Andreas' History of the State of Nebraska

Butler County
Produced by John McCoy.

Part 1:
Geographical and Physical Features | Early History
Part 2:

Organization | County Statistics | Official Roster
Schools | Railroads | Historical Incidents

Part 3:
David City: Schools | Religious | Societies | The Press
Part 4:
Biographical Sketches
Part 5:

Ulysses: Local Interests | Banks | Schools | Press | Societies | Religious | Biographical Sketches
Part 6:
Rising City: Biographical Sketches
Part 7:

Brainard: Biographical Sketches
Bellwood: Biographical Sketches
Miscellaneous Biographical Sketches

List of Illustrations in Butler County Chapter

Part 3


[View of David City]


David City is situated upon the table-land that forms the central portion of Butler County, at the junction of the Burlington & Missouri Railroad in Nebraska, and the O. & R. V. Branch of the Union Pacific Railroad, sixty-three miles from Lincoln, the capital of the State. Its railroad facilities are among the best, enjoying the advantages of two of the most powerful railroads in the West, in its communication east and south, and direct connections north and west. It was designated as the seat of justice of the county in 1873, at which date it was nothing more than a broad expanse of level prairie. A single solitary building, the court house, marked the site of the future town. It now has a population of about thirteen hundred inhabitants, and to-day presents a town well and tastily laid out, with broad streets, inclosing a large park in the center, reserved for the site of the future court house. It is surrounded by one of the finest farming countries of the State, rapidly filling up with a sober and industrious people. The buildings are as yet the primitive structures that characterize the new and rapidly growing town of the Far West, and but few brick blocks can be seen now; yet, for so young a town, its appearance is quite solid and developed.

All branches of business are well represented. It has two private banking institutions, giving ample facilities in this all-important branch of commercial interest. The leading bank of the county, the Butler County Bank, is located here--Messrs. Wolfe & Gross, proprietors; Thomas Wolfe, President; John W. Gross, Cashier. They are the owners of a fine brick block, containing their business chambers and a large vault, affording ample security from the encroachment of fire or burglars, guarded by a time-lock. The bank was established in 1878, and its capital reaches $33,000. The other, the Merchants' and Farmers' Bank, was organized in 1879. Messrs. Bell & Leonard are the proprietors--James Bell, President; Edward E. Leonard, Cashier. They own a large vault, operated by a time-lock, and transact a general banking business. General merchandise and farm machinery form the leading branches of business. Dry goods, hardware, drugs, stock and grain, are among the important interests, and this is fast becoming an shipping-point. The professions of law, medicine and dental surgery are well supplied by able and efficient men, and David City has a near and promising future. It has four church edifices, a fine brick schoolhouse, three organizations of secret society, and in social proclivities and enjoyments it is not wanting. It has a well-organized fire department, and a chemical engine and hook-and-ladder truck. In short, it has all the elements that include the complement of a well-organized, thrifty and prosperous town.

It was legally incorporated in 1874, and a Board of Trustees and other officers chosen. The first Board of Trustees was made up of B. O. Perkins, Chairman; George L. Brown, C. D. Casper, H. Pepper, William Turner. Horace Garfield was appointed Town Clerk, F. H. Angel, Treasurer; G. H. Peebles, Assessor; Simon Parsons, Collector; G. H. Peebles, Marshal; and H. C. Barnes, Town Attorney.

In 1875, the complement of the town officials consisted of Trustees:--John T. Myers, Chairman; P. Murphy, Frank Davis, A. J. Evans, B. O. Perkins. T. B. Myers was appointed Town Clerk; H. Pepper, Treasurer; G. H. Peebles, Assessor; W. B. Dunlap, Marshal; H. C. Barnes, Attorney; J. Wonderlick, Street Commissioner; William Turner, Police Judge. 1876--J. T. Myers, Chairman; B. O. Perkins, William M. Smithson, John Harper, A. J. Combs, Trustees; T. B. Myers, Clerk; H. Pepper, Treasurer; G. H. Peebles, Assessor; J. C. Browning, Marshal; H. Hawes, Street Commissioner. 1877--William M. Bunting, Chairman; H. Pepper, Abel Hill, J. L. Cooper, B. F. Rolph, Trustees; Calmar McCune, Clerk; A. J. Evans, Treasurer; John T. Myers, Assessor. At the annual election in 1878, the proper officials for a city of the second class were elected, and, pursuant to a call of the Mayor elect, B. O. Perkins, the Council convened April 12, 1878, and organized David City as a city of the second class. The roll of officials for the new city included B. O. Perkins, Mayor; T. B. Myers and W. M. Smithson, Councilmen, First Ward; A. H. Cooley, H. Pepper, Councilmen for the Second Ward; J. A. Cook, City Clerk; Frank Davis, Treasurer; G. H. Mechling, Street Commissioner; H. T. Hawes, Assessor, appointed April 5; and James O. Brien was appointed Street Commissioner to fill vacancy July 6.

The first business of the Mayor and Council after the organization was to fix the bonds of the several officials. The bonds of the City Treasurer were placed at $1,000; of the City Clerk, Assessor and Police Judge, at $500. On November 6, an order was passed to issue the city's bonds to the amount of $2,000 payable in ten years, in payment for fire apparatus, consisting of two chemical fire engines and a hook-and-ladder truck, and on December 4, A. M. Sherburn was appointed Chief Engineer of the Fire Department. The engines and hook-and-ladder truck, which had arrived a short time previous, were accepted and passed over to the charge of the Chief Engineer.

In 1879 the following officials were elected: Mayor, E. R. Dean; J. C. Panter, Councilman for First Ward; M. French, Councilman for Second Ward; A. M. Sherburn, City Clerk; Frank Davis, City Treasurer; A. J. Evans, Police Judge; M. M. Ormsby, City Engineer and Street Commissioner; A. Palmer, Marshal; W. T. Hartley, Assistant Marshal; John Harper, Assessor.

At a meeting of the Council held March 22, 1880, the City Clerk was ordered to issue a call for an election to be held April 6, for the purpose of choosing a board of five Trustees, as the law passed this year made it necessary for a city of the second class to have 1,500 inhabitants, and David City was compelled to give up its franchise as a city. The Board of Trustees elected were W. B. Thorp, Chairman; F. H. Angel, W. G. Boston, L. Spelts, John I. Nelson. Charles E. Hewett was appointed Town Clerk; J. A. Cook, Treasurer; George Raynolds, Marshal ; Thomas Evans, Street Commissioner; W. G. Boston, Chief of Fire Department. The Board of Trustees and town officials for the present year (1881) are: W. B. Thorp, Chairman; F. H. Angel, W. G. Boston, L. Spelts, John I. Nelson, Board of Trustees; O. H. Ford, Town Clerk; J. A. Cook, Treasurer; George Raynolds, Marshal; Thomas Evans, Street Commissioner; W. G. Boston, Chief of Fire Department; A. J. Evans, Town Attorney.

The town site was surveyed by W. T. Richardson in 1873. The first house built on the site was the court house, in 1873. Hubbel Pepper placed the next, removing his house from Savannah in fall of 1873. During this year, Joseph Stevens moved a building from Butler Center, and John T. and Thornton B. Myers removed their store from Savannah, and are the pioneer merchants of the town. At the close of 1873, Dr. G. H. Peebles came, opening the first drug store. J. Dean & Son opened a store for general merchandise. W. Y. Turner, Wilmot & Thompson located here at the same time. During this year F. H. Angel built the first house, and in the winter, Judge B. O. Perkins bought the old court house at Savannah, removed it to David City and opened the first hotel, naming it the David City House. This was the nucleus around which has gathered the now prosperous town, and, although one of the very youngest of the State, it will compare favorably with many that have attained a greater age. The landmarks and scenes of former life are fast fading from view. It has sprung up as if by magic. The wild flowers of the plain, the tall prairie grass, have given place to the dwellings of active business and husbandmen, and a populous, flourishing town.


The graded school is in charge of Prof. R. V. Beach, ex-County Superintendent. The present school building was completed in 1880, and is a large, square, brick structure, surmounted with a tower, valued at $13,000. The school is divided into three departments --primary, intermediate and grammar. The primary department has ninety pupils enrolled, and is in charge of Miss L. Loyde. In the intermediate department, eighty-nine pupils are enrolled, and in charge of Mrs. M. A. Jones. The grammar department is under the personal supervision of Prof. Beach, assisted by Mr. W. I. Austin, with eighty-two pupils enrolled. This department has been very full, and the intention is to complete in it a good common-school education. Many pupils in public schools get no further than the grammar school, and hence the great necessity to make this school as complete as possible. Many topics are taken up, and oral instruction is given upon many subjects that it would be impossible to take up as regular class studies, and more attention is given to language as the vehicle of thought than the technical law of grammar. Writing and drawing are carefully taught, and the common branches are made a principal feature of the course, and effort is made to impress their importance upon the mind of the pupil. The intermediate and primary departments contain the majority in numbers, and the aim here is to be as thorough and complete in the work of educating the scholar as the age will permit.

The school will compare favorably with those of its class throughout the West. The average attendance is very good, and the per cent of scholarship and deportment is well kept up. The teachers are earnest and thoughtful, and their work is faithfully done. Reviewing the work and progress of the past, many facts are to be admired and some faults and mistakes to be regretted, but the school seems now to be on a sound basis, and holds out the facilities for acquiring a good education.


The first church organization effected in David City was by the Methodist Episcopal. Rev. Mr. Markett, a missionary preacher, came here in 1871, holding service at the house of Capt. A. F. Coon, at which time he organized a class of communicants. Up to 1874, services were held regularly at Capt. Coon's house, when, mainly through the efforts of Capt. Coon, the present church was erected, at a cost of $1,500, and, later in 1874, a parsonage was built, costing $600. At this date, the church is quite strong and prosperous. The list of officiating clergymen includes Rev. Mr. King, who assumed charge in the fall of 1871, remaining one year. He was succeeded by Rev. Mr. Lathrop, who served for the same period. His successor was Rev. Mr. Combs, who had charge of the church for the next two years, and was succeeded by Rev. D. S. Davis, who was also its pastor for two years. Rev. William Peck was his successor, officiating for one year, and was then succeeded by the present pastor, Rev. E. S. Roberts, now fulfilling the duties of his second year.

The Congregational Church was organized in 1878, and built its church in 1879. As early as 1870, it was a mission station, and Rev. Amos Dresser was located here from this date to the spring of 1879, and was the first pastor of the church. He was an earnest worker as a missionary, and, during his seven years of service, did much good work in Butler County. He was also an able defender of the anti-slavery movement, and for his principles and sentiments was publicly whipped in the streets of Nashville, Tenn. He is still a hale, hearty old man, and engaged in the frontier mission work.

Rev. A. W. Curtis was called to take charge of the church in the spring of 1879, remaining until the fall of 1880. From the month of October of that year until January, 1881, the church was without a pastor, at which date the present pastor, Rev. H. W. Gates, was settled here. Rev. H. W. Gates was State Superintendent of Missions for seven years, resigning in 1880 on account of ill health.

The church owns one of the finest bells in the State, valued at $500, a gift of Mrs. V. G. Stone, of Malden, Mass., in 1879. It is one of the wealthiest in this section of the State, and has a membership of twenty-six.

In 1870, a Baptist mission was established in Butler County by Rev. Jacob Earnhardt, sent here by the Home Missionary Society, who had charge of the work until 1874. He was succeeded by Rev. J. N. Webb, who is still in charge of this circuit. A Baptist Church was organized at David City in 1871, but, for want of sufficient support, died after a short time.

October 22, 1879, a second church was organized, by Rev. Mr. Maynard, and the following January, Rev. J. N. Webb became pastor of the church, officiating for one year, when he was succeeded by Rev. Mr. Hapgood, the present pastor, in November, 1881. The church was completed in 1880, at a cost of $1,200.

St. Mary's Church.--Rev. Father Gafron celebrated the first mass at David City at the court house, in 1876. St. Mary's Church was erected in 1877. Father Gafron attended twice each month from Columbus during 1877, at which date he was sent to Northern Wisconsin, and Father Crephine Lapa assumed charge of the parish, which he has maintained up to the present time. An order has been issued dividing the parish, and in future St. Mary's will be the home of the resident priest of the new parish. The present membership is about two hundred, and the church property is valued at $3,000.


David City has four secret society organizations, including Independent Order of Odd Fellowship, Masonic, Knights of Honor and Grand Army of the Republic. They are all in a prosperous working condition, and stand on a sound financial basis. Harmony Lodge, No. 31, I. O. O. F., is the oldest, and was instituted March 26, 1872, at Savannah, while the county seat was located at that town. With the removal of the county seat to David City in 1873, causing a majority of the members to cast their lines in the new town, the lodge was also removed here, in 1874. The first meeting after the removal was held July 16 of this year.

The roll of charter members consists of D. H. Dickinson, M. Miller, William Turner, James Darnell, C. C. Davis, F. G. Gibson, J. Ernhart, James Blair, C. Munn, S. V. Shinn. It has a membership of forty, and the present officers are: James Evans, Noble Grand; C. H. Tyson, Vice Grand; E. L. Heath, Secretary; W. J. Chidester, Permanent Secretary; John T. Myers, Treasurer.

Fidelity Lodge, No. 51, F. & A. M., received its charter June 26, 1874, but was granted a dispensation January 17, 1874. It bears the names of the following charter members: F. E Wilson, G. H. Phelps, B. F. Rolph, Thomas B. Hill, John Merchant, S. Raymond, C. B. Churchill, William Duncan, P. Murphy, C. C. Cook, S. Darnell, J. L. Cyphers, J. K. Darnell, J. T. Kleinlien, A. H. Jones, A. W. Bealin, G. W. Darnell, Augustus Beard, M. Cady, C. K. Chamberlin. The lodge now numbers about forty members, and the present officers are: T. B. Myers, W. M.; Abell Hill, S. W.; A. H. Ashland, J. W.; Thomas E Evans, Secretary; John T. Myers, Treasurer; J. E Jones, Tiler. These lodges own a fine lodge hall over the Butler County Bank, elegantly furnished, and their members include the best and most influential citizens of the county.

Charity Lodge, K of O., No. 1712, was instituted in 1879, receiving its charter from the Supreme Lodge The charter members are Louis Smith, Calmer McCune, S. G. Panter, H. M. Montgomery, J. C. Panter, S. S. Raynolds and sixteen others. The object of this society is to unite fraternally all acceptable men of every profession, business or occupation; to give all possible aid in its power to its members and those dependent on its members, by assisting each other to obtain employment; to promote benevolence and charity by establishing a widows' and orphans' fund, from which, upon the death of a member, a sum of $2,000 shall be paid to his family, or as he may direct; and also to create a fund for the relief of sick and distressed members, and to ameliorate the condition of humanity in every possible manner. The order was created March 20, 1876, by the Legislature of Kentucky, and is a body corporate, capable of holding, receiving and granting property, and suing and being sued, under such laws and regulations as it may enact, not in conflict with the laws of the State or of the United States. The lodge has twenty-five members, and the present officers are: W. H. Westover, Dictator; and E. L. Heath, Reporter. It is in a healthy working condition, and, during the past years, has rendered many a deed of charity that will redound to its praise and honor.

Abraham Lincoln Post, No. 10, Department of Nebraska, G. A. R., was organized and mustered by Paul Vanderwoort, of the Provisional Department of Nebraska, April 7, 1877, with the following charter members: B. P. Cook, G. L. Brown, H. G. Townsend, A. B. Langley, T. H. Sanders, O. W. Stroud, John Zeilinger, James Frou, Jacob D. Bear, A. P. Day, D. C. Raynolds, J. V. Woods, Calmer McCune, J. E. Cook, S. L. Brown, E. L. Townsend, C. A. Short, A. F. Coon, W. M. Olmstead, Dan Jacobs, A. J. White, E. B. Taylor, D. Wilmot. This post now numbers over fifty members in good standing, and is in a flourishing condition. The officers for the present year are as follows: B. P. Cook, P. C; A. J. White, S. V. C.; George Hahn, J. V. C.; J. S. Maloy, Q. M.; W. B. Naracong, Chaplain; J. Bellinger, Surgeon; F. Swartz, O. D.; J. Kraht, O. G.; E. B. Taylor, Adjutant.

Under the auspices of this post, the first annual re-union of the soldiers and sailors of Nebraska was held, at the site of Warren's Grove, near the site of the village of Bellwood, in this county, on October 7, 8, 9 and 10, 1879, and, while it was not as largely attended as subsequent re-unions, was the means of inaugurating the series of annual re-unions that have since been held, at Central City in 1880, and at Lincoln in 1881.

The Butler County Agricultural Society was organized under the provisions of the general statutes, October 18, 1873, with the following-named officers: O. H. Ford, President; J. Winship, D. P. Haynes, Vice Presidents; George L. Brown, Secretary; E. M Perkins, Treasurer; Miles Warren, James Blair, J. D. Brown, David Reed, G. McCarthy, Board of Managers. The first annual fair under its auspices was held near David City, in October, 1875, on the open prairie, with no inclosure save a single rope stretched around the stand and articles on exhibition. The society is now in a flourishing condition. Its grounds are finely laid out, inclosing a well-arranged hall for the exhibition of produce, and one of the best half-mile trotting-courses in the State. The present officers are: President, George Osterhout; Vice Presidents, G. H. Peebles and F. E. Wilson; Secretary, J. Robert Williams; Treasurer, E. B. Taylor; Board of Managers--D. B. Armagost, C. Davis, Walter Lloyd, W. E. Westover, J. A. Ayres, Jr.


The Butler County Press, a weekly journal, issued its first number September 25, 1873, under the auspices of W. G. Rutherford and Charles D. Casper, but presently Rutherford retired from the firm in favor of William J. Evans, and under this management it has since been conducted. Its political tone was originally Republican, but subsequently became Independent. It has been kept alive through all conceivable vicissitudes by indomitable will and energy, and has exercised an influence in molding and developing Butler County, and particularly its own favored city.

The David City Republican was founded by Calmer McCune, who issued its first number February 6, 1877. It passed into the hands of its present proprietors, Messrs. A. G. Wolfendarger and E. L. Heath, April 19, 1880, they succeeding Mr. McCune. It is a weekly journal, thirty-two column folio in size, and in political sentiment, Republican.

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