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around Salt Basin. Of this number I remember the families of Owens, Harmon, Eveland, Bird, Billows, Tinnell, Thatcher, Pemberton, Church, and a few others. It was said that some of these had been bush-whackers in Missouri, and had in fact come up to the Salt Basins “for the benefit of their health”; but they were as peaceful as doves while here, and all went back to Missouri after the war was over.
During that year, Dr. Crimm and "Jim" Dye, of Brownville, came to the Basin, and built a bench of salt boilers and became my friendly rivals in the salt manufacture.
At an election late in the fall we elected Alf Eveland justice of the peace, and Peter Billows constable, and this was the first attempt to call in the aid of the law, in that county. Prior to that date every man was his own law-giver, and a brace of revolvers enforced it. “Alf” was a small, freckledfaced, red-haired chap, very self-important, and ambitious to be called "Squire Eveland.” He had opened a “saloon" in his sod dwelling, his stock in trade being a keg of whisky and a caddy of tobacco. His wife, Elizabeth, was of massive proportions, at least four times the size of her husband, and strong as she was big—could easily hold her lord at arm's length over her head, with her right arm alone. It was said that after Eveland's stock in trade had been paid for, he had ten cents left, with which he purchased a drink at his bar, while his wife kept the saloon, and then she in turn used it for the same purpose while "Alf" was bartender, and by alternating this process quite a trade was established.
When “Alf” became justice of the peace, he went to Nebraska City and provided himself with a justice docket book and a full set of law blanks, and returned, fully equipped to "dispense with justice” (as he put it) to all who should require his services, but as it is difficult to make radical changes in forms of law, more than six months passed without a single case for Eveland's adjudication. The nearest to a case that I remember was from this Peter Billows, who, by the way, was originally a Pennsylvania Dutchman. Peter came over to my office one morning, and said, “Gregory, John Owens' hogs broke into my garden last night, and destroyed more than fifteen dollars' worth of damage. What can I do about it?” I advised him to go and see John, and if he would not fix it, he would have a case for Eveland, but as he and John "fixed it," the justice case was a failure.
The first law case of this county appears in “Justice Docket No. 1–A. Eveland, Esq., J. P., and is entitled, “Crimm & Dye vs. J. S. Gregory, Action for Replevin," and it arose as follows: Both Crimm and myself used a considerable amount of salt barrels, which we made at our salt works, and the man, Church, was a stave maker, obtaining his bolts from the headwaters of Salt creek. On the morning Church started back to Missouri, he came to my works, and sold me his stock of staves, amounting in value to about $16. I went with him to his "dug-out,” counted and marked the staves, and took a bill of sale in writing, and paid for them. During the same morning he sold the same staves to Crimm, who also marked them, and took a bill of.sale in writing. A few days after, I went for them with my wagons, and when Crimm saw me loading them, he came up and wanted to know what I was doing with his staves. Of course it was a short story to explain the situation, and we agreed to divide the lot and each stand half the loss. But just at this point, a brilliant idea struck Crimm. He said, “Say, Gregory, what a pretty case this would be for a lawsuit. Here is Squire Eveland, who has spent a whole lot of money for books and blanks, and has been a justice of the peace for more than six months without a single case. What do you say to a lawsuit ?”
So it was arranged that Crimm should rush down to the "saloon,” sue out a writ of replevin, and the constable should take the property, and we would give the "Squire” something to judicially decide. In due time the trial was had, Crimm introduced his bill of sale, proved payment, and delivery to himself by Church, on the day of his departure, and demanded judgment. Whereupon the Squire announced that the plaintiff had a clear case, and, as his mind was already made up upon that point, he did not care to hear any evidence from
the defendant. Of course defendant insisted that it was not lawful to render a judgment without both sides being heard, and demanded the right to produce his evidence. "Oh! go ahead,” said the Squire, "if you insist upon it, but it will do you no good, for I have already formed my opinion of the
We followed Crimm's presentation exactly, and then pleaded that, as we were in possession of the property, in addition had as good a right as the plaintiff, the plaintiff could not take it away from us without showing some superior right. The Squire, who had been so sure of his opinion, was evidently in a quandary and advised us to try and settle the case between ourselves, to which we each "angrily" objected, and asked him what a justice court was for, if folks could agree without it. Finally, three days were taken in which to announce a decision, at which time about all the men of the settlement were present to hear the result. Court was called to order and the Squire said, “Gentlemen, I have given the case my best consideration, and the more I have studied it the more difficult it seems to arrive at any conclusion as to which of you rightfully own those staves. I think you should agree to divide them.” And announced that this was the only judgment he would enter. To this we each protested, but consented to confer, each with the other to see if we could compromise. After a short time we filed back "into court,” and announced that if the Squire would remit his costs and treat the "boys” who had come to attend his court, we would settle the case between ourselves, to all of which he gladly consented.
I don't know how much whisky was left in that keg, but doubt there being any; for the saloon business closed from that day.
Will Pemberton was another of the characters” of Salt Basin. He was the youngest of the colony, and had many good traits of character which I admired, but he was quicktempered and impulsive. I don't suppose he was any more truthful than the ordinary denizens of the colony, but to be called a liar was to him a deadly insult. One day he came over to my place upon his horse, at its fastest run. His face was pale and his eyes were green, and he was trembling with excitement. He said, "Greg, I want to know if I can depend upon you as my friend in trouble?” I answered him that he could up to the last hair. He then asked me if there was any law in Nebraska against killing birds. I told him there was not. He said he was awful glad to know it, for he had just killed Jim Bird over at the Basin. Said Jim had called him a liar, and he had shot him through the head, was awful sorry now that he had done so, but it couldn't be helped, said it broke him all up, and that he couldn't think what to do. He wanted me to think for him, and advise him; said he would light out and leave the country, or would stay and face the music, or any other thing I might advise. I told him it was bad business, and that before I could give him any reliable advice I would go over and see if he was not mistaken about Bird being dead. To this he said his revolver never failed to plant a bullet where he aimed it, and he saw Bird fall with his shot. I mounted my horse, and rode over, and the first man I saw was this same Jim Bird, busy cutting wood at the front door of his log cabin. Ilis rifle leaned against the doorjamb, and as he caught sight of me he called me; said he wanted me to see what that Coyote Pemberton had done. A hole was through his hat, and a red streak on his head where the bullet grazed, and which had temporarily prostrated Jim, and had buried itself in the house logs. “Now," he says, “if Pemberton don't quit the country there will be a funeral tomorrow, for I will shoot him on sight.” Well, I got down from my horse, and made Bird sit down with me, and I argued the case with him in all its bearings, told him what Pemberton thought of it, and finally Bird agreed that if Pemberton would come to him, and pass to him his pistols, as evidence of good faith, and beg his pardon for his rashness, and promise to keep the peace, Bird would let the matter drop. To all these Pemberton gladly complied, and again peace and good will hovered over Salt Basin.
: John Cadman was another leading light in ancient history. He was a politician of the foxy kind. IIe always took a prominent part in every social or political move, both for notoriety and as a source of revenue.
He was ready on all occasions to make an "impromptu” speech, but always wanted about two weeks' time in advance to prepare it, otherwise he was all at sea. On-one occasion I remember he was called upon, but being unprepared, declined. As the audience insisted, a good, strong escort on each arm walked him upon the platform "willy nilly," so John started in: "My friends and fellow citizens, it affords me great pleasure to—to—to come together again.” The applause that greeted this announcement about closed the remarks of the honorable gentleman, and John took a seat. Cadman died several years ago in California.
The Lancaster colony had its advent in 1864, but this being modern history, and subsequent to my early day, I leave its record for others.
PRESENTED AT THE ANNUAL MEETING OF THE NEBRASKA
STATE HISTORICAL SOCIETY, JANUARY 11, 1905.
BY JUDGE WILLIAM GASLIN.1
I have been invited by you to present a paper at this annual meeting of your Society upon the subject of “Justice on the Frontier," or "another subject," if it pleases me better. Iaving been for sixteen years an active participant in adminis
William Gaslin, pioneer lawyer, Kearney, Nebraska, was born in Augusta, Maine, July 29, 1827. He was graduated from Bowdoin College with the degree of A.B. He became a teacher and law student at Augusta, Maine, 1856-58, practiced law at Augusta, 1858-66, member of the common council, Augusta, 1857; board of aldermen, 1863–64; superintendent of schools, 1857–62; city solicitor, 1863–64. He has been a lawyer in Nebraska since 1868, practicing in turn at Omaha, Lowell, Bloomington, Alma, and Kearney. He served as judge of the fifth, eighth, and tenth judicial districts of Nebraska, 1875–1902 consecutively; attorney for the city of Kearney, 1896–97. Judge Gaslin, although eighty years old, is still active, and is engaged in the banking business at Alma, Nebraska.