CUSTER COUNTY NEBRASKA
PIONEER STORIES
All data transcribed by Melody Beery
unless otherwise noted.




My First Night in Custer County
By: H. Lomax

It is April, 1880, the sun shines, spring is in the air, I am twenty years old and the world is before me.  I leave Plum Creek on a voyage of discovery in an old wagon, drawn by a pair of broncs.  The driver is an irresponsible squatter with whom I've made an undefined acquaintance and who has invited my brother and myself to visit him on his "ranch".

CRUDE EQUIPMENT

Our cargo:  a Dutch oven, sack of flour, keg of syrup, side of bacon, blankets, our baggage and other items.  Across the Platte valley we meander, avoiding the numerous wallows and we leave the last house at the entrance of the hills.  Everything is new and full of interest to me; prairie dogs, gophers, prairie chickens, buzzards and the eternal grass; last year's crop, cured as it stands , and the new green shoots just appearing.

By noon we climb on a table where we jump a herd of antelope.  Here we feed our team, watering in a lagoon, and take a light repast ourselves.  Crossing Wood river valley, where Oconto now stands, we strike the south Loup valley at about five o'clock.  Here we see the first house since leaving the Platte.

A RANCH COUNTRY

A few ranch buildings, all built of logs, are scattered along the South Loup valley; no attempt at fencing, farming, road or bridge building.  Our host, providentially led, no doubt, stops at a little hay stack protected from the range cattle by a few logs and piles as much hay on the wagon as he can, covering our entire cargo.  We are informed that our destination is across the river.  As we approach the stream, I look for our " home ranch" as the sun is getting low and a north wind is rising.

FORDING THE RIVER

On the north bank I see a grove of large trees with thick undergrowth, standing as nature willed, young, vigourous, full grown and also dead logs lying as they had fallen.  The ranch is in this grove and my mind relapses into a state of perfect and complete satisfaction.  Down two steep pitches to the river and then we approach the water by a dip of five or six feet.  The horses are up to their bellies in water and the wagon following, but the horses are thirsty after their long trip and in spite of the gymnastic efforts of the driver and unaffected by his wonderful gift of profane oratory, they stop to drink.  The wagon settles in the quick sand and we are "stuck."

We are invited to descend into the water.  We carry hay, cargo, wagon box and running gears, wheel at a time, to the north bank.  We build up the wagon, load it, and start on the home stretch.  Entering the beautiful grove of cottonwoods and willows, we can see a small log building, ten feet square.  It is built of round logs, imperfectly notched and unchinked, with a roof of cattle hides and a hide hung up for a door.  The inside is furnished with a carpet of grass, standing as it grew before the house was built.   The house is full of emptiness; but it is the home ranch, I am a guest, and though wet, tired and chilly, I make the best of it, lighting a fire in one corner of the room while the hay is spread out at the other side for our bedding.

THE DUTCH OVEN

After being initiated into the art of constructing biscuits in a Dutch oven, in the heroic act of eating them soaked in bacon fat and syrup, washed down with strong coffee, I achieve the sleep of exhaustion, stretched out on the hay.  I awake in the night realizing the north wind is rushing through the walls of the house and I am really cold.  An emergency call, and we pulled some of the hides from the roof, fasten them on the north and west walls and again seek rest and dreams.

MANY WILD FRIENDS

Such was my first night in Custer county.  At early dawn I arose to a world full of wonders.  Hundreds of ducks within a few yards of the house, flying and feeding in a deep bayou which almost surrounded the grove.  This bayou was filled with a busy civilization, Beaver, muskrat, and ducks of all kinds, unafraid and busy, gave me such delightful opportunity of reading the secrets of their life that all other things were lost sight of and I sent our host for another supply of bacon, flour and syrup so I could have with my wild friends.

Source: Pioneer Stories of Custer County, Nebraska
Published by: E.R. Purcell, Publisher
Custer County Chief
Broken Bow, Nebraska
1936


BROKEN BOW IN PIONEER DAYS
BY: Mrs. L. McCandless

In June, 1882, Broken Bow, the county seat of Custer county, was platted and laid out by Jesse Gandy and Amos W. Gandy, who bought the only homestead that could be deeded at that time.  Then the problem was what to call the new town.  A number of names were sent in and rejected.
Wilson Hewitt lived east of the present town a half mile in a dugout.  There were a number of such homes made in the banks along Muddy Creek.


WILSON HEWITT NAMED BROKEN BOW

Mr. Hewitt, who later was county clerk, had sent in two or three names for the new postoffice that he had applied for, but they were rejected because of being the same or similar to other towns in the state.

One day when his sons, Fred and Ed Hewitt, were out in a nearby canyon they found and brought home a broken Indian bow.  This suggested the name of "Broken Bow" for the new postoffice.  Wilson Hewitt sent the name in and it was accepted, to their great joy. 

About this time there was a small log house built by James Gandy, and later on a larger sod house by the side of it where they fed and sheltered the transients as there were so many coming into the new county.

A SOD COURT HOUSE

The next was a sod house to shelter the county officers.  It was on the west side of the public square about where the Gishpert hardware store now stands.  The postoffice was more than one half mile from the town on the Pelham homestead, and Mr. Pelham a crippled man, was postmaster.  Then it was moved to town in the little log house and James Gandy was later made postmaster. 

L. McCandless took his homestead on the south of the town site, joining it the full length, and beyond he built the first sod house for a residence in the town.  They gave anyone a lot who would build on it.  The next building was a large octagon shaped sod building and it stood just back of where the library now stands and was built by Mr. Hewitt and Moses Lewis for a blacksmith shop.


Source: Pioneer Stories of Custer County, Nebraska
Published by: E.R. Purcell, Publisher
Custer County Chief
Broken Bow, Nebraska
1936

A PLUCKY CUSTER COUNTY WOMAN
Source:
History of Custer County, Nebraska
W.
L. GASTON AND A. R.
HUMPHREY
LINCOLN, NEBRASKA
WESTERN PUBLISHING AND. ENGRAVING COMPANY
1919

In the crowd that assembled to witness the execution of Haunstine for the murder of Roten and Ashley, Mrs. Roten was in the crowd.. When it became known that the gov-
ernor had granted a reprieve which would stay the execution for thirty days, there was considerable commotion in the vast assemblage and a few leaders tried to incite the mob spirit.  At this time, in an excellently written account of the exciting events that followed the announcement of the governor's reprieve, the State Journal thus alludes to the presence of Mrs. Roten, wife of one of the men murdered by Haunstine: "She is a splendid-looking woman, but twenty-six years of age, and the mother of four children rendered fatherless by Haunstine's crime.

She stood in the very midst of the thickest part of the struggle with a nerve that excited the wonder of all who witnessed the spectacle. The leaders of the mob circled around her, whispering to her for counsel, as if she were their queen, and if she had finally insisted on Haunstine's execution,
no power at the command of the sheriff could have prevented them fulfilling her command.  The peacemakers besought her earnestly, with every assurance of .the justice of the outcome, to ask the men to disperse, but she called attention to the fiendishness of the crime and to her fatherless children as an excuse for refusing to say a word in the culprit's behalf. Failing in this aim, the peacemakers turned their endeavors toward preventing her from giving encouragement to the mob, and succeeded." 

Old-timers say that the city reporters catered to the spectacular and gave their descriptions more of the thrill and red paint than the facts merited.

 



EXPERIENCES OF A "SCHOOL MARM"
Source:
History of Custer County, Nebraska
W.
L. GASTON AND A. R.
HUMPHREY
LINCOLN, NEBRASKA
WESTERN PUBLISHING AND. ENGRAVING COMPANY
1919

In July 1881, Mrs. J. J. Douglass arrived in Broken Bow. That village looked strange to her with not a tree in sight excepting a few little cuttings of cottonwood and box-
elder here and there upon the few lawns. After having lived all her life in a country where every home was surrounded by groves and or
namental shade trees, it seemed that she was  in a desert.  She had just completed a course of study in a normal school, prior to coming to Nebraska, and was worn out in mind and body, so naturally her first consideration was the climate of the country and its corresponding effect upon life and health. She wondered how the people stood the heat of the day, but soon discovered that a light breeze was blowing nearly all the time, so that the heat did not seem so intense as it did in her Iowa home.  After she had been in Broken Bow about two weeks she was offered a position in the mortgage loan office of Trefren & Hewitt. The latter was the first county clerk of Custer county. She held this position a few weeks and then resigned to take charge of the Berwyn school, at the request of Charles Randall, the county superintendent. Berwyn was a village situated ten miles east of Broken Bow. It consisted of one general merchandise store, a postoffice, depot, and a blacksmith shop. It was not daylight when the train stopped at the little depot and a feeling of loneliness came over her as she watched the train speed on its way behind the eastern hills.   She found her way to the home of J. O. Taylor (who was then living in the back
end of his store building), informed him that she was the teacher who had come to teach the school and asked him to direct her to her boarding place. Being a member of the school board, Mr. Taylor gave her the necessary information and then sent his hired man with a team and buggy to take her farther east to the home of Ben Talbot, where she was to stay.

The Talbot home was a little sod house consisting of two small rooms. On entering she found Mrs. Talbot preparing breakfast for the family. She was given a cordial welcome, and after breakfast, started in company with Mrs. Talbot's little girl to the schoolhouse.  The sense of loneliness which had taken possession of her on her way to this place now began to be dispelled. She found Mrs. Talbot to be a woman of kind heart and generous impulses, the mother of two little girls, the older one being of school age. She could see the schoolhouse up on the side of a hill. It was made of brush and weeds and some sod and was twelve by fifteen feet in dimensions.  The roof was of brush and weeds and some sod, and she could see the blue sky by gazing up through the roof at almost any part of it.  She looked out upon the hills and valleys and
wondered where the pupils were to come from, as she saw no houses and no evidence of habitation anywhere excepting Mr. Talbot's home. By nine o'clock about twelve children had arrived from some place, she knew not where. 
She found in that little, obscure schoolhouse some of the brightest and best boys and girls it was ever her good fortune to meet.  There soon sprang between them a bond of sympathy. She sympathized with them in their almost total isolation from the world, and they in turn sympathized with her in her loneliness and homesickness.


On opening her school that first morning, great was her surprise to learn how well those children could sing. She had never been in a school where there were so many sweet
voices. Her attention was particularly directed to the voices of two little girls, as they seemed remarkable for children of their years. She often recalled one bright, sunny evening after she had dismissed school and stood watching the pupils starting out in various directions for their homes, her attention was called to a path that led down the valley through the long grass. She heard singing and at once recognized the voices of these two little girls.  The song was a favorite of Mrs. Douglass and she could hear those sweet tones long after the children were out of sight in the tall grass. She will never forget how charmingly sweet that music seemed to her.


A LITTLE SPORT WITH GUNS

Source:
History of Custer County, Nebraska
W.
L. GASTON AND A. R.
HUMPHREY
LINCOLN, NEBRASKA
WESTERN PUBLISHING AND. ENGRAVING COMPANY
1919

Frederick Schreyer was another interesting character. He was the first homesteader on the South Loup between Callaway and Arnold. He was a very resolute German,
about fifty years of age, and as eccentric as he was resolute. He constructed a dugout in which he imagined he would be secure from the depredations of the festive cowboy. As we have said before, there was a natural antipathy between the cowboys and the settlers, and the breach became wider and wider as time passed by and the settlers became more numerous. Armed encounters were frequent and bloodshed was often the result. Schreyer often had encounters with the cowboys and at one time was wounded in two places." He thought he was going to die, and had Charles Rockwood draw up his will. He had a ford near his house which he called his ford, and without his consent nobody was allowed to cross the river at that place if he could prevent it. He also surrounded his house with a high sod wall, which he called his fortifications.  On the morning of April 1, 1878, J. D. Haskell and the writer put some tools in a wagon and went up the river to repair a corral. In going we crossed the river at Schreyer's ford. 

We saw nothing of him at that time, but during the day he sent us word that if we attempted to cross there in coming back he would shoot us. When we arrived at the
ford on the way back, and while watering our horses, we saw Schreyer and his son running toward the house with guns. As soon as we got within range they raised up from behind their fortifications and began firing at us. We were unarmed, and, thinking discretion the better part of valor, put the whip to our team and got out of the way. In our flight we had to pass pretty close to the house, and one of the shots tore the step from the side of the wagon. From that time on there was trouble. 

Young Schreyer was arrested on the Platte, but escaped and went to Lincoln, where he remained a month. He came back to Kearney, was again arrested and was brought up into Custer county. He and his father were taken, handcuffed, to Custer for preliminary examination, and were bound over to appear before the district court. Not giving bonds, they were lodged in the Lexington jail.   In July they were tried and sentenced to serve a term in jail, by Judge Gaslin. They served out their time and got home, the next winter.



MRS.  HUNTER LEARNS THE WAY OF THE WEST
Source:
History of Custer County, Nebraska
W.
L. GASTON AND A. R.
HUMPHREY
LINCOLN, NEBRASKA
WESTERN PUBLISHING AND. ENGRAVING COMPANY
1919

The present generation will never know the peculiar conditions and privations under which the pioneers began life in Custer county.  These experiences were especially hard on the women. Mrs. Martha A. Hunter, who with her husband, pioneered in the vicinity of Broken Bow and who is a very versatile writer, gives us this glimpse of early sod house life:

"Ere long the little sod abode was ready for occupancy and as the family brought little or no house furnishings, two beds were improvised by nailing split saplings to the rafters above and to the floor below and the same across, upon which were placed bed ticks filled with dry hay and above all feather beds, making a very comfortable resting place.

"Fuel was an object of much, concern to the family as the winter drew near, but corn, which was the principal fuel used by the neighbors, could be obtained readily for eight cents per bushel, and the supply of buffalo and cow chips to be had for the gathering, added to the supply, which proved adequate for the winter.

"In the summer of 1890 occurred the first of the only two complete drouths in the history of Custer county.   The second followed four years later, in 1894. The first drouth was especially hard on the Hunter family and others .who had stock. They had not been long enough in the country to know the rich food properties contained in the short, curly buffalo grass that covered the hills like a thick mat and which was abundantly rich in food properties,— so much so that stock turned loose upon it during the winter time not only lived but also kept in good condition. But this we did not find out until after this hard winter, because we had to drive the cattle up into Cherry county for the winter.  "I worried much about the education of our two small daughters, and felt that it was not right or fair to them to keep them in the hills, but God opened the way not only in providing for their education, but in furnishing a support for the family, which in those days was very welcome and much appreciated. I was appointed teacher in a school district seven miles from our home. We drove these seven miles to school each morning and returned in the evening, but thought that no hardship.  Even, though we faced many a storm and blizzard yet we always got through; and in the end had the pleasure of seeing our daughters graduate from the Broken Bow high school.


 




LIFE TOO SHORT FOR A SOD ROOF
Source:
History of Custer County, Nebraska
W.
L. GASTON AND A. R.
HUMPHREY
LINCOLN, NEBRASKA
WESTERN PUBLISHING AND. ENGRAVING COMPANY
1919

The roofs on the early sod houses were made by putting up small logs for ridgepoles to support cross poles and upon these was placed a thatch of brush and hay and then over the hay, a layer of sod or clay. This kind of a roof was often open to both storm and criticism. Mrs. H. C. - Stacker relates her experience:

"From hardly any rain we soon had more than we needed. Our roof would not stand the heavy downpours that  sometimes continued for days at a time, and it would leak from one end to the other. We could keep our beds comparatively dry by drawing them into the middle of the room directly under the peak of the roof. Sometimes the water would drip on the stove while I was cooking, and I would have to keep tight lids on the skillets to prevent the mud from the roof falling into the food. With my dress pinned up, and rubbers on my feet, I waded around until the clouds rolled by. Then we would clean house. Almost everything had to be moved outdoors to dry in the sun. But I never complained much.  It has been said that a spirit was given us to stand all these trials — for they were indeed trials, and hard ones, too. Would I again go through with what I then did? No, indeed!  A thousand times, no! Life is too short to be spent under a sod roof."






ENTERTAINED THE PAWNEES
Source:
History of Custer County, Nebraska
W.
L. GASTON AND A. R.
HUMPHREY
LINCOLN, NEBRASKA
WESTERN PUBLISHING AND. ENGRAVING COMPANY
1919

On one occasion the home of H. C. Stuckey and wife was visited by a band of Pawnee Indians. Mrs. Stuckey gives the following account of the way they entertained them:

'"We had but one Indian scare. One day fourteen big, ugly fellows came in, squatted down on the floor, and, as usual, wanted something to eat. We stirred up corn dodgers for them and gave them syrup. I can see them  yet, licking and daubing their corn cakes with many grunts of satisfaction. They played with my baby and called him 'heap good papoose.' I was very much frightened and could stand their presence no longer, so I took my baby and went into the other room and got a large revolver and held it in my hand until they went away. I do not know what I intended to do with the revolver. The Indians were Pawnees and very peaceful. They were on a hunting trip, and before leaving showed my husband a piece of well worn, dirty paper, written at the reservation and signed by the agent, requesting: settlers to give the Indians food,— dead dogs and chickens, or anything else that would serve to fill up their capacious stomachs. These were the only Indians that ever came to our ranch."




SAVED  ONE BED
Source:
History of Custer County, Nebraska
W.
L. GASTON AND A. R.
HUMPHREY
LINCOLN, NEBRASKA
WESTERN PUBLISHING AND. ENGRAVING COMPANY
1919

The late Captain W. H. Comstock is the authority for this story.   He says;

"In company with D. J. Caswell I started from Moingona, Boone county, Iowa, in March, 1874.   In due course of time we arrived at Loup City, the metropolis of Sherman county, which consisted of a log hotel kept by C. Y. Rossiter, and a general store of which Frank Ingram was the owner and proprietor. About this time Frank had some friends who had come to make him a visit. His family consisted of himself, wife, one child, and a hired man and hired girl. The house was small and sleeping rooms scarce. But Frank's mind was active, and he soon had a plan to help himself out of the difficulty and provide sleeping apartments for the visitors, without seriously inconveniencing the family. He went to the room of the hired man and told him that it would be necessary for him to vacate his bed, as he had company that would have to be taken care of. He then went to the room of the hired girl, woke her up and laid the situation before her. He said either her bed or the hired man's must be given up for the company. He didn't like to make one of them sit up all night, but he thought as the hired man and the hired girl had been keeping company, and intended to get married, anyway, they might just as well get married then and there and thus settle the whole difficulty about the beds. This seemed to meet with the approval of the two parties most interested, and Mr. Ingram, being the county judge, immediately issued a license and married them on the spot.




J. D. Haskell's personal experience
Source:
History of Custer County, Nebraska
W.
L. GASTON AND A. R.
HUMPHREY
LINCOLN, NEBRASKA
WESTERN PUBLISHING AND. ENGRAVING COMPANY
1919

"In February, 1874, an acquaintance, who had just returned from an excursion trip to Nebraska, told me in glowing colors of" that wonderful western country. He wanted me to go to Cozad and handle the butcher business.  I was then twenty years old, and being full of a boy's love for adventure and fired by the glowing tales of the west, 1 did not ask many questions. In March, 1874, I was on my way west, having chartered a car for my one horse, two milch cows, four sows, butcher took, and a bulldog—every real butcher had to have a bulldog. The freight on the car was $200. The different railroads passed me to Omaha, but there I was obliged to pay twelve dollars and fifty cents for a ticket to Cozad, a distance of 250 miles.

When I reached my destination I was a discouraged lad. My aircastles collapsed like a balloon.  There was no depot, and only five buildings in the town. The first question was how to unload my property. I got some planks and the stock slid down them from the car to the ground. We had landed in Nebraska. In a short time things looked fairly prosperous.  Excursion trains were coming in every month bringing new settlers, we were getting the spring rains, more houses were being built in the town and country, and the prairie was being plowed up and put in crops. People had to eat, and being the butcher, I commenced business. My business as a butcher lasted about sixty days. In July we had hot winds and grasshoppers, the latter in such number as to shade' the sun when passing over the country. Everything was eaten by them. I bought flour to make slop for my pigs, and there being no mowing machine in the country I bought a scythe and cut grass in the sloughs to winter my horse.

That winter we had lots of snow, with the mercury thirty degrees below zero. The new settlers were short of fuel, clothing, and provisions. The latter part of that winter the government sent out a lot of army shoes and clothing that was out of date for the soldiers, and flour and beans were issued to the settlers. No clothing was issued for the women, but you would often see a woman wearing army shoes and a blue army overcoat. We had the grasshoppers and hot winds again the summer of 1875, and times were harder than ever that winter. The spring of 1875 I went to the Ozark mountains of Missouri, and an Ohio boy {Lew Williams) met me there. We bought 600 head of sheep, which we trailed across the country to Cozad. We had a good deal of trouble in crossing the numerous streams. At night we slept on the ground or in our wagon, and made a corral out of muslin to pen our sheep in. We sold the sheep soon after reaching Cozad. That same summer we made two trips to eastern Kansas, by wagon, and on each trip brought back milch cows, which we sold to settlers from Hastings to Cozad. The spring of 1876 I went to Ellis, Kansas, on horseback, and when the Texas cattle drive came in I bought 100 yearling heifers for $700. I put my cattle in with a herd that came to the Loup valley. We located about eight miles this side of Callaway. I worked for my board and furnished my own saddle horses and bed. We hauled our supplies from Cozad and Lexington (then Plum Creek). This county was not organized. There were no mail routes and we got our mail only when we went to the railroad. That fall I wanted to cast my first vote for president, consequently, I made a fifty-mile ride to Cozad and voted for R. B. Hayes. The spring of 1877 I hired out to Gassman and Dufree, ranchmen, for thirty dollars per month. That fall (1877) I took charge of a ranch as foreman.  The owners lived in Illinois. I had the whole responsibility of managing the ranch in all its details. I have ridden all night to get to the railroad to send out important mail to the ranch owners.

The spring of 1878 I was appointed county commissioner, and 1 held the office continuously until township organization went into effect. During 1881 I moved to "my present home, in Arnold township. My first house was a log cabin. In 1882 I hauled lumber from Lexington (seventy miles) to build a house. In December of the same year I went back to Ohio, my home state, and was married. When my wife and I reached Cozad,  the sleeping room at the hotel was a large room containing six beds, no stove. About midnight a drunken man came stumbling in, looking for a bed. The next day we started for our home on the Loup with a span of ponies and a buckboard. It was dead winter and deep snow covered the ground. That night we stopped with a farmer in the Platte valley, fifteen miles from Cozad. The house was not plastered and we could look out through the holes in the roof and see the stars shining. The second day we started bright and early. We had to break our road through the snow. There was no house between our own home and the Platte valley, a distance of thirty-five miles. When we reached home Grandpa Hughey had supper ready, with some of his good hot biscuits, coffee, and beefsteak.   As we had gone without our dinner, we did full justice to that supper, and here we have been ever since, "wrestling with the ups and downs of western life."

 











JESS GANDY JOINS THE ELKS
Source:
History of Custer County, Nebraska
W.
L. GASTON AND A. R.
HUMPHREY
LINCOLN, NEBRASKA
WESTERN PUBLISHING AND. ENGRAVING COMPANY
1919

Once during the summer of 1881, while Jess Gandy still lived near West Union, he and his wife were out gathering wild fruit. Jess was a short distance from the wagon. He heard a shot, and rushing out, found his wife had shot a four-pronged buck. But he proved to be only stunned.- What was to be done must be done quickly, as the buck was liable to jump up and get away at a second's notice.  The suddenness of the thing rather rattled Jess. He had no more ammunition, and not even a jack knife to cut its throat. He was indeed in a dilemma. A dozen different plans flashed through his mind in a few seconds as to the best way to kill the buck, and he saw with alarm that it showed signs of reviving.  Jess was so excited he forgot he could take off his neckyoke and dispatch him, but what he did do was about as funny as Judge Kilgore is said to have done in the winter of 1880.   The judge packed water two miles for  several weeks through two feet of snow, till some one suggested that snow, when melted- made water.

But we left Jess with the buck showing signs of returning life.   All at once a bright idea occurred to Mr. Gandy, and quick as a flash he had acted on it, and had dumped Mr. Buck into the wagon and tied him with his halter ropes. Then, sitting astride its head and neck, he yelled, "Let 'em  go," and Mrs. Gandy did "let em go," for Jarvis Kimes' farm, a  distance of half a mile east across.the prairie. They had gone but a short distance when the buck came to his senses, and finding Jess astride of him, a struggle for life ensued between the two. It was just about an equal match, and for some time it was a matter of  doubt which would  come out on top. The buck had free use of his hind legs and when he brought them down on the sides of the wagon box it looked as if he would soon kick the wagon to pieces.

The noise frightened the ponies and away they  flew, up hill and down hill, over the rough ground, Mrs. Gandy holding them straight  ahead and letting them  go. The sharp feet of the deer tore Jess' clothing into ribbons and bruised his body fearfully. He had a veritable white elephant on his hands, and when the ponies dashed up to the door of Mr. Kimes he was about exhausted, panting and gasping for breath, his face flushed and perspiration rolling down in big drops. Kimes helped him to let go the buck.

  

MRS. GANDY ENTERTAINS A STRANGER

In September, 1881, Mr. Gandy was making hay with a neighbor, Mr. Lyle, three miles west of the river, coming home only on Saturday nights, Mrs. Gandy being left at home lo look after the cattle. One Saturday evening a man came to the house and got his supper, telling Mrs. Gandy that he had eaten nothing for two days. He was a pitiful-looking object. He had a blanket rolled upon his back and carried a pair of shoes in his hand,  his feet being so swollen that he could not wear them. After he had eaten his supper he requested of Mrs. Gandy the privilege of staying all night.   She told him that she was alone and that he would have to seek accommodation elsewhere. As he had come down the river in a boat, and there was a settlement at West Union, two miles further on, he started off and Mrs. Gandy got her pony and proceeded to round up her cattle. She returned, attended to her milking and other duties, and went to the house, it being by this time quite dark.

When she entered the house, what was her consternation to discover the stranger sitting upright in bed, with two huge revolvers lying by his side and a number of papers scattered about him. When she came in he remarked to her that he was making himself at home.  She replied: "I should think you are," and left the room. As it was Saturday night, she knew that Jess would be home about eleven o'clock, so she took her horse and started for Mr. Lyle's, meeting her husband on the way.  When they returned to the house they found the man still sitting up in the bed, groaning with the pain in his swollen limbs. He begged so piteously to be allowed to remain that they had not the heart to turn him out, and he was allowed to remain until morning, although they suspected that he was a criminal. The supposition proved to be correct, as it was afterward learned that he had robbed a postoffice at Sterns ranch.


WON   BY   A NOSE

S
ource:
History of Custer County, Nebraska
W.
L. GASTON AND A. R.
HUMPHREY
LINCOLN, NEBRASKA
WESTERN PUBLISHING AND. ENGRAVING COMPANY
1919


James Lindly, who came to Custer county in the springtime of 1880, arrived at New Helena with twenty-five cents in money and with a cheerful disposition which enabled him to overcome all difficulties and remain in the country up to the present time The first year after his settlement in Victoria precinct he was elected justice of the peace, in which capacity he served six years. He relates the following incidents .which occurred while he was administering justice in these early days, and they may not be out of place here. Upon one occasion two Irishmen had some difficulty about the boundary line between their claims, and the result was a collision. The one who came out second best in the row came to Mr. Lindly to get justice, his face covered with blood and his nose in a very demoralized condition.  The justice issued a warrant for the arrest of his antagonist, handed it to him and directed him to the home of the constable. In due time the constable appeared at the home of the justice with both of the men.  After reading the complaint the defendant pleaded not guilty, and a trial was had without counsel or witnesses, each man pleading his own case. The plaintiff alleged that defendant had come to his place and commenced the row. The defendant promptly denied that he had commenced the row, but admitted that he had gone to the plaintiff's house, and said that the plaintiff had attacked him with a pitchfork. The plaintiff then turned toward the defendant, laid his index finger on'his nose and asked: '"How was' that done?" "Ye did it yerself whin I was takin' the pitchfork away from ye." replied the defendant.  The plaintiff then offered his nose in evidence by turning to the court and saying: ~The court knows very well that nose was chawed." And sure enough it had that appearance— and well chewed at that. The plaintiff was fined one dollar and costs and the two departed together, apparently satisfied with the result of the suit.


A  BACK-ACTING  WEDDING FEE
Source:
History of Custer County, Nebraska
W.
L. GASTON AND A. R.
HUMPHREY
LINCOLN, NEBRASKA
WESTERN PUBLISHING AND. ENGRAVING COMPANY
1919

Upon another occasion Mr. Lindly had occasion to go to the sod house of three bachelors, when one of them, in a joking mood, asked him how much he would charge him to perform a marriage ceremony. Not being  rushed with business of that sort, Mr. Lindly replied that he would do it for half price. The second bachelor then spoke up and wanted to know how much the justice would charge to marry him. The accommodating justice said he would marry him free. Then the third bachelor was anxious to know what the charge fcr marrying him would be. "O, I'll marry you for nothing, and board you and your wife free for a week/' laughingly replied Mr. Lindly.  The first two never called upon Mr. Lindly to assist them into wedlock, but not very long afterward number three appeared with a fair maiden and insisted that the justice fulfill his agreement, which Mr. Lindly did, and the groom being of a generous disposition, the couple boarded with the justice two weeks instead of one. From the small capital with which Mr. Lindly commenced business in Custer county he has accumulated an independence. He is the owner of 1,580 acres of land, 600 under cultivation, twenty acres of
trees and all free from incumbrance.


 

WAS A JUSTICE ALL RIGHT
Source:
History of Custer County, Nebraska
W.
L. GASTON AND A. R.
HUMPHREY
LINCOLN, NEBRASKA
WESTERN PUBLISHING AND. ENGRAVING COMPANY
1919

In the olden days T. B. Buckner, of Oconto, was a justice of the peace. A case was brought before him, and Judge' Sullivan and Judge Humphrey appeared as the attorneys. At the beginning of the case Sullivan questioned the jurisdiction of Justice Buckner. "Buck" listened to the argument on both sides until weary, then pulled out a big six-shooter and laid it on the table, and said, "Gentlemen, the decision of this court is that I am a justice of the peace and a hell of a good one." The case proceeded without further interruption.

GOD AND BOBLITS
Source:
History of Custer County, Nebraska
W.
L. GASTON AND A. R.
HUMPHREY
LINCOLN, NEBRASKA
WESTERN PUBLISHING AND. ENGRAVING COMPANY
1919

Judge Boblits, who was the first judge of Custer county, married a couple of youngsters during the first day in his office and closed the ceremony with this remark, "Whom God and Boblits hath joined together, let no man put asunder."

A COURTSHIP IN THE COURT'S OFFICE
Source:
History of Custer County, Nebraska
W.
L. GASTON AND A. R.
HUMPHREY
LINCOLN, NEBRASKA
WESTERN PUBLISHING AND. ENGRAVING COMPANY
1919

In the Nebraska Pioneer Reminiscences is found the authority for the following story:

Dates seem to be lacking, but it was probably some time in the year 1888 that an attractive young lady who had just finished a term of school in the Berwyn district accepted
a position as assistant in the office of the clerk of the court, J. J. Douglass, who was the first clerk of court in Custer county. In speaking of her four years' experience in that office the authority relates that many famous cases were tried during that time, such as the Demerritt case and the Haunstine case, and many others.  She had to work in an office from the window of which she could watch the erection of the scaffold upon which Haunstine was to be executed. Relating the experience in. her own words:

"As the nails were being driven into the structure, how I shuddered when 1 thought that a human being was to be suspended from that beam. Early in the morning on the day of the execution people began to arrive from miles around to witness the only execution that ever occurred in Custer county. My heart ached and my soul was stirred to its very depths in- sympathy for a fellow-being who was so soon to pass into eternity. Yet I was utterly helpless so far as extending any aid or consolation. And now the thought comes to me, will the day ever dawn when there will be no law in Nebraska permitting men to take the life of another man to avenge a crime?" 

Notwithstanding the varied and exciting experiences in the clerk's office the young lady remained during the entire four years of the term, after which she and the ex-clerk were married, and they have ever since been foremost among the prominent citizens of Coster county. They have a beautiful home in Callaway.


ALL READY FOR INDIAN'S
Source:
History of Custer County, Nebraska
W.
L. GASTON AND A. R.
HUMPHREY
LINCOLN, NEBRASKA
WESTERN PUBLISHING AND. ENGRAVING COMPANY
1919


In the fall of 1878. while Uncle Swain Finch and John Finch were at Brady Island, on the Platte, after supplies for their South Loup ranch, a dispatch came from the commander at Fort McPherson that three hundred well mounted Cheyenne Indians had broken away from the southern reservation and were headed north, and that having barely enough soldiers to protect the fort, the settlers would have to.look out for themselves. From the way the Indians were headed it was thought they would probably cross the Platte river at the old Indian crossing east of Brady Island. The boys had no arms-with them except one rifle, which Uncle Swain generously left with the
little settlement of four families at Brady Island with which to protect themselves in case the savages came upon them. Shortly after dark they started out for their home on the
Loup, thirty-five miles across the prairie, without even' a trail to go by. It was intensely dark, and raining a part of the time, but occasionally a little patch of blue sky, with a
star or two shining through it, could be discerned. When about eighteen miles out, the darkness increased and the rain also, until the travelers began to think fhey bad lost their course. John asked Uncle Swain if he thought they were on the right track.

"Well, I don't know, boy; it's so dog-goned dark I cain't tell if we are right or not;,but if we are-we ought to come to the water hole where old Sailor died, about half a mile
ahead." Soon they stopped, and while John held the horses, Uncle Swain felt around in the darkness and a few moments later returned with some of old Sailor's bones in his hand. Old Sailor was a dog belonging to Uncle Swain which had died there a year before, while chasing a deer, and this incident shows with what unerring accuracy an old frontiersman could find his way over these trackless plains, even in the darkness. They had proceeded about five miles further, and were on what is now known as Tallin Table, when they saw a flickering light some distance ahead of them. They halted, held a council, and decided to steer clear of the light, as there was no telling whether the makers of the fire were friends or enemies. The detour which they were obliged to make in order to avoid the light threw them off their bearings and bewildered them to such a degree that they thought it best to stop and wait until the morning began to dawn. As soon as it was light enough for them to get the direction they resumed their journey and arrived at the ranch before any of the occupants were astir. The boys at the ranch were immediately routed out of bed and set to work molding bullets and loading cart-
ridges, while Uncle Swain and John lay down to snatch a little sleep.

A few minutes later John Woods, who had been outside of the ranch house trying to see if he could discern any Indians, came rushing in, his hair on end, and his face as white as a sheet, shouting: "The Indians are coming! The Indians are coming I" It is needless to say that Uncle Swain and John were soon out of bed and that the whole ranch was in a commotion; but as the moments passed away without any blood-curdling war whoop, they began to feel a little easier and sent a scout out to reconnoitre. He reported that it was a false alarm.  Woods had seen a bunch of cattle coming out of the hills single file and his excited imagination had formed them into Indians.   The relief, however, was but temporary. The Indians would no doubt be along sooner or later, and all went to work to prepare for the worst. The horses were rounded up in a log corral, and a rifle pit dug, in which John and his uncle David slept to watch the horses, while Uncle Swain and Woods guarded the house.  John was only eighteen years of age at that time and very averse to having his hair cut by the red devils, an operation which he felt, however, was likely to be performed at any time. While he and Woods were digging the rifle pit he remarked to the old man: "1 wouldn't be surprised if we were diggin' our
graves." The old man replied, "Well, John, I have been thinkin the same thing." Fortunately no Indians troubled them. They realty experienced a sense of disappointment and were inclined to regret that the affair had ended so tamely.

 

 

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