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Addison Erwin Sheldon.

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when he became an old man. He was born about the year
1820, and died at his home among the Blackbird Hills about
the year 1895. He was a firm friend of the white people
during all his long life. He fought
in many battles with the Sioux and
the Pawnees and good fortune
kept him safe through many great
dangers.

Two Crows was famed in the
tribe for his wit and shrewdness of
speech. This became more and
more marked as years went on and
in the councils all the Indians lis-
tened eagerly to hear what Two
Crows would say, for they knew
that he would give some sharp, keen point to the talk. After
the Omahas had settled on their land where they now live,
many white men who had married Indian wives came
and settled there too. Other persons who had both white
and Indian blood also had settled there, because the land
was very black and rich, and there were many beautiful
springs and clear streams of water flowing through it, and
plenty of timber for fuel and for building purposes. The old-
fashioned Indians became very jealous of these "white Indi-
ans" and at last called a great council of the tribe to talk it
over. One chief after another rose and told the council how
much trouble the white people made them. They said the

181




Two CROWS (CAHAE NUMBA)



182



STORIES OF NEBRASKA




Great Father gave the land to the Indians and the white
people had no right to be there. They all said what a shame
it was for the Omahas to marry with any other people, and

that none but the pure blood Oma-
ha Indians had any right to the
land. After they had all talked
until they were tired and the In-
dians had agreed to all they said,
Two Crows, who was then a very
old man, rose slowly and said:

"My friends, I agree with all
that you say to-day. You have
said it very wisely and very well.
None but the pure blood Omahas
have any right to this land. All the
others ought to move off at once. Now, you all know that my
family and Wajepa's family are the only two families of pure
Omaha blood in the tribe. All the rest of you have got a
little Ponca blood, or a little Sioux blood, or a little loway
blood mixed in. So now all of you move off the land and
Wajepa and I will keep it for the pure Omahas."

This unexpected turn broke up the council. What Two
Crows said was true. In the Omaha tribe, a very small
tribe, it had been the custom for many years for some of the
young men to take their wives from the neighboring tribes.
The result was that in time all the families but two had in-
termarried. This was very well known to all the Indians
and as no one could deny what Two Crows said the dis-
contented Indians were very glad to drop the matter.



WAJEPA. (From photograph
collection of A. E. Sheldon.}



QUESTIONS

1. Was the idea that none but pure blood Omahas should have the land a

good one?

2. Why did the other Omaha Indians who spoke for this idea refuse to accept

it after Two Crows favored it?

3. Who are Americans in this country?



THE GRASSHOPPERS

RASSHOPPERS were among the worst enemies of the
early settlers of Nebraska. They were not the common
green or yellow kind which you see jumping in the fields to-
day, nor yet the red, yellow and black winged "dusty road-
ers" which boys chase down the lane. These were the
Rocky Mountain grasshoppers, with slender bodies, light
gray wings and enormous appetites. Their home was on
the high plains and among the hills at the foot of the great
mountains of the West. Here they lived and raised their
families. In dry years there were more children and less
food at home. Then they assembled and flew away in great
swarms to the east and south. They traveled hundreds of
miles. Sometimes in clear, warm moonlight they flew all
night. More often they settled down late in the afternoon
to rest and feed, and pursued their journey on the morrow.

It was a sad day for the settlers where the grasshoppers
lighted. Eight times between 1857 and 1875 some parts of
our state were visited by them, but the great grasshopper
raid came on July 20th, 21st and-22d, 1874. Suddenly,
along the entire frontier of Nebraska, Kansas, Dakota and
Minnesota, the air was filled with grasshoppers. There
were billions of them in the great clouds which darkened the
sun. The vibration of their wings filled the ear with a roar-
ing sound like a rushing storm, followed by a deep hush as
they dropped to the earth and began to devour the crops.

All the corn was eaten in a single day. Where green fields
stood at sunrise nothing remained at night but stumps of
stalks swarming with hungry hoppers struggling for the last
bite. They stripped the garden patches bare. They gnawed
great holes in carpets and rugs put out to save favorite
plants. The buds and bark of fruit trees were consumed.

183



184



STORIES OF NEBRASKA



They followed potatoes and onions into the earth. When
they had finished the gardens and green crops they attacked
the wheat and oats in the shock and the wild grass in the
unplowed . fields. Only two green crops escaped them,
broomcorn and sorghum cane. They did not seem to have
a sweet eyetooth. Everywhere the earth was covered with




IN GRASSHOPPER DAYS. (From photograph collection of A. E. Sheldon.)

a gray mass of struggling, biting grasshoppers. Turkeys and
chickens feasted on them. Dogs and pigs learned to eat
them. It was hard to drive a team across a field because
the swarm of grasshoppers flew up in front and struck the
horses in the face with such force.

We thought when they were filled they would fly away.
Not at all. They liked us so well they concluded to leave
their children with us. The. mother grasshoppers began to
pierce the earth with holes and fill the holes with eggs. Each



THE GRASSHOPPERS 185

one laid about one hundred eggs. Then they died and the
ground was covered with their dead bodies.

Most of the people on the frontier were very poor. It
was "hard times" even before the grasshoppers came.
There was a great panic in the land. Many settlers had
nothing to live on during the winter but their sod corn and
garden. These were gone. It looked like starvation. The
future held no hope, for the very soil was filled with eggs
which would hatch a hundred times as many grasshoppers
the next spring. Those were the darkest days for the Ne-
braska pioneers. Some sold or gave away their claims and
went east. Their covered wagons used to pass with this
painted on the canvas:

"EATEN OUT BY GRASSHOPPERS.
GOING BACK EAST TO LIVE WITH WIFE'S FOLKS."

During the fall and winter those men brave enough to
stay took their teams and worked wherever they could get
a job in the older settlements. Some hunted game and lived
as the Indians did on dried buffalo meat, trading the robes
for other supplies. Relief funds were raised farther east and
food, seed and clothing distributed to those not too proud to
apply for them. Thus the dark winter of 1874-75 was lived
through.

In the spring the settlers sowed their small grain and
millions of young grasshoppers hatched to eat it. These
little fellows could not fly. They could only hop short hops.
So the settlers made ditches and drove them in. Windrows
of straw were laid across the fields. The young grasshoppers
crawled into the straw to get warm and the settlers set it on
fire. Bushels of them were caught in wide shallow pans with
kerosene in the bottom which were set low and drawn across
the fields. Nature helped the settlers. It was a cold rainy
spring which froze the young brood. Little parasites bored
holes in the eggs and in the little fellows. The birds, then



186 STORIES OF NEBRASKA

as now the farmer 's best friends, came from the south and
joined in the good work of fighting grasshoppers.

For the next two or three years there were some grass-
hoppers and the fear of more along the frontier. Then the
Rocky Mountain grasshoppers disappeared from the settle-
ments. They have never been seen in such vast numbers
since and the hard times they brought on the land will prob-
ably never again return. Those who left their claims have
wished many times that they had stayed by their farms, which
seemed so worthless in those early years. Those who held
on to their land through hardship and suffering, with hearts
strong and faith firm in the future of Nebraska, have lived
to see their later years made glad by generous crops and hap-
py homes where children asking for stories of the long ago
are told the story of the dark days when the grasshoppers
came.

QUESTIONS

1. In what respects are the migrations of grasshoppers like those of men?

2. Is there room enough in the world for all the insects and all the people?

Why?

3. Who in your neighborhood can tell true stories of the grasshopper days?

What have you heard of them?

4. Why do we believe the grasshoppers will never again come in such vast

numbers?



LOST IN THE SAND HILLS




, great Sand Hills section of western Nebraska is in

A the shape of an open fan. The handle of the fan is in
Hayes and Dundy counties near the southwest corner of the
state, the broad wings
of the fan extend into
parts of Cherry, Sher-
idan, Holt, Rock,
Antelope and Pierce
counties, reaching the
northern border of the
state. The center of
this sand hills fan is in
southern Cherry and

Thomas counties. Here THE SAND HILLS. (From photograph by

extend for many miles

in every direction great billows of sandy soil. Until closely
studied all of the landscapes look alike, for each sand hill
seems like each other sand hill, and the little vales which
lie between are all sisters of the same age. The sand drifts
and slides about with each gust of wind. There are no
great landmarks to serve as guides. If one climbs to the
top of the highest hill in sight, everywhere is a confused
medley of hills and hollows extending as far as eye can see.
It is as though in an ocean tossed by a great storm the
waves suddenly had been changed to sand.

In the early years of exploration and settlement the sand
hills were regarded as a dangerous region. Many stories
are told of hunters and explorers who were lost among these
hills. In more than one place human skeletons have been
found, telling their mute story of a losing struggle with hun-
ger and thirst in these treacherous wilds.

187



188 STORIES OF NEBRASKA

One of the most thrilling incidents of frontier days oc-
curred in the sand hills of Thomas County in 1891. In
March of that year a German family named Haumann set-
tled near Thedford. There were nine or ten children in the
family. The eldest girl, Hannah, went to work for Mr. Gil-
son, a neighbor who lived about a mile and a half away. It
was her custom to come home on Sunday and spend a happy
day with her brothers and sisters. On Sunday, May 10th,
she did not come home as usual, because Mr. Gilson was
away and Mrs. Gilson wished Hannah to stay with her for
company. This made the other children unhappy, and
Tillie and Retta coaxed their mother to let them go over to
the Gilson home to visit their sister. Tillie was eight years
old and Retta was four. After dinner Mrs. Haumann let
them go, telling them to stay an hour and then come
straight home. They reached Mr. Gilson 's safely and about
four o'clock started, hand in hand, to return home. At this
season the sand hills are beautiful with grasses and wild
flowers, and the two children left their path and ran eagerly
to gather those near by. They saw others still more beauti-
ful a little farther off, so they laughed and ran on and on to
gather them until the path was lost and the great sea of sand
hills stretched before them wave upon wave. Lost upon this
sea, they wandered on.

Night came and brought no children to the Haumann
home. At daybreak the next morning the neighbors were
searching the hills. Word had been sent to Thedford and
from there to the surrounding country. Although it was the
busy season of the year, men left their fields and herds and
tramped or rode over the hills and hollows looking every-
where for the two little girls. Monday afternoon just be-
fore sundown they found their trail. That night Mr.
Stacey with a party of searchers camped on the trail. As
soon as it was light they followed the children's tracks,
sometimes rapidly, often more slowly and not infrequently
upon their hands and knees. The story of the children's



LOST IN THE SAND HILLS 189

wanderings and weariness was written in the prints made on
the sand and grass along the way. Here Tillie had carried
Retta here they had walked side by side here they had
sat down to rest here they were up again and pushing
bravely on to find their home.

Tuesday night the searchers camped again by the side of
the trail. They did not know until too late that they and
the children were only a little distance apart that night.

Wednesday morning they found where Tillie and Retta
had passed the night lying close by each other on the sand.
Here the trail grew hard to follow and much time was lost.
Meanwhile the women at Thedford were helping in their
homes, preparing food and coffee which they sent to the men
on the trail. The searchers found the work anxious and
nerve-racking. At times the little footprints were plain and
clear and they hastened to overtake the children. A little
farther on the light sand had sifted across and left no trace
to follow. The poor mother could not join in the search, for
she had two children younger than Retta, one a baby, so she
waited at home from hour to hour for news of her lost
children.

While the searchers followed, the two children wandered
on, traveling when awake almost constantly. If they had
only waited they would soon have been found, but their
minds were filled with the thought of home while their feet
carried them ever farther away with each weary step. On
Wednesday morning Tillie told Retta to wait at the foot of
a big hilt while she went to the top to see if there was a house
in sight. When she reached the top she seems to have seen
a larger hill, a common impression as one looks out over that
country, and went on to get the wider view from that.
Retta thought that she would meet her sister more quickly
by going around the hill, and so started on. Thus they were
separated, never to meet again. About noon of this day the
searching party, which included Mr. Haumann, Mr. Stacey,
Mr. Maseburg and Dr. Edmunds, found Retta carrying one



190 STORIES OF NEBRASKA

little shoe with its sole worn through, while the other had been
dropped on the trail. Both of the girls had worn new shoes
when they left home that Sunday. Very tenderly the little
girl was cared for by the doctor and the others. She had
wandered so long without food or water that her mind was
affected for many days. She said that they saw a prairie
fire and went to it in hope of finding some one, but no one was
there.

The search for Tillie went on. From Dunning, thirty
miles east of Thedford, a party of searchers started on
Wednesday, the day on which Retta was found. They
formed in a long line across the hills to intercept her, for the
children had wandered east. On Sunday, May 17th, the
Dunning party found the lost girl. She had taken off her
apron, spread it over some rose bushes, laid herself on the
sand beneath and died. Her body was placed on a hand car
and taken to Thedford. Her parents did not recognize their
child except by her clothing. She was wasted to skin and
bones and her fair tender flesh was burned black by exposure.
All the neighborhood came to her funeral and wept with her
family as the wornout little body was laid to rest.

That country is settled now and fences stretch every-
where across the hills. One has only to follow a fence and
he will reach a ranch or a road. The Haumann family still
live on their ranch near Thedford. Retta has grown to
womanhood and has a little daughter of her own. She lives
at Broken Bow and often visits the old home. You may be
sure they do not forget their lost sister, Tillie, nor do the
early settlers fail to recall with deep feeling the days when
they followed a fading trail while far ahead of them toiled
the figure of a brave little girl carrying her younger sister in
her arms to ease her weariness as they struggled on in search
of home.



LOST IN THE SAND HILLS 191



QUESTIONS

1. What is the sand hills country in Nebraska good for?

2. What to you is the saddest part of this story?

3. Have you known of any child being lost? Tell about it.

4. Notice how very kind all the neighbors were. What acts of kindness

have you known neighbors to show in times of deep trouble?

5. Tell what you think is fine about Tillie Haumann.



AN OPEN WELL

IT was a long distance to water for the settlers on the table
lands of Nebraska. If they went straight down it was
from one hundred to three hundred feet of hard digging. If
they went across country it was sometimes five or six miles
to a running stream. Frequently they hauled water in
barrels from the streams during the first year, putting in a
sod crop to live on and (Jigging in the well every hour they
could spare. As they could not afford machinery these
early wells were dug by hand. A stout rope and bucket
with a home made crank and windlass brought the dirt up
from the bottom. Sometimes this was turned by the
mother and children while the father pounded away at the
bottom with pick and spade. Sometimes the well went
through layers of soft and sandy soil which would cave in and
bury the digger below. To prevent this a box or curbing was
made with boards strongly braced inside and just large
enough to fit the well. This held the wall of the soft layers
firmly in place. Where the wall was hard it did not need
curbing.

Digging a deep well was slow, painful and dangerous
work. Months passed while the family dug and turned the
windlass and wondered how much deeper the water lay.
What a day of celebration when the digger struck the final
blow and water flowed in about his feet! How glad the
children were! All the neighbors came to taste the water
and rejoice at the family's good luck. Water, common
water, which people throw carelessly away seemed to them
as precious as gold.

When the well was very deep, pulling the water up by
hand was too slow work, so a large wooden drum and tackle
was built alongside the well. Horses or oxen were hitched

192



AN OPEN WELL 193

to a pole fastened to the drum and driven around it in a cir-
cle. As the drum turned it wound up a long stout rope and
at the other end of the rope was a barrel of water coming
slowly to the top from the cool depths of the deep well.

During the drought of 1890 to 1895 many settlers on the
high plains of western Nebraska left the claims where they
had worked so hard and the wells they had toiled so hard to
dig because they had no crops. The grass and weeds grew
up about the wells, the frame and windlass disappeared and
there was a hidden open hole hundreds of feet deep. Such
an open well in Custer County was the scene of a thrilling
experience. The story of it was told in the Custer County
Beacon of September 5, 1895, by the man who lived through
it, Mr. F. W. Carlin. It is given for the most part in his own
words :

" While driving through the country about fifteen miles
northwest of Broken Bow on the evening of August 14th, I
found I had taken the wrong track and driven up to some old
sod buildings. I turned my team around and started to-
ward what looked like a good road, when one of my horses
seemed to step into a place. I got out of my wagon and
started alongside the team to be sure that the road was all
right when, without a moment's notice, I became aware of
the fact that I had stepped into an old welt and was going
down like a shot out of a gun.

"I placed my feet close together, stretched my arms
straight over my head and said, "0 God, have mercy on me,"
and I honestly believe that saved my life; but I went down,
down, and it seemed to me I would never reach the bottom.
The farther I went, the faster I went, and never seemed to
touch the sides at all.

"I supposed, of course, it would kill me when I struck the
bottom, but God had heard my prayer. I struck in the mud
and water, which completely covered me over. I was con-
siderably stunned, but was able to straighten up and get my
head above water. I scrambled around and finally pulled



194 STORIES OF NEBRASKA

my legs from the mud at the bottom and stood on my feet
in the water, which came just up to my arms. I was very
cold and I tried a number of times to get out of the water,
only to fall back. The curbing was somewhat slimy. I
finally managed to break off a little piece of board and found
a crack in which I managed to fasten it and perched myself
upon it until morning.

" While sitting there I heard my team running away. In
its remaining by the well was my only hope of rescue, for I
was aware of the fact that I was at least a mile and a half
from the nearest house and that no one knew that I was
there.

" There I sat until morning. It was about nine o'clock
when I fell in and I was drenched and plastered with mud.
The only serious injury I received was a badly sprained ankle
which gave me great pain. I also had a sore place in my
back, which I found a number of days afterwards was a
broken rib.

"As soon as daylight appeared I began to look around
and take in the situation. In looking up it seemed to be at
least one hundred feet to the top. I learned afterwards
that it was exactly 143 feet. It was curbed in places with
a curb about three feet square. There would be a place
curbed for about six to sixteen feet and then there would be
a place not curbed at all. The curbing was perfectly tight,
not a crack between the boards that I could get my fingers
into, and covered with a slimy mud. I at once concluded
that my only chance for rescue was my knife, if it had not
fallen out of my pocket while floundering in the mud. So,
thrusting my hand into my pocket, there it was and a good
one, too. I took it and began cutting footholes in the sides
of the curbing. It was very slow, but sure. I never went
back a foot after I had gained it. When I would get to the
top of a curbing I took the board that I had cut out and made
me a seat in one corner and in this way I think I got up about
fifty feet the first day.



AN OPEN WELL 195

" Some time in the afternoon I came to a curbing which I
thought I could not get through. It was of solid one by six
inch boards, closely fitted together and not less than sixteen
feet to the top of it. I made myself a good seat, fixing my-
self as comfortable as possible, and concluded that I must
stay there and await assistance or die there. I stayed there
all the next night and slept half of the time, for the night did
not seem very long. I would have been quite comfortable
had I not been so wet and cold and my feet pained me
terribly. The greatest drawback was that I had to do most
of my climbing on one foot.

"I remained at that point the greater part of the next
forenoon, calling often for help. One thing was in my favor.
I was neither hungry nor thirsty. I began to give up all
hopes. I thought of my wife and little boy, who were al-
ways so glad to see me when I came home from a trip. I
thought how the little fellow would never see his papa or run
to meet him when he returned home again.

11 That was too much. I made up my mind to get out or
die in the attempt. So I took a piece of board, put some
sand on it, and got the point of my knife good and sharp on
the sand. Then I began cutting away the curbing and mak-
ing one foothole after another. I cut, climbing higher and
higher, and was at last on the top of the curbing. From
there I would have been comfortable if my feet had not hurt
me so badly. But I cut holes in the clay for my hands and
feet with my knife, and finally got within sixteen feet of the
top.

"Right there I had the worst obstacle I had met yet. It
was a round curbing four feet high, perfectly smooth inside.
The earth was washed out around it until the curb was only
held from dropping by a little peg on one side. I knew if I
tried to go up through it, it was pretty sure to break loose
and go to the bottom with me. So my only chance was to go
between the curb and the wall. This I was fortunate in
doing. By going to work and digging away the wall in half



196



STORIES OF NEBRASKA



an hour I had a hole large enough to let me pass through.
After that it was but a short job to reach the top, which I
did, and lay for some time exhausted.

"Then I knelt down and thanked Almighty God for spar-
ing my life, as I prayed for him to do, time and again during


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Online LibraryAddison Erwin SheldonHistory and stories of Nebraska → online text (page 13 of 20)