Boone County, Nebraska - Genealogy Trails





Early History



    In 1871, the first white men visited Boone County with a view to permanent residence. Previous to this time, no white man, except Government Surveyors, adventurers, explorers, or daring trappers had ever explored this country.


    But the tide of Western emigration soon penetrated the valley , and the dwellings of civilization began to appear in this section of the "Great American Desert."


    The first company who ever passed up the valley with a view of locating consisted of six men--


        S. D. Avery

        Ralph Vorhees

        Robert Hare

        James Hare


    It had been organized at Columbus by Sam Smith, who, some years before, had gone through the valley in pursuit of a band of Indians and some stolen horses. The prospects for the early settler were not flattering.  On the south was the Pawnee Reservation, and on the north the roving bands of Sioux. Boone itself, the center, was a stamping-ground for both tribes and the scene of many depredations committed upon each other.


    John Hammond, Rpbert and James Hare and William Prescott arrived at the center of the county, where Albion is now located.


    This company had also been organized at Columbus, and consisted of twelve members, part of whom were to come up and pre-empt the land and the others were to bear the expense.


    Avery pre-empted one of the quarters of the present town section. The other three were taken in the names of John Stauffer, Robert Kummel and Rev. Henry Wilson, of Columbus. The others who had come up in the party located east of and adjoining the town.


    April 13, 1871, marks the arrival of the first actual settlers. The party consisted of fourteen men from Columbus, as follows:


        S. D. Avery

        Albert Dresser

        N. G. Myers

        W. H. Stout

        W. H. Prescott

        John Hammond

        Thomas Smit,

        Julius Day

        Charles Bassett

        John McGould

        Bobert Hare

        Ed Dwyer

        Mr. Walkup and the "two Missourians."



    The first house in the county was a poorly built sod house without a roof, but the hardy band of pioneers all lived together in the little room (about two weeks.


    At the end of that time, S. D. Avery and John Hammond went to Columbus for lumber, and soon returned with six teams and loads.


    On the road, a bridge was constructed across the Beaver, about two miles above St. Edward, which was the first in the county.


    Work was immediately begun on a frame building, and in May it was completed.   It was the first frame building and the second building of any kind in the county. It has experienced many changes since that early period. At first, it was a hotel, known as the "Frontier House," then a store building and finally a residence, and is now used as such by Mr. Avery. Elections have been held in it, the County Commissioners have used it for court house, and people have gathered there to attend divine worship when Rev. Mr. Bollman was their pastor.


    The next frame house erected was a little one by Mrs. Rice, since Mrs. Loran Clark, who came early in 1871, and took the quarter which had been pre-empted by Rev. Mr. Wilson.


    The first school was held and was taught by Miss Sarah Rice, in 1872, when six or eight scholars attended and $20 per month was considered ample compensation.


    At this time many other buildings were being erected in all parts of the county. Of the original company who came together, Dresser had located just across the creek north of town. The Hares stopped a mile east of town, where they now live. Stout took his land on the west side adjoining the town site, and Smith located next to him.


    In June, S. P. Bollman and his son Calvin arrived from Virginia and took a claim two and a half miles northwest of town. Rev. Mr. Bollman had been a minister for many years and often held religious services in various places in the county. After building her house, Mrs. Rice had returned to Columbus, and was there married to Loran Clark, who came into Boone in the fall of the year.


    May of 1871, Elias Atwood and son, Theodore Tilson and William Comstock located three miles west of town.


    A little later, Joe Green, Albert McIntyre, Charles Downs and C. M. Selby located in what is known as Milwaukee Valley.


    In June, George Crites and Mark Mattison located. Alex. and Ralph Voorhees stopped at Voorhees Valley, four miles east of town. Ed. Dwyer settled near St. Edward.


    The first men on the Cedar were the Robinsons, an old man and four sons, who located at Dayton.


    In the spring of 1872, Messrs. W. H. Randall, Barnes, Garrett and Van Camp pushed ten miles farther up the Beaver and located.


    In the same spring, the Roe brothers settled in Roe Valley.


    The winter of 1871 was one of the most severe ever experienced in this section. The snow piled in so deep that communication with the outside world was next to impossible. It required a week for all the settlers to shovel a road from Albion to Boone, a distance of six miles.


    For many this was the first experience with the "blizzard." The effects of one are thus described by Mr. Dwyer:


      "When I succeeded in digging out from under my blankets that eventful morning, I had the pleasure of hunting for my boots through about three feet of snow that had found its way into my dug-out. So, after taking a general survey of the premises, I concluded to vacate and went up to Baldwin's dug-out, there too, I found snow over everything. I found Mr. and Mrs. Baldwin and their two small children,

      a bed, a cooking stove, two or three trunks, some other household furniture and a large span of horses.  And for two or three days and nights we all camped in that dug-out about as close as sardines in a box.  Mr. and Mrs. Baldwin and family occupied the bed, and your essayist put in the nights stretched on a couple of trunks. Mrs. Baldwin had only arrived in the country a day or two before, and I remember that the piercing cold and her children's sufferings caused her to shed tears. Our friend Farrell was also snowed under, and when I called round to see him all that was visible of his little dug-out was the chimney. When I peered down that avenue and asked him if he didn't know he was snowed under, his answer was:


        "No, I have just been reading one of I. N. Taylor's immigration pamphlets and learn that it never snows in Nebraska."



      The summer that followed was also one of misfortune for the settlers, for their crops were entirely destroyed by the grasshoppers.


      In the spring of 1872, the first post office was established in the county and was known as the Hammond Post Office.


      The first Postmaster was Albert Dresser, and the mail was carried by Michael Welch, on horseback.  No bag was necessary, as his pockets were spacious enough for all matter that the week brought to the county.


      In August, 1873, the office was moved and the name changed to the Albion office. W. H. Gamadge was Postmaster for two years, and was succeeded by Hiram Rice, the present officer.


      This year also marks the birth of the first child in the county, Clara Boone Mattison. Her name has a patriotic ring to it and shows that at least one family had confidence that Boone would yet be a name to be proud of.


      In the spring of the year, Elias Atwood, Sr., lost a child, the first death in the county.  


      The winter of 1872-73 developed nothing new in the history of the county, until April of 1873, when one of the worst storms known here occurred. Rev. Mr. Bollman thus describes it:


        "On Easter Sunday of 1873, there began a heavy rain, accompanied with thunder and lightning, a storm which continued for three days. Shortly after nightfall on the day it commenced, it changed to snow, and, for forty-eight hours, the fall of snow, driven by a fierce northwest wind, was so thick that most of the time a person could not see ten feet from them. Persons could not, in some instances, find their own barns; some were lost and narrowly escaped perishing from exposure. Much stock in the country perished in barns, the snow penetrating and filling them entirely; stock and portions of herds were driven miles before the storm and many perished. The snow packed so firmly and drifted to such an extent that ravines and considerable streams were effectually bridged by it, and loaded teams were driven over them on the drifted snow."



      The summer of 1874 again brought the dreaded grasshopper, and again crops of all kinds were devastated.  A great many who were able sacrificed everything and left, but the vast majority, who would have been  glad to do the same, were unable to. Aid was received and distributed, and the people lived through.


      1875 fully repaired them, for the yield of everything was abundant and since that time the growth of the country has been gradual but permanent. 


      Situated as it was between the Pawnees and the Sioux, Boone has not escaped some Indian scares, although fortunately nothing more serious ever occurred.


      In 1871, the Pawnee agent sent up word that a band of Sioux were coming and were committing depredations. All the settlers gathered at the Frontier House, except Elias Atwood and his son, who had just arrived and were camping in their wagon. The reason that Mr. Atwood gave for not joining was that if he was killed, he wanted to be killed at home. No Sioux ever appeared, and, after a day or two, the company disbanded.


      In 1873, a party of Sioux did actually visit the settlement and stole some horses. A company, headed by Albert McIntyre, followed and came in sight of the Indians, but there were too many of them and the horses were never recovered.


      The next year, 1874, another scare was gotten up among the people north of town by the report of a couple of boys, who had an arrow which they claimed had been shot at them. A few families gathered at Mr. Boardman's house and prepared for defense. S. P. Bollman, believing there was nothing in it, remained at home. In the morning, Calvin Bollman rode over to visit the camp, and, on approaching, gave the war whoop, which caused much consternation. No Indians ever appeared, and after that no real fright was ever felt, although the Indian tribes often met in conflict, and much thieving was done among them.



      Source:  Andreas History of Nebraska








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