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Addison Erwin Sheldon.

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the two days and nights that I had been in the well.

"But my troubles were not yet at an end. I was a mile




A TYPICAL, FRONTIER WELL AND HOUSE. (From photograph collection of

A. E. Sheldon.)

and a half from a house with a foot which I could not step on.
I cut some large weeds and made out to hobble and crawl to
the road about forty rods distant, and there I lay until near-
ly sundown looking for a team that never came. At last I
gave up looking for anyone and started to crawl on my hands
and knees to the house, but I soon gave out and had to lie
out another night.

"In the morning I felt somewhat better. Starting out
again I finally arrived at the home of Charles Francis just at



AN OPEN WELL 197

daylight. I was given food and drink, after being without
them two days and three nights.

"My team was found the next day after I fell in the well.
The man who found them took them to a justice of the peace,
filed an estray notice, and turned them into his pasture. He
thus complied with the law and by so doing took away the
last chance for me to be found."

The story of this escape from an open well was told in the
Nebraska legislature of 1897 by Senator Beal, of Custer
County. The result was that an act was passed compelling
land-owners to fill such wells on their property to the top with
dirt or the county would do it at their expense. This law
has remained on our statute books ever since.



QUESTIONS

1. Have you ever seen a well dug? Tell about it.

2. How much water is underground and why is it harder to get in some

E laces than in others?
at do you think helped Mr. Carlin most in getting out of the well?



FORT McPHERSON MILITARY CEMETERY

HUNDREDS of soldiers and pioneers died on the Ne-
braska frontier. Some were killed by Indians, some
were drowned, some were frozen to death in great storms,
some died of disease. Some of these were buried where they
died. Many were buried in the cemeteries belonging to the
United States forts.

One such cemetery, Fort McPherson Military Cemetery,
was chosen by the United States for the final resting place of
the bodies of the brave men and women from all the plains
and the mountains. It is in Lincoln County, Nebraska, on
the south side of the Platte, about six miles from Maxwell on
the Union Pacific Railroad. There are six acres in the ceme-
tery, enclosed by a brick wall. Within are tall, beautiful
cottonwood trees. Beneath the shade of the trees are long
rows of graves, each grave with a white stone at the head.
Some are large .handsome monuments with the story of the
dead cut upon them. Others are only small white slabs
bearing the one word "Unknown." There are 361 of these
unknown graves.

Within the wall is a house belonging to the cemetery in
which lives the officer in charge with his family. Every-
thing about the place shows loving care and attention.
From a tall flagstaff a large United States flag floats from sun-
rise to sunset above the graves. Birds nest and rear their
young in the trees. All is quiet and restful as befits the
place.

The officer keeps a book wherein are recorded names of
the dead so far as they are known, where they died and
where they were first buried. Their bodies have been
brought here from eighteen different graveyards near the old
forts which have been abandoned since the frontier days are

198



FORT McPHERSON MILITARY CEMETERY 199

gone. From the plains of Colorado to the mountains of
far-off Idaho, and even from the Philippines, the buried
heroes of the frontier have been tenderly brought and laid
away in Nebraska soil. One walks for hours and reads the
stories written upon the headstones. Here are the bodies of
the soldiers killed with Lieutenant Grattan on August 18,
1854, in the beginning of the war with the Sioux. Here are
the graves of women and little children who died on the
frontier. Here are the dead of Fort Kearney and Fort
Laramie. Here lies Spotted Horse, a brave Pawnee scout.
Here rest the heroes of the Sioux and Cheyenne wars. From
all the well-known forts the dead are here as shown by the
record books.

From Fort Hall. Idaho. 11

From Fort Bridger, Wyoming : 23

From Fort Fetterman, Wyoming 30

From Fort Laramie, Wyoming 133

From Fort Crawford, Colorado 25

From Fort Halleck, Wyoming 28

From Fort Lewis, Colorado 41

From Fort Kearney, Nebraska 198

From Fort Saunders, Wyoming 51

From Fort Sidney, Nebraska 4

From Fort Steele, Wyoming 49

From Fort Hartsuff , Nebraska 3

From Fort McPherson, Nebraska 125

From Fort Independence Rock, Wyoming

From Fort White River Camp, Colorado

From Fort Gothenburg, Nebraska

From Fort Farnam, Nebraska

From Fort La Bonte, Wyoming 8

From Fort Manila, Philippine Islands

Total 737

There is room now for but a few more graves. Only
soldiers and their wives may be buried here, and the wife
only if her husband is already interred here, and then above
him in the same grave. It is the plan of the United States
to gather the bodies of those who died for the nation into
national cemeteries where their graves will be cared for so



200



STORIES OF NEBRASKA




FORT McPnERSoN MILITARY CEMETERT
(From photograph by A. E. Sheldon.)



long as the nation lives. There are more than eighty of
these. This is the only one in Nebraska.

The spot chosen for this cemetery is rich in memories of
the early days. The Oregon Trail runs within a few yards

of the wall, the deep
lines made by its wagon
wheels still plain in the
unbroken sod. Here
was the place where the
wagon trains were most
often attacked, since
here the trail runs close
to the bluffs where the
Indians could hide.
Fort McPherson itself
stood near the bluff and
about a mile southeast of the cemetery. It was built in
1863 and abandoned in 1891.

Many visitors come each year and linger among these
monuments which recall the border days. The frontier is
gone, the old forts are pulled down, the soldiers have marched
away, the overland trails are grown over with grass or
turned under by the plow. But the memories of the early
years will always abide here. Gathered from all the forts
and battlefields of the frontier West the bodies of these brave
men and women here sleep their last sleep in quiet repose in
Nebraska soil. At the entrance are these words :

On fame 's eternal camping ground,

Their silent tents are spread;
While Glory guards with solemn round

The bivouac of the dead.

QUESTIONS

1. Find Fort McPherson on the map. How far is it from where you live?

2. What reason for bringing the frontier dead hundreds of miles to Fort

McPherson Cemetery?

3. What influence does such a cemetery have upon the minds of those who

visit it or read about it?

4. From what poem are the lines at the entrance?



A RAILROAD FIREMAN'S JUMP

ON September 29, 1907, the three older children of the
Dixon family, living about one mile from Seward,
started for school. Baby Gladys Dixon, who was only
nineteen months old, went with them a little distance.
Away the children ran, and Gladys was soon left behind.
Still she followed on until she came to the Burlington Rail-
road track.

It was nearly time for a train to pass, but Gladys did not
know that. She stood close to the rails and waved her
hands as the great black engine came in sight. The engineer
tried to stop the train. Fireman Lux looked out and saw the
child upon the track. He ran out on the foot-board and
reached the pilot just as the engine was close upon the little
one. There was no time to lose. He sprang from the pilot
and while in the air, caught Gladys in his arms, and they
rolled together down the high embankment. What followed
is told by Mrs. Dixon: "As soon as the children started for
school, I began to do the morning 's work in the house. Just
as I was washing the dishes, I heard the train and the engine
gave a strange scream. I thought of Gladys, and my heart
gave a big jump. I started out, and just as I reached the
door, the train stopped and Mr. Lux was bringing the baby
up to the house."

The railroad people gave Mr. Lux a gold watch for his
bravery. The parents of Gladys gave him a handsome
diamond charm to wear with the watch, and little Gladys
received a ring with a blue sapphire from the man who saved
her life.

QUESTIONS

1 . What other story similar to this have you heard?

2. Was it a part of the fireman's duty to do what he did? Why?

3. When ought one to risk his own life trying to save another?

201



NEBRASKA'S GREAT SEAL

THE great seal of a state is an iron or steel instrument
which stamps an imprint upon important papers and
documents. The imprint is itself often called the great seal
of the state, for it is the sign of the state 's power and authori-
ty.

The first great seal of Nebraska was made when Nebraska
was a territory. Its picture is shown on page 203. Its im-
print is found only on the old documents.

When Nebraska became a state in 1867 the legislature
passed an act providing for the making of a new great seal.
The act prescribed the design for the new great seal as fol-
lows:

The eastern part of the circle to be represented by a steamboat as-
cending the Missouri River; the mechanic arts to be represented by a
smith with a hammer and anvil; in the foreground, agriculture to be
represented by a settler's cabin, sheaves of wheat, and stalks of growing
corn; in the background a train of cars heading towards the Rocky
Mountains, and on the extreme west, the Rocky Mountains to be plainly
in view; around the top of this circle, to be in capital letters, the motto,
"Equality Before the Law," and the circle to be surrounded with the
words, "Great Seal of the State of Nebraska, March 1, 1867."

The great seal was made as ordered and is now kept by
the Secretary of State in the Capitol at Lincoln. The pic-
ture of the imprint given here is the exact size of the great
seal.

QUESTIONS

1. Compare these two seals and tell which one you prefer and why?

2. Why does a State have a seal?

3. In which direction are you looking in the picture of the State Seal.

4. What river between you and the Rocky Mountains?



202




NEBRASKA TERRITORIAL SEAL




NEBRASKA STATE SEAL. (From photograph collection of A. E. Sheldon.)

203



FOR many years Nebraska had no official state flower.
The people were too busy making homes to give the
selection of a state flower much thought and too thankful for
every flower which grew on the prairies and along the streams
to choose from among the anemones and violets, the roses,

the amorphas or shoestrings,
the spiderworts, the puccoons
or Indian paint brushes, the
goldenrods and sunflowers, one
flower which should be pre-
ferred before all the others.

As the years went on the
feeling grew that Nebraska
should have a state flower and
the people set about choosing
one. It was agreed that the
flower chosen should be in it-
self a fit emblem of Nebraska
and that it should be found
growing abundantly in all parts
of the state. So they looked
over the prairies, the plains,
the woods, the valleys and the
sandhills. Everywhere they
found the bright, graceful,
cheery goldenrod, beautiful not
only in the tender green leaf




THE GOLDEN ROD, NEBRASKA'S
FLOWER



and bud of springtime, in the golden glory of summer and
autumn, but also in its quaker colored garb in our winter
landscapes. And they said, "The goldenrod shall be Ne-
braska's flower." This choice was made in 1895, when the

204



NEBRASKA'S FLOWER 205

Nebraska legislature passed an act making the goldenrod
the official flower of our state.

There is never a time when the goldenrod cannot be found
in our landscape.

QUESTIONS

1 Have you found the goldenrod in Nebraska in spring? In summer?

In autumn? In winter?
2. Why is it especially well fitted to be Nebraska's flower?



ARBOR DAY

XTEBRASKA has given many good ideas to the world, but
^ none better than the idea of Arbor Day. The early
settlers of Nebraska looked out from the little fringe of woods
along the streams upon a treeless prairie. Natural prairie
groves like those of Iowa and Illinois were lacking. The
far-sighted fathers of this state studied and thought much
upon this question. All the early speeches and the early
newspapers are filled with the thought that the prairie must
be plowed and trees must be planted and made to grow be-
fore the people would have homes where they would like to
live and bring up their children. Out of these plans and
thinking came the idea of Arbor Day. The first record of
this idea is so interesting and important that it is here given

in full:

Lincoln, Nebr., January 4, 1872,

8^0 'clock A. M.
State Board of Agriculture met.

J. Sterling Morton offered the following resolution, which was unan-
imously adopted:

Resolved, That, Wednesday, the 10th day of April, 1872, be and the
same is hereby especially set apart and consecrated for tree planting in the
State of Nebraska, and the State Board of Agriculture hereby name it
"Arbor Day," and to urge upon the people of the State, the vital impor-
tance of tree planting, hereby offer a special premium of one hundred dol-
lars to the county agricultural society of that county in Nebraska, which
shall upon that day, plant properly, the largest number of trees; and a
farm library of twenty-five dollars' worth of books to that person who, on
that day, shall plant properly, in Nebraska the greatest number of trees.

Upon this first Arbor Day millions of trees were planted
in Nebraska. Nature had kindly provided the young trees
by sowing the seed of the Nebraska trees, especially the
cottonwood, soft maple, box elder, ash and elm upon the
sandbars and along the edges of the belt of timber which

206



FIRST ARBOR DAY PROCLAMATION. (Photo from Original in Statehouse.)



207



208 STORIES OF NEBRASKA

bordered the rivers. In the morning a multitude of the
early settlers left their work and gathered thousands of
young trees to plant in groves along the fire guards about
their claims. The young cottonwood was the most plentiful
and easily obtained. Every strip of sandbar along the
streams was a dense nursery for this tree whose seeds had
drifted there upon the high water and had been covered with
a thin layer of mud and sand. One could gather them as
fast as he could pull them up and tie them into bundles.
This is one reason why the older groves of trees upon Ne-
braska prairies were mostly cottonwood.

The early fathers of Nebraska were not content with the
great success of the first Arbor Day. They saw in the future
long lines of immigrants coming here to make their homes.
Before there could be homes with gardens and orchards there
must be windbreaks. To secure these they planned that
every farm should have a forest and every year in Nebraska
annals an Arbor Day. The record of that plan in the reports
of the state board of agriculture reads thus :

January 8, 1874, 9 A. M.

C. H. Walker offered the following resolution, which was, on motion,
unanimously adopted:

Resolved, That, the Second Wednesday of April of each year be, and
the same is hereby designated, dedicated, and set apart as Arbor Day, for
the State of Nebraska, and that the Agriculturists of Nebraska, be re-
quested to petition the Legislature to make said "Arbor Day" a legal
holiday; that until so made a holiday, the Governor be requested to call
attention to said "Arbor Day" by proclamation, and request the people
of the State to observe it by planting Forest, Fruit, and Ornamental Trees.

Robert W. Furnas of Brownville was governor of Ne-
braska in this year. The first Arbor Day proclamation was
made by him. You may see on page 207 a picture of it
as it appears in the old records of the governor's office in
Lincoln. After this first Arbor Day proclamation other
governors of Nebraska made similar proclamations, and the
planting of trees and the observance of Arbor Day went on



ARBOR DAY



209



from year to year. In 1885 the Nebraska legislature fixed
April 22d, the birthday of J. Sterling Morton, as the date for
Arbor Day and made it a legal holiday.

Another inducement for the early settlers to plant trees
was an act of the Nebraska legislature in 1869 under which
for every acre of forest trees planted by a settler $100 worth




J. STERLING MORTON AND ROBERT W. FURNAS.
lion of A. E. Sheldon.)



(From photograph collec-



of his property was exempt from taxation. Money was very
scarce in those days. Here was a chance for the settlers to
pay their taxes by planting trees on their own claims. As
a result of this law nearly all the claims soon had enough
trees growing on them to exempt the settlers from paying
any taxes. Consequently so little money came into the state
treasury that there was not enough to pay expenses and the
state was compelled to borrow. The law was repealed in
1877, but thousands of groves on the prairies of eastern
Nebraska stand to-day as witnesses to its benefits.

Since our first Arbor Day all the other states except three



210



STORIES OF NEBRASKA



and many foreign countries have followed the good example
of Nebraska by establishing Arbor Days.

In 1895 the people of Nebraska were so much in love with
the Arbor Day idea that both houses of the legislature passed
a joint resolution, which was signed on April 4th by Governor
Holcomb, as follows:

Whereas, the state of Nebraska has heretofore, in a popular sense, been
designated by names not in harmony with its history, industry, or ambi-
tion; and

Whereas, the state is pre-eminently a tree-planting state; and "where-
as, numerous and honorable state organizations have by resolution,
designated Nebraska as the 'Tree Planter's State;" therefore be it re-
solved, by the legislature of the State of Nebraska, that Nebraska shall
hereafter in a popular sense, be known and referred to as the 'Tree Plant-
er's State."

Hence it is that children born in Nebraska are no longer
called "bugeaters," but "tree planters."

It has well been said that all
other holidays look backward to
some great event in *human his-
tory. Arbor Day alone looks for-
ward. It looks forward to a future
when all the desert places of the
earth shall be made glad with
shade of trees, the songs of birds,
the laughter of children and the
happiness of homes surrounded by
groves and gardens planted and
cared for by the hand of man.

Other lands have given to the
world ideas, and days to be kept
in memory. Arbor Day is Ne-




A NEBRASKA TREE. (From
photograph by A. E. Sheldon.)



braska's gift to the world, destined through all ages and
in all lands to grow in meaning and always to be kept by
the planting of trees.



ARBOR DAY 211



QUESTIONS

1. Why did the world wait so long for the idea of Arbor Day?

2. What have trees done for Nebraska?

3. Why have other states and countries adopted the Nebraska idea of Arbor

Day?

4. Have you planted a tree? Tell about it.



PART II

A Short History of Nebraska



CHAPTER I
EARLIEST NEBRASKA

A Land under Water. Earliest Nebraska was a land
under water in the bottom of a great inland sea. Great
fishes swam in the water. Shell fish lived in the shallows
and died and left their skeletons in the soft mud. Corals
grew and lily-like sea plants lifted their heads above the
waves and died. Slowly the sea filled up. The skeletons
of millions of dead animals and plants hardened into rock
and became the limestone whose edges now appear on
the sides of ravines and along the streams of eastern Ne-
braska. The sea bottom slowly rose and land appeared,
a land of marshes and forests in which grew great ferns and
trees which are now found only far south. In this swampy
land lived great lizards, some of them taller than elephants
and much longer, with many other strange animals. After
many thousand years there was more dry land, and trees of
all kinds grew in Nebraska, splendid oaks, maples, beeches
and willows among them. We find their leaves today
pressed and printed in the red sandstone rocks.

A Land of Camels, Tigers and Little Horses. Then
the sea came again and covered the land. New kinds of
shells and fish lived in the sea and left their skeletons on
the bottom. Again the land rose, was covered with grass
and trees and Nebraska became the home of camels, tapirs,

213



214 A SHORT HISTORY OF NEBRASKA

monkeys, tigers and little horses, some of them no larger
than dogs. The rhinoceros, elephant and other large
animals lived here. The bones of all these are found
to-day beneath our soil.

A Land of Ice. Then came moving fields of ice from the
north plowing across eastern Nebraska and leaving, when
they melted, deep beds of clay and the large pink boulders
seen on the hillsides. Two or three times these ice fields
covered the land. The climate of Nebraska became so
cold that the warm country plants and animals died.
Other plants and animals came in. The grassy plains
appeared. The climate became drier. The rivers began
to cut out their present valleys. Nebraska as we know it
to-day came into being.



The First Nebraska People. A long time before the
white men came, men and women and children lived in
Nebraska. They lived in earth houses built upon the
rounded tops of the hills not more than half a mile from the
springs and streams where there was water. They lived
upon the tops of the hills because they were afraid to live
in the valleys for there were enemies all about seeking to
kill and to rob them. From the hill tops they could see the
enemies before they arrived.

How They Lived. These men and women had a very
hard life, although their home was in a land that was beauti-
ful and rich. Their life was hard because they had to make
out of trees, bone or stone all the tools they used. Arrows
and spears to kill game, knives to cut it into meat, axes
to chop trees and hammers to drive stakes and to fight their
enemies, all these tools and many more were made from
stone. They made also out of bone curious little needles,
gimlets and pinchers with which to sew their clothing and
to aid them in doing their other work. It took a great deal
of time to make these tools, so the men and women who



EARLIEST NEBRASKA



215




dwelt in Nebraska in these prehistoric days were kept

busy from one year's end to the other trying to get a living

of the very simplest kind. They lived so much in fear of

enemies that every family made

a hiding place for its food and tools

in the earth floor of its house. These

hiding places were holes shaped like

a bottle and were six or eight feet

long, with a narrow neck coming

up to the dirt floor. They covered

this narrow neck with sticks and

with clay and sometimes built fires

on top of it so that strangers would

never suspect that it was there.

Their Graves. These people
buried their dead in mounds. They
sometimes covered the bodies with
piles of rock, placing alongside the
bodies stone axes, arrows, spears and
many other useful things which the
living would gladly have kept but
which they laid in the grave because
they believed the spirit of the dead
would some day need these things and be able to use them.

How We Know about Them. All that we know of these
early people we have learned from their graves and from
the floors and fireplaces of their houses, deeply covered
now with several feet of Nebraska soil, and from the curious
bottle-shaped holes beneath their houses in which they
hid their food and tools. Yet from these we know what they
ate, what kinds 'of animals they killed, how they sewed their
clothing together and how they cut down large trees and
used them for posts in building their houses. We also know
some things which they believed about a spirit world and
about the life beyond the grave.

They made pottery, moulding the clay, when they



ANCIENT NEBRASKA TOOLS.

(Courtesy R. F. Gilder,

Omaha, Nebraska.)

a, b, c, d, fish hooks; f, buckle;
g, h, j, needles; i, shuttle; k, bone
implement.



216



A SHORT HISTORY OF NEBRASKA



found some that was plastic and strong, into cups, jugs,
pitchers and wide-mouthed vessels which they could use
in cooking their food. There were several kinds of pottery
made by these people, some yellow, some red, some black,
some with pounded clam shells mixed with the clay to make
it tough and strong, some with sand and pounded rocks for
the same purpose.

Their Homes. Most of the homes of these people
were in the eastern part of Nebraska along the bluffs of the
Missouri River and on the hills near the small streams flowing

into the Missouri. Their
buried fireplaces have
also been found in the
Bad Lands of north-


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Online LibraryAddison Erwin SheldonHistory and stories of Nebraska → online text (page 14 of 20)