Andreas' History of the State of Nebraska

Valley County
Produced by
Michelle Wiggins and Connie Snyder.


Natural Features and Productions | Early History | First Things
Organization and Elections | Progress of the County
Ord:   Early History | Later Improvements | Local Matters


Ord:  Biographical Sketches
North Loup:   Early History | Biographical Sketches

Valley County Names Index

Part 1

   VALLEY County is located not far from the center of the State, and is in extent twenty-four miles square. It is bounded on the north by Wheeler County, on the east by Greeley, on the south by Sherman and on the west by Custer.


   This is one of the best-watered counties of Central Nebraska, being crossed and intersected by a large number of streams. The North Loup River is the principal water course, and is from 400 to 800 feet in width, having quite a rapid flow of a large volume of water. It flows across the county from near the northwest corner in a southeasterly direction. On the east side of this river there are but few tributaries, but on the west they are quite numerous, the principal ones being Turtle, Dane, Mira and Davis Creeks. The Middle Loup River flows across the southwestern part of the county.

   The bottom lands or valleys along the streams are broad and very fertile, and before being broken up are covered with a tall and heavy growth of different varieties of wild grasses. These level valleys vary from three to ten miles in breadth, and after being brought under cultivation produce a heavy yield of crops that is unsurpassed in any part of the state.

   From the valleys to the uplands, the rise is generally very abrupt. In many places, within a distance of a few rods, the surface rises to high and steep bluffs and hills. On the uplands or divides between the streams, the land is generally very rough and hilly, intersected by numerous draws and cañons. On these divides smooth and level lands are rarely found, though there is a great deal of it that can be cultivated quite easily. It is estimated that fully 70 per cent of the area of the county is well adapted to crop-raising. The remainder of its acreage, comprising the rough and hilly land, affords the very best of grazing land.

   There is but little timber of a natural growth to be found in the county, and this is along the banks of the rivers and smaller streams. At the present time,, there is an abundance of willow, elm, cottonwood, oak, pine and cedar trees for fuel, and this wood can be bought at prices ranging from $3 to $5 per cord. Besides this, there is an abundant supply of peat farther up the North Loup Valley and on Cedar Creek, which insures cheap fuel for years to come. There are also several hundred acres of fruit and forest trees that have been planted on the farms of the settlers and are growing rapidly.

   There is still some Government land in the county, though the best of it has been taken up. There is also a large acreage of railroad lands, which are held at reasonable prices.

   The population of the county is now nearly 4,000, and is rapidly increasing. About nine-tenths of these are American born, while those of other nationalities are generally of an educated class. In fact, Valley County may be said to be far ahead of many frontier counties in the intelligence and social refinement of its citizens.

   In a financial point of view, the county is in a good condition, its indebtedness being light as compared with that of many new counties.

   There is yet no railroad line doing business in the county, but a railroad is now building up the North Loup River Valley from St. Paul, the grade being already completed to the village of North Loup, in the southern part of the county, and the prospects are that erelong it will be completed up the above-named valley across the entire county.


   The first actual settlement in the county was in April and May, 1872, when a small party of Danes from Wisconsin settled on the west side of the North Loup River, about two miles north of the present town of Ord, on what is now known as Dane Creek. In making an examination of lands for selecting a location, they first contemplated settling in the southern part of the county, near the present town of North Loup, but they learned that this location had already been selected by a colony of Seventh-Day Baptists from Wisconsin, who wished to live in a community by themselves, therefore the Danes pushed on up the valley to the location above named. Their party consisted of Peter Mortensen, Nels Andersen, George Miller, Jeppe Smith and Fall Miller and his family. These parties made a location in April, and early in May were followed by Christ Frey, who also located in the fertile valley along Dane Creek.

   The next settlement was formed at and around the present village of North Loup, in the Loup and Mira Valleys, by the Wisconsin colony of Seventh-Day Baptists above referred to. This colony had been organized about a year before, under the leadership of their pastor, Rev. Oscar Babcock, and a committee sent out to find a suitable location. Their object was to settle on the frontier and gather members of their own sect around them, that they might remain undisturbed by those who observed the first day of the week as the Sabbath

   The report of the committee sent out in the spring of 1871 was rather indefinite, therefore in the fall another committee was sent out to examine the same location that had been reported on by the committee sent in the spring. On exploring the North Loup Valley quite thoroughly, they selected the broad and fertile bottom lands along the Loup, in the eastern part of what is now Valley and the western part of the present Greeley County, and on both sides of the river.

   On receiving the report of the committee, the colony determined to settle on the lands selected, and began to remove thereto in the spring of 1872. The first party, numbering about fifteen families, under the leadership of Rev. Oscar Babcock, arrived in May, 1872, only a few days after the Danish settlement mentioned.

   During the year 1872, both the settlements referred to received some additions. In the fall, nearly twenty families located in the Seventh-Day settlement. During the year, the settlers of the spring built houses and broke up quite a large acreage of land. The settlers of the fall were kept busy building houses and preparing for the winter. The winter of 1872-73 was passed quite pleasantly in these lonely settlements. There was some fear of the Indians, but they did not prove dangerous.

   In the spring of 1873, there was quite an extensive immigration to the county. The principal settlements were in or near the North Loup Valley. Quite a settlement, however, was started in the southwestern part of the county, on the Middle Loup River. The first settlers here were J. P. Brown, John McKellar and M. Coombs. The two first named had arrived just before the terrible snow storm in April and camped with a trapper in order to keep from freezing. During the year, several settlers followed the above-named parties into the Middle Loup Valley. There was for the first few months a great deal of fear of attacks by the Indians, but other than severe scares no damage was done by them.

   The spring and summer of 1874 was noted for quite an extensive immigration to the county, and by this time there were a large number of settlers in the North Loup Valley and in many of its tributary valleys as well.

   Ever since the settlement of the county there had been frequent Indian scares, but there were no hostilities shown until the year 1874, when the settlers had several fights with them, but even then in the fights they engaged in, only one was killed. He was Sergt. Donahue, of the United States Army. Owing to the Indian troubles, Gen. E. O. C. Ord, then in command of the Department of the Platte, determined to station a company of soldiers in the northern part of the county. This was done, and a military post called Fort Hartsuff was established, and work on the buildings and fortifications was commenced at once.

   Early in the year 1874, the town of Ord was surveyed and building soon commenced.

   In the summer of 1874, while the crops looked prosperous for a large yield and a bright future for Valley County seemed apparent, the grasshoppers came, and here, as throughout the State, they completely destroyed all growing crops. Now, indeed, the future looked dark for the settlers of the county, and a great number of them unable to stand this loss of crops, left the county, never to return; but the larger number remained, though starvation and suffering stared many in the face. Those who remained had to practice the strictest economy and endure great privations, and even then many of them would have been driven to intense suffering, if not starvation, were it not for food and clothing having been contributed by their friends and by aid societies that had been formed in the East.


   The first sermon was preached in the county at the North Loup settlement, in May, 1872, by Rev. Oscar Babcock.

   The first post office in the county was established at North Loup, in the fall of 1872, and Oscar Babcock was appointed Postmaster.

   The first marriage took place in April, 1873, and was that of Nels Andersen to Miss Hannah Mortensen. The ceremony was performed by Rev. Oscar Babcock.

   The first birth occurred in the spring of 1873, and was that of a child of Warren Collins.

   The first death in the county was that of a young man named Gary, and occurred in the summer of 1873.

   The first schoolhouse was one built of logs, in the spring of 1873, at North Loup. The first school in the county was taught here in the following summer by Miss Kate Badger, now Mrs. W. J. Holliday.

   The first store in the county was established at North Loup, in the summer of 1873, by W. J. Holliday.

   The first frame house in the county was erected in 1873, by Orson S. Haskell, about three miles north of Ord.

   The first law-suit was tried in 1873, in the dugout residence of Peter Mortensen, and was a case of assault and battery with intent to kill. The suit was brought by Samuel Hawthorne against George McKellar, and was tried before Orson S. Haskell, Justice of the Peace.

   The first newspaper in the county was established at Calamus, near Fort Hartsuff, in the fall of 1875, by W. H. Mitchell. It was called the Valley County Herald, and was published there for two years, when he removed it to Ord.


   During the winter of 1872-73, steps were taken by the settlers to secure the organization of the county. Early in the year 1873, an act passed the Legislature permitting its organization. On the 17th day of February, 1873, Gov. Robert W. Furnas issued a proclamation ordering an election to be held at the residence of George Larkin, on the 18th day of March, 1873. H. A. Babcock, George Larkin and A. G. Post, were appointed Judges, and A. L. Clark and H. Collins, Clerks of Election.

   On the day appointed the organic election was held, and resulted in the election of the following county officers: John Case, L. C. Jacobs and D. C. Bailey, Commissioners; E. D. McKenney, Clerk; Frank Curtis, Treasurer; W. D. Long, Judge; H. A. Babcock, Sheriff; Thomas McDowell, Surveyor; and Charles Badger, Superintendent of Schools. The county seat was located on the site of the present village of Ord, though the name was not selected until some time after.

   The first regular election after the organization of the county, took place in October, 1873, and resulted in the election of L. C. Jacobs, John Case, and R. W. Bancroft, Commissioners; W. D. Long, Clerk; E. D. McKenney, Treasurer; Oscar Babcock, Judge; H. A. Babcock, Sheriff; Thomas McDowell, Surveyor; and Charles Badger, Superintendent of Schools.

   On August 25, 1874, a special election was held for the purpose of voting on a proposition to vote $6,000 bonds for the building of a bridge across the North Loop, at Ord. The proposition was carried by a vote of forty five for, and thirty-six against. The bonds were issued and the bridge commenced soon after, and in due time was completed. Before the completion of this bridge almost all communication between the settlers on the east and west sides of the river was cut off, as the fording of the North Loup was very difficult and dangerous.

   At the regular election on October 13, 1874, R. W. Bancroft was elected Commissioner; Peter Mortensen, Treasurer, and M. Coombs, Surveyor.

   At the annual election on October 12, 1875, M. Coombs, A. S. Adams and C. H. Wood, were elected Commissioners; Thomas Tracy, Judge; N. B. Goodenow, Sheriff; H. A. Babcock, Clerk; Peter Mortensen, Treasurer; Oscar Babcock, Superintendent of Schools; Charles Webster, Surveyor; and Charles Badger, Coroner.

   In 1876, the court house, a very small one-story building, was erected at Ord, the county seat. It is the same building now occupied by the county officers. The same year Fort Hartsuff was completed. The fort was built at a great cost to the Government, there having been some very fine buildings erected. During the time work was going on at the fort, and as long as the soldiers were stationed there, quite a settlement formed around it. There was a temporary town called Calamus one-half a mile from the fort, which at one time did a great deal of business, but in 1880 the post was abandoned, and these temporary settlers left the country, but the farmers and stock-raisers remained. The first term of District Court for the county was held at Ord, in August, 1876, Judge Thomas L. Griffey presided. On November 7, 1876, Oscar Babcock was elected Commissioner.

   At the regular election of November 12, 1877, H. A. Babcock was elected Clerk; Byron K. Johnson, Commissioner; P. Mortensen, Treasurer; Hermon Weston, Judge; H. W. Nelson, Surveyor; M. Coombs, Superintendent of Schools, and E. D. McKenney, Coroner.

   The election of November, 1878, resulted in the election of Oscar Babcock to the Legislature, for the large Forty-fifth Representative District, of which Valley County forms a part. A. V. Bradt and W. B. Kewn were elected Commissioners, and John Moore, Surveyor.

   At the general election on November 4, 1879, B. H. Johnson was elected Commissioner; H. A. Babcock, Clerk; Peter Mortensen, Treasurer; Herbert Thurston, Sheriff; S. S. R. Maine, Judge; H. W. Nelson, Surveyor, and M. Coombs, Superintendent.

   At the regular election in November, 1880, H. C. Perry was elected Commissioner.

   In the spring of 1881, the rapid settlement and improvement of the county again commenced, and by this time its future prosperity began to be assured.

   The regular election on November 8, 1881, resulted in the election of H. A. Babcock, Clerk; Peter Mortensen, Treasurer; John Mosher, Judge; Herbert Thurston, Sheriff; John F. Kates, Superintendent of Schools; Charles J. Nelson, Surveyor; E. D. McKenney, Coroner, and Arthur C. Lapham, Commissioner.


   The season of 1875 was a dull one, owing to the crop failure of the year before. The remaining settlers planted another crop, but the yield was light. The prospects for those who depended on crop-raising alone, were thus far very unfavorable.

   In 1876, a town called Vinton was projected on the prairie, about seven miles southwest from Ord. In 1877, there was but little done, but early in 1878, H. W. Nelson established a newspaper there, and called it the Valley County Courier. For about six months, he published the paper and did all he could to induce settlement in the proposed town of Vinton, when he became discouraged and moved his paper to Ord. On November 18, 1878, the Burlington & Missouri River Railroad Company donated the town site of Vinton, but the place never made a town of any great size.

   From the time of the grasshopper visitation in the summer of 1874 until the spring of 1878, the settlement of the county advanced but little. For the years of 1875 and 1876, the yield of crops was light, but in 1877, large crops were raised, and once again was the attention of those seeking homes in the West called to Valley County. In 1878, there was a very great immigration to the county, and a large acreage was added to the cultivated lands of the county. Large crops were raised in 1878.

   In 1879, the county continued to improve rapidly, and the settlement extended throughout all the valleys. The yield of all kinds of crops was again a large one. Further than the steady progress of settlement and improvements, no remarkable events took place.

   In 1880, the immigration to the county was kept up. By June 1, the population was 2,324, and by the 1st of the next January, it was nearly 3,000. The best land of the county was now fast being taken up and rapidly being opened up to farmers.

   In 1882, the progress of the county continued, and it now has a population of nearly 4,000. The valley lands are well settled, and a great many large and productive farms have been opened up. Every thing looks now looks prosperous for the future of Valley County, and there is no reason why immigration should cease until all the vacant lands of the county are occupied.

   The soil of Valley County has been found well adapted to the raising of all kinds of grain. Stock-raising is particularly profitable, owing to the great extent of grazing land, which is covered with the richest of grasses. The farmers are fast realizing that a combination of crop and stock-raising pays the best, and are getting around them small herds of cattle and sheep.

   Since the organization of the county, there have been but few crimes of any consequence. The only homicide occurred in June, 1881, when, as the result of a quarrel between two Danes, one of them, Nels Godfredtsen, shot and killed A. Thensen.


   This town is the county seat of Valley County, and is situated on the left bank of the North Loup River, not far from the center of the county. Its location is a very pleasant one, on the second bottoms of the river. As yet, the town has no railroad facilities, and is forty-five miles distant from St. Paul, the nearest railroad point. A railroad has, however, been surveyed up the North Loup River through Ord, and the grade has been built as far as North Loup, and it is expected that the road will be extended and trains be running into Ord within the next year.


   The history of Ord may be said to begin at the time of the organic election of the county, in March, 1873, when the county seat was located there. It was some time, however, before anything was done toward starting a town, and the county records were kept at the residences of the County officers.

   The town was laid out early in 1874, by Haskell Brothers and Robbins, who had purchased the land for the town site from the Burlington & Missouri River Railroad Company. About this time, Gen. E. O. C. Ord, who was in command of the Military Department of the Platte, made a trip up the valley for the purpose of selecting the location for Fort Hartsuff, and it was decided to name the new town Ord, in honor of him. For a long time, however, the town site was known among the settlers as "Chin City." At the time Ord was laid out as a town, the only house anywhere near the town site was that of A. T. Stacy, who lived on an adjoining section. Within the first year of the history of the town, a post office called Ord was established on the farm of A. T. Stacy, who was appointed Postmaster. About the same time, a schoolhouse was built there.

   In May, 1875, the town was carefully laid out by a surveyor, and the plat filed in the office of the County Clerk.

   The first building erected was the present court house, which was completed in February, 1876.

   In the spring of 1876, Herbert Thurston, now County Sheriff, built the first residence. In the fall of 1876, S. S. Haskell, father of the Haskell brothers, who laid out the town, moved to Ord from his farm on the east side of the river, and opened up the sale of general merchandise in the schoolhouse. He also at once began the erection of the building now known as the Ord City Hotel. Later in the season, this was completed, and he moved his stock of goods into it, and used it not only as a store, but also as the post office and hotel.

   No further improvement was made in the town until the fall of 1877, when W. H. Mitchell moved his paper, the Valley County Herald, from Calamus, and began its publication in a small log building he had removed from the above-named place, which had until this time, on account of its location near Fort Hartsuff, been the principal town of the county. During the year 1878, there was quite a large immigration to the county, and Ord began to grow quite rapidly. In the spring, E. S. Harter moved his small stock of goods over from Springdale Post Office, and built a store twenty-two by forty feet in size, two stories high, and put in a large stock of general merchandise, hardware and drugs. Herman Westover, an attorney, moved here from Calamus and erected a dwelling. W. A. Hobson and L. E. Post each erected blacksmith shops and dwellings. W. H. Mitchell sold the Valley County Herald to J. C. Lee, then built a dwelling and began the practice of law. In September, H. W. Nelson moved his paper, the Valley County Courier, from Vinton. There were now two newspapers until the Herald failed, in November.

   The same year, Z. K. Ferguson moved from Calamus and built a dwelling and store, and opened a stock of general merchandise.

   On February 3, 1879, J. H. Capron purchased the Courier, and established the Valley County Journal. In March, the Journal office was burned, but the rest of the town was saved. Early in the year, Case & Mortensen built and opened the first hardware store in the county. J. H. Collins built a small shop, which was occupied by himself and John A. Bales as a harness shop. S. L. R. Maine moved from his farm near Calamus and put up a residence. H. M. Deegan moved his building from Calamus and erected it in Ord. Copp & Westover erected a law office opposite the court house. H. W. Nelson built a livery and feed stable, the first in the town. A new Journal printing office was erected. H. A. Babcock and S. S. Haskell each built large residences. M. E. Getter and J. H. Collins also erected residences that year.


   In 1880, the little village began to make rapid progress indeed. So great was the improvement that it is impossible to mention it in detail. About thirty-five buildings were put up. Over one-half of these were business houses. The total value of buildings erected that year is estimated at $21,225. The population had by the end of the year increased to upward of 250.

   During the years 1881 and 1882, Ord continued to progress steadily, and its population will number about 500. All branches of business are well represented, and the trade of the town is in a prosperous condition. On November 8, 1881, bonds amounted to $5,000, were voted to the Union Pacific Railroad for the purpose of securing the early building of the railroad up the North Loup Valley.

   In 1881, the entire town was threatened with destruction by fire. Though the village was saved, the livery stable of H. W. Nelson was burned to the ground.

   In the spring of 1882, a fire broke out on the south side of the public square. It was caused by a defective flue. Before it could be stopped, several buildings, including the office of Judge Herman Westover, were completely destroyed.

   Ord was incorporated as a village on June 23, 1881. The following is the first Board of Trustees appointed on the above date by the County Commissioners: H. G. Rodgers, S. S. Haskell, B. C. White, R. F. Milford and H. W. Nelson.


   Manufactures.--The Ord Flouring and Grist Mill was commenced in the year 1880 and completed early in 1881, by R. F. Milford. It was built at a cost of $5,000, and for the quality of flour manufactured, it is second to none in the State.

   In 1880, John Drake & Co., started a brick yard, and the first year about 100,000 bricks were manufactured, since which time the yard has been kept up and a very superior quality of brick is made.

   Banks.--The Valley County Bank was established in October, 1880. A general banking and collection business is done. The affairs of the bank are in a prosperous condition. J. D. Bacon is President, and Frederick L. Harris, Cashier.

   The Ord City Bank was established and commenced business on March, 15, 1882. A general loan and collection business is done, and the bank starts in with very favorable prospects. H. C. Metcalf is President, and George A. Perceval, Cashier.

   Hotels.--Besides the restaurants and boarding-houses the hotels are two in number. The Ord City House is the old hotel built by S. S. Haskell, and is now owned and operated by James Dies, who keeps a good hotel.

   The Satterlee House, E. D. Satterlee, Proprietor, is centrally located, is well kept, and is doing a good business.

   Churches.--The different church societies are represented by the Methodist Episcopal, Baptist, Presbyterian and Seventh-day Baptist denominations. The two first named have capacious and comfortable houses of worship, which were completed in the spring of 1882. All these societies are liberally supported by the moral and intelligent citizens of Ord.

   Schools.--The Ord school is provided with able instructors, and is well sustained by the intelligent and education-loving citizens. One of the first things looked to in the foundation of the town was a good school, and no money or labor has been spared to make it such a one.

   Societies.--Ord Lodge, No. 90, Independent Order of Odd Fellows, have an organization of over fifty members. The society owns a hall and are in a prosperous condition. The order was organized in December, 1880, with thirty-six members. W. J. Wilson was the first Noble Grand.

   Foote Post, No. 40, Grand Army of the Republic, was organized late in the year 1880, with W. H. Williams Post Commander.

   Pilot Lodge, No. 57, Independent Order of Good Templars, organized at a quite early date. They have a large and working membership.

   Newspapers.--The Valley County Journal is published here by Capron & Wolf. It is a bright and well edited weekly, Republican in politics, and a five-column quarto in size. The Journal was founded in February, 1879, by J. H. Capron, who had purchased the Courier and changed the name, and published it but a few weeks until his office was burned, when the paper discontinued for a short time, until a new office could be fitted up. Since that time the Journal has continued to be published. In August, 1881, Charles E. Wolf purchased a half-interest in the paper.

   J. H. Capron came to Nebraska in September, 1874, and located at Fort Hartsuff, where he was Quartermaster clerk until December, 1875, when he went to Manitowoc, Wis., and took charge of a newspaper published there until February, 1878, when he again entered in Government employ in Wyoming Territory until December, when he located at Ord, and soon afterward started the Journal. He was born in Beloit, Wis., September 14, 1856. He learned the printer's trade in the office of the Freeport, Ill., Journal, beginning in 1871, and remaining until going to Fort Hartsuff, Neb. He was married February 15, 1882, to Miss Mary F. Ramsey.

   Charles E. Wolf, the junior editor of the Journal, came to Nebraska in June, 1881, and in August he purchased a half-interest in the Journal. He was born in Freeport, Ill., March 3, 1855. He learned his trade in the office of the Freeport Journal, beginning in 1872, and working there until he removed to Ord.

   The Ord Weekly Quiz is a bright and sparkling paper, Republican in politics, and was founded on April 6, 1882, by Will Haskell, of Chicago. The paper starts out with good prospects for future success.

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