Visit the Census Page to view census records of Hobo Island.
From the book "Mills County" - by Ryan Roenfeld
Down on the Missouri River was Hobo Island where up to 60 families lived in the 1890s raising corn and watermelon. The Mills County Tribune called
their homes "pretty poor concerns" with dirt floors and "some decidedly tough looking people over there."
In 1910, Hobo Island was in dispute between Nebraska and Iowa. The 1910 Census Record lists Hobo Island in District 128, Sarpy County, Nebraska.
From the McCook Tribune (McCook, Nebraska), dated August 5, 1892:
An Unknown Floater Found
Bellevue, Neb., July 24 – An unknown floater was picked up in the Missouri south of Bellevue Island yesterday. One hundred and seventy dollars in bank bills were found in the left front pocket of his overalls. The body was clothes in a pair of dark striped overalls, black shirt, red suspenders and narrow leather belt around the waist, cotton socks but no shoes. The verdict of the jury was that the deceased met his death in a manner unknown to the jury, but supposed to be by drowning.
From the Omaha Daily Bee (Omaha, Nebraska), dated February 22, 1893:
Remarkable Revival Service
All the Citizens of Bellevue Island Converted – Exercises at Fremont
Bellevue, Neb., Feb. 21 – This day will long be remembered by the residents of Bellevue Island. For several weeks past a big revival has been in progress at that place under the conduct of a Holiness denomination from across the river, and which has resulted in the conversion of nearly every person residing upon the island and many others from abroad, including persons who in the early meetings were the source of considerable annoyance to the worshippers. It was to witness the ordinance of baptism administered to the converted members that hundreds assembled on the banks of the Missouri this afternoon. One by one the converts were plunged through an airhole in the ice. Many evidences of the faith of the converts were manifest while the ceremonies were being performed, one remarkable case being that of a young woman who received the “power” while in the freezing water. The meetings are still in full blast and are being attended by people who come from miles away. Many more conversions are expected.
From the Omaha Daily Bee (Omaha, Douglas Co., Nebraska), dated November 24, 1893:
"Hobo Island," in the Missouri river, opposite old St. Mary, is acquiring a good deal of notoriety and attention just now on account of the inability of its inhabitants to locate themselves socially, geographically and politically, says the Glenwood Tribune.
Nebraska has stated emphatically that it wants nothing to do with either "Hobo" or its "hobos," while a portion of the people of Mills county are kicking vigorously on allowing it to be annexed to Iowa. Under these circumstances it occurs to us that there is but one course open to the Hobo Islanders if they wish to preserve their self-respect, and that is to set up an independent empire of their own.
If we understand aright, they already have a king, and if this is the case, all that remains to be done is for him and his courtiers to read up a little on court etiquette and then send ministers plenipotentiary and envoys extraordinary to other countries and inform them of Hobo Island’s autonomy, and request that a place be duly assigned it in the catalogue of nations.
From the Opinion-Tribune (Glenwood, Iowa), dated March 15, 1894:
The suit of Edmund C. Lane vs. Lauterback and Burris from Hobo Island occupied the attention of the court the greater part of Monday and Tuesday. Lane is a lawyer in South Omaha who has bought warrantee and quit claim deeds to a large portion of the land in Hobo Island and is now trying to eject the actual settlers from the land in question. The judge reserved his decision in the case until later.
From the Opinion-Tribune (Glenwood, Iowa), dated March 15, 1894:
During the last political campaign quite a vigorous discussion was awakened as to whether the inhabitants of the now famous “Hobo Island” situated in the Missouri river opposite St. Mary township, were citizens of Mills county or whether they are inhabitants of Nebraska. We believe however the fact that litigation over certain lands lying within the borders of this island was brought before the term of court just closed in this county is sufficient evidence that this disputed locality is a part of Mills county’s territory. If not why should the courts of this county have jurisdiction over land located there? What business have Nebraska citizens to come over here and adjudicate their legal differences in an Iowa court? None whatever. No indeed the autonomy of “Hobo Island” must come to an end henceforth its citizens may consider themselves annexed to Mills county.
From the Omaha Daily Bee (Omaha, Douglas Co., Nebraska), dated May 2, 1894:
Neither State Had Jurisdiction
Pacific Junction, Ia., May 1 - (Special to The Bee) - The case of the state against George McKnight, charged with assault with intent
to commit murder, was called yesterday before Justice Zaren.
On April 26, the defendant assaulted John Severick and son Herman with a knife and inflicted quite serious wounds on both parties.
The affray took place on what is known as "Hobo Island," a place originally located in Iowa, but cut off by a change in the channel
of the Missouri and left on the Nebraska side. McKnight was immediately arrested and brought before a magistrate at Bellevue, Neb.,
but the question of jurisdiction was raised by McKnight’s attorney and after a full hearing the case was dismissed on the ground that
the point where the offense was committed is in Iowa. The complaining witness immediately repaired to Iowa and filed a similar complaint
before Justice Zaren on this place, but when the case was called for hearing, Attorney McNamara of Omaha appeared for the defendant and
again raised the question of jurisdiction, claiming that the authority of the Iowa court extended only to the Missouri river on the west,
and in support of his contention cited the act of congress admitting the state of Iowa, which defines its western boundary as the center
of the Missouri river. The result was that the prisoner was discharged.
From the Opinion-Tribune (Glenwood, Iowa), dated October 4, 1894:
The famous Hobo Island of election notoriety is one of the few points in Southwestern Iowa that was not affected by the recent drouth. In a trip which he made to that locality last Friday, Mr. B.E. Lincoln informs us that the entire Island appeared in fine condition. Corn was in fine shape and would average at least fifty bushels per acre while the meadow and pastures were abundantly supplied with grass. Potatoes grown here were exceptionally large, many weighing from two to three pounds apiece. The only thing Mr. Lincoln assured us that the Island needs to make land thereon worth $75 per acre, was a little more civilization. Fertility, convenience and all the other desirable features were there as far as the land was concerned, but the inhabitants had not become civilized yet.
From the Opinion-Tribune (Glenwood, Iowa), dated July 9, 1896:
Sheriff Tubbs was over on Hobo Island Tuesday looking for the thief who stole N.P. Kuhl’s horse on account of which occurrence appears elsewhere in these columns. The sheriff says Hobo Island is pretty thickly populated at the present time there being about 50 or 60 families living there. The principal crops seemed to be corn and watermelons, both of which are in excellent condition. Most of the houses are pretty poor concerns being constructed largely of willows with dirt floors. There were some decidedly tough looking people over there, the sheriff said, and some few that appeared fairly civilized. He did not find his horse thief but made some unique acquaintances.
From the Opinion-Tribune (Glenwood, Iowa), dated November 5, 1896:
A great vote was polled in St. Mary precinct, greater in fact than has ever been polled there. The total vote was 76 of which the republicans polled 12 and the democrats 64 leaving a democratic majority of 52. The vote last year was democrats and populists 40, republicans 8, showing a gain for the former of 12 and of 4 for the latter. Republicans are mean enough to assert that Hobo Island was turned loose, but this is not correct.
From the Opinion-Tribune (Glenwood, Iowa), dated December 30, 1897:
Hobo Island is enjoying a fair share of prosperity these days owing to the fact that they raised a good corn crop over there and as nobody has to pay any taxes, they can keep the wolf from the door with corn bread and hominy. There are about 40 families on the island and the total number of “Hobos,” little and big, would probably be about 200. Hobo Island has lost its political importance since its inhabitants have ceased voting in Mills county as they did in the famous campaign of ’93 and for one or two years thereafter.
From the Opinion-Tribune (Glenwood, Iowa), dated September 1, 1898:
On Monday, Deputy Sheriff Morgan arrested Mrs. Lou Dillsaver in “Hobo Island.” She is charged with attempting to kill one Stephens who she shot through the arm during a quarrel last May. She is now in jail awaiting a hearing which will be given her before Squire Alton as soon as the prosecuting witness presents himself. The woman and her husband were inclined to resist the arrest at first upon the theory that Hobo is neither Iowa nor Nebraska territory.
From the Opinion-Tribune (Glenwood, Iowa), dated September 8, 1898:
Mrs. Swoappe to the Rescue
Our most estimable lady friend, Mrs. L. Jackson Swoaape of Lyons township has just played the part of the good Samaritan toward a suffering sister in that she has consented to act as surety for Mrs. Lou Dilsaver, the celebrated shootist from Hobo Island. As we have already mentioned, Mrs. Dilsaver’s bail was originally fixed at $1,000 but the lady and her friends entered a vigorous protest at its being placed so high, whereupon our gallant squire, Justice Aiton, whose admiration for the fair sex always makes him prone to chivalrous deeds, very considerately reduced the bond to $500. After some energetic hustling, the surety was found in the person of Mrs. Swoappe who put up the necessary $500 in money and Mrs. Dilsaver was liberated from her irksome imprisonment. But in order to secure Mrs. Swoappe, she gave the latter a quit claim deed to all her realty on hobo Island and also a chattel mortgage on all her personal effects. Thus everything is lovely with all concerned until the grand jury meets.
From the Opinion-Tribune (Glenwood, Iowa), dated September 22, 1898:
Mrs. L. Jackson Swoappe, the female philanthropist from Lyons township, came in this morning and surrendered her erstwhile friend and beneficiary, Mrs. Lou Dilsaver of Hobo Island fame, into the hands of the officers. Mrs. Swoappe had put up $500 in cash as surety for Mrs. Dilsaver’s appearance, but she concluded, her husband the Doctor said, that she would be safer with the money in her pocket than pledged for Mrs. Dilsaver’s return, and so turned the latter over to the tender hospitalities of the county bastille again.
From the Opinion-Tribune (Glenwood, Iowa), dated September 29, 1898:
The grand jury failed to indict Mrs. Dilsaver, the Hobo Island shootist. It was decided that Mills county had no jurisdiction in the case and not that the offense was not an indictable one.
From the Opinion-Tribune (Glenwood, Iowa), dated September 29, 1898:
Mrs. Lou Dilsaver of Hobo Island fame is triumphantly vindicated in the eyes of the law at least from the charge preferred against her of assault with intent to commit murder. After a careful investigation of the matter, the grand jury concluded that they hadn’t enough jurisdiction to justify an indictment and so the good woman was set at liberty. In our opinion, the grand jury did just the right thing. For several reasons. First because the accused was a woman, secondly because she comes from Hobo Island, which is a wild, lawless community in whose affairs it is neither desirable nor profitable to interfere, and thirdly because from all that we can learn the worth woman did just what she should have done in perforating that fellow Stephens in the manner that she did. A man that hasn’t any more gallantry than to get into a fight with a woman ought to be shot.
From the Opinion-Tribune (Glenwood, Iowa), dated March 23, 1899:
What is it? Where is it? To what state does it belong? Is it Iowa soil or does it belong to the commonwealth of Nebraska? Or is it one of Uncle Sam’s recently acquired possessions, and as yet, a sort of No-Man’s Land? These questions are not alone puzzling to the common mind, but have likewise troubled statesmen, lawyers and learned judges. Statemen have had to contend in a political way with the citizens of Hobo Island, who, in addition to running their local affairs, have a propensity to participate in the politics of neighboring bailiwicks. Lawyers have been at their wits end to know just where their clients “were at,” judicially speaking, while judges have scratched their heads and laid awake at nights trying to solve the question.
In the April term of the Mills county district court this troublesome matter will again bob up. Elsewhere in the “Opinion” is published an original notice of a foreclosure suit brought by Seabury L. Sears as plaintiff against E.M. Stevens and others. The land on which the mortgage is sought to be foreclosed is located on Hobo Island but was formerly Mills county soil, being the west 80 acres of the south west quarter of section 26 in St. Mary’s township. The suit is brought by D.O. Dwyer, a Plattsmouth lawyer, who, guided by the latest ruling in the courts, regards Mills county as having rightful jurisdiction.
The history of Hobo Island is interesting, nay, romantic. It has to do with that turbulent and troublesome stream – the Missouri river, the longest, the muddiest, the most treacherous, the most ungovernable, and the greatest mischief-making river in the world. To speak truly, Hobo Island is not an island. Geographers tell us an island is a body of land surrounded by water. Practically, if not legally, Hobo Island is as much a part of Nebraska as is Omaha. But right here enters one of those fine points of law governing the question of boundary, where two states are separated by a river. Instead of being a piece of land surrounded by water, Hobo Island is, legally speaking, a piece of Iowa soil entirely surrounded by Nebraska land. In other words, geographically an island should be surrounded by water, but legally speaking, land can be substituted for water.
The reader is at a loss to know how this can be. If we can’t explain it, possibly Surveyor Dean could, or Gen’l Stone might give the inquirer some light on the subject. While attorney general of Iowa Mr. Stone carried a case to the United States supreme court where there was a lively fight between Omaha and Council Bluffs, as to whether certain lands in East Omaha were in Iowa or Nebraska. As a result of that decision, a little stretch of land on the west side of the river, entirely surrounded by Nebraska soil, is called Iowa territory and constitutes one of the wards of Council Bluffs. Hobo Island, so called, is similarly situated, as we understand it. There is a very grave dispute, however, as to how much territory is comprised in Hobo Island proper. As commonly understood, Hobo Island is a stretch of ground opposite St. Mary township composed of about a thousand acres which the Missouri river has from time to time in the past 30 years been taking from Iowa and contributing to Nebraska.
During this period, the river has had a dozen or fifteen different channels running through this region, the tendency being all the while to diminish Mills county’s area. The big township map in the Auditor’s office shows a line the river ran along in 1851 when a U.S. government survey was made. About ’68 the river began cutting into the east bank near Bellevue, since which time acre after acre of good farm land in St. Mary township has been swallowed up in the rapacious maw of the Big Muddy. Farms formerly located in sections 23, 24, 25, 26, 30, 35 and 36 of that township have long since been engulfed in the murky waters. The K.C. railroad tracks at one time extended far out on the bottom at this point but repeated wash-outs caused the company to pick up their rails and take them over to the foot of the bluffs.
In 1880 the river cut off a tongue of land, forming what was known at that time as Stephen’s Island. This was in the southwest corner of section 26, comprising about 80 acres. Gradually the river channel shifted to the east until Stephen’s Island was left high and dry on the Nebraska shore. It is on this particular land that Plaintiff Sears seeks to foreclose his mortgage. This is claimed as a spot of “virgin” Iowa soil, lying east of the river line as run in 1851, and which has never been washed away, but being suddenly transformed into an island and later on made into Nebraska mainland. Hence the suit is brought in Mills county. In addition to the 80 acres there is a vast amount of land claimed as “accretion” soil which it is contended belongs to the little “island.” The question of what is and what is not “accretion” soil is a puzzler, the Old Missouri having made so many twists and turns in that region that a civil engineer would nearly be set crazy trying to find the center of the numerous beds the river has made and from which “accretions” are to reckoned.
At the north end of this stretch of “No-Man’s-Land” is another piece of soil formerly known as “Bellevue Island,” but which in later years has been anchored to the Nebraska side by the river deflecting eastward. This much disputed land lies on the east side of Sarpy county and is about four miles long by one and one half miles in width at the widest point. Recently, the authorities of Sarpy have been trying to extend their jurisdiction over it, trying to subdue the lawless element existing there and compel land owners to pay taxes into the county till. It has been many, many years since Mills County’s treasurer has collected taxes from Hobo Island’s inhabitants.
From the Opinion-Tribune (Glenwood, Iowa), dated April 27, 1899:
Some people over on Hobo Island have had to move off and some have had to tear their houses down to save them from being washed away.
From the Opinion-Tribune (Glenwood, Iowa), dated May 4, 1899:
Assessor Wm. Vinton of Platteville township who was in the city Saturday tells us the river is cutting pretty badly to the southwest of Folsom, the farms of Messrs. Moore and Knoefler suffering the most from the ravages of the Big Muddy. To the north and west of Folsom the river seems to be receding and he thinks the main channel will be fully a mile further west at this point when the turbulent waters once more get settled down. This means that Iowa will get back a little of the disputed territory known as Hobo Island which was formerly a part of Mills county. Mr. Vinton says the river cuts much worse in high water when the waters are going down rather than when coming up. While such a fact is hard to explain, it is nevertheless the common observation of old river men. When rising rapidly, he says the river is 5 or 6 feet higher in the center than at the sides, causing a pressure which holds the banks largely in place. When the water goes down, the river is lower in the center than at the sides, thereby producing a suction or “drawing in” which together with the eddying backwater does the cutting. River men have an unfailing method of telling whether the river is rising or falling, namely, when on the rise the driftwood and debris goes to the sides, when falling it collects about the current in the center.
From the Opinion-Tribune (Glenwood, Iowa), dated October 12, 1899:
The famous Hobo Island of election notoriety never gave evidence of a more plentiful harvest than this fall. In a trip which he recently made to that locality, one of the citizens of St. Mary township informs us that he found the entire Island in fine condition. Corn was in good shape and would average 50 bushels per acre while the meadow and pasture lands were fairly well supplied with grass. Potatoes grown here were exceptionally large, weighing from two to three pounds apiece. The only thing, we were assured by our informant, that the Island needed to make land thereon worth $50 per acre, was a clear title and a little more civilization. Fertility, convenience, accessibility to market and all the other desirable features were there as far as the land was concerned, but the people yet were not quite up to grade in point of civilization.
From the Omaha World-Herald (Omaha, Nebraska), dated January 22, 1901:
Smallpox has been discovered at the island below Bellevue.
Excerpt from the Davenport Morning Star (Davenport, Iowa), dated February 24, 1901:
Haunt In Inaccessible Wilderness
The haunt of the Cudahy kidnaper, as the haunt of Vic McCarty, is on Bellevue Island, the most inaccessible and impenetrable wilderness known to exist in this part of the country. The action to be taken by the police cannot yet be learned, but that a raid is being organized is without question, and it is expected that Pat Crowe will be in the toils of the law before many hours.
From the Davenport Morning Star (Davenport, Iowa), dated March 2, 1901:
The Omaha police were informed that Pat Crowe was in hiding on Bellevue Island, in the suburbs of Omaha, so with muskets on their shoulders they tramped through the forests of that isle in search of the renowned kidnaper. But they found they were the victims of a joke. There were crows in abundance, but instead of exhibiting a fighting disposition, they received the officers with a boisterous welcome. They plead their caws ably and were not molested.
From the Daily Times (Davenport, Iowa), dated June 1, 1901:
Suggests the Oldest Wreck
When the Dubuque went down the other day, the river editors of the river newspapers began to interview “veteran river men” to ascertain what is the oldest wreck in the river. The unanimous decision has been that the General Newton, which lies at the foot of Bellevue Island, now the West Newton Logging Works, is the oldest. The Newton was a packet not unlike the lighthouse tender Lily and was one of the first boats on the upper river. The boat made the same trips which the Dubuque made from St. Paul to St. Louis, and was accidentally sunk sometime in the fifties, at a time which is almost beyond recollection of the oldest pilots of the river, who are unable to tell the story, though they recall something of the reports of the time.
From the Kearney Daily Hub (Kearney, Nebraska), dated October 30, 1901:
What is said to be the last log house in Nebraska, standing on Bellevue Island, twelve miles below Omaha, is soon to be demolished.
From the Columbus Journal (Columbus, Nebraska), dated November 20, 1901:
Sod and Log School Houses
Lincoln, Neb., Nov. 16 – The attention of Superintendent Fowler was called to an article which recently appeared in an Omaha newspaper and which was said to be a description of the only log school house in Nebraska. This structure, according to the story, is on Bellevue Island, but will soon be torn away to make room for a more pretentious building. In a volume soon to be issued, Mr. Fowler will describe 112 other log school houses in this state and 505 in the same territory that are made of sod.
From the Glenwood Opinion, (Glenwood, Mills County, Iowa), dated March 20, 1902:
Lawyer Langdon, of Papillion, was interested in Senator Hazelton’s bill in the Iowa legislature for the appointment of a commissioner to
confer with the Nebraska legislature concerning the boundary line between the states. As it is now, the people on Hobo Island are in a
sort of "No man’s land." Apparently, they are in Nebraska, but they legally belong to Iowa, as the Missouri River formerly ran to the
west of them. Senator Hazelton’s bill would make the channel of the Missouri River the line, no matter where it may shift. This will be,
at present, a large strip of territory to Nebraska, and especially to Sarpy County, taking it from Mills County. East Omaha is also
claimed by Pottawattamie County, though to an onlooker, it seems a part of Nebraska and Omaha.
From the Nebraska State Journal (Lincoln, Nebraska), dated May 20, 1903:
Mixed by The Old Missouri
Curious Legal Tangle in Sarpy County
Judge Day Finds a Case That Sets Him to Thinking
Omaha, Neb., May 19 – Judge Day returned this morning from Sarpy county, where a peculiar condition of affairs exists with reference to certain land in litigation in the district court. This condition grows out of the idiosyncrasies of the channel of the Missouri river and the action of the state legislature in fixing the boundaries of Sarpy county. The legislature fixed the eastern boundary of the county as the channel of the Missouri river in 1856; since then Bellevue Island has become a part of the main land and by accretion there has been added to it a considerable tract of land which under the common law is part of the state of Nebraska, but as it lies east of the channel of the river of 1856, it is not part of Sarpy county except for judicial purposes. The people there pay no taxes, but they vote in Nebraska. They acknowledge only such laws of the state as they desire to have observed and, from time to time, when brought into court in law suits, endeavor to have it legally decreed that they are citizens of Iowa, but when that state claims jurisdiction they are equally earnest in attempting to prove their Nebraska citizenship.
In the case now before the court on a mortgage foreclosure, the owner of the land sets up the plea that his farm is half in Nebraska and half in Iowa, as he claims that the northwestern half is formed by accretion to Bellevue Island, while the southeastern half was brought over from the Iowa shore bodily when the river changes its current in 1873. If this contention is successful, it will raise a peculiar question of law. The mortgage is recorded in Nebraska, and would probably be binding as to that part of the land which was added to the island by the gradual recession of the river, while the mortgage not being recorded in Iowa, would probably not be binding upon that part of the farm which was torn from the eastern bank of the river when the channel was changed.
From the Lincoln Star (Lincoln, Nebraska), dated October 24, 1904:
Farmers Seek to Repress Missouri
The Rapacious Stream Keeps Devouring Valuable Land at A Rapid Rate
Plattsmouth, Neb., Oct. 24 – For some time the farmers who reside along the east bank of the Missouri river have been agitating the question of appealing to the government to take some action to prevent the old stream from encroaching on their lands. It is proposed to cut a new channel across the narrow strip of land on Hobo Island and thus throw the stream back into the channel it occupied some years ago. This island is now for the most part a waste of sand. The river has for several generations been eating its way from a point near Bellevue, on the Nebraska side of the stream, to Henton station on the Iowa side, a distance of five miles. In gazing “upstream” from Henton station, one looks in a northwesterly direction, more west than north, to Bellevue, to see the college buildings crowing the hills of that ancient village, which once threatened to outstrip Omaha as the capital and future metropolis.
“Tom” Lincoln, who has lost many acres of valuable land as a result of the old Missouri’s peculiar pranks, reports that the river is at points actually running north to regain its former channel near Plattsmouth. It has a fondness for the rich soil of Mills county and has thus dug into rich Iowa farms and thrown them on the Nebraska side. The river seems to grind and grind like an old-fashioned flour mill. It digs under the banks and frequently in the course of one day, when the river is high, several acres of soil is removed from one place. Mr. Lincoln relates some interesting anecdotes of men who have had narrow escapes from going into the river at these times. One was a young fellow who had just purchased a teach and a fine new wagon. He was hauling wood from near the river bank when a strip of earth went in from under the horses’ feet. Wagon, horses and all disappeared into the raging current. The young man barely escaped drowning, but the horses and wagon were never seen again. Mr. Lincoln also told of a time when he was near the river with a little German. He had cautioned the young fellow to come away as he was getting on dangerous ground, when the latter replied that he guessed he had lived there long enough to know what he was doing. He was walking toward Lincoln as he spoke and he had not been one minute off the spot where he stood at the time he was called, when it fell into the river with a great plunge. The German’s hair stood up on ends apparently and his face was of a ghostly whiteness. A minute more and he would have gone into the river - perhaps to his death.
The soil is so rich and fine that it cannot resist the onslaught of the current of the river, so it grinds away until if finally reaches a rocky bluff, when it works back again. The proposed channel, it is thought, will help matters until the government learns to keep the channel in one place.
From the Nebraska State Journal (Lincoln, Nebraska), dated July 31, 1905:
Missouri River Causes Trouble
Plattsmouth, Neb., July 30 – Farmers along the Missouri river are trying to solve the troublesome question of holding the crumbling banks of that stream. The method to be tried is known as the Kellner system of riprapping, the invention of a Nebraska man, which is being successfully used on the Platte river. The Kellner riprap consists of weaving bunches of willows into blocks of sixteen feet square and anchoring them at a distance of twenty-five feet apart along the bank. These bunches are made as long as thirty-two feet, depending on the depth of the water. It is calculated that they will catch and cause an accumulation of sand and dirt, thus weaving a solid bank. The cost, where the willows can be had close by, is $1 a foot. The Burlington recently built a much more expensive riprap to protect its railroad bridge at this point, costing about $100 a foot. It is thought that with the expenditure of about $3,000, the river can be thrown back into its old channel through Hobo Island.
From the Lincoln Star (Lincoln, Nebraska), dated July 31, 1905:
New Riprapping Scheme Being Tested in Cass County
Invention of Fremont Man, It Is Believed, Will Protect Land from The River
Plattsmouth, Neb., July 31 – Owing to the heavy damage which is continually being done to the farm land on the Iowa side of the river, the farmers residing over there are giving the question of riprapping considerable attention.
Amos Evernham of Lyons township is a pioneer in a move that may prove of great benefit to Missouri bottom farmers and be the means of solving the troublesome question of holding the crumbling banks of the “big muddy.”
H.F. Kellner of Fremont is the inventor of a scheme for riprapping which it is claimed is being successfully used on the Platte river. Mr. Evernham investigated the system and has decided to give it a trial on his farm, which has a water edge of three-fourths of a mile.
The Kellner riprap consists of weaving bunches of willows into blocks of 16 feet square and anchoring them at a distance of 25 feet apart along the bank. These bunches are made as long as 32 feet, depending on the depth of the water. It is calculated that they will catch and cause an accumulation of sand and dirt, thus weaving a solid bank. The cost where the willows can be had close by is $1 a foot.
The price is considered reasonable if it will do the work. The Burlington has been building a much more expensive riprap to protect its railroad bridge at Plattsmouth, costing about $100 a foot.
The Mills county, Iowa, surveyor is convinced by the performance of the river in the recent high water, that the proposed plan of throwing the river into its old channel through Hobo Island is entirely feasible. He estimates that the cost of the same would be $3,000.
Excerpt from the Lincoln Herald (Lincoln, Nebraska), dated August 11, 1905:
A sunken steamboat had recently been discovered there, the “City of New Orleans” which went down near Bellevue Island in 1852, long before the war. The steamer had among its cargo 160 barrels of fine whisky which was being taken up the river to a trading post to be traded out to the Indians.
From the Nebraska State Journal (Lincoln, Nebraska), dated August 12, 1905:
River is Voracious
Swiftly Eats Up Farm Land of Cass County People
Plattsmouth, Neb., Aug. 11 – The relentless current of the Missouri continues to give the farmers along the east bottoms great anxiety. Reeder Hubbel, who owns a fine farm on the banks of the stream just east of this city, is preparing abandon his property. The river is cutting away his land rapidly, and he believes that it will be only a question of a short time when other farmers along the river will be compelled to take a similar step. A number of years ago, Mr. Hubbel traded for his farm, and anticipated successful years that would make him enough money to retire, but his present misfortune will practically deprive him of all his possessions.
The river is cutting into its old channel on the west side of Hobo Island. This island is becoming depopulated, many of the farmers moving to Bellevue and other places in Nebraska. Since the spring floods they have been in a state of fear lest they may be drowned out. Peter Marko had 200 acres on the Nebraska side near Bellevue and it is all gone. During the recent flood, fifty acres of it was eaten up by the stream within one week.
From the Norfolk Weekly News-Journal (Norfolk, Nebraska), dated August 18, 1905:
"Big Muddy" Eats Farms
River Continues To Alarm People On Shores
Farms Are Being Abandoned
Reed Hubbell is Preparing to Move Off His Fine Farm, Part of Which Has Floated Away
Others Will Have to Take Same Steps
Plattsmouth, Neb., Aug. 12 - Special to The News: The Missouri river continues to give farmers along the east bottoms great anxiety.
Reed Hubbell is preparing to abandon his fine farm. The river is cutting away his land rapidly and it is only a question of time when
others will be compelled to take similar steps. Hobo Island is fast becoming depopulated.
From the Nebraska Advertiser (Nemaha, Nebraska), dated August 18, 1905:
The Glenwood, Iowa, Opinion says: The river is cutting into its old channel on the west side of Hobo Island. This will be good news to the people of Mills county as it will thus throw the river away from Henton station and return to Iowa all the land known as Hobo Island. This island is becoming depopulated, many of the farmers moving to Bellevue and other places in Nebraska. Since the flood they are in a state of fear that they may be drowned out. Peter Marko had 200 acres on the Nebraska side near Bellevue and it is all gone. During the recent floods fifty acres of it was eaten up by the hungry Missouri river within one week.
From the Omaha World-Herald (Omaha, Douglas Co., Nebraska), dated April 18, 1913:
Riprapping On River Destroyed With Dynamite
Portion of Workings Costing $500,000 Torn Away by Three Explosions
Federal and Railway Detectives Set To Work
Already the River Is Cutting Into Farms South of Folsom, Ia.
What is believed to have been a malicious attempt to destroy the riprapping along the Missouri river a mile south of Folsom, Ia., where nearly $500,000 was spent last year to prevent the river cutting into hundreds of acres of valuable farming land and the Burlington railroad tracks, occurred Wednesday evening. Seven hundred yards of willow matting, nearly half of the works, was torn away by three explosions. A small army of railway and government service men have been hurried to the scene in an effort to catch the parties believed guilty of trying to destroy the works. Folsom is fifteen miles down the river from Council Bluffs.
John Clark, a farmer living a short distance from the riprapping, told of seeing three men in a row boat cross the river from Hobo Island, just across the river from the works, several hours before the explosions were heard. Shortly after 6 o’clock Wednesday evening people living in the vicinity heard three explosions. Water and rock were blow high in the air above the riprapping. Wednesday night the river tore away the damaged matting and attacked the farm lands.
Huge chunks from the farm of H.W. Matthews, a mile down the river from Folsom, were being cut away by the river yesterday. Two crews of railroad workmen were hurried to the scene and are now busy in an effort to stop the inroads of the current. Other farms below the Matthews land are being attached by the river. It is feared much damage will result before the river, in its swollen condition, is stopped.
Railroad officials at the works yesterday were unable to give a reason for the destruction for the riprapping. A crew of American workmen, with their foreman, were discharged there several weeks ago, when a fight was being made against the river. Whether they were seeking revenge is not known. Hobo Island was secured by special officers yesterday in an attempt to find the guilty parties. A deserted row boat and the remains of a fire were found.
The officials, while included to believe someone tried to destroy the works, said it was possible that several large cable might have been broken, letting the river in behind the matting, but the explanation was hardly satisfactory on account of the explosions.
When the river was cutting away large blocks of land and threatening the railroad tracks last year the Burlington had nearly a hundred carloads of rock dumped, cars and all, over the bank. The government later appropriated $50,000 for the work and the people in the danger zone and about Pacific Junction, five miles from Folsom, gave an equal amount.
Farmers, whose land was protected by the works, are furious over the destruction of the riprapping. Many of them deserted their work yesterday, although it is during the rush season, and joined in the search of Hobo Island. Should the guilty parties be caught it is believed it will go hard with them. Sheriff "Buck" Bushnell of Mills county, with half a score of deputies, arrived on the scene yesterday afternoon to prevent such an outbreak if possible.
From the Omaha World-Herald (Omaha, Douglas Co., Nebraska), dated July 1, 1913:
War Between Road And Discharged Men Delays Work
Through Fear of Them, It Is Reported, Building of Riprapping Delayed
River Is Threatening To Cut Into Farm Land
Some of Laborers Frightened by Receiving Letters and Others Injured
War between the Burlington railroad and a dozen men the road discharged several weeks ago and replaced with foreigners to work at a cheaper wage, has caused the railroad’s riprapping work at Folsom, fifteen miles south of Council Bluffs, to be almost entirely discontinued while the river is threatening to cut in hundreds of acres of valuable farm land.
The men have established camp on Hobo Island, out in the river from Folsom, and through fear of them, it is said, other laborers will not remain at the river works. Over two score negroes quit work there last week presumably because of threats.
The riprapping works at Folsom, put in by the Burlington and the government at a cost of nearly $500,000, was partly destroyed several weeks ago. Reports at the time were that the works had been dynamited. That was a short time after the American laborers, nearly a hundred of them, were discharged. At that time, the Hobo Island camp, made up fo some of the discharged laborers, was found, but the men denied they had done the dynamiting and they were released.
They immediately re-established the camp. Since then one man has been seriously injured, another has been killed, a bunk car filled with the laborers’ belongings was burned, and there have been a large number of petty robberies. Some of the foremen, it was reported, received threatening letters, supposed to be from the men on the island. Those receiving letters invariably quit their positions and left at once.
Frank Smith, a foreman, was so badly injured by being struck with a rock Sunday, May 25, that he was sent, in an unconscious condition, to a hospital at St. Joseph. He refused to return. The report that he was hurt while at work was at the time denied by others of the men, who said they did not work on Sunday.
The body of John W. Duffy, a negro employed at the works, was found near the camp the night of Sunday, June 15, the head crushed in. He was brought from St. Louis to work on the riprapping. Several of the Hobo Island campers were caught at that time and held, but they denied any connection with the death of Duffy or the injury of Smith. They readily agreed to leave the island, but they were still there last week. There is some question whether the island is in Nebraska or Iowa, which is one reason for law officers delaying action.
The railroad officials here deny any knowledge of the situation, saying that section of the road is supervised out of St. Joseph. They say, however, they would undoubtedly have heard of such trouble had there been an truth in the reports.
Reports from Folsom are that the river is high and the banks are caving in where the riprapping has not been completed. Unless the protection works are finished, it is reported, the river will eat so far into the bank it will be practically impossible to stop it until the current diminishes and hundreds of acres of bottom land, with a big section of the tracks, including a newly built spur, will be lost.
A large force of watchmen are constantly at the works, supposedly to give the alarm and help in the fight against the river if it cuts in behind the riprapping. A force of railroad special officers are also at Folsom and may attempt to break up the camp on Hobo Island.
From the Lincoln Daily News (Lincoln, Nebraska), dated July 1, 1913:
Laborers at War With Burlington
Omaha, Neb., July 1 – War between the Burlington railroad a dozen men the road discharged several weeks ago and replaced with foreigners to work at a cheaper wage, has caused the railroad’s riprapping work at Folson, fifteen miles south of Council Bluffs, to be almost entirely discontinued while the river is threatening to cut in hundreds of acres of valuable farm land.
The men have established camp on Hobo Island, out in the river from Folsom, and through fear of them, it is said, other laborers will not remain at the river works. Over two score negroes quit work there last week, presumable because of threats.
The riprapping works at Folsom, put in by the Burlington and the government at a cost of nearly $500,000 was party destroyed several weeks ago. Reports at the time were that the works had been dynamited. That was a short time after the American laborers, nearly a hundred of them, were discharged. At that time, the Hobo Island camp, made up of some of the discharged laborers, was found, but the men denied they had done the dynamiting and they were released.
They immediately re-established the camp. Since then, one man has been seriously injured, another has been killed, a bunk car filled with the laborers’ belongings was burned, and there have been a large number of petty robberies. Some of the foremen, it was reported, received threatening letters, supposed to be from the men on the island. Those receiving letters invariably quit their positions and left at once.
Frank Smith, a foreman, was so badly injured by being struck with a rock Sunday, May 25, that he was sent, in an unconscious condition, to a hospital at St. Joseph. He refused to return. The report that he was hurt while at work was at the time denied by other of the men, who said they did not work on Sunday.
The body of John W. Duffy, a negro, employed at the works, was found near the camp the night of Sunday, June 15, the head crushed in. He was brought from St. Louis to work on the riprapping. Several of the Hobo Island campers were caught at that time and held, but they denied any connection with the death of Duffy or the injury of Smith. They readily agreed to leave the island, but they were still there last week. There is some question whether the island is in Nebraska or Iowa, which is one reason for law officers delaying action.
Excerpt from the Quad-City Times (Davenport, Iowa), dated March 17, 1914:
The riprapping will eventually prevent further cutting, and it is believed by many that the curve below Folsom will now rapidly fill in with sediment and that the river will straighten to its proper course through Hobo Island to the west.
From the Omaha World-Herald (Omaha, Douglas Co., Nebraska), dated July 26, 1923:
Open Air Distillery Is Found On "Hobo Island"
Federal Agents Discover Two Stills, Mash, Liquor and Provisions for a Week
In an open air distillery on Hobo Island, near Bellevue, in Sarpy county, Federal Prohibition Agent Bob Samardick and Detective Joe Potach found two stills in operation, thirteen barrels of mash, twenty-five gallons of liquor and a week’s provisions last night.
Tony Ogulenas, Thirty-third and R streets, whom the officers said they found in charge, was arrested for violation of the Volstead law. A rifle was also found at the camp.
The arrest marked the resumption of a liquor crusade by Samardick, who had discontinued raiding here for three weeks because of a trip to Minneapolis and preparation of more than a hundred liquor cases in court. Trials of Samardick’s cases start today before Federal Judge Munger.
The island distillery was approached by the officers through a swamp, with weeds higher than their heads, and nearly a half mile long. Present low water enabled an approach to the "island" by land.
The police morals squad seized a large still at the home of Sam Mangiamelli, 1914 South Tenth street, and several gallons of alleged liquor. The officers said they found Mrs. Mangiamelli in charge. Because the woman had a nursing babe, she was not arrested. Her husband was ordered to appear at the police station today.
Peter Gillotte, 1319 South Twenty-second street, was also arrested for liquor violations after the police squad had found a large quantity of beer and alleged liquor at his home.
From the Omaha World-Herald (Omaha, Douglas Co., Nebraska), dated May 26, 1924:
Alleged Moonshiners Captured On Island
John Brown and George Bradford, "squatters" on Hobo Island in the Missouri river east of Bellevue, Neb., were arrested yesterday by Robert Samardick, prohibition agent, while they were said to have been manufacturing “moonshine.” They had 250 galls of mash, five galls of whisky and a still in operation when apprehended, according to Samardick.
Brown and Bradford had a large sign over their house which read: "We vote wet."
From the Omaha World-Herald (Omaha, Douglas Co., Nebraska), dated June 6, 1927:
Severe Toward Hoboes
Holdrege, Neb., June 3 - To the Editor of The World-Herald: A couple of days ago I read in the Public Pulse G.H. Greer’s defense of the hoboes, both old and young. I would like to call his attention to an item in today’s paper of a man traveling across country near Grand Island who gave one of these dear, innocent, young hoboes a ride in his car and was attacked by said hobo with the idea of robbing him, and, doubtless, stealing his car. I have worked for the railroads for 30 years, and have come in direct contact with a great many hoboes and have never seen one yet but who was a parasite, liar and thief. More power to the Burlington railroad detectives at Pacific Junction, Ia., and Ashland, Neb., and may they keep on with their good work. A.G. Little
From Elk Horn-Kimballton Review, (Shelby Co., Iowa) dated February 9, 1933:
Rents on Hobo Island
There is a lot of land along the Missouri river which, because of the shifting current of the stream, lies not in Iowa, now in Nebraska. And the ownership of these lands is as uncertain as the shifty stream.
John Newsen, who claimed to own a farm on Hobo Island, brought suit recently to collect rent upon a tract he rented to Carl Hollin and Troy Brooks. They claimed Newsen did not own the land, and showed how Newsen’s home had been burned by others who claimed they owned the land, although Newsen stuck to possession of the land by being handy with a gun. A jury found for the defendants.
From the Alton Democrat (Alton, Iowa), dated March 3, 1933:
The once famous island in the Missouri river, now known as “Hobo Island,” was the subject of a recent court action in Mills county. The land titles are still imperfect and possession, backed by a strong will and a good gun, is nine points of the law.
From the Malvern Leader (Malvern, Iowa), dated October 17, 1935:
Justice Lawler Keeps Busy Court as Litigants Sue
Busy has been the Justice of the Peace Lawler’s court in Glenwood recently as many litigants seek justice. Of special note Tuesday was a suit from Hobo Island, involving belligerent citizens, recalling the old time fame of that place as one of much lawing.
From the Malvern Leader (Malvern, Iowa), dated May 21, 1936:
Screwy, Editor Harrison, is rank understatement. As a perpetrator of some 225,000 columnar words in an otherwise ideal and blameless life, I must lay claim to authority. Compared to the convention you suggest, the New Deal relief policies would seem sane and conservative. I seriously doubt if any self-respecting town would permit such an ingathering of undesirables and it would be necessary to adjourn to some no-man’s land such as Hobo Island.
From the Des Moines Tribune (Des Moines, Iowa), dated March 15, 1938:
Sticks Ready To ‘Blow Up’ Hobo Island
Glenwood, Ia. – The engineers on the construction work Tuesday were planning to “blow up” Hobo Island. This “blowing up” is to change the Missouri river’s course. A channel has been dup through the island, except a small portion on the north end which has not yet been opened but will be done by the use of dynamite. The blast will eliminate a large bend in the river. It is hoped that it will help prevent overflows as well as save most of the island farming purposes. In years gone by the island was notorious – in fact both Republicans and Democrats have been accused of brining voters to the voting booth in St. Mary’s township, Mills county, from Omaha, Neb., via Hobo Island.
From the Malvern Leader (Malvern, Iowa), dated March 17, 1938:
In the news this week is a romantic part of Mills county – Hobo Island – which, after many years of land connection with Nebraska, was disjoined and connected with Iowa again by army engineers. The story in another column tells of it more completely.
From the Malvern Leader (Malvern, Iowa), dated March 17, 1938:
Big Ditch Again Joins Hobo Island to State of Iowa
Cuts Six Miles from Channel of Big Muddy Tuesday
The muddy waters of the Big Muddy were made even more murky Tuesday morning when army engineers cut a small embankment which permitted the main current to push through a cut-off ditch in western Mills county. Down the 6,000-foot ditch rushed a five-foot wall of water to rejoin the main stream and cut out a six mile bend in the river.
The ditch had been excavated to give a faster flow to the current so that it would wash away several sand bars which have been forming at the mouth of the Platte. The river along that area had a remarkably slow fall – less than three feet for the entire six miles of the bend – which made the current so slow that the channel continually clogged.
The ditch, about 80 feet wide and 10 deep, cut through an area of romantic history – once-famed Hobo Island which for many years was a no-man’s land between the sovereign states of Iowa and Nebraska. In early days it was a refuge for horse thieves and other knaves and the rich acres of its accretions were shunned by honest folk.
Later the Missouri shifted its channel to swing around only one side of the island, leaving it connected with Nebraska. With the years the population changed and industrious farmers moved in to till the rich acres and today it maintains a good population. It is listed as being in Mills county but can be reached only be driving to Nebraska and along a circuitous route.
The new ditch will again make it an island temporarily although it is expected that the old channel will close and leave a six-mile long duck pond for the pleasure of huntsmen.
From the Malvern Leader (Malvern, Iowa), dated June 23, 1938:
No Roads on Hobo Island
Supervisors Frank Plumb and Allen Watts, County Engineer Thurman E. Martin and Auditor E.A. Schade journeyed to a little-known section of Mills county Tuesday after a tax payer from that section complained that he had no roads. The section was once-famed Hobo Island which now is merely adjoining Nebraska.
To school boys who used to bound Iowa on the west by the Missouri river, this is all very confusing. Instead of following a line down the center of the Big Muddy, the Iowa-Nebraska boundary is that line when the Missouri river occupied the position it did in 1831 when a survey was run. Since then the stream has whipped back and forth, eating deeper and deeper into Iowa territory until a good sized strip of land now lies on the western side of the river.
Excerpt from the Malvern Leader (Malvern, Iowa), dated May 31, 1945:
Our board of supervisors have still another view of the Missouri. They recall the days when they had to cross the river to get into part of their bailiwick as the river’s wandering habits suddenly left a chunk of Mills county over on the Nebraska shore. They recall the difficulties they had with Hobo Island, an almost legendary land spit around which the Missouri vacillated, leaving it occasionally a peninsula attached first to Iowa and then to Nebraska. At one time it was supposed to provide asylum for horse thieves and there is an unverified legend that the late Harrison Woodrow, a former Malvernian and early day farmer, once swam the Missouri to the island to locate some stolen stock that he believed to be held there.
From the Malvern Leader (Malvern, Iowa), dated September 20, 1945:
Sell 60 Acres on Hobo Island
The sale of 60 acres of land on Hobo Island to Mary Seffron is in progress, according to the county board of supervisors. For the information of newcomers, Hobo Island is a 3,000-acre tract which was formerly attached to Iowa but, with the shift of the channel of the Missouri river, it is now connected with Nebraska at a spot a few miles south of Bellevue, Neb.
Since that happened a movement to make the river the actual boundary between Iowa and Nebraska has received a good deal of attention and favorable action in the legislatures of both states but federal action on the matter is awaited to validate the legislation. Meanwhile Mills county retains supervision of the island which as quite a picturesque history.
Squatters from the colored population of South Omaha have from time to time set up a feudal colony on the island whence a number of unusual criminal prosecutions have taken place in the Mills county courts in time past.
From the Malvern Leader (Malvern, Iowa), dated October 4, 1945:
News recently that the board of supervisors was about to sell some 3,000 acres of Hobo Island brings again to mind one of the most romantic parts of Mills county. For the name of Hobo Island, an almost legendary place to most of us, carries with it an air of mystery, conflict and violent history quite unlike the commonplace characteristics of the rest of the country.
It was Hobo Island, when it was a real island, to which horse thieves made their escape when the loose-fingered gentry considered the theft of a horse much like a course in the school of life. The silt-laden waters of the Missouri furnished a protective barrier for all refugees. Its isolation kept it fairly well from ordinary law administration and its inhabitants, many times squatters without need or desire for legal title to the area, had little concern for the statutes that governed men elsewhere.
Although only a few miles from a fairly densely populated area the island was as effectively cut off from the rest of the world as if it were in mid ocean. Even when the unpredictable Missouri shifted it first to the Iowa side and then to the Nebraska with full land connection with the mainland, it retained its character. Occasionally the excesses of its inhabitants brought them to public notice and furnished cause for unusual prosecutions in the criminal courts.
Yet we doubt if but a small percentage of the county’s people have ever head of Hobo Island and only a handful have ever visited it.
From the Malvern Leader (Malvern, Iowa), dated October 11, 1945:
Watermelon feeds have been the order at the court house at office closing time since the county board of supervisors brought in a large stock from their visit to Hobo Island last Thursday.
From the Malvern Leader (Malvern, Iowa), dated December 4, 1947:
Hunter and river rats who have tramped over the constantly changing Missouri river flood plain may be interested in a set of maps received recently, by County Auditor Donald E. Strand. These, prepared by army engineers, who the present channel which the army expects to be more or less permanent. The maps now show Tobacco Island on the Nebraska side and Nottleman Island in Iowa, a reversal of the river’s course of some two years previous. Hobo Island, remotely famous in the county’s early history, has disappeared entirely and only the fact that Mills county now owns a plot of some 100 acres in Sarpy county, Neb., reminds students that the area was once in Iowa. The county acquired title through a tax deed.
From the Malvern Leader (Malvern, Iowa), dated January 17, 1957:
The move to place the Iowa-Nebraska boundary in the middle of the Missouri river again draws our hearty support. There’s something highly romantic, if occasionally confusing, about a boundary that’s subject to the Missouri’s vagaries, even now that the Big Muddy is supposedly stabilized. We don’t suppose there’ll ever be another Hobo Island to shelter horse thieves or other outlaws. Nor that the Missouri will make such generous contributions and demands on bordering farms and states. But there’s always the chance that it might prove uncontrollable and we hope the boundary is placed to take full advantage of it.