First Murder Trial | Progress and Prosperity
Part 2: Loup City: Early History | Biographical Sketches
Wilhelmshore | Cedarville
Sherman County is situated nearly in the center of the State, and in extent it is twenty-four miles square. It is bounded on the north by Valley County, on the east Howard, and on the south by Buffalo, and on the west by Custer.
The county is well watered by running streams. The Middle Loup River crosses diagonally from northwest to southeast. This is quite a large stream. The stream next in size and importance is Clear Creek, which enters the county from the northwest, at a point about six miles south of the northern boundary, from which it flows southeast in a direction nearly parallel to the Middle Loup, and empties into the South Loup at the southern boundary of the county. Mud Creek flows into Clear Creek from the west. Oak Creek is east of the Loup River, and flows in a direction parallel to it and about six miles therefrom, across the county. Besides these. there are several other quite important creeks which flow in a southeasterly direction. All these have numerous draws, and very small streams which are tributary to them, along which are many clear and cool springs.
The valleys along the streams are broad and very fertile. The uplands or divides between the valleys are rough and hilly, in many places far too much so for successful cultivation. But this rough land is in no sense barren, but is covered with a heavy growth of grass which makes it of great value as pasture land for the vast herds of cattle owned in the county.
There is yet no railroad in the county, but there are excellent prospects for the early construction of road up the Middle Loup Valley.
The idea of the settlement of the Middle Loup Valley, in what is now Sherman County, originated in Grand Island, in the winter of 1872-73, when a little party of less than a score of men, only a few of whom had families, entered the plan of making a settlement, and securing the early organization of the county. When the organization of the party was perfected, they selected their location, and secured authority from the State government to form a county organization. The day appointed for the election was April l, 1873.
On the 1st day of April, 1873, two very important questions were for all time, seemingly, settled in the history of Sherman County, namely, organization of the county and locating the county seat.
At this election only thirteen votes were polled, most of which were by the officers elected. The following-named gentlemen were elected to the various offices for the time prescribed by law: County Clerk, William Walt; Judge, Robert Russell; Treasurer, C. E. Rosseter; Sheriff M. A. Hartley; Surveyor, C. H. Humes; Coroner Peter Keitges; Superintendent of Public Instruction, J. W. Eddy; Commissioners, M. W. Benschoter, Edward Neilson, and Mathew Coleman. By adding the names of James Stough, Thomas Hamm, Amos Knight, John W. Harkins and Alfred Brown to the list, we virtually have what might be termed the forerunners of the settlement. of Sherman County. This little band of sturdy pioneers left Grand Island in the winter of l872-73, and entered this wild and unsettled territory with hopes of making homes :and carving out their fortunes. The number now remaining here of that little band are but few.
At the time of their arrival on the present site of Loup City, there was but one house near here, and that was a little log cabin about one mile from this point in the timber. It was occupied by Mr. Hinnels, who sold logs for building purposes after the laying-out of Loup City. This house was 18X24 feet in size, and at one time was occupied by fourteen persons. The first house in the county was built nine miles from Loup City, on what is now known as Oak Creek, by the above-named Neilson. Loup City being the center of interest in this county, there was soon a lively little settlement there.
During the severe snow-storm, commencing April 13, 1873, and lasting three days, there was considerable suffering among the colony, but no lives lost. At that time there were but two houses on the creek, and these were built of logs. One was a store, owned by Frank Ingram, into which some sixty men were imprisoned for the three days of the storm. During the storm, about fifty horses perished in the creek or hollow, just south of the store. The incident gave the creek, on which Loup City is located, its name, that of Dead Horse Run. These men and horses were from Fort Hartsuff, on their way to Grand Island. There were only four ladies living in the Loup Valley at. that time. These were Mrs. Alfred Brown, the Misses Clara and Alice Benschoter, and Lizzie Hayes, of Grand Island. After this, the families of Miss Hayes, M. W. Benschoter, Hyde, Cobb, and others, were soon moved from Grand Island, where they had been waiting for warm weather to come. During the spring and summer of 1873, many additions were made to the settlement in the Middle Loup Valley. August 31, of the same year, C. E. Rosseter and family arrived to find a half-finished log house, 18x24 feet in size, with no doors or windows yet in place.
There was a settlement with only seven log houses, on the 1st of September, when Mr. Rosseter opened his hotel or boarding house, entertaining as his first guest, the Government scout, of Fort Hartsuff, Conrad Wentworth, known as "Little Buckshot."
The first death in the county occurred in the latter part of June, 1873, and was that of Mr. Soule, from whom the post office of Souleville, in this county, was named. The coffin for his remains was made from rough cottonwood. The only tools used or attainable were a saw and hatchet. The next death was that of the infant child of Mrs. Fisher. and occurred soon after. The third death, in 1873, was that of Edward Douglas, who was quite wealthy and located here on account of ill health. His farm was a beautiful one, and he planted out a large number of trees. The settlement and post office here is now known as Douglas Grove.
The first birth in the county took place on the 3d day of November, 1873. It was a son to Nelson and Mary Duewoody. There was no physician in the county, and Mrs. Lydia A. Rosseter officiated in that capacity.
The first marriage took place on Christmas, 1873, and was that of Frank Ingram and Miss Fanny Taylor. The ceremony was performed by Rev. J. W. Eddy.
The first frame house in the county was built late in 1873, by Frank Ingram.
The first newspaper in the county was founded on the 3d day of November, 1873, by E. S. Atkinson, and was published at Loup City.
The Loup City Schoolhouse was completed in December, 1873, as was also a long bridge across the Loup River at this town, and these events were celebrated by a grand ball, at the newly completed store of A. B. Tutton, on January 1, 1874.
In the spring of 1874, C. E. Rosseter began the erection of his hotel, 24x50 feet in dimensions, which was completed in due time.
In the spring of 1874, there was a large immigration to the county, and settlements were made throughout all the fertile valleys along the streams. A great deal of breaking was done, and the land that had been brought under cultivation the year before was planted to crops.
The court house, which had been commenced a long time before, was completed in 1874. It had been built at a cost of $5,000, which was paid in bonds that had been voted by the people the year before. In November, 1874, on the day of the acceptance of the court house by the County Commissioners, it was burned down. For some time there was considerable excitement over this affair, and, to this date, there are grave doubts among the old settlers as to whether the fire was accidental or whether it was the work of an incendiary.
During the early part. of the season of 1874, the crops that had been planted looked promising for a large yield. In the summer, however, and before the grain harvest was completed, the grasshoppers visited the county in countless numbers. They came down in such dense clouds that the light of the sun was obscured. Remaining for several days, the entire crop that was not yet ripe and gathered, was completely devoured.
The winter of 1874-75 was a hard one for the new settlers who had lost nearly all their crops the previous season. A great many privations were endured, and there is no doubt that there was some suffering. Were it not for the assistance rendered from the good people of more eastern States, there must have been cases actual starvation. But with this aid the settlers managed to get through the winter, and the dull season of 1875, until another crop could be raised. Times were very hard and the most rigid economy was practiced. There were but few settlements made in 1875, and the yield of crops was not very great.
Everything was dull in the county until after the great rush of miners and adventurers to the Black Hills began. Early in the year 1876, a party of twenty-three men left Sherman County for the Black Hills, and opened up a direct route thereto. This route extended up the Middle Loup River; it was known as one of the best routes to the Black Hills, and was traveled by many thousands on their way to the gold fields during the next few years.
In the summer of 1876, there were many Indian scares in the Loup Valley, and a great many massacres were reported. Though these rumors were without foundation, they aroused so much terror that a large number of the inhabitants left the county. There was never any one injured by the Indians, however.
Late in the fall of 1876, several of those who went to the Black Hills returned and the few settlers passed a very dull time during the winter; at one time that winter there was not a store in the county.
In the spring of 1877, there was again quite a large immigration to the county. There was a tri-weekly mail to Grand Island, and there was considerable travel to the Black Hills by this route. From that time forward, the county continued to prosper.
In the spring of 1877, the county had its first important trial in the District Court. The case was the trial of George McKellar for the murder of a man named Chapman, in the latter part of the previous month of February. Chapman went into a little grocery store at Loup City to buy some tea, and, as he came out, was shot by McKellar, and fatally wounded. A surgeon was called, but he died within forty-eight hours. Immediately after the murder, McKellar coolly saddled his horse and rode away, while the men who stood about did not attempt to stop him, as they were waiting for the Sheriff to procure a warrant for his arrest. But little reason can be ascribed for the crime, other than that the murderer was drunk at the time. After the escape, followed a week of excitement in pursuit of the criminal. A reward of $500 was offered for his arrest. After a week, however, he was brought in by his own father, and given up. He was then placed in jail, and securely guarded until the time of his trial in April. He was found guilty and sentenced to the State Penitentiary for life. He is still there.
In the summer of 1877, there was considerable travel to the Black Hills. Everything passed off in a rather more lively manner than formerly, and very good crops were raised. A great many of the old settlers had left the county, but. those who remained were enterprising nod determined to win. The new settlers were intelligent, and had come with the determination of making Sherman County their home.
In the spring of 1878, the settlement of the different parts of the county continued to increase. This spring, the Burlington & Missouri River Railroad Company paid the taxes on their lands in the county, which had been delinquent for some time. The money paid by the railroad company was used in building a new court house, which was done by using the old walls of the building that had been burned, and at an additional cost of $1,200. The contract was let to John W. Harkins.
From the above date it may be said that the settlement of the county has progressed steadily and surely. A large proportion of the citizens are Americans, though there are large settlements of Germans and Poles in different parts of the county.
The population of the county is now about two thousand seven hundred and fifty.
The prospects are good, and there are in the county about ten thousand head of cattle, five thousand six hundred head of sheep, and a large number of hogs.
The religious societies are well represented, and church organizations may be found in almost every community. The first sermon preached in the county was at Loup City, by Rev. William Willard, on the last Sunday in. July, 1873.
The first Sunday school was organized at Loup City in 1873. At the present date, flourishing Sunday schools with a large attendance may be found in different parts of the county.
The first school in the county was taught by Miss Susan S. Gilbert, at. Loup City. The term began on the first Monday in November, 1873, with twenty-five pupils in attendance.
The schoolhouse in which it was taught was a fine building, with the best quality of furniture, and the house supplied with blinds, belfry and everything to make it a perfect schoolhouse. From this beginning, the educational interests have so developed that there are now in the county twenty-eight school districts. many of them having very substantial frame buildings. The schools are all prosperous, and are of a superior order.
Soon after the organization of the county in 1873, bonds were voted for the building of bridges, county buildings and schoolhouses. The amount of this bonded indebtedness was large. The courts have decided some of the bonds illegal, but the county has still a legal bonded indebtedness of about $65,000. For so great a debt, it seems that the public improvements are few, but it must be remembered that in the early history of the county, the bonds had to be sold at a great discount. Besides this, during some periods of the early history of the county, there is no doubt that there was gross mismanagement, if nothing worse, on the part of some of the county officials, and the lenders among the settlers who advocated the voting of heavy bonds and then negotiated them.
The present officials of the county are N. D. Vanscoy, J. L. Goff and Samuel Hancock, Commissioners; Robert Taylor, Clerk; William A. Wilson, Treasurer; George W. Hunter, Judge; R. C. Hardin, Superintendent of Schools; Charles E. Waite, Sheriff; M. A. Hartley, Surveyor; John Nieman, Coroner.
There is at the date of this writing an investigation going on of the affairs of the County Clerk and Treasurer, who retired on the 1st of January, 1882.
The ex-Treasurer, C. A. Hale, is supposed to be a defaulter in the sum of $4,444, and his books are now being examined. Suit has been commenced against Hale and his bondsmen for the recovery of the above-named sum.
The ex-County Clerk, D D. Grow, was arrested, had his preliminary examination, and was put under bonds of $2,000 to appear at the May term of the District Court, 1882. This he did, but was not indicted, as it was believed that any discrepancies that had occurred in his books were the result of carelessness rather than dishonesty.