasurer. On the same day, Rev. Harvey Wilson, who was at the time pastor of the Presbyterian Church at Dakota City, was chosen Principal of the seminary. The institution was incorporated October 22, 1881, and its first term of school opened in rented rooms, January 2, 1882. It is the design of the Directors to erect an elegant and commodious fire-proof building, on elevated and sightly grounds, purchased for the purpose in the southwest corner of the town of Oakdale, the corner-stones having been laid April 19, 1882.


Post, No. 82, G. A. R., was organized at Oakdale December 17, 1881, and the following officers were elected: P. J. Wintersteen, Post Commander; O. Brittell, Vice Commander; W. W. Wilkenson, Jr., Vice Commander; D. E. Beckwith, Quartermaster; W. F. Conwell, Surgeon; D. F. Cole, Chaplain; N. B. Eggleston, Officer of the Day, and S. T. McNally, Officer of the Guard. The number of members at the time of organization was thirty-five. There are now fifty members.


B. F. ADMIRE, attorney at law, is a native of Dubuque, Iowa; commenced his law studies with Folkler & Longueville. He afterward attended the law department of the State University of Iowa; graduated from this institution June, 1880; came to Oakdale, and at once entered upon the practice of his profession.

F. H. LE DUE, hardware, stoves, tinware, etc., was born in Charleston, S. C.; served in the late war about two years. In 1874, came to Columbus, Neb.; worked at the tinner's trade till the fall of 1874, when he came to Oakdale, and opened a tinshop. He afterward added stoves and hardware. From a very small beginning, he has worked into a large and flourishing business. He is now carrying a stock of about $4,000. Has been School Director.

O. P. HURFORD was born in Canton, Stark County, Ohio, in 1831; educated with the intention of entering the medical profession; reads five languages, and speaks three of them fluently; selected the mercantile business for a livelihood, and entered into business on his own account, in his native town in Ohio, in grain, milling and merchandise. At the age of twenty-two, emigrated from Ohio to Nebraska, and, in company with Mr. F. A. Schnieder, established the first hardware store, under the firm name of Schnieder & Hurford, in Omaha. In the early part of 1856, he arrived at Omaha with his family, consisting of his wife and one daughter--Elta, in May, 1857. Mr. H. Resided continuously in Omaha from May, 1857, until November, 1875, during which time he took an active part in building up the fortunes of Omaha and the State of Nebraska. He was connected with his brother, T. J. Hurford, in the hardware business at Council Bluffs, Iowa, from 1859 to 1870, under the firm name of T. J. Hurford & Brother, and also at Nebraska City, in connection with Mr. John Heth for several years, as Hurford, Brother & Co. From 1861 to 1866, Mr. H. Was in company with Dr. George L. Miller, post trader and Government contractor at Fort Kearney, Neb., and was largely interested in freighting to the West before the advent of the Union Pacific Railroad. From 1865 to the present date, he has been identified with the milling business in Nebraska. He built the Papillion Mills, nine miles west of Omaha, in Douglas County, in 1865, and operated them for several years. In connection with Col. Charles Mathewson, and Hon. George W. Frost, he built the Norfolk Mills at Norfolk, Madison County, Neb., about the year 1868, and remained a member of the Norfolk Mill Company for ten years. He left Omaha in November, 1875, and went to Galveston, Texas, where he projected and superintended the building of the first flouring mill in that city. After a temporary sojourn of two years in Texas, he returned to Nebraska, intending to sell out finally and return to Galveston; but, being appointed by the United States Court, in 1877, to take charge of the Oakdale Mills as receiver during a certain conflict over the title to the same, he, after the quieting of the title to the mill property, took permanent possession of the same, enlarged and improved it, and thereby very much increased its capacity and business. Mr. H. was elected County Commissioner of Douglas County in 1860, and served in that capacity for one term of three years. He was appointed by Gov. Alvin Saunders Brigadier General of the First Brigade of Nebraska Militia, under the Territorial Government of Nebraska, in 1862, and served in that capacity until the State organization superseded the territorial form of Government. Mr. H., during his whole business career, has been a liberal contributor to various journals--The Omaha Herald, the Galveston News and the Texas Presbyterian, being the most prominent among them. And Mr. H. Assures the author, trusting that the suggestion may not be wholly lost, that a reasonable degree of scientific pursuit, and the judicious cultivation of a literary taste, are likely to afford to the business man a lasting satisfaction that will endure, especially when his efforts in other directions fail. Mr. Hurford stood by Omaha in her infancy, and through her darkest days and hardest struggles. He was one of a committee of gentlemen who went to New York City to secure the re-location of the Union Pacific Railroad bridge from Child's Mills, a point six miles below Omaha, and to get it located at Omaha. The conflict was a desperate one, and had to be waged against other opposing interests that were very strong and very important. Their mission was successful, and was acknowledged to be the last great battle that Omaha had to fight to secure her commercial supremacy. Mr. Hurford proposes now, so far as he is at present able to decide, to make Northern Nebraska the theater upon which to enact the closing scene of his enterprise.

D. A. HOLMES, attorney at law, also firm of Jackson & Holmes, Neligh.

ALBERT JOHNSON was born in Dallas County, Iowa; removed to Jefferson County, Kan., where he lived for ten years; he then removed to Sutton, Clay Co., Neb., and, in partnership with his brother, transacting a general real estate business. After four years of successful business at Sutton, he accepted the position of cashier of the Antelope County Bank at Oakdale, Neb. In a short time, the bank found if necessary to place their lands for sale and real estate mortgage loans in one department. Mr. Johnson took the management, and is now doing a good business. He is a young man, and no doubt will make a success of whatever he takes hold of.

CHARLES F. HUNTINGTON, attorney at law, was born in Brattleboro, Vt.; was raised in Rochester, N. Y. He commenced the study of law at Pennsylvania, attended the Cazenovia Seminary in 1870, 1871 and 1872, also the Syracuse University; was admitted to the bar in the spring of 1879, in Potter County, Penn. He at once came to Oakdale, and has since engaged in the practice of his profession.

S. S. KING, County Treasurer, was born in McKean County, Penn. He enlisted, in 1861, in Company I, First Pennsylvania Rifles; lost his right leg at the battle of North Anna River, Va., May 23, 1864, was discharged June 29, 1865; in 1866, came to Dodge County, Neb., took up a homestead claim, which he afterward sold; in 1872, came to Oakdale, followed farming about six years. In 1878, he was appointed County Treasurer, to fill an unexpired term; in the fall of 1879, he was elected to this office; was County Commissioner from 1875 to 1878.

THOMAS KRYGER, bookseller, stationer, and Postmaster, was born in Dunkirk, N. Y.; in 1867, came to Holland City, Mich.; in the fall of 1872, came to West Point, Neb., taught school at Rock Creek seven months, afterward engaged in merchandising; June 1873, they removed their stock to Oakdale, where he has since resided; was appointed Deputy Sheriff in 1877; July 1, 1880, was appointed Postmaster; was United States Enumerator in 1880.

E. P. McCORMICK, editor Elkhorn Pen and Plow, is a native of Ross County, Ohio; in 1868, came to Columbus, Neb.; engaged in the drug business; in December, 1876, came to Oakdale, and on April 7, 1877, helped to establish the paper of which he is now editor and proprietor.

S. S. MURPHY, County Superintendent, is a native of Warren County, Ill.; in 1866, came to Dallas County, Iowa; there engaged in school-teaching and merchandising; in 1878, came to Antelope County, Neb.; has since been engaged in farming and stock-raising. In the fall of 1881, he was elected County Superintendent. He enlisted, in 1862, in Company I, Eighty-third Illinois Infantry; served to the end of the war.

G. C. PALMER, County Judge, was born in Barry County, Mich., raised near Peoria, Ill.; April, 1872, the family came to Oakdale. They opened a general store, which was the first store in Oakdale; continued this business until the fall of 1881, when he was elected County Judge. He was Postmaster from 1874 to 1879.

JUDGE I. N. TAYLOR, real estate, is a native of Ross County, Ohio. In the spring of 1842, came to Jay County, Ind.; engaged in teaching, lecturing and other educational enterprises; in 1860, removed to Washington County, Ill.; in 1862, came to Columbus, Neb., engaged in surveying and real estate. There he held the office of County Judge and County Surveyor, and represented Platte County one term in the Legislature. In 1871 was Secretary of the Nebraska State Emigration Society, with headquarters at Omaha; was also agent of the Omaha & Northwestern Railroad lands in Elkhorn Valley. He is one of the oldest real estate agents in Nebraska. In the spring of 1877, came to Oakdale, where he has since resided.

R. WILSON, County Clerk, Clerk of District Court and Register of Deeds, is a native of Rock County, Wis.; there taught school several years; in 1873, came to Antelope County. In the fall of 1875, he was elected County Clerk. He is now serving his fourth term. From 1874 to the fall of 1875, he held the office of County Superintendent.

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