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FredQuest Genealogy

Homesteading Challenges

The Great Easter Storm

"One great event in the early history of York County that stands out most prominent of all, and never to be forgotten while an early settler is alive, is the awful Faster Storm that began the evening of Sunday, April the 12th, 1873. The spring had been early and small grain was all up, and farmers had their spring work well under way; the weather had been dry and the wind blowing strong from the south for more than a week, and Sunday, April the 12th, the wind quieted down and the day was pleasant until in the afternoon a bank of heavy clouds made their appearance in the northwest; soon there began a heavy rain and as night approached the rain turned into sleet, and then to snow, then for three days and nights without a moment's cessation the storm raged in all its fury, with the air so full of whirling snow, it was impossible to see an object scarcely a rod away. Fortunate for the early settlers that their dwellings were mostly sod houses, or dug-outs, and in the place of being blown away they were more likely to be snowed under, which happened in many cases; in several instances the settlers took their meager stock in the sod houses with them and all lived together for three days. Many interesting incidents have been related by persons who experienced such a strange make-up of families, and although the milk and eggs were handy none have desired a repetition of the novelty. After the storm was over the neighbors who were not snowed in had interesting experiences digging their neighbors out of their dug-outs; one family that was snowed under in a dug-out held a conversation with their rescuers through the stove-pipe that stuck up through the snow, and showed there where to dig down for the door by running the broom handle up through the snow. The writer went to one dug-out where nothing but the stove-pipe was visible, and hallooed down through the stove-pipe and asked the owner what he was doing, he promptly answered he was reading the B. & M. advertisements about the beautiful climate of Nebraska. Mrs. Capt. Read tells us that Andy Hansen, a Dane, had a homestead on Section 32 in Thayer Township, and had built him a comfortable sod house on the south side of the draw, front door opening to the north, and that he was away from home when the storm came, and that the storm blew the front door open, and when Mr. Hansen came home after the storm his house was so full of snow he could not find place for a dog to crawl in. In Thayer Township a band of Pawnee Indians came along after the storm and discovered some stock that had drifted to the creek in the storm and perished, the Indians immediately went into camp and remained as long as the supply of meat lasted. The Blue, near the west line of the county, was literally full of dead stock that had drifted as was supposed, from the Platte River bottoms. Mr. John Davis, who had settled in Leroy Township, did not have his stable up when the storm came, and his stock which was tied to the wagon all perished; much stock was lost under similar conditions. Our townsman, N. A. Dean, had his stable built under a bank; in one end of the stable end were two mules, in the center horses, and in the other end hogs and chickens; the snow kept drifting, in, and the mules tramping to keep on top until they got up to the roof and broke through and went out; the hogs and chickens in the other and were snowed under at least 25 feet deep, and Mr. Dean was surprised when on digging them out a week later found them all alive and hungry. As far as known only three lives were lost in the storm in York County; one, the 15 year old son of J. S. Gray, in Arborville Township, the boy was trying to carry a sack of corn from the barn to the house, missed the house and was not found until the storm was over; the other two deaths occurred in Henderson Township, a. Mr. Frank Kailey had built a log house, but had not had time to chink it up when the storm carne, and the first night of the storm the house drifted half full of snow, the stove and beds were under snow; they thought they must go to one of the neighbors and they started, Mr. and Mrs. Kailey and their baby boy, Mrs. Kailey soon gave out in the deep snow and awful storm, and Mr. Kailey tried to carry his wife and baby on his back but only went a short distance and gave up exhausted, then left his wife and baby and went for help but never found them till he found their dead bodies in the snow drift where he had left them when he went for help. His homestead was the S. W. ¼ of section 30, township 9, range 4."

"Old settlers' History of York County and Individual Biographies", 1913, pages 18-19

Grasshoppers, Frogs and Cyclone (Ira R. Simmons)

I think I was something of a pioneer in York County. Nathaniel Simmons was my father. Fred Schneringer and myself came to York in September, 1874, after the big grasshopper clean-out and bought a section of railroad land six miles west of York. Then the following April we came out prepared to break prairie. Fred Schnerlinger brought mules and father and I brought three yoke of oxen.

A bachelor lived across the road south of our land and he took us in and we made arrangements to live with him. His name was peter Dunlap. He had no well, so we carried the water from a hold in a draw about a quarter of a mile away from the house. We lived with the bachelor for about two weeks.

Father bought a quarter section of land about five miles west of where we had been staying. This had seventy acres of broken land, a sod house and stable. It also had a well and a lot of trees growing. This he bought for five hundred dollars. At that time there was little deeded land. We moved, sowed wheat and planted some corn. The wheat made a light crop after being sowed so late but the corn made a fair crop. We then went back to breaking prairie and all went well until about the tenth of June then the grasshoppers came on their way north and the wind changed so that they settled ac stayed until the wind was in their favor again. While they were there, not a team could be found in the fields. The men were all gathered to talk the situation over but the hoppers did no harm and, with a favorable wind, moved on.

The roof on our house was dirt and the wall were black soil. Mother brought a lot of newspapers and with some pegs she made, she fastened the papers to the wall. But when the heavy summer rains becan to fall the dirty water leaked through on the earth floor and the frogs came into the house. One Sunday morning mother asked me to get up and kill the frogs as they kept jumping against the paper and making enough noise so she could not sleep. I got up and killed fifteen frogs, then we had it quiet. We managed to live in that house for a year. Then father build a good frame house. I think there were only two frame housed between York and the west county line at that time. Mr. Bissel had one two miles west of York and the other was a small frame school house near Bradshaw's location.

At that time the mail was carried from Seward to rand Island and there was a post office about a mile west of where Bradshaw not stands. The building was a sod house and was named Plainfield. I was informed that the postmaster received about twelve dollars per annum.

Schneringer batched in a sod house across the road from his land. In the summer he felt the need of a new shirt and ready made clothing was not so easy to find so he concluded he would make himself a shirt. He bought the material. Then he found himself without shears so he cut it out with a butcher knife. When he assembled the parts it was all right with the exception of one half of one sleeve which was lacking. He then cut a piece of the tail off. The goods was striped, on half of the sleeve had the stripes running up and down while the other half had the stripes running across.

Later on when York county changed from precinct to township organization Schneringer was elected township supervisor and he named our township Lockridge after our township in Iowa, where we used to live.

There used to be grist mills along the Blue river. One, twelve miles south of the present location of Bradshaw, was owned and operated by Mr. Seeley and did a big business. I have seen from ten to fifteen rigs waiting for their grist. It is an open question whether or not the closing of those mills and the shipping in of flour from the big mills was a benefit to the community.

I think it was in the fall of 1877 the hoppers settled down on us again. They injured the corn and deposited their eggs there. In the spring as they started to hatch out by the millions. Men began to question what to do with them. Then the county offered so much per bushel for them and I think they fixed some machines like headers with something for the hoppers to fall into, but these did not amount to much. We received some cold rain April that destroyed the grasshoppers and saved the crops for that year. A few years later we received a hail store that did not leave us a dollar's worth of any king of grain, flax or had. During the fall of 1889 I purchased a property in Bradshaw....[unreadable].; In June of the following year occurred the cyclone in in Bradshaw which wrought such destruction. All three churches, the school house, and many other buildings were torn to pieces and many persons injured. We carried three or four into my house on doors from other buildings. One minister who followed us said they would be dead before morning. A child in another pasrt of the town was killed but that was the only fatality. On the following Sunday a special train load of people came out from Omaha to see the wreckage. All that wished to come could not get on the train so they made two trips.

I farmed forty years in Nebraska and under normal conditions I think Nebraska is the banner state for farming. I did well by stating with it through thick and thin.

Cradle Days in York County, Nebraska, A Compilation of Historical Sketches First Published in the York Republican (York Nebraska, 1937), pages 9-11

The Calamity of Grasshoppers

In the latter part of July, 1876 the early settlers were visited by a new and unlooked for calamity of grasshoppers. In the afternoon of a hot day, July the 20th, a mysterious cloud appeared in the northern horizon, and all were wondering what it was, until suddenly the awful cloud of grasshoppers covered the country, so thick at times that the sun was darkened, and all gardens and green vegetation was soon devoured; much of the small grain was in the shock and mostly saved, to the greet comfort of the pioneer settlers; the grain that was standing was soon ruined, the grasshoppers would bite the straw off just below the head; after they had done all the damage they could they filled the ground with eggs and left. The next spring the eggs began hatching, and the settlers were filled with alarm for the coming crops, and every device imaginable was made for catching young grasshoppers; a petition was filed with the County Board of Supervisors asking them to take measures to exterminate the young grasshoppers; the County Board met in special session April 25th, 1877, and Book No. 1, page 470 shows the following proceedings:

"After deliberating upon the subject, the following resolution was adopted by the Board, to-wit: Whereas, the grasshoppers are now hatching out in large numbers, and believing that the interests of the county demand an immediate action by the Board of County Commissioners to encourage the destruction of these pests, it is hereby resolved by the Board of County Commissioners: 1st, That all persons in the county are hereby called upon to turn out and kill and destroy grasshoppers. 2nd, That for all grasshoppers caught, and killed within the limits of the several Road Districts in the county and delivered to the respective Road Supervisors, the Supervisors shall give his receipt, stating the amount, when and by whom delivered. 3rd, Supervisors shall receive and receipt for grasshoppers every Friday afternoon. and shall at once annihilate them by burning. 4th, On or before the 2nd day of July each Supervisor shall make and return to this Board, in writing and under oath, the amount of grasshoppers delivered to and burned by them. 5th, The holders of Supervisors receipts shall be entitled to pay by the County Board as follows: for grasshoppers delivered on or before May 18th, 1877 the sum of Two Dollars per bushel, in county warrants, and for grasshoppers delivered after that date, and on or before June 1st, 1877, the sum of One Dollar per bushel, in county warrants."

August 11th, 1877 we find the following proceedings in Book No. 2 at page 15: The following accounts were audited and allowed by the Board, to-wit:

Jas. Seaman 2 bu. grasshoppers burned. $4.00
J.P. Gandy 2 bu. grasshoppers burned. $4.00
F.M. Ross 1 bu. grasshoppers burned. $2.00
S.F. Gandy ½ bu. grasshoppers burned. $1.00
L.J. Gandy 1 bu. grasshoppers burned. $2.00
W. Young 1½ bu. grasshoppers burned. $3.50
Jamieson ½ bu. grasshoppers burned. $1.50
H. Kelley 2 bu. grasshoppers burned. $2.00
Board adjourned,
County Clerk
County Commissioners.

The Village of York was at that time liberal, patriotic and interested in the prosperity of the county as a whole, and procured devices for catching grasshoppers and used them in the town and country, catching great quantities of grasshoppers and piling them upon the court house square in great piles and burning then free of charge. Mr. H. C. Kleinschmidt tells us he has seen grasshopper piles on the public square nearly four feet high when they were small, and that a bushel of young grasshoppers would make more than a hundred bushels of grown grasshoppers, that one grasshopper egg would hatch out five or six young grasshoppers.

Much sympathy was created in the cities east of us by reports of the needs of the early settlers, and wheat, corn, flour, potatoes, beans and many things that were badly needed and greatly appreciated by the old settlers were received, and car loads of clothing, consisting of swallowtail coats, plug hats, quaker bonnets, Hoop skirts and other old cast-off clothing was received that furnished a great deal of amusement to the old settlers, and was a great relief to the donors, and brought in free by the railway company.

The long, cold, wet spells contributed by a kind Providence, and more to rid the country of the grasshoppers than all the devices of man.

The misfortunes of the early settlers created a bond of sympathy destroyed selfishness, and made all friends and neighbors.

"Old settlers' History of York County and Individual Biographies", 1913, pages 21-22

Indian Visits(various excerpts)

"The Indians used to go on what they called their hunt. They would go west in the fall and east in the spring. One Sunday morning my mother and two of my sisters went to a neighbor's. My father and I were home alone. Father got up to fix the fire and glanced out the window. I caught the look on his face and he said, "Well, Lyd, it looks like we are going to have company. I was on my feet in an instant. Five or six Pawnees, with their poles dragging and backs loaded, had just stopped. Five big, fat squaws and two children about 16 started for the house. They came in and sat around the stove warming themselves. Then about a dozen or more men came. Imagine my hair going straight up when my father said, "Well, you watch them in here and I'll go outside and see they don't mean anything." The men all cam in line. The first took out his pipe, filled it drew on it, and offered it to my father. He did not take it, so it went down the line, then back again. The first man put his pipe away and very orderly then began to move off. The women came out of the house.They went to their ponies, fixed their blankets, and quietly moved on, after smiling the pipe of peace." (Mrs. Lydia M. McGregor, page 22)

"York was visited in those days by many Indians. The kind that wore blankets and buckskins. The squaws carried their papooses on their backs. I have seen from 100 to 150 in camp on Beaver creek about where the park is now. I remember one time I saw a big buck stop at the Amos Bowers' home, just across from where the York theatre stands now. He pounded on the door until Mrs. Bowers appeared and he pointed to his mouth and said, "Eat, eat." Being badly frightened she rushed to the kitchen and brought out a whole pie."(Otto B. Liedtke, page 27-28)

In the early fall of 1875 the government moved a tribe of Indians to their new reservation in the West."

Cradle Days in York County, Nebraska, A Compilation of Historical Sketches First Published in the York Republican (York Nebraska, 1937)