Fillmore County - Genealogy Trails
Early County History
In June, 1866, the first settlement in the county was made. William Bussard and William Whitaker entered homestead claims and made a settlement on the West Blue River, in the northern part of the county, near where the Fillmore Mills is now. These men were stock-raisers and had a large number of cattle.
This location was chosen for the fertility of the soil and the richness of the wild grasses that covered the prairies. But these settlers were did not remain alone, for the next fall several persons selected and entered homestead claims along the same stream. Among them were James Whitaker, Nimrod Dixon, J. H Malick and J. A. Werts.
Fearing the severity of the winter in a new and uninhabited country and being so far away from supplies , all who had located here, except J. H. Malick and J. A. Werts, went farther East to spend the winter.
These two inhabitants of what is now Fillmore County, passed the winter by busing themselves with hunting and trapping. The country at that time abounded in wild animals of all kinds common to the Western prairies. The larger game, buffalo, elk and antelope were numerous, and for the first two or three years after the settlement. The selling of meats, hides and furs formed quite a profitable
source of income for those then living in the county.
In the spring of 1867, the parties who left the settlement the previous fall returned and with them came the first white woman to form a residence in the county. She was Mrs. E. A. Whitaker, and was then about seventy years of age. She entered a homestead near the West Blue River, in what is now West Blue Precinct.
In the year 1868, a very few settlers came to the county. On the West Blue, Henry L. Badger, the pioneer land surveyor, accompanied by a few families, made a location. The same year, D. H. Dillon settled in the eastern part of the county on Turkey Creek.
During the year 1869, there were very few additions made to the settlements on West Blue and Turkey. A large settlement was made in the extreme southeastern part of the county, on Walnut Creek. Among the Walnut Creek settlers were M. Walker, J. F. Snow, John, Charles and Henry Eberstein and Cyrus Mcpherson.
These settlements formed a nucleus, around which new settlers were fast selecting farms.
The year 1870 is noted for the large immigration to Nebraska, and now there was a rush of settlers to Fillmore County.
The settlements were generally made around those already established, but the greatest number were located in the southeastern part of the county and by the end of the year, the settlers here out numbered those of the rest of the county.
Among those to locate on the West Blue, in 1870, was E. L. Martin, who laid out a town and called it Fillmore City. This town was located where the Fillmore Flouring Mills now stand.
Immigration had kept up during the winter of 1870-71, and, in the spring of 1871, there began a grand rush of settlers to Fillmore County, which continued during the year. The greater part of the better quality of Government land, in all parts of the county, was now taken up, and a great deal of railroad land was sold.
The original land grant to the Burlington Missouri River Railroad in Nebraska, conveyed to them each alternate section of land, for fifteen miles on each side of the railroad.
The heaviest settlement, in 1871, however, was near the original settlement before mentioned.
In the rush of the spring of 1871, several professional men came to the county. The first attorneys to make a location were C. H. Bane, near the center of the county, and J. W. Eller, in the northeastern part. The first physicians were G. R. Hart and H. F. King, who secured homestead claims near the center of the county.
The first ministers of the Gospel to form a residence in the county were Elder E. R. Spear, a Baptist minister, then about seventy years of age, who located on Turkey Creek, northwest of the present town of Geneva, and Rev. G. W. Gue, a Methodist minister, who located where the town of Fairmont is now.
It is impossible to say which of these gentlemen preached the first sermon in the county, though it is generally credited to Elder Spear, who preached at the residence of N. McCalla, on Turkey Creek, early in May, 1871. About the same time, and it is said by many, a little earlier, Rev. G. W. Gue preached a sermon at the residence of Warren Woodard at the present town of Exeter.
The first store in the county was opened February 10, 1871, by J. E. Porter, at Fillmore City, on the West Blue River. This was also the place where the first farm in the county was opened up, in 1867, by Nimrod G. Dixon, who broke forty acres that year.
The first post office was established at Fillmore March 10, 1871, and E. L. Martin was appointed Postmaster. The post office was kept at J. E. Porter's store, and he had charge of the office, having been appointed Deputy Postmaster. The salary for the first year amounted to $12.
The first school of the county was taught on Walnut Creek, in the extreme southeastern part of the county, in the fall of 1871.
In the fall of 1871, the Burlington & Missouri River Railroad was completed through Fillmore County, and the towns of Exeter and Fairmont were surveyed and platted, and at once began to be built up rapidly.
In the history of Fillmore County, the year 1872 is noted for the rapid settlement over its entire area. During the year, nearly every acre of Government land had been entered, a large amount of railroad land sold, and a very large acreage brought under cultivation. There had been a large acreage planted to crops, and the yield was good.
The spring of 1873 opened with a heavy immigration to the county, and, by the end of the year, all parts had become quite thickly settled. The large acreage already under cultivation had been planted, which yielded an abundant crop.
Source: History of Nebraska