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Andreas' History of the State of Nebraska

Produced by Sherri Brakenhoff.

Part 2


[View of Osceola.]

The precinct of Osceola derives its name from the county seat. The first settlers are Rev. James Query and V. P. Davis, who came with their families in October, 1868. H. C. Query located here in 1869, and among the early settlers who came into the precinct may be mentioned J. R. Stewart, George Kerr, John A. Beltzer, Henry Hildebrand, G. W. Kenyon, J. F. Campbell, William Query, Lumin Van Hoosen, H. T. Arnold.

Osceola, the county seat of Polk County, was first located three miles southeast of the present site in the year 1870, and the present location, the geographical center of the county, was selected and made the permanent site October 10, 1871.

The fata morgana cannot create a plain fairer than that which stretches away on either side of the town. A small ravine, beginning on the southwest side, bears northwest in the shape of an ox bow, gives it the appearance of an elevated situation and making a pleasing contrast to the usual flat sameness.

The spot was chosen by Hon. John H. Mickey and Hon. William F. Kimmel, who were appointed by the County Commissioners for this purpose and surveyed and platted in the month of June, 1872.

The first building erected was the old court house, completed in January, 1872, and was honored as the seat of the curia regis of the county until the morning of January 1, 1881, when it was destroyed by fire, together with all the county records of the Commissioners' Court up to the year 1878, and other valuable records.

In the month of May, 1872, William H. Waters built the first frame store in the town, as also the county, stocking it with general merchandise. The following October, Hon. John H. Mickey and Hon. William F. Kimmel each built a residence, which were the first that graced the site of the new town, and are still standing--relics of the pioneer period.

In the month of December, 1872, the old schoolhouse was built and a school established, with Mrs. J. C. McWilliams as teacher.

Osceola was incorporated as a town August 26, 1881, with E. L. King, J. P. Heald, Owen Wilson, H. A. Scott and W. H. Myers as Trustees. M. E. Crookham was appointed as Town Clerk, and Hon. John H. Mickey, Town Treasurer.

The first birth took place January 26, 1874--a son, Evan, to Hon. J. H. Mickey.

The post office was established in June, 1872, with William E. Loring as Postmaster. At this date, Osceola was the terminus of the mail route from Lincoln via Ulysses.

In 1877, Osceola furnished Nebraska with a Speaker of the House of Representatives in the person of Hon. Albinus Nance, who later filled the gubernatorial chair for four consecutive years. The Omaha & Republican Valley Railroad ran its first train into Osceola June 23, 1879. All branches of business that make up the commercial list are unusually well represented, and the town enjoys the trade of a large tributary territory. Banking interests are represented by the private banking house of Messrs. Hon. J. H. Mickey, Hon. A. Nance and C. F. Morrill, an institution widely known and enjoying the entire confidence of the people of the county. It has an ample capital of $20,000, and furnishes every facility in this important interest.

Grain and stock are an important feature, and the following shipments over the Omaha & Republican Valley Railroad, for the year 1881, will show the business done:

Freight forwarded--Hogs, 67 cars; horses, 2 cars; cattle, 1 car; broom corn, 2 cars; household goods, 3 cars; barley, 1 car; wheat, 85 cars; oats, 17 cars; corn, 145 cars. Total, 323 cars.

Freight received--Coal, 91 cars; merchandise, 297 cars; machinery, 10 cars; corn, 4 cars; stone, 10 cars; lime, 4 cars; lumber, 86 cars; emigrant goods, 7 cars. Total, 509 cars. Grand total, 832 cars.


The first newspaper established in the county was the Polk County Times, at Stromsburg, in 1872, edited by W. D. Ferre. It was maintained for only six months, and died in its infancy.

The Osceola Record was inaugurated just before the demise of the Times in 1872, under the name of the Homesteader, and has been ably edited successively by H. T. Arnold, M. E. Crookham, F. P. Burgess, Hon. W. F. Kimmel, Calmar McCune, S. F. Fleharty, Mrs. Ada M. Bittenbender, Brown & Kyle, a second time by Mrs. Ada M. Bittenbender, and at present by its former proprietor, Calmar McCune.

December 24, 1879, the Herald was founded by G. R. Nunnelly. It was purchased by S. F. Fleharty, in the spring of 1880, who changed its name to the Home News, and later, in 1880, was edited by S. F. Fleharty and C. F. Brewster, and December 1, 1880, was purchased by H. C. Bittenbender, and consolidated with the Record.


The schools are under the supervision of Prof. J. L. McKeever, and one hundred and fifty-five pupils in attendance. A large brick schoolhouse has just been completed at a cost of $6,000. It is handsome and imposing in appearance, and one of the many attractions of the town.

Osceola is now in its twelfth year, but has never had a licensed saloon in its limits, and the same may be said of the entire county.

Nebraska Wesleyan University.--The Nebraska Wesleyan University was incorporated May 21, 1879, with the following Board of Trustees: Hon. John H. Mickey, President; C. W. Kyle, Vice President; H. C. Bittenbender, Secretary; D. W. Huffman, Corresponding Secretary; J. P. Heald, Treasurer, L. J. Blowers, William E. Loring, H. M. Mills, M. D., R. Wheeler, S. O. Whaley, M. D., L. L. Snider, B. C. Campbell.

The faulty were composed of the following persons: Rev. J. J. Fleharty, A. M., President, Professor of Mental and Moral Science, Political Economy; F. R. Beal, A. B., Professor of Greek and Latin; Miss Minnie McConnell, M. E. L., Professor of Mathematics; Mrs. Mina Beal, B. P., Professor of Elocution, English Literature and Painting; J. L. McKeever, B. S. M., Professor Commercial Department and English Grammar; Miss J. Alena Washburn, Professor of Instrumental Music.

At the close of the second year, it was decided to remove the University to Fullerton, the county seat of Nance County, where it is now located.


The Methodist Episcopal Church of Osceola was organized in the winter of 1872-73, by Rev. L. F. Whitehead, the original class numbering seven members, and is the principal station of the Osceola Circuit, which includes all of Polk County. In 1873, it was supplied for two months by Rev. J. Frazer, and was then placed in charge of Rev. Calmar McCune, a local preacher until a supply could be procured. Rev. A. Burris was appointed a short time after, serving fifteen months, covering a period up to the end of the conference year. In the fall of 1874, the Conference sent Rev. E. Hancock to this field. Rev. J. Q. A. Fleharty succeeded him in September, 1875, and through his efforts salvation came to the hearts of about one hundred on this circuit. After one year of earnest labor, he was succeeded by Rev. William Peck, who was also in charge one year. Rev. A. J. Combs was assigned to this circuit in October, 1876. He preached but a few times, just enough to win the love of his people, and then fulfilled his mission among them by showing how a servant of God can endure suffering, and how patiently he can die. Leaving as his dying word to his brethren in the ministry these words: "Tell them the holy triumph," he passed from the church militant to the joys of the church triumphant, the battle fought, the victory won. Upon the death of Mr. Combs, Rev. S. P. Van Doozer was appointed to fill his place in the spring of 1871, and was in charge until the advent of the present pastor, Rev. R. S. Adams, in October, 1880. The construction of the church was commenced in 1876, under the ministration of Rev. Mr. Fleharty, and completed in 1878, the total cost reaching $4,000. It is a beautiful frame gothic structure, with corner tower furnished with a bell, and was dedicated by Bishop Andrews July 2, 1878.

The First Congregational Church of Polk County, Neb., was organized at Osceola, August 26, 1872, by a council invited for that purpose. The council, consisting of Rev. A. Dresser, of Linwood, Rev. J. E. Elliott, of Columbus, and Rev. O. W. Merrill, State Superintendent of the American Home Mission Society, met at the house of William E. Loring, Esq. Rev. A. Dresser was elected Moderator, and W. E. Loring, Clerk. After prayer by the Moderator, a consultation was held, and it was voted expedient to organize a Congregational Church at this place. A sermon was preached by Rev. Mr. Merrill. Prayer was offered by Mr. Elliott. The following-named persons entered into covenant, and were recognized by the Council as a Congregational Church: Rev. C. C. Humphrey, Mrs. C. C. Humphrey, Mr. Abijah Lock, Mrs. Abijah Lock, Mr. J. C. McWilliams, Mrs. Marion L. McWilliams, Mr. William E. Loring, Mrs. Alice A. Loring, Mr. John J. Kepner, Mrs. Luretta Kepner, Mr. George Kerr, Mr. George Barker, Miss Lizzie Barker, Mrs. George R. Greene, Mrs. George W. Kenyon, Miss Margaret J. Kenyon.

Rev. C. C. Humphrey was acting pastor of the church until August, 1874, when Rev. Simon Barrows commenced his labors here. He was installed pastor in September, 1875, and resigned his charge after three years of earnest work, in 1879, being succeeded by the present pastor, Rev. L. P. Norcross. The church was built in 1879, and is valued at $2,000. Present membership, twenty.

The Presbyterian Church of Osceola was organized by Rev. G. A. Little, Synodical Missionary of the State, June 22, 1879, with a membership of twenty. Rev. W. J. Weeber became the first pastor of the church in June, 1880, remaining in charge until succeeded by the present pastor, Rev. Mr. Pangborn, January 1, 1882. The church was completed and dedicated in May, 1880. The membership has increased to thirty-three, and the church property is valued at $1,500.


Osceola Lodge. No. 65, A., F. & A. M., was instituted June 20, 1877, with the following charter members and officers: John G. Mickey, W. M.; Samuel Snell, S. W.; W. F. Lowger, J. W.; Josiah Locke, Robert Wheeler, Stephen Cunningham, Sidney M. Stone, Benjamin B. Hills, John H. Anderson. The present officers are: Samuel Snell, W. M.; W. F. Lowger, S. W.; Hervey Kenard, J. W.; Samuel G. Pheasant, Treasurer; A. N. Jay, Secretary; James Mathews, Tiler.

Rising Star Lodge, No. 75, I. O. O. F., was instituted by Grand Master Daniel H. Wheeler, by authority of a charter granted June 19, 1879. The following are the charter members and officers: A. N. Jay, Noble Grand; F. F. Vogel, Vice Grand; L. W. McCarty, Secretary; David Foy, Treasurer; Lanson Shaw, C. L. Johnson, James McDonald, Henry Biggs, W. F. Kimmel, G. W. Gregg. Present officers: W. F. Miller, Noble Grand; L. W. McCarty, Vice Grand; George W. West, Treasurer; I. F. Kelly, Secretary.

J. F. Reynolds Post, No. 26, G. A. R., was organized by Capt. John S. Wood, of Omaha, November 27, 1879. It was named in honor of Maj. Gen. J. F. Reynolds, who was killed at the battle of Gettysburg.

The following are the charter members: W. F. Lowger, S. F. Fleharty, Thomas M. Bell, W. T. Dodge, S. O. Whaley, W. F. Kimmel, John H. Mickey, J. B. Dey, T. S. Clark, Ike D. Neihardt, John B. Mitchell, H. L. Bond, W. W. Maxwell, I. F. Kelly, M. C. Stull, J. Knerr, J. P. Calkin, David Foy, William Welch, William Fosbender, L. J. Blower, B. C. Campbell, W. H. Myers, C. A. Myers, Perry McLaughlin, Jacob Knob, H. G. Lowe, H. F. Bense, John J. Sohr, George Ward, O. P. Moffett, J. Locke, Seth J. Vinton, Peter Matter, G. Vanvorce, R. O. D. Cummings, George Gregg. The present officers are: I. F. Kelly, P. C.; H. L. Bond, S. V. C.; S. Q. Spain, J. V. C.; T. M. Bell, Adjutant; C. E. Coleman, Q. M.; S. O. Whaley, Surgeon; L. P. Norcross, Chaplain; H. J. Bonner, O. D.; E. R. McCumber, O. G. Membership, eight.

Polk County Agricultural Association.--The preliminary steps for establishing this society were taken January 8, 1876, at which date C. H. Morrell was chosen President; T. S. Clark, Vice President; J. H. Mickey, Secretary; J. B. Mitchell, Treasurer, and a constitution and by-laws adopted. At the annual meeting held March 4, 1876, John Van Horn was elected President; C. H. Morrill, Vice President, and Secretary and Treasurer re-elected. The County Fair, which was to have been held the following fall, was postponed on account of damage to crops by grasshoppers. No further steps were taken until August 1879, when, through the efforts of a few of Polk County's energetic farmers and business men, it was decided to hold the first county fair on the 9th and 10th of October, 1879. The result of the enterprise was a decided success; 673 entries were made, and ninety-five premiums awarded. The site of the fair grounds was presented to the society by J. H. Mickey in 1880. It is a beautiful tract of land containing twenty acres, and has a good half-mile track and a full complement of buildings. The present officers are: Judge J. W. Snider, President; Perry McLaughlin, Vice President; W. J. Mossholder, Secretary; Mrs. H. C. Bittenbender, Treasurer.


CHARLES W. AIKINS, County Judge of Polk County, came to Nebraska in the spring of 1873, and took up a homestead on Section 28, Town 15, Range 3 west, Platte Precinct. Here he resided until 1877, when he sold out and moved to Osceola and started to read law in the office of Albinus Nance, the present Governor of Nebraska. In 1881, he was elected to his present office. He was born in Vinton County, Ohio, March 5, 1851; was married in Polk county in 1876, to Miss Emma Graham, by whom he has two children.

HERBERT T. ARNOLD, merchant, is a member of the firm of H. T. Arnold & Co., Osceola; came to Nebraska in September, 1871; homesteaded the place where he now lives, on Section 8, Town 14, Range 2 west, Osceola Precinct. He has been engaged in various enterprises, besides operating his farm, until he engaged in his present business. He was the founder of the first newspaper published in Osceola, and the second in the county, which was entitled the Homesteader; has been County Clerk of Polk County. He served as soldier in the late war, enlisting in Fond du Lac, Wis, in Company B, Thirty-fifth Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry, February, 1864, and served until April, 1866. He is now a member of the G. A. R., J. F. Reynolds Post, No. 26, at Osceola; is also a member of the A., F. & A. M., and has served as Master of Osceola Lodge, No. 65. He was born in Chenango County, N. Y., August 26, 1846. He was married in April, 1879, to Miss Mary W. Van Horn, who is a daughter of John Van Horn, who was among the earliest settlers of Pleasant Home Precinct.

REV. SIMON BARROWS, Osceola, was born in Monson, Hampden Co., Mass., April 28, 1811. He is the son of William and Asenath, née Osborn, the former being born in Thompson, Conn., and the latter in Sudbury, Mass. He received a common school education in the district schools. At the age of twenty-one, he entered Phillips' Academy, Andover, Mass., where he pursued his studies for three years. He then spent one year in Leicester Academy, Mass., graduating in 1838. He immediately entered Dartmouth College at Hanover, N. H., where he pursued his studies four years more, graduating from there in July, 1842; then in September following he entered Union Theological Seminary of New York City, and remained there nearly two years, after which he read theology one year, at Athol, Mass. In 1845, he was appointed Principal of New Bedford Academy, Mass. From there he took charge of the High School at Dorchester, where he remained for seven years. In the winter of 1852 and 1853, he returned to Andover and reviewed his studies as a Resident Licentiate, in the Theological Seminary. In October, 1853, he made his first step westward, locating in Davenport, Iowa. Here he established the Young Ladies' Seminary, which he ran for a year, when he was called to the office of general agency of the Northwest, for the American and Foreign Christian Union. This position he resigned in the fall of 1856, on account of ill-health, brought on by constant study, locating in Adair County, Iowa. Afterward recovering his health, he was elected to the office of Superintendent of Public Instruction and County Surveyor of this county. In 1859, he accepted a proposition to take charge of Des Moines Academy. This position he held until he was elected County Superintendent of Polk County, Iowa. During this service, he was the founder of the public high school at Des Moines, and was its first Principal. Here he remained until 1867; then moved to Quincy, Iowa, where he became pastor of the Congregational Church, remaining there until August, 1870, when he came to Nebraska and took charge of the church at Weeping Water, Cass County. Officiated there until 1874, when he moved to Osceola, Polk County, Neb. During the years 1878 and 1879, he was the School Superintendent of Polk County. He was married January 1, 1861, at Springfield, Ill., to Miss Emily L. Barrows, of that city. Their family consists of four children, three of whom are living--Franklin W., Willard P., George G. and Grace E., the latter died March 26, 1871, at the age of two and a half years.

LEWIS A. BELTZER, family grocer, Osceola, came to Nebraska in January, 1872, and took up a homestead on Section 22, Town 14, Range 2 west, Osceola Precinct, and was one of the first settlers in that precinct. Here he resided, improving his claim till 1875; then moved to Osceola and was engaged in various occupations till the summer of 1876, when he started his present business, except two years. Mr. Beltzer was a soldier in the late war of the rebellion, enlisting in Company F, Eighteenth Iowa Volunteer Infantry, in 1862, and served until the close of the war. He was in all of the principal engagements with his regiment. He was charter member of J. F. Reynolds Post, No. 26, G. A. R.; is also a member of the Methodist Episcopal Church society at Osceola.

HENRY C. and ADA M. BITTENBENDER, attorneys at law, Osceola. Henry C. was born June 19, 1851, at Afton, Columbia Co., Penn.; in 1856, removed with his parents near Bloomsburg, same county, and in 1868 to Bloomsburg; is the son of Conrad and Livina Bittenbender, who were of German descent. The subject of this sketch took his preparatory course at the State Normal School of the Sixth District of Pennsylvania, at Bloomsburg; graduated from Princeton College, N. J., in class of 1874, which class consisted of 100 students. He then returned to Bloomsburg, and commenced reading law in the office of Col. S. Knorr. Here he remained for two years, when he was admitted to practice in the fall of 1876, and at the same time became a partner with Col. Knorr. In the fall of 1878, he sold out his interest and came West and settled at Osceola. Here he was admitted to practice in the State of Nebraska, before Hon. G. W. Post, in the Fourth Judicial District. In April, 1879, he purchased the Osceola Record, which for nearly two years was published under the firm name of Bittenbender & Buell. During this time it was ably edited by Ada M. Bittenbender, his wife. The paper was Republican in politics, and always advocated temperance principles and the general agricultural interests of the State and county. During this time Mr. B. had continued to practice his profession; is one of the founders of the Presbyterian Church at Osceola, and was one of the first Elders, and the first Clerk of the society; also was one of the Directors of the Nebraska Wesleyan University from its beginning until its removal from Osceola, and is a member of I. O. O. F., Rising Star Lodge No. 75, at Osceola. He was married August 9, 1878, in Rome, Bradford Co., Penn., to Miss Ada M. Cole, daughter of Daniel and Emily A. Cole, the former being of German origin, and the latter of the old New England stock. Ada began her studies in various private schools; is a graduate of the State Normal School, situated at Bloomsburg; also a graduate of the Binghamton, N. Y., Commercial College, and of the National Kindergarten of Washington, D. C. Upon graduating at the Normal School, June 17, 1875, was elected one of the faculty, where she taught the following year; then went to Washington and took the Kindergarten course, at the close of which was re-elected a member of the Normal School faculty, to the position of Principal of the Model School and Principal of Department of Physical Culture. At the end of this year's teaching, was awarded the second diploma by the State of Pennsylvania, conferring the degree of M. E. She has, therefore, four diplomas. At the close of this year's work she was married, and came with her husband to Nebraska, and became the editor of the Osceola Record. While editing this paper, she began reading law in the office of her husband. She was elected Secretary of Polk County Agricultural Association in 1880, and in 1881 was sent as delegate for the association to the annual meeting of the State Board of Agriculture, held at Lincoln, and is now Treasurer of this association. In January, 1881, at the organization of the Nebraska Woman Suffrage Association, she was elected Secretary, and at the following annual meeting in 1882, was elected President, which position she now holds. During the year 1881, she was one of the three lady lecturers of the State, advocating the cause of woman suffrage, being elected by the association. March 4, 1882, was elected by the Polk County Farmers' Alliance to the editorial management of the Polk County Farmers' Advocate, the first number of which was issued April 6, 1882. While continuing her law studies, in practice before the County Court, she won the first case tried by a woman in the State, receiving high compliments from members of the profession and the press of the State for the able manner in which she conducted the suit. May 17, 1882, she passed a highly creditable examination in open court before Hon. G. W. Post, at the regular term of District Court of Polk County, and was admitted to practice--becoming the first lady lawyer of Nebraska.

[Portrait of L. J. Blowers.]

[Residence of L. J. Blowers.]

LYMAN J. BLOWERS, Treasurer of Polk County, and dealer in grain, also largely interested in farming and stock-raising, came to Nebraska in the fall of 1870; took up a homestead on Section 12, Town 13, Range 1 west, and engaged in successful farming until the fall of 1874, when he moved to Osceola and engaged in the agricultural implement business, until he was elected to the office of County Treasurer, in the fall of 1879. He was also re-elected, without opposition, in the fall of 1881. He built, owned and ran the first hardware store, also the first lumber yard in Polk County. He was born in Noble County, Ind., October 2, 1842; enlisted in the Forty-fourth Indiana Volunteer Infantry, September 2, 1861; was discharged on account of general disability in 1863; re-enlisted in the Fifty-third Indiana Volunteer Infantry in 1864, and served until the close of the war. He was married to Miss Sarah J. Tinklepaugh, his present wife, January 30, 1864. They became members of the first M. E. Church organized in the county. He is also a member of the A., F. & A. M., I. O. O. F., and G. A. R.

BENJAMIN F. BUFFINGTON, School Superintendent of Polk County, came to Nebraska in September of 1877, first locating in Schuyler, where he filled the position of Principal of the Schuyler Graded School for two years. At the expiration of that time, he removed to Osceola, for the purpose of practicing law, having been admitted to the bar at Schuyler in March of 1879. The Wesleyan University, being at that time located at Osceola, he took charge of the Mathematical Department until the spring of 1881. He was then appointed Principal of the District School at that place, and, in the fall of the same year, was elected County Superintendent of Public Instruction, which position he is admirably adapted to fill. The subject of this sketch was born in Highland County, Ohio, on the 13th of September, 1850, and received his education at the Salem Academy. He is a member of the M. E. Church at Osceola, and also of the A., F. & A. M. He was married September 17, 1875, in Ohio, to Miss Isabel Ellis, of that State.

JOHN F. CAMPBELL, farmer, Section 8, P. O. Osceola, came to Nebraska in 1871, taking up a homestead on the 5th of September of the same year. In the following spring, he brought out his family and settled at once on his claim, which he has continued to work ever since, and is constantly adding improvements. The subject of this sketch enlisted in the Fifty-fourth Illinois Volunteer Infantry, Company F, of Edgar County, Ill., in February, 1862, and re-enlisted as a veteran in 1864, serving until the close of the war. Returning to Illinois, he was married, March, 1868, in Champaign County, to Miss Lucy C. Parkhurst, of that place, by whom he has four children--Frederick C., Charles H., Nellie G. and George E. When Mr.. Campbell moved onto his claim, he first erected a sod-house, which he replaced with a frame 14x20, and one and one-half stories high, in 1874.

GEORGE H. CARMINE, dealer in grain and live stock at Osceola, came to Nebraska in 1873, settling in Polk County, where he took up a homestead on Section 6, Town 13, Range 1 west, Hackberry Precinct, where he resided until 1879, when he moved into Osceola and started in the stock business. In the fall of 1881, commenced buying grain, shipping during that year over one hundred car-loads of stock and grain. He was born in Jefferson County, Ind. on the 14th of February, 1848, and was married at Madison, Ind., in 1869, to Miss Emma Woodfill, by whom he has four children--Alvin B., Lena Leota, Walter A. and Abba L. Mr. Carmine is a member of the I. O. O. F., Rising Star Lodge, No. 75.

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