Stanton County | Natural Features | Early History|
Organization | County Schools
Means of Communication | Statistics of Progress
Stanton: Early History | The Town Site|
Public School | The Press | Churches | Societies
Business | Biographical Sketches
List of Illustrations in Stanton County Chapter
STANTON County was named after Edwin M. Stanton in 1867, when its present boundaries were defined. Before that time it had been known as Izard County, and it contained one row of precincts, which now form the western boundary of Cuming County. It is situated north of Platte and Colfax, east of Madison, south of Wayne, and west of Cuming Counties. It is one of the smallest counties in the State, containing only twelve precincts.
Stanton County has an area of 432 square miles, or 253,303 acres. Of these, according to the returns of 1881, 36,693 acres are improved, leaving 216,610 acres not yet disturbed.
Of the improved land, 5,523 acres are sown with wheat, 1,252 with oats, and 1,471 with barley; 5,921 acres were planted with corn in 1881, and 66 acres were covered with forest trees. The number of trees was 67,500. Of fruit trees there were only 234.
Stanton County is located in the center of the agricultural section of Northern Nebraska, and possesses a soil of great fertility. Every branch of farming industry is successfully maintained with in its boundaries. Stock-raising has come to be the chief occupation of the farmers, for which peculiar advantages exist in the large number of small streams which intersect the county, and the excellent hay which everywhere grows in abundance. Near the center of the county the Elkhorn crosses from west to east, donating to agriculture thirty miles of the "garden valley." From the north the Humbug, Indian, Muscatine, Pleasant Run, Nobody's and Spring Branch Creeks wind their devious ways into the river. From the south it receives the waters of Rock, Elm, Butterfly, Oak, Union and Meridian Creeks. Every precinct in the county is abundantly watered
The effect of these channels through the county shows itself in the great diversity of soils. Everywhere may be seen all the gradations, from the low bottom lands, with their luxuriant growth of grass, to the rolling prairie uplands, which yield abundantly of all kinds of grain.
About 30 per cent of the surface of the county is valley land. Of the remainder, 5 per cent is bottom, 15 per cent table land, 35 per cent rolling prairie, and 15 per cent sand flats and ridges. Along the south side of the Elkhorn, the faint beginnings of the great western sand region may be traced in the belt, varying from one to three miles in width, which extends nearly across the county. With this exception the soil of the county is not sandy but is largely a rich, black loam, varying from nine inches to three feet in depth, with a clay sub-soil. The soil is porous, and a perfect under-drainage prevents it ever flooding or becoming too wet for tillage. Good water is procured at a depth of from fifteen to twenty-five feet in the valleys, and at from thirty-five to eighty feet on the uplands.
There is no natural timber to speak of in the county, but already artificial groves have been planted extensively, and soon the country will have a wooded appearance. Coal is the sole fuel used here at present, but already the prospect of a full wood supply exists in the planting of the artificial timber just mentioned. Although wheat and oats are extensively raised here, the county is more particularly adapted to stock farming. Corn can be produced in abundant quantities on any of the land in the county, and hay, even the celebrated blue joint, can be had for the cutting. As a natural result, the stock interests are rapidly increasing. Already large sheep ranches have been established, and cattle and horses are raised in considerable numbers. Fruit raising has been tried sufficiently to show that it can be successfully carried on, the main difficulty to be overcome being the sweeping winds. When groves have been planted to protect the fruit trees, the yield has proved very good.
The first settlers within the boundaries of Stanton County were Jacob Hoffman and Francis Scott. The first men to enter the county and locate farms were Charles and Mitchell Sharp. They came in the summer of 1865, staked their claims on the Humbug, and returned to Omaha. On the way back they met Scott and Hoffman driving ox teams, and bringing their goods and families. They also located on the Humbug, and built their cabins, the first buildings of any kind in the county. During the winter, the men obtained work cutting ties on the Platte for the Union Pacific Railroad, while the two women, sole occupants of the vast wilderness, remained and looked after their property. In the spring of 1866, W. D. Whalen and Andrew Bortoff arrived in the county. Mr. Whalen located about a mile west of the present town. Mr. Bortoff took the place since owned by Judge Helmerick. In the fall of the year, a body of Germans settled five miles north, on the Humbug. Among them were August Draube, Fred Cook, Adam Nye and Carl Schwartz. About the same time, I. R. Layton, Andrew Schauble, John Rustemeyer and Paul Heyse took claims on the Humbug. During this year also, August Wagoner settled south of the river, and was the only one who had at that time taken his claim on that side. In the spring of 1867, E. S. Butler, E. W. Mosher and Thomas Stevens settled on the Humbug. In the same year, Julius Poessnecker and L. Belz came into the county. During the years 1868-69, settlement increased rapidly. Prominent among those who arrived were: Fred Snyder, John Wunner, Jack Deborde, A. N. Gill, Jeus Nelson, J. G. Matheson and C. L. Lamb, who located on the Humbug; W. L. Bowman, Eli Bowman, H. Kennedy, Alex McFarland, W. D. Lovett, H. Rogers, N. C. Lovett and J. S. Lovett, who located on Pleasant Run, better known as Gassey Hollow; Fred and Lewis Mewis, Alex and Oliver Peters, Robert Barr, R. Hume, John and Robert McMillan, Alex Kinney, I. W. King and Thomas Milligan, who located northeast of Stanton: R. Oberg, H. Scherer, Fred and Tobias Mack, Lewis Ley, C . Eswein, John Everson and R. Lowery, who located south of Stanton: G. Sonnenschein and J. D. Underberg, who stopped on Union Creek, in the western part of the county. The settlement had at this time become permanent, and the growth has since been rapid. The first store opened in the county was by George Graves, in the Humbug settlement, in the spring of 1869. At that time the demands of the community were not excessive, and the stock in trade was not large. If any one became so extravagant as to ask for a dollar's worth of anything, Mr. Graves was in the habit of exclaiming, "Hi gorry! Can't you get along with a little less? Hi gorry! I wish you would". He soon became known throughout the country as "Hi gorry." Says an extract: "He would serve a customer with 10 cents worth of sugar or a yard of calico in those days with just as much grace and geniality as he fills an order for a car load of lumber in these latter days."
In the spring of 1870, Kendall & Jensmore opened their store three miles from the Humbug, at a place called Clinton, and, in the summer, Lewis Ley began his career as a merchant in his dugout, on the south side of the river. In 1867, the first schoolhouse in the county was erected at the Clinton settlement, and the children who gathered in the little log building were first instructed by Gustav Sonnenschein. In 1870, the frame building, which is now used at Pilger, was erected at the Humbug settlement, and was the first frame schoolhouse. Shortly after this, one was erected near W. D. Whalen's farm. W. L. Bowman preached in the log house soon after it was constructed. These were the first religious services. He also preached in the frame schoolhouses, and for many years continued to preach at various places, being the only religious instructor in the county.
December 9, 1867, marks the birth of the first child which opened its eyes upon the beauties of Stanton County. Ida Hoffman bears this distinction, and is the daughter of Jacob Hoffman, who was the earliest settler. In the fall of 1866, John Mascatine died and was buried upon his homestead. This was the first death recorded in the annals of Stanton history. In the fall of 1869, Herman Mewis and Emma Hinkle were united in the holy bonds of matrimony. This is the first marriage which occurred in the county. The manner in which the ceremony was performed is indicative of the newness of the country. The young couple appeared before the officer and procured a license, and, as he did nothing but deliver it, they concluded that all necessary preliminaries had been gone through with, and settled down to married life in Pierce County. The mother of the bride, however, heard of the mistake, and immediately had it rectified. In 1871, Lewis Ley, who had, since his store south of the river had been started, been harness-maker in Stanton, and also had a boot and shoe store, began to study law, and was the first attorney in the county. His first case was between two dwellers on the Humbug, and was tried before Justice M. B. Sharp. Ley's client was successful, and, having no money, rewarded his able attorney by giving him five pounds of sausage.
In 1870, the town of Stanton began its growth, and since that time most that has occurred of historic importance has been connected with the town. In 1871, the bridge which crosses the river at Stanton was built at a cost of $4,200.
In 1867, two post offices were established in the county, one known as the Clinton office which was kept by Fred Biehle, and another west of town, kept by Fred Helmerick. In those days, George Baily was mail carrier, and traveled from West Point with the mail in his pockets. The milling of the early settlers was done at Logan Creek Mills, over sixty-five miles distant, and for many years people could not get a plow sharpened nearer than West Point.
Stanton County was organized January 23, 1867, and its boundaries were defined as follows: "Commencing at the southwest corner of Township 21 north, Range 1 east; thence east to the southeast corner of Township 21 north, Range 3 east; thence north to the northeast corner of Township 24 north, Range 3 east; thence west to the northwest corner of Township 24 north, Range 3 east; thence south to the place of beginning."
At the time of organization there were fourteen families in the county, and the assessed valuation of property was $855 personal, and $9,700 real. The first officers elected in the county were: W. D. Whalen, J. R. Layton and Francis Scott, Commissioners; Jacob Hoffman, Treasurer; Paul Heyse, Clerk; Joshua Maltbie, Probate Judge; M. B. Sharp, Sheriff, August Wagoner, Coroner; J. R. Layton and M. B. Sharp, Justices of the Peace. The election was held October 6, 1866, at the Humbug settlement.
There was no rivalry, and every officer was unanimously elected by the thirteen votes which were cast. In fact a thorough canvass was made before the voting began to find out who would take the offices. Thus was the principle that the "office should seek the man" early established in the politics of the county. Such a state of political purity was not long maintained, however, as will appear when we learn of the effort to change the county seat. The first meeting of the Board of Commissioners was held at Paul Heyse's sod house January 23, 1867. Evidently the clerk did not consider the details of the business done of sufficient importance to be recorded. Among other things it appears that the board instructed the Assessor not to tax dogs, and established the fees of the Clerk at $25 per annum. During these early times, the meetings of the board were held at the Clerk's house, and as he was moving about the county, it was customary for him to notify the board a few days in advance where they could find him. In July, 1867, Paul Heyse resigned his position, and Cornelius Nye was appointed Clerk, and it was ordered that he be paid $20 for serving the remainder of the year. At this same session it was ordered that $10 be borrowed from the school fund to buy a county seal; and at a following meeting the Clerk was instructed to invest the $1.50 remaining in stationery for the office. In January, the following year, a meeting was held, and the following record appears: "Ordered that the bridge across Indian Creek shall be made so far as poll and road tax will make it." As the creek is narrow and travel across it began soon after, it is fair to suppose that the bridge did not stop in the middle.
In 1869, a petition to change the county seat was handed in, and in October the election took place. The county seat had been located where the town now stands, then an open space in the center of county; the Humbuggers concluded that it should be moved farther east. The only way to defeat them was to vote for a place about three miles east of town, known as Clinton. After a hotly contested election the vote was declared to be in favor of Clinton by a majority of eight.
The following indictment of the proceedings appeared in the records of board meeting for October 30, following the election: Mr. Jonas Nye made complaint, "that the election was illegal for the following reasons: First--That the ballot box was taken with the Judges and Clerks of said election with them when they went to dinner; Second--that there was whisky or other intoxicating drinks; Third--that whereas, on the first election held in Stanton County, the county seat was located upon the northeast quarter of the southeast quarter of Section 20, Township 23 north, Range 2 east, and no notice was given at the time required by law; and that on July 5, 1869, the citizens of Stanton County filed a petition asking for a relocation of said county seat, and the northeast quarter of the southwest quarter had a majority of eight votes. Ordered that the County Clerk ask for information on the above points whether said election was lawful or not."
Whether the Clerk received any information which unraveled the above does not appear. However, the legality of the vote was passed upon by District Attorney Gray, of Fremont, who decided, on account of some technicality, that the election was illegal, and thus the county seat was left undisturbed.
At a meeting of the board during this year, the following was passed, the peculiar wording being probably due to the exuberant feelings of the Clerk: "The fees of the Clerk of the county is to have a salary of $200 per year."
As soon as the county seat question was satisfactorily settled, buildings began to be erected at Stanton, and in 1869, the County Clerk had moved into town. From that time, the business of the county has been transacted here. In 1870, $300 were borrowed by the county, and in April, 1871, the contract to build a court house, 16x22 feet, was let to William Kendall for $475. Nothing has been done in the line of county buildings since, except to buy a small office, which is now used by the County Treasurer.
A petition is now being largely signed, requesting that an election be called for the purpose of voting money for erection of a new court house. As there is money sufficient in the treasury, it is probable that Stanton County will soon possess suitable buildings for its offices.
The present officers of the county are: J. Eberly, Clerk: Tobias Mack, Treasurer; S. S. Canfield, Sheriff; Joseph Johnson, Judge; William T. Sharp, Superintendent, Jesse Beard, Surveyor; J. G. Matheson, Agge Axen and A. Spence, Commissioners.
Among the first cares of the early settlers of Stanton was the establishment of good schools. This early zeal has not abated, and the county is now fully supplied with houses and teachers. At present it is divided into twenty-seven school districts. These are supplied with twenty school buildings, and the schools are taught by twenty-six teachers. The Superintendent's report for 1881 shows that there were in that year, 700 children of school age, of whom 414 were regular attendants. The number of days taught in each district varied from 60 to 180. The amount of wages paid during the year to teachers was $3,868.50. The value of school buildings, including sites, is given at $9,786.
Stanton's experience with railroads has been varied. As early as 1869, articles of incorporation were filed for a company which proposed to run a line of road through the county, and in that year the line of the Yankton & Columbus was actually surveyed. The company, however, probably never meant anything more than to attract settlers to the country, as nothing ever came of the survey, except, perhaps, that the officials of the company had an experience not common to this class. While the surveyors were in the county, S. L. Holman, John J. Rickley and Frank Becher, of Columbus, thought they would come up and show them the nearest way through. Their first night was passed in a "dug-out" and their second in a straw stack. The third night they got lost entirely, and were unable to find any shelter. To fill the cup of their misfortunes to overflowing, it rained all night. In the morning, the bedribbled officials concluded to let the surveyors get through as best they might and started for home.
The next road which proposed to build through Stanton was the Covington, Columbus & Black Hills line, and at a meeting held February 12, 1876, the Commissioners ordered an election on the question of issuing bonds to the road; $85,000 was voted by the people, but the road never complied with the terms of its contract, and the bonds were never issued.
In 1879, the Sioux City & Pacific railroad, which had reached Wisner in 1871, began making preparations for extending its line west. E. K. Valentine, E. N. Sweet and R. F. Stevenson, of West Point, came up into Stanton to work up the bond question; but the people had grown tired of voting bonds, and, besides, had good reason to believe that they would get the road without giving a bonus. Although the gentlemen succeeding in speaking, such an anti-bond demonstration was made that they left without having accomplished much. Afterward, however, $40,000 in bonds were voted to the road. The election was contested in the courts, but the vote was held to be legal, and the bonds are now a part of the county indebtedness. In the spring of 1880, the road was completed. It follows the Elkhorn Valley through the county, making a length of twenty-two miles of track.
Since its arrival, the growth of the county has been rapid. The value of the natural advantages of the section have become more apparent now that access may be so readily obtained, and settlers find greater inducements to come to a country where their products can be easily shipped.
In addition to the facilities for communication offered by the railroad, Stanton County is well supplied with bridges, and roads have been laid out, leading from all points to the county seat.
Of the unoccupied lands in the county, but little is now owned by the General Government. The railroad company owns some, but by far the largest portion is in the hands of non-resident speculators. It was bought up mostly in 1869 and 1870, after the rush of immigration, which occurred in these years. This circumstance has proved a great detriment to the settlement of the country. At present good land can be bought at prices ranging from $1.75 to $8 per acre, and improved farms are occasionally on the market for from $7 to $15 per acre.
The average yield of grain is about fifteen bushels of wheat, fifty of corn, and fifty-five of oats per acre. From two to three tons of hay per acre can be cut on the bottoms, and timothy yields well where an attempt has been made to cultivate it.
Stanton County will furnish the markets with all the varieties of fruits suitable to this climate. Grapes are easily kept, and yield abundantly. One of the greatest needs of the county at present is a good mill. No better water-powers can be found in the country than are furnished by the Elkhorn River and Union Creek. The Elkhorn is a very rapid stream, but the power is difficult to control, on account of the sand banks. The creek, however, could be dammed at little expense, and would furnish sufficient power to run a large mill. Several efforts have been made in the county to establish such a manufactory. In April, 1875, $10,000 bonds were voted by Stanton Precinct to build one, but the Auditor refused to record them, and they were decided illegal, as the mill was deemed not to properly come within the limits of internal improvement.
In 1879, a citizens' subscription was raised, with which to aid in the construction of another mill, but the man who undertook the enterprise failed to respond after the money had been subscribed. The demands of the country for this kind of an enterprise will soon, no doubt, secure a mill which will surely prove a paying investment to the man who engages in the business.
The following figures show the extent to which stock-raising has been carried in the county: In 1881, there were 783 horses, 4,349 cattle, 6,231 sheep, and 3,592 hogs in the county.
The total property valuation of the county as assessed, was $661,345.32, of which $167,503.32 was on personal property.
The latest census returns give the population of the county at 1,994.
Germany, Wisconsin, Indiana, Iowa, Ohio, Illinois and New York have contributed to this population in the order named. About two-thirds of the people are of foreign extraction, and are noted for their thrift.
The financial condition of the county is remarkably good. The latest report of the County Treasurer gives the following showing: Total funds on hand for 1881, $34,267.97; total disbursed for 1881, $21,468.93; total on hand in October, $12,799.04. There is no floating indebtedness, and the only bonded debt is the $40,000 which was voted to the railroad company in 1879.