Addison Erwin Sheldon.

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the people of Nebraska, full of hope and energy, started to
settle the western half of the state which at that time was
nearly all wild land. The Burlington built its line up the
Republican valley and across the plains to Denver. The
Northwestern, then called the Fremont, Elkhorn and
Missouri Valley, started its long extension up the Elkhorn
River and across the sandhill region to the Black Hills. The
Missouri Pacific came into the state from the southeast and
before the next ten years were ended, the Rock Island
pushed its line across Nebraska to the Rocky Moun-
tains. All was again activity. Long lines of white cov-
ered wagons were again on the road for the grassy valleys
among the sand hills and the smooth plains of the great
table-land beyond. New towns were started. The pop-
ulation of the state more than doubled between 1880 and

During these years the northwest and southwest corners
of Nebraska, and also the smooth high plains in the western
part, were being settled. The sandhill region was the only
part of Nebraska remaining unsettled, and even there the
valleys at the heads of the rivers and around the sandhill
lakes were dotted with houses.

The Great Missouri Flood. The year 1881 was the year
of the great high water in the Missouri River. An ice gorge
formed at a bend in the river in Dixon County, damming the
waters and making a great lake which drove hundreds of
farmers from their homes and completely flooded the town
of Niobrara. When the flood finally passed away, the
people of Niobrara moved their town to a new site above
high water, three miles from its old location. There it is
to-day. This year is known along the Missouri River as
the year of the " Great Flood."



(From Clements collection.)

The Omaha Strike and the State Militia. On February
27, 1882, several hundred laborers engaged in moving dirt
at Omaha went on a strike. Riots followed and on March

12th, the Governor called out the
state militia, which camped in Oma-
ha several weeks. Their camp was
called " Camp Dump." In a scuffle
between the soldiers and strikers
one striker was killed. An extra
session of the legislature was called
to vote money for paying the sol-

Governor James W. Dawes.
In 1882 James W. Dawes, Repub-
lican, of Crete, was elected gover-
nor and re-elected in 1884. His
term was marked by the final strug-
gle between homesteaders and cattlemen in western Nebras-
ka. How to handle the state school lands became a prom-
inent question during this period and continued to be for a
number of years.

The Free Land Period. The great movement of settlers
west was helped by the changes in the land laws. A settler
in Nebraska in 1854 could take 160 acres and after living
on it six months, buy it from the United States for $1.25
an acre. This was called a pre-emption. In 1863, the
homestead law went into effect. Under this a settler could
take 160 acres and have it free by living upon it five years.
In 1873 the timber claim act was passed. Under it one
could get 160 acres by planting 10 acres of it to trees and
taking care of them for eight years. All three of these laws
were in force from 1873 to 1891, and under them a settler
could in a few years get 480 acres of land.

The Struggle between the Grangers and the Cattlemen.
There were conflicts between the cattlemen, whose great
herds fed on free pasture, and the grangers, as the settlers


were called, who came to farm. Cattlemen began to go
into western Nebraska between 1865 and 1875. Their
ranches were located where there was the best grass and plen-
ty of water. These ranches were many miles apart. All
the cattle were turned loose summer and winter and allowed
to find feed and water where it best suited them. The

A WESTERN CATTLE RANGE. (From S. D. Butcher collection)

cattle of different ranches ran together on the ranges. Each
ranchman knew his own cattle because they were marked
with his brand. Once a year, all the cattlemen in a district
drove the cattle together and branded each calf with the
brand of the cow which it followed. This was called the
roundup. The grass on the plains died on its roots in the
late summer of each year so that the frost did not kill it.
Thus the country in the fall and winter was one great free
haystack and a very cheap and easy place to raise cattle.



When the grangers first began to settle on the cattle
ranges of western Nebraska, the cattlemen told them that
it was too dry there to farm, that they had been there for

years and that the
country dried up every
summer and was fit only
for cattle-ranges. The
grangers did not believe
them. They saw the
beautiful, smooth prairie
free for homesteads to
all who would take them
and they kept on com-
ing in. Two things

S. D. Butcher collection.)


combined to help the
homesteaders in their struggle for western Nebraska during
the period between 1880 and 1890. First the hard winters of
1880-81 and 1883-84. Deep snow fell on the cattle-ranges ;
prolonged cold weather followed. Thousands of cattle died
and many cattlemen were ruined. Then came several years
of abundant summer rainfall. The grangers grew splendid
crops of all kinds on the high plains
where the cattlemen told them no
rain ever fell after the 4th of
July. So the whole of western
Nebraska was quickly settled with

Governor John M. Thayer. In
1886 General John M. Thayer, Re-
publican, of Grand Island, was
chosen governor and again in
1888. During his term the set-
tlement of neglected parts of the
state, especially the sandhill region, went rapidly for-
ward. The present state capitol was completed during
his term.


(From Clements collection.";



The Great " Q Strike. The year 1888 is noted for the
great Burlington strike. At a given signal on February
27th, practically all the engineers and firemen on that
railroad left their en-
gines, demanding an
increase of pay. This
strike lasted throughout
the summer, causing
great loss to the rail-
road, to the workmen
and to the people of the
state. The railroad
company brought in
new men from the East
to take the places of the

photograph by U. G. Cornell.)

strikers and finally won. This strike, which extended over
all the lines of the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy railroad,
is known as the " Great Q Strike."

Horse Stealing and Vigilance Committees. In every
period of Nebraska's history, there has been some stealing
of horses and cattle along the frontier, and the settlers there
have organized to protect their stock and punish the thieves.
Hanging was the usual punishment for stealing stock in
border settlements. " Vigilance committees" was the
name usually given to the settlers' clubs for their own pro-
tection. The members of such committees solemnly prom-
ised to help each other and to punish thieves. Cattle and
horses were stolen on a large scale after 1880 when settle-
ments pushed into the far Northwest. The deep canyons and
the sand hills made convenient places for hiding stock,
until it could be run out of the country. Vigilance commit-
tees were organized by the settlers throughout this frontier
region. There were numerous fights between the settlers
and the thieves. ' ' Kid Wade, ' ' a leader of the horse thieves,
was hung to a telegraph pole at Bassett in 1884, and "Doc
Middleton," another, was shot and afterwards sent to the


penitentiary. This war between the " rustlers," as the
stock thieves were called, and the settlers lasted nearly
twenty years, and ended only when the building of railroads,
telegraph and telephone lines drove the rustlers out of the

The Great Drought. Then came the year of the great
drought, 1890. No rain fell for weeks. Not only in western
Nebraska, but over the whole state and other western
states, this was true. Nearly all the crops were failures.
In the older parts of Nebraska there were hard times, but
the people had something saved from former years and
managed to get along. In western Nebraska many of the
people had spent all they had in getting settled on their
farms. There was great suffering all over the West. When
the legislature met in 1891, it appropriated $200,000 with
which to buy food and seed for the settlers. On July 26,
1894, a hot wind from the southwest again ruined the corn
crop and injured other crops. The legislature of 1895
appropriated $250,000 more to aid the settlers in the western
part of the state. In spite of this, thousands were discour-
aged and left their homes to find work elsewhere.

The Panic of 1893 Hard Times Again. A great panic
came in 1893 while western Nebraska was being settled, just
as the panic of 1873 came when eastern Nebraska was being
settled. Banks broke, factories shut down, merchants failed all
over the country. Prices of farmers' produce again fell to the
lowest point and, although food was so cheap, working men
in the cities could scarcely buy enough to keep from starving,
because they had no work. Thousands of men out of
employment gathered in armies and marched across the
country to Washington to demand that Congress should
give them work. In Nebraska whole townships in the
western part were deserted so that one could ride all day
finding nothing but empty houses and fields growing up
to weeds. These hard times lasted from 1890 until about


The Farmers' Alliance. During the years 1880 to 1890,
a society called the Farmers' Alliance had spread over
Nebraska and other western and southern states. Its
objects as stated were to better the condition of farmers,
to help them to buy and sell on better terms, to conduct
evening schools for the instruction of members in the science
of exchange and government and to furnish means of
social entertainment. The chief complaint of the Farmers'

A FARMERS' ALLIANCE CONVENTION. (From S. D. Butcher collection.)

Alliance was that those who handled what the farmer had
to sell took the larger part of what he produced for them-
selves and that those who made and sold what the farmer
had to buy, charged him an exorbitant price. The farmers
also claimed that there was a combine of the moneyed
interests, including the great banks, the railroads, the manu-
facturers, and merchants, to rob the rest of the people of
what they produced. It was also claimed that these large
interests conspired to control both of the great political
parties and through them to elect men to office who were
in favor of the capitalists.

The Political Revolution of 1890. In the year 1890
the dissatisfaction of the farmers of the West and South



took form in a great political movement which was hastened
by the work of education and organization of the Farmers'
Alliance and by the very general debt and distress of the
farmers. In a single campaign the united farmers broke
away from both of the old parties and over a large part of

the West and the South,
defeated their candi-
dates for office, electing
men of the new move-
ment. In Nebraska, the
campaign of 1890 will
long be remembered. As
there were no crops to
harvest, the farmers
gathered by thousands
in great open air meet-
ings to talk over their
grievances and to plan
how to remove them.
Orators of the common people addressed these meetings,
talking to acres of eager faces amid great enthusiasm. Many
new speakers, both men and women, first found their powers
in the excitement of this time. There were processions of
wagons many miles long, filled with sunburned men, women
and children with home-made banners and mottoes express-
ing their feelings. There were songs with home made
words and music such as "Goodby Old Party, Goodby,"
sung with great energy and greeted with enthusiastic

The Contest. Governor James E. Boyd. When the
votes were counted after the November, 1890, election, it
was found that the farmers' movement had elected a ma-
jority of both houses of the legislature in Nebraska, and the
election of governor was so close that a contest resulted.
When the legislature met in Lincoln in January, 1891,
excitement ran high. After a struggle of some days, the

HOUSE). (From S. D. Butcher collection.)



Democratic candidate, Jas. E. Boyd, of Omaha, was seated.
A bill passed both houses reducing railroad rates in Nebras-
ka. It was vetoed by Governor Boyd. A bill was passed,
adopting the Australian secret bal-
lot by means of which a man might
vote his convictions without the
knowledge of any other person.

The Pine Ridge Indian War.-
The last Indian troubles on the
Nebraska border came during the
dry decade of hard times. The
Sioux Indians, who once roamed
over all western Nebraska as their
hunting ground, had given up that
country to the whites and were set-
tled in South Dakota along the
northern border of Nebraska. The
buffalo and nearly all of the other
game had been killed. The old-
time Indians had nothing to do. The young men grew up in
idleness. The United States tried to teach them farming
and stock-raising, but only a very few were willing to be
taught. The dry season of 1890 burned up the little patches
of corn and garden which the Indians planted. They
gathered in the shade along the little streams and listened
to the old people's stories of the time when the Sioux lived
a free, open life, hunting buffalo and fighting their enemies,
and the white men were far away. An Indian came from
the Rocky Mountains telling the Sioux that the Great
Spirit had heard their troubles, that the white men were
about to be driven back, and the buffalo, deer and antelope
would return and cover the plains.

The Ghost Dance. The Indians began to dance the
ghost dance, going without food for two or three days, then
steaming themselves in little huts by pouring water upon
hot stones, then coming out to dance in great companies.

(From Clements collection.)


As they danced, they saw visions of wonderful good things
coming to them. These ghost dances were kept up by the
Sioux during the summer and fall of 1890.

Battle of Wounded Knee. On December 28, 1890, a
party of about 400 Sioux under Chief Big Foot were halted
on their march to Pine Ridge by the 7th cavalry. The
next morning Colonel Forsyth started to take away their
guns when some one fired a shot and in a moment the battle
was on. Thirty-two soldiers and one hundred and fifty-six
Indians were killed, many of the latter being women and
children. This is called the battle of Wounded Knee and
took place a short distance from the Nebraska line in South
Dakota. The United States hurried several thousand
soldiers to the scene and the Nebraska militia was called
out to guard our northern border. After several other
skirmishes during the winter, the Indians came in and
surrendered and thus ended what is probably the last Indian
war in the history of the United States.

Governor Lorenzo Crounse. Lorenzo Crounse, Repub-
lican, of Ft. Calhoun, was elected governor in 1892, and
declined to be a candidate for re-election. During his

term, many banks failed and some
of the state money was lost in
them. There was an impeachment
trial of three state officers for mis-
use of state money. Over a million
dollars of public money from the
sale of school lands was supposed
to be in the state treasury and
Governor Crounse made efforts to
have it invested where it would
Gov. LORENZO CROUNSE. bring interest for support of the

(From Clements collection.) Q

Governor Silas A. Holcomb. State School Money
Stolen. In 1894, Silas A. Holcomb, Populist, of Broken
Bow, was elected governor and re-elected in 1896. Populist



or People's Independent was the name given to the party
which grew out of the farmers' movement. During his term
the struggle over the use of the school money of the state
went on. In the end it was found
that over half a million dollars of
the school money had been lost or
stolen, some of it in broken banks,
and some by state officers. J. S.
Bartley, state treasurer, was tried,
convicted and sentenced to the pen-
itentiary for twenty years for his
part in this loss. Mr. Bartley al-
ways asserted that the money was
lost or stolen by others.

The State School Lands. When
Nebraska became a state, the
United States gave to it, for public
schools, the sections of land in every
township numbered 16 and 36, in
all about 3,000,000 acres. The state of Nebraska pledged
the United States that it would never lose any of this land
or the price of it when sold. The rent from the land and the
interest from the money received for it was to be paid
every year to the districts for the support of public schools.
A little over 1,000,000 acres of this land has been sold. Part
of the money has been lost or stolen and never replaced.
In 1897, an act of the legislature forbade further sale of this
land. The state has now about 1 ,800,000 acres of school land
which cannot be sold and which is rising in value every year.
The rental from this land and the interest on the $8,000,000,
which remains of the money the state has received from the
land sold, goes every year to pay the teachers in Nebraska
schools. No other state in the Union has larger prospects
for the future support of its schools than has Nebraska.

Changes in the Political Parties. Free Silver. In these
years there were many changes in politics. A part of the

(From Clements collection.)


Democratic party tended to Unite with the new People s
Independent party, or Populists, while another part of the
Democrats was inclined to aid the Republican party in order

to prevent the triumph of
the new movement. In
both the Republican and
Democratic parties there
was a division at this time.
The immediate cause of the
division was the question
whether or not the free
coinage of silver dollars at
the ratio of sixteen grains of
silver to one of gold should
be carried on by the United
States mint. There were a
number of other questions
involved in the struggle, but
free silver, as it was called,
became the war cry in a
nation-wide contest. In
this conflict Nebraska was

WILLIAM JENNINGS BRYAN IN 1896. suddenly Called to play the
Courtesy of U. G. Cornell.) lading part.

William J. Bryan of Nebraska Named for President
In June, 1896, the Democratic national convention at
Chicago declared for free silver and named William J.
Bryan of Nebraska as its candidate for president. The
Populist national convention at St. Louis in July also nom-
inated Mr. Bryan. The Republican national convention
declared against free silver and nominated William McKin-
ley of Ohio for president. Free silver Republicans left their
party and also nominated Mr. Bryan. Gold standard
Democrats bolted and opposed Mr. Bryan. The campaign
of 1896 which followed was the most exciting in the United
States for many years. It was the first time a candidate



for president had ever been named by one of the great
parties from a state west of the Mississippi river. In
Nebraska, the contest was fierce and close. Never before
were so many political meetings held here and never before
were so many of the greatest political speakers of the country
heard in this state. At the election
in November, Nebraska gave a ma-
jority of about 13,000 for Mr.
Bryan for president, and elected
the entire Populist-Democrat state
ticket including a majority of both
houses of the legislature. Since
this memorable campaign, Nebras-
ka has had a large place and lead-
ership in national politics.

Governor William A. Poynter.
In 1898 William A. Poynter, Popu-
list, of Boone County, was elected
governor. The Trans-Mississippi
exposition was held at Omaha dur-
ing his term. It was the first great
exposition held in this region and it brought to Nebraska
exhibits and visitors from all parts of the world.

Nebraska in the Spanish War. In 1898 the United
States went to war with Spain, in order to make Cuba free.
Nebraska sent three regiments to this war. The First
Nebraska sailed to the Philippine Islands and was gone
more than a year. Colonel Stotsenberg, its commander,
was killed in battle. Many Nebraskans remained in the
Philippines or have since gone there to help maintain our
flag in those islands. The Second Nebraska regiment under
Col. C. J. Bills, was sent to the great camp at Chattanooga,
Tennessee, and became part of the army in reserve until
the war ended. The Third Nebraska regiment under
Colonel William J. Bryan, was sent to Florida and afterward
crossed to Havana.

(From Clements collection.)



The Republican Party Returns to Power. Governor
Chas. H. Dietrich. From 1896 until 1900, the Nebraska

state elections were carried each
year by a fusion of Populists, Dem-
ocrats and silver Republicans. Dis-
putes arose among these parties and
the Republicans, making a great
effort in the campaign of 1900, car-
ried the state by a small major-
ity, electing Chas. H. Dietrich of
Hastings, as governor. Governor
Dietrich remained in that office
only about four months. When
the legislature, which was elected
with him, met in January, 1901,
there followed a fierce and bitter
struggle over the election of two
United States senators. The Re-
publicans had a majority in the
legislature but could not agree.
After an all winter's fight all the
candidates withdrew and Governor
Dietrich with J. H. Millard, of
Omaha, were chosen senators.


(From Clements collection.)

Governor Ezra P. Savage.
Lieutenant-Governor Ezra P. Sav-
age, of Sargent, became governor
on the resignation of Governor
Dietrich. He held office one year
and eight months. During his
term he pardoned former State
Treasurer Bartley from the peni-
tentiary. Feeling in the Republican
party was so strong against him, that Governor Savage
could not be renominated.

(From Clements collection.)


Forestry. Two large forest reserves in western Nebraska
were set apart by the United States Government in 1901.
These have since been used as experiment fields for growing
trees, mostly evergreens: It is hoped through them to find
the best means of covering western Nebraska with groves
and forests.

Farmers' Co-operative Unions. In 1902 a new farmers'
movement started in Nebraska. This was a union of farm-
ers to market their own crops. There was complaint that
the large elevator companies made
too great profits in handling what
the farmers grew. As a result of
this movement, there are now sev-
eral hundred farmers' elevators in
the state and a large part of the
crop is sent to market through

Governor John H. Mickey. In
1902 John H. Mickey, Republican,
of Osceola, was elected governor
and re-elected in 1904. His term
saw a rising tide of prosperity, in- Gov. JOHN H. MICKEY

i- v i-i (From Clements collection.)

creased rainfall, higher prices, rise

in value of land and large increase in manufactures in


The Return of the Rain. Good Times. A return of
the rainfall brought fine crops and better times to the whole
state and especially to the western part. At the same time
there was a great revival of business in the United States.
The factories and mines long closed were filled with busy
workers. So many workmen were needed, that America
could not supply them all and more than a million a year
came from Europe to enjoy the good times and high wages
here. Farmers in Nebraska found prices for their produce
more than doubled and at the same time they were raising
larger crops than they had ever grown before.

A NEBRASKA CORN CROP. (From S. D Butcher collection.)

THRESHING WINTER WHEAT. (From S. D. Butcher collection.)



Alfalfa, Winter Wheat, Sugar Beets. Three new crops,
alfalfa, winter wheat and sugar beets began to be largely
grown in Nebraska about the year 1890. All three had been
experimented with for many years in a small way. The
state became awake to their value at this time, and their

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Online LibraryAddison Erwin SheldonHistory and stories of Nebraska → online text (page 18 of 20)