WESTERVILLE PIONEER STORIES

EARLY SETTLERS OF WESTERVILLE:
By: Dessie Pinkley
source: Pioneer stories of Custer County
transcribed by: Melody Beery

A few months ago my brother. Ransom Blowers, and I, passed through the little town of Westerville which lays nestled at the foot of a large hill, which Is "God's protection from the hot south winds." At the west is the cemetery, where some of the early pioneers are resting from their labors;  close by is a little stream of water, rippling and singing, wending its way back home to the sea.

Looking away over the landscape where the clouds and shadows were racing and the warm autumn light lay on the varying shades of green and brown, all so peaceful and quiet, one could
hardly visualize that this peaceful, quiet little village where I was born fifty years ago was at that time a thriving little city. The lumber was hauled from Grand Island to build the little frame store building, my birthplace.

News From the Western Echo

I have in my possession an old newspaper which my father, Thomas H. Blowers, prized so highly called the Western Echo, volume 1, number 1. dated Friday, May 2, 1884, with F. C. N. Knox editor and proprietor. I will copy some of the news which I think will be of interest:

 

"D. W. Thompson, A. Grierson, G. Grierson, M. Speece. O. B. Jenkins and D. C. Konkel have enlisted in the ranks of the Echo.

Doc T. N. Waterbury appeared on our streets Friday morning, wearing a smile: It's a boy and weighs twelve pounds.

A social was held at the residence of J. A. Armour last week in aid of the church fund.

A review of some of the business men tells of  H. Abbey, boot and shoemaker, will shortly open the Eureka   House.

A. Adams,
who moved to Westerville in 1879, opened a blacksmith shop, married in 1877 to M. A., daughter of J.Pense of Westerville

J. A. Armour, educated at Shurtlcff college, graduated in 1878, attended the St. Louis law school from 1873 io 1880, practiced in Clay county, Nebraska, then in September mov-
ed to Westerville, married in 1882 to Etta, daughter of Edgar Varney of Westerville, and does a general law insurance and land business.

W. A. Bailie moved to
Westerville in 1882 from Loup City, is in the drug business, and has charge of the postoffice.

L.
Booknau of the firm of Gering & Booknau, came to Westerville in 1883 and Joined Mr. Gering in a hardware and agricultural implement business

J. Burge came to Westerville in 1880 with a herd of horses and started in the drygoods and grocery business in company
with the Varney Bros., dissolved partnership shortly afterwards, entered into the same line of business with Woodward Bros., remained with them two years when be withdrew; at present does a general dry goods business In company with Mr. Baker under the
name of Burge and Baker

H.A. Burnham worked in a cheese factory for 22 years, came to Lincoln In 1878, started in cattle business, settled In Westervllle in August, 1883, and opened a livery and stock business
Thos. Baker was born In Beaver county Pa., in 1839. On the war breaking out in '61 Joined the 100th Pa. Volunteers, served until 1865; came to Westerville In 1878 where he does a
general dry goods and grocery business in partnership with Mr. Burge A Peale proprietor of the Custer House

D.W.Cornstock. proprietor of the Westerville harness shop

Edgar Varney of the Pioneer store, dealer in dry goods, groceries, boots and shoes.

Thomas H. Blowers, dealer in general merchandise, lumber, also buying and selling cattle.

Then reading the school report it says: "Number enrolled ending May: males 15, females 13, total 28. Those present every day with perfect deportment: Cassius Varney. Thomas Varney, Claud Westervelt,  Oral Rider, Justin Welsh, Harry Burnham. Lula Rider, Maud Woodward, lona Woodward. Clara Blowers, Sablna Gary, Ora Tense."


Early Coffins Home Made

Westerville was lacking in one business firm In those early days, and that was an undertaker. It costs so much to die and be buried today, but In those days my mother told me when anyone died, as my father sold lumber he used to make the coffins and bury the dead.  My father was not much of a carpenter, but in his crude way he would work at night, sometimes all night, by the faint glow from on oil lamp, making a coffin. Mother would help by lining It with muslin. Maybe a dear friend and neighbor had passed away, and down in among the linings of the coffin some tears were dropped, real tears for loved ones. Father and mother never got one cent for their work, did not even expect it, just helped out when anyone died.  They always helped lay them out,
and they would place some pennies  on
the eyes of the corpse so they would stay shut.

The Mortgaged Calf

Then again I remember my mother telling of a family who lived In a dugout with only a small pane of glass in the door for light and window. Father said the man was shiftless and no one would
trust him. but anyway they could not starve, so father trusted them for groceries. The bill was getting large. They owned a calf, which was about all they had.  The man came and wanted more
groceries, so told father he would give him a mortgage on his calf.  Father took the mortgage with no intention of ever taking the calf, but thought it might make him realize he must pay his debts. A terrible blizzard came and father worried all night about the poor family in the dugout home, wondering if they were starved, as the man owed so much be had stayed away from the store for a while. My uncle. Ransom Varney, said he would take a basket of groceries which my father had prepared.  The storm was blinding, but knowing how many feet it was from the store to the dugout, father tied a rope around my uncle's waist and
hanging a basket on his arm. uncle started out; when he got to the end of the rope father tied on more rope and Uncle Ransom knew
:he dugout would be somewhere at the end of the circle. He finally found it end when he knocked on the door, the old lady, peering out recognized my uncle, and seeing the rope, thought he had come to take away her calf. In her half starved and crazed condition, she held the door and threatened to kill my uncle. She held a piece of the bed post in her hand. They had burned almost everything in the house to keep from freezing. When he finally convinced her he had brought food and did not want her calf she let him in. They had the calf in the dugout with them and
it was eating the straw out of their mattress. They were melting snow for water and had nothing to eat.  It was a pitiful sight,
Pioneers, yes.   Makes me think of Rev. XIV: 13th verse:   "And I
heard a voice from heaven saying
unto me: Write. Blessed are the dead which die In the Lord from henceforth: Yes. saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labors, for their works do follow
them."



 


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