Andreas' History of the State of Nebraska

Produced by Barbara Kettler.

Part 2


During the summer of 1874, the United States Land Office for this district was removed from Lowell to Bloomington. When different points in the Republican Valley were competing to secure its location, there was a sort of tacit understanding that Franklin should retain the county seat and Bloomington the land office. But, in the fall, it was determined on the part of several contesting points to secure a relocation of the county seat. Several points were working hard to secure it, and a long and bitter campaign was fought. At the October election, the following-named points were contesting: Bloomington, Macon (a post office near the geographical center of the county), Riverton, Franklin and a point on Section 2, Town 1, Range 15 west. Bloomington was the successful point, and, though during this campaign, considerable bitterness was engendered that still exists, the county seat has ever since remained here, and the county seat strife was virtually ended at this election. J. D. Gage was elected Commissioner at the October election.

In the spring of 1875, notwithstanding the grasshopper plague of the year previous, the farmers again went cheerfully to work, and a larger acreage than ever was planted in crops. The grasshoppers did a little damage this year, but that it was light is proved by the fact that at the State fair, during the fall of that year, Franklin County was awarded the first premium and various medals for having on exhibition the largest, most varied and the best quality of agricultural products of any county in the State.

But few events of importance occurred this year. Everything moved on evenly, and steady progress was made. The election of county officers in the fall resulted as follows: Commissioner, F. L. Cross; Treasurer, J. L. Tinkham; Judge, E. S. Chadwick; Clerk, J. R. McDonald: Superintendent of Schools, Mrs. M. S. De Clercq; Surveyor, A. J. Weston; Sheriff, John W. Deary; Coroner, W. W. Loyd.

In 1876, there was still a considerable immigration to the county, and immense crops were planted out. Again this year Franklin County carried off the premiums and medals at the State fair, for the largest and best display of agricultural products. The same year, the ladies of Franklin County organized a society called the Ladies Horticultural Society, which, during the next few years, did a great deal of good in its own special department. At the election of this year, A. H. Bush was elected Representative in the Legislature, and L. D. Hager, Commissioner.

In 1877, the election of officers resulted as follows: Commissioner, Peter Flitcroft; Treasurer, Porter B. Byer; Judge, L. M. Moulton; Sheriff, John W. Deary; Superintendent of Schools, R. F. Miller; Surveyor, S. C. Sutton; Coroner, N. L. Whitney, and George W. Sheppard who had been Deputy Clerk for some time , was elected Clerk.

In 1878, David Eastwood was elected Commissioner.

In 1879, bonds were voted to the Burlington & Missouri River Railroad to induce them to extend their railroad through the county. The same year, the following county officers were elected: Judge, J. L. Kaley; Sheriff, C. A. Pierce; Coroner, M. E. Brown; Treasurer, Porter B. Byer; Clerk, M. F. Mahin; Surveyor, T. L. Ashby; Superintendent of Schools, R. F. Miller, and Commissioner, C. C. Dake.

In 1880, an event took place that caused a great deal of excitement throughout the county. Early in July, the County Treasurer was discovered to be a defaulter. Porter B. Byer, the Treasurer, had been one of the most popular men in the county, and had twice been elected to his position by a large majority, and, at the time of the discovery of his defalcation, he was spoken of as a promising candidate for a State office. He had for a long time lived in an extravagant manner, far beyond his means, and on the 27th day of July, finding that he could no longer prevent a discovery, he resigned his office as Treasurer, and endeavored to effect a compromise with the County Commissioners and with his bondsmen by turning over to them certain property. He could not bear the disgrace and left the county for parts unknown. To fill the vacancy caused by his resignation, J. P. A. Black, a rising and able attorney and accountant of Bloomington, was appointed Treasurer by the Board of County Commissioners. A committee composed of I. H. Malick and John S. Ray was appointed to investigate the books of the defaulting Treasurer, and, September 4, 1880, they made their report, showing that Porter B. Byer was a defaulter to the amount of $2,058.28, which sum he was ordered to pay within thirty days from that date. This however, was never paid, and, in July, of the following year, 1881, he was indicted by the grand jury, but has never yet been arrested. At the November election of 1880; Frank J. Austin was elected to fill the unexpired term of Byer. At the same election James Greenwood was elected Commissioner, and A. J. Weston, Coroner. H. C. Wells was also elected Representative to the Legislature from this district.

The winter of 1880-81 was an exceptionally severe one, and snow covered the ground all winter. In the spring, when warm weather commenced, from the thawing of the snow the streams were greatly swollen, and numerous bridges of the county were badly damaged and many were washed out entirely. Some damage was done to farm property on the bottom lands, but no lives were lost.

The election of 1881 was for many of the officers a hard-contested one, and resulted as follows: Treasurer, Frank J. Austin; Sheriff, John W. Deary; Clerk, W. A. Cole; Judge, Daniel Brown; Superintendent of Schools, Frank M. Vancil; Surveyor, S. C. Sutton; Commissioner. D. M. Wyant; Coroner, A. J. Weston.

In February, 1882, bonds were voted to fund the indebtedness of the county. The indebtedness of the county, in the bonds, is $48,000, and the assessed valuation is $626,000. There are now fifteen voting precincts in the county.


From the year 1874 to the present time, the county has continued to progress steadily and surely, with few events of interest. The crops have generally been good, and compare favorably with the other portions of the State. All parts of the county are now well settled, and, as a general thing, its citizens are prosperous. Many of the farmers, not satisfied with farming alone, connect stock-raising with it, and such have been very successful. Sheep thrive on the prairies of Franklin County, and there are many flocks raised here.

Early in the history of the county, bridges were built across the Republican and other streams, and other improvements have kept pace with the progress of the county.

Soon after Bloomington secured the county seat, the town of Franklin, which was never a large place, was moved away, and only the ruins of an old log building marks the town site of what was once the capital of Franklin County. A new town of Franklin has, however, been laid out near the old site, and it is already quite an important village and bids fair to rank, within a few years, with the older towns of the county in importance. The Burlington & Missouri River Railroad was completed, and trains began running as far as Bloomington early in 1879. Previous to this time, grain and produce had to be hauled to Lowell to Kearney to market. The latter place, nearly fifty miles from Bloomington, was the principal market.


The Franklin County Agricultural Society was organized in June, 1873, with M. S. Budlong, President, and A. J. Weston, Secretary. The first county fair was held in 1873, with great success. Much credit is due the two officers named, J. F. Pugsley and other leaders in the organization of the society, for the success of this fair. This society has ever since been kept up, and the citizens of the county have taken a pride in making as fine an exhibit as possible at the county fairs held each year. It was though the hard labors of this society that such fine exhibits were made at the State fairs during the earliest years of the history of the county, before a railroad penetrated the valley, and all the products for exhibition had to be hauled for fifty miles to get them to a shipping point on the railroad.

The Ladies' Horticultural Society was organized in 1876, and numbered among its members nearly all the leading women in the different parts of the county. Much of the credit for the progress in horticulture, by Franklin County, is due to the labor and patient investigation by this society.

The Old Settlers' Society was organized in 1879, and has a large membership. This society holds a festival annually, and these occasions are interesting and enjoyable. The first of these was held at Phipp's Grove, the second at Boss Grove, and the third, at Ream's Grove.

The Franklin County Court House is a large and fine-appearing structure; so planned as to make the county offices on the lower floor pleasant and roomy, with a count-room above. It was erected in 1878.


This is the county seat and principal town of Franklin County. It is situated on the north side of the Republican River, on a pleasant southern slope, about one and one half miles from the river. This slope is a very gentle one, and the north part of the town extends out on the upland prairie. The business and residence portion of the village is nearly one mile from the depot, grain elevators and stock yards. The town is on the Burlington & Missouri River Railroad, in Nebraska, and is most beautifully located, affording an excellent view of the surrounding country from its site. The depot elevators and stock yards are on the level valley lands north of the river.

The history of this town dates back to 1872. At this time, the county had been organized but about a year, and Lowell, more than fifty miles distant, was the nearest railroad town. The previous settlement of the county had been rapid since its organization, but as yet there were no villages of any importance, and the settlers in the immediate vicinity of this location were few.

Early in the year 1872, a company was organized at Brownville, Neb., for the purpose of selecting a site and locating a town some where in Franklin County, and, as was the case with all the other towns, the object was to make it the principal town of the county. The company numbered among its members some of the best-known men of the State. The following-named gentlemen were its officers: H. M. Atkinson, now Surveyor General of New Mexico, President; Sol Males, Treasurer; Frank M. Vancil, Vice President; J. D. Calhoun, General Agent, and A. L. Rich, Secretary. There was some difficulty over the selection of a name, but finally, at the suggestion of Sol Males, it was called Bloomington, from the city in Illinois bearing that name.

The first settlement was made in June, 1872. All of the above-mentioned officers of the company, except the President, located here at this time and commenced to build residences. By August, the party had so progressed with their buildings that these were ready for occupancy, and, on the 14th day of that month, Sol Males arrived with his family. This was the first family to locate on the town site.

The town had so far progressed by the latter part of August that J. D. Calhoun issued the first copy of his paper, the Bloomington Guard. This was not only the first newspaper published in this town, but the first one published in the county. During the same month, the first store in Bloomington was opened in a log house in the south part of town by A. L. Rich and Sol Males. A steam saw-mill had also been erected by J. D. Calhoun, and was opened for business about the same time.

This town progressed but slowly until the spring of 1873, when J. W. Darby and John R. Huffman located here. The latter first came to the county in the spring of 1871, with the Republican Valley Land Claim Association, when they located the original town of Franklin City. He was induced to come to take charge of a newspaper which was to be published there; but the project fell through, and he entered a homestead on Turkey Creek, where he opened up his farm and lived until the spring of 1873, when he took charge of the Bloomington Guard, and removed here.

The first post office was established in the spring of 1873, and Mrs. Helen M. Males, who had been the first woman to reside in the town, was appointed Postmistress. During this year, the village built up a very little, but the adjacent country was rapidly being settled, and it was plain that Bloomington was to become one of the principal towns of the county at no every distant day.

The success of the new town now being apparent, a great many improvements were made during the early part of the year 1874. The United States Land Office, at Lowell, was to be removed to some town in the Republican Valley, and, through the influence of the members of the town company, Bloomington was the point decided upon. As soon as it was known that the land office was to be located here, the town began to build up rapidly. Mechanics, business and professional men came here at once, and, in a few months, Bloomington became a busy and thriving village. The Government lands, all the way up the valley, were fast being settled up, and the streets of Bloomington were almost continually thronged with land-hunters and settlers, who were drawn here by the land office. In October, 1874, the county seat was removed to this place, from Franklin, by a vote of the people, and this added still more to the success of this town. The citizens of Franklin soon became discouraged, and removed their buildings to this point and became residents here.

The grasshoppers having destroyed the crops in 1874, business was somewhat dull during the following winter, and some of the citizens were put to the necessity of practicing the most rigid economy in order to get through the winter and live until business revived again in the spring.

The first birth in Bloomington took place August 20, 1874, and the child was Augustus Males, son of Sol and Helen M. Males. He now resides with his parents in Lincoln, Neb., to which place they removed in 1881.

The first sermon was preached in the summer of 1873, by Rev. Mr. Grant, in an old blacksmith shop.

Until the year 1874, the public school was taught outside the limits of the village, but, during that year a schoolhouse was erected where it now stands. While it was building, however, a term of school was taught by John Herbison, in a board shanty.

In the spring of 1875, business once more revived. Settlers poured into the valley in an almost unbroken stream of travel. These settlers necessarily stopped at the land office, at Bloomington, first, in quest of information, generally staying a day or two, and then they had to stop again to enter their land, and they naturally made this a point to lay in a supply of provisions and goods, both when they were selecting and entering their lands, and when they were removing to their claims. This necessarily made Bloomington one of the very best of business points. In addition to this they secured a great deal of trade from the northern counties of Kansas bordering Franklin County on the south.

From the causes above mentioned, Bloomington was for many years the most thriving town west of Red Cloud. For several years, the town progressed but very little. In 1878, however, when the railroad was expected to soon penetrate the Republican Valley as far as this point, once more there was a rush to Bloomington. Numerous were the business and professional men who visited the village, seeking a location; many of them located here, and building was carried on to a large extent. Business houses, offices and residences were erected. The court house was built the same year. Early as 1879, the railroad was completed as far as Bloomington, and this was made the terminus for about a year. During all this time, all branches of business were good. Business houses had a larger trade than they could well accommodate; but the next year, the railroad was completed as far west as Indianola, which was made the terminus, and Bloomington soon lost a portion of her trade, and settled down to the quiet, homelike and staid little village it now is. The heavy trade from farther West was cut off, the land office business is fast decreasing, and now Bloomington has little except its own legitimate trade in the country naturally tributary to it. This extends, however, far to the north, and for a long distance to the south and east, and west for a reasonable distance, and the town has a prosperous trade.

The town was incorporated as a village on April 2, 1879. Trustees were J. W. Deary, Chairman; S. W. Switzer, Theo. Bodien, Ulrich Koelmel and J. E. Kelley, Trustees; E. S. Chadwick, Treasurer.


There have been but a few crimes committed in the village. The most notable of these was the murder of William Richardson by Charles Wilkinson, February 21, 1880.

Wilkinson was employed as a hotel runner by Jacob Barnett, of the Tremont House. For several days he had been on a drunken spree, and at times had shown a disposition to be quarrelsome. On the day of the tragedy, he had been with Richardson a great deal, and invited him to go with him to a restaurant for oysters, which invitation was accepted. While there, Wilkinson got into a quarrel with the proprietor and stabbed him in the back. He then went to the hotel for his pistol, which he secured and started back. About half way across the street he met Richardson, who had started to follow him. Wilkinson began abusing him and reproaching him as a coward because he did not offer assistance in the quarrel with the proprietor of the restaurant. He (Wilkinson) demanded that the other get down on his knees and beg pardon for his cowardice. This Richardson refused to do. Then Wilkinson raised his pistol and began firing. Five shots were fired, four of which took effect, and Richardson died instantly. Wilkinson then returned to the hotel and several men gathered around to attempt his arrest before any one else was killed, but he threatened to shoot any one who dared touch him. Jacob Barnett, proprietor of the hotel, seized a double-barreled shot gun and leveled it at him, ordering him to throw up his hands. Terrified, he obeyed, and was instantly secured. Barnett did not know till afterward that his gun was not loaded.

William Richardson was well liked where he was known and was well connected. Charles Wilkinson, the murderer, was kept in confinement until the next term of the District Court, when he was tried, but on account of having been drunk at the time the deed was committed, he was only found guilty of murder in the second degree, and sentenced by Judge Gaslin to the penitentiary for life.


Government Land Office.--As stated, the United States Land Office for the Republican Valley is located here. Upon its removal here in 1874, Charles H. Walker was Register, and Evan Worthing, Receiver of Public Moneys. C. H. Walker soon resigned, and Webster Eaton was appointed in his place. In 1876, Evan Worthing died, and George W. Dorsey was appointed Receiver. Eaton resigned in 1878, and the present incumbent, S. W. Switzer, was appointed Register. George W. Dorsey died in February, 1881, and H. Montgomery, the present Receiver, was appointed in his place.

As when the town was first settled, religious services and church organizations were early established, so have they been kept up. The cause of religion is respected; a very large element of the citizens are church-going people, and a religious feeling of some nature pervades nearly the entire community. Any movement that savors of true religion receives prompt and liberal encouragement. The community may be said to be imbued with the idea of religion rather than sectarianism.

There are four church organizations--the Methodist Episcopal, Catholic, Presbyterian and Congregational. All have good societies, but only the Methodists have a church edifice. This was built in 1879.

A Congregational Church was organized November 10, 1881.

An Episcopal Church was organized on February 8, 1882. Officers, William H. Byerley, Senior Warden; Walter A. Scott, Junior Warden; F. A. Harmon, Treasurer; E. H. Marshall, Secretary.

A Methodist Church was organized March 3, 1878, J.R. Wood, pastor. Rev. C. H. Fotant is the present pastor; S. W. Switzer, Ashley Patch and C. W. Mason, Stewards; S. W. Switzer, J. E. Kelley, C. R. Townsend and J. J. Shaffer, Trustees.

The citizens of Bloomington, in common with those of most Nebraska towns, are intelligent and enterprising. The establishment and keeping-up of all necessary educational institutions, therefore, were among the first things that entertained their attention when they settled here, and such has ever since been the disposition of the people. Education is fostered and encouraged, not only in the schools but at home, where, as a reading public they provide themselves and their children with every possible advantage for their intellectual improvement.

There is in Bloomington one bank, founded in June of 1879, by Harman, Shaffer & Switzer, and called the Franklin County Bank. In about one year from this time, Frank A. Harman purchased the entire interest of the other partners and continues to run the bank alone.

There are two first-class hotels--one kept by T. Munhall, and called the Commercial House, and the Tremont House, with Mrs. Kellogg, proprietress.

All branches of business are well represented in Bloomington, and, having both the county seat and the United States Land Office, and with a good farming country around it, there is no reason why Bloomington should not continue one of the most prosperous of Republican Valley towns.


The press of Bloomington is, and ever has been, moral and elevating in its tone. It is also most enterprising and is fully up to the times in giving the local news of the county, as well as on most of the great questions of the day.

There is only one newspaper published here. This is the Bloomington Guard, the pioneer newspaper of the county, established in 1872, by J. D. Calhoun, who is now associate editor of the Daily State Journal, at Lincoln.

For nearly the period of its existence, John R. Huffman has been its editor and proprietor, but, in 1881, he removed to his farm, and sold the Guard to H. Montgomery, the present editor and proprietor. The Guard is one of the best of country newspapers, and no pains are spared to gather and publish all the local news of the county. F. M. Vancil is the local editor.


The secret and social societies are represented by the Freemasons, who have a flourishing lodge; a large organization of the Independent Order of Good Templars, and a Social Hour's Club, with a large membership, that adds much to the social enjoyment afforded the citizens of Bloomington.

A Good Templars Lodge was organized December 11, 1878. Present officers are J. P. Hart, W. C.; Isaac Black. W. F. C.; M. S. Mahin, W. Secretary; Mrs. M. L. Whitney, W. Treasurer; H. O. Litler, W. C.; Ashley Patch, G. W. D.

Joppa Lodge, No 76, A., F, & A. M., Bloomington, Neb., was chartered by the Grand Lodge of the State; was dedicated and consecrated October 15, 1879, by R. W. Deputy Grand Master R. H. Oakley, of Lincoln. The charter members are W. E. Hatch, J. D. Gage, W. W. Loyd, W. T. Britton, George W. Sheppard, S. W. Switzer, I. H. Malick, J. L. Kaley, J. Worth, Samuel Hisey, C. A. Coe, S. S. Pickering, Ashley Patch and R. D. Hastings. These constituted the membership at the first meeting. The present number is thirty-one. The first officers were George W. Sheppard, W. M.; W. E. Hatch, S. W.; S. W. Switzer, J. W.; I. H. Malick, Treasurer; W. T. Britton, Secretary; J. L. Kaley, S. D.; J. Worth, J. D.; Samuel Hisey, Tiler. The present officers are S. W. Switzer, W. M.; W. T. Britton, S. W.; S. S. Pickering, J. W.; John Hutchinson, Treasurer; E. H. Marshall, Secretary; J. P. A. Black, S. D.; Samuel Hisey, J. D.; Ashley Patch, Tiler. The lodge is out of debt, with a handsome surplus in treasury; it is in good working order and flourishing condition, peace and harmony prevailing.

The Old Settlers' Society was organized in the spring of 1879, with the following officers: Daniel Brown, President; John R. Huffman, Secretary; G. W. Sheppard, Treasurer. Present officers are Daniel Brown, President; W. W. Sheppard, Secretary; F. A. Harman, Treasurer.

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