All articles transcribed by
Melody Beery unless otherwise noted.

Sunday was one of the worst days we have had this winter.  It was not so extemely cold, but a light snow was falling most of the day, accompanied by a strong wind, which made it disagreeable.  But as the city was quarantined, there was no religious services held in any of the churches, and all that the citizens had to do was to stay indoors and keep a fire.  Sunday night the thermometer dropped to eight degrees below zero, and Monday night it went to twelve below.  But New Years morning was ushered in with a bright sun, that made everybody feel glad that they lived in Nebraska, where four fifths of the year is sunshine and pleasant.
[Source: The Custer Co. Republican, Broken Bow, NE, Jan. 3, 1901]

Tuesday was one of the March days of which the old settlers tell about.  The greater part of the day it rained and the weather was not uncomfortably cold, but by the middle of the afternoon it changed to snow, and by 4 o'clock a northwest blizzard in all its fury was upon us.  It continued most of the night.  By next morning the clouds had cleared away and the bright rays of the sun soon materially warmed up the atmosphere.

Source: CUSTER CO. REPUBLICAN,March 16, 1899


In the matter of weather and storms Custer county has always been rather independent and has insisted upon doing business for itself.  It generally keeps abreast with current weather and puts on tap any article that seems to be fashionable and popular.  Not to be outdone, the county put on a late fall cyclone of its own in October, 1913, which at the time was described by the Custer County Chief as follows:

"At six o'clock Thursday evening, October 3, 1913, Custer county was visited by a terrific cyclone, which went the full length of the county from southwest and northwest.  It was terrible in its fury and practically every building in its path was wrecked or damaged.  it passed Broken Bow on the southeast, just missing the city.  The fair ground buildings were a total wreck, and all the buildings on the Brenizer ranch and John Squires place, a few miles south of town, weere completely blown away; the M.K. Hagadorn and J.A. Hutchinson homes, just southeast of the city, were wrecked.  The cyclone formed near Lodi and went southeast to Burwell, its path being from one-quarter to one-half mile wide.  Much damage was done to farm properties, and though no fatalities were reported, the following people were hurt:  Flossie, the ten year old daughter of Will McCaslin, who lives east of here, was badly bruised and taken to the Ryerson hospital in a precarious condition.   Mrs. McCaslin was injured about the breast, another small daughter and the baby had their heads badly cut, while Mr. McCaslin sustained several bruises.  In the Sargent district the following people were injured:  John Speer, collar bone broken; Mrs. Bevington, badly bruised but not serious; Mrs. Frank Kidder, rib broken and badly bruised; Melvill York, badly bruised about the body (all of these injured, it is understood, were taken to Sargent and placed in the hospital); George Hill, head bruised.  The worst part of the storm in that vicinity passed about two miles east of Sargent.

"The above account was written after the froms had been made up and the paper ready for press.  A full description will appear next week."
source: History of Custer Co. Neb,by G.L. Gaston and A.R. Humphrey,Lincoln Neb. Western Publishing and Engraving Co. 1919


"In the spring and summer of 1879 the crops gave promise of an abundant harvest and the settlers looked forward to a good return for their labor.  They were celebrating the Fourth of July at New Helena, in the most approved style, eating, drinking, and making merry, when a cloud no bigger than a man's hand was observed in the northwest, which grew with alarming rapidity until it overspread the whole heavens, and out of it came one of the most destructive hail-storms this country ever experienced. 

The crops were literally beaten into the earth.  Not a bushel of grain was harvested in Victoria valley that year.  A few turnips sown after the hail storm were the only crop produced in that section.  The log schoolhouse where the settlers were gathered to celebrate the Fourth, had three windows on the north side.  The glass was broken into fragments by the hail, after which George Carr attempted the impossible feat of keeping out the storm by covering the three windows at one time with a blackboard long enough only to cover two. 

Men, women, and children crowded into the building, terror-stricken, some crying, some praying, and, I am sorry to record it, a few swearing.  The hail streak was about four miles and passed down Clear Creek, completely cleaning out the crops in its course.  The settlers had to haul their feed and seed for the next year from Grand Island and Central City, 120 and 130 miles distant. 

In 1880 we had good crops, but the hardships and privations of these pioneer days have been lived through, and while some have fallen by the wayside and still others gone to the 'land beyond the river,' many of us remain to enjoy the fruits of our early trials, proud of our noble county and its splendid citizenship, and confident of its continued growth and development.

source: History of Custer Co. Neb,by G.L. Gaston and A.R. Humphrey,Lincoln Neb. Western Publishing and Engraving Co. 1919


When C.W. Prettyman moved his family on to the new claim he had pre-empted in the Ash creek valley in November of 1886, he domiciled the family in an improvised shack while he was building a moree substanial, sod mansion.  The shack was made up setting up two by fours on the ground in roof or V shape and covering them with shiplap.  The gable ends were closed up by nailing up the wagon covers.

On the 15th of November a snow storm set in, and before night it developed into one of the worst blizzrds the country has ever known.  he relates the experience of himself and family during the storm as follows:

"The snow fell into our roof house like meal through a sieve.  The situation was very serious and I was actually afraid that my wife and little ones would be frozen to death.  I had sent my oldest son over to Mr. King's to look after the horses before dark, and I hoped that he would remain there all night and that they would come and rescue us in the morning.  In this I was not disappointed.  Soon after daybreak we saw them coming, plowing their way through the snow. 

I had slid out of my bed under the eaves of my roof, where I had laid under a sprinkle of snow about eighteen inches deep, and after digging around in a snowbank piled up in a corner I unearthed a suit of clothes and a pair of boots, which I got into.  I then waded through another drift to the stove, dug it out and started a fire. 

By this time the wagon of Mr. King had arrived and we dug the children out from under their covering of snow, steaming like pigs in a straw stack, piled them in the wagon and set off for Mr. Kings's under whose hospitable roof we stayed until the storm was over. 

When we returned to our shanty it was full of snow, which I scooped out and got out dry goods.  Soon afterward we finished our house, having to cut the frozen sod with an ax."
source: History of Custer Co. Neb,by G.L. Gaston and A.R. Humphrey,Lincoln Neb. Western Publishing and Engraving Co. 1919


The winter of 1880-81 will never be forgotten by those engaged in the cattle business in Custer county. Men who in the beginning of that winter were wealthy, found themselves bankrupt in the spring.  Early in the winter a rain began falling.  The grass became thoroughly saturated; then it suddenly turned cold, and every stalk, spear and blade of grass at once became an icicle — all matted together in one sheet of solid ice.  Immediately following this came a heavy snow,  from ten to twelve inches deep, which was again followed by another rain, and this in turn by another sudden cold wave, the result of which was to cover the surface of the snow with a thick, strong crust.  The country was covered with ice and snow until spring. The winter was very severe, the temperature ranging for days and weeks at from ten to twenty below zero.  

The conditions were such that it was almost impossible for the cattle to get to the grass. The winds, which ordinarily blew' the snow 'off the hills and left the grass thereon free to the cattle, could not affect this solid body of ice and snow.  The legs of the cattle, traveling about in a famished condition seeking food, soon became bruised and bleeding from contact with the sharp crust on the snow. There was plenty of feed on the ground, but the cattle could not get at it. They died by the hundreds and thousands. It was estimated that from seventy-five to ninety per cent of the cows and calves on the range perished that winter and sixty per cent of the steers also perished. They lay in piles behind the hills where they had sought shelter.

The following spring many who had engaged in the business in Custer county, and who until this winter had believed there was no grazing country equal to it, quit the business in disgust and left the county.  Nothing like this winter had preceded it in the history of the country, and nothing like it has been experienced since.

source: History of Cuter Co. Neb,by G.L. Gaston and A.R. Humphrey,Lincoln Neb. Western Publishing and Engraving Co. 1919.


Monday's mail brought to this office a copy of the Tribune, published at Callaway, Custer County, Nebraska. The people of sunny Alabama who think we have hard times should consider the suffering and distress of their fellow creature in drouth stricken Nebraska. Starvation is at their very doors and were it not for the good people of other states thousands would die of hunger and cold.   The Tribune tells its own story thusly:
To Brother Printers:
Aid is being sent here to the farmers, but we can't issue on aid flour or a piece side meat, and having run all our white paper through we are using up our old paper we have on hand. It is about exhausted and only the office towel is left which has not been washed for seven years. So ask our brother printers to consider our situation with a family to support, with nothing coming in, and we know their ever generous disposition will see some way to contrite a little paper or a couple hours work to keep my paper going for the good it will do the outside world in telling them how this afflicted drouth stricken district is getting along, also to enable us to get shoes and proper wraps for our wife and four children.   All communications will be cheerfully answered and any donations will be acknowledged in the press, whether for us or to be divided with other printers in this district. If other information is needed write to Wm. Van Winkle or Tribune and I can assure any little gift, if no more than a dime, will be gratefully received.   FRANK W. CONLY
The following paragraphs are clipped from the Tribune of January 19:
To have all you want to eat is a luxury in this country now-a-days.
This setting type with your toes out and the thermometer ten below zero with a fire of old exchanges is rather tough on a half fed printer.
It is now estimated that over 12,000 have left this county since last fall, in fact all who could get away went.
A fellow northeast of here stole a sack of flour and when the officer got there to arrest him the children were eating it raw.
The food trains from the south to the drouth sufferers of this state will furnish the sort of union that is needed between the south and west.
Now comes the good old state of Georgia with 21 cars full of provisions to be distributed among their less fortunate western friends, soon to be followed by a train made up at New Orleans.
Mr. Conley's appeal is a most worthy one and we trust that our reader swill contribute something. The News-Press is making up a fund for him and will add any thing its reader may send. Or you many send the money to Mr. Conley yourself. If the amount is only a dime it will do some good and be thankfully received.
From Hamilton News Press - Marion County, AL - January 31, 1895 -
Transcribed and submitted by Veneta McKinney

Lincoln Neb.- Oct. 10- A dozen persons were injured, but none killed, by a tornado that swept through Custer County in Central Nebraska, doing heavy property damage, according to reports reaching here today.   The twister formed near Lodi and swept northeastward, razing buildings in a path a quarter of a mile wide, and claiming particularly heavy property loss near Broken Bow and Sargent.  It was the third destructive tornado to sweep Nebraska this year.
Source: The Pittsburg Press-Oct. 10, 1913

by Irene S. Dewey

My father, Randall B. Sargent, was one of Custer county's pioneers, coming to Nebraska in 1882.  he and his brothers took homesteads in a valley that lies halfway between Broken Bow and Sargent and was later called Sargent valley.

A Hand Made Plow-
The land was all virgin prairie when they arrived, so the first thing necessary was a plow with which to break the sod for their "soddy" and the fields for corn.  Since Randall had no plow, he proceeded to make one from a small waterelm trunk.  He hewed out a beam about four inches in diameter and four feet long.  With his brother Riley's assistance he made a rod plow patterned after a little plow called "The Antelope", which they had had in Iowa.  The next spring he and his brother made a hundred of these plows and for a time were hardley able to supply the demand for them.

A Tornado in '97-

The morning of the seventeenth of May, 1897, was still and warm.  There was an ominous calm in the air.  My mother and father, with their oldest son, Glenn, while in the yard observed a dark mass of clouds boiling up from the southwest.  Instantly it took on a funnel-shaped appearance and they realized that a tornado was upon them.  My mother, with a cry of fear, dashed toward the house where the two younger children, Charles and Irene, were asleep.  Boards, chickens and sods were flying in every direction.

As she reached the door and opened it, a table was blown across the floor, striking her in the side and injuring her quite badly.  She held a quilt over the sleeping children, who did not awaken, although all the sods were torn off the roof of the house.  My father, in the meantime, picked Glenn up just as the tornado carried them around behind a building.  It tore the roof off a shed near them and the side fell on them as they lay there.  Twice the wind picked this wall up and dropped it on them.  Each time my father expected to be crushed.  The wind picked it up again and released them.  Glenn, who was underneath, was not injured and my father picked him up and ran to the house.  How thankful they were that they had miraculousley escaped, although the farm was a mass of wreckage.

The tornado was followed shortly by a heavy rain and hail and they were forced to abandon the house for a neighbor's until the roof could be repaired.  No one in the community was injured, but in the Oxford school six miles away, a little girl, Fanny Fowler, was killed.  The teacher, Miss Sweet and several students were injured.  North of the river (the Middle Loup) a number of homesteaders' buildings were destroyed.
[Source:  Pioneer Stories of Custer Co. Nebraska, published by E.R. Purcell, publisher Custer County Chief, Broken Bow Ne 1936,transcribed by: Melody Beery]

Sixty above in Callaway Xmas
Special Dispatch to the World Herald
Callaway Nebraska, Dec. 27

Callaway thermometers outdid those of the farther eastern towns in setting an altitude record on Christmas Day.  Sixty was registered by authentic Fahrenheit.  Never, say the oldest inhabitants, has this mark been approached.
Source: The World Herald, Omaha, Thursday, December 28, 1922

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