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An Historical Review of The Ough Divide and Dundy County 

Printed in the Benkelman, NE Post, (not sure of the date)
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An Historical Review of The Ough Divide and Dundy County

As Written by John A. Andrews

of Ottawa, Illinois.

Well Known Editorial Writer, Recognized Authority on Farm Economics in the Middle West, Early Ough Divide Homesteader and Publisher of a Dundy County Newspaper at One Time.

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By common consent of the people the Divide was called the "Ough" Divide. That was an honor justly due the four Ough families who together had emigrated from Illinois and located on the rolling prairies of North Dundy in the year 1885. Settlers homes were few and far between in those days. Bill, Henry, Jim and John were brothers and their wives were estimable women who knew how to adapt themselves to the hardships and inconveniences of frontier life.

Bill, the eldest brother, was regarded as one of the most skillful farmers on the prairie and his wife was noted as an efficient maker of sweet flavored, golden country butter and she knew how to manage the poultry end of the farm program so it would yield a profit. I remember she occasionally packed eggs into barrels and shipped them to Denver and got top prices.

Henry Ough was a capable merchant and engaged in operating a general merchandise store at Ough and made a success of the enterprise.

James Ough and wife were upright industrious farmers and bravely faced adversity that falls to the lot of the early settler. James, while living in Illinois lost one of his legs in a threshing machine accident. After living in Dundy county a few years he and his family moved to eastern Nebraska.

Mr. and Mrs. John Ough built their home on the corner of their half section of land and the Benkelman-lmperial highway passed by their door. John succeeeded in getting the appointment as post master of the Ough Post office and then Ough was on the map. Mr. and Mrs. Ough's residence was commodious and it became a sort of wayside inn and provided meals and shelter for travelers who passed over the Benkelman-Imperial route. They treated their guests kindly and efficiently and were noted far and near for their fine hospitality.

The homes of both Henry and John Ough were social centers where young people occasionally gathered in the early days to spend the evening in merrymaking. No doubt there are yet living a goodly number of people, (who now, of course, belong to the grey or white-haired generation) who have not forgotten the happy hours they whiled away more than a half century ago treading the mizes of the Virginia reel or tripping the light fantastic in waltz or quadrille on the floors of the dining rooms in the homes of Henry and J. C. Ough.

It is natural for young people to fail to appreciate the kind deeds bestowed on them by their elders and I am sure that many of us in the hurly, burly, merry-go-round of youth neglected to be grateful for what the Ough families did for the recreation, entertainment and general well being of the boys and girls of our neighborhood. But now in these later years it is easy for me to understand, as I soberly look back to that pioneer period, that there never were more capable and amiable hostesses than were Mesdames Henry and Johnny Ough. They were the noble hearted queens of the frontier and their memory is revered by all who knew them well.

While Johnny Ough was recognized as an industrious and efficient farmer and stock raiser and skilled in business affairs he possessed one exceptionally rare talent – he was a born diplomat. He possessed the art of getting along with people. No one ever heard of Johnny Ough getting into trouble with his neighbors. He knew how to pour the oil of tact onto troubled water. So when "Ringmaster" L. Morse of the Dundy county republican party was casting about his territory in the early nineties to find a winning candidate for county treasurer it could but be expected that Johnny Ough, of the Ough Divide, was picked out as the most suitable county treasurer timber available. John was unanimously nominated at the county convention and was elected by a big majority at the polls the following November. He served his term in the office in the court house at Benkelman and faithfully and efficiently discharged the duties of that responsible position. Only that the law did not permit a county treasurer to succeed himself in that office he would bave been re-elected.

W. R. Beum was the candidate on the democratic ticket in the campaign was the opponent of Mr. Ough. Beum was a substantial farmer who lived near Haigler. He was known as a good story teller and also could sing popular songs very cleverly. In making his rounds among the voters in town and country during the campaign he held meetings in school houses and made quite a hit with the people by spinning yarns and executing vocal solos.  But Johnny Ough's popularity and the brutal republican majority combined to defeat Mr. Beum.

On the Ough Divide there was no one who was better known and had more friends than Jim Andrews. He arrived in that territory from Washington, Illinois, about the same time as the Ough brothers, and his half section of land joined John Ough's section on the north. It was Jim's original plan to engage in raising cattle and he, with that purpose in view, established a small ranch in the year 1885 and he called it the "85" ranch. His herd of cattle included about 100 head of cows and heifers but the following winter about seventy per cent of his livestock succumbed to the rigors of terrific blizzards and zero weather.

This sad turn of the wheel of misfortune was a hard blow to the ambitious young man and, of course, discouraged him. But he resolved to stick to his home on the claim and trust to head work, hard work and luck and determine what the future had in store.

Jim was an athlete. In his old home town of Washington, Illinois, he was known as an expert amateur wrestler and ball player. Before he departed for Western Nebraska a few weeks Jim was invited by a leading baseball manager to go to Peoria, Illinois, for a baseball tryout. He made a surprising display of skill in a trial exhibition and was assured by baseball men that there would surely be success for him in a career on the diamond if he would choose the great game as his life's profession. Practically on the flip of a penny he turned down a promising baseball career and turned his face toward the land of the setting sun. While it was hard for him to make this decision, as he dearly loved to participate in the national sport, he someway felt that in the end cattle raising and farming would be the best for him. His fame as a ball player spread far and near and towns in the Republivan river valley as far as McCook frequently would send for him to do "pinch hitting" in some unusually hot ball contest.

Jim organized the Ough ball team and soon gained an enviable reputation for defeating all opposition that face it on the diamond. Only a few of the players' names am I able to dig up from the depths of my memory. John Pinkerton hurled the curves and Jim behind the bat caught them. Fred Weaver executed the role of shortstop and James Burham held down second base and the third base was capably protected by Wig Light.

Over at Lamar, Colorado, was a group of ball players who for a number of years had challenged all amateur teams in the short crass country of both states and had remained hard to defeat. The Lamar team heard that the Ough club had acquired a good opinion of its ability to fan out strikers, steal bases, and knock out home runs and it sent a challenge to the Ough ball captain to meet his team in a contest on the Imperial diamond over in Chase county any date that might be convenient.

The challenge was promptly accepted and one bright, hot day in August, Ough and Lamar faced each other on the diamond of the county seat of Chase. The Lamar lads drove into Imperial in nifty horse and buggy outfits and put up an impressive front. Some of them were young business men and were a well dressed bunch and had the aspect of trained athletes. They looked like a type of sportsmen who would be given credit for being "up to snuff." An hour before the game started, Andrews went into a huddle with his players and soberly warned them that the Ough team evidently was up against the hardest struggle of its career and adjured every man to do his duty at any sacrifice possible.

Hundreds of homesteaders and town people from Chase county and eastern Colorado swarmed into the bleachers and a great crowd of fans from the Ough Divide were on hand to cheer their home team.

During the first six innings the honors stood about even between the contestants, but in the seventh inning Andrews knocked a home run and let in two players beside himself and those three scores made the total even and broke the heart of the Lamar team, and it did not seem to rally from that discouraging hard luck set-back. At the end of the ninth the score stood 8 to 11 in favor of the Divide boys and the $100 wager purse was awarded them.

It was a Waterloo battle for the Lamar athletes. Their captain admitted that his team he had supposed was not outclassed between Hastings and Denver but somehow the sunburned homesteaders from the Ough Divide had unexpectedly robbed them of their laurels. In the several years he had played ball he declared he had never before contacted a man who had as much skill as a catcher as the red-haired, southpaw Andrews. John Pinkerton appeared to be at his best in this crucial contest, and he displayed excellent ability in his role as the pitcher.

And in fact, there was glory enough in the great victory for every member of the club. And what a proud, gay, light hearted group of ball players wended their way that evening over the prairie road from Imperial to their homes in the Divide country. (I regret I am unable to recall the names of four of the players who took part in this exciting ball game.)


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