Andreas' History of the State of Nebraska

Saunders County
Produced by
Jennifer Beatty.


Topography and Geology | First Settlers and Early History
A Reminiscence | Creeks of Saunders County | Political History

County Organization | County Progress | Education

Wahoo:   Early History | Political History | Religious | Schools | Societies | Manufacturing
Biographical Sketches
Ashland:   Business Interests | Schools | Societies | Religious
Ashland:   Biographical Sketches
Valparaiso:   Biographical Sketches

Chapman Precinct:   Biographical Sketches
Douglas Precinct: | Biographical Sketch
Rock Creek Precinct
Clear Creek:   Biographical Sketches
Chester Precinct | Marietta Precinct
Alvin (Mead P. O.):   Biographical Sketches
Elk Precinct:   Biographical Sketch
Richland Precinct | Center Precinct | Newman Precinct
Miscellaneous Biographies

List of Illustrations in Saunders County Chapter

Part 1.


   SAUNDERS County is included in the second tier of counties west of the Missouri River, and is bounded on the north and east by the Platte River, south by Cass and Lancaster Counties, and west by Butler County. It embraces 483,840 acres of deep, rich, loamy soil, divided into bottom, plain and rolling lands. It is located in the great Platte Valley, and is included in the flood plains of the broad and shallow Platte, whose immense floods are derived from the snows of the Rocky Mountains, which, after draining their eastern slope from the Thirty-ninth to the Forty-third parallel of latitude, descend into and flow through the great plain with a swift whirling and boiling current, until they are finally lost in the still greater floods of the Missouri. A marked feature is the high and abrupt coast line which descends in Township 15, Range 9 east, to the level of the ancient lake bed, which, in a former geological age, covered about one-third of the area of the county. Another important feature is a belt of land about three and one-half miles in width, commencing at Pohocco Headland, in Township 17 north, Range 7 east, trending its way with the course of the Platte, terminating in Township 15, Range 9. In character, it is similar to the yellow marl or bluff formation of the Missouri River, indicating the site of an island in the ancient lake, which covered portions of Saunders, Dodge, Douglas and Sarpy Counties. Ranges 5 and 6, south of Sand Creek Valley, to Township 16 north, are generally high and rolling, with exposures of drift containing bowlders on the spurs of ridges, timbered with a fair supply of native forest growth, and possessing a soil well adapted to cereals and fruits, well watered by the branches of the Wahoo, Oak and Rock Creeks. No rock "in place," or other valuable mineral has yet been discovered, save sand-rock at one locality on the South Fork of the Wahoo, in Town 14, Range 5. Ranges 7 and 8, south of the Wahoo also possess a rolling surface, less elevated than the ranges further west, with exposures of drift and bowlders on the south slopes, and several outcrops of red sandstone within the valley of Rock Creek. The southeastern and central portions of the county embrace portions of the flood plains of the Platte, the Salt and the Wahoo Creeks, with an undulating table-land having a general elevation above the flood plains of thirty-five feet, and a depression beneath the general summit of the ancient island of about seventy-five feet. It is destitute of timber, stone and running water, excepting Silver Creek. The soil is loose, friable dark brown, warm, and very productive. Its water-courses, ten in number, are evenly extended, and the conditions of climate are most favorable.


   Prior to 1856, the territory now included within the boundaries of Saunders County had not been visited for the purpose of settlement by the white man. In the early history of Ashland begins the history of the county. The old Government trail from Plattsmouth and Nebraska City via Fort Kearney, Fort Laramie and Fort Bridger, passed through the present site of Ashland, crossing the Salt Creek at this point, in those days called Saline Ford, which enjoyed the fame of being the only rock-bottom ford of the creek, and the only available point at which heavy freight teams could cross. Many emigrants had crossed Saline Ford, and, for some years previous, it was an ordinary sight to see the canvas-covered wagons of freighters and emigrants as their trains slowly plodded their weary way over the ridge that hems in the present village of Ashland. Some speculators, realizing the natural advantages the ford presented for the future city, had made claims, staked out a town site, and erected a frame building on either side of the creek at the ford, but they were abandoned in 1856, and never reclaimed.

   On the 10th of June, 1856, Mr. Reubin Warbritton left Williamsport, Warren Co., Ind., to find a home in Nebraska. He was accompanied by Mrs. Warbritton, and, in the latter days of August, crossed the Missouri at Plattsmouth, intending to push on to Saline Ford; but, owing to the late frosts of that year, he remained at Cedar Island to winter. The trip required about twenty-three days to make it, they camping out on the way and driving their stock.

   About the middle of August, 1856, Mr. Joseph Stambaugh, in company with Mrs. Stambaugh and their three little children, with all their earthly possessions in a farm wagon drawn by a single pair of horses, set out to find a home in the great Northwest; but, after journeying about one hundred miles into Iowa, and meeting some friends, they were persuaded to turn their steps to Nebraska. In eighteen days they reached the Missouri, crossing at Plattsmouth. A few miles away from the river, and all traces of the settlers had disappeared, only a broad expanse of rolling, billowy prairie as far as the eye could reach. They continued up the trail, reaching Saline Ford on the evening of September 6. The next morning they crossed the ford and camped in the deserted building erected by the speculators. They remained but one month, and Mr. Stambaugh explored the country, and selected a favorable spot to locate, and started for Plattsmouth October 8.

   In March, 1857, Mr. Warbritton, in company with Joseph Stambaugh and his hired man, Mr. John Aughe, left Plattsmouth and came to the ford. Mr. Warbritton took up a claim on Section 34, Town 13, Range 9; Mr. Stambaugh on Section 35. Mr. Aughe made a similar claim upon Section 35. During this time, Messrs. Warbritton and Aughe broke the first ground in Saunders County, with which to build them a sod house. They also aided Mr. Stambaugh to build a like home. These pioneer dwellings were all located upon Section 35. The dimensions of Messrs. Warbritton and Aughe's were 10x12 feet; that of Mr. Stambaugh's seventeen feet square.

   In June, 1857, Mr. Harrison Ramsey settled at a point about one mile above Mr. Warbritton's, on Section 28. In 1858, Samuel Hahn settled upon Section 1, Township 12, Range 10, but remained only two years, when his health failed and he went to Cedar Island, and died a short time after. He was a man universally loved and respected, and his loss was bitterly felt by the settlers. Thomas K. Chamberlin came from Vermont, and settled on a section, at the junction of the Mosquito Creek with the Wahoo. A Mr. Bryan settled in Township 13, just north of Ashland, on Section 26. This list, we believe, includes all the early settlers of the county. Mr. Warbritton reached his location about May 1, and is justly entitled to the honor of being the first settler of Saunders County, and is the first white man who took up his abode with his family, and has since continued his residence. Mr. Stambaugh followed Mr. Warbritton in two weeks, and is the second settler of the county. All honor is due them for their courage and perseverance, and even the peace and happiness that has come to their declining years is an insufficient reward for the privations and hardships that they endured the first few years. The marauding and thieving Pawnees were a constant source of annoyance to them, and their homes and families were subject to any of the red men's desperate deeds. Not a store or even a blacksmith nearer than Plattsmouth, a distance of thirty miles, with numerous unbridged streams, requiring days to make the trip, and no certainty of finding home or little ones on their return. The loneliness and hardships of their lives cannot be imagined by the uninitiated. But their efforts have been crowned with success. Those sod houses first expanded into a good, comfortable log house, and then a large, handsome farm house, which stands as a monument to their untiring energy. On one occasion, Mrs. Warbritton, provoked beyond endurance by the thefts and insolence of a Pawnee brave, seized a good goad and thrashed him into obedience, to the pleasure and delight of his companions. The lady at once became a heroine in their eyes, and was considered by them as a "much brave squaw." In 1857, Archibald Wiggin settled at Saline Ford, and threw up a brush dam across the creek. He remained but a short time, and his claim and interest fell into the hands of Dennis Dean, who came to Ashland in the fall of 1863, and built his well-known mill the following summer. During the years of 1858-59, Ashland became quite well known; but, for some cause, the influx of settlers was stayed; for, with the exception of one or two, none came to Saunders County. In this interval of time, great quantities of freight were shipped by the Government contractors, Messrs. Majors, Russell & Waddle, which included the supplies to Col. Sidney Johnston's command, engaged in the Mormon war. Ashland began to be looked upon as a depot of supplies for the freighters and emigrants, and the stock and produce of the settlers found a ready market, and commanded the highest of prices, and Saline Ford was famous until the Union Pacific Railroad superseded this pioneer way of moving freight.

   This one fact began to give life to the new settlement, and furnished it with an impetus it has ever felt, and its effect is still seen at the present time. It laid the foundation to many of Ashland's best business interests.

   In 1860, Austin Smith, Henry Howe, Stephen Brown and Solomon Henry settled upon the table-land north of R. L. Warbritton. Perry Tarpenning came in 1861, locating between Warbritton's and Smith's. In 1862, Hon. A. B. Fuller, Myron Moe, William Warbritton and Dr. William McClung.


   As a reminiscence of the past, the following is also related by Hon. Moses Stocking. The first marriage license issued in the county was granted by Andrew Marble, Probate Judge, November 7, 1866, and that in accordance with the statute in such cases made and provided. The aforesaid Judge on the same day joined in marriage Mr. Samuel V. Bumgarden and Miss Lucinda Hooker, all of Saunders County. The second license issued was granted by Jacob Sanders, Probate Judge, and for the special benefit of his worthy predecessor in office. Armed with the shield of Venus, the modest ex-Judge and the fair bride, Miss Sarah M. Brush, applied to our ingenious fellow-citizen, Dennis Dean, Esq., who, as matrimonial blacksmith, did the welding and pronounced them one. Thus were two cases disposed of during the first two years of the county's existence. Now, the average is about one each week. The third marriage solemnized within the county does not appear upon the county probate record, for the reason that the male party of the transaction obtained his license from Cass County; but, as the case presents some novel features illustrating how frontier Justices sometimes blundered in their efforts to administer the law, we will relate it here. As some of the parties are still living and might feel uneasy, we shall suppress all names. Armed with their Cass County license, the parties appeared at evening before a venerable magistrate of this county, and requested him to dispense the legal solder that should make them one. The accommodating Squire, ever ready to further the pleasure of his friends, proceeded at once with his ceremony, declaring that those whom he had joined together no man should put asunder. Joy was triumphant! All passed smoothly until morning, when one of those imps of deviltry who are always on the hunt for mischief, hinted to the parties that as their license came from Cass County, it could not be valid in Saunders County; therefore, their marriage by a Justice of the latter county could not be legal--in fact, null and void. Here was a dilemma. The Justice was speedily informed of the difficulty. "Well, well." says he after a moment's thought, "there may be something in this. Let me see. Oh! I can fix it. Here; you two jump into your wagon, and drive over into Cass County; it's only two miles, and I will go with you, and marry you there."

   The team was quickly brought around--all aboard--and the parties were off for the happy land of Canaan--Cass. When the county line had been crossed, "Halt!" says the Squire. "This is as good a place as any," and there, in the wild prairie, out of sight of civilization, and only the blue sky of heaven above them, the venerable Justice again pronounced them one, never dreaming that he was as far beyond his jurisdiction as the license was in the other.

   Joseph Humes, M. K. Hall and Giles Fruman located within the corporate limits. Messrs. Fuller & Moe opened a store for general merchandise, which is the first business enterprise of Ashland. Dr. McClung commenced the practice of his profession. Humes & Warbritton put a sawmill in operation. Howe opened a wagon shop; M. K. Hall a blacksmith shop; Mr. Smith still resides upon his farm, and has been successful; John Smith died in Butler County nine years since; Mr. Aldrich was suffocated in a well of Mr. Tarpenning's, in the fall of 1861, and his death is believed to be the first that occurred at the new settlement. In 1861, Charles Richart settled on the Platte bottom, Town 17, Range 6, and in the fall of the same year John Garrett and a Mr. Anderson settled near him. In 1863, W. H. McCowan and Doctor Wood located upon the tableland, just above the Pohocco Headland, and Perry Reed on the Headland Bluff, in 1865. This noted headland merits a brief notice in his place, having, in a former geological period, occupied the position of an island in the midst of a lake of considerable magnitude that covered portions of Saunders and adjoining counties. It now stands a bold headland against which the waters of the Platte impinge with violence fully 150 feet below its crest. Across its smooth bosom the fierce red man laid his trail, and from its summit, a gentle knoll, stood and gazed over the beautiful landscape beneath the rushing, turbid waters of the Platte. Around as far as the eye could reach, a sea of verdure; in the distance, the valleys of the Elkhorn and Maple Creeks, on either hand the immense Platte bottom stretching away into indistinctness, presented a scene of softened loveliness seldom surpassed. Near the close of 1856, this spot was selected by a party of speculators, residing at Nebraska City, Plattsmouth and Glenwood, Iowa, as the site of the town which was to become the city of the Territory and capital of the future State. Neopolis was laid off with imposing and magnificent proportions. Broad avenues and spacious streets crossed each other at right angles. Public squares and parks were numerous. A saw mill was purchased, sent up and set to work to cut lumber for the future capital of Nebraska. But alas! All these visions of future greatness came to naught. The great city was never built. The capital would not at that time emigrate from Omaha, and the operators, after losing some money, abandoned the enterprise. The war of the rebellion virtually stopped immigration, and very few settlers came to Saunders County until 1865. Hon. Moses Stocking settled in Stocking Precinct in 1865. William and Jacob Saunders, in the fall of 1863, located upon Section 26, Clear Creek Precinct. Thompson Bissell settled upon Section 34, Wahoo Precinct, in July, 1864. Lyman R. Brush and Hobart Brush settled upon Section 2, Clear Creek Precinct. W. R. Snell located at Ashland and opened a store for the sale of general merchandise. William Warbritton also opened a similar store at Ashland, in 1863, which was the second business house established in Saunders County. After Mr. Dean built his mill in 1864, the town began to build up more rapidly; it seemed to form a nucleus around which gathered the future city. It is located upon Sections 1 and 2, of Range 9, Town 12, and is the oldest town of Saunders County. At the first general election in 1867, the county seat was located here. At a regular meeting of the County Commissioners in and for Saunders County, held February 2, 1870, the following petition was presented:


   We, your petitioners, residents and taxpayers of the town of Ashland, Saunders Co., Neb., would petition your honorable body that they may be incorporated as provided in Chapter LIII of the general statutes under the name and style of Ashland. Signed by C. H. Walker, M. Willsie, Hon. A. B. Fuller, I. N. Atkinson and thirty-eight others.

   From the Commissioners' records, page 54, we find the petition of the citizens of Ashland to be incorporated as a town, was taken up, and it was ordered that the petition be granted. Messrs. Dennis Dean, T. W. Valentine, T. B. Wilson, J. H. Snell and M. Willsie were appointed Trustees.

   John L. Tidball, J. M. Bond and W. P. Snell were appointed Judges, and G. W. Sheppard, E. V. Kidner, Clerks of election. Attested by C. H. Miller, County Clerk.


   Saunders is the best watered county in the State. Besides the many creeks there are hundreds of springs developing all over the county.

   Salt Creek gathers its waters from Saunders, Butler, Seward and Lancaster Counties, uniting them in the Great Salt Basin, near Lincoln, and flowing thence northeasterly through a broad and beautiful valley, flanked on either hand by picturesque slopes of upland.

   The Wahoo is a stream of much importance in the county. Its numerous upper branches rise in Range 5 east, and in Towns 14, 15, 16 and 17 north, and flowing in a general southeast direction, unite their waters near the geographical center of the county.

   Sand Creek, the longest and largest of these tributaries, has its source near the Platte coast or bluff, and also near the west line of the county, in Township 17 north. Its general course is southeast to Section 13, of Town 14, where it unites with the Wahoo. It offers four good sites for manufactories--waters a large extent of the county, has a splendid valley which offers an easy route for a railroad to the Platte bottom, and has two tributaries--Willow and Spring Creeks.

   Cottonwood, the next tributary in order of the Wahoo, rises in Section 20, Town 16, Range 5, and has a very direct southeast course some fifteen miles, and enters the Wahoo on Section 9, Town 14, Range 7. Its lower valley is very fine.

   Dunlap Creek, also a timbered branch, rises on Section 8, Town 14, Range 5, and bearing northeasterly, enters the larger creek on Section 32, Town 15, Range 6.

   North Fork, or Barnhill Branch, is the most southerly of the upper branches, and rises about Section 25, Town 14, Range 5. Running northeasterly, it joins the Wahoo on Section 10, Town 14, Range 6.

   The next tributary of the right bank is the Miller Branch, a small stream, but traversing a broad valley. It rises about Section 33, Town 14, Range 6, and runs nearly east to Section 30, Town 14, Range 7. Here is joins the Wahoo on Section 8, of same precinct. At this junction is located a fine grove, which, also, was a noted landmark in the early times of white men.

   Below this point the right bank of the Wahoo receives no tributary of note, they being mere draws, heading in the divide, and of only two to four miles in length. Although many in number and of much value for watering stock, yet none of them are running streams throughout the year.

   Clear Creek.--Passing now to the left bank, first below Sand Creek, we find the clear and sparkling ribbon of water known as Silver Creek. Its sources are four springs which issue from the southern side of the "Ancient Island," and it empties into the Wahoo on Section 17, Town 13, Range 9.

   Upper Clear Creek, the Clear Creek of the island, is a still more feeble stream, rising in Section 15, Town 8, and discharging into the Platte bottom at Section 1, town 14, Range 9.

   Lower Clear Creek, or the Clear Creek of the bottom, rises from the south side of a bog, in the west side of the Platte bottom. Its course is near the bluff, until it meets the Wahoo Valley on Section 35, Town 13, Range 9; thence it bears easterly until it discharges its waters into the Wahoo, and but a short distance from the debouchure of the latter into Salt Creek.

   Rock Creek.--Passing now to the south side of the county, we find Rock Creek, a small mill-stream, with one branch rising in the southwestern corner, and one in the northern part of Town 13, Range 6, and crossing into Lancaster County on Section 31, of Town 13, Range 7. The North Fork of this stream rises on Section 31, of Town 14, Range 7, and runs southeasterly through a fine valley, leaving the county on Section 36, of Town 13, Range 7. On the border of this valley are located the best sandstone quarries in the county.

   Oak Creek.--The East Fork of this stream rises in Butler county, and passing through, waters the southwest township of Saunders County. Oak Creek now becomes a moderate mill-stream with a very fine valley, and discharges its waters into Salt Creek.


   By an act approved March 6, 1855, bounding the county of Lancaster, all that portion of Saunders which lies east of Range 5 east, was included in said boundaries, the remainder of the present territory being included in the boundaries of Green County. By an act approved the same date, the standard parallels and guide meridians were run during the summer and fall of 1855. The Legislature, when it assembled in January, 1856, proceeded to rebound and define, by surveyed lines and water-courses, the several counties which were bounded by the previous Legislature. By an act approved January 26, 1856, the boundaries of Green and Lancaster Counties were so modified as not to include any portion of the territory now known as Saunders County. Section 19 of said act, read as follows:

   "SECTION 19. Calhoun--Beginning at the southwest corner of Township 13, north of Range 5 east, thence east to the main channel of the Platte River; thence up said channel until it intersects the fourth standard parallel; thence west to the northwest corner of Township 16 north, of Range 5 east; thence south to the place of beginning, shall be named and hereafter known as Calhoun County." As none of Township 17, in Ranges 5, 6 and 7, which lies south of the Platte River, was included within the boundaries of Dodge County, it follows that that strip of territory was left out, not being included within the boundaries of any defined county. By Section 1 of an act approved November 3, 1858, Calhoun County is re-bounded, to wit: Beginning at the southwest corner of Township 13, of Range 5 east, of Sixth Principal Meridian, thence east to the main channel of the Platte River; thence up said main channel until it intersects the line dividing Ranges 4 and 5; thence south along said dividing line to the place of beginning. By an act approved December 22, 1859, entitled an act to redefine the southern boundaries of Platte and Dodge Counties, the south bank of the Platte River is declared to be the southern boundaries of said counties, but did not effect the former boundary of Calhoun County, east of Range 7.

   Now comes that period of Nebraska's history when ballot-box stuffing and other misdemeanors charged upon the Surveyor General of Kansas and Nebraska, made the name Calhoun odious to the people of those Territories, and the good citizens of the latter determined, as far as possible, to wipe it out; accordingly, an act approved January 8, 1862, was passed. Section 1 reads: "That the name of Calhoun County be and is hereby changed, and shall be hereafter known by the name of Saunders." The adoption of the name of Saunders was intended as an honor to Nebraska's last Territorial Governor, the Hon. Alvin Saunders. By an act approved February 8, 1865, Saunders was attached to Cass County for judicial, election and revenue purposes, but two years later an act approved February 8, 1867, detaches Saunders from Cass, and provides for holding courts in said Saunders. Section 1 of this last act repeals the attaching act. Section 2 commands the Commissioners to petition the Judge of the District Court to hold a term of court therein. Section 3 requires the Commissioners to give notice of said petition. Section 4 attaches Saunders to the Second Judicial District. Section 5 requires the Commissioners to select forty names to serve as Grand and Petit Jurors. Section 6 requires the Clerk and Sheriff to draw sixteen of those names to serve as Grand Jurors, and twelve names to serve as Petit Jurors. Section 7 requires the Clerk to issue venires. By an act approved February 12, 1866, and which went into effect July 1, 1866, the boundaries of the county are again changed. That the following-described piece of land to wit: A strip of land from the north side of Township 12, north of Range 9 east, of the Sixth Principal Meridian, and bounded as follows, viz.: Commencing at the northeast corner of said township, and running south two miles; thence west six miles; thence north two miles; thence east six miles to the place of beginning, is hereby detached from Cass County and attached to Saunders County.

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Index of Illustrations in Saunders County Chapter
  1. [View of Wahoo.]
  2. [J. Manners' Clothing House.]
  3. [Portrait of Henry Anderson.]
  4. [Portrait of H. H. Dorsey.]
  5. [Portrait of W. H. Dickinson.]
  6. [Dickinson Block, Bank and Hotel.]
  7. [Portrait of A. S. Mansfelde, M. D.]
  8. [Portrait of R. K. Johnson.]