Part 2: Organization | General County Topics | Schools
Means of Communication
West Point: Fire Department | Public Schools | Churches
Part 3 :West Point (cont.): Hotels and Public Halls
Societies | Manufactories
General Business Topics | Biographical Sketches
Part 4: Wisner: Early History | Churches | Societies | Business
Bancroft | Biographical Sketches
List of Illustrations in Cuming County Chapter
Cuming County was one of the original counties of the Territory which were formed, when Secretary Cuming became Governor of Nebraska upon the sudden death of the Governor. Its boundaries were defined by a territorial act approved March 16, 1855 as follows:
SECTION 1. Be it enacted by the Council and House of Representatives of the Territory of Nebraska: That the boundaries of Cuming County shall be fixed and established as follows: Beginning on the north of Burt County twenty miles west of the Missouri River, running thence south to a point 6 miles south from the north line of Dodge County, thence west to the west line of Dodge County, thence north along the east line of McNeale County twenty-four miles, thence east to a point east and no farther than the beginning, thence on a right line to the place of beginning, shall be known as the County of Cuming.
During the succeeding summer Cuming County was surveyed, and in 1857 its boundaries were established definitely, to wit:
"Beginning at the northwest corner of Township 20, north of Range 9, east of the sixth principal meridian, thence north to the northwest corner of Township 24, north of Range 9 east, thence west to the northwest corner of Township 24, north of Range 5 east, thence north to the southwest corner of Township 21, north of Range 5 east, thence east to the place of beginning, and all of the Territory comprised within the said limits." The seat of justice was changed from Catharine, now known as Dead Timber, Dodge County, to "Manhattan".
The originators of Catharine in the summer of 1857, abandoned that locality and settling upon Section 4, Township 22, founded "De Witt." In March of this year the settlement at West Point was commenced, and by another year, the two places became rivals for the county seat. A petition for the calling of an election was signed extensively--considering the number of legal voters in the county--and forwarded to the Probate Judge of Burt County. The request having been granted, the first election in Cuming County was held at West Point, on Tuesday, October 12th, 1858. As it was understood that the result of the election would decide the location of the county seat, the nineteen citizens who cast votes were pretty vigorously "canvassed." The result, a majority of 5 for West Point, returned the following officers: W. R. Artman, Probate Judge; James C. Crawford, Treas.; G. W. Houser, Clerk; John D. Neligh, Treas.; Henry Cline, Sheriff; A. A. Arlington, John Bromer, and Josiah McKirahan, Commissioners. The newly elected officers qualified at Tekamah, Burt County. West Point was recognized as the county seat, and the old log shanty became the "court house." In the fall of 1859 this decision locating the county seat at West Point was sustained, almost unanimously. The first session of the District Court for the Third Judicial District in and for Cuming County, was held in West Point commencing on the 28th day of June, 1859. The following named persons were sworn in as grand jurors: William Loney, H. D. Peterson, L. D. Rhodes, A. L. Ward, J. B. Thomson, William Malcho, William Farley, H. Kloke, H. J. Wortman, James Wilson, C. L. Siecke, Charles Schuth, L. Grassett, James E. Spencer, M. Nelson, C. H. Wilde. This jury found a bill of indictment against A. M. Little for the crime of larceny. R. F. Stevenson and E. M. Clark were admitted to practice in this court at the time named. The first case taken up was the County of Cuming against Ernst Krespean, and the first case tried was one in which Josiah McKirahan was plaintiff and Wm. Ritzloff was defendant.
On January 4, 1872, an election was held, in pursuance of call, and $30,000 bonds voted for the erection of a court house. R. B. Rockford was awarded the contract for $25,000, in May of that year, he binding himself to complete the building by January 1, 1873. Shortly after his time expired, suit was brought against him and his bondsmen to recover damages. The plaintiffs were awarded damages in the sum of $4,523.65. Subsequently the verdict was set aside, and the case dismissed for want of prosecution. The court house was completed in the spring of 1874, at a cost of $40,000. It is imposingly and solidly constructed of brick, two stories and basement, with a fine lofty tower. Its dimensions are 80x40 feet. The building stands on an eminence overlooking West Point, and is quite a prominent landmark.
In the winter of 1873, the boundaries of Cuming were defined so as to take in two townships from the Indian reservations, and were thus described: Commencing at the southwest corner of Township 21, north of Range 4 east; thence east to the southeast corner of Township 21, north of Range 7 east; thence north to the northeast corner of Township 24, north of Range 7 east; thence west to the northwest corner of Township 24, north of Range 4 east; thence south to the place of beginning.
The present county officers are: F. A. Mewis, County Judge; A. D. Beemer, Sheriff; H. D. Readinger, Superintendent of Public Instruction; F. W. Ragoss, County Clerk and Clerk of the District Court; D. W. Clancy, Treasurer; J. A. Nason, Surveyor; H. Klosner, Coroner; Commissioners, Chairman, Conrad Paul; Charles Schuth and W. W. Cones.
Cuming County is specially adapted for the raising of corn, the yield on the uplands being as high as seventy-five bushels to the acre, and in the valleys eighty. Wheat yields, with proper care, from fifteen to twenty-four bushels.
In this county there is no Government land, the 160,000 acres in the market being sold on average at from $5 to $10 per acre--improved farms at from $10 to $25.
According to the Assessors' returns for 1881, the following figures represent the total value of real estate and personal property: West Point City, real, $84,814; personal, $45,028. West Point Precinct, real, $104,579; personal, $30,351. Wisner City, real, $27,928; personal $49,958. Wisner Precinct, real, $180,635; personal, $45,808. Lincoln, real, $122,800; personal $9,089. Bismarck, real, $120,224; personal, $30,831. St. Charles, real, $112,644; personal, $2,920. Logan, real, $149,664; personal, $27,303. Cuming, real $110,525; personal, $22,943. Bancroft Town, real, $3,883; personal, $1,769. Total real estate, $1,017,696; personal property, $226,000. Grand total, $1,243,696. The first assessment, made in 1863, exhibits a contrast to the above figures: Real estate, $2,635; personal, $4,654. Grand total $7,289.
According to the census report of 1880, the population of Wisner Precinct was 1,130; St. Charles, 769; West Point, 534; West Point City, 1,008; Logan Precinct, 669; Cuming, 498; Lincoln and Bismarck, 965. Total, 5,573. A later enumeration places the population at 6,135. In 1860 there were sixty-one persons in the county.
The first county tax was levied July 6, 1863, proportioned as follows: Six mills on the dollar for the general fund; one mill for sinking fund; four for school purposes, and six for special road fund; total taxes to be collected, $106.91.
The whole county was an election precinct, and in October, 1862, at the regular election for county officers, John Bromer was chosen Road Supervisor; B. B. Moore, Assessor; John McKirahan and John D. Neligh, Clerks of Election; John Bromer, Judge of Election.
Rock Creek Precinct was created in July, 1868, but named Bismarck in August, 1870, and its bounds redefined; St. Charles Precinct in May, 1871; Cuming and Logan in August, 1874.
On April 11, 1864, School District No. 1 was organized. It embraced all the territory east of the Elkhorn River, John D. Neligh being elected Chairman of the Board, which at once voted $60 toward erecting a suitable building to encourage the cause of education.
The first school in the county, however, was taught by Mrs. J. C. Crawford, in the winter of 1865. It was opened in her own house, and a dozen scholars were in attendance. The locality was what is now Bismarck Precinct and the school was a private one.
In the summer of 1866 a brick schoolhouse was erected in West Point, District No. 1, also one in District No. 3, Rock Creek.
By 1869 the county had increased considerably in population, and it became evident that its school system should assume some definite form. In April of that year the School Board appointed a Superintendent of Public Instruction in the person of Robert Robb, since which time the public schools have been brought under a systematic and effective management.
The report of the Superintendent of Public Instruction for the year ending April, 1881, shows that there are 2,216 children of school age in the county, of which 1,332 attend school, that $10,392.80 was paid out for wages, the total expenditures being $20,268.35. The value of school property was $23,156.
The present condition of the public schools of West Point and Wisner will be found in detail elsewhere.
Cuming County is connected to the country south and north by the Elkhorn Valley branch of the Sioux City & Pacific Railroad; which passes northwest and southeast through its central portions. At an election held in West Point June 17, 1870, it was resolved to issue $100,000 bonds to aid in the construction of the road through the county; the first $50,000 to be delivered when the line should be completed to the county line and graded to West Point, and the second $50,000 when the road should be completed to West Point, and the railroad company had given bonds that the road should be completed for fifty miles from Fremont, within a specified time. The election resulted in a decisive majority for the railroad enterprise, and on November 25 the road reached West Point, trains commencing to run regularly to Missouri Valley Junction a few days thereafter. As one of the local papers announced at the time, West Point was "out of the woods." So was the whole county for that matter, and from this time its growth was steady. At present it is considered one of the most prosperous counties in the State, and the Elkhorn Valley road has, virtually, made it what it is.
[View of West Point.]
West Point, the county seat of Cuming County, is situated on the Elkhorn River, southeast of the central part of the county. The Sioux City & Pacific road (Elkhorn Valley Branch) passes through it , the growth of the town dating from 1870, the railroad having reached West Point in November of that year. It is now a town of 1,100 inhabitants, and is quite a shipping point for grain and livestock. For the five months ending January 31, over one hundred car-loads of live stock and thirty-five of grain have been shipped from this point. Its general trade is also good, and, through the exertions of the West Point Manufacturing Company and the Butter and Cheese Association, the town bids fair to be considerable of a manufacturing and dairy center. It has a fine court house, a splendid schoolhouse in process of erection, and its business edifices are, many of them, built solidly of brick. West Point has grown and is growing.
West Point was surveyed and platted by Niels Larsen, County Surveyor, in October, 1869, and recorded in May, 1870. The land upon which the town site was located embraced the homesteads of John D. Neligh, Thomas King and J. B. Hulst, and portions of David Neligh's and M. J. Hughes'. The streets were laid out eighty feet wide, except Sheridan, Willow and David, which were sixty-six feet in width. Additions were afterwards made as follows: Douglass' Addition, in April, 1870; Blair's, in April, and Hughes' and Coburn's in August, 1871; Neligh's First Addition in June and the Second in August, 1875.
The town was incorporated by unanimous vote of the County Commissioners, May 17, 1869, the following being appointed Trustees: J. B. Thompson, John D. Neligh, John J. Bruner, John Bromer and Herman Kloke.
West Point became a city in 1872, J. D. Neligh serving as the first Mayor. Then, in order, came J. C. Crawford, Herman Kloke, William Drahos, J. D. Neligh, and Otto Bauman. In 1879, by State enactment, a return was made to a town form of government. Its present officers are: Trustees--Chairman, Otto Bauman; G. A. Crowell, Jerome Vostrovsky, James Mortison and David Neligh; Clerk, H. J. Stevens; Treasurer, Jerome Vostrovsky; Policeman, Carl Schwenk.
Very soon after the town was definitely located the citizens took precautions against the destruction of their property by fire. In 1871 the West Point Hook and Ladder Company No. 1 was organized and a truck was purchased by the city at a cost of $300, and in November, 1874, the West Point Engine Company No. 1 was organized. For this the city purchased a Babcock fire engine, which together with 300 feet of hose cost $1,500. The building occupied by both companies is furnished by the city and is conveniently located, besides having a large alarm bell attached. In the Hook and Ladder Company there are twenty-five active members. Its present officers are: Foreman, Chris. Rupp; Secretary, Carl Schwenk. There are thirty active members in the Engine Company. Foreman, Fred. Melcher; Secretary, Jim Selah. The entire department is under the charge of Otto Bauman.
The first schoolhouse in West Point was a small brick building, still standing, which was erected in the summer of 1866. The first term of school was taught by Miss Buckley. From that time, although the demand for larger rooms was constantly increasing, no action was taken by the school district until April, 1874. At that time an issue of bonds for $15,000 for building purposes was voted, but the issuing was enjoined and at the succeeding term of court the injunction was made perpetual. Nothing further was done at the time, but in July, 1880, bonds to the amount of $7,500 were issued. These together with money already in the treasury formed a sufficient sum with which to begin operations, and the work of construction was let at $10,300. This includes the finishing of only one room. The added expense of finishing the interior of the building will swell the total to $15,000. As may be judged, this will be one of the finest school buildings in this section of the State. The spot chosen for its location is sightly and the dimensions of the building, seventy-five by seventy-nine feet, two stories in height, will render it a fit crowning to the eminence on which it stands. When completed it will contain eight rooms, together having a seating capacity of 600 students. The School Board, which is managing the construction of the buildings and also watching the interests of the school, is composed of six members: J. W. Pollock, N. Fodrea, Uriah Bruner, Otto Bauman, Fred Reppert and Dr. Thompson. There are four teachers at present engaged, W. C. Catherwood, the principal being assisted by Misses Matson, Miller and Belle St. Clair. Together the teachers are paid $210 per month, the principal receiving $75, the assistants $45 each. The present attendance is 250.
St. Mary's Church.--The first Catholic organization in the county was at St. Charles Precinct, where services were held as early as 1862 by the Benedictines of Nebraska City. These were the first religious services held in the county. The first church in the county was erected there in 1867 and was presided over by Father Erlach assisted by Theo. Groenebaum until August, 1868, when he was succeeded by Rev. Father Uhing. During his pastorate, St. Mary's Church was organized at West Point and in August, 1875, the church building, then one of the finest north of Omaha, was dedicated. Among the original members were the following heads of families: John Kloke, Andrew Weise, P. F. O'Sullivan, Andrew Herman, John Grohowsky, Charles McDermot, Mrs. Rosa McKegan, Patrick McLaughlin, Michael Galligher, Daniel Clancy, John Conlin and Frank Gatzmeyer. The church, which stands on an eminence in the northeastern part of town, is valued, together with the parsonage which is attached and the four lots, at $5,000. The present membership at West Point is seventy, and thirty scholars attend the Sunday school and are instructed by the priest. In addition to his work at this place Rev. N. Horne, who succeeded Father Uhing in 1877, also conducts services at Wisner and St. Charles. Among the early members of the church at the latter place were Charles Cappius, Anthony Fischer, William Goecken, Fred Grovijan, Henry Harstick, Joseph Caup, Charles Meister, Francis Scharfen and Charles Schuth. In 1881, work was begun on a new church edifice at St. Charles, equal in size to that at West Point, which will soon be dedicated as St. Boniface Church. There are now seventy members of the church at St. Charles. There is also a large Sunday school and a day school managed by the Catholics. This church will soon be placed under the charge of a special missionary priest. At each of their churches the Catholics have cemeteries. At West Point the cemetery comprises five acres located west of the depot.
The Methodist Episcopal Church.--As early as 1859 occasional services were held in West Point by Rev. Jacob Adrian, of Fremont, and others. In April, 1866, the Nebraska Conference sent Rev. Louis Janney into Cuming County to what was known as the De Witt Mission. His first appointment was at B. B. Moore's house at De Witt. In June the first quarterly meeting was held at the same place, and the Methodist Society organized. The first members were Rebecca Biggar, William Chapel, Eliza Chapel, Augusta Frost, Mrs. Moreland, William Frost, Daniel Crellen, James Crellen, Mrs. Hannah Crellen, G. W. Fetter. During the year which followed the organization, there was no preaching, but in April of 1868 Rev. J. E. Spencer arrived and remained one year. He was succeeded in 1869 by Rev. F. M. Esterbrook, who was reappointed twice, remaining until April, 1872. From this time until 1873 the pulpit was filled by Rev. W. Peck, and until 1874 by Rev. Mr. Basset. In the fall of 1874 the western circuit was established, and the church at that place no longer remained part of the West Point charge. In the fall of this year Rev. George Scott arrived and remained in charge two years. He was followed in October, 1876, by Rev. J. B. Leedom, who remained three years. In 1879, the present Pastor, Rev. J. W. St. Clair arrived, and has since carried on the work of the church. During the years of Mr. St. Clair's pastorate, the church building has been erected. Prior to this, services had been held in private houses, the German Evangelical Church, and latterly in Krauses' Hall. The building is a commodious wooden structure, having a parsonage attached, and a fine bell swinging in its tower. Together with the lots its value is $2,600. The present membership of the church is twenty-six. The Sunday school is attended by 110 scholars.
Christ's Church of the Evangelical Association of North America, is one of the oldest religious organization in the county. As early as 1868 Rev. C. Saunders preached here, and June 10, 1869, its articles of incorporation were filed with the County Clerk. The charter members were John Herwig, Charles Brockmann, Charles Boekenhouer, Charles Sengel, Augustus Retch, Godlove Kranse and John Shenke. During the year 1869 Mr. Saunders was assisted by Rev. Mr. Harwig. From 1870-1871 Rev. H. Kohl was pastor, after him Rev. Otto Rohl remained three years, assistsd first by Rev. M. Knoll, and from 1872-1873 by Rev. John Pflaum. In 1874 Rev. K. Knocke became pastor, remaining one year. After him followed Rev. F. Loehle, from 1875-1877, Rev. L Reep, from 1877-1878 and Rev. S. W. McKesson, from 1878-1880. In 1880 Rev. W. F. Schwerien, the present pastor, arrived and took the charge. The church, a substantial brick building situated east of the court house, was erected in 1871. Its present value, with the lots and parsonage, is $3,500. From the beginning the church has been prosperous, and at present there are fifty-nine members whose names are enrolled upon its books. About seventy-five scholars attend the Sunday school. In addition to his work here, Rev. Mr. Schwerien also has a charge in Wayne County.
St. Paul Evangelical Lutheran Church.--For some years before any organization had been effected at West Point, Rev. A. W. Freese, who was located at Rock Creek, preached at the house of Martin Stuefer at regular intervals. In 1871 the existing society was organized, with a membership of nineteen. Martin Stuefer, John G. House, William Stuefer, Nicholas Maack, Fred. Herman, Fred. Wickert, John Kerkow, Christain Eschenburg, Conrad Schneider, Carl Knapp, Ernst Kerkow, Carl Sass, Gottlieb Boldt, William Boldt, Fred. Piper, Fred. Sengpiel, John Wendt, John Sass, F. W. Ragos, F. Nitz. In 1874 the church building was erected, which together with the lot is valued at $1,500. Mr. Freese continued to act as pastor until April, 1881, when he was relieved by Rev. W. H. Harms, who is the present pastor. Mr. Harms resides in Logan Precinct, where there is also a church organization, and preaches at West Point once in two weeks. There are at present twenty-two members in the church, no Sunday school is attached. The church belongs to what is known as the Missouri, Ohio and other States Synod.
The Congregational Church of West Point is one of the latest religious institutions organized in the town. On November 10, 1878, Rev. H. N. Gates of the American Home Missionary Society, was present and established the church, which at that time consisted of six members--Rev. and Mrs. George Scott, Mr. and Mrs. Jesse Schofield, Mrs. H. M. Briggs and Mrs. E. T. Wilkey. The first pastor of the church, to whose labors the existence of the church is due, was Rev. George Scott, who began this work October 10, 1878, and left the field July 9, 1881. The present minister, Rev. James Oakley, began his work in August, 1881. The church building, costing with the grounds $1,900, was dedicated October 10, 1880. The present membership of the church is eleven. The attendance at the Sunday school, which was started about a year ago, is seventy scholars. In addition to his work as pastor of the church at this point, Mr. Oakley also has charge of a congregation at Wisner, where he preaches each alternate Sunday.
The Methodist Episcopal Church (German), was organized in West Point in 1879, with Louis Graunke, William Neiman, C. Lastrum. J. C. Stoetzel and D. Sievers as charter members. Rev. C. Lavenstein was the first pastor and remained until September, 1879, when he was succeeded by Rev. T. C. Schramm, who at present fills that office. The church building, the second story of which is occupied as a parsonage, was built in October and November of 1879, at a cost, including the lot, of $1,000. The present membership is thirty-eight, and thirty scholars in the Sunday-school. The pastor of this church also preaches every two weeks at Pebble, Dodge Co., where a church has been in existence since 1877.
The West Point Cemetery was laid out in 1868 by John D. Neligh, who now owns and controls it. It is situated on the summit of the bluffs which skirt the town. Besides its sightly location, its attractiveness is added to by a neat fence and the orderly arrangement of its lots and avenues.
The West Point Republican was established November 18, 1870, its editor and proprietor being E. N. Sweet. It continued under his management until the fall of 1874, when C. F. Bayha assumed control. The paper passed out of his hands in September, 1879, when M. S. Bartlett became sole editor and proprietor. As its name indicates, this journal is Republican in politics. It was established as a seven-column folio, and after several changes in form became an eight-column folio. The aim of the Republican is to be a fair and thorough exponent of local and country affairs, and its proprietor succeeds in doing all he attempts. The office is in Main Street. Attached to it is a good job office. The Republican is an institution which West Point could not discard.
The West Point Progress was established in August, 1876, by the Progress Publishing Company. In the course of three months, P. F. O'Sullivan, the present editor and proprietor, came into its possession and has continued to publish it since. The Progress is an eight-column folio, published on Thursday, and is Democratic in politics. It is the only English paper of that political persuasion in this section of the State.
Nebraska Volksblatt and Staats Zeitung, was established in Nebraska City, February 19, 1868, by Dr. Frank Reuner. It passes through several hands and was finally removed to West Point. The Volksblatt was purchased from C. Bayha, who managed it for two years, by L. B. Schonlau, its present editor and proprietor, in 1879. It was started as a six-column folio, its size having been increased two columns. The journal is Democratic in politics and is the only German newspaper in Northeastern Nebraska.