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In the years of his early manhood he went to work in the famous Cumberland Nursery owned by David Miller at Middlesex, Pennsylvania, and here began his vast and wonderful knowledge and experience about fruits and fruit trees. During his life he covered the entire field of this industry from the propagation of fruit trees and plants to the planting of orchards, the gathering and sale of fruits, and lastly to experimentation in the practical development of fruit culture and selection and testing of varieties.
This work was indeed not uninterrupted. During the winter season he often found employment as a teacher. For some years, too, he was engaged in the general hardware trade. He entered the locally well-known hardware store of Henry Saxton, where through the long hours and hard work of storekeeping, as it was then conducted, he rose to be Mr. Saxton's principal assistant in the management of the business.
After this was the journey to the West. Events contributed to it. His father had visited Iowa in 1846 to see the land. Several young acquaintances had yielded to the enticements of California. When a boy he had read what books were at hand concerning the West. Chief among these was Sergeant Goss's journal of the travels and explorations of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, which well-worn book—or its duplicate, for there were two of them in the family library—is now in possession of the Nebraska State Historical Society, presented by Mr. Longsdorf. He once related to the writer how his boyhood mind had from such reading imagined the future planting of a great settlement at the junction of the Platte and Missouri rivers. Therefrom it followed that, with the hurrying of travel westward in the middle '50s, he, with others, came to this much-talked-of Kansas-Nebraska country. The journey was made by way of Pittsburg, the Ohio and Mississippi rivers to Muscatine, thence by rail to Iowa City, and by wagon and foot to Council Bluffs. He arrived in Bellevue May 16, 1856. A packet of old letters written by him to his father gives his impressions at the time. It is evident that he did not come as a speculator or as an adventurer,
- for he writes about the fitness of the land to make a new home for his aged parents, and he also speaks of its possibilities as a place of settlement for his younger brothers, though he laconically advises them to remain at home until sent for. Land, he writes, was too high in price in Iowa because of speculation, and money was worth 40 per cent a year at Ft. Des Moines. He expresses great satisfaction at finding in Nebraska a respite from land speculators, because of the fact that the government survey of Nebraska was not yet made; and he praises the healthy appearance of the settlers as compared with the "yellow” and sickly looking inhabitants of Illinois and Indiana whom he had seen along the rivers as he came. The fine character of the soil and possibilities of fruit culture were both matters of mention.
His brothers, David E. Longsdorf and George F. Longsdorf, the latter now deceased, settled with him at Bellevue. Each bought or took up claims, and having perfected them by making “improvements” and completing a legal residence they joined with W. H. Cook, John P. Kast, and W. W. Stewart in keeping bachelor's hall at the "Plateau House," a cabin with the luxury of plastered walls, but of small dimensions, which until about 1890 was still standing. It was exactly at the center of the beautiful tract now the site of Ft. Crook. A huge cottonwood four feet thick remains there, the lone survivor of more than a score planted in 1856 by Mr. Lòngsdorf and his associates. The memory of many pleasures and much hospitality runs back to the old and widely known "Plateau House."
Mr. Longsdorf entered actively into the life of the young community. He was a member of the Bellevue Claim Club and a shareholder of the Bellevue Town Company, and a part owner of the Sarpy Reserve which included the steamboat landing and the trading house. When Sarpy county was organized he was its first superintendent of schools, which office it may be supposed was not an arduous one at that time For three years he lived in Bellevue and then returned to Pennsylvania.
In 1862 he and two of his four brothers enlisted in the. 158th Pennsylvania Infantry. He became captain of Company A and served faithfully and with honor in a very trying campaign in the Virginia and Carolina swamps, for which his brigade was officially complimented. Other parts of his service were rendered while attached to the Army of the Potomac.
After the close of his service he followed his ordinary occupations, visiting Nebraska at frequent intervals. He was married in December, 1869, to Miss Kate A. Duey of Cumberland county, Pennsylvania. Six children were born to them, and four survive, viz., George Foster Longsdorf, Helen Mabel Longsdorf, Henry. Warren Longsdorf, and Ralph Martin Longsdorf.
In 1888 he resumed his residence at Bellevue, where the latter years of his life were spent happily and enjoyably, but not in rest, for his "old active disposition” could not become dormant. However, his labors were necessarily more of the evening and less of the midday of life than before. In his garden and among his trees and with his family he dwelt. The trees and the plants were his intimates. They spoke to him a silent language that he had known and studied for fifty years. · They made known their needs and he endeavored to supply them. His interest was not mercenary, for he planted for instruction and pleasure and not for profit. In this spirit he became interested in peach culture.
He was encouraged by the success of peach growers in extreme southern Nebraska to believe that peaches might be successfully grown in his own neighborhood. Some attempts had already been made to do so, and from what he observed of these he made his plans for a series of trials, which, as he said, might take twenty-five years, for which reason he could not hope to complete them or live to see success. But success quickly. The first peach seeds planted in 1892 returned a few fruits in 1895 and very heavy and frequent crops since then. Very many hundreds of peach trees were given and sold to his neighbors. They were instructed how to plant and
care for the trees and how to propagate young trees.
All about Bellevue these trees grow and flourish as witnesses to, and memorials of his useful work. His knowledge of all indigenous fruits was vast, and his experience extended over many states.
He was a member of the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society, of various local agricultural and horticultural societies, and of the Nebraska Horticultural Society. He was also a member of the Nebraska State Historical Society, reg. ular in attendance at its meetings, and well known to many of its members, and a contributor to its historical collections.
Mr. Longsdorf did much public service as a citizen, though, he occupied no public offices save minor ones. He was earnest and actively interested in politics and exalted in his conception of patriotism. In the highest sense of the word he was devoted in care, affection, and thoughtfulness for his family. He strove to provide education for his children and to inspire in them a love of study and improvement. He was a Christian gentleman in works as well as in words. He was frank and direct in address, and firm and courageous in loyalty and friendship. He commanded respect and thereby won the love of those who knew him best. A neighbor who knew him well paid this tribute: "His strongest trait was high integrity of character," yet it was no stronger than luis unselfishness and no stronger than the constancy of his friendship and his love. His last work was the building of a new house, the first he ever owned, to provide a home for himself and for his family after him. He lived but five weeks to enjoy it. On November 13, 1902, he died. Most fittingly it was that he was laid among the pioneers who rest in the old cemetery at Bellevue on the crest of the great hills circled by the scenes of so much of his earlier manhood and of his declining years—fitting that his earthly body should return to the soil of his adopted state whose foundations he helped prepare and of which he became a proud and useful and loyal citizen.
BRIEF BIOGRAPHY OF, AND TRIBUTE TO THE MEM
ORY OF THE LATE CHARLES H. GERE.
PREPARED BY GOV. ROBERT .W. FURNAS.
While the duty of formally announcing the death of one of the oldest, most active, and worthy members of this Association is a sad one, the privilege of paying tribute to the memory of the late Charles H. Gere is a pleasure.
It was my good fortune to have been intimately and continuously associated with him in various capacities from the day of his advent into Nebraska to near the day of his death.
In July, 1865, I had the pleasure to welcome him to the territory of Nebraska, as he stepped from a steamboat at Brownville. I therefore can speak of his characteristics from personal knowledge.
He was born in Wyoming county, New York, in 1838, and died at his home in Lincoln on the 30th day of September, 1904, at the age of sixty-six.
Biographically, I copy extracts from an editorial in the Lincoln Daily Journal, announcing the death of Mr. Gere. This, I am advised, is largely autobiographic, and therefore reliable:
"He prepared for college at Oxford academy, and entered the junior class at Dickenson College, Carlisle, Pennsylvania, graduating in 1861.
"Just before graduating he enlisted in the Pennsylvania 'Bucktails' with several of his classmates, but they were all refused muster by order of Governor Curtin, who said that undergraduates were not needed. He was appointed a teacher in a grammar school in Baltimore the following year, and continued the study of law under the tuition of Congressman C. L. L. Leary. In June, 1863, when Lee invaded Pennsylvania, he resigned to enlist in the 10th Maryland infantry, which was ordered immediately to occupy Maryland Heights, where it guarded a battery of artillery during the battle of Gettysburg. Upon the expiration of the term of the regiment he served in the quartermaster's department at Annapolis and Martinsburg for several months, was a member of a party of independent scouts in the vicinity of Balti