Andreas' History of the State of Nebraska

Produced by Barbara Kettler.

Part 4


This little town is pleasantly located on the west bank of Turkey Creek, in the Republican Valley, not far from the river. The creek affords an excellent water-power, which is utilized for mill purposes. The Burlington & Missouri River Railroad passes along the southern part of the town on the level lands. The business houses are mainly on two streets, one fronting toward the railroad, the other extending north and south, with the buildings fronting toward the creek. From each of these two streets, the surface of the land rises toward the northwest, forming a quite steep hillside.

Though there has been a town here but a few years, its history may be said to extend back to the time of the formation of a settlement here, late in the year 1870. At that time, Richard and A. Walther and Romeo B. Werner entered claims at and in the vicinity of where Naponee now stands. To this place they removed in the spring of 1871. This formed the nucleus of a large and prosperous settlement that was destined to spring up in a few years, and spread throughout the western part of the county.

In 1871, the settlement had progressed until the need of a post office was felt, and a petition was sent to the postal department at Washington, asking that a post office to be called Naponee be established at once. This name was chosen on account of a town in Canada by that name. The post office was soon established and George Roberts appointed Postmaster.

The first sermon preached here was by Rev. David Edgerton, in 1873.

The first school was taught in the summer of 1873 by Miss Rosa Schlegal, in a dug-out belonging to R. B. Werner.

The first marriage was that of James D. Gage and Miss Estella E. Douglas, which took place January 18, 1874.

A flouring mill was commenced here in 1874 by Walther & Gallard. It was located on Turkey Creek and on Section 4, Town 1 and Range 16 west. The next spring, however, before the mill was quite completed, the creek overflowed and washed out one side of the bank to such an extent that the mill fell over into the mill-race. This disaster proved so serious to the proprietors that they were soon obliged to dispose of the property. The mill was purchased by J. D. Gage, who has since continued to operate it, and a good quality of flour is manufactured.

There was another wash-out again in 1881, though not a great deal of damage was done to the mill property, other than the race. The flood carried off the top soil between the mill-race and the creek for a depth of about six feet, leaving a bed of hard-pan perfectly bare, into which was deeply impressed the footprints of buffalo and elk. Before this flood, ash trees twenty-five feet high covered the top soil.

The first store was opened here in 1877 by Calvin R. Dodd.

The first birth was that of Roy Cramer, which took place in January, 1877.

The first death was that of Oscar D. Gage, infant son of J. D. and Estella Gage, on the 13th day of April, 1877.

The first schoolhouse erected in the present town was one of sod, built in 1877.


The church organizations in Naponee are well represented. The Methodist Episcopal Church was organized September 17, 1876 by Rev. Mr. Van Duser, and consisted of six members, viz., T. G. Thomas and wife, Henry Fox, L. H. Fish, Wilson Hildreth and wife. The first pastor was Rev. Moses Mapes. The society in time increased to sixteen members, but now the old Methodist society has dwindled down to two members.

The Baptist Church was organized April 8, 1877, with nine members. Rev Thomas Muxlow was chosen as pastor and Charles H. Brown, Church Clerk. This church has now thirty-one members, with Rev. George O. Yeiser, of Red Cloud, as pastor, and J. F. Zediker, Church Clerk.

The Congregational Church was organized May 15, 1881, with seven members. Revs. William Marshall, J. W. Strong and W. S. Hampton were all present and assisted. Rev. William Marshall, of Alma, was chosen as pastor. The present membership is ten.

A union Sunday school here is in a good flourishing condition. Henry Fox is Superintendent.

In the winter of 1879-80, when the railroad was being built through this town, several additions to the town site were made, and the railroad company laid out a town on the east side of the creek, joining the old town site, which they called Perth. A depot was built here, and an effort was made to remove the town of Naponee here, but this was unsuccessful, and the railroad company soon resumed the old name of Naponee.

During the excitement just preceding, and during the time the railroad was in progress, Naponee grew rapidly and many business houses were established. A newspaper called the Banner was founded in 1879, by W. A. Connell, who afterward sold to J. F. Zediker, but he discontinued it in 1880, and the town soon began to go backward.

Naponee still enjoys the luxury of a sod schoolhouse. The town has been platted, but never incorporated. Owing to the short crops in this vicinity for the past two seasons, the town has been on a decline, having now a population of less than one hundred; but it has a very favorable location, a fine water-power and an extensive flouring-mill, and it seems that the day cannot be far distant when Naponee will be one of the prosperous towns of the Republican Valley.


J. D. GAGE, proprietor of buhr-stone creamery, Naponee, born in Bethel, Vt., 1842; when six years of age his father died , and he accompanied his mother to Canada, where he resided for eleven years. He was the second man to enlist in the First New Hampshire Cavalry; served in the army of the Potomac under Gens. McClellan, Pope, Grant, Sheridan and others, and participated in all the general battles, from Bull Run to Five Forks; was taken prisoner and boarded on Belle Island for three months. From 1865 to 1867, was connected with the Quartermaster's Department in the valley of the James, and Harbor Master of the Port of Richmond until turned over to the civil authorities. During the years 1866 and 1867, was Superintendent of the U. S. Burial Corps at Richmond, and re-buried at that point, 1,300 Union soldiers, and 7,000 at Fort Harrison. He received a severe bayonet wound at the Rockets' riot December 18, 1865. Mr. G. enlisted in 1861, and was mustered out in 1867, serving in all six years and six months. In 1868, he went to Chicago, where he remained some time. Then farmed for several years in Guthrie County, Iowa. He then wended his way to Franklin County, Neb., and at once embarked in the stock business and milling, which he has followed since. He owns a half interest in the Naponee Mills. Mr. G. Served three years as a Commissioner of Franklin County, and two terms as President of the Agricultural Society. He was married in 1874, at Manchester, Iowa, to Miss Estella Douglass.

A. M. DECLERCQ, farmer and stock-raiser (Durham cattle and Poland-China hogs), Moline is a native of Cazenovia, N. Y., where he was reared on a farm. He came to Nebraska in March, 1874, took a homestead and timber claim of 160 acres each, and has since bought 160 acres. Has 300 acres under cultivation. Makes a specialty of breeding Short-Horn cattle, Poland-China hogs and Mambrino horses.


This town is situated on the Burlington & Missouri Railroad in Nebraska, on the Republican Valley Branch, about half way across Franklin County from east to west. The location of the town is a beautiful one, on the shelf-like table-lands that rise from the valley of the Republican River and from Center Creek. The railroad passes along on the level bottom lands just under the edge of the abruptly rising bluffs or hills. After this abrupt rise, the level uplands are reached, upon which the town of Franklin is located, about one-fourth of a mile from the railroad depot, on a gentle slope to the north. From the town site a pleasant view is obtained of the level uplands for miles to the north, east and west, while to the south, a view is had of the broad river valley and the high hills on the opposite side of the river.


In the earliest settlement of the county, the first town was laid out and called Franklin City. This town was never built up , and soon after another town, first called Waterloo by the founders, but always known in the history of the county as Franklin, was laid out a short distance from the old site, the county seat located here and a small town built up. The county seat remained here until the fall of 1874, when, by a vote of the citizens of the county, it was removed to Bloomington, which was then growing rapidly. In a few months, the entire town of Franklin was removed to Bloomington.

In the fall of 1879, a town was again projected and laid out by the railroad company, between the two original sites of Franklin, and called by that name. The location is in Town 2, Range 15 west and the original site was the northeast quarter of the southeast quarter of Section 36. Forty acres were then laid out on the north of this by the citizens. On the forty acres north of this are the academy grounds of ten acres. The remainder of this tract is owned by George Buck, and laid out in half-acre lots. The forty acres west of this is owned by the academy association and laid out in one-acre lots. The forty acres west of the original site were laid out by G. W. Sheppard.

The first settlement in the present town of Franklin was made in July, 1879, by James T. Reams, who built a hotel, the first building in town.

In the fall of 1879, Peter Schnack, H. W. Robb and W. H. Austin located here and put up buildings.

The first store was opened in October, 1879, by Peter Schnack, immediately after his location here. The Franklin Post Office, kept by him, was removed to the new town at the same time.

The first marriage was that of George Rice and Miss Maggie Powell, the step-daughter of H. W. Robb, and took place November 1, 1880, Rev. J. M. Strong officiating.

The first death was that of Miss Mollie Mills, November 12, 1880.

The first sermon was preached by Rev. J. M. Strong, a Congregational minister, at the old schoolhouse, in the spring of 1880.

The Franklin Flouring Mills were erected in 1880, by Rice & Potter, on the Republican River.

A new schoolhouse was built in the spring of 1881, on the west line of the town site, and the first term of school taught in it the ensuing summer by Miss. V. Morton.

The Methodist Episcopal Church was commenced in November and completed the 31st day of the next December, and a New Year's Watch Meeting was held on that night therein. The building cost $1,500. Rev. Moses Mapes is pastor; Andrew Bruce, Class-Leader, and R. F. Miller, Steward. The society has a membership of forty-five, and is in good working order. The church was first organized at the old town of Franklin, in 1874, under the direction of Rev. C. R. Townsend, who was its pastor for some years. The original membership was eight.


In the fall of 1880, Bruce & Fairchild located the site for the Franklin Machine Shops, and, in the spring of 1881, constructed a race, conducting the water from Center Creek out to the table-land east of the creek and just west of the town. They erected their shops on the public highway that runs up the Republican Valley, about one-fourth of a mile from the railroad track. During the summer of 1881, just as the work was about finished, Mr. Fairchild had the misfortune to lose his wife and child, who were killed by lightning, and he was also badly shocked. A light thunder shower had come up, and, to escape from its effects, they all stepped into the shop, when it was at once struck by lightning with the above-named sad results. The building also was considerably injured. Mr. Fairchild was so badly discouraged by the death of his family that he could no longer endure to work daily where the surrounding would continually remind him of their sad and sudden death, and he sold his interest to Mr. Bruce soon after.

Bruce continued to operate the machine shop until early in the spring of 1882, when he changed the whole form of the building, making it larger, covering it with a tin roof, and put in a complete set of machinery for carding, spinning, weaving and finishing cloth and woolen goods of all descriptions.

Around the above factory is clustered a number of buildings. With wool attainable at home and the fact that Mr. Bruce and his father are experienced manufacturers, everything bids fair for a permanent and prosperous business.


The Franklin Academy is located just north of the business portion of the town, at the very top of a gentle slope on which the town is situated. The view from the site of the academy is a very pleasant one, affording a view of a large extent of country, and some of the scenery is quite picturesque and beautiful.

This is the only institution in the Republican Valley where facilities are offered for a higher education. It was intended to be a preparatory school for students intending to enter Doane College, at Crete. This academy was founded by members of the Congregational Society in 1881.

The corner-stone was laid on August 9. The first term of school was opened December 6, 1881. The building was formally dedicated Tuesday evening, may 13, 1882. Prof. Perry of Doane College, delivered the address.

The building is thirty-eight feet wide by forty feet in length. There are two rooms below, connected by an arched doorway. The second story is all in one room. There is also a club room built separately. The campus of the academy consists of ten acres.

Rev. Amos Dresser made a trip to the East and solicited contributions from different societies there to aid in building the academy. These contributions amounted to $2,545.66. To this sum, the citizens of Franklin have, without respect to denominations or belief, added largely, and now the resources of the academy, taken all together, amount to $9,112.

The first term of school in the academy, commencing December 6, 1881, was taught by Rev. W. S. Hampton, with about fifty pupils in attendance. The second term is, at this writing, in progress, and open with an attendance of fifty-five. Prof. George A. Way has been employed as an assistant, and the school starts out with excellent prospects for future success.

A moral and religious class of people are settling in the town. There is no saloon, and the citizens are bitterly opposed to one. Church societies and schools are supported liberally. There is a great deal of public spiritedness manifested, and anything that tends to the material growth of the town is aided and encouraged. Besides this, any thing that is worthy of encouragement in the world of thought receives prompt attention. The community is a reading one and the press is liberally patronized.

The Republican Valley Echo is the only newspaper published here. It is a six-column quarto, weekly, and is ably edited and published by James F. Zediker, and is well patronized. It as established September 1, 1881, soon after which Mr. Zediker purchased the Riverton Eagle and consolidated it with the Echo. James F. Zediker, editor of the Echo, was born December 29, 1842, near the town of Mercer, Penn, and is of German and English-Welsh descent. When three years old, he went with his parents to Spring Brook, Jackson County, Iowa, where they located, and his father became an extensive farmer. James began work on the farm at an early age, and attended the district school when he could be spared. His mother desired to give him a collegiate education, but when he was fifteen years old, she died, and he found it impossible to attend college. In 1860, however, having joined the Baptist Church about three years before, the church undertook to aid him to attend college, and preparations were made, but early in 1861, his father died. The war of the rebellion then breaking out, he enlisted, in the following October, in Company I, Twelfth Iowa Infantry Volunteers, as a private. Among others, he participated in the battles of Fort Henry, Fort Donelson, Shiloh, Jackson, siege of Vicksburg, siege of Jackson, battle of Miller's Lane, Brownville and Goose Creek, in Mississippi, battle of Nashville and siege around Mobile. He was taken prisoner at Shiloh and spent some time in rebel prisons, at Memphis, Mobile, Cahaba and Macon. After his return to his regiment, he was, during his term of service, promoted, first to Fifth Sergeant, then to First Sergeant, then to First Lieutenant and then to Captain, which position he held for one year before he was mustered out. At one time, he had command of a military post. At the close of the war, he returned to his home in Iowa, broken down in health, and began teaching penmanship; then engaged in the furniture business, at Manchester, Iowa. Some time after, he engaged in the tombstone and marble trade at the same place. This he continued for three years, when he closed out his business and came to Franklin County, Neb., arriving in October, 1871. He located near the present town of Naponee, and began farming and stock-raising. Here he was successful in raising cattle and sheep. In 1879, he sold out and removed to Naponee, engaging for a time in the hardware trade. Selling out, he purchased the Naponee Weekly Banner, and also began a collection and insurance business. In January, 1881, he sold the Banner and continued his other business, and, on September 1, 1881, he started the Echo at Franklin. He joined the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, at Manchester, Iowa, in 1870, and was one of the charter members in the organization of Riverton Lodge, in Franklin County, of which he is still a member. He joined the Independent Order of Good Templars at Naponee. He was elected Engrossing Clerk in the Lower House of the Nebraska Legislature, in 1873; he was elected First Assistant Clerk of that body again in each successive term ever since--in the years 1875, 1877, 1879 and 1881. In the State Constitutional Convention, in 1875, he was the delegate for Franklin, Phelps and Gosper Counties, and helped frame the present State constitution. Was County Immigration Agent. He was married, at Manchester, Iowa, on August 15, 1865, to Miss Julia M. Douglas, a descendant of Lord Douglas, of Scotland fame. They have had seven children--Julia, born June 10, 1867; Wilmot E, April 15, 1869; Lois Jesse, August 27, 1870; all in Manchester, Iowa; and Arthur Burdette, born April 9, 1873; Ida E., April 11, 1875; Zem Zee, February 24, 1878; Zerelda Z., April 30, 1880, all born in Franklin County, Neb.

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