Andreas' History of the State of Nebraska

Greeley County
Produced by
Connie Snyder.

   GREELEY County is situated a little northeast of the center of the State, and is twenty-four miles square, and contains 368,640 acres. It is bounded on the north by Wheeler County, on the east by Boone, on the south by Howard and on the west by Valley.


   The county is well watered by small streams. The only stream of great size is the North Loup River, which flows across the southwestern part of the county. The stream next in size is Cedar Creek, which flows across the northeastern part. Between these streams are numerous other creeks, tributary to the North Loup, that render running water accessible from almost all parts of the county.

   The valleys of all these streams are broad and level. Then come high and steep bluffs, intersected by numerous deep gulches and cañons. These bluffs and hills extend back for some distance, though the divides are not much broken. Where the streams are not far apart, the hills extend from the bluffs of one to those of the other; but when they are far apart, the divides form a comparatively level table-land for several miles in extent.

   The soil of the county is fertile. In some localities there is a great deal of sand, but not enough to prevent the raising of good crops. The level bottom lands are all fertile, and suited to farming purposes. The bluffs and hills have a very fair quality of soil, covered with a rich growth of grass, but they are too rough and steep to be cultivated. The table-lands on the divides are quite level, fully enough so to be readily tilled. The soil here is deep and very productive. In many places in the bluffs near the streams is found stone that is said to be suitable for building purposes, though it is not of the best quality.


   In the fall of the year 1871, when the immigration to Nebraska was very great, several parties came up the North Loup, making examination for the purpose of selecting a favorable location for their future homes. One of these parties consisted of a committee sent out by a colony of Seventh-Day Baptists, which had been formed in Wisconsin, for the purpose of selecting a location in Nebraska where they could be apart from the people who observed the first day of the week as the Sabbath. The committee sent out returned to Wisconsin with glowing reports of the North Loup country, and particularly of the portion around where the towns of Scotia, in Greeley, and North Loup, in Valley County, now stand. Though they only viewed the land from the opposite side of the river--fording being impossible--the broad and level bottom lands near where the town of Scotia now is were selected as the most favorable location. Another committee was soon sent out, and they returned with the same story of the beauty and apparent fertility of the lands in this vicinity. This, therefore, was the spot chosen for the settlement of the colony.

   A few homestead claims were entered in 1871 by members of the above-mentioned colony, and by others who had selected their future homes in this locality.

   It was not, however, until the spring of 1872 that the county began to settle with any rapidity, and the families of the homesteaders began to arrive. The Wisconsin colony arrived and settled on the North Loup, in Towns 17 and 18. The greater number of the Seventh-Day people, however, settled in Town 18, in what is now Valley County, but the reports of the country had induced many others to come, and, during the spring, quite important settlements were formed in the southwestern part of Greeley County, on both sides of the river. About twenty families came to the county this spring and summer. As soon as the settlers arrived, they went to work immediately to build houses and make the other improvements necessary in opening up new farms. A great deal of prairie was broken, and preparations made to put in crops the next year.

   During the spring and summer of 1873, there were great accessions made to the little settlement on the North Loup, and improvements went on rapidly


   During these years, the settlement of the county continued to increase. The settlers were enterprising and industrious, and soon opened up productive farms and made the necessary improvements. With the exception of the grass-hopper years, when the ravenous insects laid waste all this portion of the State, the crops had been good, and by 1877, the settlers began to flock to the county in large numbers. Gen. O'Neill, who had conceived the idea of forming settlements of Irishmen in this and neighboring counties, selected a location in the center of the county, on Spring Creek and other small streams, and in the uplands in the same locality, at once set to work to colonize it with his countrymen. A town was laid out not far from the center of the county, and called O'Connor, in honor of the Roman Catholic Bishop of that name, and was platted by Gen. O'Neill and John McCreary on November 27, 1877.

   The first settler in this vicinity was James L. Reed, who came before the projection of the settlement of the Irish Catholic colony. Patrick Hynes located here in the spring of 1877, and was appointed as a local agent for the association. By his efforts, it was not long until about twenty Irish families had located in the central part of the county.

   In October, 1877, the first newspaper in the county was established, at Scotia, by two young men from St. Paul. The paper was called the Greeley County Tribune.

   In 1880, the population of the county had increased until it was now 1,461. The Irish settlement now numbered about sixty-five families. The Catholic association, through Gen. O'Neill, had purchased 25,000 acres of land in the center of the county, and now a fresh impetus was given to this settlement, as the association was using every effort to settle up this land. A new town called O'Connor was laid out about three and a half miles from the old town site of O'Connor, on a site selected by the Bishop himself, and a town was started at once. The first town of that name that was laid out never was built up.

   In 1881, the settlement of the county increased very rapidly. This was notably the case with the Irish settlement near O'Connor. A settlement was also started by the Irish in Cedar Valley, and a town laid out.

   The county has continued to progress very rapidly during the past year, and the population now numbers about two thousand.

   Public improvements, such as bridge and schoolhouse building, have kept pace with the settlement of the county, but no county buildings of any importance have been erected. The court house is only a little one-story building, with one small room.


   Early in the fall of 1872, measures were taken by the citizens to organize Greeley County and to elect county officers. In accordance with an application made to him, Acting Governor William H. James issued a proclamation ordering an election to be held on the 8th day of October.

   The only settlement at that time was in the southwestern part of the county.

   At the election on the day appointed, thirteen votes were cast, and the following officers were elected: Commissioners, A. P. Fish, T. C. Davis and A. Shepard; Clerk, E. B. Fish; Treasurer, S. C. Scott; Sheriff, G. W. Babcock; Judge, George Hillman; Surveyor, Mansel Davis; Superintendent of Schools, J. G. Kellogg; and Coroner, C. H. Wellman.

   Location of the County seat.--As yet there was no county seat, but on the 20th day of January, 1873, the first meeting of County Commissioners was held at Lamartine Post Office and all necessary business transacted, and an election for the purpose of selecting a county seat was ordered to be held on the 11th day of February, 1873.

   The election for the purpose of locating the county seat was held on the appointed date, two points being voted for. The result was as follows: For location on the northwest quarter of the northwest quarter of Section 23, Town 17, Range 12, eighteen votes were cast; for location of the county seat on the northeast quarter of Section 9. in the same town and range as the above, seventeen votes were cast. In accordance with this result, the county seat was located at Lamartine by a majority of one vote.

   In November, 1874, another vote was taken on the location of the county seat. This time there were two points only little more than one mile apart contesting. These were the northwest quarter of the northeast quarter of Section 9, Town 17, Range 17 west, and the northeast quarter of the northeast quarter of Section 16, of the same town and range. At this election, the former place received sixteen votes and the latter ten votes; therefore the county seat was declared located at the former named point, where it has ever since remained, and is known as the town of Scotia.

   Several years later--December 6, 1881--there was another county seat election, Scotia and O'Connor being the two principal contesting points. The result of the election was 171 votes for Scotia, 196 votes for O'Connor and 33 votes for the county farm. Though O'Connor received the highest number of votes cast, Scotia retains the county seat, a two-thirds majority being required for its removal.


   In October, 1873, the general election of county officers was held, with the following result: David Moore, Commissioner; A. Gillespie, Jr., Clerk; S. C. Scott, Treasurer; J. A. Buchan, Sheriff; L. Phillips, Judge; E. G. Davis, Surveyor; J. G. Kellogg, Superintendent of Schools; and C. H. Wellman, Coroner.

   A flouring mill on the North Loup was now in contemplation, and S. J. Bories agreed to build one if the county would vote and give to him $12,000 in bonds. Therefore an election was called on March 31, 1874, for the purpose, and the bond proposition carried by twenty-three votes for to twelve votes against.

   On May 1, 1874, the County Commissioners met and refused to issue bonds and enter into contract with S. J. Bories for the building of the proposed mill, for the reason that the Supreme Court of the State had just decided mill-bonds voted by a county to be illegal.

   At the annual election in the fall of 1875, the following county officers were elected: Mansel Davis and N. Worden, Commissioners; A. Gillespie, Jr., Clerk; O. M. Harris, Judge; John Sheldon, Treasurer; John Vairy, Sheriff; E. G. Davis, Surveyor; M. Davis, Superintendent of Schools; and C. H. Wellman, Coroner.

   At the November election in 1876, David Moore was elected Commissioner.

   The first term of the District Court of this County was held in July, 1877, Judge E. K. Valentine presiding. The first case tried was a divorce suit--W. H. Applegarth against his wife, Ella Appelgarth. At this term of court the first attorney was admitted to the bar. He was Seth P. Mobley, publisher of the Platte Valley Independent, at Grand Island.

   At the general election on the 12th of November, 1877, the following officers were elected: H. A. Hill, Commissioner; W. M. Shaw, Judge; S. W. Bilyeu, Clerk; John Sheldon, Treasurer; M. Davis, Superintendent of Schools; W. M. Shaw, Surveyor; C. H. Wellman, Coroner; M. V. Elliott, Sheriff.

   At the election November 5, 1878, Dennis Sullivan was elected Commissioner.

   The election of November, 1879, J. B. Paddock was elected Commissioner; S. W. Bilyeu, Clerk; John Sheldon, Treasurer; A. M. Thayer, Sheriff; J. J. Bean, Judge; J. S. Crow, Surveyor; S. E. Horton, Superintendent of Schools; Michael Nestor, Coroner.

   On November 2, 1880, at the annual election, Lewis Herbert was elected Commissioner and James Lewis, Surveyor.

   The election of November 8, 1881, resulted in the election of the following officers: T. C. Phelan, Clerk; T. P. Lanagan, Treasurer; J. J. Bean, Judge; A. M. Thayer, Sheriff; S. E. Horton, Superintendent of Schools; Ira Bishop, Surveyor; W. H. Oles, Coroner; and F. M. Tully, Commissioner.


   This town is the county seat of Greeley County, and is situated on the left bank of the North Loup River. Its location is a pleasant one, on the nearly level bottom lands, in a broad valley.

   This was the place of the very earliest settlement in the county, and, at an election in November, 1874, the county seat was located here, since which time its history as a town commences. The town grew but slowly, however, and in 1877 the only buildings were the small court house and two other small buildings.

   In October, 1877, a newspaper, the Greeley Tribune, was established by E. O. Bartlett and A. B. Lewis, two young men from St. Paul, Howard County, which did much to call attention to the town and county, and thus contribute to their development. The Tribune is still published here, by W. T. Buchannan.

   The town is small, having a population of less than one hundred. The business houses are few, but these have a very good trade.

   There is a good school here, and the religious societies are well represented, taking into consideration the smallness of. the town.


   JUDGE JOHN J. BEAN, farmer, Greeley County, and attorney at law, located at Scotia in May, 1876, and engaged in farming and keeping hotel; was the first Postmaster in the place, taking the office in January, 1877, and holding same five years; elected County Judge fall of 1879. He located his land in Scotia Precinct, Greeley County, on Section 4, Town 17, Range 12, 230 acres, fifty of which is under plow; born in Merrimac County, N. H., April 9, 1842; lived in native State until 1855; family then moved to Ripon, Fond du Lac Co., Wis., where they lived two years, then to Waushara County, same State, where he attended the common schools, etc.; soon moved to village of Plainfield, same county, where he clerked; kept books, etc., until he came to Nebraska; enlisted in August, 1864, in Company I, Thirty-seventh Regiment Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry; placed on detached service ; mustered out May 5, 1865; married in Wautoma, Wis., April, 1862, to Miss Betsy J. Van Alen, of Dunkirk, Erie Co., N. Y. They have two children--Mary J. and Willie J. He is a member of I. O. O. F. of Ord, Nebraska, and Ransom Post, No. 26, G. A. R.

   S. W. BILYEU, Postmaster and dealer in general merchandise, Scotia, opened the mercantile trade January 9, 1882; carries a stock of about $2,500; was appointed Postmaster in May, 1882; located in Lamartine, Greeley County, October 1, 1875. He taught school in the winter and farmed in the summer until 1877, when he was elected County Clerk of Greeley County; he was re-elected in 1879. He was born in Clinton County, Ill., August 17, 1844; lived in his native State until August, 1862; enlisted the 12th of the same month in Company E, One Hundred and Thirtieth Illinois Volunteer Infantry; participated in the battles of Port Gibson, Champion Hills, Black River, sieges of Vicksburg and Jackson, and was taken prisoner at Sabine Cross Roads, and confined in Camp Ford, Texas, thirteen and one-half months; was mustered out in June, 1865; came to Bond County, Ill.; farmed and taught school for four years, then engaged in the mercantile business. He was married in Bond County, Ill., in 1865, to Miss Ella Harris, of St. Louis, Mo. They have had four children--Milo D., deceased, Frank S., Nellie E., and Le Roy V. His wife died in the spring of 1875. He was again married in Merrick County, Neb., February 19, 1877, to Miss Flora Donaldson of Burlingame, Neb. He is a member of Ransom Post, No. 36, G. A. R.

   S. E. HORTON, County Superintendent of Public Instruction for Greeley County, Neb., first came to that State in the spring of 1878, and settled in Spring Creek Precinct, on a homestead Section 28, Town 19, 160 acres, and timber claim on Section 34, of 160 acres; has about sixty acres improved, and 120 acres of the homestead under cultivation; was elected County Superintendent in 1879; born at West Haven, Rutland Co., Vt., September 4, 1852; lived in native State until 1872; attended the Fort Edward Collegiate Institute in Washington County, N. Y., graduating in the spring of 1872; taught school in several counties in New York. He came to Joliet, Ill., and took charge of Joliet Mound School a year. Taught in Spring Lake, Tazewell County, three years; taught in East White Hall, Greene County, Ill., several months. He is a wide-awake Western man.

   DAVID MOORE, farmer and stock-raiser, first came to Greeley County, Neb., in the spring of 1873, and settled on a homestead in Scotia Precinct; now owns 320 acres, 160 of which is under cultivation; wheat and corn does well in this county. He has been County Commissioner of Greeley County two terms, and Notary Public several years; born in Eaton, Preble Co., Ohio, February 14, 1827; lived in native State until 1834, and family moved to Richmond, Wayne Co., Ind., and lived five years; moved to Tazewell County, Ill., and farmed six years, then to Jones County, Iowa. He followed milling until 1873; married in Canton, Jackson Co., Iowa, 1848, to Miss Louisa Standish of Ontario County, N. Y. They have three children--Horace, Lillian E. and Milan S.; enlisted in August, 1862, Company K, Twenty-fourth Regiment Iowa Volunteer infantry; participated in battles of Port Gibson, Champion Hill, Black River, siege of Vicksburg, Sabine Cross Roads, Winchester, Fisher's Hill, Cedar Creek; was Orderly Sergeant of his company; mustered out in Baltimore, Md., in June, 1865. Is a member of Ransom Post, No. 36, G. A. R.

   ED. WRIGHT, has charge of general merchandise store for W. H. West, of Grand Island; business opened in March, 1878; carries stock of about $3,000. Mr. Wright located in Scotia at that time. The above is the first store established in Greeley County. He was born in Dover, Del., February 17, 1857; lived in native State until 1876, and went to Fort Scott, Kan., and engaged in the manufacture of cheese one season, then came to Nebraska. Married May 14, 1882, to Miss M. J. Bean, daughter of Judge J. J. Bean, of Scotia. Mrs. W. is a native of Plainfield, Wis.


   In 1877, when the Irish settlement was established near the center of Greeley County, a town was laid out, platted and filed. Nothing, however, was ever done toward building up a town on this site, and in August, 1880, a new town was laid out about three and a half miles from the old site, and this, too, was called O'Connor, in honor of the Roman Catholic Bishop O'Connor, who was a member of the association, and selected this as a favorable location for a town.

   Improvements in the town soon commenced. Patrick Hynes built and opened the first store in October, 1880. In December of the same year, Lanagan Bros. opened the second store.

   The spring previous to the platting of the town, a Catholic Church was built, but, on June 20, 1881, was blown down. A new one was soon erected, however, which is, for a country church, an imposing edifice.

   The first school in the settlement was taught in a sod schoolhouse, about midway between the two town sites, by Rev. Mr. Harris, a Baptist minister, in the summer of 1878.

   The first death in the settlement was that of Mr. Cline, in the fall of 1879.

   The first death in the present town was that of Mrs. Carr, August 8, 1881.

   The Sisters of Mercy have bought 320 acres of land here, and are erecting a school building.

   The town is beautifully situated on the uplands, nearly in the center of the county, and the country adjoining it is fast being settled, principally by Irishmen.

   There is a good weekly newspaper published here--the O'Connor Democrat, by R. H. Clayton, who established it early in 1882.


   T. C. PHELAN, County Clerk of Greeley County, Neb., came to O'Connor in March, 1880, located on railroad land and began farming. Elected County Clerk in the fall of 1881. He was born in Niagara County, N. Y., March 5, 1842. His family moved to Jackson County, Iowa, where he lived until he came to Nebraska. He was a student of Lenox College, Hopkinton, Iowa, and was Superintendent of Public Instruction in the latter county two years, and engaged in mercantile business for five years. He was married in the latter county, Iowa, December 29, 1868, to Miss Kate Fogarty, of Pittsburgh, Penn. They have three children--Mary Ellen, James Edward and Francis Joseph. Mr. Phelan owns 480 acres of land, 100 of which is under cultivation.

   A. M. THAYER, Sheriff of Greeley County, Neb.; resides in Spring Creek, same county. First came to Nebraska in June, 1875, and located in latter township on a homestead, where he engaged in farming and stock-raising. Now owns 320 acres fine land, ninety acres of which are under cultivation. Elected Sheriff in 1879; re-elected in fall of 1881. Born in St. Lawrence County, N. Y., May 21, 1841; lived in native State until 1854, and family moved to Rock County, Wis., and lived until 1872, when he went to Harrison County, Iowa; engaged in farming until he came to Nebraska; enlisted, May 18, 1861, in Company D, Second Regiment Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry; participated in battles first and second Bull Run, Gaines' Mill, Fredericksburg, South Mountain, Antietam and Wilderness; mustered out July, 1864. Married in Alexandria, Va., fall of 1863, to Miss Mary Ann Cogan, of London, England. They have five children--Ernest H., Maud C., Delia E., Percy and Lewis M. He is a member of Ransom Post, No. 26, G. A. R.

   T. P. LANIGAN, County Treasurer of Greeley County, resides in Iowa Precinct, Greeley County. He first came to Nebraska May 1, 1880, and located at O'Connor, where he taught school and engaged in mercantile trade one and one-half years, after which he engaged in farming, etc. Owns 480 acres land, 125 under cultivation. Born in Iowa County, Wis., January 11, 1854; lived in native State some time. In Chicago, Ill., three years, engaged in manufacture of Bessemer steel; also in Poughkeepsie, N. Y., in manufacture of dye woods, and from latter city to Montreal, Canada, where he clerked in grocery store a year; then to New York City some time; from thence to Iowa County, Wis., where he attended school, taught several terms, etc. Was a student in Wisconsin State University at Madison two years. Married, in Greeley County, Neb., 1881, to Miss Ellen Phelan, of Jackson County, Iowa. Elected County Treasurer fall 1881; also Justice of the Peace; tried first case in O'Connor.


   This is a town site located by the Irish Catholic association, in the Cedar Creek Valley, in the northeastern part of the county. It is surrounded by a good country, which is fast being settled. There is one store here, built and opened in the summer of 1881, by McDonald, and now a fine Catholic Church building is in course of erection

Top of Page    County Index    Table of Contents    Kansas Collection