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City, in January, 1853, the history of the early Mormon settlements in the Missouri valley may be considered closed. March 16, 1854, the Omahas ceded their land west of the Missouri to the general government.1 The organization of Nebraska territory soon after opened the lands around the Mormon Winter Quarters for settlement. A. J. Mitchell and A. J. Smith had been left in charge of the Mormons east of the river, but in the summer of 1854 they sold their interests in Council Bluffs to the gentiles, moved to the west of the river, and changed the name of Winter Quarters to Florence. But the rush of gentile settlers following the opening of the territory was so great that the Mormon settlements were not. distinctive.
Council Bluffs remained an outfitting station for Mormon as well as other immigration for years, but there was little to distinguish Salt Lake travelers from any others preparing to cross the Rockies. Such immigration continued in considerable numbers until the Civil War, as witness the ill-fated hand-cart and wheelbarrow expedition of 1855. A colony of schismatics, under the leadership of Charles B. Thompson, founded a town called Preparation in the Soldier river valley, about fifteen miles from the present site of Onawa, Monona county, Iowa. The colony finally disbanded and its property was divided by the courts. But passing mention is made of the later settlements of the reorganized branch of the Mormon church, centering around Lamoni, Iowa. They belong to the present, and not to the history of the early Mormon settlements in the Missouri valley.
A colony of a hundred families from St. Louis, under the direction of H. J. Hudson, formed three communistic settlements at Genoa in 1857, called Alton, Florence, and St. Louis, after unsuccessfully attempting to settle in Platte county. These colonists constructed dugouts and cabins in the fall,
1Stat. L. x, 1043. See part II, 18th Annual Report, Bureau of American Ethnology, p. 790.
2 Omaha Daily Bee, January 30, 1899.
and the following spring surveyed the lands on which they were located and partitioned to each man his share. They enclosed 2,000 acres with fences and ditches, and turned the sod of two square miles of prairie. The Genoa postoffice was established, with Mr. Hudson, later of Columbus, as postmaster.
The first years of their occupancy were marked by great privations, gradually changing, however, to comfort and prosperity. After seven years' undisturbed occupancy by the colonists the Pawnees arrived and claimed possession of their new reservation on the same ground. The colonists resisted their claims for three years; but being worn and weary of strife and in constant danger from the continually conflicting Sioux and Pawnees, they abandoned further effort in 1863 and dispersed, some to Salt Lake and others to Iowa and some to Platte county, Nebraska.
Quite a settlement, or relay station, was made at Wood river, in Buffalo county, in 1858 by Joseph E. Johnson, who published a paper, the Huntsman's Echo, for two years, and grew "the largest and finest flower garden" then west of the Mississippi. The settlement was broken up in 1863 by the removal of Johnson and his companions to Salt Lake valley.1
THE GREAT RAILROAD MIGRATION INTO
ADDRESS OF J. R. BUCHANAN,2 DELIVERED BEFORE THE ANNUAL MEETING OF THE NEBRASKA STATE HISTORICAL
SOCIETY, AT LINCOLN, JANUARY 14, 1902.
The railroads and the Bible are the two most potent agencies of modern times which have operated in the western country.
1See Andreas, "History of Nebraska," under the various counties.
2 John Ross Buchanan was born in Beaver Town, Pennsylvania, April, 1838. He removed to Guernsey county. Ohio, in 1847, where he attended
The railroad makes a new or unoccupied country accessible, and creates or establishes markets in convenient localities.
The Bible with its devotees follows, giving a moral tone to the locality, which means safety, law, and tranquillity.
Only the sturdy, hardy, and industrious should-but, unfortunately, many others do-go to the new country. Usually, however, the percentage of the better class which occupies a new section is sufficiently large to impress its virtues on such country in time of need. Education follows as a correlative necessity-a prerequisite to good citizenship.
A generous and responsive soil and a good climate constitute the reasons for populating a new country and determine its destiny.
With the earliest settlements in north Nebraska I am not personally familiar. I am in a general way informed that the original wagon trails to the mountains, the Salt Lake Basin, and the Pacific Coast from Omaha, Council Bluffs, or Florence, were through Douglas and the western part of Washington county into Dodge, striking the Platte river at the present site of Fremont, or perhaps for a portion of the year avoiding the lower land, touching at Fontenelle, a small settlement from Quincy, Illinois, and thence to the Platte river, but later centering at Fremont, which became a prominent frontier trading point. Settlement took root in that vicinity, and as the danger from Indians receded, spread up the Elkhorn valley sparsely, the impression generally prevailing that, as all territory west of the Missouri river had been known as a desert, it was necessary to keep in the val
school and read law. In 1861 he entered the service of the Chicago, Iowa & Nebraska R. R., afterwards the Chicago & North western Ry. In 1862 he entered the Civil War service on the subsistence staff. In 1863 he returned to the service of the Chicago & Northwestern Ry., and in 1871 was appointed general freight agent of the Missouri, Iowa & Nebraska R. R. He practiced law and served in various railroad capacities until 1881, when he entered upon his important career as general passenger agent of the Sioux City & Pacific and Fremont, Elkhorn & Missouri Valley Railroads, where he served until 1903, when he resigned and returned to Waukesha, Wisconsin, where he is engaged in the practice of law.
leys or near the watercourses. The settlements were very slow and scattering. Attention was mainly directed to the country along and south of the Platte, afterwards pierced by the Union Pacific R. R., prospects for building which widely advertised that section, and later by the Burlington & Missouri River R. R.
January 20, 1869, the Fremont, Elkhorn & Missouri Valley R. R. was organized, and commenced building up the Elkhorn valley. I am assured by Judge E. K. Valentine, of West Point, that he moved the United States land office from Omaha to West Point in May, 1869. There were then only twelve houses in West Point, mainly a little colony of Germans from Watertown, Wisconsin, conspicuous amongst whom was the father and family of our present state treasurer, William Stueffer.
The Elkhorn railroad built in 1869 from Fremont to Maple Creek, ten miles, and rested the winter. In 1870 it was built from Maple Creek to West Point, twenty-five miles, arriving there on Thanksgiving Day. Small settlements had scattered along up the valley as far as "French Creek,” now the railroad station of Clearwater. Perhaps as conspicuous a settlement as any was a small colony of thirty-seven families of German Lutherans, also from Watertown, Wisconsin, who sought a new country where, with their very limited means, all could locate together and support jointly a church of their faith. They were piloted to the present site of Norfolk in 1866 by Mr. Stueffer, their former townsman in Wisconsin, who had preceded them, locating at West Point. One of their number, Mr. Herman Praasch, in 1870, platted the original town of Norfolk. Nearly all of that colony, with a numerous growth of children and grandchildren, are still living there. A notable fact is cited by one of the descendants, to the effect that the children and grandchildren of these pioneers, that were bred in Nebraska, are all taller, larger of frame, and usually more robust than their ancestors, and they attribute this to the healthful, invigorating climate.
As the railroad opened markets and extended its line, settlements became more numerous.
In 1871 the railroad was extended to Wisner, where it rested until 1879.
In 1873 a small colony from Beloit, Wisconsin, headed by one John T. Prouty, settled a little east of the present site of O'Neill, but later scattered or was replaced by Gen. John O'Neill, who, with eighteen Irishmen-mostly Fenians who had accompanied him in his raid in Canada on the 31st of May, 1866, and known as O'Neill's Irish Brigade-took up land and settled in Holt county.
A party, with whom was Mr. Jonas Gise, a civil engineer and member of the city council of Omaha, made a trip in 1873 north to the O'Neill settlement, also from Norfolk to Niobrara. They reported that from about four miles north of Norfolk there was not a sign of habitation on the way to Niobrara until they reached some ranches on the Niobrara river. Whenever they found habitations, they were of the order known as "dug-outs" or "sod houses" or occasionally a cabin of cottonwood logs. There was very little stock of any kind, and the most primitive kind of living possible. The streams were unbridged and the roads were "across the prairies."
Here are two incidents which ought to pass into history. In 1869 Judge Valentine was judge of the district court. He was driving up the Elkhorn valley near what is now Pilger, when he noticed a woman some distance from the road whose strange actions decided him to go to her. He found a comely looking young woman with her hands tied behind her back, and a rope securely fastened around her waist, and tied to a stake driven into the ground. Near by were a shanty and two stacks of grain. She was entirely alone. After he had cut the ropes, the woman, who was a German, told him, as well as she could in broken English, that her husband had engaged the threshers for three successive days previous, and she had cooked and prepared for them the first two days, they failing to come. The third day she refused to cook again, and